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So long as you go about it ethically, I don’t see any shame in shortcuts. On a general note, most of what has given us as a species an edge could reasonably be categorized as such. And personally, I am particularly in favor of techniques, tools and strategies that help me fill in gaps of time or talent.

I’ve mentioned drawing, and how I can’t. Oh sure, I used to be able to draw an almost perfect circle freehand and once drew the world’s most beautiful eye while I was supposed to be studying verb conjugations in high school French class, but that’s about the extent of my talents in that department.

That doesn’t stop me from wanting to do more. If only my fellow monkeys had developed some tools that could help me make up for such deficiencies!

Cue computer drawing programs, yes, but then what? There’s still the difference between what I see in my mind and what comes out on the page or screen.

I came across this tool the other day: the Da Vinci Sketch Addon for Photoshop. 

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Ooh, I said to the cat (who paid as much attention as usual, which is to say none), that is exactly the sort of art I like, part beauty, part craft, part epistolary exploration. Too bad I had to move away from Photoshop. Now what?

First, despair! Cue gnashing of teeth and rending of garments (just kidding, that’s wasteful and I really hate to shop).

Then it was time to get to work.

I decided to see if I could replicate some version of this technique in Affinity Photo. After forum diving, video watching, and a visit to The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, I produced this:

The Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch, sculpted c. 150BC. Original photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash, text and doodles by Leonardo da Vinci. I don’t read Italian, much less Renaissance mirror writing, but I would love it if this was Leo’s to do or shopping list. “Note: buy looser robes with draping like this, because I like a healthy breeze around my private parts.”

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Not bad, aside from the fact that it took forever and could use some real hatching and more dramatic outlines and the shading crashed the program about a dozen times. Still, it was progress I felt ok about.

Working through that puzzle also gave me time to think, and in that time I realized a couple of important things:

  • my computer is not the only computer in this house, and while the desktop upstairs has had the tech equivalent of a stroke and can’t be trusted with anything not backed up, I did manage to rebuild it into a functional system and it is now running a deprecated OS,
  • six bucks is not a lot of money, and
  • don’t I still have the disks for CS5, which includes Photoshop, kicking around somewhere?

True, true, and yes, yes I do.

Cue exciting graphic adventures!

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I may have also sprung for a couple more tools from the same developer. Still affordable, and still worth it. This is what the Da Vinci Photoshop action produced, plus several other versions:

Da Vinci action
vintage sketch action
architecture sketch action

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Have I been having fun? Yes, and here’s my absolute favorite so far:

When Leo met 3PO. Original Image by Gerhard Janson from Pixabay 

Shortcuts can be terrific so long as they don’t impede learning. In this case, I got the mental workout of deconstructing and rebuilding an effect, plus the practicality of pre-built actions.

Also C-3PO:)

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Our region is doing ok Covid-wise but Delta is starting to make its move and Fall is shaping up to be less than great.

After examining the viral forecast, analyzing daily case counts, counting the weeks since my second vaccination shot, confirming my provider’s vax status, checking my KN95 mask, and consulting a Magic 8 Ball,* this afternoon I am going to get a haircut.

I mean, heck, it’s only been two years;)

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My hair is considerably longer than this at the moment. Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

* We do not have a Magic 8 Ball, but sometimes it feels like it might come in handy.

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A Silver Lining

Thanks to the dynamics of heat, humidity, and Tropical Storm Fred muscling his way up the East Coast, most of my family members down South were under a tornado warning today. 

My father texted to say that they were in the basement because tornado. Cue a round of frantic texting to make sure my hard-of-hearing mother had, in fact, heard the warning. Half an hour later the danger had passed and thankfully, everyone was ok.

Those of you living in places like Tornado Alley, the Caribbean, tsunami-prone coastal region, anywhere currently under a fire warning or similar hot spot may not be impressed, but this is one of the first times my family has had to head to the basement for safety, hunkering down like Neolithic ancestors in caves. I doubt it will be the last. Extreme weather and other such events are on the rise. That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that unlike our ancestors, we have first responders, health care workers, disaster preparedness centers, and we can see it coming.

Stay safe! I’m off to back up my hard drive. And to celebrate with homemade pizza and ice cream, because who doesn’t appreciate a silver lining?

* * *

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

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Today, more adventures with photo composites. A few simple experiments to learn where all the tools are and how to use them:

And then a more complicated example:

She who seeds the stars. Based on this tutorial. The detailed selections were the hardest part, so that’s what I’ll work on next.

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“When we feel powerful, it leads us to act. When we feel powerless, we don’t act.”

Amy Cuddy

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Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash

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My ancestors continue to get younger, it seems. My mother found a portrait of herself as a baby and sent it my way. I like both general and family history, plus I was happy to have another chance to practice my photo restoration skills:

So cute!

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I’ve been trying to work up a positive post for today, but the recent IPCC climate report keeps popping into my head, and that’s anything but positive. So let’s take a moment to review.

If you want a summary (or two), to read the report, or to test out the interactive atlas outlining what we can expect by region (here’s the info for North and Central America), you can. 

tl;dr: “Worst choose your own adventure book ever.”

* * *

Or check out this cartoon:

It should not come as a surprise that climate change is worse than we thought and also getting worser

Because bad news goes down easier from cute penguins. 

That said, it isn’t all bad. We’re at the bottom of the final inning, yes, but the game isn’t over yet.

* * *

Also. Humans are a lot of things, but we aren’t quitters.

We must not delude ourselves about the immense challenges the world faces, but we can’t let anxiety overwhelm and paralyse us. The world isn’t doomed quite yet – there is still a window of opportunity to change things.

— Yes, the climate crisis is terrifying. But I refuse to abandon hope

And if I learned anything from the Terminator franchise (aside from the many uses of a shotgun), it’s that there is no fate but what we make.

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Photo by Damir Babacic on Unsplash

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Adultitude

My nephew is one of the thousands of young adults starting college this fall. I’ve seen a lot of “things I wish I’d known” and “advice for the college-bound” articles, some of which are on point for this thoughtful, capable, and confident kid, some not as much.

There’s the obvious, of course: be kind, don’t drink too much, call if you need bail money, that sort of thing.

All good advice.

But if I had to boil the foundations of a constructive mindset down to just one thing? I saw this quote the other day and thought it was pretty on point:

No matter who or what or where they are, 

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” 
― Bill Nye

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I had a lot of ideas for how today was going to go. I was wrong about most of it. It wasn’t a bad day by any means, I just didn’t get much done. I got caught in that trap where the to do list is massive and you’re surprised when nothing is completed. Too many ideas, not enough specificity. 

My list included (but was not limited to) the following:

  • make and freeze chocolate chip cookie dough
  • learn more photo compositing, make awesome chimera, floating fantasy city & light speed travel poster; yes, all of those things
  • do garden work
  • vacuum
  • make fresh pasta
  • try letter locking

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So, yeah:)

I started just about everything on that list, and finished none of them. Time to take a step back, pick one project, then break it down into the smallest possible parts and start crossing them off. And by framing the problem with more clarity. When I’m stuck, that’s how I move forward. 

(Also by not being too hard on myself when I have a day like today. Sometimes, things take time.)

On the plus side? We’ve still got ice cream🙂

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Not *My* Family, Of Course

The world isn’t a clubhouse you can kick people out of, it’s Thanksgiving dinner with your crazy family—take what’s best and find a way to learn from the rest.

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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