Monday, December 31, 2007

Wrapping Up 2007

Tonight John is going to make dinner and then we’re going to see The Golden Compass. I know the movie got terrible reviews, but we loved Philip Pullman’s books so we’re hoping it will better than expected. Afterwards we’ll come home and spend a quiet evening together.
Before I go to bed on New Year’s Eve, I like to look back over the year and remind myself of what I have to be grateful about. I usually aim for at least 100 things on my list—from the major to the minor—because it helps me to put the year in perspective. I find if I just focus on the low points in my life, it doesn’t give an accurate picture of what really happened.
For various reasons, 2007 has been one of the most difficult years I’ve experienced. On the other hand, there’s so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to. Two creative goals that I set myself this year have been reached. I finished my book and completed my ATC challenge. Earlier this year I’d decided to post 150 digital ATCs to my blog and this is the final one!

I wish you an abundance of blessings for 2008, and I’ll see you next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Time to Scan

I don’t know about you, but watches fascinate me…particularly their inner workings, so I scanned one to make this ATC.
Because I like to print out everything I do digitally, I always scan objects and pictures at a resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) as this results in a better quality image. But when I scanned these watch innards, I chose a resolution of 1200 dpi. Even though the watch only measured 1-inch square, I knew I could easily enlarge it in Photoshop.

What I did was open a new file at 4 x 4 inches and 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Then using the Move tool, I slid my scan over and it fit perfectly. This is a fun way to play with objects or pictures that seem to be too small to work in a scrapbook or digital collage.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Visiting with Mary

I went to Mary’s house today for a holiday visit and to see her latest assemblages. There’s probably something a little strange about making notes on a good friend’s art, but that’s exactly what I did because I knew Mary wouldn’t mind. (At least I hope she didn't).
Later we had high tea with scrumptious crustless sandwiches and assorted tarts while we talked about—what else—organizing all our stuff. When I came home I was really fired up to create and organize. What actually happened was that I fell asleep watching an Eleanor Parker movie and then worked on this ATC in Photoshop.
I liked the idea of superimposing a face on an old photo, but something definitely got lost in the translation from idea to execution. Oh well, as Scarlett O’Hara once said: “tomorrow is another day.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I’ve basically spent the last day and a half in bed sleeping and reading trashy novels. Getting ready for Christmas always sends me into a state of hibernation immediately afterwards (whether I need it or not), and this year I definitely did.
Everything went well except for Lily getting sick on Christmas Eve. By three in the morning she seemed better after innumerable trips outside (with me standing guard on the back porch to make sure she was okay). She didn’t eat anything for most of Christmas Day, but then the smell of turkey cooking seemed to revive her and she was soon back on her feed. Seeing Lily healthy and happy again was the best Christmas present of all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Time Out

I’m getting fed up with the cleaning thing—mainly because it reminds me that if I did more on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be such a big job at this time of year.
When I mentioned it to John tonight, he said I had more important things to do…like Photoshop.At first I thought he was joking but he wasn’t. So I took a break from cleaning the silver and made this ATC. I used a scan of a broken clamshell and some paper I like…anything to get away from red!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Contemplating the To Do list

Are we defined by our tasks…or rather, by the ones we manage to complete successfully?
At this time of year it can be a challenge to feel blessed when you so often feel burdened. With all there is to do, I find I have to keep reminding myself that I’m going to all this effort to make it a good Christmas for my parents and children in particular.
I also think about Helga. Helga was a former neighbor who had an immaculate home—so immaculate that she and her family lived in the basement so the first floor would remain pristine at all times.
One day I was walking by Helga’s house and noticed her in spike heels and a tight skirt crouched in her driveway. She had a measuring tape and seemed to be writing things down in a notebook. Curious, I stopped to say hello and find out what she was up to. She told me that she had assigned her husband the task of planting her geraniums eight inches apart in the flowerbed beside the driveway, and she was mad as a hornet because the job wasn’t up to her standards.
Every time I’m tempted to feel annoyed at myself for not doing things perfectly, I think about how tough it must have been to be Helga. Eventually she left her husband, and he’s now married to a woman who wears sweat pants and lets him put his feet up on the coffee table.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Cori mentioned a while ago on her blog that she loved pictures taken with Santa Claus. Because this reminded me of a photo I have of Emma and David from the 90s, I went on a hunt for it.
Naturally I had to set aside my guilt feelings about having so many pictures that are not in albums…i.e. most of them…and try to stay focused. While I was searching, I came across an envelope of pictures my uncle had given me several years ago, and inside was a photo of yours truly taken with Santa in 1952. The weird thing is I don’t remember ever seeing this photo before. Did it simply materialize out of thin air?

My recollection of childhood is that I was introverted and always hung back. But according to my father this wasn’t the case. He wrote on the back of the photo that I looked like a ragamuffin because I’d been racing around Toy Town all afternoon and was very excited. Hmmm. Does this mean it’s time to rethink who I really am?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Bling

I finished this collage a couple of weeks ago, and despite the fact I like the bling, the red rose and the green background, it still annoys me. Why didn’t I “do” something with the upper right quadrant? If I’d been working on this collage in Photoshop, I could have experimented with the layout, but when you’re doing hands-on stuff you have to commit to what seems right at the time—and then just live with it.
Obviously there’s nothing preventing me from adding something to improve it now, but I seem to work better when I’m paring things down rather than jazzing them up. I have a feeling this collage is one of those pieces that’s going to be yodeling at me for a while.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Joy of Bling

Can we ever get enough bling? I don’t think so. It’s what every girl or guy who makes art lives for. You will never use all the stuff you have, but isn’t it fun rifling through it?
Recently I made this collage incorporating a brass finding Mary gave me a while ago. I knew I wanted to put something in the middle of it and finally found the perfect tiny shell. The rest of the collage kind of evolved from there.
Then a few days ago Christmas came early when Mary sent me a package of her special bling (below). I don’t know how she manages to track down such nifty stuff, but I do know I’d much rather be playing with all those tantalizing bits and pieces than trying to handle the tasks on my endless to do list.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Countdown

Nine days to go until Christmas…no, it’s eight when I think about it. There are two almost finished assemblages sitting on one of my worktables, but I’m not sure whether I can actually find the time to finish them.
I have a four-page list of things to do by the 25th and precious little has been accomplished so far. I will get everything done though, mainly because I have to.
The biggest single task is decorating the Christmas tree. One of my friends has the ideal solution to this yearly “problem.” Instead of removing the lights and ornaments, she leaves everything in place and stores the tree in her basement. Unfortunately I don’t have the space to do this, but I wish I did. On commercials, decorating the tree always seems like such a wonderful ritual. You’re drinking eggnog, listening to carols, the fire is on and each ornament is lovingly unwrapped and hung on the tree. Too bad it’s more like a panic situation in my case.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowed In

I’m not sure how much snow we’ve had since last night, but I’m sure it’s at least 10 inches and it hasn’t stopped yet. Because we knew a storm was coming, John and I ran around yesterday doing errands and getting in supplies. I doubt our street will be ploughed out until tomorrow morning, so we’re nesting until the roads are clear.
No matter how bad the weather gets here, it’s always worse in Buffalo, which is over 90 miles southwest of us. Sometimes they have twice as much snow as we do and everything grinds to a halt.
I feel sorry for all those people who had Christmas parties planned for last night or today, but fortunately Pam and Brian’s big get-together was on Friday. One year the weather was so bad it took us three and a half hours to get there, and of course we had to stay over night once we arrived.

Since it’s my turn to do the family Christmas this year, I’m hoping the weather will be okay on the 25th. We’ve never been snowed in on Christmas Day before, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed it won’t happen again next week.

Friday, December 14, 2007


On Wednesday night Emma took me to have my hair cut and colored at David Hillis a swanky salon in Toronto (thanks baby). I’d forgotten how pleasurable it is to be transformed by people who know what they’re doing…and how much artistry is involved.
First, Hannah did my highlights. I was fascinated by how focused she was on the process, mixing up the colors like an alchemist and then applying them in an unhurried but spontaneous way. And I was really thrilled with the results.
Then Sangeeta cut my hair while we talked. Cutting hair is more than a job to her, she explained; it’s a form of healing. Sangeeta has a degree in business administration and spent ten years in the financial sector before having that eureka moment where she decided to be a hair stylist. Now she knows she’s in her right place, and like Heather, Sangeeta’s concentration on the task at hand is awesome.

Every time I look in the mirror, I think about Emma’s generosity and the two women who worked their magic on me. The big test will come this afternoon when I wash my hair and try to style it myself!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Inspires Me

Inspiration isn’t usually a problem for me because there are so many things I find interesting I continually feel prompted to respond to something. There are also certain activities I engage in that make me want to try something new, or at least take what I’m already doing farther.
This afternoon I had good gab with Carmi on the phone and played in Photoshop while we were talking. Somehow the combination of the verbal and the digital is a good one for me because both activities are so satisfying. And last night I stayed up way too late poking through assemblage materials and getting ideas. Now if I could just finish the three I’m presently working on that would be great. But I guess most of us are artistic contractors…we always have to be working on several “jobs” at once.
Looking at art books is probably my number one inspirational activity though. While I like checking out other people’s blogs and websites, there’s something about grazing through a book with fantastic pictures in it that really revs up my creative motor. So my question today is: what is it that inspires you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Gender Genie

Do you write like a man—or a woman? Try the Gender Genie and see what happens.
The Gender Genie is based on an article and test that ran in The New York Times Magazine a few years ago, and relies on masculine and feminine keywords to reach its decision.
You’ll need to copy and paste a piece of your writing into the box provided, and choose the genre: fiction, non-fiction or a blog entry. (Note: 500 words + seems to work best).

The first couple of times I tried it, the Genie correctly identified me as a woman. But since I also do technical writing, I thought I’d enter an article I’d written. This time, the Genie decided I was a man. I’m not sure if this means I have a split personality or that I’m just a pragmatist when it comes to getting the job done.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More about Cards…

I’ve spent hours and hours over the last few days trying to turn my holiday card into something I could be happy with, but it just didn’t work out. I finally went back to something I’d worked on a couple of years ago and decided to turn it into my card. I’m pretty sure I’ve sent a similar card to a couple of people, but I’m at the point now where I just don’t care.
For some reason, designing a specific kind of card always makes me anxious. I don’t feel this way about ATCs though. Tonight I counted up all the digital ones I’ve posted to my blog this year and I’ve done 141 as of today. My goal by the end of the year is 150, so I think I can do that.
But maybe I find it easier to do ATCs because nobody expects anything (including myself). Mind you, I doubt anyone has any particular thoughts either way about my holiday card—except for my dad. My friend Joy told me about a cartoon she saw in a magazine once that said: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people thought of you, if you knew how seldom they did!”

Friday, December 07, 2007

Free Samples from Dover

If you love using clip art from Dover like I do—I have a ton of their books and use the images often—you can sign up to receive their free sampler every Friday. Just right click on the images you want and download them to your desktop. Then you can either print up what you like for collage work, or import it into Photoshop (like I did with the butterfly I used for today’s ATC).

Thursday, December 06, 2007


The urge to hibernate is strong in me right now. It’s kind of like The Force, only I don’t feel like saving any worlds from a wicked empire—I just want to do nothing…at least nothing that could be considered constructive in a worldly sense.
How does the idea of spending the day in bed reading and playing in your journal sound to you? It certainly strikes a chord with me. It occurred to me this morning that when I do these things, it’s always at the end of a long day and I’m tired. I think I’m going to try switching things around tomorrow morning…if I don’t feel too guilty about doing it that is.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Joanna of Aragon

I have always been fascinated by the 1502 portrait of Joanna of Aragon by Raphael (which I took the liberty of cropping and turning into an ATC here).
Joanna married her first cousin from Naples and then her own daughter Giovanna married her nephew who was actually ten years her senior. Other than all the byzantine information available about intermarriage, history doesn’t offer us any clues as to how Joanna felt about things or what she was interested in.

There’s a part of me that would like to be a biographer and create imaginary lives for historical figures like Joanna who have been reduced to their alliances and the role they play in politics. I also wonder if Aragon, which was part of Spain, gave Tolkien the idea for the name of his character Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Cards

Last year I was too busy to design a card, but I worked on one last night and it’s something quite different from what I’ve done before. I know some people won’t like it, but right now I’m looking on it as an opportunity to stretch creatively.
As I’ve mentioned before, I got burned out with hands-on card-making a few years ago. I used to make 180 every Christmas—80 for myself and the rest for Pam who obviously has more friends than I do!
We take the holiday card thing seriously in my family. My dad carefully chooses every card he sends. The sentiment and image have to be just right before he will mail one off to anyone. A couple of years ago he even bought me two holders to display my cards over the holidays, which I thought was really sweet of him.

By the way, if you want to send cards but aren’t in the mood to make any, check out Carmi’s great deal on her website.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas Gifts

Today I’ve been thinking about what to buy for Christmas presents. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys shopping for others, but it’s not enough to just buy anything handy. I want a gift I know the other person will enjoy, and therein lies the challenge.
I’ve received some pretty hilarious gifts myself over the years. My uncle gave me the same book on Degas three Christmases in a row, so I was disappointed when he chose something else the next year because the Degas thing was becoming a running joke.
Two other gifts I recall from another relative were a key chain attached to something that looked like a large plastic dinner plate, and a pair of women’s black satin pedal pushers—not the best choice for the skinny, knock-kneed nine year old I happened to be at the time. I remember squeezing both my legs into one side of the pedal pushers and laughing like a loon.
My dad always got the best “worst” gifts though. One Christmas it was a large can of barbecue lighter fluid clearly marked “sample.” The next, he received The Executive Coloring Book and several of the pictures had already been colored in! You just gotta love stuff like that.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ATC Quarterly

When I have deadlines looming, which is pretty much most of the time, I tend to let my mail pile up. This afternoon I decided to work through it and try not to feel too guilty about being such a slack off. (For some reason, feeling guilty makes me less effective when it comes to taking care of things).
Sometime this week ATC Quarterly must have arrived, so I immediately took a long break to enjoy all the art. Really, I can’t get over how much talent there is around—and how diverse it is. There’s something about the ATC format that really encourages people to explore their own creativity. And one of the reasons I like this journal so much is that because of the many different kinds of art featured, I’m inspired to get busy creating my own stuff before I’ve finished reading it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Selling Stuff You Like

This was my favorite mixed media piece that I made for the craft sale yesterday and it was the first thing I sold. Mary’s sister Carole bought it, so I know it’s going to a good home.
Letting go of stuff has been a problem for me in the past. I think I like to keep things around to remind me of what I’m capable of. But that’s one reason why I enjoy having a digital camera. All you need to do is take a picture and you have a record of the work you’ve done.

Mary had some amazing jewelry for sale yesterday. I particularly liked her hardware line, and one necklace in particular. Hmmm. Christmas is coming up isn’t it?