Friday, March 23, 2012

Singing the Hard Drive Blues


Last Thursday, the hard drive on my laptop went kablooie.  I won't say I'm the kind of person who doesn't back things up regularly, but . . . I'm the kind of person who doesn't back things up as often as I should.  I was out for coffee with a new friend on Thursday, and it worked fine.  But I got home and, nothing.  I waited 40 minutes for Firefox to load up -- and it never did.  The guy who fixes my computer picked it up on Friday and kept it until Tuesday -- I felt as if I had lost a limb.  Before he came, I was frantically trying to back things up, and I got most of my work files and pictures off, but I had to leave my extensive collection of textures behind.  

 I've been feeling kind of poisoned this week.

When I got it back, then the fun began.  Have you ever had to rebuild a hard drive from scratch?  I've been doing it nonstop for the last four days.  So many programs -- Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. -- I don't have on disc, so I had to re-download them.   And you have to get Flash, Adobe Reader, Quicktime, on and on.  And then, I had to go through my paypal records, seeing whom I made payments to over the last two years -- and contact all those people, to ask if they could replace the textures I'd gotten from them.  

They were all wonderful.  Jill at Flypaper (I'm their biggest fan) sent them right away, as did others.  But one artist went way beyond helping me recover my textures -- she sent me her entire collection, way beyond what I had initially purchased from her.  I was very touched.

  But, there's always some light in the darkness -- 

Oh, and my Wacom tablet went on the fritz today -- so it will be hard for me to finish my final for the Painting with Computers class -- sigh.  I'll have to do it very carefully, in Photoshop (so hard to do with a mouse).  

How is everyone else doing?  Tell me something nice.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The evolution of a digital painting


So I'm taking this digital painting course and really enjoying it -- I was totally new to Corel Painter and still am far from expert (or even intermediate), but it's exciting to be trying out a new program.  At the same time, I'm taking a real-life watercolor class, so it's very interesting to see how similar and different the two media are.

I've done a few projects so far, but I thought I'd share my process on one for those thinking of getting into digital art.  I wanted to do a digital watercolor of a photograph I took a couple of years ago at Mission San Miguel, a place I enjoy visiting when traveling up and down the California coast.  Here's the original photo:

I love this photo so much that a textured version is featured on my business card.   At this point, I could have cloned a painting from the photo in Painter, and would have gotten a very pale image that you then can paint over (kind of like paint-by-numbers).  Or, I could have chosen "auto-painting," and gotten something like this:

I stopped the process part-way through so you could see how it fills in the painting, stroke by stroke, and if you're super-good at setting the autopainting up (which I am not), it can come out looking very good.  But that wouldn't be something I painted, so I don't want to do that.  Instead, I began by making the painting into a sketch:

A little hard to see, but I think  you can get the idea -- Painter creates a sketch that you then can paint over, on a blank layer (or many layers) placed on top.  (Note: I have no worries about the sketch being "cheating" -- even Rembrandt had some kind of system (mirrors, lenses) that would project whatever he was painting onto the canvas.) So this is what I leapt in and started to do.  I did clone colors from the photograph, so as not to spend all my time mixing colors and comparing them to the photograph.  After many hours I was maybe 50% done, and it looked like this:

Pretty sketchy, right?  And you can still see the sketch is very much part of the painting.  The colors are blotchy and not blended well, but I wanted to get the idea of it (and turn in my required 50% version).  I had another week to make it perfect.  I messed with the colors some more, figured out how to blend them together (that was hard to figure out) put in a lot more details, went back to the sketch layer and erased most of it, worked on the lighting and then went back over everything with a fine-toothed comb.  What I ultimately came out with is this.  I'll include the original again so you don't have to scroll back:

What do you think?  I think it came out pretty well, especially for a first-time watercolor on Painter.  We'll see what my teacher thinks!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring is just about to spring --


Suddenly I'm hearing . . . birds!  On the California Coast, you would think the birds would hang around all winter, and I guess some do.  Mostly we hear the raucous cries of seagulls, which is bracing in a living-by-the-ocean kind of way, but they don't really uplift the heart.  Today, for the first time, I hear the beautiful song of the mockingbird that returns to us each spring.  I love it so much -- 

   (Linkup to Quotography and Simple Things Sunday)

With all the bursting into life that Spring brings, it seems to me a much more positive time for making resolutions than in the dark of winter on January 1st.  I'm going to think about my resolution today -- what would your Spring Resolution be?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Put some attitude in it!


Since I've been gone, I've discovered the great pleasures of deep water aerobics.

I discovered a health club three minutes from my house that has a pool (it only took me six years to discover), and when I looked at the website, I saw pictures of all shapes and sizes.  Wow!

  Picture from my club, Toadal Fitness
 I recognize a lot of people in that class!

I decided to go by and check it out.  When I took the tour, I was very surprised to see the number of older people and indeed, people of all shapes and sizes.  When I filled out a little form asking me what I found appealing about this gym, one of the options was "No spandex."  

Well, this looked like it was right up my alley and I signed up on the spot.  It took me a bit to get up my courage, but I finally took the plunge  :p  and started going to deep water aerobics.

I love it!  It's so much fun. You're in the deep end, with a flotation device of some kind -- a belt, a noodle (you can see the end of a red one behind one lady), I have something called a water horse -- and you do an hour's worth of aerobics exercises.  You walk, run, jog, cross-country ski, at different paces, sometimes sprinting, when you really get the aerobic benefits.

The teacher is wonderful -- she plays music and calls out the movements in rhythm through the whole hour.  I've made friends with some of my fellow swimmers and feel part of the crowd now.  But the benefits go way beyond that -- the swelling in my ankles is completely gone, I have abs for the first time in many years, I have cool little biceps and even deltoids!  I'm more stable and feel a lot stronger.

We have plenty of laughs, too.  Once, while trying to pump up the level of enthusiasm, the teacher said, "Put some attitude in it!"  and Fay, age 94, said "I'll do my pimp walk!"

If you think you would enjoy it, check it out.  It's the only exercise I've found that I truly love.  


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Is it cruel to keep cats indoors?


Do you have an indoor or outdoor cat?  I've been getting some sense lately that people think me cruel because I don't let Buttercup outside.  Oh, she gets outside, all right, as she did when my husband opened the back door last night and she scooted past him.  So there I am at midnight in my robe and slippers, chasing her around the neighborhood (it took me half an hour to nab her -- she's wise to the ribbon-dangled-in-front-of-her trick, but she finally succumbed to treats).  The temperature was supposed to be in the 30's last night, so I couldn't leave her outside.  But I don't let her out in the morning to run around all day. 

Soooo innocent
(Linkup to This and That ThursdayCamera Critters,  and Happiness Is . . . )

So here are the reasons I keep Buttercup indoors:

 1.  Outdoor cats get more diseases, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, and I just read a very disturbing article somewhere (can't find it now) on toxoplasmosis and how it may be the culprit in many human health conditions.

2.  Things happen to outdoor cats -- fights, hit by cars, lost, etc. etc.  I don't want to take that risk.  Indoor cats as a group live much longer than outdoor cats (though I'm sure some of you all have outdoor cats that are 20 years old).  They also bring in fleas and stuff like that.

3.  We have an issue in our neighborhood with people complaining about cats running around and pooping in their yards and such.  I know this can't be our older outdoor cat because the first thing he does when we let him in is use the litter box -- with all that great outdoors out there, he chooses to poop at home.

4.  They can get into various kinds of trouble.  Our neighbor came over the other day to ask if October (the older outdoor cat) was okay, and when we asked why he shouldn't be, neighbor said that October came in through his cat door in the middle of the night and he and his wife awoke to the sounds of a cat fight going on in their bedroom!  Yikes!  Also, when Buttercup streaked out of the house another time and was gone for five hours, I finally found her on the other side of an 8' fence between us and a small housing development on the other side.  She can climb up on various things to get over there, but it's basically a blank wall on the other side, and she can't get back.

5.  All signs point to her being a mighty hunter.  She stalks anything she can stalk inside the house -- moths, toy mice, sponges, anything really, that she can flip into the air and chase.   I really, really don't want her out there killing birds, because I love them.

6.  She's white.  This is not so much an issue of her coming in dirty (though she hates to be bathed), but the vet warned us that white cats are very vulnerable to skin cancer, and where she was injured on the nose when she was very tiny (before we got her), there's very little fur, which makes her even more vulnerable.

So, unless it's a working cat who has a job keeping rodents down in the barn, I feel okay about keeping a cat indoors.  What do you think?  Am I Cruella de Ville?  :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Painting with Computers


My favorite thing right now is Painting with Computers, an online class at Foothill College in the Bay Area.  To take this class, I had to get Corel Painter and a Wacom tablet, both of which were completely new to me.  There's a pretty steep learning curve on Painter, and I've only just begun the ascent, but it's a cool program that allows you to do a tremendous number of artistic things.  Here's something I finished last week:

"Spooky" by Elise Wormuth
Link to Show Off Your Shot

Some people seem to think that if you're doing artwork on the computer, you just push a button and voila -- you have art.  But this image, which is a collage, took me hours and hours to do.  It's composed of three different photos of clouds, a sunset from one of my pictures, textures, trees I painted IRL in my watercolor class, silhouette images of wolves, etc.  And then some painting too -- shadows, the grasses in front, and so on.  I like the way it came out, and am looking forward to printing it out on textured paper.

It is true that Painter has "clone" and "autopaint" functions that do allow you to pretty much push a button, if you are not particularly interested in being creative, but that's not a whole lot of fun.  Our teacher introduced us to Karen Carr, a wildlife and natural history artist who does gigantic murals and whose works are in the Smithsonian, for one. Look at the link for her discussion of digital painting, and especially notice the series of pics in which she zooms in ever closer on a 25-foot mural, and you see the detail she includes in the full-size mural.  It's extremely detailed.  One mural she did for an Oklahoma museum took her 2000 hours!

   "Mustard Fields" by Elise Wormuth

This is one I did from a photograph I took -- not quite done, but I'm happy with the way it came out.  It's digital watercolor, and it was fun to do (if a little frustrating, because I'm such a noob).   

Have you ever worked in Painter?  If you have, I'd love to see what you're doing!  Have a great day --

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Year of the Artist II


It's only March and I've just signed up for my fourth art experience:  

It's beeswax collage -- doesn't it look fun?  I've taken some of these classes at A Work of Heart, a wonderful crafts studio in San Jose, CA.  If you're local, you really should check it out -- they have excellent workshops and classes.

Another class I went to at the studio was on Zendoodling, which was a really interesting and fun thing to do.  Have you seen Zendoodling?  

I learned how to do this at Work of Heart, but actually created it in Painter for my Painting with Computers class, an online community college class. [Foothill College, near me, has many online art classes that are great and attract people from all over the world.  I'm on my fifth class (Drawing I/II, 2 Dimensional Design, Photoshop, and now Painting with Computers), and I really enjoy them.  The teachers set up opportunities to get to know other students online, it's fun to see other students' work, and you can complete your assignments whenever it works for you (before the due date, of course).]  So . . .  Zendoodling looks very hard, but really, it's dead easy.  When I looked at what we were doing in the workshop, I thought, oh I can never do *that*, but when the teacher showed us step-by-step, it was very easy.  You just build up one piece at a time.  It takes time, but it's one of those things you can do while you're watching TV (are you like me?  I can't watch TV without doing something else).  You can google Zendoodling (or Zentangle, which is a copyrighted brand) and come up with all kinds of stuff.

Have you tried either Zendoodling or beeswax collage?  If you have, I'd love to see what you've done.  Have a great day! 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Year of the Artist II


I don't think I started posting early enough last year to have explained The Year of the Artist I.  I love to go to Open Studios, which comes around in October or so.  Since there are 300-some artists to visit, I circle the ones that are doing interesting things with photography.  As I went around in October 2010, I kept being struck by the thought:  These people know much more about art than I do.  I decided to devote a year to learning as much as I could about kinds of art other than photography.  Here's most of what I did in Year I:

Page Nine

1)      Drawing I.  Charcoal.
2)      Drawing II.  Pastels
3)      2-Dimensional Design (mostly pen-and-ink)


(Tree Bark)

4)      Photoshop class (not exactly a new form of art, but I needed            to take the class.   
5)     Watercolor (two sessions) 

African Sunset

5)      Art Journaling (two different classes)

Page Six

6)      Watercolor Journaling
7)      Nature Mandalas (watercolor)  
8)      Collage

I really enjoyed the classes I took and all the things I learned over the year.  I took online classes and in-person classes.  I met really nice people.  I learned a ton.  I may still be incompetent at watercolor (I am), but I love it and I'm determined to improve.

What do you think?  Do you do any of these kinds of art? 

Sunday, March 4, 2012



Catching you up:

1)  Please note my retirement ticker at the bottom of the blog, and the "teaching days" countdown.  I am so excited to be moving into a new phase of life -- more on that to come.

2)  I've been in a couple of shows at the Santa Cruz Art League.  Will post on that!

3)  The "Year of the Artist II" is underway.  New so far this year:  Zendoodling, Painting with Computers, Beeswax Collage.

4)  It's amazing how a little thing like a screen door can bring some joy into your life.

5)  I am now Word Verification free!  Yay!

6)  I'm on my third series of watercolor classes.  I still suck at watercolor.

7)  More to come!  See you soon!

orchid 7

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Stand by for Grand Reopening!


It's been quite a while, hasn't it?  I've been so busy with school (teaching and studenting) and family issues that my blogging has unfortunately fallen by the wayside.  HOWEVER.  Buttercup and I am back and will be up and running and blogging again.  Here's a new picture of Buttercup to get started -- see how big she is now??

She's almost one and just as sweet as ever.  She likes to sleep on my neck or face.  She still curls up on my chest while I'm using my laptop and purrs and snuggles.  I feel so lucky . . .

Back tomorrow --  link to Simple Things Sundays --