Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shrugging It Off

Here is a photo of my nephew Bryson enjoying the leaves this past fall. I came across this today while browsing through all of my photos. I've had a recent disappointment and was looking for something to make me smile. This did it.

I am going to take Bryson's lead and just shrug it off. Sometimes we tend to seek validation in little things that we put out there, e.g. a work of art or a piece of writing in a contest, and when we get rejected or not recognized we then begin to question whether our work really has any value at all. That's what I have been doing lately and I don't like the feelings it stirs up.

I love to write. I am learning to make art. Those are enough for me. Yes, it would be nice to be recognized in a public forum, but I know that rejection is part of the game when it comes to submitting your work in whatever form you choose. The key is not to take it personally and to move on to the next venue. Giving up completely or taking the rejection personally is where alot of people go wrong. You pick yourself up, begin another project and learn. That's what I am going to do.

This photo is so refreshing. Sometimes it takes having the mind of a child to redirect our focus in life. Not everything can be so simple, of course. But minor setbacks or disappointments don't have to be any more than that. Life is too short to dwell on negatives. There are so many little pleasures to be found in a day.

I have a few art projects still in the works; projects for myself that I want to display in my home when they are finished. I am still working on the digital book project, just for the learning experience of manipulating a little more of the features in the Photoshop program. So I have lots to occupy my time and help me over this minor bump. This small disappointment won't stop me from doing what I love to do. Today I decide to just shrug it off!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Springing Into Action

This is my favorite photo of myself as a little girl. I played around in Photoshop for a Warhol effect, and this is what I ended up with. I thought the colors were very Spring-like! It's a bright, sunny day here and I am headed outside to get some photos.

I have been really bad about procrastinating lately and it has finally started to bother me. There are so many projects and ideas and contests that I want to try and I haven't started the first one! I don't know if it's the winter hangover or what, but I have got to snap out of it and get busy.

I've been visiting the sites that offer challenges to their participants; these are art challenges I'm talking about. I have them listed on my sidebar under Challenge Yourself. These are great sources of inspiration! There are a few that offer a challenge every week and these are the ones I want to try. I need that constant reminder or nudge to get something finished. Left to my own devices, I'm usually sitting empty-handed.

I admire those people who are so prolific, either in their art or their writing. I guess it's what you get used to, what your habits are. If you don't practice everyday (in anything) then you don't produce much. I have been very lax lately in my art, my writing and my photography. I whined about not having a camera to take pictures of my artwork to post, and now I don't have anything to take pictures of! That's my fault.

One challenge I have my eye on is where you create one art quilt a week. These are small quilts, 9" x 12" so you won't get too overwhelmed with the size. I will create one this week and post it by next Wednesday. That is my challenge to myself. I have an idea of the subject matter and have all of the supplies I need to get this done. So, I'm off to get busy on that and to get outside and find more inspiration.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Memories

Happy Easter! My husband and I don't really do anything special for Easter. We both live so far from our families that we just pretty much treat it as another Sunday.

When I was growing up, Easter was something to look forward to. We would always have Easter baskets waiting for us when we woke up. They would be filled with candy and stuffed bunnies. Mom and dad would have Easter eggs hidden in the house and we would all go tearing through the house searching for those.

The night before Easter my sisters and I would help mom decorate the eggs for our egg hunt that would be held at church the next day. We would all have new Easter outfits to wear to church, complete with new white dress shoes! After church, my grandma would come over and have solid chocolate bunnies for us, and usually some type of toy. We always looked forward to that. We would have a big meal and just enjoy the day with all of our new toys and our chocolates. So, as a child my Easters were pretty memorable.

Now that mom is gone, dad is in Florida for the winter and all of us have families of our own. I am the only one of my five siblings who doesn't live in Ohio right now. The rest of them have stayed in our hometown! I don't know if they get together or not during Easter. I don't think so. They usually do their own thing or, if married, they spend it with their spouses or their spouse's family.

All holidays are bittersweet now. I realize that life goes on but it doesn't change the fact that sometimes you wish for those old days when all of the family could gather together and laugh, share a big meal and just spend time together.

So, today I think about my mom, my grandparents and great-grandparents; all of those who have passed on. I spend just a little time with them today in my heart. I'm thankful for all the memories they gave me as a child. These memories really do sustain me in these times of "purple rain."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Facing My Fears

Well, there it is. Yep, the thing I fear the most... flying. This is a photo taken by my niece Liza on her very first flight. She was afraid, nervous, apprehensive, etc. but she went because she wanted to see her brother (my nephew, Matt) get married and to do that she had to fly to Nebraska. It was also the first time flying for her mother (my sister, Paula) and her step dad, Ralph. So, they all did it and loved it.

I've flown before. I'm trying to count how many times...maybe four at the most. My very first time, I must admit (sheepishly) that I cried. And this has been within the last 15 years, so I was no toddler. No, the toddlers on the plane handled it better than I did. And when we hit turbulence, I crossed from panic into terror. I didn't make a scene (not too much) but it was the worst feeling I had ever experienced.

I've been thinking about how my fears have held me back in alot of areas in my life. I thought of this particular fear first because my husband is getting ready to take a group of his students to London, England for a study abroad course in May. I want to go to England! I want to go Paris! But, unfortunately, to do that I have to fly. So, I've been stewing about how I let this fear hold me back from things I really want to experience. But unlike Liza, who decided to face her fear and go to her brother's wedding, I let the deadline pass for getting a passport and buying a ticket so I won't be going on this year's trip with my husband.

I have let my fears hold me back in alot of other areas, too. For the longest time I wanted to create art, especially collage, using the Photoshop program we have on our computer. It's very intimidating and (at least for me) not very user friendly. So, I just told myself that you have to be an artist or an illustrator or designer to use that program. You wouldn't even know where to start. And I didn't. For a long time. Then, I finally got fed up and decided I'd try manipulating a few photos that I had stored on my computer.

I don't have much patience. That's a bad thing if you are trying to learn any kind of software. After much frustration, yelling, sighing... I started to get somewhere. The first attempts were almost enough to make me say forget the whole thing. One time I was trying to enhance a face on a photo, using a command that exaggerates whatever feature you highlight. I wanted to get a mystical, fairy-like appearance out of this face. I had seen other artists do it in their work, I read how they said they did it, and they had started from faces just like this one. So, I was using some of the commands making pretty good progress, but when I hit one key everything disappeared but the nose! So, I had this big nose in the middle of a white screen. First, I got really angry! I had worked for quite awhile getting that face to look somewhat mystical. Now, all I had to show for all of my hard work was a big nose! Then, I just had to laugh. It was hysterical, looking at this nose on the screen. Fortunately, my husband was close by and said just hit the Undo key and you'll get back to your face. An Undo key! I did, and all was well.

Other ways I've let fear hold me back involve my writing. I have always written short stories, poems, journals, what have you since I was old enough to write. Then this whole blogging thing came along. I immediately dismissed it. My first thoughts were, I don't know how to set up a blog; I don't know what I would write about; It looks like too much work. But lately, I've been enjoying reading other people's blogs. I really started getting into blogs when I picked up a copy of the Artful Blogging magazine. That was inspiring, and that is what spurred me to start my own.

I don't even pretend to have the talent or the photographic skills that the artists in that magazine have, but they did plant the desire to try! And, once I told myself that my blog is mainly for myself, to prove what I can do, see what I can learn, then the pressure was off. The old saying, "What's the worst that can happen and can you live with it?" applied. So what, if it didn't work out? At least I tried.

So, little by little I am finding that my fears are based in large part on what I tell myself. If I tell myself that something is impossible, then it is. If I tell myself that I can't do something, then I don't. I'm not saying I'm ready to hop right on the next plane taking off out of Indianapolis, but I am going to work on telling myself that maybe next year when my husband goes on a study abroad trip, I'll be there with him. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where Do Broken Hearts Go?

This was a poem I wrote for an art challenge on the Artella website. It's called Collaboration Station. Every week it alternates between an artist posting an image or a writer posting a piece of writing and then everyone else responds to it, either with an image or writing of their own. The image that was posted for this theme was of a god-like creature sitting on a rock in a mystical place. It was very ethereal and just looked like a fantasy place. This "man" was sitting there just looking into space, and the words on top of the picture were: Where do broken hearts go?

So, I went with that. I thought the fantasy-type land was a good place to start. I had this background paper in my images file and it looked like a fantasy land to me. Then I started thinking about broken hearts. We've all had them. My particular slant was on the broken hearts of the grieving. I lost my mother almost 4 years ago, and am still grieving very much for her. Her birthday is coming up in April. So, my poem was written as if speaking to GRIEF and telling it how I feel. Then, I thought about how time does help soften the hurt. It never goes away, and it doesn't get erased, but in a way it becomes a little more bearable.

I've got a long way to go in my grieving, but I have been writing more poetry lately. That's one way to let it out, I suppose. I'm making a little collection of my poems and will put them in a booklet for myself when I think I've finished.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Altering Digital Images

This is an altered image of two digital photos that I played with in Photoshop. I am just learning this program and this was my first, rough attempt at using the Layers option.

I took an e-class on the Artella website called Digital Altered Books Revealed. I've always wanted to try the traditional form of altered books, where you work with an actual book, and I even have a few used books set aside for that purpose. But, like a majority of my projects, it is still on the back burner. So when I saw the opportunity to learn about altering a book digitally, I thought I would check it out.

All you needed was an image program like Photoshop (which is what I have) to get started. I was hesitant to sign up, though, because the only features I have ever worked with regularly in Photoshop are the image enhancements and a few attempts with the Layers option. Some of those turned out as disasters that I just deleted. In a way, taking the class was a little bit like learning to type before you learn to read; you work with alot of commands that you really aren't familiar with, but you like the results.

The class was great! The instructor showed how to alter the front cover, 8 internal pages that are chosen for you, and the back cover. She showed how you use digital ephemera packs to alter each page, how to change their size and color, and how to add your own text and images to the book. After the class I really wanted to try it for myself. At the Artella site you can purchase ready-made vintage e-books, from a selection of about 30, that you can then alter yourself. You can also purchase the ephemera packets; all of this at a very low cost. Included in the cost is the actual conversion of your book to a format that lets you physically (with your mouse) turn each page like you would if you were reading an actual book. The pages flip over as you turn them and you even hear the page turning. I've never seen anything like it, and there are great examples of finished products on the website.

Needless to say I am excited about this project and I am going to start on my digital book today. I chose to alter a book about dolls. Those looked like fun images to play with. There is a great mix of doll clothes, faces, and some interesting text in the ten pages you get to alter, so when I finish I'll put the link here for you to check out.

In the meantime I am reading Photoshop For Dummies (that's me) and am learning alot. There is so much that the program can do; I am just concentrating on the basics. My husband and I bought a digital camera this past weekend (finally!) and I really want to be able to incorporate my photos into my art. So I have plenty of work to keep me busy and as I make progress I will post the results here. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

This is a photo my very dear friend Sharon took on her trip to Dublin a few years ago. I thought it was an appropriate start to today's post. I like St. Patrick's Day because it's one of the early indicators that Spring is almost here.

After this long, bleak winter I am looking forward to warmer days, planting flowers, working in the yard and seeing the sun more than once every week or so. I received a nice surprise Saturday morning. I walked out my front door and there on the step was a planter of beautiful, pink tulips with a card that said, "Happy Spring! Happy Easter!". It was from my secret sister in my sorority. What a nice way to start the weekend. Those tulips are so happy! When the morning sun coming in through the windows hits them they just glow.

I can feel a little more energy when the sun is out. The neighbors start to get out of their houses more, walking and interacting. The increase in activity is another sure sign that Spring is getting ready to make its entrance. It can't be soon enough for me.

Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day. Hopefully you'll have a warm, sunny one.