just an old-fashioned girl

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you dropped by. If you´re looking for something a little nostalgic of bygone eras with a timeless elegance and a little modern twist – in other words, something slightly “retro” – then you should feel right at home here in my shabby chic room. Month by month, there will always be something new to see so I hope you´ll enjoy your stay and come back again soon.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas In August

As some of you may know, I spent much of the summer laid up with sciatica. The only place this condition was tolerable for me was in the garden where I spent a lot of time in a mainly reclining position alternately blessing my iPod and my ebook reader for providing distraction from boredom and discomfort. After a while though even that wasn´t enough for me so I hobbled back into the house, hunted out my needles, threads and patterns and started cross stitching some Christmas cards. I suppose it seems strange to even think of Christmas in August but even these little motifs take some considerable time to stitch, especially for someone like me who can never stick to the colours specified in the colour key or even to the chart itself.

Take this chart for example. It´s supposed to be an angel but whoever designed it seems to have got a little confused because it´s the only Christmas chart I have in which the angel is carrying a magic wand.
That was easy to alter with a wave of my own magic wand.
I liked the result so much that I ended up making several, though as you can see, I hardly stuck to the colour key at all. These are a few of the finished cards.

Another motif I enjoyed stitching was this one.
It offered so much scope for change that I got a bit carried away. First of all I decided to add a glittering star to each tree and also to add sparkly thread to the trees themselves. Unfortunately the effect doesn´t show up on a scanned image so you´ll have to take my word for that. Here´s the first one I made.
I went on to make quite a few after that simply because I enjoyed changing the colours each time. These are just a few of them all framed and ready to go.
Of course, stitching them is the fun part. Actually finishing them i.e. washing, pressing, lining, cutting them out and finally creating cards to frame them is something else again so I´ll draw a veil over the hard part!

Creating these little motifs was a sort of therapy for me. It helped me to feel as if I was doing something useful and not just self-indulgently lounging around on the lawn all summer. Which reminds me, even in November the lawn is beckoning me. Well, not so much the lawn itself as Dora who´s waiting there for me to join her in a game of her own invention called something like I-might-let-you-kick-this-football-but-only-if-you-ask-nicely. I always do and she usually does...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Surreal Blending Effects

I love creating photo collages and I particularly enjoy extracting parts of photos, adding them to others and experimenting with the various Photoshop blending options to transform them into something more interesting than any of the original photos. I find that many of these photo collages can turn into something quite spooky and surreal simply by changing either the blending mode and/or the opacity. Add to that my enjoyment of taking photos in Scottish cemeteries and the obvious conclusion is that many of my photos lend themselves to the creation of layouts that reflect the more sinister aspects of Halloween. Don´t get me wrong. I´m no ghoul but the ancient Celtic crosses to be found in old cemeteries are so intricate and beautiful in a stern sort of way that I can never resist the temptation of adding yet another to my collection of Celtic art. At this point I´ve got to say that I´m no expert and what looks fairly easy to achieve is often the result of painstaking experimentation. The Halloween collage in my previous post is a good example of this. If you´re a beginner and if you also enjoy the challenge of creating collages and would like to find out how I went about it, read on.

I started off with a white background to which I added the Lightning background paper from an old kit of mine called Fright Night which I long ago consigned to my virtual attic to – appropriately – gather dust and cobwebs. I´ve since blown off the dust and frightened the spiders away in order to use various parts of it in this layout, the following background paper for example.
I didn´t want it quite so dense and I also wanted to discard the colour so I altered the blending mode to Luminosity.
Then, from the same old kit I added a full moon.

Now I´m putting the cart before the horse because I also used the following very underexposed photo of the Glasgow Art Galleries...
...but I didn´t actually use it immediately. It was just a part of the ongoing experimentation process throughout this collage. Here I´m simply showing you the various layers in the order in which they appear in the finished layout so at this point it´s going to look strange and out of place. However, if you´ve got this far you may have the patience to stay with me a little while longer to see what effect this photo eventually has. After I changed the blending mode to Pin Light at 80% opacity this is what it looked like.

(Not impressive but I did warn you The surprising effect comes later.) Directly above that I placed the following FN background, Stonehenge which looks like this.

As you can see it has its own full moon which is why I placed the additional one from that old kit in the same position. Once I´d added that background paper I changed its blending mode to Overlay and the opacity to 50%.

Yes, I know that photo at the bottom still looks annoyingly out of place but I´m gradually, if infuriatingly slowly, coming to that. The next step was to add a photo of a Scottish cemetery which, luckily, included its own crow and, unfortunately, a huge ugly pylon.

After cropping this photo and using the clone tool to remove the pylon, I placed it on the layout using the Multiply blending mode.
Now at last you can see the effect of that annoying photo which now appears to reflect the light cast on the tombstone by the full moon. I suppose I could have left it at that but I can never leave well alone and, besides, I wanted to add one of my favourite images, the angel which appears in another Halloween layout.
Luckily, I´d saved the original extraction (always a good idea, especially for image hoarders like me) so I erased the tombstone, softened the outline a little and added her to the layout as a forlorn little ghost using the Exclusion blending mode at 30%.
At this point I added the crow on the left which I´d extracted from another photo. For him I used the Hard Mix blending mode at 80% opacity. Then I thought that another crow flying across the moon would be a good idea in order to lead the eye down to the main focus of the page, ie the tombstone and the ghost, so I dug around among my various bitmaps until I found the perfect crow silhouette and added it at 90% opacity with the Soft Light blending mode.
Again, I could have left this as it is but it was a Scottish cemetery after all so I really wanted to add a Celtic cross. Here´s the finished layout with the cross added using the Overlay blending mode. I didn´t even have to alter the opacity in order to allow the lightning to strike right through it.
If you´ve got this far I admire your patience and perseverance! On the other hand, I find that these characteristics are exactly what one needs in order to actively enjoy experimenting with these wonderful PS blending modes. I hope that any beginner reading this will be inspired to try them out. It´s a good way to spend a dreary overcast day. I´m off now to do the ironing, not the best way to spend any kind of day, dreary or otherwise. I´m so glad that I´ve got Stephen King´s Pet Sematary in my iPod to distract me from that tedious chore.

PS You know, after reading the book I´ve found it almost impossible to spell that word correctly without using the spell check....