Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vasalisa and the Flaming Skull

The Skull Torch was another prop I needed to illustrate the Vasalisa story.  I realize this will freak out many of my readers.   Please bear with me.  It will be worth it!

In the Story, Vasalisa is sent out into the forest to get a light for the family hearth from Baba Yaga's house.  Her cruel step family knows it's a death sentence and never expected to see Vasalisa again--ever.  We also know that Baba Yaga's cottage (the house that dances on chicken legs) is surrounded by a fence made from the bones of her victims--skulls and femurs.

Vasalisa is Brave.  She knows what she has to do to survive because she's been listening to the little doll in her pocket :  The little doll her mother had given her before she died.   After working for Baba Yaga for a time, listening to her intuition (the doll), and accomplishing the Baba's seemingly impossible tasks, Vasalisa learns some very important lessons.   In the end, Baba Yaga gives her a light for the fire at "home."  Vasalisa carries the glowing embers in a skull lantern that lights her way home through the dark forest.

This is an incredibly powerful symbol in the story.  Vasalisa has learned to harness this tool of death and destruction, for she knows that this is a vital part of the Life/Death/Life Cycle.  She is no longer afraid of the dark.  In my mind, this is one of the great Secrets to Life, the Universe, and Everything.


My photo is on the left (above).  Ivan Bilibin's classic illustration is on the right.  This is what I was going for with my image. Mission accomplished!

By this time, Vasalisa has made it home, and "taken care of" her awful step family.  She is confident and recognizes the power she weilds.   Ready to start life on her own terms, and in concert with the rhythms of Life and Death and Rebirth.  

In Jungian Psychology, all the characters in a story are different aspects of the same person. In this case, Clarisa Pinkola Estes equates the abusive step family as the voices in Vasalisa's head that belittle and cut her down.  She needs to banish this element so that the Little Doll (Intuition) can be a more constructive and positive influence in her life.  

As an aside : This month, the skulls were sitting in our dining room and one of Oliver's friends asked, "Is your mom Goth, or something?"  That made me smile!  The answer is no--I do not consider myself Goth.  This is something better : The Cult of Baba Yaga!

This is me with my new toy in the park next to our house.  We were testing the light settings on the camera.  In case you are wondering about how we made the flaming skull torch on the cheap ...

The skull is a $5 hollow plastic skull from a Halloween display at Fleet Farm this year. 

The lights are the 4 for $2 little battery operated tea lights from Walmart.  We cut away a lot of the plastic so it was just the battery with the LED lights left.  That way, we could push them through an eye socket (and get them back out).

The stick is trimmed from the curly willow tree in our yard.  My husband drilled a hole in the bottom of the plastic skull and attached the stick with a simple screw and some washers.

The skull image at the very top of this post was processed with the following RadLab Stylets :  EZBurn (original), Sparta, Lights Out, PunchOut, EzBurn2.


Vasalisa's Little Doll

For my epic Vasalisa photo shoot, I needed a few props.  Central to the story of Vasalisa the Brave / Beautiful / Wise is the little doll that her mother gave her before she died.  In Clarisa Pinkola Estes' interpretation of the story [Go out and read it now!  It's the Vasalisa chapter of Women who Run with the Wolves.], the doll represents the girl's Intuition.  That inner voice that soothes her and takes care of the messes, solves problems and does the seemingly impossible tasks demanded by Baba Yaga. 

"Intuition is the treasure of a woman's psyche. It is like a divining instrument and like a crystal through which one can see with uncanny interior vision.  It is like a wise old woman who is with you always, who tells you exactly what the matter is, tells you exactly whether you need to go left or right.  It is a form of The Old One Who Knows, old La Que Sabe, the Wild Woman." --Clarisa Pinkola Estes. (p. 70, The Women who Run with the Wolves.)

Later on in the essay, Pinkola-Estes says this : "Being bound to one's intuition promotes a confident reliance on it, no matter what.  It changes a woman's guiding attitude from "What will be, will be" to "Let me see what there is to see."

These little dolls were made from one of those stretchy knit gloves at the dollar store.  The tutorial videos for making them are here :

Knit Glove Rag Doll - Part 1  HGTV
Knit Glove Rag Doll - Part 2  HGTV

I actually made 4 dolls, not knowing which one would actually BE Vasalisa's little doll.

I first made one of these in 2004 at my first night at Conversations in Cloth, my old art quilt group.  The topic that first night was Dolls.  You could bring any doll pattern with supplies to make one that night, and completed dolls for show-and-share.  I never really played with dolls as a kid (I had a little brother who was live!), so I wasn't sure I wanted to do this, but I went along with it.  Even then I had Vasalisa's Doll in mind. It was a fun and wildly expressive evening.  Everyone did something different, had a different pattern, shared their ideas.    [Sorry--no pictures of Dolls Night.  that was my first time there, and beofre we had a blog, or even thought to take pictures.]

The Vasalisa Doll led me through some very dark passages with my own Baba Yaga as teacher.  I am grateful for the lessons, grateful to be bound to my own intuition.  Even though I do not care to relive those dark days, I know that I would/could get through it if I just listen ...

The doll I finally decided to use for the photo shoot is the one with the purple dress, and wild purple-green-pink hair.  I made her sitting at my Mom's dining room table. My Gramma was sitting across from me--she is getting older and frailer.  We didn't say much while I worked on the doll, with Gramma watching quietly.  It was just nice to be there with her, Gramma, my Que Sabe

Vasalisa and the Flaming Skull : Beyond Layers Day 35 : Taking Chances Facing Fears


Vasalisa and the Flaming Skull

For this lesson, Kim asked us to take chances and face our fears, and see what happens ...  I know this image will freak out a lot of readers, but bear with me.  This is good stuff about the secrets to life and death.

One of my all-time favorite stories is Vasalisa-the-Brave (also the Wise, and/or the Beautiful).  This story tells of her encounter with Baba Yaga, the dreaded Russian witch who lives in a cottage that dances around on chicken legs.  You know what I'm talking about ... Even my kid goes around the house humming the Baba Yaga theme from Pictures at an Exhibition. 

Vasalisa's Doll.  Read more ...

Returning home with the knowledge and the power of the Flaming Skull Torch.  

Special Thanks to Christina J. and her parents, Scott and Lori, for allowing me to photograph her as the epic Vasalisa.  Christina was a wonderful model, and willing to go along with my crazy ideas.

This was a lot of fun to do, from collecting the props and costumes, and choosing a woodland setting and the time of day (sunset/twilight) to be there.   That also explains why it's taken me so many months to complete this assignment!

Here's a slightly different version, processed with the following RadLab Stylets : LightsOn, Sugar Rush, VarioTone, EZBurn (original), Pool Party, Grittyizer (40% opacity), EZBurn2, (No Sparta)

The photos were processed with RadLab Stylets.  I did not use any other texture layers on these.
Photo processed with the following RadLab Stylets : LightsOn, Sugar Rush, VarioTone, EZBurn (original), Pool Party, Grittyizer (40% opacity), EZBurn2, Sparta
Photo processed with the following RadLab Stylets : EZBurn (original), Sparta, Pool Party

The Trek Home. Photo processed with the following RadLab Stylets : EZBurn (original), Sparta, Iron Mouse, Fuzzy Navel



Friday, October 19, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 48 : Polaroid Love

Today's lesson involved processing a photo to give it a 1970s Polaroid look and feel.  Here's my offering.  A photo of the 3 Cousins from August.  These three don't get to see much of each other because 2 of them live in Japan, so they treasure their time together.

I actually remember my grandma had a Polaroid camera.  Auntie Cindy had another style of Polaroid camera with this  kind of frame.  You had to wait a minute or 2 for the picture to develop before you could peel off a top layer to see the image.  

Here are the Photo Processing Steps :
Background Layer
Duplicate Background Layer
 > In RadLab, Use PunchOut, Pool Party, and Cinnamon Toast stylets to get the lighting just right
Back in PhotoShop Elements, Flatten Image

Pull in a Polaroid Frame of choice from Fuzzimo
Drop the kid pic on top as it's own layer.  Resize it to cover the black of the frame.
Add text : Cousins 2012 in DearJoe4 Font

 Here's the original.  Not a great shot with the back lighting.  I think the Polaroid effect is an improvement in this case.    And the kids are all smiling!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 47 : Cuppa Cherry Blossoms

This week, Kim asked us to focus on cups and mugs.  This is one of my favorites.  My sister gave it to me for Christmas one year.  A gift from where she lives in Japan, which is famous for its cherry blossoms.

For this version of the image (above), I used The Coffee Shop Action for Selective Color, brushing out the black and white treatment on the flower.

The only difference with this one, is that I boosted the shadows to hide my fleece sweatshirt sleeves.  Black-white- and a touch of pink!  One of my favorite combinations!  This version reminds me of  sign language music videos where the focus is on dancing hands to communicate the story.  Poetry in motion!

 This version uses the B/W Filter in PhotoShop Elements, along with a pink color fill layer at soft light blend mode, 76% opacity.   A nice effect by itself, but I wanted the cherry blossom to stand out a little more. 

Here's the Grunge version.   This is the same as the one above with the addition of Kim Klassen's Wonderful Magic Scripted texture.  Soft Light blend mode at 83%.

Here's the original image straight out of my camera, cropped to focus on the cup.

Thanks to my sweet husband for helping me capture these "mug shots."


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 46 : 6 Fonts I Love

Part of Kim's lesson this week shared her favorite fonts.  Here are 6 of my go-to fonts.  Looking back, I was really surprised at how often I choose Ruthie.  Kind of like someone I used to know ...  or would get along very well with.  I think it might be most like my own handwriting, so it seems familiar ...

The background texture is one of my Citrasolv-ed National Geographic pages.

Caflisch Script Pro
Papyrus [I know there's a big backlash against this particular font, but I like it the way I like Johnny Depp.  They're both easy on the eyes. ;-)]
Pea Aimee
Zapfino - commercial font (It came with my MacBook.)

What are some of your favorite fonts?


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 45 : Kim's Lilacs My Way


This time around, Kim's assignment was to take her Lilac still life image and process it any way we saw fit.

This is my first attempt.
Photo Processing in Picassa
1- Warmify Filter
2 - Add text.  Ruthie Font

Here's the 2nd version in PhotoShop Elements :
Layer 1 : Background
Layer 2 : Kim Klassen's Nested Texture -Soft Light blending mode 24% opacity
Layer 3 : Kim Klassen's Wonderful Magic Texture - Soft Light at 100% opacity
Layer 4 : Text - Ruthie Font at 100 pt.  Color chosen from elsewhere in the image
Layer 5 : Frame with color fill.
Kim Klassen's original image.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 44 : Dabbling with RadLab

I can't say I followed the Lesson / Recipes today.  But I did the work, and practiced my Art.

And I did go ahead and purchase RadLab.  The price is down to $99 at present--which beats all the coupons and such last summer, back when it still cost more than PhotoShop Elements.   Birthday Money.

Kim's lesson this week shared manual recipes (aka deconstructed) for 2 RadLab stylets, Bullet Tooth and Troy.   By finally purchasing RadLab, I could easily tell that these 2 particular filters would not work very well with the image above--the image that's been burning a hole in my brain, and saying, "Isn't it about time you do me?  Now!"

Here is the Photo Processing on the above image :
Layer 1 : Background
Layer 2 : RadLab Antique Tone
Layer 3 : Jerry Jones Texture Entropy 2 at Soft Light blend mode ; 40% opacity
Layer 4 : Sirius_sdz Texture d1 (from Texture Pack 12) at Soft Light ; 37%
Layer 5 : Text - Caflisch Script Pro ; 130 pt; Normal blend mode ; 77%; COlor chosen from the flowers.

This particular variety of Clematis is an amazing plant with many different stages.  Someday, I'll do a storyboard with each phase of it's life cycle. 


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Beyond Layers Day 43 : Book Spine Poetry

This week, Kim encouraged us to make some Book Spine Poetry.  I had never heard of this before, but you can guess that it appealed to my Librarian Heart!   These are all books from my home Library.

 At first, I tried textures on these pics, but that just wasn't working, so I went back to Picassa and played with the filters until I found combinations I liked.  Sorry--I didn't take notes on the renderings.  I did try just about everything available in the current version of Picassa!    The books in each stack were all different colors, and contrasts, so it helped to tie them together with a tint or to b/w-ify it. 

Then I pulled them into Photoshop Elements and added the "Book Spine Poetry" title.   Again, I tried a lot of fonts before I found one that seemed to work with these.   1942 Report is the font with Screen and Lighten blend modes at varying opacity.   Then I chose a blend mode that made it blend more subtly into into the background.  I wanted the poetry of the titles to stand out, not the "Book Spine Poetry" explanation.   Font colors were chosen from within each picture.  That's such a nice way to tie into a color palette that works for each image.

Don't think I could do this assignment on my Kindle!