Shaken, Stirred or Blended?

you may say I'm a dreamer

James Bond* famously asked for his martinis “shaken, not stirred.”  To shake or stir? That is the question.  Or so I hear. When it comes to making hand-crafted cocktails I understand there are rules that apply to layering the liquids.  But I don’t know a thing about hand-crafted cocktails.  It seems Bond’s line omits another popular mixing option:  blending.

But this post isn’t about cocktails.

Today’s topic is photo blending.  Or the art of two photographs being more powerful than one.

photo blend equation

When blending, there appears to be a fine line separating what is visually appealing and meaningful, versus… well, just weird.  I walk the line and teeter on both sides of it.

The teens in my house declared I am Made of Sky (the image below) officially off-the charts “weird.”

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But they both gave Chasing MomentsWise Words enthusiastic nods of approval.  Maybe they saw the layers of love I applied.

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Let us spend our lives chasing the tiny moments of grace that hide in borrowed breaths, stolen glances, and the last instant before smiling lips come to rest.

-Tyler Knott Gregson

Emma Schaefer-books you read

There was a fierce fail signal after I revealed to them the image below (Rooted).  But just between you and me… I kinda love it.  Call me a weirdo.  It won’t be the first or last time.  A friend recently sent me this text greeting:  weirdmaste:  the weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you. Love!

elle blend trees

Now on with the blended recipe!

1.) Consider buying this song by The Daylights as your blending theme song: I Hope this Gets to You.

2.) Pop to PicMonkey and light a candle.  Sip sweet tea in your copper mug.  Or don’t.

3.) Select the edit icon on the top of the PicMonkey home page.  Next you will be prompted to choose the photo you will be editing.

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4.) Use the magic wand symbol to play with editing effects. I recommend you test all the “tried and true” and “basic” tools that PicMonkey offers.  Creating the best canvas or base layer using the editing tools.  I have a sweet spot for the dark edges option. “Apply” the effects that enhance your base layer. (This is an optional step).

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5.) Now the fun begins!  Select the butterfly icon on the left side of the screen and you will see a pulldown menu at the top offering the option of selecting your own image. Click “Your Own” and you will have the option of selecting your second image (the top layer in the blend).

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In my example the tree branches were my base layer and the typewriter was my “own” image via the butterfly click. (Of course, technically both the tree and the typewriter photos are from my own photo collection.)

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6.) Grab one of the circles on the edge of your second layer (typewriter image in my example) and stretch it to cover the base image (the tree).

7.) Drumroll…  this is where the magic happens.  Select “overlay” under the blend mode and watch as the top image (typewriter) transforms to translucent, allowing the tree to shine through from underneath. Play with color or other PicMonkey features to achieve the significance and style that appeals to you!  I added a text layer (the dreamer lyrics).  Play and save your masterpiece when you love it.

For an official and in-depth tutorial, I found this one.  PicMonkey refers to this technique as double exposure instead of photo blending.

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Is it weird that I name my blends?  Maybe the Moscow Mule is regaining popularity because of its clever name.

golden hour blend deb july 2015

Shine On

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*If you want to hear about the time I met James Bond (Pierce Brosnan)…well, message me.

Lyrics: Soul Vitamins

plato music quote

Life is the lyrics.  Last month I sat at a graduation ceremony as students unleashed a heartfelt version of The Head and the Hearts’ Rivers & Roads.   This one song was like a trigger firing off tears.

A year from now we’ll all be gone
All our friends will move away

Rivers and roads
Rivers ’til I reach you.

Not to downplay the wonder of chirping birds and thunder… but lately its lyrics that snap me to attention like smelling salts.  They serve me shots of wisdom, patch my fits of worry and provide slices of prayer. Not convinced?   Let me introduce you to Multiplied by NEEDTOBREATHE.

God of mercy, sweet love of mine
I have surrendered, to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Hallelujahs be multiplied.

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How can lyrics tap places in your soul that words alone can’t touch?  Maybe its poetic ambiguity, enabling lyrics to become personal, as if they were written precisely for you.

The lyric love inspired several projects recently.

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When you cross the threshold to our home, we now welcome you with lyrics.  Stock rug from Target (circa 2012) and an application of paint to convey my “hello” message upon your arrival; or a farewell message upon departing.

Join me in the kitchen and you will find a few lyrical towels.

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And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin (written by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant)

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Last evening I was floating on a paddle board through a trail of cattails.  As the sun fell, a flock of red-winged blackbirds took flight in a cooperative formation, bringing this song to life:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly 

All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird, The Beatles (written by Paul McCartney & John Lennon)

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower quote

Lyrics are my anchor, my life line, and my favorite sign on the path to redemption.

Perhaps lyrics are soul vitamins?

 I bet you have lyrics dancing in your head.  I would love to hear your theme song!

DIY Spray Paint Tales

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I saw a tail last week in a pile of carpet samples… and I screamed (think Carrie but not quite The Exorcist).   The long brown tail initially disappeared and then re-emerged, whipping in an endless circular loop below me revealing the official origin of said tail.  A real mouse tale.  The whole incident confirmed I have an odd fear of tiny rodents.  Maybe if the mouse had jumped into a Matchbox car and driven off into the sunset…

I adore the children’s books starring characters like the clever Stuart Little or the lovely and graceful Angelina Ballerina.  Perhaps my favorite children’s book is Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond’s award-winning, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Where exactly I am going with this?  Well, if you give an eager creative a can of spray paint…

The neighbors presented me with a heavy metal chair covered in Sharpie flowers (this might sound “cute” but let’s be honest, it was so “not”).  They dared me to give it a new look and find a good home for it.

Carrying forward last year’s obsession with key lime &  aqua paint, I added a few stripes and found a home for the chair at the end of pier.

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Which reminded me that I should paint more flower pots with this paint combination of joy!

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I then kicked the painting up a notch, updating another planter.

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Oh my gourd, I used a circular attachment for my drill to convert the gourd below to a home for birds.

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And then I found a can of flat black paint which reminded me I need to update a desk for my studio. After painting the legs black, I added a coat of white to the desktop.  My family suggested I stop right there.  But I didn’t.

diy spray paint desk

Don’t you love how this story ends?

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The desktop is covered with striped issue paper (source Target).  After brushing a thin layer of Mod Podge to the desktop, I attached each sheet of tissue paper.  The tissue paper is very forgiving and easily adheres to the edges and sides.  Add an additional coat or two of Mod Podge to the top of the tissue paper layer.  It seals the deal.

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In case you are interested in applying stripes to your flowerpots, simply apply a base coat of paint and allow drying time according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.  Once dry, add painter’s tape to segment off the stripes and then apply a second color of paint.  When dry, remove the tape and admire your creativity.   I love Rust-Oleum: especially the cans of Key Lime and Aqua.

I hope you are inspired to go paint something!  Listen to this song:  “Afraid of Ghosts” by Butch Walker (my current title twist, “Afraid of Mice”).  I am going to go hide my spray paint and bake.  Cookies of course.

And, I Quote: Wonder Words on Creativity

The Artisan Soul quote onFor four years I have been spinning a web of words here.  This is my creative anchor but I still haven’t cracked the code on a real breakthrough.  I believe it is all about the practice:  day by day (or let’s be realistic hour by hour).  The routine is simply ordinary.  Perhaps the pattern will one day give birth to something extraordinary – who knows.  I will just keep showing up with faith, honest insecurities and excellent music to accompany the work (just wait for today’s song suggestions).

Lately I have been busy reading about creativity; versus practicing creativity.IMG_3345

I sifted through my favorite photos and current stack of books to assemble this series.

 I hope you find something that resonates and ignites your creative journey.

war on art quote on creativity

true creativity quote erwin raphael mcmanus

never to late to work on creativity quote by julia cameron

If you have an idea that’s been tapping you on the shoulder consider that it just might be put there for a reason.  Maybe, just maybe, it is a divine nudge that the world is waiting for your unique gift.  As Steven Pressfield said, “Give us what you have got.”

heart of creativity quote by julia cameron

jan phillips quote on photography

creativity is subtraction austin kleonHave you have read, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon?  He elaborates on the power of subtraction.  Essentially he says that since we live in an age when we can access an abundance of information, the key is focusing on what to omit.  According to Kleon, “Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The best way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself.”

His recipe for cultivating a creative life: kindness, curiosity, and “a willingness to look stupid” — demonstrating that creativity is not some abstract phenomenon bestowed upon a chosen few.

impulse to create quote adrienne rich

To celebrate the end of my creative hibernation I used a random collection of letters, Mod Podge and tissue paper to honor my mantra below.

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Ready, set, create with these songs:

Can’t Go Back Now” by The Weepies

and “Keep on Keeping On” by Colony House.

Rainy Days and Mondays

raindrop sunrise quote

It was a rainy Monday in my corner of Wisconsin.  During my morning commute I saw several drenched cows.  The rain fine-tuned their colors, painting the fields with shiny black and vivid chestnut.  It also transitioned the grassy fields from umber to green.

And, I swear I saw every branch transform to bud.

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IMG_8493Last week I was painting with a sweet 2-year-old.  He dipped his paintbrush carefully into a small cup of water and then magically transformed a coloring page from black & white to a colorful masterpiece.  A bit like today’s rain.

I hope you witnessed a form of nature’s magic today.  Many days elapse in the flurry of busy – too absorbed in what’s next or examining what just happened.  And the tiny wonders slip by.  But I hope that wasn’t the case for you on this Monday.

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In honor of sprinkles and storms, I assembled a quick rainy day compilation.

“Rain from Heaven,” Eric Paslay

“Let it Rain,” Keri Noble

“Raining All Year,” Allen, Mack & Myers & Moore

“Right as Rain,” Adele

“Let it Rain,” Zac Brown

“Come in With the Rain,” Taylor Swift

“Feels Like Rain,” John Hiatt

“I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,” Norah Jones

“Rainy Days And Mondays,”  The Carpenters

And, my favorite song (brilliant lyrics):

“More Heart, Less Attack,” NEEDTOBREATHE

 A lyric sampler…

Be the wheels not the track
Be the wanderer that’s coming back
Leave the past right where it’s at
Be more heart and less attack.

I stuck my hat out, I caught the rain drops
I drank the water, I felt my veins pop
I’m nearly sanctified, I’m nearly broken
I’m down the river, I’m near the open.

“More Heart, Less Attack” was written by Bo Rinehart and Bear Rinehart.
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Maybe it is possible to seize at least a few moments each day.  Even when it is raining.

Finding Joy: DIY Easter Eggs

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Here we are 25% into 2015: the year in which I named joy as my companion for this trip around the sun.  The challenge so far has been connecting these three simple letters and reconciling how to honor life with a joyful heart… when some terrible situations have unfurled themselves into the lives of people I adore.

My heart and soul have been out of orbit, endlessly spinning to solve the equation of how joy and sorrow can sit on the same shelf?  It seems as soon as happiness “wins” something goes awry reminding me that worry and sadness lurk in the cracks.  It is an unapologetic and relentless twist; perhaps demonstrating the endless intertwined connection of light and dark.  No wonder a new word (to me) has been popping up in recent weeks: conflate.

CONFLATE. transitive verb. 1. a: to bring together : fuse.  2: to combine (two) into a composite whole.

The last book I read was Anne Lamott’s Handbook on Meaning, Hope & Repair, cleverly named Stitches.  It’s message is rooted in recapturing joy after loss and locating our authentic identities in chaos by “collecting the ripped shreds of our emotional and spiritual fabric and sewing them back together, one stitch at a time.”

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Tonight I connected with the teens over a couple dozen eggs, acrylic paint, Tim Holtz pressure-sensitive transfer words and other embellishments.  I fell in love with the ease of using these eggs (a Walmart find: empty white egg shells apparently manufactured for crafty purposes).  We applied paint (diluted with water) with sponge brushes.  Once dry we added the Tim Holtz words creating intention eggs!

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I also experimented by applying tissue paper to the eggs using Mod Podge.  I quickly learned that small strips of tissue paper worked best.
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IMG_8302Inspired by the color of Kate Spade’s products, we attempted a Kate Spade twist!
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 “Life is such a miracle, a series of small miracles. It really is, if you learn how to look at it with the right perspective.”― James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
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I hope you find layers of joy in the ordinary miracles this Easter weekend.

Heart Equation: Decorate with Wings

IMG_7453A couple of weeks ago I found the mathematical equation for a heart in the most unlikely place: at the end of The High Line taking refuge from the cold at Chelsea Market.

IMG_7476I purchased this (below) from Matt Shapoff’s shop: Handmade On Peconic Bay.  In my quest to find hearts, I have never turned to math.  Apparently there are several equations that graph the magical shape.

FullSizeRender(1) It was my first ever visit to Chelsea Market (Meatpacking District). The industrial architecture was visually beautiful with exposed brick walls, original beams and countless rivets!   I also adored Artists & Fleas.

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IMG_7685In Central Park I found solitude, confirming that maybe, just maybe, winter is a great time to visit NYC.   IMG_7648

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Photo credit to my husband for my stage debut.

IMG_7663In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.  ~Aaron Rose

IMG_0009There was also a theoretical physics lesson during our NYC visit and once again the lesson arrived in an unlikely venue: the Manhattan Theater Club.  Have you seen Constellations?  If you haven’t, hurry and catch it before it closes (3.15).  Click here for an official review via the NY Times (the review provides a peak inside the theater too.)  I can’t stop thinking about these two characters, infinite possibilities and the brilliant dialogue written by Nick Payne.  During one scene, Marianne explains “the quantum multiverse,” to Roland, stating “every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”  I would love to hear from you if you saw the show!

IMG_7095Apparently physics tells us that snowflakes are nature’s finger print: composed of a unique atomic composition that is unlikely to replicate.  I snapped this ordinary snowflake photo recently. Click here for some fascinating history about photographing snowflakes; courtesy of the HuffPost Science.

Somehow this trip led me to come home and totally revamp my mantel.  True story.  All you need is love (and wings).  I found the giant letters at Hobby Lobby.

IMG_7925IMG_7948IMG_7921Where you are finding inspiration?

Can’t stop listening “Two Hearts Are Better Than One

by Katie Herzig: Live In Studio: Acoustic.

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