Where The Magic Happens

I'm still trying to see if this blogging thing is going to stick.

Always thinking and researching for an interesting topic, I thought I would continue on this path of sharing a little sneak peak of my world (note, I tried this last year as well).  

I try to go out with my camera at least once a week.  I like to shoot outside.  I have a thing for natural light, a) it's free, b) it's really hard to duplicate inside and c) it's free.  This of course limits my creativity to when the weather is nice.  

I shoot a lot.

I figure it's the law of averages.

Something will certainly be worthy.  

I dump all my photos into Lightroom and start processing from there.

Lightroom

Lightroom

I go through the photos I like, decide what I want to work on, and save the rest for later.  My next step is to open up Adobe Photoshop and start working on the images I like.

Unedited shot

Unedited shot

I usually start at the image for awhile and decide where I want to go from here.  What is the feeling I want to convey?  What was it about this shot that I liked?  Where do I see the finish?  Actually that is way deeper than I ever get.  I loved the contrast of the yellow on the red.  I liked the point of view I chose and I thought I could really do some cool techniques to enhance this.  

The first thing I did was remove the background and crop it in.  I just want to focus on the flower.

Background removed

Background removed

I like to work in layers.  I usually create multiple layers and import each layer in to different Topaz programs to create textures.

In Topaz Glow2

In Topaz Glow2

I have a "favorites" panel of all the techniques I like the most and try different ones until I get the look I want.

After putting everything back together in Photoshop, I play with the transparency levels of each layer.  I make a few more adjustments, and...

decide where I'm going with it.

Clock

Clock

I think it's kind of fun on a clock.  What about you?

Do you love it?  Clocks are available in my online boutique at Society6.  https://society6.com/jessicamanelis 

How It All Started.

If you follow my blog posts (and don't worry if you haven't, because truth be told I've spent about the last year and half debating if I should be blogging in the first place), you would have read my post about that awkward moment when I tell people what I "do".  Once that moment is over, the next question is usually, "when did you start doing that?"

Exploring my creative side

Exploring my creative side

Let me explain.

As with most college students, when I was getting ready to graduate, my plan was to take over the world...with my art of course.  I set out to be a freelance illustrator.  I made countless appointments and schlepped my portfolio to art directors upon art directors; anyone within a 50 mile radius of Philadelphia.  Although I got a few jobs here and there, I found most art directors didn't really understand my work at the time.  And, if steady work wasn't going to come in soon, I was going to have to go in to survival mode.  So, I got a full-time job as a graphic designer.  I worked an agency for a few years, and while there, I got married, moved to New jersey and my 90 minute commute turned in to a three hour commute.

That got old fast.

So I quit.

My husband and I started a family and I started doing odd jobs on a part-time basis to help ease finances, fitting things in around nap times and when I could conveniently get a sitter.  As my kids got older and my time freer, there of getting back in to "my art" was whispering min my ear.

Since I had been out of the loop for a little while, I knew I had to spruce up my portfolio.  I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures of anything and everything I thought I could use for reference photos for future art projects.  You know, what does a kid eating ice cream look like, or a chair with a pillow on it taken in every conceivable angle.

The things is, I realized I liked taking the pictures more than trying to reproduce them in another media. I found myself composing, cropping and enhancing, and a new art form was born.

Over the years, probably about 10 or so, I've experimented with different subjects and different techniques.  I like where I am now, but I never stop learning.  So stick around, because you never know when something new and unusual is going to pop up!

 

Love The Life You Live

Before I set out to write my blog posts, I think all week prior about what I want to write.

Notice how it's been a couple of weeks since I posted?  I couldn't think of anything good to write.

I realized I just had to say "no".

When you are an artist and your time is your own, it's hard to rationalize "taking off".  Off from what?  Isn't every day, every week a week when you do whatever you want?

Not when you are trying to brand yourself and start a business.

But I decided that last week was the week I was going to just throw everything up in the air and change my routine.  Monday was the 4th of July and every year we have a huge BBQ.  The fun-ness for me varies from year to year, but I bring that on myself.  For the balance of the week I had planned to recharge my creative juices and every morning I was going to visit a different spot I enjoy taking pictures and spend every afternoon regrouping, recharging and unplug while lounging by the pool.

Tuesday it rained.

Thursday afternoon I had to drive my mother-in-law to the airport.

Friday I had to attend a funeral.

So much for regrouping, recharging and unplugging.

Maybe round two?

Sometimes Life Isn't That Light

When I decided to start blogging on a regular basis, I wanted to keep it light.  Life, but light.

Unfortunately life sometimes isn't that light.

As a mom, all I have ever wanted to do is make my kids happy.  If they were happy, I was happy.  Naturally as child rearing would go, there were some unhappy days.  But, I'm not talking about creating a frenzy because I said "no" to ice cream for dinner.

I'm talking about real world shit.

After spending an enjoyable Father's Day brunch with family, a relaxing afternoon by the pool, a great work-out at the gym, Sunday was sizing up to be just another day in the books.

Until my son came barreling up the stairs with a look of horror and distraught in his eyes.  He had just learned that a friend from school, someone he may have only know for a couple of years, but someone he became fast friends with, frat brothers, only 20 years old, was a victim in a car accident and passed away.

I didn't have words.  I just held my son as he cried and shook from shock in my arms.  I couldn't change it.  I couldn't fix it.  I couldn't make it go away.  I cried too.

As I sat watching him texting his friends, reaching for comfort and trying to process this tragedy, I realized my 20 year old can-you-get-me-a-drink-what's-for-dinner-I-need-more-socks-from-Target son just became a man.  I cried again.

Tell someone you love them today and make sure you tell them why.

Just Two Questions

There are two questions I always dread being asked.  The first, what do you do?  Meaning, where do you work?  The reaction I get to the response I give--I'm a Mom.  I stay home with my kids, is usually met by an Oh, and then the conversation comes to a screeching halt, like some how my intelligence level has dropped to a two and now we can no longer have a meaningful conversation.

Twenty years ago, my husband and I decided it was more important for me to to stay home and be a mom to our children, and therefore make whatever financial sacrifices that were necessary.  However, at the time, if you weren't a corporate power female, then you must be June Clever.  Now apparently, staying home and raising your children is all the rage.

When my kids were still young and basically babies and therefore home all the time, the notion of staying home was easier to wrap your head around.  But, since they have been in school full time and better yet, almost off on their own, the second question that usually follows the what do you do? question is even better--so what do you do all day?

So I thought it would be fun to tell you what I, a stay at home mom, do in a typical day...

After only getting about four hours of sleep the night before due to a sick dog with a parasite induced digestive problem, and a snoring husband, my day started at 3:30 am.  I was woken up by said dog, barking to go out as a result of the parasite induced digestive problem.  However, upon running downstairs as fast as possible to avoid any potty issues, I discovered that two of my three dogs managed to get out of their crates (one quite mysteriously) and was confronted by what I can only describe as a poop massacre (if you have either babies or pets, this visual does not phase you).  I spent a half an hour cleaning up, replacing dog beds and mopping the floor...twice.  

I then crawled back in to bed and wished myself to fall back asleep.  I proved to myself that wishes do not come true and was still awake when my alarm went off at 4:20 am.

I got up.                                                                                                                                    

I got dressed.                                                                                                                                            

I went to the gym.

I came home from the gym to find my husband up (not the norm) and all three dogs already outside.  I changed out of my sweaty gym clothes, wished my son good luck on the first day of his summer internship, grabbed the youngest dog and off we went to the vet clinic by 7:15 am, where he was to be emasculated.  I returned home and decided the floor needed to be mopped again.  I straightened up the kitchen, fed the fish, cleaned the filters in the pond and pool and called the vet to make an appointment for the other dogs parasitic digestive issue.   I then took two dogs for a walk and by the time we returned it was still only 9:30 am.

Perfect!  I had one hour before the vet showed up.

I checked emails, refilled my daughters prescription, looked at her senior portraits and made sure there were no glaring changes needed to this website.  The vet showed up at 10:30 am and by 10:55 am I was on my way to Target and the bank.  The banked proved to be aggravating.   After about 20 minutes of waiting in the drive-up window line, I left.

Since Summer has officially begun, the game has changed a bit for me.  I'm a little obsessive about sitting outside in the sun on a beautiful, warm or even hot sunny day, and today certainly qualified.  Given the weekend was pretty shitty weather wise and I was probably in need of a power nap given the time I woke up, I was not going to pass this day up.  On came the sunblock, and bathing suit and out came me to lounge on the floaty in my pool.  It's actually a great way for me to let my mind go free and really gel all my ideas for what is happening in my life.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and I thought it would be a good idea to clean up before I went to pick up the emasculated puppy.  I left a little early so I could go back to the bank.  The dog needed to be picked up by 3:30 pm and the bank closes at 4:00 pm.  For sure I thought I would pass a bank branch on the way down strip mall alley, but no such luck.  I picked up the dog, listened to the CYS (cover your ass) instructions and gps-ed the closest bank branch.  I made it with 10 minutes to spare.  

When I got home I had a texting argument with my daughter about what was for dinner. This was all while she was playing hooky at the beach with her friends.  When she got home from the beach we argued about dinner in person.  I still made dinner and also picked up wings.  After dinner everyone, and I mean everyone, immediately dispersed and I cleaned up the kitchen by myself.  It's my least favorite thing to do.

And now, it is 8:00 pm.  I am sitting here, writing this blog post outside on my back deck, watching my dogs play and acting as the buffet for mosquitoes.  I'm thinking about my other blog-site (yes, I have another one I am currently ignoring) and maybe revamping it (so I stop ignoring it).  Next I have to go upstairs, finish putting my laundry away and get ready for tomorrow.

What did you do today?

 

5 People To Follow For Creative Inspiration

If you have been following my blog, by now you have realized that I get a lot of my inspiration from walking around outdoors.  On a stunningly gorgeous day, it's the shit.  However, I live in the Northeast, where we experience all 4 seasons, so somewhere around mid-November up until usually about April, outdoors is not fun.

I have to look for inspiration else where.

The following is list of some artists and creative people I find inspiring...

Linda Szabo is a photographer whose work I love.  Her botanicals are gorgeous.  I recently took one of her online workshops and it was worth every minute.  You will probably start to see her inspiration in my work.  Her website is www.lindaszabophotography.virb.com.

Mike Moats is another photographer I follow, admire and have learned from.  He is an amazing macro photographer.  I've taken one of his macro workshops as well.  Visit his website at www.tinylandscapes.com.

I follow Andrew Scrivani on Instagram (@andrewscrivani).  He is an amazing food photographer.  Really creative.

I follow Cherie Bosela on Facebook.  www.facebook.com/CherieBosela.MixedMediaArtist/  She is a fantastic mosaic artist.  She combines photography and other mixed media items in her work.

Another great way to get inspiration is to follow a gallery.  I recently started following a social media gallery (I'm not exactly sure what that is).  Toxic Tins Gallery.  There Facebook is www.facebook.com/toxictinsgallery/  They appear to be local to me and even organize photography meet-ups.  I haven't been to one yet, but hopefully over the summer.

Pinterest is a great place for inspiration.  I have several boards dedicated to art inspiration.  If you want to follow my Pinterest Boards, try one of these..Crafty Things I Want To Try https://www.pinterest.com/jessicakman/crafty-things-i-want-to-try/   Art I Love https://www.pinterest.com/jessicakman/art-i-love/  Things From My Very Creative Friends https://www.pinterest.com/jessicakman/things-from-my-very-creative-friends/ and Cool Art https://www.pinterest.com/jessicamanelis/cool-art/

 

 

 

Boredom Is A Creative Killer

Now you know what my work space looks like.   It's a messy office, probably similar to yours.  How could I possibly be creative in that environment?  

Well, first I thrive in chaos.  Second, I leave the chaos behind.

I love an adventure.  When my kids were young, it was easy to go on adventures.  A ride to the zoo, or to go apple picking at the farm.  Once they got older, their friends (or quite honestly the tv) became more fun than my adventures.  I got bored.  Boredom is a creative killer.  I had to do something.  So, I started going on my own adventures, camera in hand.

Within 45 miles and no more than hour away; It's for me!

I have a list on my phone of interesting botanical gardens, public gardens and nature walks.  I pay to go on photo walks and I have recently found an Instagram meet-up group called South Jersey Adventures.  Meet-ups are great, because although I like going on adventures, I occasionally feel very conspicuous when I am alone.  There IS power in numbers.

For instance I recently went back to a place I have brought my camera before, the Morven Museum in Princeton, NJ.  I have no interest in the museum, however they have an 18th century English garden, that appears to be open without actually paying admission.  I went there about a year ago and took some great shots of the flowers in the garden.  This time around, they were setting up a huge tent for an outdoor party and there were a lot of gardening fellows digging around, so I turned around and left.  I headed to the President's Garden at Princeton University, a spot I found on a photo walk I took through the Digital Photo Academy about 2 years ago.  Still felt a little conspicuous, but there weren't too many people around staring.

Taken at the Morven Museum

Taken at the Morven Museum

Once I am home again, I upload my images to Adobe Lightroom and then the fun begins.  I choose which photos I like and start processing them in Lightroom.  Then I move them in to Adobe Photoshop where I further work with them using a variety of filters and textures and layers.  I play and add layers upon layers until I get the desired masterpiece I am after (well, hardly a masterpiece, but come on it is fun to say).

Then time to share it with the world!

Some places I like to shoot are: Chanticleer Gardens, Jenkins Arboretum, Leaming's Run Garden, Longwood Gardens, Grounds For Sculpture, and Hortulus Farm.   I'm up for suggestions. 

 

Behind The Scenes: The Making Of A Flower

I'm mostly a private person.  I don't like to put myself out there.  I think it's mostly because I am a little embarrassed, lack some self confidence and feel that people are just going to think I am an idiot for thinking I have any talent.

So, this is about as out of my comfort zone as I can get.  A behind the scenes look at part of what makes me, me.

my office space

my office space

I have a little room downstairs in my basement where the magic happens (just kidding, but not really).  To the left is my art table.  It was a really big deal when I bought this.  It was a bit expensive, but I had to have it because I thought it would make me feel more like an artist.   It mostly houses a variety of art supplies I also had to have, but actually never use, because I thought it would make me feel more like an artist.  I do create mosaics.  You can see my completed mosaic mirror/planter sitting on top.  Mosaics are my therapy.  

At the end of the room is my filing cabinet that contains the picture file I started in college.  What's a picture file you ask?  Well boys and girls, back in the olden days, PI (pre-internet), we had to actually cut pictures out of magazines to use as reference photos.  For some reason I can't seem to let go of them.  It must be the hoarder in me.

You can see my computer.  I have an enormous screen and I love it!  It is surrounded by a calendar, a note pad and a bunch a random pieces of paper with lists and ideas, that I will eventually look through to find what I was thinking about last week, but won't find because I probably threw it away.

work in progress

work in progress

I have two printers, a Wacom tablet a fax machine and as you can see on the right several framed photographs from previous gallery exhibitions stacked against the wall.  

They are all for sale.  (plug, plug, plug)

Today I am updating my website, looking for exhibitions to enter, balancing my check book, laundry and writing a press release.

What's on your plate?