Monday, April 28, 2014

Liberate Your Art Postcard Exchange 2014 : The Extra Swap Edition

One of the joys of the Liberate Your Art Postcard Exchange is seeing all the beautiful cards that were part of the project.  I've joined a tradition of asking the Makers of my favorite cards out there if they have any cards left and if they would be willing to do an extra swap, above-and-beyond the 5 we got in the official exchange.   More often than not, they are willing and able--if I was able to find them.  Seems like a number of people chose to remain anonymous this year.   It is a great honor to be asked if I have any cards left, too, because it means someone is genuinely interested in my artwork.  ;-)  And in a few days, we have mailboxes bursting full with more joy.  Here's what came post swap :

 Breathe by Siobahn Wolf in Ohio
This looks like something I would stop and take a photograph of--a leaf on concrete.  ;-)

Namaste by Snap Lane in Texas.
This one just makes me smile contentedly.  

 This gorgeous image came from Janice Darby in California.  
I didn't realize she printed it to black paper.   Such a lovely image!

I received one of Claire's postcards as part of the official exchange, but she liked my Old Homestead image so much she asked for one, so I sent it.  In exchange, Claire sent this garden-inspired artist trading card, complete with a paper puzzle case. 
This is such a nice thing Kat set up, making the world a better place, and allowing us to make connections we never other would have otherwise.  Speaking of Kat ...

This is one of Kat Sloma's iconic scooter pictures.  Those of you who've been part of the LYA Postcard exchange from the beginning will recognize it.  This is the card Kat send out to all participant's that year.     I got it because ...

In addition to the extra swap cards, I also won this book : Good Mail Day : A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Art.  Kat Sloma had a drawing and gave it to one lucky participant of the 2014 swap.  It landed here in Oshkosh, WI, along with one of Kat's iconic scooter photographs.  Cool!  Thank you, Kat!  This will give me lots of ideas for what to do next year.  ;-)

Looking forward to LYA 2015 already!

Look at what I sent and received in the 2014 LYA Exchange.  
At the bottom of that post, you'll see the links for the blog hop to get a taste of the art that was part of the exchange this year.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

2BD46 Triptych Challenge

This week, Kim challenged us to make a Triptych.  Either shots cropped out of 1 image, or taken in a series.  This forced me once again to use Light Room -- There are still many things about it that are not intuitive, but I muddled through and produced the image above.   Once I had the layout, I took it into PSE to add a texture layer as a frame. 

Beyond Layers

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Liberate Your Art Post Card Exchange 2014 Blog Hop

This is the second year I decided to participate in Kat Sloma's The Liberate Your Art Post Card Exchange.   The purpose was three-fold :
1) Get some of my own artwork professionally printed -- Wow! What a revelation this simple act is in this digital age!
2) Get my Art out into the world, and
3) Enjoy receiving postcards from other like-minded creatives.

The "Old Homestead" at the top of this post is what I sent out this year.  I took the original photo with my iPad, then processed it with some filters from SnapSeed   The actual building is on Hwy 10 outside of Stevens Point, WI.  This was my first try with SnapSeed.

I know that 1 of my cards landed in Seattle, WA, with Carol Hart at
1 went to Kate TerHaar in Michigan.   Thanks for letting me know, Kate!
Where did the others land?  Please leave a comment if you got one of my postcards. ;-)

I had extra postcards printed (other pictures, too), so if you like what you see, contact me and I'll send one to you, too--wherever you are ...  Cheers!
In April, 200+ artists worldwide sent postcards of their artwork (plus address labels and stamps) to Kat Sloma, who then fostered the exchange sending postcards around the world.  What fun to watch the mail every day!

Here are the cards I received this year :
[If you see you're postcard, please leave a comment. ;-)]

by Deb at Paper Turtle Blog in Arizona
It's been a long, cold winter, here in Wisconsin, so I appreciated this postcard.  
I am looking forward to the spring and the return of sunlight.

by Sue Williams in New Bern, NC

From mthoodmama in the Pacific Northwest

 Claire at Another Deep Day Blog  in the UK


Everyone who participated in this year's exchange got one of these gorgeous postcards by Kat Sloma, the organizer.  

Linking up with Kat's Liberate Your Art Postcard Exchange 2014 Blog Hop:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2BD44 More Moody Magic

I wanted to try another round on Kim's Moody Magic Recipe.  This time, I started with an image that was more similar with the warm earth tones.  I really wanted to get the lovely browns in the bottle that she got here.

In LightRoom, I played with the sliders to darken shadows, blacks, added a tone curve to accentuate highlights and make moodier shadows.   Still don't quite understand what I'm doing with split tones.   I did add the Waterfront7 Magic Texture on Screen blend mode, masking out the bottle.     

I also used an additional Hue Adjustment Layer in PSE to tone down the aqua/blues in the bottle.  But I never did quite get the lovely browns from split toning that Kim did.  Somewhere I missed a step. 

Here's another try at it ...  Worked up in Light Room with no less than 54 tweaks and adjustments.
Then on over into PSE for a couple of Texture layers : Waterfront7 Magic on screen blend mode and then duplicated with soft light blend mode.  I think I'm getting the hang of this!

Here's the original photo I started with.  Even on this gray overcast April day, there seems to be too much light.   I think I prefer the moody version. ;-)

Beyond Layers

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2BD44 Moody Magic

"Grace ... transforms an ordinary moment into something better."
        --Carolyn Myss

For this lesson, Kim encouraged us to pick a simple subject against a darker background to create a "moody magic" image.   Not sure I hit the mark or not ...   Kim's wonderful demo image was much more earthy and rustic with pears and delicious light.   It was truly magic to watch that transformation!     I put a vase of flowers in front of our tv with a nice dark flat screen with light coming in from above.    I got out my "big-girl" camera with the fancy lenses.   The main thing for me this lesson was to use LightRoom to do some of the editing ...  I can't even tell you what I did in LightRoom ... Cropped the original image down a bit, then just played with the sliders in Light Room.   Desaturated a bit.  

I did pull it into PSE to do some additional tweaking, but textures don't really work on this dark background.  There's nothing for them to "grab" onto.  I also tried adding the Grace quote above, but it seemed to take away from the flowers, so in the end, I went back to LightRoom and exported the image as you see it above. 

Beyond Layers

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Soap

Pumpkin Pie Soap

This was by far the most ambitious soap I've ever made what with the colorants and the marbling.  And so worth it!

Watch the video at Soaping 101

Bastille Soap (4 pounds)
4 oz       Castor Oil
16 oz     Coconut Oil
44 oz     Olive Oil

8.82 oz.  Sodium Hydroxide (aka Lye)
21.12      Distilled Water

Add the following based on the Libby's famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe
1/2 oz Sodium Lactate (for a harder bar)
1/4 tsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried egg whites (I left this out since I didn't have any)
1 oz. milk (discount water content accordingly)
4 Tablespoons Pumpkin Puree
Fragrance / essential oil blend
       (I used the Pumpkin Pie Spice Fragrance Oil from Mystic Mountain Sage.
       Anything mix of  pumpkin, vanilla, clove and cinnamon would also work well.)
Whipped Cream - optional (I left this out since we didn't have any)

Add the lye to the water as you normally would in a swell-ventilated area.  Be safe.
     > Also mix in the sugar, salt, and sodium lactate until dissolved.  Let cool to 100 degrees (or so).

Add the lye water to the oils when they are both about the same temperature (100 degrees, or so).

Blend until a light trace.

Separate out some soap for accent colors.  

Colorants :
Although there are lots of sites on the web willing to tell you about using herbs, spices, and clays for coloring soap.  No one really gave any specifics of how much.  I guess it depends on the color your're after.   Here's what I used I kept adding a 1/4-cup of soap base until I thought I had enough :

1 tsp cocoa powder to 1/2-3/4 cup soap base - Cocoa Brown
1 tsp tumeric to 1/2-3/4 cup soap base - Yellow / Gold
1 tsp paprika to 3/4 cup soap base  (Could have used a less paprika.) - Red

I also had some cinnamon ready to go, but decided not to use it as it can be a skin irritant.  I was also afraid the color might be too similar to the other 3. 

Back to the soap base at trace, add the following :

4 Tablespoons of Libby's pumpkin pie in a can (or other pumpkin puree)
         (Soaping 101 recommends 1 T per pound of soap.)
1 oz Whole Milk
1/4 tsp powdered egg white
4 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice Fragrance Oil
         (1 tsp per pound of soap)
Whipping Cream

Mix well.  Pour the base into the prepared slab mold.

Pour on the accent colors (Watch the video for this part.)  Soaping 101 recommends pouring from on high so the colors penetrate to the bottom of the tray.
Add the remaining colors--scribbled an top of the soap in tray.  Scrape out the last bits and decorate the top of the soap in tray.  Swirl with a stick as if you are marbling - corner to corner and swirly.

Leave uncovered.  Unmold after 24 hours.  Cut into bars and let cure for 6-8 weeks.

Voi la!

Aloe Vera Soap

With the trip to France coming, up, I needed to make something to give people as gifts (people who host a dinner for us, or let us stay with them, or just long-time family friends).  I decided to try a few new recipes and scents this year.

I've been choosing recipes for which I can purchase oils at the grocery store.  This simple practice saves a bundle on shipping charges!

Aloe Vera Soap
Recipe from  Soap Recipes 101 (slightly amended by me)

14.9 oz Coconut Oil
13.4 oz. Olive Oil
10.5 oz  Palm Oil  (I did not use the recommended lard)
2.5 oz Shea Butter
9.6 oz  Aloe Vera Gel and water puree (add water to the aloe until you reach the 9.6 oz total)
6.04 oz Lye (aka Sodium Hydroxide)
         > The amount of lye is also amended slightly because I substituted palm oil for the original lard.
9.9 oz  Water

Fragrance : French Linden Blossom or Yling-Ylang Mrryh (1 tsp per pound of soap)

I have a monster Aloe plant that needed to be cut back.  The other day, I think I heard it say "Feed me, Seymour."  It took about a dozen "beefy" arms to scrape enough gel for this recipe.  The plant was happy to be of service. ;-)

Note :  Because the aloe gel was a bit lumpy, I pureed the aloe before adding it to the nearly traced soap.  The gel became kind of brown and watery--I thought I "broke" it, but soldiered on.   Traced happened VERY quickly after I added the aloe gel to the soap.  

Buttermilk Baby Soap

Buttermilk Baby Soap (made with real babies!)
Recipe from The Soap Queen

27 oz Olive Oil
5 oz Coconut Oil
8 oz Buttermilk
2.5 oz Carrot Baby Food (just carrots and water)
4.3 oz Lye (aka Sodium Hydroxide)

I wasn't quite sure how this one would turn out.  Even though I froze the buttermilk, it was more like slush when I added the lye.  The buttermilk appeared to curdle during the process.-- all those little bits of curdled milk--like cottage cheese.   Even after blending it,  I was worried it wouldn't hold together through the saponification process, but it seems to have come out fine.

For scent, I used a Sweet Olive Fragrance (Sweet Oleander) from Mystic Mountain Sage.  I probably should have used more, as most of the scent seems to have disappeared.

Next time, I will add the carrot puree for the color.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

2BD43 Faery Tale Book Marks

[Click on the image above for a clearer picture of the words.]

For this week's Beyond Beyond lesson, Kim had us working with a pdf template from Creative Label Concepts.  I had no idea you could pull in a pdf as a layer in Photoshop Elelments and work it to your heart's content.  That tip right there was worth the price of the class!  I just always thought PhotoShop dealt with image files, not pdfs.   In all, I counted 19 PSE layers to develop these 3 tags/bookmarks.  It was more like 3 assignments instead of just 1, so I spent a lot of time with it.  I'm really feeling comfortable with PSE these days --thanks to Kim's classes. 

We started with the templates, isolated them onto their own layers, then added texture, text, and other elements with brushes, etc.   Kim's lesson had us making hang tags--I suppose that's a great thing for scrapbookers and people working with mixed media.  I don't actually have the capability to print in color at home, nor am I likely to add special tags to a gift, either.  Hence, this was a theoretical exercise for me. 

In Kim's example, she used the dome top tag template above.  I kept thinking it looked like a tombstone ...   Another person in the class elongated the templates (or maybe she chose another template altogether) to make bookmarks.  I really liked that idea, so I borrowed it. ;-)

As for the quotes, I'm always looking for a way to pull in my love of fairy tales and how important they are to our every day lives and how we cope.   I have a book of essays by academic Kay Stone : Some Day Your Witch Will Come.    The sentiment is a tongue-in-cheek play on "some day your prince will come."  That title essay talks about how necessary these wicked witches are to the stories and our psyches.  Encountering  a Witch can bring it's own gifts.  In my own life, I had to come to terms with my own witch before I could meet my prince charming.  The Witches push us to do things we wouldn't otherwise do, or think we'd be capable of.  I had some self-development work to do before I could be in a good relationship.  The Witch taught me to deal with my anger, to stand up for myself, to value myself.  You don't get that kind of encouragement in a plush comfortable setting at home with a "good mother" -- That's why those good mothers always die off.  The Witches give us that nudge to do what we think is impossible, to grow in ultimately positive ways that we may not otherwise choose.    Now, looking back with hindsight, I am grateful for my encounters with real-life witches--although, I couldn't say that at the time.   

For the Spiderweb tag/bookmark, I used Kim Klassen's Chalk Magic Texture for the background,  Ruthie Font, and a spiderweb brush.  The cob webs give the idea that someone has been waiting for quite some time for her witch to come ... 

The next quote from my all-time favorite witch, Baba Yaga : Consider the uses of adversity.    I suspect the sentiments and the skull will be all too dark and Gothic for my fellow 2B classmates.  Truth be known, the flower pics and inspirational quotes are not really my style.  For this tag/bookmark, I used another texture from 2 Lil Owls, though I'm not sure what collection it's from.  I also used a couple of brushes typical of old tombstones.  These are also very important symbols for Baba Yaga.  In the Baba Yaga stories, she has a fence made of skulls-and-bones surrounding her property (Remember that house that dances around on chicken legs?  That was Baba Yaga. :-).  Once Vasalisa has accomplished the impossible tasks BY set for her, the Baba gives her the creative fire in a skull torch which lights her way home.   You see-- some people DO survive their encounters with the witches--but only if they learn the lessons they have to teach.

Of course, I couldn't leave out my beloved Rumplestilskin (from ABC's Once Upon a Time), so he gets his own bookmark/tag, too.    For this bookmark, I used Texture 13 from 2 Lil Owls Fairy Tales Collection.   Aquiline Two Font and an image of a spinning wheel charm as his memorable detail.   I am starting to think he's one of the 3 Fates in Once Upon a Time's rendition.  That puts him in a whole new light, doesn't it?

Beyond Layers