Monday, January 31, 2011

Class Review: Skinny Mini from Kim Klassen

One of my resolutions for this year is to learn photoshop elements, and the first step in the process was taking a free class on photoshop called the Skinny Mini, offered by Kim Klassen.  The class was run over two weeks, with new lessons posted each weekday.  The lessons alternated between videos explaining a concept and homework to go over those concepts.    The videos were incredibly clear and easy to follow.  I would run the videos on my ipad, while working in PSE on my computer.  I could pause and rewind the videos whenever I needed to.  The homeworks re-enforced the lessons presented in the videos and gave you the steps in a written format. The lessons covered using the layers panel, blending modes,adding text,  solid adjustments, textures, brushes, spot healing, masks, black & white conversions, making a blog banner and making a blog button.  Although the videos were only available for a week after the class ended, for a nominal fee of $5.00, a student can have permanent access to the videos.  I gladly paid the charge to have continued access to them.  There was a flickr group in which you could post your homework assignments, and other students often commented on them.  There was also a conversation page to post questions, and Kim answered every question posted to the conversation page promptly.
Overall, this was a great class!  It contained a huge amount of information, and it was all very clearly presented.  I learned enough to be able to process photographs in many interesting ways.  And it was free!  My one criticism is that Kim's approach to teaching might not appeal to everyone because, although she does a great job of showing off all the "trees" of photoshop, she never really describes the "forest."   I ended up having used a number of different tools available in PSE and feeling pretty good about how to use them, but I never understood the big picture of how they related to each other.  Now, not everybody wants the big picture.  Many people just want to jump in and know what button to push, drag or apply.  And Kim is fantastic at that!  But I do better with a little more introduction.  So, I'll be taking another class in the near future to hopefully learn more.  Still, for a free class, I give the class a solid A rating. I'd love to hear reactions from others who have taken a Kim Klassen class as to whether you think this is typical of her style, and, from everyone, whether you want a teacher who emphasizes the forest or trees.
My art journal page above summarizes my feelings about the class.  It reads, "In January, I took an introductory, free PS class and I learned how to do a lot of things, but I don't yet have a good overview.  I've signed up for another class and hope to learn even more.  I'm happy to emphasize photo processing." I incorporated images of an owl (for learning) and a forest and a tree (for what I learned & didn't learn). 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mail Art & a little catch-up

I received my "real" pass the book from Sian last week - Good Mail Day - and it's been an interesting read so far.  I had mostly thought of Mail Art or Postal Art as being a matter of decorating envelopes or packages (like the one I sent off to Laurie, above).  But it's about a lot more.  
It's about creating all sorts of fun things to pop into the mail and about establishing relationships through through the mail, in much the same ways as my blog has allowed me to create relationships through the internet.  I'm going to keep the book for a bit more before I send it on, but I'm enjoying it so far.
In other news, DD Clara and her basketball team did this:
They had a great season, going 12-1.  Unfortunately, their one loss was in the championship game.  Still, I'm very proud of the whole group!  DS Henry's soccer team is doing quite well.  They're in second place, one point behind the leaders (who they play on Wednesday) and one point ahead of the third place team.  It should be a tight race to the end of the season.  Other than that, we've been having a homey couple of weeks.  DH celebrated his birthday:
And my big accomplishment today was to clean up my craft area.  It had really gotten out of control! Once again, in doing so, I realized that I have A LOT of stuff!  I really need to get some scrapping done, if for no other reason, than to use up some of my paper.  What have you been up to?

Friday, January 28, 2011

(Art) Journal Your Intentions, Resolutions & OLW - January Checkin

Okay art journalers, photographers, mini-album makers, tag book artists and anyone else who is working to keep on track with your 2011 intentions, resolutions or One Little Word, here's your opportunity to share what you've been up to!
I've been working with three different journals.  For my one little word "Health" journal, I've decided it's complete artistically.  I do pull it out each week and review my journaling in it.  So far, here's how I've been doing: I started an eating plan (weight watchers), which allows me to track what I'm eating.  I've lost my fear of the scale and have managed to lose a few pounds. Most importantly, I've made the mental commitment to return to a healthy way of eating. From a mental health standpoint, I'm doing much better at "letting go" of the children's problems.  I'm still there for them, but I'm not internalizing their struggles in the same way. I've also been very mellow about work.  I'm drinking water, lots and lots of water, and I'm getting much more sleep and rest.  Pretty good!  Still to do? All the things about becoming more active and finding a doctor and getting checked out.  
For my resolutions journal, I've got an art page in progress about learning photoshop. I'll post it early next week with a class review of Kim Klassen's Skinny Mini Ecourse.
For my "Fifty and Fabulous" intentions journal, I considered lots of different ways in which I was fabulous this month.  I finally made the organizational decision to complete the pages in order and use whatever background was first (or next in the journal), rather than trying to find a background that best fit an idea.  So, using the first background in my journal, I came up with the page above.  The journaling reads, "In January, I was fabulous because I realized, at 50, it's sometimes okay to put myself ahead of my children."  The page is fairly simple - I just added some cardstock stickers, a little stamping and the journaling to the  background.  But I am very happy with!
So, what have you been up to?  Regular comments always appreciated, but, if you can,  I'd love it if you'd blog about it this weekend and then add your blog post to the Mr. Linky tool below:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's Inspiring You Today?

I've been very inspired lately by Traci Bautista's art journaling blog.  She has such freedom in her artwork, and she blogs almost daily with all kinds of art journaling inspiration. I can't believe the amount of creative energy she has!  Laurie is taking a class called "Big Paint," and, even though I'm not in the class, I love the idea of it.  Pippa just posted these very cool doodle birds.  I was channeling all these lovely, imprecise, free-form inspirations today when I took out my art journal and started throwing paint around on the page to create this background.
For the message on my page today, I was inspired by Tammy Lee Bradley, a terrific photographer who captures everyday beauty in so many of her posts, like this one.  I also came across a wonderful quote on Ali Edward's blog about finding the meaning of life in the ordinary.  It reads "the ordinary has extraordinary value in isolating meaningful experience."  I almost used that quote on this art journal page, but instead went for the Pooh classic: "Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known." 
 What's inspiring you today?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(Art) Journaling Intentions, Resolutions & OLW check-check coming soon

The end of the month is just around the corner, so pretty soon I'll be checking in to see how you all are coming on (art)journaling your intentions, resolutions and one little word for 2011.  This weekend, I'll put up a post and ask for links from anyone who has been working on chronicling their annual goals in any form.  You can read more about this project in this post, this post and this post.  As you may recall, my intention for this year is to be "50 and Fabulous."  Although this art journal page is not in my Intentions art journal, it definitely has a "50 and Fabulous" vibe to it, don't you think?  

Of fairies and mermaids and pass the book

While blog reading the other day, I came across a questionnaire which included the question, "Do you believe in fairies?"  I paused and realized that I don't.  While I believe in ghosts and other spirits . . . fairies? Not so much.  Fairies have been on my mind, as I was thinking about getting artistic inspiration from my current pass-the-book, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book.  I made the card above, in which I feel like I pressed my own fairy behind some acrylic. That card and the book will be going out to . . . (insert drum roll) . . .
Laurie of the Lone Black Bird and Black Bird Flies blog! Email me your mailing address Laurie, and I will put those in the post to you. You can email me at
Interestingly, while I don't believe in fairies, I do believe in mermaids, and I was inspired to make this pressed mermaid card:
Interesting because, when I thought about it, maybe mermaids are just water-borne fairies! In any event, if you would like to receive my pressed mermaid card, simply add a comment about whether you believe in fairies and/or mermaids.  I'll pick a winner this weekend.
In other news, the wonderful Sian, originator of Pass the Book ordered Amazon to send me a new copy of the mail art book, and it arrived yesterday! I'll check it out and offer it up in the not too distant future.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Quick Thank-You Cards & A Reminder

I make a lot fewer cards than I used to make.  I have so many things on my artistic plate that cards seems to have been left behind on the buffet line.  And I'm okay with that for now.  But today I needed some thank-you cards for vendors, parents and community members who helped out with a soccer event we held over the weekend.  So, I pulled out a set of Hampton Arts acrylic stamps and a "greeting to go" pack from Club Scrap (basically pre-cut, pre-scored card blanks and mats) and proceeded to make up a set of thank-you cards.  It was fun, and I'm glad that I was able to do it.  But, truthfully, it didn't reignite any card making muse. And card making will remain off my plate for the most part in the near future, I think.  What about you?  Are there things you used to do that don't really call to you anymore?
And the reminder . . . I'll be pulling the recipient for pass the book tomorrow, so if you're interested in Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, go to this link and let me know!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some Soccer Joy (and a feedback request)

See that expression?  That's a fifteen year old boy who is ecstatic after having scored for the first time playing High School Varsity soccer.  In fact, he scored two goals in the first half of the game on Wednesday.  Both were headers, courtesy of beautiful crosses from his teammate Miguel. No photo-shopping required!  
Here's another kindof cool photograph with no photoshopping:
I love how the soccer players resemble ninjas.  I did put my PSE to work creating some 8x10's of the Senior players that we will hand out on Senior Night.  Here's some samples:

So, I'm looking for some honest feedback on the senior shots.  Do you like having the text on them? Did I choose the right color for the text?  Are there any you think I need to retake?  Do you think this would be a better shot for the goal keeper?
Thanks for your help! I'm going to let this post run for a couple day because I'm going out of town on work for a quick trip to Shrevesport, La.  Also, a reminder that if you're interested in participating in "Pass the Book" and spending some time with "Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book," check out this link and post your interest soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Digital Art vs. Photo Improvement

Okay, I think I'm starting to get a sense of photoshop elements - what I like about it and can see myself using it for on the digital art side.  Heather posted this link to Shadow House Creations which has some very artsy textures, and they're all free! If you're interested in learning how to use textures, check out this post from Kim Klassen.  I used the painted sonata texture with various blends to make the art above.  It started life as the following photograph, which seems like the perfect photograph to photoshop because of its light background, abundance of white space and inherently artsy quality:
I also used one of the Shadow House "oil cloth" textures to create this:
from this original photo:
More subtle, but still clearly photoshopped to change the photograph into digital art. 
On the other hand, here's a black and white conversion. Something that fits more in the realm of improving a basic photo, rather than creating digital art.  It was actually harder than I thought! LOL! The original first:
And the conversion:
Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lighten Up! (altered book spread)

My mixed media group has an ongoing altered book round robin, and this month I had the pleasure of working in Connie's book.  Here theme is "Poetry of Dreams," and there is a small envelope with "dreams" in the front of the book.  Each artist is instructed to choose a dream or two and use that as the jumping off point for her spread.  I chose two dream poems that remind me to not take myself too seriously and created this artwork to go with it.  I know that I take things too seriously too often, and I've enjoyed being a little "lighter" so far this year. What about you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pass The Book (A Temporary Replacement)

In a very ironic turn of events, the mail art "Pass the Book" for which I was selected back in December (or was it November?) has gone missing in the post.  It just couldn't find its way from Northern Ireland to Northern California.  Never fear - Sian is sorting it out and will be putting it back into circulation.  In the meantime, I'm offering this up as a replacement for now:  Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, 10th Anniversary Edition.
It is a lovely volume to hold in your hands - large, but not too heavy. It even has a padded cover (and a DVD nestled in the back).  It professes to be the album in which a young Victorian lady caught and pressed fairys (instead of pressing flowers, as she was intended to do), as well as the journaling she does to accompany her hobby.  I found it inspiring on many levels, but especially the watercolor artwork and the chirlish writing style. Sian thinks I should mention that it's actually written by Terry Jones, which may either intrigue you further or scare you off.
In any event, if you want to have the opportunity to receive Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book as part of Pass the Book, leave a comment below letting me know you are interested.  I'll post the next recipient and the inspiration I received from the book on Tuesday, Jan. 25 (so don't delay).  If you are the recipient, your responsibilities are fairly simple: peruse the book, take some inspiration from it, post the inspiration to your blog and then offer the book up to the next subscriber.  To learn more about the Pass the Book project, see this post from Sian's blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Class Review: Journal Your Christmas 2010

I stole some time this morning to sit down and finish my "Journal Your Christmas" album for the Shimelle class of the same name. And I'm really glad I did.  Partly because I knew that if I didn't finish it soon, it might not get done until next December.  But also because it gave me a chance to sit back and revisit the holiday season. And that's one of the best things about this class.
I like the way the class forces me to be mindful of the holidays as they are happening.  By checking the Shimelle prompt and thinking about whether I want to document what she has suggested or go in my own direction, I stop and ponder the day, the season and my current life.  You can see the basic format of my album above (my manifesto page) and below:
My album pages were all about 3.5"x6".  For each day, I took a hipstamatic photo on my iphone, which I printed out at at 3"x3".  I added a strip of patterned paper for balance. On the right hand side, each page had a 3"x5" journaling block, a strip of patterned paper and an embellishment.  I found this format very easy to work with.  The only downside was not being able to assemble the whole thing until I ordered and received my pictures. Another great thing about this class is how flexible it is; there are limitless ways to create a JYC project, and none are "wrong."  This is the third time I've completed the class, and each of my projects have been very different (the first was an art journal in a box; the second, a book featuring Tim Holtz tags).  More importantly, I've learned or realized different lessons each time I've taken the class:
This is the final entry in my album.  Shimelle's last prompt encourages you to reflect on the holiday season and what you learned from doing JYC.  I had a bit of an epiphany when I was putting this page together - we spent a lot of time together as a family in December 2010 . . . doing Christmas stuff, but also all the other stuff that makes up life (basketball, soccer, homework, etc.).  We also spent significant time with extended family.  This felt different than other Decembers, and it was good.  And I probably would not have realized it without doing the JYC Project.  So, thank-you Shimelle, for another great class!
The basics:  The class runs from Dec. 1 - Jan 6 with 37 daily prompts (each one different) about journaling your Christmas. New for this year were additional "In Focus" prompts, which featured tips for photography, as well as a few photography challenges if you needed help trying to decide what to photograph.  I LOVED these!!!  They are things I will return to throughout the year.  I especially loved her last "in focus" prompt with suggestions for setting photography goals for the year. There's a forum where people share pages, questions and ideas.  Like many classes, it was much more active during the first part of the class than the latter, but I always found it helpful.  The class this year was smaller than last year's, which I think was a good thing because it was easier to follow along. Although Shimelle uses the same basic prompts each year, this year she updated them with her current pages and pictures/ ideas that others shared last year.  Shimelle's classes are always ridiculously cheap.  This one was 22 pounds (about $25 U.S.) and once you buy it once, you get to take it every year for free!  I give the class an  A+. What about you?  Different views always welcome.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let's Talk Textures and Photoshop

The next lesson in the Kim Klassen class I'm taking gives participants the low down or basics or "skinny" on how to use textures. They're like an overlay, which you soften and blend in various ways.  The photo above has a grey texture that I downloaded free from Kim's blog in this post, as well as a green overall fill, blended in softlight.  I like it pretty well.  The photo started life this way:
Before I ended up with the first photo, I also tried this one with the grey texture but no green fill.  It's too textured and too light for my taste:
I also tried this one with a free texture called on the edge., blended with hard light:
Kim Klassen seems to be a Goddess of Textures. If you follow her blog, she'll post free textures every now and then.  Also, if you join her crazy for textures list, she'll send you free textures every week.  You can sign up for the textures list at this link.
So, I think textures are pretty interesting, and I'd like to experiment with a few more.  What do you think of textures? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Got any favorite places for free textures (that you've used and know won't virus up your computers?).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Taught a Great Class Today!

I taught a class today on making art journals for resolutions, intentions and one little words.  It was so much fun! The pages above are going into my "Fabulous at 50" art journal.  Here's the outside covers from the class:
And here are some internal pages from my students:
They'll all be participating in the year-long art journaling your intentions online event I'm hosting.  I know Pippa will be there, and Mel, too! I"m hoping some others will join in . . . remember it doesn't have to be an art journal if that's outside your comfort zone.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's Talk "Photoshopping" Photos

I'm working on my second assignment in the FREE photoshop class I'm taking with Kim Klassen ("Skinny Mini"), which is on using the layers and adjustment panels.  The result of my initial attempt is above, and I think it's pretty cool looking.  Here's the original photo below:
First, I changed the photo by using the "hard mix" blending mode to get the cool highlights; then I lightened everything in the blending mode and added text. 
I'm happy to be learning photoshop, but I'm feeling a little conflicted as well.  I have always been a little uneasy about "photoshopping" or "processing" photos because I think it changes the essential nature of the photograph and consequently photography as an art form.  That's the main reason I hesitated for so long before learning photoshop.  I finally broke down and bought PSE because I thought PSE would be an easy way to improve a photo without changing it.  I think the processes I went through with this photo really change it's nature, rather than simply improving the original image. On the other hand, I can see how these types of changes will be useful in creating a poster or card or some other digital art piece.  
Here's the rest of my homework assignment. I did all kinds of blending and adjusting on the first photograph to create the second piece.
Again, it's cool to be able to do this, and I'm glad to be learning this, but this still seems to me like a different art form than photography.  And maybe that's okay. And maybe I'll embrace digital art or digital photography (or whatever it is/should be called), but I do think it's different than the art of photography.  What do you think? I'd welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Class Review: 12 Tags of Christmas

Before we're through with December, I thought I better write my Christmas class reviews.  Even though Tim Holtz's Twelve Tags of Christmas is not technically a class, it definitely has that feel.  Each day, between Dec. 1 and 12, Tim posts instructions for completing a tag using a variety of products (especially his signature products).  This is the third year in a row in which he has undertaken this project and the first year that I haven't finished all twelve tags.   The bloom was a little off the rose for me this year, I think, because so many of the tags featured products that I don't own - especially his die cutting machine and dies.  Although Tim encourages participants to substitute other products, I found it difficult to do in this situation. Also, it struck me that a large portion of the tags used variations on these materials.  In the past, almost every tag featured a different technique So, this was not my favorite 12 Tags of Christmas, but I did enjoy making my tags, revisiting some old techniques and learning a few new ones.  Plus, it's all FREE!  Hard to be too critical of a free sharing of information. Something new for this year were videos.  I love listening to Tim Holtz talk about how to create and so would play them for background, even if he was describing how to use a machine I didn't own.  His voice is so calming and supportive that it increased my creative enjoyment. As always, alternative viewpoints welcomed. Overall grade: B.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A response to the Arizona Shooting

I believe in the rule of law and that violence and guns have no place in political discourse.  I don't know if the disturbed person who attempted to assassinate a member of our government believed he was acting in a political manner or not, but I believe that hope lies in peace and democracy.
(Off my soapbox to say that this is my first homework assignment for my photoshop class taught my Kim Klassen. I edited this again (twice) after my initial post to clean up a typo and turn the second set of words white. I'm actually quite pleased with myself.  I took the flag photo today at my local post office.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Art Journaling Intentions Inspirations

Hi all, I'm back! Did you miss me? I took a little blog break because my IRL work got very busy with grading, our annual conference, start of term, yada-yada-yada, boring.  While I was gone, I did add a bit more journaling to my "One Little Word" Health art journal.  I came up with four more things I want to focus on, including drinking lots of water (stole this idea from someone - Deb maybe) and being mindful of sleep and being well-rested. The other two things help my mental health by avoiding stress.  The first is above.  The journaling reads "Let the children grow on their own . . . Don't internalize their sturggles. Don't pick fights with them."  I'm hoping other mothers will relate to this one and not send me to "Bad Mom" camp.  The other page is this one:
The journaling reads simply: "I will not get stressed by things at work." I love my job. There's absolutely no reason it should give me indigestion.  Also, while I was away, the wonderful Pippa finished up her journal about her one little word "experiment."   It's perfect for someone wanting to dip their toe into art journaling, don't you thing!  Here's a few samples from her blog:

I was happy to read that others may be joining in as well with tag books or minialbums.  Please do!  I'd love to have you.  Karen had the tremendous idea, though, of doing a check in at the end of the month, rather than mid-month, and I think that makes perfect sense.  So, there's still plenty of time to join in.  Create a mini-album, grab an art journal and begin to think about journaling your intentions.