Sunday, May 29, 2011



Yup.  I'm doing it.  Right now.  Supposed to be 1) grading my finals; 2) re-matting a picture; 3) doing laundry; 4) revising my drawing for this week's assignment, 5) contacting the credit union, the DMV (okay, it's Sunday, but I've been not doing those for a couple of weeks now), 6) many more things, I'm sure, but . . . I'm not.  I'm thinking about it, though.

[Link to iPhoneography]

It's so easy to find other important things to do.   Writing a blog post.  Visiting your blog.  Playing with the little kitty we're fostering for two weeks (see above).  Staring off into space (which my ex used to call "Receiving signals from the mother ship").  

But in the end, procrastination gets me nothing but anxiety followed by a mad rush to get whatever it is done on time.  And that takes a toll, I think -- I spend more time thinking about what I have to do than I probably would spend doing the thing itself.

Do you procrastinate?  On what kinds of things?  Do you have ways of tricking yourself into getting something done?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Grandmother


I'm really, really enjoying the art journaling course I'm taking.  Each day I'm learning about new materials and techniques.  The other day, I learned how to do transfers from paper -- very cool.

So I've been making lots of pages, and the other day, I made one about my grandmother.

I included things like her birth certificate, a piece of a letter she wrote me once, a scan of some crochet she did, a bunch of pictures, and a little bottle with beads from the bead store she owned in the 1940's.

My grandmother was a tough lady.  She didn't do cuddly very well, and my mother never heard her mother say "I love you," not once in her life.  (When we as little children would say, "I love you, Grandma," she would say to my mom, "Why do they say that?")  She had little patience for childish shenanigans, and often said that children should be seen and not heard.  She was a very difficult taskmaster; when I was in second grade or so, I was hemming something under her supervision, and she wanted it done so the stitches didn't show on the outside or the inside.  It wasn't up to her standards, so she just ripped the whole thing out (that was around the time I just gave up on sewing).

Still, we loved her.  She was a source of endless fascination.  She wore corsets!  My sister and I would watch her wind the strings around her middle, every morning.  She drank gelatin dissolved in juice because it was good for her fingernails.  Her teeth would come out!  She would pop them out to scare us.  She talked funny -- she would say "Close the light" or "Make the door open" or "I put you some milk in your glass."  (She was a German immigrant.)  She had a scar on one finger from when she worked in a factory in WWI (our grandmother!  Working in a factory!) and a machine punched through her finger.

She lived with us from the time I was three until I was in college, and she was a steady presence in our lives, a built-in babysitter who did much more for us.  She crocheted, knitted and sewed, and cooked delicious food (we loved her chow mein, which now I realize was probably all made out of cans).  She could make peppermints appear out of her pocketbook or bosom.  

To this day, I don't eat the crusts on pizza, because Grandma liked them a lot and we would pass them down to her, where she sat at the end of the table (she felt they were good exercise for her jaw muscles).  I would like to be more like her -- tough, had no trouble saying "no," lived forever (to age 96, with all her faculties), and is remembered very, very fondly by her grandchildren.  I miss you, Grandma B.   

Friday, May 27, 2011

Should be a lovely day --


Should be a lovely day today -- sun's out, not too hot -- my favorite kind of weather.  Maybe I'll get out with the camera -- I don't know.  I have work to get done (grades are due, and I've been putting off looking at my finals).  Here's a flower in honor of the day.  Aren't Gerbera daisies photogenic?

  [Linkup to LEM Photo Challenge]

I also saw some sunflowers at the store the other day -- they're another favorite.  Sometimes they can be kind of ratty, but if you get nice ones, they're wonderful.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day -- 

Edited to say:  Yay, my followers are back!  You all went missing for two days!  Did you have fun?? 

(Later:  Oh no!  You're gone again!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Just a quick post --


Running up to work today for a couple of hours; just wanted to post one pic I took yesterday, during a rainstorm:

Have a great day, everyone --

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Year of the Artist


I've been taking pictures for 4-1/2 years, working hard at it, learning a lot along the way.  Last year, when they had Open Studios here in Santa Cruz, I went around to see artists who were manipulating photographs.  I realized, as I looked at what they were doing, that these people knew a lot more about art than I do, so I declared it the "Year of the Artist" for me, a year in which I would learn more about different kinds of art.  I have never done any kind of art in my life (well, photography is an art), so this is just huge for me.  Starting in January, I have

  • taken two drawing classes at community college, one on charcoals and the other on pastels; 
  • attended a workshop on watercolor journaling; 
  • bought myself some watercolors and just started painting;
  • got a sketch book and began doing exercises in it;  

  • taken a four-Saturday course on "Expressive Botanical Illustration";  
  • now I'm taking an online course on art journaling; and
  • signed up for a watercolor course that starts in a couple of weeks.
 Whew!  I'm really having a good time.  While not all the activities have been equally fun or enlightening, a lot of them have been, and I've been enjoying myself immensely.

This online art journaling class I'm doing is great -- highly recommended.  Christy Tomlinson is the teacher, and she's great -- she has good credentials in the field and the series is very professionally done -- this week, we got 28 videos to watch!  

This week has been all about materials of different kinds, and I've been at the art store every day.  She's shown us so many different kinds of things you can use, and of course I wanted to get a couple of each of them -- pan pastels, inks, pens and markers of various kinds, acrylic paints, on and on.  I am enjoying the heck out of myself.

I don't know whether anything I'm doing is "good," and I really don't care -- I am just having big fun playing around with something I've steered clear of my whole life and discovering that maybe there's something of an artist inside . . . I'm going to keep on this journey and see where it takes me.  How about you?  What artsy activities do you do?  (Yes, I know, photography . . . )

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a Name?


Sharing more Filoli pics, but I also want to talk about a subject I've thought about for a long time:  Names.

When I was pregnant with my son, I went into a kind of naming paralysis, because it felt as if naming someone was a huge responsibility with potentially huge consequences.  We've all heard that a girl named "Bunny" will never become CEO of a large corporation; I've always liked the name George, but could somehow in my mind hear a shrewish wife going "Geoooorrrge . . . " and that made me shudder.

  [Linkup to Mellow Yellow Monday]

I also have a deeply personal reason for anguishing over names:  I have always hated my name, because it was the cause of a great deal of misery in my childhood.  No one in Minnesota in the 1950's had ever heard of the name "Elise" -- my parents had actually never heard of it either.  But my mother saw an advertisement in a magazine that included a beautiful red-haired woman named Elise Gammon, so . . . I was named after Miss Rheingold Beer of 1949.

I dreaded the first day of school, which always followed a particular progression:  1)  Teacher butchers my name; 2)  the kids laugh at her/me; 3)  the kids have great fodder for teasing me the rest of the school year.  Over time, I was called Ellis, Eloise, Elaine, Elyes (don't even know how to spell that one -- Like "Eli" with an s), on and on.  But the most hated one of all, the one that was the most likely and the one the kids just ate up:  Elsie.  Now, those of you who are still young will likely think, well, that's just one of those antique names like Sophie that reminds you of your great aunt . . . but those of us who were sentient beings in the mid-20th century will know that "Elsie" refers to only one thing:

Borden milk's "Elsie the Cow."  And since from about 5th grade on I was, well, a little cow-like myself, the nickname was so apt that kids just had to use it.  Add to that the fact that I'd been smart enough to skip a grade and that teachers were likely to say things like "Let's ask Elise -- she always knows the right answer," you can imagine what kind of a field day kids had.

At this point, the name is more common, so that some people get it right, but a fair number of people don't, and I am still called "Elsie" on a regular basis.  I try to keep the frostiness out of my tone when I reply, "It's Elise," but the apologies I get after correcting the person suggest I'm not doing as well as I'd like on that one.

So when it came to naming my son, I agonized.  Yes, I wanted to choose a name that was not ordinary -- no Davids or Michaels for me -- but one that was dead easy to pronounce, and that couldn't be made into fodder for teasing.  We ultimately agreed on "Devin," a Gaelic name that means "he who can put his highest thoughts into words," which is not a bad wish for an English teacher's kid.  And he has never been teased about his name -- once in a while he was called Kevin, nothing too funny about that, and I heard that once in a while kids would call him "Devine," but again, not a lot of potential there.  Oh, he was teased, about plenty of other things, but it made me happy it wasn't about his name.  And by the time he had a brown belt in karate, kids had seen him win enough fights that they pretty much left him alone.

How do you feel about your name?  Are you happy with it?  At some point it becomes so much a part of you that you can't imagine yourself without it.  And did you agonize over naming a child, if you have one?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Question for Everyone --


I'm sharing more pics from my Filoli trip on Thursday, but I also want to pose a question.

I have an event coming up in July, and I have a question for those of you who have had any success marketing your work outside the internet.  Has anyone tried to get your pictures into a shop or store?  How did you do it -- go down there with your work?  

 [Linkup to Weekend Texture Twist]

I'd love to get my work to a wider audience, but I'm not good at self-promotion and dread walking into a place with a portfolio.  I'll be showing my work at a local garden/antiques store this summer, and rather than just hoping that people will see it and be interested, I have an idea.  

I've had a very nice postcard made up with the date and one of my pictures -- how about if I mail it to a bunch of shops a week or two ahead of the event?  I'll write my website on it, and if they're interested, they can come by the event.  What do you think?  Other ideas, from those of you who are a step ahead of me?

[Linkup to Flowers on Saturday]

I hope you're having a great weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time Began in a Garden


Had a great time at Filoli yesterday -- it unfortunately turned out to be quite windy, which was a little disappointing for the photographers, but it was very sunny, so that helped.  You just had to have patience to wait for the gusts to die down . . . 

It's a huge place, and on Artist Access days it's almost empty.  One of the guys in my camera club counted 17 cars in the parking lot -- maybe 20 people in this place that goes on for acres.

They had gigantic foxgloves everywhere, really beautiful.  I took my wide-angle lens (which I almost never use) and got this nice picture of a group of them.  The pictures I got of the grounds are also taken with the wide-angle, but then I changed to the 50mm and 100mm.  I had hoped to take some macros with the 100mm, but . . . wind is not the friend of macro photography.

My favorite thing there, in all the magnificence, is the little vignettes that you can find everywhere.  Here are a couple I especially liked:

[Linkup to Macro Friday]

That last one of the little mushroom I love -- in the midst of all the floral extravaganza, there was one little mushroom growing where a wall met the earth. More will follow, I'm sure, but I'd like to leave you with one of my favorite things at Filoli -- the sundial that says, "Time began in a garden."

It was a beautiful afternoon.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Artist Access Day at Filoli


This afternoon I have a ticket for an Artist Access Day at Filoli, a historic estate with a mansion and huge flower gardens.  Once a month, they let painters and photographers enter when the place closes at 3:30 and stay until 6:30.  It's a beautiful place with unbelievably beautiful flowers and so many lovely vignettes to photograph.  The last time I went, there were probably no more than 30 people in the whole huge place.  I'm going with a bunch of people from my photography club -- we're just going to meet and say hi, then go our own ways.  Here are a couple of pics from the last time I went:

It's been raining a lot here, but today the weather is supposed to be nice -- around 74 degrees and partly cloudy, with little wind.  I hope to be back with some nice pictures to show! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Flower for . . .


. . . my 50th follower!  Thank you, Cherie!  

 [Linkup to Texture Tuesday]

I processed this vintage rose with Flypaper Textures and Kim Klassen's "Warm Sun" texture.  Thanks for the inspiration.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's Talk About . . . Underwear.


Seriously.  Underwear.  Are you as weird about it as I am?

Now, this is a picture taken with my new Galaxy phone, which, I discovered, has a "Vintage" setting!  Who'd a thunk it?  Of course I had to texture it and everything, but this is a picture of the new underwear I bought yesterday when The Loved One and I went to the outlet mall.  I was desperate for new underwear and I got it.

Okay, but here's the weird part.  My underwear drawer is like a Roach Motel -- new underwear goes in, but nothing ever comes out.  In my last trip to the outlet mall, I bought a whole bunch of underwear, because the underwear I had was sooooo old . . . When I wore the new underwear, I discovered that I hadn't paid attention to the fact that the crotch on the style I bought five or six pairs of (because they were cute) was no more than 1" wide, almost like a thong, really (though the rest of the garment was most definitely not a thong).  As you can imagine, these were not the most comfortable underwear ever worn.  Oh yes, one of the other pairs kind of slid off my behind as I was walking, and it did it one day when I was up in front of the classroom -- every step I took to write something on the board or go back to my notes, the dang things slid another 1/2 inch lower until . . . well, let's just say that it's a good thing I was wearing slacks, or there may not have been a limit to how low they went.

So, did I get rid of this new, unsatisfactory-for-a-whole-variety-of-reasons underwear?  Nope.  It sat in the drawer, and I continued to wear the old, now horribly decrepit, underwear, and I wore the new underwear, despite its issues, whenever I hadn't done laundry in time before I ran out of the old ones.

Is this too much information?  Is this too embarrassing to blog?  I just really want to know whether I'm the only one.  This time, I looked very carefully at what I was buying, and on the way home, in the presence of a witness, I swore that for every pair of the new underwear that actually fits, I would throw away a pair of the old underwear. 
Of course, I didn't say which old underwear.  I didn't say the old-old underwear.  I think I have to hang onto that.  Just in case.

Welcome to the Newly Designed Blog!


Well, what do you think?  Leave a comment and let me know!  I spent all day yesterday fiddling around with different possibilities, and I like this one best, I think.

Here's a little yellow to start off your week:

[Linkup to Mellow Yellow Monday]

It's hard to read the quote at this size -- it's from Rumi, and it says, "What was said to the rose that made it open was said to me here in my chest."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Site Redesign Underway


If you stop by and find things kind of goofy around  here, don't worry --I'm just redesigning my blog.  Things will be normal soon (well, maybe things will never be normal).

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Heart My Son


Well, that was frustrating, wasn't it?  Long time no Blogger.  Lost some comments from yesterday's post -- 

Be sure to sign up for the giveaway!  I'll probably run it an extra day or two, because of the down time.

[My Westerland Rose -- Linkup to My Romantic Home]

Anyway . . . last night my son and I had a belated Mother's Day dinner together.  He's 26, lives about 90 miles from me, and has a life of his own, so it's not that often that we get together.  I was so happy to spend time with him (and the mole enchiladas were delicious).

I was thinking about how the roles change over time -- I'm sure that there will be much bigger changes in the future, but I noticed something last night.  Remember when you had (or have) toddlers, and you're always grabbing for their hands?  One of his favorite things to do at about age two was to run away from me in a parking lot -- he thought it was very, very funny to do that, throw his poor mother into an absolute panic.  I'd have to use my knee to hold him against the car while I got my purse out and closed the door . . . and then grab his hand and hang onto it for dear life.

Later, of course, the last thing boys want to do is hold their mother's hand -- by fourth or fifth grade, he refused (and also told me not to say hi to him if I was ever at his school on PTA-related business).  By the teenage years, holding hands, hugging, even being seen with your mom is the last thing you want to do, so that kind of thing was pretty much verboten.  (The one exception was the morning of 9/11, when we sat on the couch for hours, holding onto each other.)

But -- wonder of wonders -- an adult son will allow you to slip your arm through his, to give him a hug, will say "I love you, Mom," and even once in a while say that something you did was good (e.g., you don't totally suck at photography).  Walking toward the restaurant, my arm slipped through his, I felt proud of him and protected and supported and so happy with the man he's become.  I heart you, Devin --      

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Texture Tutorial


Please join the giveaway!

A number of people have asked how I achieve my effects with textures, so I thought I'd do a little tutorial.  It's pretty much the same way as everyone else does them, but it's always interesting how everyone's comes out differently, depending on their style.  Here's the original picture, of some Mother's Day flowers I got:

[Linkup with Flowers on Saturday]

It's an okay picture, but I knew I could make it better.  The first thing I do is clone out any areas of color or brightness that I think will detract from the final image.  In this case, I cloned out the small pink area on the right, and the white lines in the lower right corner; I also cloned out the bud at the top that was going across the iris petal.  The cloning doesn't have to be perfect, because the texturing will cover it.

Next I crop, and in this case, I cropped out some of the areas I'd cloned, so I could have saved myself the trouble :)   (Just thought I'd share my little slip-up, in the interest of full disclosure.)

I liked it better pulled in a little closer to the flowers.  Next, I choose my first texture.  I want to minimize the bright area on the lower left, so I chose a Flypaper Texture called "Tempest Sea," from their Spring Painterly set.  As you can see, it's darker on the bottom, particularly in the left corner:

I float the texture in its own window, and then use the move tool to slide it over the photo, and use the grabbers to resize it.  (In Photoshop, make sure the "Show transform controls" box is checked at the top of the move tool bar).  Once the texture is on its layer over the photo, I click the check mark at the top and then find the blend mode I like -- in this case, I like Hard Light at 74%.  At this point, the flowers don't look great, but that's okay because I'm only looking at the background, and I like the way the bright spot on the lower left is toned down.

Next, I use a layer mask and the brush tool to brush most of the texture off the main subject.  In Photoshop, you create a layer mask by clicking the little square with a circle in it at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then with the mask square selected, I used a soft brush and a setting of about 80% to take the texture off the orange flowers, and a setting of about 48% to take the texture off the blue background flowers. Make sure that black is selected as the foreground color -- black adds the mask, white takes it off (if you make a mistake in the brushing part, just switch to white and you can take it off).  You can see what you're doing more easily by hitting "\", which will show you the mask in orange, as you can see here:

Now I choose my next texture -- "Spring Equinox," again from Flypaper's Spring Painterly set -- I like this one because it will green up the background more, and begin to darken the edges a bit.  Here's the texture, followed by the effect.

The blend mode I used was Overlay, at 100%, and I again used the brush and a layer mask to brush away the texture on the flowers, but not so much this time because I liked the way the texture brightened the flowers.  I decided I wanted to see if I could darken the background even further -- I'm liking the way the orange flowers are really beginning to come forward --  so I chose "Cyprus Haze," from the Tex Box Two set at Flypaper; it's a really dark green, again with darker edges. 

I used Overlay at 84% here, and brushed away maybe 70% of the texture, with this result:

I'm happy with the picture now, but I wanted to try one more thing.  I duplicated the original (bottom) layer, leaving it right above the bottom layer, changed the Image mode to 8 bits (I don't know if you have to do this in every version, but you do in CS5), and then go to "Filters - Artistic - Paint Daubs."  I like the effect that this filter gives -- this is the brush type "Sparkle,"  with the brush size at 10 and the sharpness at 11.  


I really like the final effect, so I'm done.  As a last bit of housekeeping, I do the following:  1) change the names of the layers to the names of the textures, so I know which ones I used; 2) save as a PSD file, which maintains the layers (so I can go back and work with it more, if I want to); 3)   Go "Layer - Flatten Image," and save that for web and devices at around 600 pixels on the long side.  (If I'm not using it in the blog, I'll save as a regular .jpg.)  And I'm done!  Here's the final product:

What do you think?  I hope I've explained things well -- if I haven't, just ask and I'll answer.  And please sign up for the giveaway!  You could win this picture, if you like it!