Friday, April 30, 2010

The house party is about to begin!

Welcome to my front door.  Preparations for the party are taking place inside.  Stop by later on (Saturday night 10 p.m. California time; Sunday morning in the UK) to join the fun!
See you then - I gotta go put the beer in the fridge, find the blender for the margaritas, and finish making the playlist for the i-pod!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bragging on Myself

Pride.  It's a bad thing, I know.  Of all those "deadly sins," it is the one I am most prone to step in, and more than once, karma's come back to haunt me when I've been too proud or boastful.  Yet, unable to contain myself, I continue to brag on myself.  I can't help it.  When I was in high school, my best friend's mom used to say about us, "You girls are so full of yourselves.  You two should print up t-shirts to wear around all the the time that say, 'I'm the greatest!'"  I think it's in my DNA.  So, here I go again .  .  .
Regular blog readers will know that I enjoy taking sports portraits and action shots, and I think I do a pretty good job.  I take all the team & individual photos for DD's middle school, in order to help raise money.  I don't take any money for my time or effort, and this year the fundraiser will fund about 10% of the athletic budget!  Yea me! (Did I say that out loud?) This week, a mom of one of the girls stopped me when I was getting ready to do the soccer photos.  She told me how much she loved the photos I took of her daughter for volleyball, said it was the best portrait ever taken of her and that she decided to use it with all her high school applications.  She then asked me if  she could book a sitting to do a family portrait!  I'm afraid I laughed. Out loud. Because I'm not a professional photographer after all.  Really.  I'm just a mom with a decent camera and a good eye.  But, I have to admit it made me rather proud when she assumed I was a professional!
Then, I got the "professional" photo back from DS' high school baseball team.  It's that crap photo on the right above.  Blown-out lighting, dead fish expression, and oddly cropped.  How could a photographer make my gorgeous boy look sooooo bad?  I compared it with the snapshot of him I took that day - it's the one on the left.  And again, I felt some amount of pride in my photography skills.  And some grumblies about having paid good money for that awful  picture!  
Final story.  Last night, there was an auction/fund raiser for the local little league (baseball for kids from 5 -14 years of age).  I donated two photo displays.  Each one had three 5x7 pictures of San Francisco Giants professional baseball players framed together.  And you know what?  People bought them!  One went for $90, and the other for $70! I was pretty thrilled.  And proud.  Again.  Hopefully karma won't bite me too hard for bragging on myself.  Most of these realizations came about while I was donating to good causes after all.

A Party is in the Wind . . .

A little bird told me that there's a party coming!!!

It's a House Party, and it starts late Saturday night .  Like all good parties, I expect it to rave on through the night and carry on all day Sunday.  There will be almost twenty participants sharing lovely, crafty, altered houses!

The lovely bird at left was a house warming present from Deb, and she's grabbed a bit of my house to give you a sneak peek.

Also, here's a sneak peek of my real life house, which you'll also get a chance to see if you come to my house party.  Hope to see you then.

p.s. I've sent out an email with the final (corrected) order for the blog hop and directions.  If you're participating and haven't received the message, please email me at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Photography Self-Teach with questions: Wildflower Walk, Part 2

Here's another bit of loveliness from my wildflower walk on Sunday. . . a little flower shot in portrait setting to blur out the rest of the background.  I was a little surprised that the portrait setting worked better at doing this than the macro/close-up/flower setting.  I had assumed going in that the macro setting would be the most successful, but it wasn't.  Does anyone know why? Why is going to be my theme for this post.  I've got questions about what didn't work during this photo shoot.

I had trouble taking shots of fields of flowers.  The first picture doesn't look like much of anything.  The second one is a little better. The third one is the most successful.  So, I'm wondering why these were so hard to shoot.  I had the white balance set to bright sunshine, but I think there may have still been too much light.  It may also have been the fact that I was shooting with my 50 mm fixed lens, which just might not work for this type of shot.  Any suggestions or insights welcome!
 I thought some of the issue might be composition, so I took some photos that had things in it besides the flowers:  rocks; fences; sky.  The composition is more interesting in these photos, but they still lack intensity. The second is my favorite. Again, I'd love feed back or suggestions.
Finally, to end on a more successful note - one last shadow self-portrait.  I like the fact that it looks like I have flowers on my hat!

Monday, April 26, 2010

House Party Check-In and Blog Hop Information

Where I Grew Up (Art Journal Page)
I made this page in response to this prompt on the Creative Therapy blog, "Where did you grow up?"  I happened to grow up in a real neighborhood in Southern California - full of children playing outside all the time.  Journaling is on the clouds (which are cut from a transparency and adhered with white paint.  I like how I used a paper doll on this and some houses made out of plaster.

Speaking of houses . . . I wanted to do a quick check-in on the house party and give out some blog hop information.  First, please email me at if you signed up to participate and have not received your house supplies.  The complete list of sign-ups is here.
Second, it's time to put together our blog hop!!! I'd like the Blog Hop to start on Saturday, May 1, at 10:00 p.m. California time (that makes it sometime Sunday morning, May 2 in the UK).  Let me know if you think that's too soon. Otherwise, we'll go with that date. If you have a blog, it is very easy to participate in a blog hop.  If you don't have a blog, it is a very easy way to go stop by everyone's blog and check out their houses. I have sent an email with the following information to everyone on my list.  If you didn't get the information, please email me, and I'll resend it.  
If you want to participate in the blog hop, please email me at with your blog name and address.  Please put "House party blog hop" in the title, and I'll take it from there.  To participate in the blog hop, all you need to do is:
1.  Email me with your blog information to let me know that you're "in." Please email me with this information by Thursday, April 28.
2. Complete your house by May 1 at 10:00 p.m. California time.
3. Create a blog post, with a picture of your house, and schedule your post to "live" at the blog hop start time.  Please use the title House Party Blog Hop as the title of your post.
4.  Put a link in your blog to the next person in the blog hop circle, so that readers can click on the link to go to the next blog.  I'll send around a list of who links to who after I hear from everyone.
I know it may sound complicated, but it's really not.  Eight of us did a Creative Circle Blog Hop last year, and you can check it out here to get an idea of how it works.  Everyone so enjoyed the last blog hop, and it's a great way to get a little more attention to your blog.  I hope you decide to play along!
I have heard from the following already:
Liz L, Ruth, Nancy, Lizzie, Deb K, Deb A, Karen, Sharyn, Cherry, Julie, Sian, Margi, Jacky, Elizabeth H., Amy and Cheryl. Woohoo!!!  It will be quite a party

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Photography Self-Teach: Wildflower Walk

Wildflower Shadow Self-Portrait
I went on a hike today with my husband and used the opportunity to work on my photography skills.  We went to Edgewood Park in San Carlos, California, which has an abundance of wildflowers.  I've enjoyed seeing other people's shadow self-portraits, so took a couple today featuring wildflowers.  ETA: I wanted to mention that one of my inspirations for this was Nellie Mae's post here on her blog, This Little Blog of Mine.
Here are a few of my favorite photographs from a technical standpoint.  I took at least 3 shots of each subject [one on automatic; one on a preprogrammed setting, such as closeup, portrait or action; and one on semi-manual (I was able to set the white balance to sunny and set the ISO to 800; the camera set the fstop)].  The automatic consistently turned out the worst of the three. I took everything with my 50 mm fixed lens. You can click to enlarge any photo.

Trio of flowers:

Tree on a hill:

California golden poppies (our state flower):

My best "capture" of the day occurred when I heard a bunch of birds chirping but couldn't see them.  Suddenly, I realized it must be a nest deep within a tree.  By standing on a stump and using a flash, I was rewarded with this photo:

I was also able to get a picture of a busy bee:

Here are pictures of DH and me on our lunch break:
Finally, for the photography geeks in the audience (you know who you are), here's the same thistle taken in three different modes ISO priority, portrait setting, automatic), just so you can see what they look like:
Which photo is your favorite?  Have you ever done a shadow self-portrait?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Banksy and Street Art

Troy Holden of the Caliber SF website took this fabulous photo above.  It's in Chinatown in San Francisco, and if I wasn't so busy, I'd go looking for it. It's exactly the type of  street art that I like to photograph and use on collage sheets.  Doing a little more investigation, I found out that the art is likely done by an artist known as Banksy.  You can check out his art at his website here.  In particular, look in his "shop." It's awesome!  I think this image is my favorite:
There's also a film that's coming out about Banksy and Street Art called "Exit through the Gift Shop."  If you go to this website, you 'll see a schedule of where it's playing and a youtube trailer in the lower right hand corner.  Click on it and be amused.  For more about Banksy, you can go to this extensive wikipedia entry.
You can check out many art pieces I've made using photographs I took of street art in Paris at this blog post.
I really do need to get out and take some more pictures to make some new collage sheets.  I'm feeling a little bored with my current collection!

Week in A Life Art Journal Day 6 (Parenthood)

This week, inspired by Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project, I'm featuring pages from my Art Journal which reflect typical, daily activities.  They are examples of using an art journal as a visual diary. This page reflects on a conversation I had with a friend about the very difficult time they are having with their child.  Background is paint on textured gesso. Image is a picture of a stairway I took (Notre Dame Cathedral). Embellishments are the negatives from where I cut stamped hearts from painted paper (placed on tags and old library file cards).  Top texture is gesso.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Week in A Life Art Journal Day 5 (Boy with a Ball)

This week, inspired by Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project, I'm featuring pages from my Art Journal which reflect typical, daily activities.  They are examples of using an art journal as a visual diary.  This entry reflects a day of the boy's baseball life.  In fact, I blogged about it here.  I find it interesting to compare how it's represented in these two different formats. The background is paint over textured gesso. Image includes a heritage picture from my collection. Numbers stenciled with paint. Gesso stamped with bubble wrap and buttons, then tinted with paint.

Week in a Life Interrupted for an alternate AJ Page

I've enjoyed sharing my "visual diary" style art journal pages this week, in honor of Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project. But I wanted to take a break from those today and share a different style of art journal page.  I prepared this one in response to the prompt:  "How would you describe yourself as a child?"  My answer:  I was many things, but I was definitely self confident, self aware and self possessed.  You can click on the image to enlarge it and see more details.  The prompt (or catalyst) comes from the terrific site,  Creative Therapy.  They post a new catalyst every week, and I'm getting confident enough in my art journaling skills to start playing along.  Tomorrow:  back to regular programming and this weekend look for details on the House Party blog hop.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week in A Life Art Journal Day 4 (Report Card)

This week, inspired by Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project, I'm featuring pages from my Art Journal which reflect typical, daily activities.  They are examples of using an art journal as a visual diary. DD Clara struggles a bit with school. Since I was sick for much of the third quarter of her term I was not able to help her as much as usual and was unsure about how she would do. Painted background. Clip art images. Purple paint stamped onto top, using various rubber stamps and bubble wrap.
ETA:  Some of you have asked about what I'm working in for my visual diary.  I'm using the blue savoir faire artist's book described by Dina in this post.  It is hardbound and has fifty 6x8.5" pages.  I really like it. Unfortunately, it looks like Dick Blick is sold out of them!

Week in A Life Art Journal Day 3 (Quiet Time)

This week, inspired by Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project, I'm featuring pages from my Art Journal which reflect typical, daily activities.  They are examples of using an art journal as a visual diary. Today I took a little time for myself.  Background is paint with pastels worked into the corners for emphasis. Miscellaneous clipart images and yellow pastels stenciled on top.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Week in A Life Art Journal Day 2 (Raising a Daughter)

This week, inspired by Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project, I'm featuring pages from my Art Journal which reflect typical, daily activities.  They are examples of using an art journal as a visual diary. I love my daughter with all my heart, but we also experience all the battles that come along with raising an adolescent girl.  Painted background.  Image from a photo I took of graffiti art in Paris. Embellishments include magic mesh, hearts stamped in paint, phrases from an ATC pack, and gesso stenciled and stamped over journaling.  You can click on the image to enlarge it and read the snarky sayings on the journaling strips!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week in A Life Art Journal Day 1 (Easter)

This week, inspired by Ali Edwards' Week in a Life project, I'm featuring pages from my Art Journal which reflect typical, daily activities.  They are examples of using an art journal as a visual diary.  Here's the page I did about the way we spent Easter this year.  It was an odd day for me because we didn't really do anything special to celebrate it (no parties, egg games, etc.), but DS Henry did make paella as a homework assignment for his Spanish class. Painted background; framed with pastels.  Embellishments include Tim Holtz inspired tag, stampotique stamped image, transparency cut into cloud shape and stickers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the Run (Ten Things)

It's a busy time in blog land this weekend . . . Shimelle is hosting a weekend crop and Ali Edwards is getting ready for her Week in A Life project. Meanwhile, in real life, we've got a full slate of activities, and I've been tagged by Karen to list Ten Things that Make Me Happy and Five Random Facts.  So, here goes:
Ten Things that Make Me Happy:
1.  Watching my kids play sports.  DS Henry (above) is in the midst of baseball season. DD Clara is playing basketball and swimming.  I love watching their enthusiasm and feel blessed to have two healthy children.
2.  Hanging out with my husband.  Last night, we had grilled hamburgers and margaritas.  Then we watched a few episodes of "Life on Mars" on DVD. It's a really fun TV show that only ran for one season. A few other shows we have enjoyed watching together over the years include The West Wing and Couplings (a BBC show).
3.  My iphone.  Love having the internet in my pocket.  Love playing the "Words with Friends" scrabble app. Love posting pictures to facebook when we're out and about.
4.  My new camera bag from epiphanie.  It's bright red and even has a cool name: Lola.
5. My car - DH bought me a BMW328i for our 25th wedding anniversary in December.  I've wanted a BMW 3-series car ever since I was 20, and it really is a joy to drive.
6.  My work.  I am a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law.  I love teaching my students, and I love the research I do, primarily on immigrant workers.
7.  Creating.  Photography, art journaling, collage, scrapbooking and cards.  Love it all.
8.  Friends.  I enjoy the time spent chatting, talking and laughing with my various groups of friends.  And I enjoy my group of cyber-friends!
9.  Sleeping late. I hate the fact that five days of the week my alarm clock goes off at 6:30 am, and I have to get up and get the day started.  Conversely, I love the days when I can sleep late.
10.  Completing projects.  This week I've been working on "finishing" a few art projects.  It gives me such satisfaction to declare something done.
5 Random Things about me:
1.  I have five brothers and sisters and 51 first cousins.
2.  I write about contemporary uses of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (that's the one which prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude).
3.  Even though we're Americans, we're a Manchester United family and we've been in Europe during the last three European Championships.
4.  I know how to read tarot cards, and people tell me I'm pretty good at it.
5.  Here's a random "Photo Essay" I created yesterday.  It's called "Struggling" and shows our team's pitcher working his way through a tough period in the game.  It's random because it's not my child, and I'm not even sure what I'm going to do with it.  But I like it anyway:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Altered House Tutorial (The Beach Shack)

Welcome House Party guests and anyone else interested in altered houses!  Several people asked for a tutorial on making altered houses, so I thought I would walk you through the creative process I used to make this house, which I call my Beach Shack. I hope you find the tutorial useful. I started with an envelope of supplies, which included the following:
I began by looking at the supplies to decide what kind of house they suggested and whether I wanted to go with it or change it entirely.  I thought these supplies suggested a beachy, funpark kind of theme, and I liked that. [If I'm starting from scratch (without a bag of supplies), I usually start with a theme in mind and pull out supplies (images, paper, embellishments) which support that theme.  Or, I might start with an image that calls to me and then choose supporting papers and embellishments.]  The next thing I did was to think about any of my own supplies that I might want to add - things that had a similar feel and color scheme.  I pulled out a few things, including paint, ink, brads and some 1940's pictures of women in swimsuits:
From here, I basically proceeded to follow the three steps that I outlined earlier in my collage tutorial:  create a background; add an image; and add embellishments. You can find that tutorial here.  It's truly not so different than what your probably do in making cards or scrapbook pages.
Step 1:  Background. To create a background for my house, I considered a variety of different ways to use paper and paint to cover my house.  I started with these three papers:
I liked this basic approach, but I really wanted my beach shack to have a rustic feel, so I tried out my two paint colors to see if either would work:
The brown seemed too drab. I liked the blue, so painted the bottom half of the house blue.  I still wanted it more rustic, so I considered using either crackle paint on top of the blue or spritzing brown ink onto the blue.
Since my crackle paint was a little dried out (and also drab), I decided to spritz the bottom with brown ink.  I also used brown ink to ink the edges of all the papers and the edge of the blue. Then I glued the papers in place, and my background was done:
Step 2:  Images. I decided to use two images:  the elephant from the envelope and a 1940's woman doing a handstand.  I double-matted the elephant, single matted the woman, and placed them on the house:
Step 3:  Embellishments. When it's time to decide on embellishments, I usually try a few different variations to see what I like before I glue anything down.  I used a selection of things from the envelope and from my stash for my first pass:
I thought this looked pretty good, but thought it felt a little plain still. I wanted to add something else, and I realized I hadn't used any of the cool gingham ribbon from the envelope. I tried out the idea of putting some under the roof line or maybe some squares in the lower right corner of the house:
I decided I liked it along the roofline, but not so much on the house.  I decided to put some yellow brads in the lower right instead.  I adhered everything to end up with this:
I liked it pretty well, but I felt like it still needed one more element in the upper left hand corner of the house.  I rooted around on my desk and found a cream-colored star button with orange polka dots.  The orange pulled some orange out of the elephant picture.  I adhered the star with yellow brads, and my beach shack was complete! [Just to be sure it was complete, I toyed with the idea of adding something else (small shells, a flag on top, flowers), but they all made it feel cluttered.]
A few things about the design that I think work well.  The color scheme followed the gallon-quart-pint formula (where you use approximately 70% of your main color - blue; approximately 25% of your supporting color - brown; and approximately 5% of your third color - yellow) which often works for me. The vertical line of the brads reflect and balance the vertical image of the woman doing the handstand (she's a friend of my Aunt's, by the way), the star with the circular brads reflect and balance the picture of the elephant on the round ball.  Like many of my collages (or scrapbook pages or cards), there's a background, a title (live simply) and then three embellishments (tickets, star and brads).  Everything (color, images, embellies) supports the theme of a Beach Shack. I've never studied design, but I think this is why the house works for me to feel balanced and complete. Usually when I'm creating, I don't think consciously about any of these design principles, but I can look at the completed product and describe them (and I find it an interesting exercise).  If I'm struggling with a project, then I usually try to think about design principles to find out what is or is not working.
I didn't use everything that came in the envelope or that I pulled out.  Here's what I had left over (it's probably enough for another house - LOL!):
A few additional thoughts. There were other directions to go with the background and embellishments. For instance, I considered painting the roof brown or using a brown paper on the roof piece and then cutting some of the flowers out of the patterned paper to decorate it.  I also thought about cutting out some of the compass designs and using those as part of the background on the house or cutting little triangular flags out of the yellow paper. Any of these could have worked.  Second, if the theme suggested by the supplies in the envelope doesn't speak to you, feel free to substitute for any or all of the supplies.  Third, just play with the embellishments until you find something you like. As Paul Gardner said, "A painting is never finished.  It simply stops in interesting places."  I love my beach shack.  I think it's an interesting place to stop and spend a few moments. It might even be a fun place to have a house party . . .
I hope you found this tutorial useful.  If so, I'd love feedback as to what was helpful.  If not, polite suggestions as to what to add or delete are always welcome.  Party on!