Monday, July 30, 2007

Visiting the Past

I Photoshoped this black and white picture of my Dad and me to give him when I went to see him today and he loved it. It’s funny to see Dad in a hat, but I remember men wearing them when I was a child.
Customs certainly do change, don’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to believe I was born before TV, cell phones and the Internet. No wonder my brain is fried at times. It’s all too much to take in.
I suggesting going to Swiss Chalet for dinner, which is where we went as a family on Sunday nights for a treat. While we were eating, I told my dad about the time I went there on a date. When the bowls of water with slices of lemon to clean your hands arrived, my date drank it instead. Dad thought this was hilarious, and when the bowls arrived at the end of our meal (some things don’t change), we both burst out laughing.
Dad was up until 2 a.m. last night trying to find the answer to a puzzle, so we worked on it together and still didn’t come up with an answer. The puzzle is: You have 12 identical looking coins, one of which is counterfeit. The counterfeit coin is either heavier or lighter than the rest. The only scale available is a simple balance. Using the scale only three times, find the counterfeit coin.
Dad says not to hesitate calling him at three in the morning if I manage to figure it out. Any ideas?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Not Much to Say, But...

It’s been a really busy week, and because I don’t have anything interesting to say, I thought I’d post my latest ATC.
My friend Debbie Smith Doyle took this fab picture of an owl standing guard in a tangle of branches. Debbie says she can’t remember taking it—probably because she takes so many great photos it’s hard for her to keep track.
John and I are looking forward to the finish of Le Tour de France today. It’s been plagued by scandal yet again this year. I’m just hoping that they don’t stop televising it in the future because of this.
During the first week of the Tour, I had a premonition Australian cyclist Cadel Evans would win even though he was thirteenth at the time. Now Evans is second to the leader, Alberto Contador, so it will be fun to see whether or not he wins. My favorite, Vinokourov—from would-you-believe-it, Kazakhstan*—was bounced for doping, but it has been a really exciting three weeks anyway.
Well, I can see I’m starting to get revved up about the Tour again—John and I talk about it almost non-stop—so I’d better bail out now before I go on and on and on about it.
*Maybe Vino will be in Sacha Baron Cohen’s next Borat movie.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Photoshop Friday #3

To add a vintage look to your favorite photo, try a Vignette. I used this scan of an old French postcard to show you how.
1. Open your image in Photoshop.
2. Click on the new layer icon in the Layers Palette.
3. Choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool from the Toolbox. Then click and drag an ellipse onto this layer, using your cursor to position it. (If you don’t like the size, deselect and try again).
4. Go to Select and choose Inverse. You can see the “marching ants” on the postcard above.
5. Go to Select again and this time choose Feather. Enter a radius of 25 pixels in the box and then click OK. Note: The higher the number of pixels you enter, the softer the effect will be.
6. Set your Foreground color to white. Then use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill—and that’s all there is to it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I’ve always loved garbage and junk. Nothing icky mind you, but stuff you can see using in your art.
This gum package appealed to me because it went from looking sterile and manufactured to a conceptual art piece after the gum had been eaten and it was empty.

I wanted to use the package in a collage, but nothing seemed to come together. Since I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out, I decided to scan it and do something digital. Now that I’ve finally answered the call, I feel free to put the package in my recycling bin.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book Reviews

Once upon a time I used to write book reviews for a magazine. I always enjoyed this—although it was a challenge trying to reduce 200 pages or so to 350 words. But one of the nice things about having a blog is that I can mention a book before I’ve even read it, so I thought I’d mention three I got for my birthday you might like.
Atlas by Gerhard Richter. This is an 800-page survey of Richter’s photographs, collages and sketches. Just looking at a few pages tonight gave me several ideas I’m going to make a note of in my journal. This book won’t appeal to a lot of people, but if you’re a Richter fan and a Photoshop addict like me, you’ll love it.
Foolsgold: Making Something from Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process by Susan G. Wooldridge. Poemcrazy, the book Wooldridge wrote in the mid 90s, has always been a favorite of mine. Her second book looks as good as the first. It’s about her continuing journey as a poet—she’s doing collage now too—so there is plenty of inspiration here, plus some cool exercises. It’s all text though, and I found myself wishing I could see some of her art.
Kaleidoscope Projects and Ideas to Spark Your Creativity by Suzanne Simanaitis. This is a compilation of inspiring essays and projects by Simanaitis and other artists like Juliana Coles. Marissa brought it to our last club meeting and offered to loan it to me because she could see I was interested. But I decided to ask for it as a birthday present instead. This looks like a great book—lots of visuals—but the type is too small to read comfortably. If I’d been the editor and/or art director on this book, I would have split the information up and given Simanaitis a two-book contract because she deserves it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Starting a New Journal

I’m ready to start my next journal, but I was going to do this when I’d finished my book. I spent three days reading through it and making changes I want to incorporate. So much for my July 31st deadline—I’m not finished yet again. However, I’ve decided to shut up about my book until I’m ready to send it to my editors-at-large.
In the meantime, I need the comfort of my journal. My last two had a lot of stamping, but no color mainly because I was too busy to go that route. I think I will use some markers and colored pencils this time though, and I’m going to put this over trimmed ATC inside the front cover. I usually make a policy of avoiding images that aren’t copyright-free, but I doubt Marvel is going to come after me for incorporating one of their characters into this collage.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Some of My Ancestors

I’m really feeling pleased with myself tonight. My mother is going to Britain on Tuesday with my brother Keith and she wanted me to make copies of this family picture to give to her cousins, one of whom is 96 and still living on her own.
I had serious doubts when I saw the original. Actually it wasn’t the original, but a copy someone had made of it. There was obviously water damage down the left-hand side, and all of the faces were badly exposed. But I never say no when it comes to Photoshop. After a couple of hours of hard but absorbing work, I managed to improve on the quality of the copy according to John—and I think so too.
My tiny perfect Nana (Joanna) is the figure on the right. When we were staying with her in Wales back in the 50s, she taught me how to knit, and I liked to watch her take her teeth out every night and put them in a glass!
Judging by the information on the back, this photograph was probably taken sometime in the 1890s. The family was originally from Cornwall (where my grandmother was born) and then they moved to the Lake District.
Nana trained as a nurse and had a career until she married in her mid thirties. She had my mother at the age of forty and being an “older” mother didn’t phase her one bit. Nana went on to live until the age of 91, and her mother (my great-grandmother) lived until 89. No wonder my own mother is still going strong.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I was looking at my notebook from last year this morning, and I realized that I was doing a lot more socializing then than I am now. This week I’ve limited myself to one night out, and I’ll admit it’s driving me a little crazy. But I really don’t have a choice. If I want to finish my book and website in a timely manner, that’s what I have to do.
Years ago I remember reading an interview with the novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford. When asked how she managed to write novels when she was working full time, she replied: “Well, I don’t go to parties.”
But it’s hard having to make decisions like not seeing your friends or doing other things you know you’d enjoy. When you’ve set yourself certain goals though, there’s really no way around it, but to choose to focus on them.Tonight we’re having dinner with my parents, and Robin, Wendy and Wakelin. Here’s a digital ATC I did of my nephew Wakelin that I’m going to give to him later.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Photoshop Friday #2

Filters are a fun way to change an image almost instantaneously. Some are very dramatic, but I prefer a more subtle approach—particularly for portraits.
There are three things you should know about Filters before you begin to play with them:
go to the Layers palette and duplicate the image you want to alter. Then use this layer to work with. That way your original remains intact if you decide you don’t like the result.
Second, resolution is important. The lower the resolution, the more exaggerated the effect—not usually my preference—so I work at 300 ppi, and then reduce the image to 72 ppi if I plan to post it on the web.
Third, take time to play with the controls most filters offer you. Just using one filter can produce a wide range of different effects.
Now I’ll explain what how I experimented with this photo of David:
I cropped the original to make it more graphic. You can see that David looks a little flat, so I went to Image>Adjustments>Auto Levels, and Hue/Saturation to give him more contrast and stronger color. I used this as the starting point for my three versions.
(2) To turn David into a rock star look, I headed (digitally speaking) to Filter>Artistic>Fresco and chose the least extreme effects: 1-1-1. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
(3) This version of David was achieved by choosing Filter>Stylize>Find Edges. You don’t have to make any decisions here—just click and you get what looks like a sketch. But because this looked too washed out to me, I went to the Layers palette and chose Overlay. This allowed the color on the original layer to show through.
(4) This is my favorite because it looks the most painterly. I went to Filter>Artistic>Palette Knife and chose 13-3-4 to get the effect I wanted. But it’s not a formula. Your own photos will likely require different numerical values from mine.
See you next week!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fan Fiction

Over the years I’ve been addicted to a number of TV shows including Star Trek, Mork and Mindy, Soap, Dr. Who, CSI Miami and The Pretender. In fact, I loved The Pretender so much that even though I’d thrown my back out one Saturday night and couldn’t get up from the carpet, I insisted on watching the show straight through. Only then would I let John call the ambulance. Nuts, huh?
Apparently there are over 1,600 fan fiction stories about The Pretender posted on the Internet right now — mainly to do with Jared and Miss Parker. No surprise there, but I was amazed that people would bother to do this. Because I’m a writer myself, I know how much work goes into any kind of story, whether it’s written for love, money, or both.
Apparently Fan Fiction got started in the 70s with Star Trek aficionados anxious to entertain themselves between episodes. Naturally it’s snowballed since then because of the Internet, and that burning desire people have to share their work with others.
If you’re into Harry Potter and tired of waiting for the latest book, check out this recent article in the Telegraph for links to fan fiction sites. (Supposedly there are over 200,000 Harry Potter stories you can read).
Anne Rice won’t let fans use her characters, but J.K. Rowling doesn’t seem to have a problem with this. And why should she? I think she’s worth well over a billion by now, and I’m sure she has better things to do than harass the people she knows have helped to get her to where she is today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Will I ever grow up?

Somehow I thought by the time I reached the age I am now, I would not only feel like an adult but I’d act like one too. At this point though, it’s probably hopeless. I’m certain I’m always going to be a child. It’s not that I have tantrums or anything like that, but I’d much be playing than working. I’m distracted easily and I dream a lot.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a hundred years or so of childhood? (Without the restrictions obviously). If we had more time to ripen, maybe more of us would engage in the serious business of really growing up.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why Not Buy Some Art?

There are times when I’ll read an entry on someone else’s blog and I keep thinking about it afterwards. This happened on Friday when Carmi wrote about lowering the price of her poufs on Etsy and also buying a piece of Christina Lazar-Schuler’s art. The theme of Carmi’s post was really a question: why do we undervalue our art? Well, I don’t think we undervalue it necessarily, but we do need to sell things in order to make more. So we compromise.
Also, I couldn’t help wondering why we keep on buying supplies we’ll never use when there’s so much great art out there looking for a home and a place in our hearts.
To be honest, I don’t have much extra money to spend on anything really, but I’ve bought a couple of Carmi’s adorable poufs and they’ve brought me way more pleasure than the pasta machine (still in its box) that I got with a Michael’s 40 per cent off coupon three years ago.
Ditto for this fabric collage I recently bought from Colette that brings a smile to my face and lifts my spirits every time I look at it—which is more than I can say for the huge stash of paper I’ve amassed over the years. It just makes me feel guilty when I think about how I’m not using it.
John and I agreed that if we ever win the lottery, the first thing we would do (after paying our debts) is to go out and buy lots of art. But there’s no reason why any one of us can’t be a collector on a more modest scale. Like David for example. Last week he went to the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and bought several prints. He’s been doing this since the age of nineteen, and there’s something serene about his environment because of the art he’s chosen and framed. Much nicer than a few generic pictures slapped on the walls, and more personal.

So I put it to you: why not buy some art?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Photoshop Friday #1

I’ve toyed with the idea of starting another blog focused totally on Photoshop. But since I don’t have the time right now to keep it up, I decided to do a mini Photoshop tutorial every Friday instead.
People often ask me how I achieve certain effects with the program, or how I put everything together. Sometimes a finished image will have up to twenty layers, so it’s hard to remember what I’ve actually done most of the time. Basically I just keep experimenting until I achieve something I’m happy with. This doesn’t always work though. I have an image of five pieces of toast that I’ve done nine different versions of, and they all look terrible.
Anyway, for this digital ATC called Agnes Rising Up, I used scans of a necklace I like and an old photo (see above). I like the necklace bezel because it’s pearly and crackly, and I knew it would scan well. The photo of Agnes is not a good one, but she fascinates me. Because of the clothing she’s wearing, I’m pretty sure she must have been a servant, and one eye is smaller than the other.
In order to use Agnes just on her own, I would have been forced to do some heavy-duty rescue work in Photoshop, but I decided not to. The only thing I touched up were the whites of her eyes. I used the Eraser tool at 25 per cent opacity on the brush setting so her eyes would stand out more, yet not be too startling.
I dragged the scan of the necklace bezel into the Agnes file and then chose Darken in the Layers palette so Agnes could show through. I went back and forth between the two layers playing with Saturation, Contrast and Levels (under Images> Adjustments) in order to intensify the color.
It wasn’t hard to do, and took me about fifteen minutes. I’m not completely happy with Agnes because she looks a little muddy, but I did take her as far as she could go—given my level of skill and understanding. When it comes to Photoshop, my motto is always: “Go forth and experiment.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'm of Four Minds

I finished writing my book tonight. Not that I’m kidding myself I’ve actually finished. I still have to read everything through and reorganize, but thankfully the dreaded rewriting is through. I’ve decided not to do anymore revising before I send it off to my trusty editors. I know John will go nuts copyediting my introduction because I had so much trouble writing it, and I just can’t handle that right now.
Frankly I’d be happy not to do any writing ever again. It’s just too hard. (This blog doesn’t count, because I just do it without worrying about grammar or style).
David sent me a picture of his new girlfriend tonight and she has the same name as the one I’d give the heroine of my next book. I took this as a sign that if I do any more writing, it will have to be fiction.

P.S. June, this ATC is for you, but I never did get around to the greens.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Blahs

I don’t seem to be very inspired at the moment. I’m finding it hard to get much done (like finishing my book) and I haven’t had much to blog about lately. Or have I? It’s not that my life is dull. I’m just too lazy to write about it. Part of me is permanently stuck at age ten. Isn’t summer the time when you should be swimming, reading, collecting shells and toasting marshmallows? What’s the deal with work anyway?
In an attempt to put some pressure on myself tonight, I decided to Photoshop an ATC in five minutes. I guess there’s still some fuel left in my tank after all because I managed to do it. But I know if I’d given myself more time, I would never have done something like this.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lily's Spa Day

I’ve only been to a spa once, and I didn’t enjoy it mainly because the person who gave me a facial was scary. She reminded me of Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers movies, and recommended further treatments for my “incipient case of rosacea.”
“Isn’t that what Bill Clinton has on his nose?” I asked. “Exactly,” she replied severely. (Note: I had to look up the meaning of incipient when I got home).
I’m one of the few women I know who isn’t into the girly thing. I’ve never had a manicure. I get my hair cut once a year, and I don’t own any moisturizing products. If I’m reincarnated as a woman, I plan to check these things out because I could probably use them. It’s not that I have anything against beauty products, but since John seems to like me the way I am, I just don’t bother.
Today I realized that Lily would probably enjoy the whole spa thing if she were a human being. When I give Lily a bath, I usually do it on my own and she’s not too happy with me. But Emma is here for the weekend so we did it together. The trick (I’ve discovered) is to get into the bathtub with Lily. She just put her head against my thigh, presented her stomach and allowed herself to be massaged and washed. I swear she almost fell asleep at one point.
Another thing Lily enjoys is being vacuumed. She’s never been afraid of the vacuum cleaner, and loves being nozzled. I know this is peculiar, but I guess everyone has their eccentricities, including my little doggie.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Your Work Style

It surprises me when an online quiz is accurate because I’m leery of people being pigeonholed in forty or so questions. Years ago I worked in a bookstore, and I almost didn’t get the job because I flunked the psychological test.
One of the questions I got wrong was “Do you want to be the best real estate salesperson in Canada?” Duh? What does that have to do with books, or my psychological suitability for that matter?
Anyway, I tried this online quiz about work style at, and I thought it was pretty accurate. Apparently there are nine different types in order of commonality: Thinker, Achiever, Organizer, Visionary, Mentor, Advocate, Dynamo, Motivator and Individualist. According to the quiz, I’m a visionary. While I associate that word with someone like a Mahatma Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, the description certainly seemed to suit me.
And I was pleased that I was closer to the top than to the bottom. Even though I get on well with other people, the population on Planet Artopia has always been sparse, so I never feel like I really fit in. Maybe I’m not as peripheral as I think I am.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Doing Zip

I spent three wonderful days doing absolutely nothing but writing in my journal, socializing, sitting by the water and reading romance novels. Pam has a huge stash, and as soon as I finished one my mother would start on it next. Mum usually reads literary novels, so this was a change of pace for her. Instead of talking about Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, we were trading insights about the finer points of regency romance…Pam’s favorite genre.
On Saturday Dad took us out to eat at a restaurant in a Victorian house, and David helped the owner catch a bat that had flown into the dining room. Last night Pam made a fantastic salmon dinner, so I didn’t have to do any cooking all weekend which was just fine with me.

David spent Saturday watching the first season of Lost on his laptop. Then yesterday he wandered around the property taking pictures of his latest glass bricks in various locations. He photographed bricks in water, buried in sand, on rocks and in the woods. I really like this particular shot he took on the beach because you can see the reflection of a dead tree and Georgian Bay in the green glass.