Monday, December 29, 2014

Removing The Stickies

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the types of seeds that would attach themselves to you simply by brushing by the plant. I called them stickies. I thought it was funny that they would "jump" on me, wanting a ride to a new location. The "stickies" came in all shapes and sizes and were the bane of my mother sometimes when we would come in from playing in tall grass or the woods behind our house.

Today, I still find myself an unwary taxi during certain times of the year, and have to pull them out of both dogs' fur. But looking at it from a natural viewpoint, it's an ingenious way to get around! However, technology has imitated nature by sending "stickies" we are probably totally unaware of - adware and other baddies - and I've learned it pays to pry them out of my computer just as I would the natural ones in my dog's fur.

I noticed several weeks ago that my computer was popping up ads when I didn't expect them, and generally sluggish and becoming ornery when I was trying to work. Having already had my hard drive scrubbed, I really didn't want to repeat that if I didn't have to, so I googled "removing adware from a Mac" and several sites popped up. The one I chose was on the Apple support page. The first blurb on the page was very explanatory:

What is ad-injection software?

Ad-injection software is advertising-supported software that can come from third-party download sites. Software you download from such sites may have been customized to install both the software you want and the ad-injection software. If your Mac has ad-injection software installed, you might see pop-up windows, ads, and graphics while surfing the web, even if "Block pop-up windows" is selected in Safari preferences. Ad-injection software might also change your homepage and preferred search engine.
And I followed all of the instructions listed, which were simple, but a little time consuming. Didn't matter, I told myself, because I was wasting time trying to make my computer do things while it was dragging its feet er.. bytes. And after I followed all of the instructions to the letter, and restarting it, my laptop was humming along softly. Yea! I thought.

Then recently, I began to notice similar patterns, and thought it was worth checking out again. Sure enough, the software had indeed crept back, I believe, through clicking on different links. (aww, I want to see this video of the cute kitties/puppies/beautiful scenery/etc. etc. etc.) I am not techy enough to prove that, but honestly what better way to get your software installed than to become a "stickie" on the back of something harmless? And I know we've been warned on how to be careful to stay away from those types of sites or downloads which may carry a virus or malware, but this is so sneaky you don't even know it can happen. So, run a check on your PC or Mac and see if you are harboring "stickies" which can make your life frustrating when you are on the computer. I listed the Mac site, but I am sure Apple support has one for the PC as well. (And yes, I know "stickies" is a very nontechnical term, but you got the idea instantly, didn't you?)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Tools Of Your Trade

If you are an artist or a photographer for any length of time, I know that you have heard the debate about whether something used differently than it was intended could possibly produce "real" art. Many of the artists and photographers that I chat with on an online forum have often come to verbal blows over this subject. Some of the photographers maintain that they only offer "pure" shots for sale, they don't dabble in the world of photo processing with the likes of Photoshop, or Corel, or any of the other programs that allow one to work with their photos. 

Here's the bottom line - it is very rare for a photo not to need processing of some sort. Even well respected and famous photographers such as Ansel Adams processed his photos - in a darkroom. He would dodge and burn under a special lamp, or use chemicals, to get the effect he was after. Today's digital cameras do the basic processing within the camera now, but they will not give you a pristine picture that matches what you envisioned when you made the shot. Your eyes see things with emotion, the camera is a mechanical object, and will take what it sees with the available environmental issues - the lighting, the wind, your hand not being as steady as you wanted, all these things affect a photo. But if you shoot in Camera Raw, you have left the door open for a chance to make the picture look more like what you wanted to convey by using post processing tools.

When Renoir was painting, he was part of a group of artists who were shunned by the older, established artists in his day. They did not accept these new artists into the fold, did not allow them to exhibit, discouraged art patrons from supporting them, and why? Because they did things much differently than how it had been done before. So, the older artists assumed that these young men (and a few women) were Wrong. And therefore, not real artists.

We all use tools in what we create. I use pottery scrapers in my encaustic work. There are many different types of brushes. There are as many styles of photography as there are people, almost. But often the generation which is older perceives the tools they were taught to use as The Tools. Period. No, they are the tools, and it's open ended. Refusing to take advantage of what's available to use is fine if that's your choice. Being critical of others, dismissing them for going way outside of the box, and condemning them as not being "real" artists is not acceptable, it's small minded and mean. And grossly incorrect.

I had a page in my journal where I had played around with some shapes and some colors. It always looked like it could go somewhere, but I was not sure how to bring it there. So I left it for a while to simmer in the back of my mind. Today I realized that a photo processing tool I had in my virtual toolbox on the computer might make a difference in the appearance and take it where I wanted it to go. So I put the two together, did some blending and tweaking and was very pleased that the final result was just as I had hoped! So it was a mash up between hand painting and digital photo processing. And it couldn't have been better! 


No, I just didn't push a couple of buttons. Yes, it required some knowledge and skill. And Yes, I will give this another go with other paintings I have done.

I could expound with even more detail about this subject, and perhaps I will in another post. Meanwhile, I'm just enjoying all the different ways one can create!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What Photo Processing Can do

When my mother passed away in 2007, my sisters, sister-in-law and I cleaned out her house to get it ready to sell. Mom didn't have a lot in there, because she and my dad gave items and furniture to all of us before they downsized to go live in a retirement/care facility because of my dad's health. He died in 2005, and she just didn't want to stay there by herself and so she moved into a small house near my sister-in-law, and some of her grandchildren. She had divided all of the pictures and photos of us she had saved over the years, and gave us each a container of these photos and memorabilia. But while we were cleaning out the house, I came across a box of papers and things which had a lot of information about them and their lives from the time they met in the Navy during WW II and some photos of them together. When my parents were married, it was a very simple ceremony outside and the only photographs were old small black and white snapshots, taken by someone who seemed to have no idea how to operate a camera. 

I found this snapshot of them together on their wedding day, out of focus, crooked, creased and torn:

I was sad that it didn't look any better. But then I began to think how I might improve it in Photoshop Elements. I made a copy and began to work with it. After straightening it, I was left with white gaps on the sides, so I started using the Clone Stamp tool to rebuild the fence out to the edge, add leaves at the top and grass at the bottom. I focused it as much as I could, then was able to take the noise (artifacts) out of the picture made from squeezing the focus as high as possible. It was still somewhat blurry, and it was washed out in the white areas. So I increased the contrast, and then did some work with filters and by the time I was finished, I was pretty pleased with the results. I made 8 x 10 copies for my siblings and they were thrilled to get them. 

This is how it looks now, not perfect but I would call it "arty"! Don't you love my dad's tie?

I just wish I could have shown them how it looked, but I'm sure where they are, they are just happy to be together!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Image Keeps Giving

In a post written on the 7th of December, I wrote about how I had spent some time out in the mud after a rain storm to get some macro shots of raindrops. I showed the original photograph:

I shot this photograph in Camera RAW, which allows me a lot more room to sharpen and process the image. If you aren't sure what Camera Raw is, here is a quote from Wikipedia:

camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, image scanner, or motion picture film scanner. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor.

Most DSLR cameras has this option now, or you can shoot in jpeg, which means the camera processes it before you get the final image. But you don't have much flexibility when you shoot in jpeg, so I have learned to keep my camera set on RAW now, no matter what I am shooting.
In the post I referenced above, I showed you an image I took from the  original:
Raindrop Face

Yesterday, I pulled the original image back up, wondering what else I could pull from it. I cropped out an area, and after it getting it to the size I wanted, I sharpened and processed it. I was thrilled with the results, and loaded it up to my website for selling prints, and also on my Facebook pages. However, I've had 2 comments already that the viewers weren't exactly sure what they were looking at! Do you see a water drop? I thought it was obvious, but hey - that doesn't mean everyone sees the same thing I do!

 Golden Raindrop

Let me know if you find it confusing! I may have to change it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Blue Still Life

A few weeks back, I was thinking of how I could build my photography skills over the winter, since the cold makes it difficult for me to be outside for any length of time, although it isn't bitter cold, just enough to bother all of the symptoms I have. I thought about doing still lifes, but not the traditional kind with fruit, bowls and berries. Something different, something fresh, something.... hmmmmm.

I read a few things about shooting still life and realized that, according to the "experts",  trying to do a still life would be laughable, I had none of the equipment they said was required. Well! That was NOT going to stop me - I would rig something up and give it a try!

Our house faces due west, exactly, on a compass, so on the north side the light is dimmer, and on the south side, it is very bright. But I found that the cotton sheers in the windows cut the brightness just enough. I placed a small table at the end of the old iron bed and went upstairs to my studio to gather some objects together. But I needed a black backdrop. I had some black foam core board, which didn't thrill me, and then I grabbed my painter's apron. Perfect!

Back on the second floor, I tied the apron to the end of the iron bed and then started setting up the objects I had. I knew I wanted it casual, not stiff, looking like I was beginning a project. I had grabbed a couple of paint bottles in contrasting colors, and a small old French wooden child's pail with a duck on it in the same colors to bring the eye around, and then an antique English pitcher made in the late 1700's. I stuffed the pitcher with paint brushes, mostly very used paint brushes. Then a few oil pastel sticks were sprinkled about on the paper at the base and a tiny metal French gendarme was inserted in the arrangement for a touch of fun. It needed a bit of backlighting so I dug out one of those metal clip lamps people use to clamp to their car hoods if they were doing some work on the engine. It was clamped to the bed post, and tilted such a way that the light was indirect and had a gauzy piece of cloth draped over it. Then I set my camera up on the tripod and had fun shooting in different f-stops and ISOs. I moved things around, but I always like the first arrangement best.

After choosing the one I wanted from the camera upload to the computer, I put it through minimal post processing and then added it to my website. I was so tickled with it, I immediately ordered a 18 x 24 print of it on canvas and it is now hanging on one of our bedroom walls. I plan to do more still lifes soon! I have these ideas........

Friday, December 19, 2014

Play - Three Little Pieces Of Art

I enjoy the "what ifs" of creating - What if I try doing it this way? What if I add an extra step to this process? What about going in this direction instead the one I'm used to? It may not end up being a wonderful art piece when you are through, but I guarantee you will learn something!

A while back, I asked my husband to pick up some wall putty or plaster for me while he was out. It had to be the consistency of soup to try what I had in mind. He did, and later that day I took 3 tiny wrapped canvases - each 3 x 3 - and pried open the lid of the plaster. I then took a small trowel and covered each canvas with the plaster, leaving it with swirls and ridges. Then I rooted through some items for something to press into the plaster and finally settled on some shapes and numbers. I had hearts and stars, each a different size and shape, and the numbers 2, 3, and 4. I pressed then into the plaster and waited for things to dry and harden. Normally I would not use wet plaster on canvas, because after it dried, it could easily crack and pop off because the canvas "gave" when pressed. But since these were so small, the wood they were wrapped around almost met in the back, so the support was there for the weight of the plaster.

After the plaster hardened, things became interesting. The items I had used were a light grey, and the plaster was a dark grey, so I needed to spice things up quite a bit. They were meant to be encaustic pieces, so of course my next step was the waxing process. Then I carved in the wax, rubbed color over the carved lines, and added colored wax layers. It was beginning to look pretty interesting, but the grey hearts and stars still looked dull and uninteresting, even with the colors on them. I needed to make them pop out visually. So, using oil pastels and oil sticks, I played with them some more. Then I added a light coating of oil, rubbed it in and wiped any excess off. And here's how they turned out!
They look cute hanging on the wall, and I added some more tricks to my repertoire. 

(Click on any picture if you want to see details.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Art Of Life

Today, I go off in a side topic, but I promise to come back to art projects, but now I wish to discuss the Art of Life.

As some of you know, I have pursued genealogy for many years. Before I became ill, I visited old cemeteries, courthouses, and library rooms. I collected as much information as I could, along the way debunking a few dearly held family traditions, which had been based on assumptions instead of fact.  One of the constant stumbling blocks was the fact that some of the courthouses which bore directly on my father's family line had been burnt by Sherman during the Civil War. Because of this, some lines just stopped abruptly prior to the War. There were no records, or family histories, that could give me a clue to trace these lines any further.

Several years ago, I persuaded a brother to do a DNA swab for me to submit for genealogy matching. It has to be male DNA to be able to compare with others because the markers are only passed down through the male line. Once I submitted it to the genealogy bank, it was ready to be matched to anyone else whose DNA had the same markers. By doing this, I have been able to confirm that the Livingston family line was indeed German, and not Scot. It was very common for those who immigrated to this country to Anglicize their name to fit in with their new neighbors, and so the Liebensteins became the Livingstons.

Recently, however, I had the privilege to be part of another positive experience resulting from our DNA being on file. Several months ago, I was contacted by a nice woman from England, saying that her husband's DNA matched 12 markers of what I had submitted, meaning that it was definite that he and I were of the same family line. It turned out that he was in his late sixties, and had just found out that the man he thought was his father had adopted him when he married his mother. His adopted father, and his mother had both passed on, and the only information he had was that his birth father was an American GI, who had been stationed in that area of England during WW II. Could I give them any help?

We sent emails back and forth, I did as much research as I could from the information I had, and encouraged him to get the full numbers of markers registered (67), which is a higher price, but gives a more thorough reading and comparison. I determined that we had an ancestor in common not too many years back, and filled him in on family history and family tree lines. I have a family tree registered with and they began filling in their own information, but his father still eluded him. By checking records and narrowing down facts, we did have a good idea who he was though. My English cousin's face compared very favorably with a picture of a serviceman in an old publication honoring local men from an area in South Carolina. He was given names to contact about military service, and also the name of a woman who had done a great deal of genealogy research in that same area of South Carolina. I had met her a few times and told him that if anyone could help him, she could.

To sum up the story, this lady knew one of the daughters of the serviceman. My cousin had been a little unsure of just how to contact the family and tell them who he was, and how he felt they were related. But that all worked out - he was put in touch with them, and they are excited at having a brother they never knew about. Sadly, his father had passed away in 1991, and they are going to have some more DNA tests done for hard evidence, but all of them are sure that they belong together. His father never knew that he had a son, he shipped off to France a month or so after his time with my cousin's mother. Now, he and his new family are filling the air with emails, sharing what the years have been like from both sides of "the Pond".

I am so happy and touched that I could be part of this saga! By being willing to share information about my paternal family, it was instrumental in uniting these family members. And with the advancement in science and technology, he was able, within a few months, to find out who he was and connect with his family. It's a wonderful Christmas present to have, don't you think? Life is Art, and God is the Master Painter.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Finishing The Tissue Encaustic

All right, in my previous blog, I was sharing the new technique I was trying, collage with images printed on tissue on 300 lb. press watercolor paper. I finished my first try and found very quickly that it is not as easy as it looks. But then, when something looks great, it isn't usually an easy process!

The glare on the wax is because I took a photo in my studio instead of outside as I usually do.
What I learned:
Cutting the watercolor paper was the easy part!
You can't have your fan running when dealing with tissue images. A fan is a necessary part of doing encaustics because of the fumes but I need to turn it off as I cut, tear, and study placement.
The background to the "tree" was darker, so it shows, although you can't really tell here. I tried using oil pastels and oil sticks to sort of blend it, but it really doesn't work. I know how to make transparent PNG images in PSE, so I will do that next time, then print them.
You CAN use too much wax! I became fed up after trying to scrape back, and then I developed a hot spot where the wax wouldn't stay on the paper.
I am pleased with the layout, as far as composition goes, but I think I will use a stronger "tree" image - that is actually a seaweed.
When trimming the overlapping wax with the blue tape with the X-Acto, you really need to make sure you have a firm press on your ruler. I don't know if you can see, but I took out some of the area that would have showed through a mat board.
The parts of the paper not covered with tape will absorb the wax. In this case it's at the top and would not show if I matted it.
Double sided tape does work in a laser printer. I have also read the painter's tape will work as well. I may give that a try.
I hope that you have seen my encaustic work I've uploaded, to know that I do actually have some skill -haha! I felt like everybody could learn from my mistakes here, so I'm sharing the good with the not-so-good!
I think I will try using a butane torch on these pieces to see if the wax application is smoother. The heat gun seemed to overwhelm the piece. Or else I am too impatient.
And that was my first try, or should I say, experiment! Stay tuned - I'm not giving up!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

And The Artist Says: OOH! That Looks Like Fun....

As many know, I have to spend time daily lying on the bed because of my illness. As Adrian Monk was fond of saying, "It's a blessing and a curse." I often use the time to process some of my photography backlog, catch up on emails, or simply lie with my eyes closed and rest my brain. But, I also find myself exploring new ideas for art creations.

Researching new ideas in itself is not a problem, but if you don't know your limits, you will find yourself trying too many things, and becoming overwhelmed. Some artists are quite happy doing one thing, be it watercolors, making jewelry, or any other medium. But many artists, and I'm one of them, like to explore as many possibilities as possible. And the Internet for us can be like drugs to a junkie - one site gives you ideas, leads to another site where details are given, then off to another site where the beautiful creations beckon you to jump in and pursue this unique opportunity. Often we who are tempted that way are the ones who find interesting things on the street, whether it's manmade or produced by nature, and can't throw them away. So we have stacks, jars and drawers full of stuff. We just know we are going to use it!

Now true, we often do. But lately I find that I am having to take a hard look at all of my resources. I have a very small studio, and I am now tripping over things. Personally that's not good for me because I have balance issues, but globally it's a killer of creativity. So, I have had to sit down and study and think just where I want to go. I've been sifting through the stacks, asking myself "Am I REALLY going to use these particular papers? Do they appeal to me? How long have I had them and have just been moving them around? How much space are they taking up?" Those questions apply to many things, not just papers.

A couple of years ago, I was doing one type of art and it led me to another, which I have found more fulfilling. But I've kept everything from the early days. Now I'm realizing that even if I wanted to, I am truly NOT going to do everything, and honestly, some of the styles no longer hold any interest. And I realized all of this was causing me anxiety. It was time for a paradigm shift.

Going slowly through the "collections", I have a set of questions:

Does this (paper, item, tool, object) really appeal to me?

Do I even like this paper, item, tool, object?

When was the last time I used this paper, item, tool, object or something similar?

Is pursuing this going to give me satisfaction in the creation?

Is pursuing this going to cost more than I can really afford, when other supplies are needed for present projects?

Am I attaching sentimental value to it and that's all?

Can I reuse things I already have, for something similar to a great idea I've found, and make it my own without spending more money? And creating more stacks?

Who else can use this?

That last question helps you move on, because once you know of someone, or some organization,  give them a call or send them an email. You're now committed! Do this part as soon as possible. It doesn't mean you will never pursue something new, but it means you are using your time wisely and when the new form of creating becomes insistent, you will clear other things out again, so that you can start with nothing impeding your excitement (or tripping you as walk through your studio!)

I'd love any feedback!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tissue Torment

Trying out a new idea, from seeing it demonstrated with another artist doing an encaustic segment. Tissue paper collage encaustics, and hers (of course) turned out beautifully. Ah, I said, I have to give that a try.

First off, making copies on tissue took me a long time to figure out. She used a bottom feeding ink jet printer and mine fed from the top. Gravity was my enemy and it seemed that no matter how much cellophane tape I used, the tissue came out wrinkled, when it would go through at all. Couldn't use my laser printer, because it would melt the tape and ruin the printer. Hmmmm, why to do? Then I was pointed to a video where another person was working on a different project and she used double face tape through her laser print and presto - it worked! Doing projects requires me to spend double the amount of time, because I have to lie down after being up for a certain period of time, so that means two days had gone by at this point.

Here are some tissue copies; with the fan running (a must when you are doing encaustics because of fumes) they never wanted to stay put. They quickly flew off if I forgot to put something on top of them.

My substrate is a 7 x 9 300lb pressed watercolor paper, with a 5 x 7 center marked out with painter's tape. Actually this was the easiest part of the whole process.

In her video segment, the artist encouraged us to write words or scribble something on the base layer. I wished I'd never done it. It looks stupid. I won't next time, or else I will use a layer of vintage script. In this picture, there are a few layers of wax.

This is where everything is now. I tried using some oil pastel crayons to blend over the writing, with more layers of wax. Also, one of my tissue images has a darker background than the other and it shows, instead of seamlessly blending together out of sight with the layers of wax. I can still see the word. Sooooo, this may be just a test piece, but I am swallowing my pride so that you can see - hey- mistakes are made by everyone, it's how we learn! I promise to finish and remove the tape so that you can see what it looks like, hopefully not quite so messy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pillow Talk

Just a couple of days ago, the artist site I belong to announced that they would begin to sell pillows- all different sizes, 14x14, 16x16, 18x18, 20x20, 26x26, and 20x14. It was up to each artist whether they chose to participate. They began selling iPhone and Galaxy phone covers last year and I have sold some of them. Now I thought it would be fun to sell pillows, so I signed up to participate. 

Well, this morning I woke up to the news that I had sold 2 14x14 pillows! They don't give you the names and addresses of the people who purchase your work, which is kind of sad because I love to write thank-you notes. Anyway, I was excited. I'll show you a few different examples and you can go to this link and look over all of them.

I could just go on and  list a whole lot more but I think it would be more fun if you looked them over. So you would have a decor item which would definitely be one of a kind and set a style trend. 

                                                              Go check them out and let me know what you think!!      

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

And Now The Finished Project!

Yesterday I posted some pictures of an encaustic project I was working on, and left with a picture of tiny little soldiers in a marching band. These little figures are from the 30s or 40s, meant for cake decoration, but not to hold candles. Each figure had an instrument - drums, tuba, flute and more. I attached them, as you will see and finished the piece.

I used the heated X-acto knife to trim away the ends of the ribbons ....

.... then it was time to pull off the blue painter's tape which I always use to keep the sides clean from drips and stains.

And here is the final piece! It's called Marching Band. The hot X-acto knife also cut off the red pegs at the bottom of each soldier, and then I pushed them gently into the warm wax. As you can see, the colors still come through the wax, even though there are many layers on it.

And so - TAAA DAAA - another new piece of artwork from Bellesouth Studio!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Working On An Encaustic Project

Today I continued on with an encaustic project I started a few days ago. I'll take you through it step by step, but not quite to the end!

This is my hot palette, in this shot the waxes are cold, and I had just turned everything on to heat.  When they are hot, they will be clear and liquid.

When I started this, I adhered a very colorful piece of deli wrap which I had used to wipe brushes on with a painting project several months back, to a cradle board. The piece has to be warmed with a heat gun or torch before each layer of wax is brushed on, then heated again to seal the wax to the layer beneath it. With each coat, the colors become more muted. This has had several coats before today.

My heat gun; I will be getting a butane torch to use as well. Both work in encaustics, but there is some difference to the finish it leaves. Can't use a hair dryer for this - not enough heat. The temps need to be about 700 degrees! And of course you have to be careful that you don't burn yourself - ouch!

A couple more coats of beeswax and resin mix has been added - see how the colors look even more muted?

I added strips of ribbon; the wax looks very hazy now, but when it sits and cools completely, the haze will disappear. I pressed the ribbon into the warm wax, then put more layers on top of the ribbon, and then sealed with the heat gun.

Here you can see a different type of ribbon has been added going in the other direction. More wax layers have been added and then sealed. It may look like the colorful base layer has been totally obliterated, but wait - you will still see them in the finished piece!

And what are these fellows doing here? Well, you will have to come read my blog tomorrow to see how they will be used! I can't tell all my secrets in one post!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dirty Business

Yesterday was a rainy, blah and grey day. When the rain finally eased off, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get some macro shots of raindrops before it started raining again. We have a small area right near the side porch where there is a big stump which is slowly falling apart, and it is surrounded by dwarf Nandina shrubs. When a stump is falling into decay, all sorts of small little plants grow on it and it develops neat hills and valleys. The Nandinas have lovely colored leaves in the fall and winter, red, reddish-green and different shades of green. The shrubs are about 2 feet from the stumps, and in the past we have had that area planted in impatiens and it looks lovely.

I thought through what I would need. I put on an old pair of capri pants, so I wouldn't have the bottoms dragging in the wetness. I attached my camera to a tripod that is only about 2 feet tall, and put on my 100 mm lens. I attached the remote to the camera, slipped on some plastic shoes and picked up an old packing blanket in the garage that I could fold up and sit on. I was set.

Having folded the blanket into 4 layers, I sat down by the stump. It didn't take me long to find out that the tripod wanted to sink into the wet earth, the leaves of nearby bushes were heavily laden with water, and even through 4 layers, the seat of my pants were soaked and muddy. My shoes slid around and my body did not like bending and unbending. Trying to make sure the tripod didn't move, and then doing manual focusing was how I spent most of my time. I was wet and muddy by the time I came back into the house, but overall, I was pretty pleased with my first try at getting raindrops. The picture below is of raindrops on Nandina leaves, and look at the tiny little face which was waiting for me! It is a reflection of the surrounding leaves. I have some others too, so I will share them with you in later posts.

The first picture is the shot in its raw state, the second is my final processed cut. What do you think?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Coming Back Home

Today a sweet and dear friend took me over to the place where some of my art and photography was hanging, and helped me take them down and pack them up for bringing back home. My husband is still in a lot of pain with his back, so he wasn't up to doing it, and actually, I sat while she took them all down. I thought perhaps I'd feel sad or dejected at having had them up since the second week of October with only one sale, but I didn't. I felt grateful.

A young couple opened a bakery and bistro in Travelers Rest called Upcountry Provisions and are big supporters of the arts around our town and in Greenville. They had asked me would I show some of my works there, which I was happy to do. And one of them sold! Of course, the hope was that many would sell, but that was not to be. But I am still grateful.

I received good feedback from friends who had been there eating and told me of the great comments people had made. (By the way, the food is excellent!) After all, it's not a gallery, people were coming inside to eat, not to buy art. But for me it was a chance to get my name out, since I cannot do live art shows. I am grateful that Cheryl and Steve asked me and I am grateful for the comments about my "wonderful art". And I will hang more art and photographs in March 2015, with a small reception and mailed invitations. I am happy that they are so supportive.

And now the photograph below can hang once again over our sofa!

Standing By The River At Campbell's Bridge

Thursday, December 4, 2014

In The Studio

One of the things I love about having a studio of my own, even if very small, is that along with my art supplies and mediums, I can add whimsey where I want. In my former life, before becoming ill, I was an antiques dealer and there are many things still in my possession which I like to use in our home. So, once the studio was painted and the main pieces put in, I immediately knew of a few things waiting in a closet which would fit in perfectly!

This is Babbette, whose name changes on a whim, depending on my mood. She was Emilie', then Antoinette, and a think a few other names over the past couple of years. She is an old French mannequin bust, and for some reason, her neck is hinged to fold backward. I still haven't figured out why they made her that way! She is bald, but wearing a bride's wreath of glass beaded flowers and leaves, and a antique lace chemise top with lovely lace and buttons. Her look has been updated with a pair of rhinestone glasses from the 50's. She shares the vintage teal stool with a pitcher from the early 1800's. Other crocks hold brushes and artist paraphernalia. On her left is a very old Chinese paper fan with hand painted designs. Since she has no arms, she has no need for a fan, but I liked the way the colors compliment each other. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the tiny French gendarme at the bottom of the bust! He's metal and I think he must have been part of an old set of toys. He looks as if he is directing traffic.

She sits on the corner of my main work table, and even though you can't see it, her eyes are thoughtful. Sometimes I take off the old bead bridal wreath and put on a black Amish bonnet, giving her a somber and earnest look. She seems happy no matter what she is dressed in and I am happy for her company, for she never complains if the music is loud, or if the studio is a mess. Perfect!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Life Takes A Paws.....

Nothing directly about art in this post, just the art of taking one day at a time. One of our dogs has really bad bronchitis and the other sounds like she was getting it as well. One of our cats has a bad cold, and is sneezing and wheezing, and I've had to wipe his nose with tissue to get the .... well, you know what comes with colds. My husband hurt his back a week ago Monday and is still in pain. Nothing new with me, just the same old sickie I've been the past six and half years. The only one healthy is the indoor/outdoor cat. She sleeps inside at night and spends her day outside. Of course she's healthy!
He's the really sick one.

The vet thinks it's allergy related for the animals. I've never had this happen before! And trying to give dogs medicine is ridiculous SO MUCH FUN! There are three different medicines, one is a antibiotic pill. Now when I call the dog, and he sees me at the counter, he starts backing away. So I coax him with a visual of me reaching into the treat jar.

Treat jar is an old glass Lance Cracker jar, so other dog hears the lid and comes running. Now I have two dogs, one suspicious but not wanting to miss out on a treat and the other not wanting to be left out of anything, but not suspicious. Get close enough to first dog, pry open jaws and quickly stick pill far back into throat. Clap jaws shut just as quickly and coax him into swallowing. Give small treat. Second dog takes any pill wrapped in peanut butter. (First dog hates peanut butter.) Of course, I make them sit while doing all of this - I don't have the energy to chase them down!

Second medicine is liquid, so requires plastic syringe. Measure 2 CCs, pry open dog's mouth, quickly squirt into back of throat, give another small treat. Repeat with second dog.

Third medicine is also liquid, but it has a dropper. Fill dropper, then hold dog's head while you dribble it ON. HIS. NOSE. (No, not kidding!) Repeat with second dog. And give the last of the treats.

Do this 2-4 times a day, depending on how bad they are coughing.


Oh, and the cat? He just snuffles and sneezes, but thankfully no medicine. Dogs are easier to fool with food. Cats have claws.

My husband takes care of himself. I'm grateful.

Now I am going back to rest!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Marketing As An Artist

(This was an article I wrote for Pulse on LinkedIn)
As an artist who also has do to marketing, I find myself warring with a dichotomy which seems endless. As a creator of art, I am sublimely at home using the right side of my brain, while marketing drains the left. The left side of my brain often looks foreign to me, and yet it is there that I must go to use the linear process involved. There are a few artists who are comfortable delving into either side of their brain, but I am not one of them. So I often catch myself, like a boss with a recalcitrant employee, shirking that responsibility.
Yet I must market if I wish (and hope) to sell, to draw people to my art, to put my name out in front of people. I certainly am in no position to hire someone to produce this odeious chore, so what hope do I have? I must slog along, using up my energy and time unless I wish to consider myself a hermit painter, finishing a canvas and then adding it to stacks of other finished canvases which have become like stacks of newspapers a hoarder might use to delineate his path. Oy.
I was watching this video recently, , and he stresses the new way of marketing for art, social networking. I have incorporated a Facebook artist page, an AboutMe page, I tweet a certain number of artworks every day on Twitter, I recently started a Tumblr page, I have my Executive Look at LinkedIn and am gaining followers on Flickr. It all takes time. And with my chronic illness, the importance of working the social sites is doubly important for me. I've sold art from someone seeing my artist page on Facebook, and I hope the other sites prove their worth as my investment in them grows.
The hard thing to achieve with this is balance, especially for me, but probably for all artists. I have to have time to create or, what's the point? Since a good bit of my day is spent lying down for necessary rest, the requirement for balance means what part creating to what part marketing? And there are variables there as well - each day's energy allotment is different and it won't be obvious to me till the day is underway.
So I've learned to make a small list of how much I want to accomplish in a week's time as far as investment in the social sites. I also need to remember that social means that it's not all about me; I need to say "thank you" when someone leaves a compliment about a work which was just posted and follow other folks while I wait and hope for followers who want to follow me. (The only exception to that seems to be Twitter, where most people follow you almost as soon as you follow them.) I need to pass on good words to other artists and favorite their works too. 
So as you invest in your social media, remember that you are investing in people, not just waiting for them to invest in you. Keep in mind the Bible verse, treat others as you wish to be treated. I think you'll find that what goes around, comes around!