Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pillow Collage: C Pillow

When I started working on the pillow for my niece Reese for this past Christmas, I also began to work on another one for my niece, Caroline.  At the time, my rationale was that... I have made art for all of my nieces and my nephew at some point, but not for Reese (until then) and Caroline.  Therefore, I embarked on my first puffy, tactile, super duper reinforced, collage pillow for the one-year-olds! 

You can read about the first *REESE*
pillow on my previous post:  

I first began with sketches for both pillows.  As Reese is a fall baby, I wanted to include fall colors and themes, like orange and yellow leaves that had fallen, for example.  Caroline's a spring baby and so I went with green leaves on the tree and flowers on the ground.  

The preliminary sketch.
I have to admit, I was pretty stressed about completing all of the gifts this holiday.  I was working hard on Reese's pillow, and Susanna's Birthday gift (the tagged ukelele), and the Taylor Family Coloring Book.  What was I thinking???  Ok, I think I was looking forward to a creative outlet (ever since I had to put my oil paints to the side when pregnant with my daughter).  I also think I was hopeful that I would have time over my holiday break to complete these gifts. Unfortunately, my break didn't start until December 24th!  Oh no!  As full time as a high school art teacher, and a wife and mother, too, it is hard to find time to relax, none-the-less make artwork!  

Ultimately, I decided to postpone Caroline's gift for her 
First Birthday instead, which wasn't too far off anyway. 
This is, after all, a very special day for her!  

"Keep up the momentum!"  I always say...
I should listen to my own advice.  Because I did not do that at all.  In fact, Caroline's pillow in progress went back into the special bin until I had time to "get back to it."  It's not so easy to live in a small condo with a toddler and also have out sewing needles and tiny fabric scraps and pinking shears.  My plastic, see-thru bin was the best I could do to keep it all contained until I could pull it all out at night and really go at it.  That was my other challenge... not only did I need fairly big chunks of time to work on it, but I also had to have the right energy to move it forward in the right direction!  Oh, when will the stars align??!!  

 Enough WHINING already! 

Grass and flowers detail.
 Because my original plan of completing two pillows simultaneously fell through, I was actually able to learn a great deal from the first process. For instance, making the puffy tree trunk was much faster because I had a better vision of how to create it AND how to attach it to the base pillow fabric.  

I also had much more success with the grass sections.  Reese's pillow has little grass knots in several areas across the "ground."  I was very happy with how tactile these little strands are.  With Caroline's pillow, the grass is much more springy and long, so I didn't like how the strands laid out in every which direction.  
Puffy tree detail
I decided to "tether" them down toward the base of the chunks and I really like how they are securely attached to the fabric as well as still tactile to grab and feel.  Again, I am a button nut when it comes to these pillows, so I used several buttons as the centers of the flowers.  The flowers were just stick witched flower printed fabric that I then cut up and sewed to the piece.  Lastly, as in Reese's pillow, I sewed it into a rectangle and added my own hand written label on the back.  

Just before packing the pillow up and shipping it off, I checked all the seams and attachment sites of the items to ensure this little tactile pillow would be A-O-K for a one-year-old's busy hands.  The best way to test it?  Hand if off to my almost two-year-old!  She immediately started touching, twirling, and tugging at all the little parts.  I'm sure she was thinking, "Oh!  Look at this puffy bird!  Let me pull it off!"  But as soon as she realized it was stuck on there, she just handled it and stopped pulling.  I also called my sister and asked how Reese's pillow has been holding up since December, and so far so good!  

So, with all the stitches reinforced, and after passing the toddler test with 
flying colors, off to Tennessee goes the little puffy pillow.  
Happy Birthday, Caroline!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review: ANOTHER photo editor? online and free??

Thanks to one of my students in my "Adult Digital Photography 101" class at the Brickton Art Center, I have been pointed toward yet another online photo editor that is also... *GASP* free! 

So here is my quick review of this editing option.  This site is very user friendly.  To start, you upload a photo, (or use a webcam or start a new painting... etc.)  Once you upload a photo, there are two tool bars.  

On the left hand tool bar, you can find a myriad of photoshop-esque tools to manipulate your photo.  There are slider bars and fade bars and paintbrushes that allow you to adjust only portions of your photo if you like.  This looks very similar to how Picnik was, and how PicMonkey is set up.  I personally find this type of setting incredibly easy to use and I love using the fade bars to soften the look.  

Sure, I could make this photo look
like I did in Picmonkey, but I wanted
to illustrate what else I could do with
ipiccy.  I can make this photo look
fiery!  WHAT??  Why would I ever
want this filter on my photo?  Weird.
Along the top tool bar, you will be able to choose from basic editor (cropping and saturation all the way to levels and curves), photo effects (fancy focus, soften, vignette, etc.) similar to those found in PicMonkey (Picnik), and Retouch (blush, wrinkles, mascara, hair color, "thin-ify") also similar to PicMonkey.  The next option, however, is called LAYERS which uses the Photoshop terminology, and its benefits.  I believe that this acts like Photoshop layers by allowing you to add more photos and text, etc, with the ability to manipulate each layer without affecting the others.  If this is what I think it is, (I haven't fully tested this part), I think this is a great addition.  Afterwards, however, you must merge the layers together into one layer before moving forward with any more edits.  You can also enter the painter tab which doesn't really have a paint palette so much as a few photo techniques like dodging and burning.  I also really like how, in this tab, there are menus on the right like navigator, history, and layers set up just like Photoshop.  And then, of course, you can add a frame to your piece.  

Okay.  So here's the skinny.  This site is a strange combination of photoshop techniques that may be a little more complicated, which I am sure is catering to the more photoshop savvy, mixed with a little bit of the trendy hipster vintage photo styles of Picnik (like using toy camera effects) but is still missing the most interesting effects (for example, it offers Orton effect, but no other photographic effect), mixed with the cheesy basic effects (and some odd options like weave or scan lines) that makes even the virgin photo editor feel proud of their newly manipulated image.  The graphics are not horrible, but definitely not my style; the icons seem a bit "BETA."  

All in all, I would recommend this site to manipulate your images.  There seems to be quite a bit available here; some excellent, quality tools that definitely draw my attention mixed in with random, unusable tools (that seem to be thrown in to look as if there is a lot there, but I would have no reason to ever EVER use them), while missing some of the tools that I tend to use more often.  If I didn't have Photoshop available to me, I think that this site so far is the closest thing to giving you a touch of that program for free.  

I am still a sucker for Picmonkey as it has the suave, slick, trendy options as Picnik, while still holding on to some of the humor that went along with the old site.  If you are looking for a solid picture editing site, either PicMonkey or ipiccy will do the job.  If you are looking for something that is most similar to Picnik, then PicMonkey is the way to go.