I’ve seen fear-mongering in action. And I’ve seen how well it works.

The media uses fear to control the population everyday. (like you didn’t already know that)

And with that idea ruminating around in my brain I thought I’d give fear-mongering a try. Because #suicideisstupid and if these awful, ugly images can stay your hand for even a day, then I will be happy.

Suicide is not beautiful. It’s not poetic. ITS UGLY. It’s coughing, and snot and blood and loss of respect. It’s split flesh. It’s stains on the floor. It’s the cold side of the bed that used to be warm. Its pissing on yourself.

It’s how you will be remembered.

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#suicideisstupid

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Once upon a time on September 22nd, 30 years ago, an adorable little baby was born. She had a head full of dark hair and she was free of wrinkles, stretch marks, sun spots and white hairs.

Fast forward 30 years and that same baby was now graced with all the afflictions mentioned above. But she was also graced with wisdom, humility, appreciation and rock hard buns.

With age comes some pretty awesome gifts. So no, I’m not here to whine about a number that holds absolutely no power over the way I feel. I don’t stand in front of the mirror every morning saying “You is smart. You is beautiful. You is important” like some mad woman’s mantra. I’m here to celebrate my aging body! 

I’d like to start off by saying that my body was already ruined in my twenties.

I had all three of my kids by age 27. With that included (without my permission)

  •  A road map of vericose veins on my thighs. Sometimes if the road isn’t too bumpy I can use them as a GPS.
  • Angry white stretch marks on my belly that, in the right lighting, look like a zebra that lost 600 lbs.
  • A kangaroo flap where my belly used to be. I sometimes harbor thoughts of stealing a Joey from the zoo and bouncing off into the sunset. Just because.
  • An extra fee at the airport to check the bags under my eyes.

Such is life as a mother. I mean, sure I could edit them out (and I do if the situation calls for it. A robot, or fire goddess just can’t have stretch marks) but mostly I am fine with those few things listed above. Besides, I still look like a swim suit model when naked. A very short swim suit model.

Thirty years of living has also brought its fair share of aging. After all I am not just a mother. I am also a farmer, a dog groomer and a crocheter. None of these things have been easy on my body. Let’s talk more about some changes I’ve noticed since thirty approaches.

  • A random black hair that grows out of my arm. Really? Why? Why are you there? What is your purpose? If I pluck you, will two more grow in your place?
  • White hairs! This I was expecting. And I’m pretty excited to be going white instead of grey. (I’ll just be over here in the corner pretending I’m a character from Final Fantasy)
  • The wrinkles around my eyes I wouldn’t change for the world. They are testimont to being married to the funniest man alive.
  • I must have turned into Strecth Armstrong sometime in the night because I swear I woke up a month ago and I have the stretchiest skin in all the land. It’s just looser somehow. Aging is weird!
  • If the weather drops ten degrees my knees act like underpaid nurses and go on strike. And I’m stuck with crab walking around the house. (Ain’t that some lovely imagery?)
  • A back that sounds like a toddler on crack got a hold of bubble paper.
  • Everyday I can count 17 new freckles on my face. If you connected the dots it might show a pretty snazzy pentagram. It might not.

But even with all of these aging woes I am still so jazzed about turning thirty. I can look back at my younger self and not feel sad. Mostly because I have a wonderful man who tells me how beautiful I am everyday. But also because I feel I have risen above the media’s standard of beauty and know that deep down, I is smart. I is beautiful. I is important. Did that just happen? 

Let’s end this birthday celebration post with some pictures of my aging face. Note the freckles, checked baggage and wrinkles as the pictures get further down:

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Baby face.

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Eye wrinkles, man. Eye wrinkles. 

Such is life.

So let’s celebrate our aging bodies and all that life has given us, random black hairs and all!

 

Little Princesses. Bringing Disney into my home.

A few years ago I used my awesome editing skills to transform my daughters into Disney Princesses. I have three little girls ten years and younger whose eyes light up, just like mine did, when they see the Disney Princesses on the screen.

It was about four years ago when I began the Little Princesses series and since then my editing has improved dramatically. So I wont show you the early (and horrid) version I did of Ariel, Aurora, Alice, Tiana, Mulan, Belle and Rapunzel. Instead I will be redoing them in better quality.

Before the days when I set up photo shoots with outfits, proper lighting and good old fashioned direction, I basically threw a hat on my oldest daughter, Rowe, and told her to pretend she had a toothpick sword in her hand. (Bless her for not caring about clothes at the time)

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Isn’t she sweet? (Don’t let her fool you, she is actually an evil genius).

So taking that shot, which is not even in proper focus, I was able to make this:

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Little Thumbelina. I have won a few awards for this shot and to this day is stands as one of my favorites.

Using my daughter Benji I was able to pull off a pretty impressive Merida. Benji is a blonde with intense grey eyes. She is silly ALL OF THE TIME, and when she smiles it takes up half her face. Benji never sits still. Benji likes to talk about farts and rub dirt in her hair.  Benji doesn’t do quiet. 

I spent hours and hours curling her hair and picking out the perfect outfit just for her to give me these shots:

 

Bless her precious little dirty face.

Benji is the boy I prayed for but never got. So imagine my surprise when I asked her to be serene (for just one freaking second) and she gave me this face:

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The clouds opened up. The stars aligned. For one precious second my tomboy middle child stopped vibrating with excitement, looked into my lens and spoke with her eyes.

I stared at this photo in disbelief for a full ten seconds, in shock and awe at how PERFECT it was………and then I saw the Hello Kitty tattoo on her neck. DAMMIT!!!! 

It’s ok, it’s fine, it’s workable. I could edit it out. And boy did I spend a butt load of time on this pictures. I labored over the editing process. I’d never turned a blonde haired, grey eyed child into a ginger before. But the results? Breathtaking.

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For me, this old photo, as full of mistakes as it is, is still my pride and joy. From the emerald eyes to the freckles dotting her nose. This is Little Merida.

Want to see Little Pocahontas?

Pocahontas is my favorite Disney princess, so this picture had to be epic. I told Rowe to speak to the tree. She understood. She get’s me. She gets trees too apparently.

Can you just picture Little Pocahontas running through the woods? Me too.

Well that’s all for now folks!

Thank you for taking the time to view a few of my Little Princesses series. There will be more as time allows. Follow my blog if you would like to see more.

Happy editing!!

 

 

 

 

 

How to change eye color in GIMP 2

Changing eye color is one of my favorite things to do when I edit pictures. The eyes are the first thing people look at when they meet you. Eyes draw you in, express emotion, and tell secrets (even if we don’t want them to).

A little tweaking to the eyes in an editing program can dramatically change the feel of it. And with a little work you can make that happen!

 I get asked often how I accomplish such a magical feat. Well fear not! I am here to tell you that you too can create magic. There are several methods, but this one is by far the easiest and the one I use most often. If you follow these instructions you will see how easy is can be.

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STEP 1: (I’m assuming you’ve already found an unknowing eye model and molested their face with your lens) The first thing you’ll need to do it add a new layer. The Layer button is located on the top menu bar between IMAGE and COLOR. Did you find it? Great! You’re a regular Sherlock Holmes.

When you click the layer tab a drop-down menu will appear with several options. Click the first that reads NEW LAYER. An annoying pop-up will magically appear on your screen. It’s not a demon. Just make sure the TRANSPARENCY bobble is pushed and click OK.

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Still with me? Good!

STEP 2:  This step is so fun it makes me pee a little. Time to pick a color! I chose purple (Blame is on a lifelong obsession with Barney the Dinosaur).

Next you’re gonna find the little paintbrush icon that looks like this:

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And you’re gonna go ahead and Bob Ross that son of a bitch. (“Let’s go ahead and add a happy little tree”) Ok Mr. Ross, let’s calm down now. We’re just painting a circular glob today.

Like so:

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Not so pretty right? Well don’t give up on your painting career just yet. It’s supposed to look like shit right now. Trust the professional ne?

STEP 3: Drag your mouse over to the right where you are gonna click on that little arrow next to MODE. This will open yet another drop-down menu of fun options for your little painting.

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Grab a twinkie and play around with these options for a bit. Each mode changes the color blob you lovingly drew. OVERLAY is a favorite of mine for eyes if I want a natural look. GRAIN MERGE I use for portraits. And MULTIPLY is good for a funky, not-so-real, effect.

When you have settled on one, head on over to step 4.

STEP 4: (Hi, nice to see you again) This is optional, but if you feel like the look is maybe too much, head on back over to that MODE button and play around with the OPACITY  (Which is right above it). You can lower the percentage, or leave it if you swing that way, and it will lower the effect of your beautiful paint glob.

STEP 5: Once you are happy with your eyeball (Maybe ready to settle down, start a family, get a dog), you’re gonna have to seal the deal. As in, merge that bitch down! Right click on the layer and yet another drop down menu will appear.

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Click on MERGE DOWN. You may now kiss the bride.

Here is what mine looks like, all said and done:

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Here is a list for those of you with the memory span of a goldfish with ADD.

  • New layer
  • Pick a color and paint the eye
  • Choose a mode
  • Play with opacity
  • Merge down aka seal the deal aka marry that bitch! (Be smart, choose a dog over a cat)

So how did your eye turn out? Feel free to ask any questions, and please send me your finished product! Happy Editing!

 

Four Elements Series Continued. Water.

Welcome to the last installment of the Four Elements series. Shot, on location, in front of my closet doors (are you surprised?). Brought to you by I’m a cheap ass Productions. Directed by A seamless would be nice. 

As far as photo shoots go, this one was pretty straightforward.

I asked my friend/co-worker to be the  face of water because she is Asian. And I wanted that exotic look for Water. Water has secrets. Water has seen some shit. And I wanted Water’s eyes to tell a story.

Tara came to my farm, makeup bag in hand and we went to work. It went surprisingly quick. Shooting the other elements insured that I knew lighting and settings off the bat.

This shoot only took about 58 pictures to get the right one, which is a miracle because I can easily shoot upwards of 300 in thirty minutes. The hectic mom gods were smiling on me that day and we only got interrupted twice by my three year old. Can I get a hallelujah?!

I settled on this shot:

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Sexy right?! Her skin needed very little editing. A few taps with the heal tool and blurring of the rest of her face completed skin retouching.

I did eyes next and they were a doozy! Took me a few tries to get that “fish” look. *sniffs* I’m quite proud of the outcome. Very fishy.

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Speaking of fish, I’d like to introduce Mars.

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He belongs to my Mom. He is kind of a diva and insisted I only shoot his “good side”. Whatever that means. (You can’t see me, but I’m shrugging my shoulders).

I shopped Mars into Tara’s magical Water hands next. It took me a few tries to successfully create an orb of water. But it’s magicalness is full of magical magic!

This picture was hard for me to pull off for the main reason being that I HATE the beach. It sounds irrelevant but I assure you it’s not! With the Air picture I already had cloud photos to add as beautiful floaty layers. With Fire I had smoke and fire shots and with Earth I boast a whole folder of flower and nature shots. I don’t have any wave, water, droplets, bubbles etc in my plethora of texture and layer shots.

Having your own texture and layer shots is important to any photographer. When you pull “free” images off of google you run the risk of copyright infringement and other such devices. I guess I need to drag my ass to the beach and take some wave pictures….GAG!

So I improvised. Guess what I used for bubbles:

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If you guessed a glass of soda then go play the lottery right now. I used this bubbly goodness as the background. There are no rules with photo editing. That’s why I love it. With any other facet in life I might have balked at the idea of using something other than it’s means. But not here! Here I can make soda bubbles represent Water’s magical aura. Because I’m cool like that.

All in all I love this picture! And I’m happy to finally be done with the series (Because now I can start a new one!).

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You can read about Fire and Earth here: The Four Elements. And seeing my vision.

You can read about Air here: The Four Elements Continued. Air.

So what do you think of the Four Elements Series? Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments. Happy Shooting!

 

The Four Elements Continued. Air.

Boobs man. Boobs.

Of all the things to get in the way of a successful shoot I never thought boobs might be one of them.

Katherine and I worked hard on this shot. I had my vision. She had the look (Big blue eyes, long blonde hair and full pouty lips. Often labeled DSL’s). She brought her makeup and after disrobing, she looked the part.

The fan is gonna blow your hair up around your face like Pocahontas. You’ll look beautiful….”

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“…..You’ll look majestic…”

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“….you’ll look….well fuck! Fuck this fan!!” 

Needless to say, fan experts we are not. But I needed her hair flowing around her. Sure I could add the effect later in Photoshop but it wouldn’t be the same. I like to have as many real elements as possible before I begin editing.

Would you like to see our setup?

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WHOA! I can’t even handle how professional we are! *rolls eyes*. Ok, so a dusty old fan leaning on a vase in front of cheap closet doors doesn’t exactly scream professional, BUT we got the shot eventually. Isn’t that all that matters?! No? Well shit.

After a half an hour or so of messing with the fan, the lighting, the angle, exposure, aperture, shutter speed (makeup malfunction), blah blah blah, we finally got it right.

Until I sat down to edit…..HOLY MASSIVE TATAS BATMAN!!

Granted, It’s not Katherine’s fault that she was blessed with such magical breasteses. But they were literally all. I. could. look. at. Not that they were so huge they took up half the photo. More like, their gravitational pull was forcing my eyes down at every picture. And If I was looking, then so would everyone else. And what would become of all my wonderful work? All the sweat and long hours I put into editing would be lost! LOST FOREVER!

The bottom half of every shot was squeeze worthy, and my beautiful, majestic, Air Goddess shoot was looking more and more like soft core porn. Yeesh. (Katherine and I have worked together before, she being a photographer too. So she knows how quickly an artsy photo shoot can turn Maxim).

I took one more look through my menagerie (This time curbing my perverted tendencies) And I came across one that was the PERFECT shot!

Katty’s got those Tyra smize going on, and just the right amount of cleavage:

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Boom. Gorgeous! Intense eyes. Little wisps of hair floating around her angelic face. What is missing? How about a good ol’ Forrest Gump feather? A nice scouring of my chicken coops brought us this beauty:

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And with a little skin editing, tweaking of the light and adding the feather, we have:

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Now we’re getting somewhere!

The magic came next, and it took me almost three days to Tinkerbell it up. This photo has been the toughest, so far, to edit. I’m not sure why, but I worked hard making it look like Air Incarnate. Several layers were added, around 15 or so, to bring in the feel that this being was ethereal, godlike. I went ahead and added clouds around the bottom half (Sorry perverts!) but I didn’t have cleavage in my original vision (Probably because I mostly photograph myself, and I sport a nice set of over-easy fried eggs in my blouse)

If you want a boring photography tip, I’ll share this giblet with you: If you’re going to be adding anything into a photograph, a feather for example, shoot it against black. It helps, trust me.

Are you ready for the finished product? I bet your ass is just puckering in anticipation. Well clench no further!:

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Behold! Air Goddess. Air is sexy yet innocent. She likes long walks on the beach and mixed drinks free of roofies. Earth, Water and Fire are always and forever jealous of her beautiful, fluffy knockers. (Fire wonders how Air runs very fast with those) The world may never know. 

 

 

Using Art to Heal. And saying goodbye. 

When words fail us and the emotions come crashing down, it’s nice to have an outlet like photography. To cope, to heal, to move on.

 

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I created this photo using the body of my husband. It helped.

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Goodbye Brother. You stole my heart.

Finding Photography Inspiration. And Sarah Mclachlan.

You know those little strings connected to your heart? Not veins. Not capillaries either. More like shoelaces. Shoelaces are thick, strong and can be tied and untied several times. They can be stained and frayed at the edges, and yet, you will still try to shove them through the hole every time.

Heartstrings are similar in hardiness to shoelaces. They too can be tied in knots sometimes. They too can become frayed on the edges. My point is that we all have them. Those frayed little bastards that give a little tug on our hearts whenever we see Grandma coughing a little too hard. Or a dead cat on the side of the road . Or those damn Sarah Mclachlan neglected animal commercials. (In the aaaarms of the angellllls………God Damnit NO!!) 

But did you know that you can use heartstrings to pull you in the right direction? Iv’e used this method several times to lead me to uncomfortable places in my weird brain. When that little string gives a tug, I follow it.  And I have been led to some wonderful inspiration for photos.

I believe that beauty can be found in unlikely places, like gutters, death and awkward moments. My heartstrings have led me there. (I can often be found on the side of the road photographing road kill. WHY, you say? Because the animal is as beautiful in death as it was in life. And splattered guts are part of the circle of life! *Holds Simba*)

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I think it’s safe to say that most human’s concept of beauty is universal; a Beach at sunset, a forest covered in dew, a busty blonde woman (Though don’t ask me why, I find brunettes to be much prettier). But what can be said of the things that are not beautiful, yet tug at the very thing that moves us?

So yes, A beach at sunset is pleasing to look at. But so is a homeless man’s unkempt toenails. Why? Because one of these pleases our eyes, while the other rocks our core. The other moves you to a place that you need to be. Inspired.

For what is photography without inspiration? (cough cough *Instagram* cough.) I kid I kid!

I find inspiration hard to come by these days. We as photographers are having a harder time then ever being moved by art and in turn moving others with ours. The world is flooded with Iphone Bob and his black and white filter, and Selfie Sarah who has more followers than she knows what to do with. How about Cleavage Carol and her whole album of “Beach at sunset” Photos (taken at an angle to better show off her massive tatas)

I have my places I go often to find inspiration. Those few songs that still lead me to deep places, and music videos that draw out the part of me left unscathed by society. But it’s my heart shoelaces that lead me to be most inspired. Even when I’m uncomfortable going to those places.

I lived in secret with Anxiety for years before my heart shoelaces tugged at me. They encouraged me to embrace the ugly, hated part of myself, and to photograph it. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable.

But I followed the tugs, handcuffed myself to a fan and created the creature of my nightmares. My damaged brain incarnate. It was not easy for me but the outcome was more beautiful than I could have imagined.

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I make a decent amount of money photographing beautiful things. But finding beauty in the ugly is where my happiness lies.  My work is often kicked off of websites, misunderstood and left with nasty comments from followers. But that’s ok. Those are merely the people who ignore their heartstrings, turn away at the sight of a homeless man’s unkempt toenails and don’t spay or neuter their pets.

Step into my weird brain for a minute (Try not to trip on my insecurities) and let’s imagine a world where everyone can tap into their heart and find beauty in the ugly, the unusual. I bet it would be a lot more interesting in that world.

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Try it sometime. Don’t turn away at the uncomfortable, whether it be inside you or in front of you, and follow the tugs from your own frayed heart shoelaces. Dare to be inspired by something different! And by all means please send it to me so I can clap you on the back and say “Welcome to a more interesting world, my friend. Let’s go photograph some road kill”

The Four Elements. And seeing my vision.

I went through a dry spell a few weeks back. I woke every morning uninspired, went about my day void of any creative thoughts, and slept without dreaming. It seemed the daily grind got the better of me.

Then one magical day, on my way to work, a song inspired me (as good Music is usually wont to do) and an idea sparked in my weird brain!

I like to create sets or series’s of photos. It’s more fun and challenges the old noggin. And Lordy did I need a challenge!

The four elements seemed challenging enough. Earth, Fire, Air and Water. My idea was not to photograph these elements but to personify them. To give them a face, a personality, and bring to life the four things we are constantly surrounded by, yet take for granted.

I called one of my go-to models, Patty. She is always up for a fun photo shoot and, as a seamstress, has loads of props and outfits. Sure as shit, she showed up at my door thirty minutes later with various plant life and a box of make up. Love her.

There are few people in my life who can understand my vision. Few people who can see passed the uncut, raw, unedited photo and trust at what it will become when I am done.

Can you be naked from the waist up? Great! Now stand on one leg. Awesome! Hold this beach ball, it represents a ball of energy. Perfect! Now hold still. Make angry eyes. Angry eyes! Angrier!”

I can imagine how difficult I must be to work with. But if you trust in my vision the outcome will be worth it.

On the day that I was inspired I asked Patty to hold a handful of soil and pretend that she was magically growing a flower with her awesome earth powers.

I searched through my repertoire and found this photo of a flower I took years ago:

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And I shopped it onto the soil in her magical hands. It came out like this:

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We often use my closet doors to pose in front of because: 1) They are white. So adding a background is a lot easier. 2) My bedroom has Bomb.com natural lighting (If you don’t know about my hatred of fake lighting please read my post titled “What I’m rockin’. A Photographer’s toolbox”) 3) Because I am a cheap ass and I don’t want to pay for a seamless.

Next I added several texture layers (like almost 20) of plant life, leaves, green, sparkles, blah blah blah, technical jargon, blah blah etc etc. Blah.

The end result left me astounded. I usually have that moment, when all is said and done, when I sit back and think “Wow. I made that. Me! I am awesome!” FISTPUMP!! 

I effectively personified the Element EARTH:

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Beautiful isn’t she? I amuse myself with thoughts of her frolicking around in a barren field, growing brightly colored flowers and singing songs that sound like the rustling of leaves. But I digress.

I used myself for Fire. I am very familiar with editing my own face and at the moment I sport a red mohawk. It just made sense.

I started with this gem (In front of my closet. Shocking I know):

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I used one of my umbrella lights for this shot to bring some light to my face because obviously there is a flame in my palm. DER! (p.s. I have huge eyeballs. That is all)

I used GIMP to remove the myriad of scars on my face (No Fire Goddess is walking around sporting stitch scars from a car accident from when she was four years old. Just sayin’). The piercing holes and tattoos were the next to go, and they were a doozy! I still have trouble effectively removing tattoos. You’ll notice the faint remnants of my head tattoo in the finished product. But I’m ok with that. Who’s to say that this sexy Fire Goddess isn’t a Michael Jackson fan. You don’t know her life!

I spent a huge portion of the day creating my own layers, which included blowing cigarette smoke (don’t judge me!) in front of a black background, and starting a small fire in the fireplace (Wouldn’t you know it was 100 plus degrees that day. What I do for Art!).

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I used some free fire layers that I pulled offline and for the background used pictures of stormy clouds I had taken years ago. They looked like smoke to me so….

After several hours, and a few smoke breaks (You judging again?) I sat back and had my moment. “Me. Awesome”  Fistpump. You get the point.

Fire:

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Fire and Earth totally hang out. They have drinks and gossip about Air and Water.

Speaking of the missing two elements…guess what? They aren’t done yet! They haven’t even been photographed. Water and Air are happily living in my weird brain, growing, shaping and evolving. They are still in the early stages of life. Namely planning, planning and more planning. But fear not! They will have their very own blog post when I am done with them. Until then you can enjoy these two sexy Elements while I go have a smoke. I AM the Fire Goddess after all. (How’s that judging going?)