Valarie's Blog

Friday, June 18, 2010

15 FastScraps Templates in the store!

Wow... I guess I am taking a page from Anna Aspnes and first making stuff that *I* need and want to work with, then setting it up to sell. I love how she is true to her family first when she makes photobooks, and then puts the tested items up for sale. :) She is truly a wonderful teacher!

So, currently being a linear-graphic-wanna-jam-tons-of-photos-on-one-page person (LOL), I have been creating templates in Photoshop to use for my own pages and then sell in the store.

So far, people seem to like them and think they will be useful, and for that I am very happy. That's the whole point. No reason to packrat and just collect kits and things because you might need them someday. Do much of that, and a computer fast becomes as cluttered as a house can. I really need to know that what I am creating has value in usefulness.

I have been neglecting both of my classes, but they are touted as self-paced, and nobody seems to have a problem with some of us being behind. I find that I work best with a solid deadline, and in big chunks of inspired time. Haven't been inspired to work on the photography class, though I figured I'd consider it more of a reference than anything. I regret that the other class is the one that has seized my passion to such an extent that I spend all of my time on it. :) But... I do need to spend some totally irresponsible time for myself in the summertime or I find I get irritated at being expected to march to someone else's beat.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Busy lately, and SICK!

Well, I said I was going to be getting back to work, but I didn't count on some things:

Becoming totally disheartened by my design work (I took a break and forgot a lot of stuff I actually did know how to do...)
My real job becoming a heavy weight on my heart. I think it's because my personal life is too empty, and it's hard to get my fulfillment in life from my job. Yeah, I need a change. In a big way, and I don't know how to make that happen. But anyway....

Oh, and I spent all of the fall and most of the winter pretty much sick as a dog! I developed pneumonia over Labor Day weekend (I won't go into what triggered it, because I'm still resentful it could have been avoided) and didn't realize how sick I was until I was well into it and presumably getting better. But... I was afraid I'd once again go to the doctor and they "couldn't find what's wrong" and they'd treat me like a hypochondriac once again. I hate that, being someone who doesn't go to the doctor unless I'm in a LOT of pain... So I thought I was getting better, then I'd relapse. I doubt a doctor could have helped. Then my allergies hit me. I got better from that and had a week's peace, then I caught a cold. I thought I was out of the woods... by the time Christmas arrived, I was SURE I was well again. Tired and weak, but well.

Nope. Right after Christmas, I got the flu. My sister was having a little family shindig for New Year's, and by then I was feverish and hurting and wasn't taking a chance on passing it on to anybody I loved. So I quarantined myself. (I was beginning to think an awful lot about The Stand at that time.) And one morning I woke up to find something so badly wrong in the upper right part of my shoulder and neck that I was having trouble moving. I think the flu germs / whatever attacked the nerves in there, because it sure did hurt and I hadn't done anything but lie around trying to rest and get well. *sigh* It took a full 6 weeks for that pain to go away, during which I had a horrible time just using my right arm and being able to turn my head.

I never did go to the doctor because when I felt my worst, I couldn't drive, and when I was feeling better, I thought I was getting well. What's the point of going to the doctor then?

Besides, I've lost all faith in doctors that treat their patients like potential drug addicts. They just don't understand. I don't WANT pills or any other drugs. I just want to get WELL! I hate the obligation that comes with taking medications, and I put off taking Tylenol because I don't want to NEED anything pharmaceutical. Hey, people who really and truly know me understand why I avoid taking anything whenever possible. I've never had a problem like that but I've known too many people that have, and I hate seeing what they have done to themselves.


I found a saving grace this spring in the classes I took online at I took Collage 101 (Renee Pearson) and Album Magic (Anna Aspnes) and they were worth every penny! More than just learning some new techniques in Photoshop, I felt like I had found a place among like-minded friends and I actually accomplished things! I finished 3 full-length+ printed photo books by the time the Album Magic class was over.

Needless to say, that really jazzed me for doing my own work. Right now, I'm into template making, and so far they seem to be selling, which makes me happy. If there's one thing I hate, it's completing a project and getting no outside validation for it. LOL I need people to approve! :)

I've shared my photobooks on Facebook and gotten positive response there.

Oooh! Last summer it became necessary to replace my no-frills flip phone (charger port broke) so I decided to get the biggest, baddest, 3GS iPhone on the market. I have loved it, and I especially love the Shutterfly app that lets me look at all the photos / layouts I've uploaded to my account. It helps me keep tabs on layouts I've completed so that I don't forget about them.

I have become forgetful, and I'm not even 40 yet. LOL I think it's stress. Yeah, I do. Successful completed projects make me happy, though, so I think I'll focus my spare time on doing that. Less Warcraft, more design.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Getting Back to Work

I realize it has been a long time since I have posted anything here in my blog, so I'm going to give it another shot. :) I also haven't done much designing in the past year, which is a shame, because I really enjoy it when I feel I'm being successful at it.

There have been a LOT of areas of my life with which I have been unhappy in recent years, and if you think a few months of random depression are bad, wait until you have had 20 years of time alone with your thoughts, and an inner critic who really does blame all of those bad events of the past on you.

My mother died unexpectedly in January, but I got to have her last two days with her, and literally in her last hour, I made my peace with her about several things, and then she was gone. I know I didn't cry much at the funeral or for a long time after that, but now I cry whenever I think about her and it doesn't show signs of ever stopping. I suppose that's just how I deal with it - put all the hurt on a shelf and push it to the back of the closet, and it eventually falls out on my head.

The conscious part of me tries to know better, but subconsciously, I really believe I should have had some kind of superhuman ability to keep bad things from happening to me. Like that gut feeling I should have been able to stop 2 different exes from trying to kill me, just for a thrill. I didn't do anything to provoke it - it was just something in their twisted little heads that led them to it. Jennifer is right... my creep meter seems to be broken. I don't actually like this type of man, and I sure as heck can't spot them early on. *sigh* Now you know why I don't date anymore. There are good ones out there... I'm just not interesting enough for them. :)

So anyway, I guess I am going back with a fresh start! I am now teaching a Technology class, which incidentally, includes teaching Photoshop CS4 to my students. Now, how about that?? I would never have dreamed of the possibility, but as luck would have it, I'm pretty decently versed in Photoshop Elements 7 now, so CS4 is going to be a subject I can shine in, and give me a feeling of confidence, once again.

I was burned out on teaching English. Yes, I will always love reading and having kids enjoy reading in my class was a huge happy boost for me. Unfortunately, most kids don't like reading, and they are downright resentful when you make them do grammar and writing, and reading they don't like. They expect high grades without earning them, and these days, some kids are savvy enough to know which lies to tell to endanger your job. And they will because they don't care if they literally ruin your life just to get out of doing homework. (I know, they'll have some serious Karma to deal with, but that doesn't help me.) There are plenty of wonderful kids out there - but those others tend to overshadow their presence. I'm an effective teacher in a wonderful school system, but knowing that isn't always enough.

Throw into the mix the understanding that literally all I have to look forward to in my day is my teaching job, and you can probably tell what kind of toll it takes on my psyche to come home from work feeling defeated. Then to get home and find critical emails about my designing work... it creates an environment of fear, and I avoid what I am afraid of. I know I need a thicker skin, but other people should consider that perhaps cutting me isn't helpful to anyone.

As a classroom teacher I KNOW how to provide a useful and caring critique without crushing someone... I wish others cared enough to do the same. And I wish they understood that I am not a stay-at-home mom with all day and all night to be working on my computer, with no worry about paying the bills. So here goes - I am a single woman, a full-time teacher, and I have to take care of everything myself, with nobody to take care of me. I LOVE designing things - it boosts my mood and gives me confidence, but all that spare time people mistakenly think I have is taken up by other things, like all the household jobs they leave to their husbands.

So hey, if you like my stuff, let me know - it keeps me designing and happy. :)

And you know something else - if I'd had a clue about what a graphic designer was, or any confidence that taking art classes in college would have been a success for me, I would probably have taken a different direction in my life. Now, oh NOW I can afford to pay for an art degree for myself, but there are no night art classes that I can get into for degree credit. *sigh* So I teach myself out of books, and never really learn to draw my own stuff...

I do not believe that online classes can really teach me how to draw or paint. (Though I know what fantastic money makers they must be for their respective schools, and that is why they put so much emphasis on them. It's like learning from a book on my computer.) It took being in a class with teachers for me to finally "get" One Stroke painting, and then I took off. There is no substitute for one-on-one interaction with a live teacher in an art class.

It feels a little bit like being stuffed into a jar and somebody putting the lid on it tightly. I can see what's out there, but I can't get to it. If somebody would just take the lid off and let me out....

Anyway, I'm trying an experiment on getting myself to think out of the box with my designing - sort of a takeoff on the journaling jar that some folks use. I can't give details right now, because it is simply a tool I'm in the process of creating for myself, to spur me along when I feel blocked.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

American Pride Stars And Stripes Alphabet

American Pride Stars And Stripes Alphabet

Show your patriotic spirit with the American Pride Stars and Stripes Alphabet!
This complete alphabet has dimensional white stars on a field of blue, on top of red and white stripes, all waving just like a flag in the wind!
The letters are all dimensional and enameled metal in appearance.

Set Contains:

Letters A – Z,
Numbers 0-9,
Punctuation Marks ? ! , . -

All files are separate for maximum program compatibility, and no external shadowing has been applied. Characters appear exactly as they do in the preview picture.

Usage suggestion: I printed these letters at 3 inches, ran them through my Xyron to laminate the front and make the back sticky, and created a neat looking farewell sign for a colleague whose National Guard unit was leaving for Iraq.

Thanks, and have fun!

Tie-Dyed Alphabet Letters in store

Oooooh Tie Dye!!!

Are you passionate about tie-dyed stuff? This alphabet set is just what you need for that colorful, creative flair on your pages and crafts. Each character is textured to look like scuffed chipboard for that touch of realism you're looking for!

In this set, you will receive:

capital letters from A-Z
numbers from 0-9, and
a variety of
punctuation marks including basic math symbols, type symbols, and even two
different brackets -- 50 characters in all!

I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoyed creating them!

These have been available in the store for little while - but as you know I'm just getting back to my blogging, so please come back soon and see what else is new!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Other stuff in the works / brain damage?

I don't know if you've noticed this or not (or even if anyone is out there reading this. haha) but I finish posts, and then come right back with more posts on different subjects. LOL Does that tell you just what a whirlwind is going on inside my head? It actually kept me from sleeping on Friday and Saturday nights.

I mean NO sleep. I was awake literally ALL night. I couldn't help it - thoughts and ideas were bouncin' around in my brain at a seriously high speed. Even last night, I had to get out of bed, find a notebook and pencil, and sketch some things out because I needed them OUT of my HEAD.

Oooh my hands are simply shaking with the possiblities! Okay, that's really low blood sugar. LOL But I bet you believed me there for a second! :D

I've been so far removed from my work at Digitals for so long that I'm going to have to ask questions of my fellow designers that I am sure are quite elementary. There have been some big (and wonderful) changes at Digitals in the past year, and I haven't fully utilized all of my own opportunities to shine there.

I also seem to have lost a bit of my memory. I blame that on the Topamax I took to prevent my migraines. After I'd been taking it for about a year, they started coming out in the open with warnings that it causes possible brain damage, such as loss in cognitive processing, as well as memory loss. Gee, thinking and remembering? Do I actually need those?

HECK YES! And now mine have been damaged - I can tell, though I believe people I work with have just chalked it all up to me suddenly losing my sanity. (When a former spelling bee winner has trouble spelling the simplest of words, you know there's a problem.) This isn't just a move into middle age. It's actual brain damage, though it is probably fairly slight, lucky for me. My headaches actually increased in frequency, duration, and severity by the time I decided to stop taking it, without even tapering it off. I just stopped there and then and decided that I'd be better off taking nothing than going through that. I do have something else to take when I do get a migraine, and 3 out of 5 times it does the trick with one dose. And other times, I've had a migraine as long as 5 days. Makes even walking pretty hellish, but that's not the point.

Keeping in mind that my memory suddenly became a sieve, I decided that the best thing for me to do when I came up with some good processes for my designs, would be to write them down. So that's another thing that I've been doing - working on my designing "recipes" book, mainly so that I won't forget again how to do some of the neat stuff I've stumbled onto in the past.

Being untrained in Photoshop Elements and again, just lucking into decent looking results, I decided to pay for some real training for myself. If only ANY college in this third of the state offered any training like that outside of a graphic arts program... Just a night class... I'd take it. But no go there, so I am on my own, and that's okay as long as I make progress. And I feel that I am.

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Coming very soon for July!

I'll be releasing several 2009 calendar designs very soon!

Quincy is quiet!

And though I know you've never met my little year-old Yorkie, you can probably understand that it's a rare moment. Normally as I'm working at the computer, he repeatedly brings me his little squeaky soccer ball to throw for him. 1 out of 10 throws, I have to retrieve it from a place it landed out of his reach, and that throws off my concentration. LOL

But he looooves to play.

If I sit in my chair to work on designing using my laptop, he walks over the keys, and assertively starts trying to lick my face, growling and snarling with all the scariness he thinks he can muster. Ooooh big bad puppy. LOL

I should create a kit and dedicate it to him. hehehe He won't get it, but I'm sure somewhere in that little intelligent brain of his, he'll appreciate it.

I'm Baaaack! LOL

It's been a really long time since I've posted in this blog. Personal and professional issues intruded into my creative life, and I'm feeling happily creative once again. As long as stress doesn't overwhelm me, I'll be creatin' up a storm!

I've found some really interesting inspiration pieces, and I feel that they will influence my creative process for the better. Now, if the publishing company hadn't waited nearly 6 weeks to ship my paid-for order to me, I'd have been working long before now. It figures that they don't care about people who order from their website. I wonder how they treat their actual subscribers? If I'd been able to buy this stuff locally, I would rather have done that, but my local Wal-Mart and other stores seem determined to squish the creative impulse out of everyone who comes in to shop.

They don't feed my need for creating art. I've realized my locality is a creative black hole. Yikes.

Anyway, I still love working with bold designs and bright colors, but I realized a few years back that my buying all sorts of craft supplies and never using them was foolish. I guess I've been more of a hoarder than a worker, in that respect. However, at the end of the school year I started giving myself permission to use my supplies for other than their strictly named uses. For example, I used some scrapbook paper I was just dying for (and knew I'd never use on an actual scrapbook page) to wrap some Hershey bars and give to people who... seemed like they could use a good dose of chocolate. LOL

Now, that's not a comment on anybody's attitude. Honestly, I think everyone can use a little chocolate every day. "Into each day a little chocolate should fall" - that's how I choose to think of it. When someone just seems to need a little boost, I like to sneak some pretty chocolate their way. The recipients have responded that the best time to get one of these treats is when you really aren't expecting anything to happen at all.

I've toyed with the idea today of offering my help on our school's hospitality committee, but it's one of those things that I fear may overcommit me timewise. I hate that feeling of "I have to..." because it makes me feel as if I exist simply to do someone else's undesirable tasks. But I rationalized that I should start using some of my favorite papers to create cards, and what harm would there be in having a stash of handmade cards already prepared "just in case I might need them." One of the other teachers asked me on more than one occasion if I had any cards there at the school, because she needed one for hospitality FAST (my emphasis only - she was very sweet about the whole thing) and she didn't have an opportunity to leave the school and purchase one unless she skipped lunch. Unfortunately, I couldn't help her out because I hadn't thought ahead.

I probably will keep a stash of cards handy there. I hand made a Father's Day card and two boys' birthday cards this summer and the boys' cards were received pretty well. Two out of three ain't bad, I suppose. LOL 2 cards enjoyed, one tossed aside without further mention. (Okay, it hurt my feelings a little, but I have to have a thicker skin, right?) The point is that I proved to myself that I could make snazzy looking cards that satisfied ME.

Granted, every one took me several hours to create because I agonized over every detail and each sentiment, and actually inset eyelets on them, using a hand punch which bruised my fingers and kept them sore for days. But they were preeeettty when I finished. That made it worth it. Digital brads and eyelets are so much easier on the hands!! LOL

And the tiny scrapbook section at our Wal-Mart only had one box of eyelets to choose from - we don't have ANY other local craft suppliers either. *sigh* I just don't want to drive nearly an hour to Hobby Lobby and come home empty handed, with gas prices the way they are. Too expensive to risk a fruitless trip so far away.

I seem to believe that my crafting had better serve a practical purpose, or people won't see the need to hang onto the finished items. I do myself because I'm a pack rat, but I think I really prefer creating useful things the most.

So the projects I've been working on will be attractive AND useful, rather than simply decorative. I'm also keeping in mind that sometimes someone needs to wrap a gift at work and their color options are limited to a black and white laser printer. Several of my upcoming projects will address that issue, and hopefully they will be useful for even those self-professed non-crafters. I want my designs to be utterly useful!!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Last Day of School....

And it felt like such an anti-climax...
I was proud of myself for getting to bed an hour early last night... even after grading papers in bed! :) And then the storm hit and woke me back up. *sigh*

So all I can think about now is taking a nap! LOL I don't want to even play with my shiny new box of Prismacolors, and if you know me, you know exactly how jazzed I am about them! Getting mine in high school art was really thrilling for me - I'd never seen such wonderful colored pencils.

I think a nap on the couch is inevitable... My eyes are closing.... *yawn*

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yay! New Calendar Kits!

I figured that it was about time to get started on calendar kits, so that people could do a little "Christmas in July" work and get started on their holiday calendars earlier this time. I didn't put up my others until September last year, and I think it was pushing it a little close for the procrastinators out there. :)

These are my first two kits, released just today at Digitals.

What's in each kit:
13 transparent calendar overlays: January thru December 2007 and 2007 at-a-glance (all 10"x7")
12 Month Headers
2007 Header
6 sample calendar backgrounds (8.5" x 11")

All that you have to do is place the calendar grid (already numbered) over the background of your choice (you can use any background you like - mine are free samples for you!), and add the month and year (if you like) in the header space. Viola! Instant calendar!

Staple, bind, holepunch, sew... join your calendars in whatever way you like, and you can even use the backgrounds to put photos on the facing pages for the calendars!

Coming soon: 4x6 mini album calendars and calendar background packages, as well as script versions of each calendar set! Plus, some secret new stuff I'm working on, but I'm not ready to spill the beans about yet!

Check back here on my blog - I'm thinking about putting a free sample here for you to try out!

Here's where you can find each kit right now!

2007 Calendar Kit - Horizontal

2007 Calendar Kit - Vertical

Thanks for checking them out! Remember, don't wait until September to start making your 2007 calendars - Start today so that they'll be ready in PLENTY of time!

PS - if you still need some 2006 calendars, they're still available, but for half price! Please click here for a wide selection!