At least the roses and camellias are perky

In the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Day, I felt my throat getting a bit sore and scratchy. By noon, I was feeling the swimmy head of one who has caught a cold. And by the following day, I was running a fever and huddled in bed. That's where I've been for the past few days--in bed. Today, I've finally been able to see through the virally-induced mental fog enough to post these photos of what was blooming on Christmas Day here in the gardens of Rosehaven Cottage.

All of the photos below are straight out of the camera without color correction or post-processing "magic". The sky really was this blue in back of the "Gold Medal" roses that never fail to produce a Christmas Day bloom...

Christmas in the San Francisco Bay Area is quite a bit different than a lot of North America. We don't get snow in our gardens, but do get snow on our higher mountains and peaks. We get Christmas fog at night that shrouds our outdoor Christmas lights in ethereal magic. We have blooms in the garden as well as lots of migratory birds here for the winter. I had lots of white Christmases as a child when we lived in Colorado. I am happy with foggy green Christmases now. Especially when I can have a lovely pink "Our Lady of Guadalupe" rose on Christmas Day...

I just happened to peek around the northern side of the house when I was out shooting the Christmas roses blooming. Imagine my surprise when I saw my deep pink camellia in bloom! Camelias are hardy here as long as they are growing in a northern exposure location. They don't like the heat of the summer sun, and love the chill of the Bay Area winters as long as there isn't a hard freeze. We usually have blooms in January and February but this one is early this year.

Now I'm back off to snuggle up in a warm quilt so I can get better. Thankfully, Hubby has this week off work and he's a pro at pampering me. I don't know what I'd do without him.
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A Christmas Surprise

I was out running some errands on the 23rd, when I got a call on my cell from Hubby. He was working from home and wanted to tell me that I had received a package from the U.K. "What is it?" he queried. I told him I didn't know. Once I got home and saw the package I knew who it was from. My dear blogging friend Melanie from Jellybean Angel had sent me a Christmas surprise. Since it wasn't long until Christmas, I decided to wait until Christmas Day (today) to open my package. Hubby was right there with as much curiosity as I had. This is the wonderful array of goodies I found when I opened all the individually wrapped gifts...

The gorgeous rose print in the background is an adorable Cath Kidston print totebag made for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Then there were the makings of some "pamper time" with pink bathing roses, a tealight, some mint hot chocolate mix and a box of after dinner mint chocolate leaves. And the pink bathing roses are in my favorite rose scent--the smell of my Grammy's dressing table when I was a little girl.

How does Melanie know me SO well even though we've never met in person? Blogging, I guess. Somehow through the exchange of tidbits of life, we have to opportunity to get to know others in a way that is special.

What Melanie didn't know is that I've been having issues with my sciatic nerve on the right side of my body. This "pamper time" surprise is a reminder to me to take some time out and soak in a nice hot bath and let my body relax and heal. Thank you, Melanie!!!!!

As an addendum to this post (the rest of the story)...

In the midst of opening my goodie box, the kitties had to see what the crinkling and crunching of paper was all about. Of course, Dee Dee (the matriarch kitty of the house) had to be right up in everything. When it came time to photograph the goodies, she kept wanting to get in the middle of everything to touch it, sniff it, and generally be in the way (as Dee Dee does). Hubby was armed with canned air and spritzed her numerous times as he told her she wasn't allowed up on my worktable where I was shooting. This turned into a war of the wills, as Dee Dee insisted that she HAD to be in the middle of everything. She protested vocally repeatedly in her meow that is reserved for temper tantrums. I finally got the shots, and then Dee Dee was allowed to come up and sniff again. She promptly layed down on top of all the spent wrapping paper and gave Hubby "the look". And here it is...

And then Dee Dee gave me another of her "looks" for good measure...

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Winter Garden Update

Some of you may remember when I posted about putting in a new raised bed just outside our front door for our winter garden (it was back in October). Well, today I realized that I hadn't posted any updates about it and thought it was high time I did.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how well all the seeds have done. I'm usually not very good at growing stuff from seed, but this time I did something right. Tah-dah!

I do the "cut-and-come-again" method of harvesting lettuce so this 4'x8' raised planter has been providing us with WONDERFUL salad greens for about a month. And it's still going strong! It's great to have Hubby say, "I'm making chinese chicken salad. Can you go harvest some lettuce?" And I walk right out the front door with the salad spinner bowl in hand, pick the greens I want, and bring them back inside to be prepped by Hubby.

Don't let all this greenery fool you into thinking that it's warm here, because it isn't. There's a daytime chill in the air and our overnight temps often dip below freezing. Lettuce and other winter greens love this kind of weather. They produce buttery tasting leaves that simply melt in your mouth.

Intermingled among the rows of lettuce are other winter veggies such as broccoli, scallions, parsley, and snap peas. I also planted a row of bread seed poppies that are doing very well and getting big enough that they will hopefully bloom soon. Once they've gone to seed, we'll harvest the poppy seeds for garnishing bread and other things.

I think the most exciting thing about this whole endeavor (other than the fact that the seeds grew), is that I've been able to grow everything without the use of any pesticides, herbicides, or snail/slug bait. The only deterrent I've used is some metal fencing material I had. It has kept the neighborhood kitties and other critters out of the soil.

I really don't know exactly how many varieties of lettuce are growing right now. There must be at least 7-8 different ones. There were some seed packets that were mixes of winter greens, so it's hard to say. Regardless, all of them are yummy in their wholesome freshness. I wish I could share some with each of you!
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Christmas in California's Wine Country

Last week, my sister called and wanted me to shoot their family portraits for this Christmas season. They only live about 40 miles south of us, so the drive is short and always well worth it. But thanks to viruses in her household, the photo shoot had to be postponed. Finally, today looked like a good day. The weather seemed to be cooperating, and so did the kids' colds so I trucked my way down there as soon as I got the call from Sis. Once I was there and everyone was dressed in their portrait-wear, my brother-in-law (Mr. Architect) made the wonderful suggestion that the family portraits be shot out in the vineyards that are only a mile or two from their home.

Sis and Mr. Architect live in one of the Northern California valleys that rivals Napa Valley as being a world-renowned producer of wine grapes. It is also the valley wherein is nestled my hometown. It has been "the soil" that has produced me, my childhood, my young adulthood, and that of my siblings--something of far more value than wine grapes. Even though our family are all devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and, therefore, don't drink any wine or alcohol) there is a deep familial connection with the beauty of the vineyards that we've grown to love as we've grown up around them. Now my niece and nephew are getting that same wonderful opportunity of living in a valley with a rich heritage in vitriculture. It seemed the fitting place for a family portrait.

Mr. Architect's idea was "golden" in more ways than one. The vineyards have been harvested for the year, and the leaves that are left are turning lovely amber shades in the cool December air. It was so picturesque. We only had to pull over to the side of the road and walk less than 100 yards to be in the midst of all the beauty.

The kids were the first to spot the unharvested grapes still on the vine. I immediately jumped on the chance to photograph them in the beautiful late afternoon sun. The depth of the color of the grapes was so amazing. The shot above is straight out of the camera with only my copyright banner added. I couldn't change it one smidgen in post-processing, because it was so gorgeous as it was.

As we strolled the outskirts of the vineyards, we spotted three jack rabbits as they leaped and bounded from row to row in the interior of the vineyards and eventually sprang over the rolling hillside. It is serendipitous moments like this that have always made me happy when I see a new vineyard go in instead of a new subdivision.

The portrait session was a delight without any hiccups or whining (that's what happens when kids grow older than the age of 5). Although the posed family portraits are being reserved for Christmas cards to be sent out by Sis, I did want to share a wonderful candid shot of the family as they walked in the vineyard from one posing spot to another.

Yes, this is the epitome of a Christmas in California's beautiful wine country. It's why my heart will always be here despite our lack of white Christmases.
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Juxtapositions of a Bay Area December

Yesterday's dark and dreary weather made it seem as if the sun never came out. The outside temperature never made it past 39F (3.9C) which is very unusual for this climate. But we were getting hit with one of the arctic blasts we get at least once a winter. The snow elevation dropped and there was snow on the higher hills around the San Francisco Bay Area. The rain was icy cold. The sky was dark. And the humid chill cut right to the bone.

So when today dawned bright and beautiful, I was glad I had an excuse to get out of the studio. I had an appointment for a routine mammogram this afternoon (I've rescheduled it twice over the past month). I toted my camera along so I could be on the lookout for pretty shots. I knew people would wonder why I had my rig around my neck as I headed into the Kaiser medical center, but frankly I didn't care.

I took a wrong turn trying to find the imaging center and ended up on the wrong floor down a dead-end hall with a beautiful floor-to-ceiling window at the end. This is the gorgeous view that I found...

Click to see image larger

This is the quintessential shot to show the odd juxtapositions that exist in our wonderful (and weird) Bay Area climate. In the background, you can see the snow-capped tips of Mount Diablo peeking out. And in the foreground, you can see one of our rolling hills that turn green as soon as the winter rains come after spending a summer the color of spun gold.

The plantings around the Kaiser facility here in town are really beautiful. The gardeners have wisely chosen drought-tolerant plants that will subsist through our hot dry summers, while handling the occasional dip in temps during the winter. I was immediately drawn to this gorgeous salvia that is in full bloom today...

And then the gorgeous red of a geranium and the bold yellow of a marguerite both simply dazzling in the sunshine...

Yet, overhead most of the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees with only just a few hanging on...

And then there was the snow-capped peak of Mount Diablo hovering on the horizon as I drove around running other errands after my appointment--a reminder that despite the beautiful flowers I found here and there, it really is winter.

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We know it's Christmas-time when...

...we find the kitties cuddling and huddling close together because of the chill in the air.

Sometimes they are cuddling in front of the fire...

Dee Dee (left) and Suzette (right)

Sometimes we find them huddling on some interesting surface pretending that a lamp is the sun shining through a window...

Left to right: Thomasina, Dee Dee, and Gus Gus

And sometimes it's just one big kitty pile-up..

Gus Gus (left) and Dee Dee (right)
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A year with Lucy

December 13th marks the one year anniversary of when little Lucy Maud came into our lives. The past few days, I've been reflecting on the journey that we've taken with her over this past year. And since many of you shared the journey with us here from Day One, I thought it was only appropriate to do a "retrospective" here on the blog--complete with links to the original posts.

Speaking of Day One...

Little Lucy Maud (know as "Skate" at the time--short for Stray Cat 8) was found freezing and sick in the middle of the street by one of my seminary students at 6:15 AM. It had been the coldest night of the year with temps dipping below freezing. Little Lucy almost didn't make it. Thankfully, she was rescued by a "knight in shining armor" (actually I believe he was riding in a Volkswagen van) just in the nick of time, and I sped her off to the vet. The above photo is what she looked like the first evening.

Day 1
(Dec. 15, 2007)

(Dec. 18, 2007)

Look at that cute spotty tummy! Envisioning that cute spotty tummy has gotten me through some pretty stressful health experiences this past year.

Day 9
(Dec. 22, 2007)
Day 15
("Skate" becomes Lucy Maud)

Even at Day 50 she could still squeeze into her little heated bed
(Feb. 22, 2008)

There were many firsts for Lucy, like:
And then there is Lucy's ongoing fascination with all things electronic, including her quest to get "The Thing" (my Auntie was privileged to witness a replay of this when she was here):

Lucy is a highly intelligent (and therefore mischievous) little cat that remains petite in frame and big in personality. As with the other cats in the household, we finally came up with a "theme song" for her. I will close this post with the lyrics to her song and a montage of images showing the quintessential Lucy:

Lucy Maud Theme
(sung to modified tune of Casper the Friendly Ghost--lilting like a 50s TV commercial)

Lucy Maud...
Is the silliest cat we know...

With her curved "play tail"...
And her spotty fur...

And the longest toes that you've seen...

Lucy Maud...
Here comes Lucy Maud...


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Peach and Green

Many moons ago when I was in high school, by favorite color combination was peach and green. Hence, my junior prom dress was green, and my senior prom dress ended up being peach.

In my 20's, I still loved the color combination so much that I chose to do all my Christmas decorations in peach and green. My Christmas tree was decorated with off-white lacy things; gold ornaments; cream, peach, and pale green glass balls; and other girlie things.

Somewhere in my mid-20's, I switched my Christmas color scheme completely to embrace my new favorite color combination of plum, rose, and green. But deep down inside, if I see peach and green together it makes me happy.

When I was in the garden last week and saw the Abraham Darby rose blooming in front of the russet pink of the hydrangea, I took a photo of it. Little did I realize when I took the shot, that it was going to be peach and green--which I was very pleasantly surprised to discover when I was post-processing the shot.

I was so pleased that I decided to play with the shot and turn it into an art piece. So I combined the above photo with a sepia version of the texture below (it's a rock that's out in our garden):

Then I did some drawing with light and shadow on my digital tablet, and I eventually got a "colored pencil" piece that turned out like this:

I guess in a way, I've come back around to peach and green and Christmas time haven't I?
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The "Fever" has come early this year...

Last year I wrote about the "illness" that strikes me usually some time in January. This year, it has come early. I've got Hawaii Fever.

Since I can't spend the next 2 months sitting here (can't afford that by any stretch of the imagination)...

...I have to improvise as best I can. I have a chaise lounge out in the back garden. On days when there's sun, I bundle up in as many layers as is necessary to keep the cold out (sometimes more than less) and I go out to the chaise. I position it to face the sun fully, and stretch out. I close my eyes. If there isn't any wind, the warmth of the sun builds up on my face and it feels like I'm really there in Hawaii. I've got the sound of the pond waterfall to even help with the ambiance.

I was chatting with a friend today at church about my having Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Hubby has filled the entire house with full spectrum light bulbs and bought me a SAD light box. There are evenings when I will sit on the couch with the shade of a reading lamp positioned right over my head like I'm the life of the party with a lampshade on my head. I sit there drinking in the warmth of the full spectrum bulb. Still, there is really nothing better than good ole' sunshine.

As the days gets shorter and shorter, I can feel the yearning for sun increasing. I count down the days until the shortest day of the year, and am so glad when it finally arrives because I can gleefully anticipate that each day from that point on will get longer.

Some may think that living here in Northern California should make SAD a piece of cake, but it really doesn't. It just makes it better than living somewhere farther north where the days are even shorter. We still live far from the equator, and we still get our form of winter (yesterday's high was 45F, and it was a humid nippy 45F at that). I know some colder climates that get snow but have much more winter sun than we do because the air is crisp and clear. Our Christmases are foggy ones with the night air coming in like a dense cold blanket. Looking at Christmas lights through fog is the quintessential image of a Bay Area Christmas for me.

Over 20 years ago, I lived in Hawaii for 3 1/2 months while going to school on the island of O'ahu at the campus of BYU-Hawaii. The days don't fluctuate all that much in length during the year--not as much as here. My fondest December memory was sitting on Temple Beach on North Shore under a full moon with my feet buried in the sand, while a group of us were gathered singing Christmas carols to the accompaniment of a guitar. It was wonderful... and strange too. When I came home halfway through December, I stepped off the plane into the cool reality of San Francisco--and promptly contracted a case of laryngitis.

Since that time, I get Hawaii Fever every winter. This year it has come earlier than usual, but I know to expect it nonetheless. "Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say..." man, do I wish I was there.
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"The Gift" available in prints

After I posted "The Gift" earlier this week, Heidi at Dunhaven Place wondered if I had prints available. Well, thanks to Heidi's request, I've now made "The Gift" available in matted art prints at my online store. Head on over there if you're interested. And thanks, Heidi!
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The look... of love... is in... your eyes...

The look... of love... is in... your eyes
Photo taken Nov 29, 2008, Fresno Zoo

So I approached this bear's habitat at the zoo. The bear's back was to me. There was no one else there observing--just me. I moved around the edge, so I could see the bear's face better. It was dozing with its nose in the air, and its head bobbing to one side and then the other. Then, as if it sensed me there, it woke up and slowly lolled its head back and looked straight at me. It was the sweetest and most gentle look. It was touching... and sad. I kinda wish the bear didn't have to be there.
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The Gift

The Gift (still life)
The Gift (still life) by Cindy Iverson (me)
Texture from playingwithbrushes.

Each day I have such a multi-faceted, odd, and eclectic daily "to do" list. Yesterday, I was post-processing photographs and making rose photographs into "vintage" illustrations. Today, I was out in the back garden with a circular saw cutting up the remains of the lumber that used to be the shed.

I used to think that I was the weirdest woman in the world and that no one could possibly "get me" except my nutty family and my adorable Hubby. That was before I discovered the world of blogging. The "blogosphere" has provided me with an invaluable gift--the gift of feeling a sense of belonging. I've found woman after woman that "get me". Women that love their gardens and kitties as much as I do. Women that like to be girlie sometimes, but can also swing a sledgehammer or axe with the best of them.

Following the example of Jen at Muddy Boot Dreams
(a photographer whose work I really admire), I ventured into a new uncharted territory last month--the land of Flickr. I'm so glad I did! I have found so much creative inspiration that ideas are flowing out of me often faster than I can execute them. And I not only have gained inspiration from countless creative individuals on Flickr, the forum also provides me a place where I can share my work with peers that can give me some really important creative feedback. It kinda feels like I'm in art school again. All those feelings of endless creative horizons that I used to have so long ago have come back. It's truly wonderful.

I know that there are many evils being perpetuated with the modern technology of the internet and its related technologies, but I can't help but see this technology as an amazing gift and choice blessing. It adds a richness and dimension to my life that otherwise wouldn't be there. And most of all, I have a feeling that I belong to wide and wonderful communities that understand my passions and accept my eclectic "weirdness". That feeling of belonging is the greatest gift. It's something I've searched for my whole life. And, thankfully, I've been blessed to find it.
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What's New at My Etsy Store

I've been busy getting up-to-speed with a wonderful new piece of production equipment that lets me produce my own digitally printed work. It's been an adventure, I must say. But in the process, I was able to produce some cards and gift tags with my latest work on them that I actually like (and I'm really hard to please when it comes to reproducing my own work). Hubby and I both agree that the digital printer does a beautiful job. I'm so happy! The semi-gloss cards feel smooth and satiny to the touch and look like I had to send them out to a 4-color printer. It also means that I can now produce my work in-house at my own prices instead of being at the mercy of those print-on-demand outfits that do digital printing but charge WAY too much. I'm really thrilled about that.

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade
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Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo...

Does anyone else remember the tune by Peter, Paul, and Mary that went, "We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too. We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo."? That song has been stuck in my head this past weekend (still is, in fact) ever since we headed off to the Fresno Zoo during our Thanksgiving holiday weekend visit with Hubby's family.

I don't recall having gone to the Fresno Zoo before, so it was a new adventure for me (and Hubby too, I think). It's a smaller sized zoo and those kinds of zoos suit me best. I like to stop and observe the animals for long periods of time. So the less there is to see the more I can feel fine about leisurely standing and watching each animal.

It's also a very well-kept and well-designed zoo that has great enclosures and habitats for the animals that live there. It makes me happy when I see a zoo like this. I don't like the thought that the animals are in captivity in the first place, so if they are in well-designed habitats it makes me feel better and happier for them.

I was surprised that there were at least two walk-through aviaries where we could get buzzed by squawking lorakeets and be almost nose-to-nose with a beautiful cockatoo. To be inside the habitat without barriers between me and the birds was wonderful. I always enjoy walking through large aviaries.

Digitially created art photo by Cindy Iverson
Click the image to view larger

Not surprisingly, I found myself photographing more flowers and greenery than animals. What's the old adage? You can take the gardener/photographer to the zoo, but you can't lead her to the monkeys... wait, wait, wait... You can take the gardener/photographer to the zoo, but you can't take the animal out of the photographer... no? Oh well. You get the picture.

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I've loved you back to life...

When we came to live at Rosehaven Cottage (before it became Rosehaven Cottage) things were pretty barren around the non-existent gardens. There were a few rosebushes around the property that had been hacked off (some to the ground) along with a pomegranate that had also received the same treatment.

One rose that grows along our fence line was chopped to the ground. I didn't even know it was there until it started sending its canes forth as if to say it still wanted to live. Now, gardening wisdom always tells us gardeners that roses which grow from root stock won't be very spectacular in looks or aroma. Something inside told me to ignore that old gardeners' wisdom. I let this one grow from the canes it was sending up.

I'm glad I did.

This lovely pink rose (of unknown variety) rewards me every year with unseasonal blooms. So when the rest of the garden is bleak looking, there will be these amazing, large, pink, blooms beckoning to me from the back of the garden. The bloom pictured above was offered to me on Christmas Day 2007. Talk about a wonderful Christmas gift from the garden!

This rose is an old rose. At its base, I unearthed a dedicatory plaque that the former owners had put in to celebrate the construction of a covered lanai that we've since had to take down. The plaque reads 1961. I imagine that the rose was planted with the plaque and is over 40 years old now. It's seen a lot, I'm sure.

Our neighbor (that has been here since 1961) told us that the back of our garden used to have a Hawaiian theme with a small rock waterfall and the lanai. That must have been what the pink rose was planted into. But all the Hawaiian beauty was in ruins when we arrived and completely unrecognizable. However, now that part of the garden has become MY "Hawaii garden". The pink rose must find this very interesting that things have come round full circle.

As I was creating the above image I thought it deserved a vintage look.
A big thank you for the old paper texture from playingwithbrushes.
A second texture is from PhotoshopRoadmap.
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Time... a serendipitous still life

Click on image to view larger

The above photographic art image (that I created this week) has an interesting story behind it that I thought I'd share along with the image...

I happened to be in the neighborhood of my husband's office on Tuesday (his office is about a 35-40 minute drive from our home). He hadn't expected me to be out and about, but was so excited that I was in the vicinity, he wanted me to drop by his office so he could see me (can you tell we're best friends?). He told me he only had just a "little bit more work to do", and then he was going to leave the office for the day.

Well, "a little bit" turned into "a lot bit" as I sat there in an extra chair feeling like a bored 5 year old. I had my camera with me, so I started looking around his office at what I could possibly use to do some experimental shots to pass the time. He has a cool little battery-powered desk clock that was a great candidate. Then I found little tidy cluster of artificial May Day flowers pinned on his bulletin board.

Hubby has a large shiny black metal office cabinet in the corner of his office (the only other piece of furniture besides his work surface). He doesn't have anything on the top shelf so that was just screaming to be used as my "studio".

I set up my still life on the empty shelf turned "studio" and with the fluorescent overhead office lighting as my only light source, I starting shooting. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the image in preview mode (I shoot with a Sony a100 DSLR), and the shots looked like they'd been shot in a studio!

I just love when "photographic serendipity" happens! This is how it looked...

Click on image to view larger

Well, I liked one shot so much that I wanted to turn it into a still life "painting". After I got home, I used the technology of Photoshop to add layers of textures. I also used my digital drawing tablet to add the painterly touches of light and shadow.

I'm learning that although there is some amazing technology out there, like Photoshop, it doesn't make a piece of art unless it is used in an artistic way akin to the same things I learned in art school before we had computers. With the digital tablet (a 12" Wacom Cintiq that feels like a sketchpad in my hands), I'm able to use the technology in the same way I do a brush, pen or pencil. The stylus feels so natural in my hand after all the years of producing art the traditional ways. It responds to my hand pressure and my hand stroke. I can finesse the painting out of a photograph that way. It wouldn't work with a mouse. And there's no "quick fix" to make it happen. I am still using the same techniques as I learned in art school. I'm just using new tools! So cool!

As my sister pointed out this week, I've discovered a new art form for myself. And, boy, am I having some fun!

Two of the three textures are from playingwithbrushes--
Old Hanky Box and Vintage Background for Portraits.
The third texture is from PhotoshopRoadmap.

This image is copyrighted.
Copying and/or distribution is strictly prohibited without express written permission.
If you want to use, ask me... I may just say yes. :-)

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© 2007-2015 All rights reserved by Cindy Garber Iverson.
All images, photos and writing
(unless otherwise noted)
belong to Cindy Garber Iverson.
Use of content in digital or print form is strictly forbidden without written consent.
Just ask... I may say "yes".
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