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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

re-group...and a prayer

Lately I've been rediscovering my roots as a Mixed Media Artist. Which means that I am back in my studio: playing with paint and paper, fabrics, laces and trims, found objects and 'bling'...stamping, glueing, hammering and drilling to my heart's content. And, I am happy to report, my studio is a mess! Out of the organized chaos of my eclectic gatherings...I CREATE. Oh how I love this process!

So how does my love of photography and photo editing fit into all of this? If I remember correctly, it has its roots in a desire to use my own images in my art...which makes sense since I make art about my life.

A few years ago I took this online course with the delightful and talented Karen Russell, which started me on the road to 'serious' photography. I have spent the last year or so with Kim Klassen, happily immersed in the study of Photoshop and Lightroom, blogging and creativity.

It is time to stir these skills into the melting pot of my repetroire of methods and media.

I also recently discovered Pinterest, which has ignited an inspiring creative fire in me as well. You can follow me on Pinterest by clicking the gadget in my sidebar. You can also visit my Flickr page, where I will be maintaining a gallery of my work. Warning! It's a bit of a shambles there until I finish reorganizing things. There will likely be other changes to my blog as I grow as an artist, so stay tuned.


For now, I just want to share a special piece I made two years ago for my Dad, just months before he passed away. A devout Catholic, he always carried a rosary in his pocket, and prayed the rosary on a regular basis, usually at night before falling asleep. He found it especially comforting in times of anxiety, sickness or grief. I made this little shrine for him, recalling the roadside shrines seen 'round the world.

Dad bought this ruby-colored rosary for his mother when he was away at Catholic University in Washington D.C. She treasured it, and prayed with it until her death in 1968. Dad gave it to me a few years ago, and I have prayed many a time with these beads.


I made these two images last year, for Kim's Beyond Layers class...same rosary + my grandmother's prayer book.


I, along with countless other students will keep
Kim Klassen and her family
in my prayers.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


A few years ago my mother gave me a very precious family heirloom, which I treasure to this day. It is a hand-embroidered shawl, made by my great-grandmother Anna Murphy Toomey. It is finely stitched, entirely black on black, made before 1900...

The following is an excerpt from our family genealogy, compiled and written by my mother, Peggie Toomey Notarianni in 2004.

Anna Murphy (b. 1852) married Michael Toomey, who had been a hired hand on the farm of her father. At one time they lived in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (where this portrait was taken, and where Anna was a milliner) where their younger children, Paul and Joseph were born....

Later, Michael was said to have driven the first train from St. Paul, Minnesota to Fargo, North Dakota. Perhaps his first job for the railroad accounted for his absences and for the fact that Anna and the two younger boys were living in Devil's Lake, North Dakota when Anna died in 1900.

This account of her last days is very difficult for me to type.

Their older son, Eugene, was already living in Devil's Lake when Anna and the boys arrived. Anna's half-brothers, Alfred and Edward Murphy, had homesteaded in the county and they brought food and checked up on her from time to time. Her older son Eugene was sheriff of the county and had to put his mother and the two boys out on the street for non-payment of rent. They ended up living out of town in a 'shack.' Anna's brothers brought them a barrel of flour that winter. My father (Joe) never spoke of these early years except to remark that one winter they had nothing to eat but pancakes.

Anna took in laundry, which Paul and Joe would pick up and deliver in a wagon. Their mother instructed them not to fight anyone. One afternoon the boys were coming home with their wagon load of laundry when some boys began to poke fun at them. Paul ran into the house, but Joe fought with them, and when he looked up he saw his mother watching from the window. He expected to be scolded but she never said a word.

Anna died that winter of 1900, of tuberculosis and starvation. The boys were alone with her body for two days before someone from the school came by to see why they were not in school. Anna is buried in the Catholic corner of the cemetery in Devil's Lake, N.D.

In the 1940's Joe and Paul attended the funeral of their brother, Eugene, in Devil's Lake, and at the cemetery the question arose as to where their mother was buried. Joe pointed to the lower, weedy Catholic part of the Protestant cemetery and said, "I'll take you there." He walked directly to a spot, kicked and pushed weeds aside and there was a small stone with her name on it. Joe was six years old when she was buried.

Linking up with Tuesday Muse,  Texture Tuesday (I used kk_laurel and kk_magicfilm), and Groupies of Kim Klassen, where this week's One Word Creative Challenge is 'handmade' and/or 'yellow.'


Sunday, May 12, 2013

late spring

I have so wanted to combine all the things I've been enjoying messing around with lately, in true Mixed Media fashion. So here's how I pulled it all together:

This week's Texture Tuesday prompt was simply this: our photo must POP, and include at least one layer of any of Kim's textures. Well, it's been a rather soggy week here (I thought it was supposed to be 'April showers...') so I haven't been feeling very inspired with my camera lately.

I've noticed that most of our trees aren't leafed out yet. So I took my iPhone out early one morning last week and snapped some pix of bare trees, figuring I would build an art journal page around this idea and provide my own pop of color. It was the perfect excuse to play around with some iPhone photo editing apps, as Kim showed us awhile back.

Also, I just re-discovered Donna Downey's website, having learned wonderful scrapbooking and playful mixed media 'stuff' from her in the past. I couldn't wait to get my hands dirty again!

I had also just read about the Groupies of Kim Klassen One Word Creative Challenge: use the color orange (well, that color certainly pops, doesn't it?). Okay...I can rein myself in and just use minimal color + a 'pop' of orange.

edited on my iPad
with PS Touch app
kk_coolgrunge (Multiply 32% and tinted gold)
kk_prague (Overlay 58%)

original photo
iPhone 5


P.S. That's a bit of my own poetry too.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

i collect...art

Linking up with Beyond Beyond, where Kim prompted us to photograph the things we collect. Sometimes I have to mull over a prompt for a day or two. Not this time. I discerned fairly quickly what I was going to do and how I was going to proceed.

I am a collector of many things, but above all, a collector of art. Media. Techniques. Methods. Over the years I have amassed a collection of art techniques so that I might be able to express what's in my creative soul...and have the means to do it.

Fresh from a visit to our new History Colorado Center in Denver, where I re-discovered my attraction to those museum displays of artifacts, I thought it would be fun to create one of my own.

This is a group of tools representative of the many media I have employed over the years, both individually and as a Mixed Media Artist. In myself, I see it as a sort of Artistic ADD.

My motto: The right tool for the job can mean the difference between success and failure.

Each item is representative of a collection on its own. i.e. I have an assortment of brushes, scissors, cameras, etc.
  1. Paintbrush. A treasured tool from my days studying art at the University of Denver. I majored in painting, and have always considered myself a painter at heart.
  2. Scissors. These are actually embroidery scissors, but representative of the many and varied scissors/shears/cutting tools I employ.
  3. Eraser. I erase and re-do often. I am happy to say that I have relaxed this tendency in recent years.
  4. Sandpaper. I often love to distress/rough up my stuff. I love the well-worn look.
  5. Seam ripper. I use it like an eraser. "If you don't love to rip...don't stitch," I used to tell my quilting and embroidery students.
  6. Tweezers. Attention to tiny details frequently demands these. And I have fat-finger syndrome.
  7. Butane torch. For metalwork/soldering, as well as heating/melting other stuff. I actually have only two of these.
  8. Edge distresser. For roughing up edges of paper. Representative of my many scrapbooking tools.
  9. Pliers. For jewelry making/wirework/metalwork or just plain grabbing things.
  10. Wireless mouse. Representative of all things computer-related, including my iMac,  iPad, iPhone, Photoshop, Lightroom, and the internet in general.
  11. Colored pencil and blending stump. I've always loved to draw and color. I still have a few of my all-time favorite - Prismacolor - from my art school days. The blending stump is for charcoal, colored pastels and smudging in general.
  12. Thimble, needles, pins. Hand-stitching and embroidery were my passion for many years, and I still like to incorporate them into my work.
  13. Sewing machine foot. I've had the same Bernina sewing machine for over 20 years. It's got a lot of miles on it: quilting, machine embroidery...stitching all sorts of things. Even mending clothes.
  14. Measuring tape. One of many rulers/measuring devices.
  15. Glue stick. I have all sorts of adhesives. People often come to me for repairs because they know I probably have just the right glue for the job.
  16. Canon Rebel T3i. One of a small collection of cameras...or else how could I take a picture of my own camera? I am indeed spoiled.

For all you B2 folks:

I laid this little makeshift bulletin board on the floor and arranged everything to my liking, propping up dimensional objects as needed. I put my other Canon SLR on a tripod and photographed from above.

A little tweaking in Lightroom, including Lens Correction (for distortion mainly). Then into CS6 for a layer of kk_gentlewhisper (Soft Light 40%) to kinda soften/lighten things up.

The b&w diagram was fairly easy, thanks to this YouTube video. I just googled 'how to make a line drawing in Photoshop 6.' (I flattened the layers first.) Finally I added 16 text layers so I could precisely position each of the red numbers.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

don't tread on me

Linking up with April Photo Heart Connection...looking back at the photos I took or worked with last month to see what message my heart has there. I have been drawn repeatedly to this humble, unassuming image...it just speaks to me. Why?

original image
only one edit:
Lightroom 'Punch' Preset

  • This was a quickly composed shot on our hike at Flatirons Vista a couple weeks ago. I went there in search of lone trees in wide, sweeping vistas across rolling foothills and expansive skies. And I did shoot several...but in the end those images didn't really excite me or tell me anything new. This little prickly pear cactus I encountered on the trail seemed to shout out to me, wanting to be seen...and heard. I'm glad I listened.
  • I am currently reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, and in it she writes about being true to your artist's DNA. How do you see the world? Up close, or at arm's length, or at a great distance? She refers to it as 'focal length.' I think I am in the range of macro-to-arm's length. Always have been. I remember years ago in art school my professor commenting as I painted large 6 ft canvases...up close, with a tiny brush. He was always advocating and encouraging wide, sweeping gestures as we painted or drew. I tried, but I just couldn't stick with it and always reverted to my detail work. Looking back, I can see that DNA in all of my art over the years - no matter the medium - painting, drawing, quilting, embroidery, jewelry, scrapbooking, mixed media, photography - I have always been passionately attentive to Detail. BTW, this was shot with my Canon 28-135mm lens...shooting almost macro with a zoom lens: it seems I am still trying to paint with a small brush!
  • I've also been studying subject, subject matter, vision, voice...in other words: what is it that interests me, what do I want to say about it, and how do I want to say it? Much thanks here to David duChemin and Angela Faris Belt...and of course, Kat Sloma. I have been realizing that my go-to subject has always been Life...human, that is - mainly relationships, real-life stories, and their inspiration/effect on my own understanding of life. My subject matter? People, of course. Folks I know, or knew, or heard tell of. Mainly family, including ancestors...also friends and acquaintances. Lately I have struggled to find subject matter to photograph. My daughters are grown, so gone are the days of kid photo shoots. And I feel uncomfortable photographing strangers. I often revert to treasured heirlooms and old family photos to tell a story...

Well what the heck does this have to do
with a little cactus
on a trail in the foothills
west of Denver?
Stick with me...I'm getting there.

  • I tend to make analogies in life, in order to make sense of things. Naturally, almost compulsively. I can't help it. I humbly acknowledge the Creator's genius in all of this: I can easily see aspects of the human condition portrayed in non-human objects and settings. Like this tiny little cactus. Just quietly, unobtrusively existing at the edge of a well-worn trail, in the shadow of giant Ponderosa pine. Surviving. No doubt blooming on schedule every June...in a small, timid way, this little one. And saying, in no uncertain terms, "Don't tread on me!" Some people are like this, and I have learned to not be put off by them. Once you get to know them, you discover their own unique beauty...and vulnerability. But you gotta respect their boundaries or you might get hurt.

Thank you again, Kat, for this opportunity
to think aloud,
to share,
and thus to learn.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

c'mon summer

Here it is May 1st, and it's snowing.


I mean, really?

Sure...we need the moisture.

Indeed...it is a beautiful sight - on the distant mountain tops.

True...it's a spring storm and it will be melted in just a few days.

Flatirons Vista
April 20, 2013

Enough already!

I am so ready to get on my mountain bike and explore new trails.

Linking up with Beyond Beyond and Texture Tuesday.