Sunday, July 31, 2011

Class Review: Tim Holtz' Creative Blocks

Somewhere in the craziness of coming back from vacation and the stress of dealing with my poor, sick doggy, I had almost forgotten that I'd signed up for a class with Tim Holtz at Scrapbook Island in San Jose.  Luckily, I had arranged to carpool with my friend Cindy, and she reminded me of the class. I took Creative Blocks ($85 U.S.) and made this wonderful assemblage which I call "Time Skips Along." The class lasted four hours, and we made a decorated canvas, on which we mounted three smaller canvases and a variety of ephemera. We learned an easy technique to create a grid pattern, how to use a graphite pencil for shading and how to use a variety of Tim's products. For me, it was an easy and very enjoyable morning in which I learned a few new techniques and got to spend some quality art time with friends. Of course, the person who made it all worthwhile was Tim:
It's hard to imagine that there would be a nicer, more natural teacher than Tim Holtz. I've taken a half dozen classes with him over the last ten years and, in spite of his success and popularity, he remains the same, friendly, down-to-earth guy he has always been. Even though there were 70 girls in the class, he was completely accessible and chatted with all of us before, during and after the class. Can't give the class anything other than an A+.
Did a little shopping too (sorry for the grainy, upside down picture - can I blame it on Blogger?). . . bought some October Afternoon paper, stamps from the discount bin, a bunch of travel themed paper ("Destinations") from Simple Stories, baseball paper from Moxie, some distress stains, embellishments for our upcoming family vacation to Washington state and some vintager bottle cap shaped images!
In other news, my dog Gypsy seems to have stabilized. She had a blood transfusion and a bunch of tests (including a bone marrow biopsy) to deal with a severely low level of red blood cells. Right now, it looks like she has some sort of autoimmune disease, which we're attempting to  treat with drugs. We're all hoping for a good outcome, but her prognosis is definitely guarded. Good thoughts and prayers to St. Francis definitely appreciated.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

London Highlights and Photography Scavenger Hunt Items

We recently returned from a ten day trip to England, and I thought I'd share a few of the highlights (and photography scavenger hunt items) that I found along the way. Let's start with London.  We bookended our trip with weekends in London.
We started with a trip to the Tower of London - the Crown Jewels were spectacular, though we weren't allowed to photograph them.
After a quick nap to help adjust to the time change, we went to the Tate Modern Museum (check that one off the scavenger hunt list!):
The Miro exhibit was fantastic (more on that later), and we had a very romantic dinner in the restaurant at the top, watching the sun set and lights come up over London and the Thames:
The next day we shopped. My favorite find was a great jacket from Karen Millen. We had a great dinner at a fabulous, romantic Indian restaurant called The Red Fort:
Then we went back to the hotel and watched the Women's World Cup Final (so sad for the U.S.).
We then spent the weekdays in the Cotswolds and Cambridge (more on those later), before returning to London. I did a little sight-seeing:
When I was wandering about, I even came across a political protest (check that one off the scavenger hunt list):
The highlight of the second weekend was the London theater scene.  We saw a wonderful Harold Pinter play called "Betrayal" and walked out into the midst of Picadilly Circus.  Such a fun evening! We also saw a play called Anne Boleyn at Shakespeare's Globe Theater:
Before we knew it, it was time to head home. 
Thanks for sitting through my vacation photos (part I)! Got any favorites?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt: Graffiti Art

While walking around London's South End with Jacky, we stumbled upon this underpass which was covered in graffiti and used by skateboarders and bicycle riders.
The thing that caught my eye was the presence of a woman in a bridal gown! I then noticed that there was a portrait photographer there at work, setting up a shoot. I wonder if this is a real couple (the Insens, I assume) or whether it's an advertisement or something else entirely. What do you think? From a portraiture standpoint, do you like these types of portraits which juxtapose beauty and grunge? 
I was also wondering about this guy on the left:
Is he with the photographer? Or is he an interloper coming in to take the same picture as the professional? If it's the latter, is that acceptable? I partly wonder because I was, in essence, doing the same thing, although I was another twenty-five yards away or so and I'm sure the photographer didn't notice me.  I was reminded of this article, which references this article, about professional wedding photographers who sometimes feel as if others come in and "steal" the shots they are taking. I think both are very interesting.
The graffiti shots for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt have been really interesting (you can see Jo's here, Deb's here, Cindy's here. Mary's here and Irene's here). Am I missing any graffiti shots?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Class Review: Beautiful People Portraiture and Charity Auction

I recently took the on-line class, "Beautiful People Portraiture" with Cheryl Johnson (CJ) of Feel Good Photography.  The class ran for four weeks and cost $40 (25 pounds).  At the beginning of each week, participants received an email with a PDF and video link describing the week's assignment and giving information to help with the assignment. The assignments included introduction to posing (I have a few in this post) (and self-portraiture); photographing babies and children; photographing strangers (see mine here) (and profile shots); and wild and crazy portraits (photo booth style or action-packed and hands or feet)(see mine here). By the end of the week, participants posted their three best shots in the gallery for feedback from CJ and others.  Each week, CJ picked a few shots as the "best of the week" to feature on her blog. There were a few bonus videos: two on using reflectors and one answering lingering questions that people submitted during the last week of class.  There was a forum/gallery for people to post their photographs and chit-chat. I signed up for the class because I wanted to learn more about taking portraits and because the class was reasonably priced.  
Overall, I was very satisfied with the class.  I feel like I learned a lot about taking portraits and it forced me to practice in different situations.  I am particularly proud of the profile portrait I took of my son, Henry, which is featured up top and which CJ chose as one of the photos of the week.  I also really liked the baby portraits I took, one of which you can see in this post. The weekly materials were pretty good, although I wish they gave a little more direction. Truthfully, they sometimes seemed a little thin. Thankfully, they were supplemented by CJ answering questions and providing the additional videos. The videos on reflectors, for instance, were absolutely fabulous!  In addition, CJ commented individually on every single weekly assignment posted by participants.  Let me say that again, CJ commented on every single assignment posted by students. Her critiques were a little blunt, but invaluable. I learned a lot by reading her comments on my photographs and the photographs of other participants. This feature was definitely the best part of the class. It made it feel like you were actually taking a hands-on class with a professional. The forum was a good size - there were only about 35 people total, which meant you could see everyone's photographs and get feedback from most of the participants. The talent level of the participants varied widely, which created even more learning opportunities. CJ also sponsored a surprise party at the end of the class (although I wasn't able to participate because I was out of town, it seemed like a lot of fun).  One small problem I encountered with the class was that many of the other participants had taken many CJ classes and, as a first time participant, it felt a little difficult to break into the circle and understand the jargon. But, I kept asking questions and eventually nudged my way right in. So, overall, I would give the class and A-.  Depending upon the price, I would definitely take another class with Cheryl Johnson.  I welcome input from others who have take classes with her!
By the way, Cheryl Johnson has a charity auction going on at e-bay right now. The money will go to a charity called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," which helps parents cope with the loss of a newborn. She's auctioning off a portrait session, and right now it's a real bargain. The auction closes soon. You can read more about it here.  
So, how are your summer classes going?
{In other news, my dog Gypsy is sick. She was low energy and anemic when we left for our trip and hasn't really recovered. I feel badly because I'm sure that our absence did not help. No real help from the vet; it's all a bit of a mystery. Sigh. Anyway, good thoughts definitely appreciated.}

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's Talk Appropriate Travel Photography Subjects

I love taking photographs when I travel. And I have always tried to take photographs that capture things beyond the typical tourist sites. Images that will help me remember the flavor and essence of a place, as well as images that I think I can use in my mixed media art.  As I've become more mindful of my photography, though, I've begun to think consciously about what the appropriate bounds might be for travel photography subjects. I have always taken photographs in historical cemeteries, for instance, and I read with interest everyone's comments on my scavenger hunt post featuring a cemetery (see them in this post).  One that particularly intrigued me was Sian's comment about what might be out of bounds for photographers in which she said "I would never take pictures inside a church, for instance." It really made me stop and think because I had just taken the picture at the top of this post, which is one of my favorite images from our recent trip to England. It's taken inside the church in Chipping Campden. I like the colors and the composition and the feeling it evokes of an old English country parish.  I was quiet and respectful in the church and dropped some money in the donation box for the "Church Visitor Guide." And yet, I still did feel a little sense of questioning the appropriateness of taking this picture, even before I read Sian's comment. I had a similar sense of unease about these photos:
I took both of these photographs when walking out of town towards the hiking trails in The Cotswolds. I like how they capture English country life in ways that are both very different (we don't wear school uniforms her and don't have fancy horses on such fancy streets), yet oddly similar (hairstyles and attitudes seem very similar among all teenagers; there are lots of horse ranches here) to my life here. But, perhaps I felt a little queasiness because I was taking pictures of children. Would I feel any different if I were taking pictures of children in South American, Asian or Central American villages, I wonder?  The one last group of pictures that got me wondering about appropriate bounds were these:
These were all taken walking around Cambridge. It was graduation day for St. John's College, and I was struck by the beauty of the young men and women in their graduation robes. And I was touched by the love and care of parents helping their children with their regalia. Especially since the "children" are so clearly standing on the cusp of adulthood. But I confess to feeling a little bit like a voyeur, as if I had stumbled upon scenes of quiet intimacy, even though they were being played out in the crowded streets of town.  On the other hand, that very thing is what give these photographs their power, at least in my eyes.
And, just for good measure, a photograph of family intimacy taken inside a Church (the Chapel at Kings College).  So, do tell, what do you think? What are the appropriate bounds for travel photography? Do they vary depending upon where you are, what your intentions are or how you act when taking them? I'm really very curious and will take no offense if you suggest I've overstepped.
{This post is part of an occasional series ("let's talk") encouraging a discussion of certain topics, in which I really am seeking people's opinions and input.}

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We have so much to talk about . . .

We're just back from a ten day holiday in England.  We had a wonderful time visiting London (shopping, sight seeing, going to the theatre, eating, etc.); hiking in the Cotswolds; and experiencing the academic life in Cambridge.
I have so much I want to share, including

  • the photos I found for the scavenger hunt (like the Castle above) and how happy I am to see all your posts with the different things you've been finding this summer and how the hunt has helped you see familiar things with new eyes or stretched you to visit new places;
  • tales of our adventures getting lost in the pastures around Chipping Camden, romantic dinners overlooking the Thames, avoiding the rain at the Tower of London, etc.;
  • what the children were up while we were gone, including the life lessons learned by a 16 year old boy who stayed home alone to watch the dog and the house (he wasn't totally alone, and he did great). Plus, the fun had by a 13 year old girl hiking in the mountains with her Aunt and shopping in the malls with her cousins;
  • how I managed to eat, drink and be merry; yet still lose half a pound and maintain my commitment to be fit and fabulous; 
  • how the Mirot exhibit at the Tate Modern fed my creative life (so much thought for my art journals!) and how my photography classes affected the way I saw England and the photographs I took (including a review of the Beautiful People Portrait Class).
All that and more will be coming in the next few weeks. Plus, I'll be getting round to catch up on your blogs. I've missed visiting and commenting.  I will share one quick story. Only one because I'm still pretty bleary from the trip:
{Well, maybe not quite this bleary as in the photograph (taken by my husband)}
I had the wonderful good fortune of meeting up with my blog friend Jacky while in London. I had hoped to meet up with a whole bunch of blog friends, like Deb, Denise, Lizzie, Pippa and more, but the timing of my trip (at the end of the school term) and the number of things I was trying to juggle right before our trip meant that I dropped the ball on that one. Luckily, Jacky picked it up and emailed me right before I left. And she was willing to take a long train trip in to London. So I, at least, got to meet her. And I am so glad I did!  We had a wonderful time - I think it would be hard to find a more genial, down to earth woman. I can't wait for her to come visit San Francisco some day. Plus, she gave me the most brilliant She Art canvas! Thanks Jacky for the present and for making the trip. Our meeting was a definite highlight of my trip.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summertime Photo Hunt: Rain

Photographing rain turns out to be a bit of a challenge - I've had a few inquiries about what would be acceptable. As you may have realized, my emphasis in the scavenger hunt is fun and participation, rather than strict rules. And, when I saw this rain-touched spider web outside, I thought it was a good candidate for my rain picture.  The photo up top is a picture of the front of the full web. After I took it, I moved around and took a picture from the back:
And I liked this one as well, which had a more ethereal feel:
Do you have other ways of photographing rain?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summertime Photograph Scavenger Hunt: Cemetery

This gorgeous cross is at one of the cemeteries in Half Moon Bay, California. The cemetery is  called the Our Lady of the Pillar or Nuestra Senora del Pillar Cemetery. It was opened after the more historic (and more well known) Pilarcitos Cemetery was closed.
The cemetery has an older section up top, where this cross is and a modern section, down below. There's also a "potter's field" with unmarked graves. You can read more about the cemetery at this link, although I think it was written quite a while ago because the cemetery is in much better shape than in the write-up.  I enjoy taking photographs at cemeteries. I find the images work well in collage art and also for sympathy cards. But, I'm not sure everyone shares my sentiments. Helena shared her thoughts and some great photos in her post here. How do you feel about cemetery photography?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summertime Photo Scavenger Hunt: A Handmade Roadside Memorial or Shrine

I live in a beach town. There is one long highway that runs parallel to the ocean, and we have a variety of neighborhoods which have grown up on either side of the main artery.  Highway 1 is often full of traffic (including commuters, teenagers, and tourists unfamiliar with the area), and there are few stop lights along the ten mile stretch of road.  An unfortunate result of these conditions is that there are several deaths on the highway each year. Each death is a tragedy in someone's life, and, when the tragedy involves a local from our small community, we are all touched by it. When I drive between my home and my children's schools, I can count at least six roadside memorials. And I know the story behind each one.  When I see them, I remember the person who is no longer with us and my heart goes out to the ones left behind to mourn. I guess that's the purpose of the shrines. For us to remember and to care for our neighbors.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Photo Scavenger Hunt: A Festival or Fair

Like many other bloggers, I am on vacation this week, but I have left a steady stream of auto-posts for my readers. But I may not be visiting your blogs as regularly, and my posts are only coming every other day.  It's a great opportunity, though, to catch up on posting photographs for my summertime photograph and snapshot scavenger hunt. We're about a month into the contest, and you still have two months left to find and photograph the 21 items listed in the sidebar at the left. Full details can be found in my post here. Today's photographs are of an all-female Taiko Drum Group which performed at the Sokenbichu Seren-i-Tea Festival in San Francisco in June. The drummers were awesome! I especially liked them because for many years women were not allowed to participate in this form of musical expression, and these performers are certainly enjoying breaking that barrier. 
So, how are you coming on the scavenger hunt? Mary of Mary's Musings posted a very nice recap here - check out how she dealt with the lack of mailboxes in the UK!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sympathy & Thank You Cards: Counterfeit Kit Challenge

When putting together my July Counterfeit Kit, I made a card kit add-on because I knew I was going to make some cards for a card swap. I chose to feature the Michael Strong Whirl-a-gig collection from Club Scrap, but only used the blues, whites and yellows in my main kit. So, I put the coral papers in my card kit add-on, along with some other papers, flowers, ribbons and buttons:
I like to keep Sympathy cards fairly simple, and I like the ones I made. I hope the coral isn't too cheery/bright for the sentiment. What do you think?
I also made some thank-you cards, which I think worked just fine with the color palette (although the light coral/pink paper doesn't scan very well). It's been a while since I participated in a card swap. For this one, I'm sending in four thank-you cards and getting four different thank-you cards back. Same thing with the four sympathy cards.  I used to participate in them all the time but got burnt out on them.
What about you? Do you do card swaps?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 Intentions, Resolutions and OLW Mid-Year Reflection

This year, I have been keeping three different art journals about my intentions, resolutions and one little word for 2011. You can read more about my project and see my pages by clicking on the label below marked "2011 intentions." I invited others to join in, and I see that (at least) Mel, Karen, and Pippa are continuing with the project. What about the rest of you?  Am I missing anyone?
My first art journal is my Intentions Journal, and it focuses on my intention to be "Fabulous at 50." My June page is above. It uses the same Tim Holtz technique I used for my Grungy Monday post last week, and the journaling reads "In June, I was fabulous because I reclaimed my art time - working in plaster and photography." The page features some of the new Dina Wakley stamps from Stampington. Aren't they awesome??? You can check them out here. I feel like I've done well with this Intention. I am feeling very empowered these days; I think it's all about attitude.
My second art journal focuses on 12 specific resolutions for 2011.  So far, I've accomplished five and half of them: travel outside the US (well, soon); learn photoshop elements (at least made a start); submit book proposal and finish work projects (that's the half); try portrait photography; work on heritage album; and learn to better use my ipad. Still to go: keep a record of the books I read; create estate plan; settle parents's estate; organize, purge and don't buy supplies (I've actually been very good on the don't buy part); finish existing projects (probably need to make this more specific); and learn to better utilize my car features. I think the next two I will do will be the books and the car. And I'd like to get organized and purged before I go back to school in mid-August. Those shouldn't be too hard. I always put off the estate planning stuff. Sigh.
My third art journal focuses on my one little word for 2011: health. I'm doing very well on many aspects of this - especially getting stronger and fitter; eater better; losing weight; and being less stressed. The things I still need to work on are the more medical - getting to a doctor for a check-up, going to the dentist, etc. That should be doable for the fall.
So, overall, I'm feeling pretty good about staying on track with by intentions, resolutions and one little word for 2011. How about you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stamped Tags: Counterfeit Kit Challenge Blog

How simply wonderful and easy is this idea?  In this month's Counterfeit Kit (from Polka Dot Whimsy), there were some stamped tags. So, when putting together my kit, I pulled an assortment of blank tags. Yesterday I pulled out some stamps appropriate for use with our upcoming kayak vacation in the San Juan Islands and made these embellishments. Super simple, and I love them. Apparently, there's no need to buy "adventure" or "outdoor embellishments" because I have so much stuff already. What kind of home made embellishments can you make with your stash?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grungy Monday #15 Guest Designer!

I'm thrilled to be one of the Guest Designers this week over at Linda Ledbetter's Studio L3 Blog Grungy Monday Challenge. The challenge always features techniques by the wonderful Tim Holtz (check out his webpage here). This week's challenge technique is from Tim Holtz's 2007 12 Tags of Christmas, Day 7. My entry is a page in my 2011 Resolutions Art Journal. I journaled about my resolution to try some portrait photography. The background for the page uses Adirondack Color Wash sprayed over some Club Scrap stencils.  For the tag, I started with mustard distress ink and grunged with vintage photo. I chose an appropriate Tim Holtz stamp set and colored the main image with pine needles, black soot and faded jean. The antique camera image is from Stampin' Up.  The other Guest Designer this week is Barbara Washington.  Check out her work at the Magic Delights blog. You can also always find lots of grungy goodness at the "All Things Tim" yahoo group, including a spot to play along with each group;s challenge. You can find them hereIf you want to play along with this week's challnege and see others working this technique, head on over to Linda's blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ten on the Tenth: Portraits from Today's Session

I'm taking the "Beautiful People" portrait class with Cheryl Johnson, and this week's assignment was to take some unusual, fun portraits, including some with a "photo booth" approach (a neutral background and props) and some that are just of hands.  My good friends (Rich, Hillary, Ian and Rebecca), pictured above, agreed to help me.  Shimelle is hosting a "Ten on the Tenth" blog link-up, so I thought I'd share ten portraits I took today for this assignment.
For my photo booth, I threw an old blue electric blanket over the fence on their back deck. The first prop I used was a stack of dry erase boards. I gave them each one and asked them to write or draw something. I got the idea from Tara Whitney, who blogged about it in this post. Here's what my friends did:
My next prop was a stack of empty picture frames. I know I've seen this idea in various places, such as in this post.  Here's my four favorite with those props:
My favorite photograph of hands featured mom and daughter. I tried to go for the idea of Rebecca cradling Hillary's hand:
The family's really not that sentimental, though, so when I asked them what they thought we should do for hands, they went for this:
Which, of course, is "rock, paper, scissors."
On the whole, the assignment was much harder than I thought it would be, even with very willing friends.  As a result, I learned a lot! The light on the back deck was not great, but I didn't realize it until I was fully committed to working there. And I think I need a bigger backdrop, if I want to photograph more than two people at a time. I still like the idea of the dry erase boards, although a larger chalk board like the one Tara Whitney has would probably be better.  Will have to keep my eye out for one.  I also wonder if I should have given them a bit more direction on what to write (Tara told her models to write "a song lyric or something"). I'm not sure how I feel about the picture frame prop. The jury is still out on that one. Maybe I just need a bigger frame. I'd love any feedback you have on these or other props. By the way, check out this link to an article about fads in portrait props that I thought was pretty funny/interesting. 
On the other hand, I do want to say that I am very pleased with the basic family portrait I took and am very grateful to have such good friends! 
For more ten on the tenth posts, check out Shimelle's blog here (the link doesn't seem to be "live" yet, so you may have to check back later).