Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gratitude - Inspired by

There's a wonderful article at Ask and Allow Online which inspired me to write a short post today about what I am grateful for:

So many things to be grateful for! I’m grateful for the most important living things in my life: family, friends, and pets. Nature, physical comforts, enough to eat, a place to live. I’m grateful that I HAVE a home to clean.. rather than, “Oh, how I dread cleaning..”

I’m grateful that I can see: the beauty of another’s expression, the joy on my dog’s face as she brings her ball to me, the unique beauty of an old broken down barn with sunlight streaming through the cracks in its walls…

I’m grateful that I can hear: an airplane overhead right now, the fireplace crackling, even the hum of my computer! The click-clack of my dog’s toenails on the wooden floor, my children telling me about their friends, the music that makes me want to dance.

I’m grateful that I am here.. so many friends and family have passed on and experience the world differently now. I’m grateful that I can DO things in this world!

Thank you, Jessie, for causing me to take a moment and reflect upon all that I have!!

I'd love for you to visit the Ask And Allow Online site and let Jessie know what you are grateful for, too. You're going to love the way she writes!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Photoshop Fun

The following Photoshop creations are homework assignments I did for a class taught by Jean McIntosh at West Valley College. It's a wonderful course and Jean makes amazing instructional videos!

Magazine Cover

The final assignment was to design a magazine cover, using the skills we learned in this course.

For the title I wanted to use something similar to the typeface used for "Inkheart". I searched on the web and found Black Chancery. I felt it expressed the feeling of the title, "Spirit Whispers". I used the same font for the tag line.

For the cover lines I used Trajan Pro, my favorite font. There are some areas of the text that are really thin, and this can interfere with legibility, so I made them bold and "strong". Also, Trajan does not have a lowercase set of characters, which would have been nice to use for the subtitles.

In general, it seems that most magazines use san serif typefaces. I believe they are more legible at a distance. I did not put a bar code on this cover because I think they're ugly!! This type of magazine would probably be offered by subscription, rather than be displayed on an everyday magazine rack.

All parts of the image I photographed, drew, or created in Photoshop. The woman's face and the bird were drawn. Photographs were: mirror, tree, stairs, door, squirrel, eye (barely seen in upper right hand corner), clouds, and an ivy vine. Clouds were used for the night sky; a lens flare was used to create the moon. I added blending options to the vine and tried to make it look like it was beginning to creep out of the mirror.

Note: My images are created on a Mac. I've noticed that when I look at my images on a PC, the colors are usually less saturated and less vibrant, especially with this image.

To add some realism to this project, I purchased the domain name for about $7.00 and forwarded it to an existing website of mine.

Hemal Radia, the author listed for one of the articles is an actual Law of Attraction coach—I was given his permission to use his name on this project. Mr. Radia's website is

Pop Dots and Text Mask - HW12

Pop dots - I had a bit of difficulty with the gradient, but finally got it in the right place. Then I added a levels adjustment layer, because I wanted the dots to "pop" more.

Originally I was going to have part of the image show through the text mask, but the image is too plain for that effect. So I added a gradient and then Blending Options and did a lot of experimenting.

The poppy is not real—it is a silk plant. I did a smart sharpen on it and was amazed at the difference! By the way, I did not choose the poppy because of the term "pop dots"; It was just one of those happy coincidences.

Surrealism and Pen Tool - HW10

This was a fun exercise (which means I spent days working on it, trying out different graphics and techniques). But, finally, I had to tell myself to stop or I would never move forward to Homework 11.

Pen tool creations: Coyote, Two mask-like faces

I converted the coyote and the two faces into shapes and then transformed their sizes and experimented with many, many blending options. The mauve/brown face on the right looked very nice in PSD format, but when I saved the file as JPG, the white outer glow appears jagged. I resaved the PSD file as 8x10 JPG, and the jags smoothed out a little.

I photographed my own hand and made it look comic bookish using the cutout filter and also plastic wrap filter. Used blending options and experimented quite a bit with color and gradients.

I photographed the clock at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk several weeks ago; it is part of the haunted ride attraction. I used curves to correct the dullness of the image, tranformed it's size and perspective, and used some blending modes to soften the edges.

The apple is part of a watercolor painting that I did several years ago. For some reason it wanted to be included in this composition. :-)

The purple planet was a photo of flowers that I made into a 3D sphere and then added texture to it. Put a touch of an outer glow on it to help it blend with the sky.

The clouds along the bottom (which kind of also look like an ocean to me) required a lot of adjustments.. stretching and pulling..

The stars were created with the star brush tool.

The background is two parts; a basic color first, then an overlay with an elliptical shape deleted and a gaussian blur put on it.. then on top of that was a quadrone gradient—I think. I've done so much on each individual part that it's difficult to keep track. Most effects can be found in each layer's Blending Options or in the Adjustment Layers, if I go back and look.

Historical Figure:
Charles Dickens

This collage is about Charles Dickens and the messages and lessons in the stories he wrote. He wrote about social injustices in an unforgettable way and gave the world stories that were memorable and timeless. While the suffering and living conditions of many of his characters were deplorable, the stories still inspired hope.

Being made aware of the tremendous struggles others endure may have the effect of bringing one out of an apathetic slumber and inspire one to take action. These stories were written over one hundred years ago; yet people are still fighting the same horrors and pain; perhaps it has even gotten worse—or, perhaps we just hear about it more due to better global communication. The opening line of A Tale of Two Cities seems to fit very well in today's circumstances, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Charles Dickens often wrote about the suffering that humans, especially children, have experienced. The message of this collage is that while this has been the case throughout history and the world continues to be plagued with today — to always remember that there is still hope and love in the world, and each of us can make a difference in someone else's life. Sometimes simply showing that you care, taking the time to teach someone self-sufficiency, and encouraging him or her to reach for a dream can make all the difference in that person's life. In addition, we can all look for ways in which adversity in our own lives may be turned around and used to strengthen ourselves.

The Message

I think each person viewing this collage will bring to it their own memories of how he/she felt when reading (or watching on TV) a Charles Dickens story. For me, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol were very powerful stories in my childhood, and so I chose elements representing those two stories. I see Oliver and feel his loneliness and am proud of his daring to ask for more. I see Tiny Tim and am amazed at the gift of love he gives to the world, even though he is suffering.

The quotes I included in the composition are intended to intrigue the viewers and entice them to read the works of Charles Dickens; to discover their own personal messages that await them inside the stories.

Five Elements of the Midterm Collage and their Sources

1. I set up an open book (A Tale of Two Cities, The Heritage Press, 1938) sitting on closed book (The Pickwick Papers, The Heritage Press, 1938) , resting on blue and gold fabric, and photographed it. This became my background layer. I corrected the image using exposure, levels, and hue/sat.

2. I placed a decorative pocket watch against three books, photographed it, and later selected the watch, pasted it within the blue/gold portion of the background and partially behind the open book. I lowered the opacity to make it somewhat transparent, and increase the saturation a little.

3. I selected a photograph of my son, desaturated it, and changed it's hue. I pasted it into the middle foreground of the composition, and reduced the opacity to give it a ghostly appearance.

4a. I photographed an illustration from the story, A Christmas Carol on page 61 (of Five Christmas Novels , The Heritage Press, 1939) titled, Bob Cratchit Comes Home. I lowered the opacity and ..... I pasted it into the background, lowered the opacity, changed the hue, refined the edges and modified the upper right edge so that it flowed along the same direction as the page of the book it is next to. (I used the line tool to make a line to follow along with and then turned off its visibility afterwards.)

4b. Using the same image, I decided to try out creating a 3D object. (I recently joined NAPP, and received a Photoshop User magazine which gave basic instructions on how to create 3D objects.) I wrapped the images around a spherical shape and then rotated the image so that Tiny Tim and his father would be visible. I added some light to the illustrated sphere, and then pasted it into the background. I played around with hues and levels, increased the saturation, and the object began to become very shiny and reminded me of a Christmas ball. I thought this fit perfectly with the theme of A Christmas Carol, and it is now one of my favorite parts of the composition.

5. Text is used in three different areas.

a. For the quote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." on the clock, I first created a circle with the ellipse tool and made it a work path. Using the type tool I pasted my text onto the circular path - and then copied and pasted this over the clock. Since the clock is not shaped in a perfect circled, I then changed the skew and played around with it until matched the clock's skew as well as possible.

b. For the two other quotes, I gave both a lighter color for the top layer, and a darker one for the shadow, to compensate for the mix of lighter and dark shades in the composition they were being placed on.

I placed the quote, "Please sir, may I have some more?" below the ghostly image of the boy, to make it clear that he is representing Oliver Twist.

c. I placed the quote:

"No words can express the secret agony of my soul as I sunk into the companionship: compared these every day associates with those of my happier childhood; and felt my early hopes of growing up to be a learned and distinguished man, crushed in my breast."

~ Charles Dickens as a boy in the blacking factory

over the larger image of Tiny Tim and his family as it seemed to be a place where such a large amount of text would fit gracefully, without distracting from the other elements. The Tiny Tim illustration is also used in the Christmas Ball, and he and his father can clearly be viewed there, so I felt the larger image could serve as more of a background to the quoted text. I experimented with justifying the text, but found that I liked have the control over where the lines would break in relation to their meaning, and decided to align the text to the left (ragged right).

I really enjoyed this project and experimenting with the skills that I have recently learned. Compositing is enjoyable for me and I worked with the graphic element in various ways before deciding upon the final "look". In designing, I tend to move elements around, change hues, opacity, and levels until they feel correct.

I need to learn more about placement of typography. Sometimes what looks attractive to me is not necessarily the most legible. Also, I had difficulty choosing the colors for two of the text areas (though I'm happy with the blue text around the clock). I felt the lighter blue of Oliver's quote was more visible, but that the yellowish-beige color of the longer quote fit the color scheme of the composite more. I would appreciate any suggestions regarding the colors of the text.

Typography Graphic

I used various effects on the type, i.e., using Inner Shadow and Stroke settings, creating a pattern out of a dog collage and using it on the type. I also played around and used the same pattern to make a border... I am not completely satisfied with the total design that I did on this assignment, but practicing using different effects on the type was very useful to me.

Color Theme

The source of three of the images were from a series of photos that I took at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk this month. The beach scene was taken in Santa Cruz two years ago.

The color theme was "fun, bright, and vibrant"! The serenity of the beach background with the seagull carrying the banner is a melding of the excitement of the boardwalk with the stunning beauty of nature.

Each image required quite a bit of adjustment, as the photographs were shot on overcast days. The beach/ocean scene was taken during the day, but I modified it so that it appeared to be taken at sunset. I felt that the darker, more saturated, colors of the evening made the colors of the forefront items pop out more. I enlarged and moved the bird that was in the sky, and distorted the shape of the banner it is carrying.

Duotone Composite

This homework exercise was VERY helpful to me. I scaled down the size of "Shakira The Kitten" and was able to make her look like she's crawling out from underneath some giant mushrooms.

Unless otherwise noted, all images:
Copyright © 2009 Dora E. H. Crow ~ All Rights Reserved

Noted: Original illustration from the story, A Christmas Carol on page 61 (of Five Christmas Novels , The Heritage Press, 1939) titled, Bob Cratchit Comes Home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tatiana The Dog - A Modern Day Wonder Dog in Marketing

Case Study: Tatiana The Dog

Did you know that dogs can talk? And that I can prove it?

To get a feel for what I’m talking about, checkout this video by Tatiana the Dog.

See? Not only can Tatiana the Dog talk, but she can give real world advice to humans, in a very fun and playful way. I’d be willing to bet that Tatiana was so excited while filming this video, that her tail was gently wagging the whole time!

So who is this Tatiana, who dreamed her up, and for what purpose? Well, let’s start with Tatiana’s “human mommy”, Dora E. H. Crow. Dora is an author and an illustrator of the book, Winky and Wonder She wrote the book for her children as a way to present moral questions and teachings in a manner that would be entertaining, thought-provoking, and memorable.

I personally found Dora on twitter, as she asked me detailed questions about me and my business. You can get to know Dora through twitter too at - or you can follow Tatiana’s Twitter account

The Brand

Dora has created the Tatiana the Dog brand to deliver positive messages. In a time fraught with bad news and negative messages, it is truly a blessing to find a shining star that brings laughter and a light-hearted repose.

Browsing through all of Tatiana’s Videos, you get one big happy feeling. Let’s face it - Tatiana is fun.

The Secret

Tatiana’s and Dora’s strengths - that most of us could use a lesson in:

  • Form really great bond with others (customers included) - you need to get to KNOW them.
  • Be authentic and genuine with your messages.
  • Ask all sorts of questions about them and how you can help them.

These principles can be found in books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” - well worth the read!

The secret of Dora’s success is her consistent use of these principles. She genuinely tries to get to know everyone she meets online.

The Plan

The use of Tatiana the Dog, is an example of an uncommon application of a common message.

The social media tools that Dora utilizes creates a breadcrumb path online and several ways that Tatiana the Dog can be found. Let’s explore the tools that Dora uses:

  • Facebook Fan Page - Great place to meet Tatiana the Dog and all of her friends, as well as her human mommy!
  • Twitter - Tweet with Tatiana the Dog and know that it is OK to laugh out loud at work.
  • Tatiana the Dog - Visit Tatiana The Dog’s home page and check out her video blog.
  • YouTube - All the videos in one place, and event the ability to share Tatiana the Dog with your friends!
  • The Store - When you looking for a mug with a very cute mug of a talented dog…this is the place to go!

This plan is only in its infancy at this point, and rest assured Tatiana the Dog has more to come!

The Tools

Dora uses an assortment of tools across many social media platforms. The message is consistent and the branding is consistent. Tatiana the Dog is marketing wonder dog!

In every sauce there is a secret and the secret ingredient that make it all possible is Dora’s use of the CrazyTalk application to create videos that make her dog come to life, and tell all sorts of wonderful messages.

The Result

A viral sensation! People post responses to Tatiana’s videos simply because they have enjoyed the message. In addition you will find them sharing the link with their friends - that is the definition of creating a viral marketing message.

As you explore the branding wonder of Tatiana the Dog you’ll see that her videos are getting lots and lots of comments. From a marketing perspective, comments indicate that you’re getting great community involvement, which is a very powerful thing.

The Wrap Up

My kids have watched every movie that Tatiana has ever made, and always look forward to the next one. If you have kids, I highly recommend that you become a fan of Tatiana the Dog, or subsribe to Tatiana’s RSS feed so that you can keep with with Tatiana’s newest messages. Go ahead - Join the fun!

About the Author

Matthew Kettlewell is the President and CEO of Kettlewell Enterprises, Inc. In a past life, Matt was a very successful software engineer, working out the complexities of satellites orbiting the earth. Now he can be found breaking down the complexities of Internet marketing, and sharing his findings with others. For more, visit:

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Wood Burning Stove and LOA

Just the other morning, as I was shoveling out the ashes from our woodstove, I found myself actually enjoying myself. What had felt in the past as an unwelcome task now felt very fulfilling. I admired the little woodstove and the beautiful old bricks it sat upon. I felt happy to be cleaning it and revealing its charms hidden underneath. I felt such a contentment.. this was my very own cute little woodstove in my very own home!

For years I have been taking so many things for granted, rather than appreciating them; instead focusing on the stress of unexpected problems, demands from others, - all those responsibilities that are thrust upon us.

Do you remember your first car...? Did you love to wash it by hand, polish it, vacuum it, and detail the inside? My car was 7 years old when I purchased it, had quite a bit of rust - but I still loved that car. A 1971 Mustang Mach I .. a dream come true. It was a joy for me to care for this material item that I had longed for and now had! It's been years since then and years since I've enjoyed cleaning something. But that was the feeling that I was so lucky to recreate while cleaning the little woodstove this week..

For me, it's easy to love and appreciate my children. Every morning is Christmas morning to me; that is how happy I am to see them. But this week, I was also able to feel the wonder in the simple act of living.. cleaning, breathing, walking, and really SEEING the world, FEELING the world, BEING part of the world.

How did this come about? I had been seeking my purpose while working with Hemal Radia - learning about applying Law of Attraction to my life... it hasn't felt like "work" though. It's been quite fun, honest, and revealing. I have learned to stop trying to force LOA to work, learned to pay attention to my feelings.. and allow LOA to do the work for me.

May you, too, experience the same joy I felt when cleaning my woodstove ~ as you wash the dishes, dig the car out of the snow, or carry the garbage out. It's wonderful to be here, to be alive!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Breaking the Lock by Stephanie R. Crow

One night while lying in bed, Stephanie just suddenly began speaking:

“Mom, you can cheat in life.”

“For instance, if there's a lock, you can break it with a key. Say a person is the lock, and they want to pressure you to do too much volunteering. You can just use the key to break the lock. The key is say, ‘No.’”

“It's like cheating because in a game there are rules and if you try to play a different way, then you are cheating.”

“So in life if you break the lock with the key, you are cheating in life by not following their rules.”

“If a person is saying you absolutely have to do it - then you have to.. but they're a person... a person doesn't know what you're supposed to do.”

“Don't do anything unless it's something you can't "cheat" on - if you don't have a key and cannot do anything about it and you're locked in jail.”

“In life...

there's a key
there's a lock
there's a door to open
there's a jail to get put in
there's a jail to get out of
there's a home to stay in
there's a junk place where all the junk goes.”

*Stephanie gave me this advice when she was 7 years old.

Copyright ©2005-2009 Stephanie R. Crow
All Rights Reserved