A Song and a Self Portrait

“What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
What of the righteous?
What of the charitable?
What of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent?

Fin

Doomed are the poor
Doomed are the peaceful
Doomed are the meek
Doomed are the merciful
For the word is now death
And the word is now without light”

-APC-

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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!

 

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.

before

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.

layer

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:

brush

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:

eye

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.

mode

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!

 

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. 

 

 

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:

Earth4 (1 of 1)

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?)