Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Winner of the My Memories Suite Giveaway


I will be in contact with her in the next few days so that she may claim her prize. 

The contest is now closed, but in case you missed it you can always purchase a My Memories Suite of your very own, or as a gift to give (because you are so very thoughtful) by using my coupon code STMMMS62509 in their online store. For every purchase made with my code, I will be donating $10 to the ArtZ (Artists for Alzheimer's) organization. In case you missed it, you can read about ArtZ in my post Art and Alzheimers, It's Personal.

Thank you everyone, for participating or just lurking.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Memories Suite Review and Giveaway!

I wanted to despise this software. I really, really did. Quite possibly, if I even liked it a smidge I would have to finally face years of online photos that have never been printed out and seen the light of day. I wouldn't be able to use my inability to navigate through Photoshop Elements as an excuse any longer, which I ironically purchased years ago for scrap booking! 

Let me explain, I have learned to use Elements for basic tasks.. but the thought of creating an entire scrap book page with it makes me want to pull my hair out! It's like using a blow torch when all you needed was a single lit match. Serious overkill. 

Rather than dive right in, I checked out the My Memories Suite blog, facebook page and tutorials. I wanted to see what kind of support the product has. It has very robust free onsite tutorials and a rabid fan base. After watching the what-you-need-to-know-to-get-started video I was chomping at the bit to get started and could see why it's users love this software! It is extremely friendly, and intuitive - especially if you have tried other photo editing software. One of the nice things about MMS, is that you can use any custom element you have - whether it's something you created, or a freebie you downloaded off the internet.

I decided to create an Art Journal Album using photos of journal pages I had created in other artist's journals. This first page "Art! Just Do It!" borrowed heavily from Rosie the Riveter and was painted right over Julia Cameron's The Artist Way Chapter 3, "Regaining a Sense of Power".

I've been in an Art Journal round robin for about a year now. We pass our journals around, and each month take turns creating pages in someone else's journal. After one year, we will get our own journal back with all the other participating artist's wonderful art work in it! It has been so much fun and I can't believe it's almost over. This journal page was meant for Joy's journal, so I included photos of her. 

This is the second page in my Art Journal album, using my "Art! It's what for dinner..." chicken journal page as the background paper. I liked that the original spiral bound wire was captured in the photo, and wanted to keep that element. I could have covered it with a standard digital ribbon.

I scanned a rusted star I kept from an old wind chime, and used the jpeg (in Photoshop Elements) to create my own digital star embellishment. I downloaded the metal bracket as a freebie digital embellishment from Pixel Scrapper.

This journal page was painted in Anne-Marie's book, so I included photos of her. I would like to create a page of everyone in the Art Journal group - using the page that I created for their book. I loved creating the work and giving it away, but am happy to have a vehicle to create an album for myself with added elements meaningful to the group. The finished album can be printed, or be shared online with music and video added.
Hint: I didn't originally take photos of all of the journal pages that I created, nor did I bring my camera to each group meetup. If you decide to do something like this for any groups you belong to, it would be great to be prepared!

The MMS software made it an absolute joy to play, tinker, swap and experiment with their kits, and with my own custom elements. I worried less about what I was doing, and more about how it was looking. In essence it was true tool, and not a hindrance to the process. Loved the small learning curve and the ease of use.

My husband may yet, actually see a wedding album!

The wonderful people at My Memories gave me one extra My Memory Suite as a giveaway!! Isn't it great to share?!

If you would like to have the chance to win your very own copy of My Memory Suite v2 (retail $39.97) you can enter in any or all of the following ways: (Be sure to comment with an email, or other non-anonymous way, so that I can reach you in case you are the winner!)

1) leave a comment, saying what would be the first project you would tackle if you won! 

2) follow my blog publicly, and leave a comment saying so

3) like me on facebook, and leave a comment saying so

4) follow me on twitter and leave a comment saying so

5) facebook, and/or tweet about this giveaway, including a link to this page and leave a comment saying so! Please include @vpmillerart #mymemories and #giveaway in your tweet. Here is a shortened link http://bit.ly/nDV3VW to use.

6) go to the My Memories site and tell me which kit you like best. (I bought "A Wonderful Life" which is a vintage Christmas-y kit, and also one of my favorite movies)

The more comments you leave, the better chance you have to win! Entries will close next Monday at midnight, EST. I will draw the lucky winner next Tuesday!

I'd like to say thank you to everyone who supports my blog, the people at My Memories, and to everyone who loves the arts, in general! Good luck!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Art and Alzheimer's, it's Personal

September marks the inaugural World Alzheimer's Month. Tomorrow, September 21st, is National Alzheimer's day. National Alzheimer's day is a call to action for everyone to spread awareness about this disease. According to this document in the Alzheimer's Association, it is the seventh leading cause of death and by mid-century it will reach epidemic levels. Sobering facts.

Many people have already grappled with this illness, as they have witnessed it take over a loved one's life. My own Grandmother was afflicted with the disease and eventually succumbed to it. It strikes people regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. 

The wonderful news for people who are already afflicted, is that there are effective therapies available now. One treatment that is shown to be dramatically promising, is art therapy. What can you expect from art therapy? Improved communication and emotional memory, decreased anxiety, aggression, apathy and agitation, decreased symptoms of depression, relief from isolation, improved spontaneity and freedom, and utilization of imagination. For patients and caregivers, this is incredibly hopeful.

©Sara Krulwich, NY Times

New programs have been created at national museums so that groups of Alzheimer's patients can come through and tour, prompting memories and lively conversations. The programs started in the northeast and quickly spread out nationally. Our very own Orlando Museum of Art holds Art's the Spark monthly for early- and middle-staged Alzheimer's patients, and is free with registration. Check your local area museum to see if you have a similar program. As this NY Times article points out, both appreciating and making art seem to have their benefits.

Dr. John Zeisel, Ph.D. author of I'm Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer's Care, stated in an interview on NPR's "Here and Now" program that "the myth that people with Alzheimer's, that there are no memories, is busted" (sic). It has been determined that someone suffering with Alzheimer's will also remember better via visual aids. This can be as simple as photos of people they are closest with placed in an album, and labeled with their names. Dr. Zeisel, is co-founder with Sean Caulfield of ArtZ, which stands for Artist's for Alzheimer's. ArtZ (pronounced Arts) exists simply to improve the quality of life for those with Alzheimer's with art and art therapy. 

I am happy to announce that I am partnering with My Memories Software so that I can offer a discount on digital scrap booking software - a percentage of any referral proceeds that I receive will be donated to ArtZ! The discount is for $10 off My Memories Suite v2 and an additional $10 coupon to be used in the My Memories store.

To Use the Discount:

1. If you want the download go here
2. Add to cart.
3. In coupon/promo code box enter: STMMMS62509
(cut and paste to avoid typos)
4. Click Proceed to Checkout.
5. Register or Login to complete transaction, including payment details.
6. In your order confirmation email, you will receive the $10 coupon to use at the My Memories store. 
Note: You can install the MMSv2 software in up to 3 computers in your house. But if you ever get a new computer in your house, you can always download again - you have unlimited downloads!
Note: If you want the CD, go here, but you will be unable to use the promo code for the discount. But hey, you will have the CD! And, if you click through the link on my page, I can still donate to ArtZ. Win-win!
Technical note: This software is good for both Win and Mac computers. 

Please email, tweet or facebook this offer to your scrap booking friends so that we can spread the word - and let's do our part to help those with Alzheimer's. Thank you!

Also, look for an upcoming post - I'll be reviewing the My Memories Suite software and showing you what I, a newcomer to digital scrap booking, was able to create.

I also have one copy of My Memories Suite to give to one lucky recipient! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Antique Oil Painting "Grandma" and How I Cleaned It - A Comparison

Technically just shy of being a true antique, "Grandma and Kay" is an oil and oil stick painting I finished in 1987 while a senior in high school. My family lived with my Grandma. Kay was one of her very best friends and she would visit us frequently. While my painting style has changed, I love the painting for sentimental reasons. Here it is in it's dirty glory.

©VP Miller 1987, "Grandma and Kay"
Oil and Oil Sticks

The painting has been gently neglected. In fact, it has never been varnished and was left in my mom's attic for decades. So now that I am a proper adult, with a proper house and have been gifted it back, I am going to properly bestow the care and cleaning on it that it deserves!

Today, I am going to do a product comparison of two cleaning agents.

Baby Wipes vs. Windsor & Newton Artist's Picture Cleaner

A head to head comparison. (Pause for laughter.) A Face-off. Get it? (Look closely at the painting above, then come back. I'll wait) Okay, no one but me likes puns, much less visual puns ... I get it!

I originally bought Windsor & Newton's Artist's Picture Cleaner to do the job, frankly because it is made by a world class company and marketed to artists. After reading the back label "Stop if color appears on wad", it gave me pause. After all, isn't the idea is to keep as much pigment on the painting as possible? 

On to something that mothers the world over know is gentle enough to use on their baby's bottoms. Baby wipes! Not just any kind will do. Ultra gentle unscented, alcohol-free, and containing lanolin are requirements. Lanolin is used because of it's waterproofing agents that as a protectant against the elements. Bio-degradable would have been a huge plus, but it simply wasn't available at my neighborhood store.

Setting up my experiment, I would use the baby wipes on Grandma's half of the painting and the more chemically aggressive Artist's Picture Cleaner on Aunt Kay's side.
Disclaimer: no claim to actually be slightly or in any way empirically accurate. Pseudo-scientific research conducted by artist.

Using a very light and gentle touch, I swabbed in small strokes and used more circular patterns in areas of built up texture. This picture shows the baby wipe after I've finished and the resulting dirt or residue it picked up. I don't see any paint and there is a lot of attic debris on the wipe, whatever it was.

Close up of dirt removed by Baby Wipes

Next, I shook the W&N Artist's Picture Cleaner bottle well. The directions say to clean small areas with a cotton wool wad. I had an old t-shirt which would serve admirably. It also says "Valuable paintings should be cleaned by conservators". This sounds like something they throw on there so you don't sue them if something goes horribly wrong. Of course, I would love to hire a conservator to clean my painting annually, as well as have a Nascar pit crew replace my tires. How ridiculous! Why even buy this stuff? But of course, I already did. 

I poured a small amount onto my t-shirt wad. I can smell the pine oil, which is strong but not unpleasant. I probably should be using a mask, but I am running this experiment outside. I carefully apply it to a teeny area on Kay's shirt and pull it off studying the wad. Dirt, but not paint. Great. Feeling bolder, I repeated the entire sequence until the right half of the painting is processed. 

This is a close up of the t-shirt wad and it shows a lot of dirt, more so than the baby wipes picked up, but it also shows some of the green paint that was lifted when I wasn't vigilant. Not good. Touching the two sides to compare (you know you aren't supposed to touch paintings, right? But I can, because I am an art rebel) the Artist's Picture Cleaner side is squeaky clean and hard, whereas the baby wipes side is softer and feels like the paint is more flexible. Flexibility is desirous to prevent cracking years later. 

Close up of dirt and paint removed by Artist's Paint Cleaner.

Below is the "after" photo, showing the painting cleaned. I would definitely use baby wipes again for a gentle cleaning and not bother with the W&N Artist's Picture Cleaner. It's too aggressive (not that they didn't warn me). I'm going to have to remove any residue of it with turpentine (or odorless mineral spirits) when I go to varnish it anyway. I just wanted something to casually clean an unvarnished painting that had been improperly stored for years and thought that a product called "Picture Cleaner" would be the ticket. Sometimes, less is more.

Comment on your cleaning experiences whether it is the windex formula from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (I hope not!) or a home made formula that you swear by. Life is more fun when you share.

"Grandma and Kay" after the cleaning
Baby Wipes left side - Artist's Picture Cleaner right side
Can you tell the difference? I can't. But one is gentler.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 - 10 Years After

Some events and pictures are deeply etched into our brains no matter how much time and space we put between them.

The 9/11 attacks are one that we, as a nation collectively share. We also can recall the enormous response - the coming together of communities, assistance and setting aside of differences as we came together in aid.

Photo by Tech Sgt Josef Cole, Iraq
Today, I am grateful for the men and women who serve to protect our freedom.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How I Painted "Zofia" Portrait Step by Step

After sketching on the arches 150 pound cold press paper with a hb pencil carefully, I lifted some of the graphite with a huge wad of kneaded eraser. Went to the bathtub and soaked the paper for about 15 minutes. Stretched it on my board and used hardware staples that were too long. Yes, I should have used office staples or bothered to go out and buy the right staples. They made a huge mess later. But, back to the painting...

First, I mixed a huge pool of ultramarine blue wash and used a synthetic round number 12 brush to work it in all the way around the head. Varied some of the application of the wash, and blended the paint right into the hair but not into the clothing. Softened the edges with a clean, damp brush.

After applying water, graphite is much, much harder to lift. Tried lifting more anyway. It's okay, it will get covered with glazes. Mixed a large pool of weak cadmium yellow light and opera rose and applied it with a round synthetic number 6 brush to both face and the neck area at once, leaving the eyes untouched. Mixed another pool of the same color and then applied it to the arms next. While still wet, floated in a wash of light cerulean blue in areas of light shadow - neck, chin, eyes and cheeks. Used cobalt blue and payne's gray alone and mixed together, to shape the folds of the shirt while leaving large areas of white.

For the first layer of hair, a weak wash of new gamboge and opera rose was applied with the same round number 6 brush leaving the highlights. Then I deepened that mixture and went over a few strands on the right side of the painting.

Started building up the creases of the face, by mixing a medium value of the same new gamboge and opera rose and applying it to the eye lids, nose folds, and the area under the chin. For the lips, to the gamboge/opera mixture I added a little magenta.

First layer of the eyes. A dark, juicy mixture of mostly cobalt and a little payne's gray was used to paint in the circumference of the iris. Painting wetly at the edge of the iris and scumbling inward to mimic the natural fissures found in eye tissue. I painted the pupil next, a very dark value of alizarin crimson, cobalt blue and sap green using a round number 2 brush. Oh no! Trying to get too much done, I made the pupils two different sizes. I wish I had photos of this. What to do, what to do? Taking a clean damp brush, I lifted both pupils off the paper over and over until gone, careful to rub the lifted pigment off on a clean paper towel. Then mixing a very dry dark batch of the homemade black (aliz. crimson + cobalt + sap green), I reapplied pupils evenly. Letting this dry, I applied a light wash of cobalt in the corners of the cornea to recess the whites of the eyes. Going over the face with another light wash of gamboge and opera, and adding dimples with a deeper mixture of the same. 

The right eye shows developing creases with a strong mixture of gamboge + opera. Also, since I previously botched the first application of pupils I couldn't save the white of the paper for catchlights. To add them back in to give life to the eyes, I used thick blobs of chinese white watercolor. 

Here I added eyebrows with two paint mixtures. A light mixture of gamboge + opera mixed to an apricot color was applied from the pupil to the edge of the hairline. A light mixture of umber and cobalt to a light warm gray color applied to the hairs growing from the brow bone area. At this point she didn't have any hairs above the corner of the eye, it is only suggested. Dark creases were added at the side of her face with an alizarin crimson + cobalt mixture (red purple) and to the side of her neck to recess those areas. A lighter purple wash was applied to the underside of her neck. A very light wash of cadmium red was applied to her cheeks, dimples and her collar bones. I then mixed a medium dark value burnt umber, opera, and cad. yellow light and went over some of the tendrils on the right side of the painting. Shocking, isn't it? 

The second layer of eyes. Remixing the cobalt + gray to a darker blue wash, and applying it to the outer edge of the iris - careful to drag it inward and retain those fissures. Applying a light cobalt wash in between the outer edge and the pupil. Used the same light cobalt to paint around the cornea leaving white only around the iris, modeling a rounded form. Added eyelashes by mixing burnt umber + aliz. crimson + a little cobalt. The bottom lashes were a lighter version. Added depth to the lips, by deepening the lip crease with gamboge + opera. Added all over light lip wash of cad. red. 

Continued with alternating glazes of gamboge + opera for the face and arms, layers of plain cad. red, and layers of burnt umber + gamboge + opera in the recesses. Paying attention to modeling the sides and underside of the nose, the dimples and the hollows of the eyes. Even children have folds under their eyes. Infrequent layers of cerulean and aliz + cobalt mix (blue purple) in the neck, keeping in mind color banding

I don't have a photo for one stage of the hair where I added red purple darks all over (aliz. crimson + cobalt) - leaving the mid tones and highlights. Then, I kept layering strong washes of gamboge + opera + burnt umber starting in the darkest part of the hair and scumbling into the highlight to get the hair texture. I did this entirely with a round number 6 brush. 

At this point, I went in for the finishing touches. I deepened and added to the eyebrows with the gamboge + opera mixture. I deepened part of the background with cobalt to add interest. I added freckles with a gamboge + opera + umber mixture, careful not to make them too dark or too regular. Then I signed the painting, extending my signature a bit into the background so it wouldn't look like a tattoo on her arm!

Since the staples were too long in the first place some of them didn't seat flush with the board and as a result the paper buckled. Grr. Removing the heavy duty staples was a double nightmare. Luckily the mat I cut smoothed everything away. Lessons learned!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Watercolor Portrait Child "Zofia"

My latest watercolor portrait, "Zofia". Children are always a joy to paint, and she was no exception!

©VPMiller 2011 "Zofia"
Watercolor on Paper, 15"x22"

The painting is now hanging in "Connections - a Celebration of Creativity" until the end of August at the Casselberry Art House. Connections is an amalgamation of a wide range of art  - sculpture, photos, encaustics, mixed media, oils, watercolor, acrylics, and one ultra cool totem. Stitched together with an unerring eye by Cheryl Evans Jones. I am proud to be in such fine company!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sanford Fourth Fridays April - It's All About People

Two of my paintings have been selected to be included in the Historic Sanford Welcome Center's exhibit, "It's All About People". 
This Friday April 22nd, as part of the monthly Fourth Friday gallery walk, opens the exhibit from 6-8:30pm. Mingle with the artists at 230 East First Street in downtown Sanford, Florida. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guest Artist: Shari Sherman

I first had the absolute pleasure of meeting Shari Sherman in The Artist's Way class, held weekly for 13 weeks as we followed along in Julia Cameron's masterful book. As our friendship has grown so has my deep appreciation for her as a person and an artist. Shari is a very talented professional artist, a book illustrator, and a licensed artist all while being a super mom to a very lovely little girl. It's not easy and she will be the first one to tell you that. In keeping with the spirit of sharing, I interviewed her to unlock some of her secrets. Enjoy! 

When did you first start creating? Have you always been an artist?
©Shari Sherman

 I think my identity as an artist was first defined in elementary school. I was "the art girl", winning awards and poster contests, sitting in the back of the class working on art projects like signs and transparencies for the teacher. I've always been comfortable thinking of myself as an artist. It wasn't until much later that I learned about the expectations that people have for you when you call yourself an artist. In the beginning it is as simple as...if you create art, then you are an artist. As you get older, it can be complicated...then the art has to be "good" to justify calling yourself an artist. I try not to get involved in that. I just keep creating and paying attention to my own artistic path.

Can you describe your process for your paintings?

I get ideas all the time from everywhere, from everyday life. Ideas come to me from conversations, my pets, my little girl...I think one of the most important things to learn is to let your ideas flow and try not to censor them before they have a chance to grow. Once I have an idea simmering, I then select the size of canvas that I want to work with. I am comfortable working on large canvases, over 4 feet, as well as small ones all the way down to 4 inches. I let the idea be the determining factor of how big or little to go. Next, I almost always do an underpainting, usually of black gesso, but I also use phthalo blue or diox purple, and lately I've been attracted to orangey reds like cad red.

Next, I will do a light sketch with chalk pastel or watercolor pencil, laying out where I want my elements to go. Occasionally, I'll do preliminary sketches in a sketchbook, but more often than not I will just go straight to the canvas. Then I just dig in. I like bright colors and my subject matter is whimsical. I'm a natural colorist, mixing my colors by instinct to get what I want. I use acrylics in lots of layers and almost all of my paintings have some form of words incorporated, either hand painted, or now that I'm embracing my mixed media side, it could be computer generated font or book clippings, or even Scrabble pieces. I almost always finish my paintings with a clear gloss varnish. Since acrylics are plastics themselves, they don't really need protection. I just like the way the gloss really highlights and brings out the color of the paint. And that's about it. Oh, and then I take pictures or scan the image. Always, always, remember to do this.

What artists or persons have been the biggest influence on your art? 

It's hard to narrow this down. I'm influenced by whatever
inspires me and that changes quite often. As far as fine art, I love Gauguin. For modern illustration, Mary Engelbreit. And for mixed media, Kelly Rae Roberts.

©Shari Sherman

What advice would you give to a beginning artist? Be true to yourself. Do what you want to do. Make whatever art you feel inspired to make. Don't be influenced by expectations of others.

What has helped you through the ups and downs of owning your own art business?
I'm grateful to my husband for believing in me, my
daughter for inspiring me, and my creative friends for nurturing my growth as an artist. Sometimes, the business of art can bog down the inspiration, but I choose to look at it as a challenge, and when I figure something out, the business side can be exciting too. It's important to remember that we are all learning. Even the people who seem to have it all figured out are still learning. At the end of the day, I keep my art business going because it's what I still feel like striving for...it's less about what I do, and more about who I am.

Anything else you want to say that I have not asked:  I just want to say Thank You! I'm honored to be interviewed by the amazing and talented VP Miller. You're an inspiration to me, and I'm thankful for this opportunity to inspire some fellow artists out there. I truly believe the world could be transformed if we all fully embraced our creativity without fear. 

And now just for fun... list 3 things people don't know about you:

1.  I'm half Scottish, half Filipino. A lot of people tend to think I'm Spanish, but I'm not.
2.  I was a heavy metal head growing up. I loved Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, and Van Halen. I even dyed a blond streak in my hair in high school to resemble Joe Perry's from Aerosmith.
3.  My very first job was working at a meat market. As I look back on it, it was a pretty gross job.

List 3 favorite songs: Dream On by Aerosmith, Better Together by Jack Johnson, and Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson. And anything by the Beastie Boys.

List 3 favorite foods: Pizza, sushi, and Bang-Bang shrimp from Bonefish Grill.

What projects do you see yourself working on in the future? 

I am really getting into working with mixed media. I love the limitlessness of it. Anything goes. I want to pursue more of that, maybe get a mixed media group together here in the Orlando area. Also, I'm working on inspirational art book that's kind of an ongoing project for me. I have so many ideas...I want to inspire others to pursue their creativity, to go for their dreams.

©Shari Sherman

Shari will be at the 8th Annual Winter Park Doggie Art Festival April 3rd if you want to say hello and check out some of her doggie inspired work!

If you can't make it there on such short notice, you can always check her out on her blog, her website or her Facebook page. You can also just say hi, she loves meeting new people!