Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photoshop Fun

John has been busy lately doing lots and lots of creepy art work. Every once in awhile he is asked to do a piece in color and I get to do the coloring.  Where I would never, ever draw a worm crawling out of some dude's hand, I really, really do enjoy doing the color work.  I thought it would be fun to share a little about the process of taking John's black and white art and adding color!  This particular piece is the back cover work on the Advanced Adventures #22:Stonepick Crossing, hot off the press from Expeditious Retreat Press.

This is where John's work ends and mine begins, he has a whole process before this point, but that is for him to tell.....
Using Photoshop I begin by taking out the white from the original and making a black only version that will sit on top of all the other layers.  It is as simple as using the magic wand tool and clicking on a light area, then hitting the select inverse, making a new layer and filling in the selected area with black.  Then I choose a color palette, that I keep visible throughout the coloring process.  Next I begin a series of layering color, upon color, upon color!   I use either the magic wand again to select areas and then add color with the paint bucket tool or I use the paintbrush and eraser tool. Changing the Opacity of the layers helps add depth and visual interest.  Using various "blur" tools gives each layer varying degrees of gradation. The following slideshow shows each layer of color added and then the opacity and gradation changed.

And the end result...

Back cover of Advanced Adventures #22:Stonepick Crossing

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Knack of Sewing Knits

Though my sewing experience has been extensive, I have not often sewn knits, plenty of cottons, silks, wools, polyesters, and linens in all there various woven forms, but not knits.  Knits take a bit of finesse.

Yesterday, I fully intended on doing a little sewing for myself, but Baby Girl had other things in mind.  She wanted a black dress to match her new, black, shiny boots.  Last fall I purchased some Micheal Miller black and gray jersey knits, that I have just been dragging me feet on using it.  At Baby Girl's request I set aside my apprehensions and set to work.  I still, by no means consider myself in knit sewing expert, but I do think I am getting the knack of it.  Here are a few things that I have learned...

1.  To avoid unwanted stretching, on places like shoulder seams, use a small strip of woven fabric cut on the bias when making the seam.  

2.  Replace all straight stitching with a very mild zigzag.  I set my zigzag width to 1 out of 5.  

3.  For necklines, use a simple rectangle cut slightly shorter (about 1/2") than the length you would like the neck opening . Sew the short ends together, then fold the piece in half lengthwise.  Stretch the unfolded edge to the same circumference as the neck opening on the bodice.  Sew the piece to the bodice using a slight zigzag, or a "stretch stitch."

4.  When sewing patch pockets on to knits, line the pocket with a woven fabric.  This prevents the pocket and the piece it is being sewn to from getting all stretched out.  

5.  "Lettuce leafing"  is really fun to do on hems.  "Lettuce leafing" is simply using a very wide, very close zigzag stitch right at the edge of the fabric.  Stretching the fabric as it goes through the machine makes extra fun lettuce leafing.  I made two passes over the hem on the sleeve, the hem at the bottom, and the bottom of the pocket.  I think it could have used another pass, but as cute as it is, it is a time consuming venture.  

 6.  Hand embroidery on knits adds a little extra love.

Happy Knit Sewing!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Drawing Pictures

I spent the day drawing.  Not something I get to do very often, but today I started and I just couldn't stop until I was finished.  It felt good....really, really good.

Monday, January 9, 2012

La Bella Luna

Yesterday morning, before dawn, I was speeding down the autostrada on my way home from an early morning airport drop off.  I was driving straight into the setting moon.  It was full and bright and with each passing kilometer growing larger as it changed from yellow to orange.  As if it was all perfectly orchestrated, I exited the autostrada just as the moon slipped be hind the mountains.  It was all dreamy, really, and after I got back home, crawled in bed and slept for another couple of hours I wondered if it all had been a dream.  

After a day full of vacuuming, mopping, repairing backpacks, and making sure everyone was ready to head back to school and work, I walked out to the clothes line, and who should be their to greet me?  La Bella Luna, big, bright, and beautiful a midst glowing pink clouds.  I was in love.    

My romance with the moon spilled over into the morning. When I awoke there she was again, being gobbled up by the snowy mountains at a dizzying speed.  

As the sky grew light we said our good-byes and I promised to hang more laundry and meet her at our rendezvous point again this evening.  I smiled and thought to myself,  "Is this lunacy?" 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Befana DID come!

Befana dolls at a holiday market in Bassano del Grappa

La Befana visits the homes of Italian children on the eve of the Epiphany.  As the story goes, the Befana, an old woman, was outside sweeping when the Magi (three wise men) passed by on their way to find the Christ child.  She was asked to join their entourage, but passed up the offer, as she was busy with house hold chores.  Later she regretted her decision and set out on her own to search for the child.  She vowed to visit every house and leave sweets for all the good children as she searched for the Christ child.  

Mama made Befana stockings
 Italian children place stockings by the hearth on the eve of the Epiphany. Children who have been good are rewarded with candies from the Befana, and children who have been naughty are left stockings full of coal, or carbone.  And for those children who were some where in between naughty and nice there is the candy coal option.  

Candy Coal

Our first year in Italy I didn't know about the Befana, but my 3 year old who was in Italian pre-school knew all about her.  So when January 6 came around and the Befana did not visit we had a bit of trouble on our hands.  I had to explain that as new arrivals in Italy I was suppose to register my children with the Befana and I had neglected to do so.  He bought it, but still remains a little skeptical, so now every year that she does arrive to fill stockings with candies the children are amazed.  So on the morning of the 6th there were plenty shouts of joy, "the Befana DID come!" 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lucky Beans

Every New Year's day I dutifully eat my lucky black-eyed peas.  I don't know if it helps with the luck or not, but it keeps me from being disowned by my family.  In Italy it is traditional to eat lentils or "lenticchie" for New Years day, so I've added lentils to our traditional pot of luck.  And because we also lived in Japan for awhile I also added adzuki beans to the tradition.   This year I thought it would be fun to plant some lucky legumes and have a little plant biology lesson.  I had intended on planting all three legumes, but I had a momentary laps of memory and poured all the lentils into the pot, so we only ended up planting black-eyed peas and adzuki beans.  

 Here is what we used:
     Glass jar
     Dried black-eyed peas
     Dried adzuki beans
     Wooden spoon
     Spray bottle full of water
     A small piece of string 
1. Soak the legumes in luke-warm water, for an hour or so.  This step it not crucial, but it does help "wake-up" the legume and speed the process of germination.   Don't be afraid to use beans straight from the bag, they will grow.
 2. Place the dirt in the jar.  Fill the jars about 3/4 of the way to the top.  This leaves plenty of room to see the roots grow and lessens the likelihood of water spilling over the top.  
3.  Using the handle of the wooden spoon, poke holes in the dirt, about 1/2" deep along the sides of the of the jar.  Making the holes along the sides of the jar allows you to see the germination process.  We planted 4 seeds in each jar.  
 4.  Gently place one legume in each hole and then cover with a little dirt.  
5.  Use the spay bottle to "rain" on the legumes. I am not sure what exactly is so appealing about spray bottles, but this is a crazy fun step.  

 6.  We placed colored yarn around the tops of the jars because the kids really wanted to know which jar was theirs.  

7.  Place the jars in a warm sunny window.  Make sure to keep them moist.  You can even put a lid over the top to help keep them moist until the plant starts to emerge from the soil.  

Happy New Year
Best of LUCK!