Pragmatic. Practical. I go through life with a jaundiced eye, a cynical look and a wry quip or sar-caustic remark at all the foibles of the world around me. The most frequent butt of my humor is me.  Not always in fun… I hate flowery phrases and refuse to wade in maudlin sentimentality. I’m too old for all that nonsense. A search for deeper meanings makes me ill… Express emotion??? Not me.

R i g h t… Don’t believe it. It’s mostly an act. Sometimes a good one, but still, an act. I fall to pieces at the slightest provocation, like when I created my journal cover for the Global Talent Search.

I grew up wanting the typical things that were acceptable for a girl of my era–a husband, two kids, a 2-car garage in the suburbs (and a career as a ballerina or a Broadway star). I got part of that; the husband, the house, and one of the kids (forget about the Broadway thing–when given a choice between ballet and college, I opted for college). The house got a bit tedious when I found myself in the middle of a coffee-klatch of wives discussing FLOOR WAX, but that’s a different tale.

I was married at 21 to a man I met in third grade (we’ve just celebrated our 45th anniversary). At 24, my son was born. When I was 33, I developed fibromyalgia and reluctantly decided that no more children were possible. If I couldn’t lift a bottle of orange juice off the table, what on earth was I going to do with a new baby?

So, we only had the one chick and every moment of his childhood was precious. Two summers ago, my husband started to scan the slides from those years into the computer–until we both became so overwhelmed and upset by nostalgia that he had to stop. So where is this saga is heading?

In May, I took the Make Art That Sells part A class with Lilla Rogers ( I first started to feel my age when she gave the assignment to draw ‘vintage pyrex.’ Hmmm–you mean those bowls I’ve had in my cabinets since I was first married? (Yes.) Gee, I’d never thought of myself as antique before.

I had a free pass to enter the Global Talent Search with a prize of two years’ representation by Lilla. I knew I didn’t stand a chance, but that was okay. The topic, however,  was more vintage; this time a journal cover featuring vintage playground equipment.

My artwork typically starts with a photo, and I always use my own. Way back, when my son was little, we had a Jungle Gym in the back yard with swings and a slide. So I decided to start there.

A number of colleagues have asked for an explanation of how I built that cover, so in conjunction with this, my “brave” posting for the Build a Blog You Truly Love class ( and in celebration of the start of Part B of Make Art that Sells, I decided to combine both purposes.

Here’s a mock-up of the finished piece:


Friends, you thought I was just creating a journal cover. I cried myself through every step of the way…

First was the search for a suitable image to use as a basis for the design. Way too much nostalgia… Eventually, I settled on this prize winner (good thing I know Photoshop!)


Do we have an exposure issue here?


Fixed, but not still not a prize to anyone but a mommy.

I was certain that no one would want to purchase a journal cover with the back of my house showing, so the house had to go.


To replace it, I used trees from a photo I took at Longwood Gardens


but the tones were not harmonious.

The next step involved making all parts of the image look like they belonged together, which meant a slight stylization of the image.


Now everything looked uniformly odd.

I then digitally painted an overlay using brushes that I created from photos of oatmeal and dryer lint (notice the fine fibers!)


If you look carefully, you can see that I actually painted on a layer directly above the image; the legs of the swing set are partially visible.

Next, I decided to add some toys that my son liked that weren’t in the original photo. More photos to search and more sobbing…

image7 image8

and an improved version of the slide from a different photo. In reality, the slide was attached to the swing set. Here’s the image at this point, with toys and extras added and the painted layer partly integrated.


Can you spot the other truck and the bucket and shovel?

I altered the blend mode and opacity to get a better view of the swing set and my son. After all, he was supposed to be the focal point!


Not good, but you can see he’s there.


And I added suitably sentimental text.

The next step was to make my son into the real focal point of the cover.


Blend modes and painting in some of the layer masks helped with this. I also added the image from its pre-painted-overlay stage to the top of the layer stack and altered its blend mode and opacity. The only step left was to add the word “Journal” in type to compliment the phrase. I wanted it to look stamped, so I altered the type with a layer mask.


Now it was ready for its final layout and I sent it on its way.


I didn’t win; I didn’t even make the semi-finals, but that was fine. I probably had one of my most emotional and personal art-making experiences ever. And I loved every moment of it–thorough the tears! (By the way, I also love flowers, cute babies and puppies, and the color pink.)