Halloween Ghosts And Jack O’Lanterns on Redbubble

I have a couple of new designs done for Halloween masks out on my Redbubble shop. The only difference is that I liked these designs for more than just the masks, so there all kinds of fun goodies to choose from.

Like travel mugs and aprons.

As always, I’m game for design or image requests if you are looking for something in particular. Just drop me a note through my contact page!

Contractor Search: First Bid – Sticker Shock

I have gotten my first rough estimate to finish my craft room space and… I’m kind of speechless.

Hubby and I did our research, so we had a kind of broad price range to expect this project to come in around, or at least a close ballpark figure. Remember, I’m supposed to be doing a large portion of the work myself, some of the big expense portions if you consider the cabinet work.

The number I was given today? It was 4 times higher than I’d really kind of hoped, but maybe only about 3 times higher than the top of what I expected. That wasn’t including the VERY high estimate I got from our HVAC people to take care of the ventilation portion of the project (again, wasn’t expecting that cost, though I will note part of their estimate included things I did not ask for, so this number isn’t completely accurate).

I’m so shocked and discouraged right now it isn’t even funny.

I know that a portion of this, the electrical, is going to be kind of a beast because we are going to have to expand our panel to accommodate the new load. I fully expect this piece to be on the bigger end, but… just wow! Not even CLOSE to what I was figuring.

What makes it even harder to swallow is the fact that this bid was from the only company that I have liked so far. Partly because the others haven’t even bothered to return calls. Or show up. What is left in my line up is Misogyny Guy and two other companies that haven’t returned calls to even set up appointments yet. I never heard a word from No Show Guy.

I have no clue what I’m going to do from here. One option is to have an electrician come in and take care of that part, but still do everything else myself. I’ve not done any framing before, but been around projects that have had it done, so I understand some basic (though probably not nearly enough). I’ve helped with drywall in the past, but not done it all by myself. What parts I did, I really disliked and is why I wanted to hire out that part.

I really need at least one other number before I can make any decisions, but there is a very real chance that this project, that I’ve already bought stuff for, may not get done. Or at least, not done in the way I want it. I may have to completely rethink my plans.

Not feeling overly happy today.

Redbubble Halloween Masks

I have been toying with this idea almost since I set up my Redbubble store and I saw they did masks. I mean, come on! If you have to wear a face mask, especially around Halloween, you’ve GOT to have fun with it!

TJ Fox’s Halloween Masks on Redbubble

Skull Mask
Skull Mask

The skull mask came from the idea of doing the concept in face paint. That was my initial goal when I started working on it, but I ended up with something a little different, but still fun. I’m still considering a couple of designs based on different face paint concepts, but am trying to figure out how to pull them off.

Smirky Jack O' Lantern Mask
Smirky Jack O’ Lantern Mask

The jack O’ lantern faces were one of the first designs I planned to work on. This is one that I may still do up a couple of different concepts besides the two I have so far. They combine one of my favorite fall activities, pumpkin carving, with the fun of playing in Photoshop.

Goofy Jack O' Lantern Mask
Goofy Jack O’ Lantern Mask

And my deepest apologies to those that hate clowns. I just could not resist! Maybe since it isn’t a full face, it isn’t so bad?

Clown Mask
Clown Mask

As always, if there is a design you’d like me to work on, feel free to let me know! I’m always open to doing something custom.

Twilight Lighthouse on Redbubble

I had so much fun with the Night Sky Silhouette piece I did a while back, I wanted to play some more. Sadly, it took me way too long to carve out the time to sit down and work at my computer, but I finally managed it!

I’m SO thrilled by this one! Even more so for the fact that I didn’t have to try and drag it through three different programs to get the finished piece. I learned how to create my own brushes, which was so awesome and also such a pain (then I lost it when Photoshop crashed on me, so I really wasn’t happy that I lost over an hour’s worth of work.)

Of course I also now have this up on Redbubble with all kinds of fun options to choose from.

I love the concept of the stark silhouette against a vibrant background. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot more playing with this concept in the future.

Mask Up and Dance On: Redbubble Collection

My latest Redbubble addition is sort of a whole collection dedicated to dance called Mask Up and Dance On.

The main goal was mask design, but there are a lot of other product options for each design. I’m planning on adding other colors and maybe even another font or two, but this gave me a good starting point.

I loved doing these and learned that if I’m not careful, I’m going to have massive stack of masks because I really want one of every design!

Water, Sky & Flowers On Redbubble

I’ve managed to get a small handful of additional photos uploaded to my Redbubble shop today. This is a LONG work in progress as some take more adjustments than others to get them to look good on all the different products I’d like to see them on. I’m also working on trying to get these loaded in between all the other things I have on my massive to do list.

My goal is to keep chipping away at my list of back images so I can keep up with new ones, all while working on new art pieces to go along with the photos.

Don’t forget that pretty much everything comes in a mask (because of course I’m going to push for the masks)!

Purple Crocus Imperfections Mask
Purple Crocus Imperfections Mask

As always, if you see something along the way that isn’t in the shop but you’d like it to be, drop me a note and I’ll make it a priority. I’m also open to discuss custom projects if you have something in mind!

Night Sky Silhouette & Reflection

Adobe recently, and finally, released a new version of Fresco that I can now use on my laptop. Until now, it had only been available on iPad, which was hugely disappointing because it looked like an amazing hybrid tool that allows both pixel and vector based drawing.

Since I’ve gotten it, I’ve been playing around trying to understand all the various tools and brushes and familiarize myself with how it all works, what I can and can’t do. I do love it, though it has a few somewhat ugly limitations (no real blending/smudging tool). It had a lot of the features that I loved in the Adobe Sketch app I have on my tablet, so I played in there as well for comparison.

I was messing around and ended up with the start of something I really liked in Sketch, but I bumped into some of it’s limitations (or even more likely, my own lack of understanding and limitations). I really wanted to add a certain feature I couldn’t in there so, I decided to see how well I could move that piece to another program and do what I knew another program could.

By the time I was done, this had made it from Sketch into Fresco and finished out in Photoshop. It took a bit to figure out how to get it where I needed it, but now that I know, I’m so excited to play more.

For something that just started out as me messing around and attempting to learn, I’m extraordinarily pleased with how this turned out. Even more so when I uploaded it to my Redbubble shop to see if it would work on any of the products and realized that it looks amazing on pretty much everything.

I have a few tweaks I’ll need to make before I can get a couple of those products active, but it is available for most.

Night Sky Drawstring Bag
Night Sky Drawstring Bag

TJ Fox On Redbubble: Photo/Art Prints And Fun Products

One of my most recent and ongoing projects has been setting up a Redbubble store. The goal was to have a place to offer prints of many of the photos I post here, but there are so many other cool things you can get from them as well.

This is ongoing because I still have a ton of photos to get modified and uploaded, but I’ve gotten a small start. You can now find prints and more in the TJ Fox Redbubble Store. I plan to get some art and design style pieces mixed in along with the photos as well (only a couple at the moment), but those are going to take just a bit longer.

So yes, you can get photo prints in all the typical shapes, sizes and formats: art prints, framed prints, canvas, cards, etc. But you can also get other fun stuff as well.

And these are just a tiny sampling. There are SO many more items.

Oh and masks! Did you see the fun masks?!

Funky Flowers On Green Mask
Funky Flowers On Green Mask

Even though I ended up with all the trials and mistakes on the masks I made for everyone else and I already have a good size stash, I know I’m going to still have to get a couple of these. I love the fact that I can wear my personality and my art in such a way.

I think that was part of my issue with Fine Art America when I tried them. While they offered a lot of fun stuff, there weren’t a lot of things I’d actually want myself. I’m not finding that an issue on Redbubble, which is probably unfortunate.

There are even puzzles!! And yes, I’m evil enough to make that repeating pattern from the mask above into a puzzle.

End of an Iris Puzzle
End of an Iris Puzzle

And if there is ever something I’ve posted here on my blog that you’d like to see in the store and isn’t, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll do what I can to get it out there for you. I do currently have a long list of images I intend to upload, but I’ll bump any requests to the top of my to do list.

I’d also be willing to discuss any custom art or art for a specific product if you like the idea of something but aren’t finding a design or image you love.

Please take a few minutes to go browse all the other awesomeness that’s in the shop. Feel free to brag about that awesomeness to others and share the link until someone yells at you for spamming (or not, don’t want you to get into trouble).

All the love that is spread is greatly appreciated!

Playing In The Studio

I’m playing with sterling PMC for the first time in years. I had forgotten how much I loved it. It is amazing that a small lump of clay can be fired into a finished sterling silver piece. It doesn’t look like much yet, but it is going to end up being a book charm for my charm bracelet.

I REALLY need to spend more time in my studio creating things rather than just sitting around thinking about it.

Graphics For Envie! Magazine

So… that graphics project I mentioned? I was asked to redo the logo for Envie! Magazine as well as work up a badge for their blog awards. In the process of working on those, we decided it would be really awesome to make a badge for any of the staff members that wanted them for blogs or websites.

The designs are now officially done and I can share them, even though they haven’t been put in place everywhere just yet and the staff badges still need to be personalized.

It has been a while since I had the opportunity to really play with any graphics outside of creating a t-shirt design for science club. Getting to work on this was such a blast! Yes, it was technically work, but for me it was fun. This is the kind of work I love to do. I especially love it when I’m working with great people that make the project even more fun.

I’m so thrilled with how these turned out and so grateful that I got the chance to work on these.

New logo:

Envie! Magazine Logo
Envie! Magazine Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Award Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Blog Badge
Envie! Magazine Blog Badge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Member Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Staff Badge
Envie! Magazine Staff Badge

 

Northern Lights Cake

I finished!

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Seriously glad it is done, though. It was a blast and, for the most part, it came out really well. I was hoping to add more color, but with that base teal, it didn’t work out. I had several of the issues I kind of expected to have with some color bleeding and in not being able to use the pink or purple because it changed the color too drastically when I attempted to paint it on the base (looked more muddy than pretty).

Northern Lights Cake - Base Paint
Northern Lights Cake – Base Paint

I started by painting the whole thing a lighter version of the sky color I was going for. I realized really quickly that this ended up working in a similar way to my favorite drawing method, the eraser technique, where you put a base color down and either add more to go darker or remove color to go lighter (you can see a tiny bit of that on the left edge of the above photo).

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

I don’t love the tree silhouettes, but they aren’t total garbage. One of the issues I ran into is that my base fondant started to bubble on the bottom tier making my cake look like it isn’t level or that I jacked up the alignment on the top tier. It really isn’t. I didn’t notice until I was taking pictures, so it wasn’t something I could go back and fix.

 

Mostly, I’m thrilled with how this turned out. Even more so after BG finally got a look at it and saw what it was. She is kind of crazy over the northern lights like some teenage girls are over the latest boy band so when she saw this she went nuts. As far as she is concerned, I knocked this one out of the park.

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Best of 2019: Moments

Outside of photography and the books I read this last year, I thought I’d note a few of the bigger moments and highlights of my year, things that I did or experienced that I was really proud of or stuck with me as important moments.

There will always be tons of those when it comes to my kids. Yes, I’m hugely biased and think I have the best kids ever, even when they are being little shits. There are a couple that really stick out, though.

BG stepping WAY out of her mostly introverted comfort zone to be a dance assistant. Just the few months that she has been doing this, she has really gained a lot of self-confidence that I haven’t seen in her before. It has been amazing to watch. I’ve also seen her really grow and mature this last year with how she has handled friendships and dating and high school.

This has been MC’s year to really drop the proud mama moments on me. I’m over the moon proud of his accomplishments and getting not only accepted into his school of choice, but winning a top scholarship because of all the hard work he put into is school work. The biggest mush moment from him though is one I never posted about. I never could quite find the words to describe how he made me feel, but… for a project in one of his classes, he had to name the smartest and the wisest people he knew (separate people). His obvious choice, to me anyway, would be my Hubby because he looks up to him so much. He did name his dad as being the smartest, but he said that I was the wisest. When all the other students were naming famous people and other people of note, he picked me. When he told me all the reasons (which I have now forgotten because I’m still blown away by the fact he even considered me) I just almost bawled. I am not, and never have been, the person he really looks up to. I’m just mom. The fact that he feels that way about me, enough to include it in a school project and then tell me about it… talk about feeling like you’ve done something right as a parent! My 17 year old son thinks I’m wise. Just… wow.

There were a few creative projects that I’m still really proud of. While it wasn’t my best cake, by far, but BG’s birthday cake this year was still insanely challenging and turned out pretty well.

Pointe Costume Cake Side By Side
Pointe Costume Cake Side By Side

That costume really hit me in the creative nerve because just doing it in cake wasn’t enough, apparently. I had to paint it as well. Again, far from being perfect, it was something new for me and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

2019 Pointe Costume In Acrylic
2019 Pointe Costume In Acrylic

I was also really pleased with the first piece of jewelry I’ve attempted in a few years. It reminded me how much I love working with stones and silver.

Of course I think one of my proudest creative endeavors this year was publishing my book, An Unexpected Turn. Considering I never planned, expected or even dreamed of writing a book, I’m still a little astonished that I actually did it. It has been this insanely difficult, emotional roller coaster of an experience. I’m even more proud of the fact that it really seems to be received well by most readers. It is selling and getting mostly positive reviews. I still sometimes struggle to believe it has all actually happened.

An Unexpected Turn - Christmas Ad Image
An Unexpected Turn – Christmas Ad Image

Even though I definitely had some rather low moments throughout the year, 2019 was a pretty good year, especially on the creative and mom front. With MC graduating in the spring, BG starting to drive, and my creative muse chafing to get my hands busy, I know 2020 will probably bring a lot of the same.

Happy Halloween

For the first time since my kids were tiny, Halloween feels so different and I just don’t have the motivation to do everything I have for years. I’m not doing the garage this year. I’m not dressing up this year. I barely got up the energy to do a pumpkin (mine’s on the left), though it was only BG and I carving this year. The weather is so NOT helping. Upper 20s and snow do not put me in the mind of Halloween.

Snow on Maple Leaves
Snow on Maple Leaves

I’m still doing my best to make it fun for my kids, but they are teenagers so it just isn’t the same. Their idea of fun is for me to make a bunch of awesome finger foods and spend the night grazing, so that’s what I’m going to do. I think BG is going to dress up and answer the door. She was a little disappointed we weren’t doing the garage, but she understands. It is a lot of work to put in when kids aren’t going to show up. The new construction has changed how kids go through the neighborhood and we got skipped last year even though kids know we put on a great show. She did say last night that it was probably a good idea we didn’t do it when she saw that we were going to be lucky to hit 30 today.

Like so many things, our Halloween tradition is changing to fit how we are changing. I hate it from the standpoint that I have always adored Halloween and have always gone all out. I’m also really kind of glad to not have a crap ton of stuff to do. I can just sit back and relax for once.

Can I Just Say…

When I see someone posting about being born in the late ’90s, knowing they are a functioning adult, my brain sort of cramps and I get a little twitch in the corner of my eye. OC was born in the late ’90s, so this kind of statement makes me feel incredibly old knowing I have a kid that technically falls into that same category. It really doesn’t help that Hubby just had a birthday and we were both cringing at the fact that he is only a year away from a half a century. Most days, my age isn’t a huge deal to me. It is just moments like this, when I’m forced to think in numbers rather than in feeling that I start to feel a little on the ancient side of things.

On an unrelated note, when I went to post the image for this, I was floored that it wasn’t in my images already. I could have sworn I’d posted this ages ago. Either way, here it is. It is something I did… back in the late ’90s, early ’00s for a college art class. We were supposed to reproduce a master’s work. I think I may have skirted the rules a bit as Jan van Eyck probably didn’t quite count (the teacher was really looking for recognizable pieces), but there was something crazily appealing about his self portrait that I couldn’t get out of my head. This is done in my favorite charcoal/eraser technique and is one of my favorite pieces even if it isn’t my best by a long shot. And no, it isn’t actually a cranky old hag even if it may look like one. The artist is a guy. Feel free to search his name if you want to compare my amateurish attempt. This portrait is one of the first in the results.

Cool Discovery!

In all the messing around and playing I’ve been doing (yes, around reading), I made a truly awesome discovery. I can draw on my new tablet using one of my absolute favorite drawing techniques. It is a little more work to get the base layer in place, but it is loads less messy and being able to undo something is absolutely amazing.

I downloaded a couple of different drawing apps just to play, but have found, so far, that I love the Adobe Sketch app. I’m still just messing around and trying to learn it all, but when I realized I can adjust the brushes and eraser settings just right I can do this really cool eraser technique. Normally, you would cover you page in a soft, medium shade charcoal then go back using your eraser to add highlights and darker or heavier layers of charcoal to add the deeper shades. This is already an extremely forgiving method of drawing, but when you add the undo… I think I’m in love.

I don’t do a ton of art digitally. Mostly because I find it cumbersome to actually draw on a computer, and drawing isn’t exactly the top of my artistic things to do, though I do really like it. When I got my tablet, I thought it would just be fun. Figuring out some really awesome ways to play with photos in the drawing app  made this really intriguing. Figuring this out? Um… when am I going to have time to do it all?! I WANT to do it all!

The image was just something to play with and isn’t anything in particular. I just wanted to see if I could do this. I rarely ever go the route of abstract, but… sometimes you just have to run with it.

I’m done playing for today and I’m off to try and finish one of the 4 ARCs I’ve got on my reading list. Time?! Psha! Who needs to actually sleep?

Dark Sky Viewing: Stars And The Milky Way

We had several goals for our trip to Wisconsin. Take a couple of hikes. Scout locations for both sunrise and sunset photos since we were on the peninsula and could easily get both. See the stars under a seriously dark sky. My part was seeing if I could pull off taking pictures of those stars. We went so far as to schedule our trip for the new moon time frame to ensure the darkest possible setting. I have to say that we lucked out epically in that we had two different nights of perfectly clear skies.

When we left, we needed to scout out locations for this, not knowing there was an actual designated dark sky viewing spot on the peninsula (because we apparently didn’t do quite enough research before leaving home). The first attempt, we found a small boat ramp that was really secluded. It was kind of eerie being there by ourselves in such dark conditions. I managed to get a couple of shots that weren’t great, but I got stars and the general “cloudy” effect you see in the milky way.

Before going out, I’d done some research for basic settings to get the effect I was hoping for, but I didn’t have the lens those instructions were based on so I had to do a lot of playing. My camera doesn’t allow for a set timer longer than 30 seconds and that is really what I needed here. For longer exposures, I needed to hold my shutter button, which caused quite a bit of shake (I was freezing and shivering, so it was nearly impossible not to get shake).

After we got back to where we were staying we decided to do a bit more research and found the dark sky viewing area in Newport State Park. Turns out it is one of only 48 parks in the world to earn International Dark Sky Park designation. Funny how we didn’t manage to see that fact until right before our last day in Door County. We debated going as it would be our last night and would require us staying out well past 10pm at minimum to get to see the really good stuff. We decided to check it out during the day as we didn’t have a ton scheduled and decide based on what we saw.

I am SO glad we did because I played with my settings a bit more and managed to get some mind blowing shots. They are far from perfect because I really don’t have the right equipment to do these the right way. But for it only being my second attempt ever at trying to take pictures of stars and the milky way, I’m kind of stunned at how well these turned out.

Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure
Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure

The image I used as the feature image in this post is one I took really early on, so there was still some faint light in the sky after sunset. That is what allowed me to get a bit more color in the shot that I couldn’t get with some of the later ones. The one above was taken closer to 10:30, which was still apparently not the ideal time, but we were under time constraints.

I was intimidated as all hell because the viewing area had probably half a dozen or better photographers set up. Being the rank armature I know I am at this made it even more so. Not that they would be seeing and critiquing me, but it was still intimidating. Especially when you see everyone with red lights instead of normal flashlights (so as not to mess with the photography). We got there early enough that flashlights weren’t needed, so we weren’t one of the ones that got shot the dirty looks and even a few comments when they came through with blindingly bright flashlights. FYI… Don’t take a flashlight to a dark sky viewing area.

It was so dark, though, I was worried I’d have someone run into me or my camera on their way down the path, so hubby put his flashlight in his pocket and turned it on whenever someone came close, giving off this really pale glow to warn oncoming traffic that someone was there. He played body blocker for me while I played with the stars and my camera. The kids sat on a bench behind us staring in awe at the sky between crazy teen goofing moments. I don’t think I want to know what anyone near them thought of us as parents because they were being off the charts goofy (not annoying or loud, just crazy goofy).

Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure - Straight Up View
Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure – Straight Up View

MC really wanted me to get some shots that weren’t at the horizon, so I attempted to make adjustments in the dark and shot upward. I had wanted the horizon and trees in my shots to give a sense of scale, but these were still interesting. They would have been much better if I’d taken them with a longer exposure, but I made sure I could get these shots in that 30 second window by really upping my film speed. Some of these were taken at 6400 and some were taken at 12800.

Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure - Straight Up View
Milky Way Galaxy : Long Exposure – Straight Up View

That high a film speed makes the images a lot more grainy than I’d like, but I still got the general effect, so I was thrilled. The two things that really made these so much harder to get better quality than I would have liked was that I needed a much wider angle lens and I really needed some sort of shutter trip wire that I could hold that would prevent me from shaking my camera at the longer exposure times. I don’t know that I’ll ever get another opportunity like this, but if I do, I’m going to seriously consider investing in those two pieces.

Even with these being on the blurry and grainy side, I’m massively proud that I was able to get these.

My Day: Uploading 90+ Photos

It took forever and I found that some of my images were actually too big (first time for everything) and I had to do some adjustments. That said, I’m now sitting at well over 400 images on my Pixels photo print site. Including all the stunning water shots I got the other day.

Drops Across the Water
Drops Across the Water

Playing with manipulating some of my photos was so much fun, I’ve now got a collection of “art” images that are photos I’ve played with. It is still a small grouping, but I intend to grow it over time.

Retro Film Shasta Daisy
Retro Film Shasta Daisy

As always, though, the majority of the images are macro shots of flowers, which continue to be my obsession because some of the most interesting and beautiful parts of the world are in the little details you have to get up close and personal with to see.

Purple Hydrangea Buds
Purple Hydrangea Buds

Painting Day

I’m finally getting around to doing something I promised BG a year ago or more. Painting her bathroom. I am so not looking forward to it because it is a small space with not a whole lot of solid wall. That means there is going to be a crap ton of up and down on the step ladder, crawling around on the floor, hugging a toilet and basically bending myself into a pretzel to get it done because it is almost all edges, hence the nearly a year to get around to doing what I said I would.

Hopefully I wont kill myself in the process and can actually get to writing that book review I need to do. So far, this summer has been a series of stuff to do and interruptions and sickies and weird, random allergy outbreaks on both BG’s part and mine. I am ready for things to get to some semblance of a normal summer routine, but I have a feeling that isn’t going to happen this year.

Original for the above manipulated image:

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms