Topaz Studio First Look

What the open beta says about the next Topaz product

Like probably most of you, I’ve recently been playing with the Topaz Studio public beta. As someone who owns the full collection of Topaz plug-ins, I’ve been paying attention mostly to what the Studio does for me that the plug-ins don’t. Topaz Studio is quite different from the plug-ins—a bit more like the next generation of photoFXlab. But does it do enough to make me willing to pay for another Topaz venture?

Unlike some popular editing software, Topaz Studio makes no attempt to manage your files. It offers neither a browser nor a catalog solution; it’s up to you to know where your files are and to manage them. It does, however, offer a complete workflow for editing your images and adding a variety of effects, along with masks, blend modes and layers to keep the non-destructive workflow edits fully customizable.  It will open your raw files, as well as JPEG, PNG, or TIFF in its standalone version, and acts like a regular plug-in if you invoke it through Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. You can run it as a Smart Filter in Photoshop, or choose Edit In Topaz Studio with Lightroom.

The features in Topaz Studio emphasize workflow and effects presets constructed from multiple individual adjustments, much like the presets you find in Texture Effects. The Workflow menu covers the more common editing methods, such as “Detailed Architecture” or “Perfect Portrait.” The “More” adjustments section contains a separate menu for each adjustment to be added in any order, or to use in addition to a workflow. The Effects menu works just like it does in Impression and Texture Effects, providing a list of categories to search for effects, previewing them in the sidebar thumbnails, and providing the customary edit button to enter the editing workspace with the chosen effect. Most of the other tools are shortcuts to basic adjustments, as well as to quick editing workflows for the first basic edits you usually perform.

Menu Contents shown
From R to L: Workflow, Adjustment, and Effects menus (not all fully shown)
Quick Edit and tools interface
Icons for basic editing tools, the Workflow and Adjustments menus, as well as quick access to the most common adjustments and basic editing workflows are always available. Shown above is the workflow if you click on the Quick preset.

I think its fairly clear from  looking at the main features in Topaz Studio that its design is intended to leverage the power of the presets they’ve already been offering us through their filters. At the same time, it speeds up the process by creating workflows that combine many of the features that are currently found in their separate plug-ins, such as adding a Radiance adjustment created from their Glow filter, with a Texture adjustment from Texture Effects, and a Precision Contrast adjustment from Clarity, perhaps. If you don’t own some of their filters (or any of them), you still will be able to use many of the more popular features contained in them through these adjustment layers. And if you do own their filters, you can use the Plug-Ins menu at the top to take a copy of your image directly into a filter to gain access to the full power of any of the plug-ins, while still using the simplified workflow approach in Topaz Studio.

Showing thumbnail previews and Edit panel
To the left is the thumbnail view for presets in the selected category. This feature should be familiar to anyone who has Impressions, Glow, or Texture Effects. To the right are the editable layers that constitute the selected effect. If an adjustment layer is neither free nor purchased, it shows up with the effect, but without the sliders that allow for more customization of the settings.
Image Tray can hold many images to blend with each other
Images open into an Image Tray. Any image can be duplicated or duplicated as a new image with all the current active edits applied (using icons in the tray not shown). Although the images in this example are from the same original, an Open icon in the tray also allows you to open different images in order to blend them, similar to using the multiple exposure option in Topaz Texture Effects. Note that the image on the far right was created in Topaz B&W Effects 2 run as a plug-in to Topaz Studio on a duplicate of the image first edited with a Studio workflow.

There’s of course a trade-off to using Topaz Studio to run their more powerful filters—unlike running them individually on Smart Object layers, you can’t later on edit the results non-destructively, re-entering the plug-in merely by double-clicking on its Smart Filter name. However, while you’re in Topaz Studio and working with multiple versions or any other images, you can use the Image Layer feature right then and there to blend results from Topaz filters with each other or with an image you edited solely with Topaz Studio.

The Image Layer interface
A very nice feature in Topaz Studio lets you blend image layers, so versions that have been edited for different qualities can continue to be adjusted before leaving Topaz Studio, or completely different images can be blended as desired.

When I first started looking into the use of Topaz Studio, I was feeling hard-pressed to find a good reason to invest any of my time, let alone my money, in yet another standalone/plug-in image editor. Topaz Studio in particular appeared too simplified to offer much, since even the individual adjustments aren’t as powerful as the full plug-in filters, whether Clarity, or ReStyle, or Texture Effects. However, the more I explore Topaz Studio, and the more images I throw at it, the more I’ve come to feel this simplification of features is an asset, not a liability. The basic editing workflows are very well designed to cover a wide variety of images, and are especially welcome in my workflow when I’m editing the numerous snapshots I have taken or had given to me, like the bridal image I’ve used for these examples. It may not be the ideal application for your very best fine art images, but if we’re honest, most of us have plenty of snaps that we don’t want to spend hours editing. We would, however, like to quickly and easily make them more interesting to look at or better memories to hold. And being able to use our Topaz filters with Topaz Studio makes for a very powerful combination that goes well beyond the quick fix for a snapshot, providing us with a creative adventure.

Results from Topaz Studio modified in Adobe Photoshop
Although the Topaz filter B&W Effects 2 wasn’t run as Smart Filter, but inside Topaz Studio, the image can of course still be modified in Photoshop to alter color, texture, and tone as desired.

Topaz has recently announced that the basic version of Topaz Studio will be free. A small collection of basic editing adjustments will be fully customizable, while the remainder won’t include their sliders unless you purchase the “pro” version of the adjustment separately. From what I can tell, the Effects and Workflow presets that include adjustments you don’t own will produce results, but only Opacity, blend mode, and masking is editable. I won’t swear to this, of course, since this is still beta and anything can still be added or removed. And since this still IS a beta, I won’t go into any discussion of bugs or other feature limitations. I am, however, increasingly aware of the place this application could have in my day-to-day workflow.

Student Debt Art Journal page for Democracy
Student Debt, from my Democracy art journal series, used a photo art action and several textures to blend the old photo of Stanford University with the lower half from Mischief Circus, including several art dolls from Xquizart. The unifying color and textures could have been even more easily added if I’d had the Topaz open beta when I made this.
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Troubleshooting 3rd Party Actions

Understanding the photo art actions you purchase

Lately I’ve been seeing an increasing number of people creating photo art state that in their process, they used an action from graphicriver.net, a popular online retail source for very lengthy and complex actions that produce artistic effects. (I have looked around, and yes, there are other places selling products to designers that also carry some actions, if you want to check for other sources.) I myself was directed to the site just a couple of months ago, and have slowly begun to acquaint myself with the effects I can get from the actions that are different from my favorite plug-ins, such as Topaz, On1, and Nik. I have also purchased a few, and as a customer, I can definitely state that you might run into some snags when you try to run these actions.

So I thought I’d just briefly talk about what you can do before you give up in frustration and send screenshots, perhaps even your file, to the action’s designer. The good news when purchasing actions from this retailer is there is easy access provided to speak directly with the designers, and from the public comments they appear to be very quickly responsive to any issues you have. However, it’s always a good idea to know how to do some troubleshooting on your own, as well as how to use these actions to increase your own understanding of what Photoshop can do, and learn to modify the results.

Painterly results on still life
Commercial Photoshop actions offer a variety of different looks and allow you to modify the results. You can combine them with other actions or 3rd party filters, expanding your options when creating photo art. This is the default result using the Splash Art 2 action by IndWorks.

Fortunately for us, many of the actions come with a video tutorial on YouTube. The designer walks you through the setup to get both Photoshop and your image into the state the action requires to run. Since each designer, and even each action, may have slightly different requirements, you should make certain you watch at least the beginning of their tutorial before you start. Some do provide a readme file, but not all, or the file may not include all the steps to set up your Photoshop. The video tutorial covers it visually. Even better, the tutorial then demonstrates what the various layers and sections do to the image and how you can modify it. Watching before you purchase can help you decide if the action will be customizable enough to suit you.

Baby portrait with graphic action
Thanks to the YouTube tutorial, this image (using the action Circles by sevenstyles) was easy to modify to look very different from the default result.

Even with so much help, though, things can go wrong. An action may start to run, then quit with a message that it couldn’t perform a step. And this is when you need to know how to troubleshoot the action. If it stops very soon after starting, it’s usually that something is missing in the setup. You didn’t name the layer you created correctly for the action, you forgot to load a brush or pattern, or you didn’t make sure the file was in 8 bit mode. (Photoshop has never upgraded most of its ancient filters to run in 16 bit.) There are other setup requirements as well, and each one will be encountered at some step in the action, so each must be strictly adhered to.

Painterly style using Dust by sevenstyles
Many of the actions work by letting you select the main subject and/or focal point where you want the most detail to appear. This selection is filled with color on a separate layer, and different actions require different names for that layer. A soft selection will produce one type of result, while a hard edged selection may produce an entirely different result. It’s worth running the action more than once, varying your selection, to get different results. Here a very soft selection was used for the Dust action by sevenstyles.

First thing you need to do, then, is to check that the basic setup is as called for. But there can be more obstacles than the tutorial tells you about. For example, I kept having the first action I purchased fail early, but not terribly early, in the action. In fact, in this case, even posting a comment on the site for help from the designer wouldn’t have helped. I had unchecked an option for automatically creating masks when adding an adjustment or fill layer. As soon as I realized the action was expecting masks that my preferences weren’t creating, it was a simple matter of re-enabling the default preferences. I then sent an email to the designer so that perhaps in future, he’ll include it in his instructions. Another occasion was far more involved and complex. Tolerances in a selection process were too restrictive for many images. Once I’d isolated the issue (resolving it by placing modal stops to manually alter the input), and informed the designer, the designer cleverly rewrote the action to solve the issue without the user needing to stop to change the default settings.

Placing modal stops or removing action steps
Clicking on an empty box next to a checkmark (above left) inserts a modal stop. Use this when you want to change the input of that step, rather than accept the recorded input. Not all steps allow you to add a modal stop, but most that allow for input do. If you don’t want to allow the action to perform a step, such as converting your document to the sRGB color profile (above right), simply click on the checkmark next to the step to turn it off.
Demonstrating the use of the Insert Stop dialog
There is no reason you can’t add what you want to an action. You can record additional steps if you’re feeling adventurous. Inserting Stops that help explain some of the steps in an action is a very safe, effective way to remind yourself of what the action is doing or what you might want to do to customize it at this point. These Stops can be very useful when you don’t use an action for awhile and have forgotten the details.

To find out where an action was failing, I needed to step through the action slowly, watching the Layers panel, the document window, and the Actions panel. If you’ve ever looked at actions, you’ll know that they’re written in plain English, so not that difficult to understand. Photoshop offers Playback Options in the Actions menu to help you run the action. The option Step-by-Step will pause briefly after each step, allowing you a little time to read an action. If you just want to get a quick idea about how the action works, this is a good option. The option Pause for (blank) seconds is self-explanatory.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t know in advance how long it will take me to read or grasp the intent of a step, as well as notice each step’s effect in the Layers panel and on the image itself, so I choose to manually advance from one step to the next—I hold down the Cmd/Ctrl key while clicking on the play button. I can stop for as long as I need to understand the effect of each step.

Playback options for actions
Usually you want to play an action with the Accelerated option enabled. However, to get a better view of what the action is doing, you might choose one of the other, slower options. The option you choose is sticky, so if you discover your action is running very slowly, check to see if you haven’t forgotten to set the options back to Accelerated.

Taking the time to perform a careful check of your setup and, if necessary or you’re curious, to walk through an action, will reduce frustration and increase your understanding of how Photoshop can be used to create an effect. If you’re someone who likes to tinker, you’ll also see where adding modal stops, or turning off a step entirely, could be to your advantage. The money you spend on 3rd party actions will go a lot further the more you involve yourself with the nuts and bolts of each action, giving you the edge when it comes to modifying the action to suit a wider variety of images.

Art Journal "The Great Divide"
The Great Divide, part of my Democracy series, was created long before I bought any photo art actions, but the theme of inequality is still very relevant. Having looked at the actions, I have noticed there are a number which will turn photos into sketches that I could easily incorporate into my art journal pieces. Credits: mainly from itKuPilli’s altered art kits.

Photoshop’s Merge Command

So many secret handshakes in Adobe Photoshop

Not long ago someone posted on a forum that he was having difficulty with Photoshop’s Merge command. It wasn’t behaving as he expected it to. In the course of helping the poster troubleshoot, I found myself going over the different ways the Merge command is invoked, producing very different results depending upon the state of the layers that are being merged, as well as the modifier keys we use to invoke a Merge command. I thought it might be helpful if I posted a summary here.

To avoid some of the massive confusion about these commands, which have been given a variety of names, I’m relying on the name of each command the History panel uses. The History panel produces a legal document and has to differentiate between each of the Merge commands. When it was developed, these are the names it used. These aren’t necessarily the common names people have used over time, but they are the names I think we might do well to adopt to avoid confusion. To follow along, open the History panel (Window> History) and look at the current state right after invoking one of these commands. I kept the graphic as simple as I could to avoid even more complication.

Cmd-E: Merge Down: This is the primary Merge command which merges the selected layer to the layer immediately beneath it. Layers that don’t allow you to merge a layer into them include Smart Object, Video and Adjustment layers. Vector Shape layers can’t merge into other vector Shape layers, either. However, all of these layers except Video can merge into a normal image layer, whether or not the bottom layer includes transparency. If a mask is present on the bottom layer, a popup message will ask you how you want to handle the mask.

Cmd-Shift-E: Merge Visible: This will merge all visible layers, but it will behave differently depending upon whether or not the bottom visible layer is a Background layer or not. If the bottommost layer can contain transparency (Layer 0, for instance) all the layers are merged without duplicating them into the topmost visible layer. If the bottom layer is a Background layer, it will merge all visible layers to the Background layer without first duplicating them.

Layers and History panels showing results
If the visible layers do not include a Background layer, the layers will merge without being duplicated into the topmost selected and visible layer (left). If the visible layers you’re merging include a Background layer, the visible layers will merge into the Background layer (right).

Cmd-Opt-E: Stamp Layers: Stamp is another way of saying “make a copy of the layers and merge it onto a layer.” This is not found in the Layers menu or in the Layers panel menu It is one of Adobe’s many secret handshakes. If all layers can contain transparency, it creates a copy of only the selected layers, and merges them to a new layer above the topmost selected layer. You don’t have to create a new layer first.

If the bottom selected layer is a Background layer, it merges a copy of all the selected layers to the Background layer, changing the Background layer itself, but leaving the other layers intact. This command is especially useful if you have a lot of layers, but only want to merge a very few­—rather than turning off the visibility for several layers, simply select those few you want to merge.

History and Layers panel showing command results
If your selected layers do not include a Background layer, Stamp Layers will add a new layer above the selected layers and stamp a merged copy onto that layer (left). If the selected layers do include a Background layer, the merged copy of all those layers is stamped onto the Background itself (right).
Detail from artwork showing Stamp Layers instance
This is a detail from a much larger document that had many layers. When I wanted to create a drop shadow for the two Xquizart figures, the easiest way to keep the original elements intact, but create a combined drop shadow, was to select the layers I wanted to copy with merge, and use the Stamp Layers command to place it above the original layers. I then turned off the visibility on the original layers, but if I decided at any time to change something, I still had access to them.
Layers and History panel showing instance of
This is possibly the most popular of the Merge commands. It copies, then merges, any visible layers into a new layer that it creates. The layer is placed directly above whatever layer is currently active. In typical use, you want that to be the top layer you currently have in the Layers panel, but not always.

Cmd-Opt-Shift-E:  Stamp Visible: Many people also call this command simply “Merge Visible,” but that doesn’t distinguish it from the actual Merge Visible command found in the Layers panel. This command doesn’t exist in either the Layers panel or in the Layers menu. However, if you hold down the Option/Alt key when accessing Merge Visible from the Layers panel, it will invoke the Stamp Visible command, which you can see reflected in the History panel state.

This popular, though hidden, command copies all the visible layers, merging them, and “stamps” the merged copy to a new layer above whatever layer is currently selected, even a Background layer. You don’t have to create a new empty layer with this command. It will make the layer for you. Of course, if only one layer is visible, Cmd/Ctrl-J to duplicate that layer is the better command.

I hope you find this helpful. Between the lack of menu commands and the variable ways they each behave, the commands can be frustrating. However, they’re worth memorizing. I most often use the Merge Visible and Stamp Visible commands, but there are definitely occasions where Merge Down and Stamp Layers serve my needs.

Full image for A Post-Truth World
A Post-Truth World is one in my Democracy series. When I created it, I added text at the top, then decided I wanted to run Topaz Texture Effects on the image— but without affecting the text or flattening any of the layers. I turned off the visibility on the closed Group text layer and targeted the layer beneath it before using the Stamp Visible command. Credits: itKuPiLLi, Priss, Lorie Davison, Holliewood, and many others.

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Too Much Stuff To Find Anything

Managing digital art supplies creatively

Last week I wrote about the Digital Scrapbook Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, and some advice I’d read on a few blogs about how to get ready for them—essentially, how not to blow the budget. Of course I did just that right off the bat with those wonderful budget-busting sales they like to call doorbuster sales, or Flash sales because they’re gone in an eye-blink. The stuff you buy, of course, stays with you no matter how many times you blink your eyes in disbelief at all you just bought. And now what the heck are you going to do to organize it and keep it from getting lost amidst all the megabytes, even terabytes, of other digital assets? Good advice I read was to take some time to clear out the older kits and assets so you wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed and driven out of hard drive space.

That’s good advice that I don’t often take, however. It’s good advice if you always work with individual kits, using just the papers and elements that the designer has included. It’s also good advice if you can’t afford the extra storage space it takes to keep all your scrapbook and art journaling supplies available to you without searching the archives for them. But if, like me, you often mix elements and papers from different kits, and if you can afford the additional drives to store them on, it’s nice to be able to quickly locate that brush or frame or cute kitten you remember having that you think would be perfect. You won’t mind trying different elements, either, to see what works best, if you can do that quickly. So I tend to mix “retirement” (archiving) with keeping some older kits still on my drives.

Just keeping more kits on hard drives doesn’t do enough for me, though. I can’t remember what’s in all the kits. I did try keywords, but that was way too tedious and cumbersome. I use them for photos, but not for digital assets anymore. I finally hit on a couple ways to organize that easily reflect my changing interests, and don’t demand too much of my time. The time I do spend is offset by saving time during the creation process, as well as helping me remember what I have.

Scrap page made with elements from many different kits
I use a lot of elements from different kits to create many of my scrap pages. If I had to remember what kits they were in, I’d never find them all. If I had to add keywords to everything so I could perform a search, that would take all the time I have. So I work with custom folders of elements I’ve duplicated, such as a folder of my favorite cats, toys, frames, or furniture. The elements in The Salt Shaker were found in many different custom folders.

The first method of organization was to take up more hard drive space duplicating some of the files and placing them into organized folders of their own. Not everything gets put into those folders. I call them “favorite shells” or “favorite scene papers,“ etc, but my “favorites” include papers and elements I think will be useful outside the kit they come with. At first I thought I might be sorry to give up drive space to a lot of folders containing duplicate files, but I’ve found that I constantly use these folders to add something to my pages. They’re a big part of what makes retiring some kits possible.

I do “retire” kits more often now that I have the best of them still in my folders of favorites, but I also keep their previews in folders so I don’t forget that I have them. The preview is just the small JPEG file that comes with each kit. I copy these into a folder of previews, then put them in stacks (which you can do with either Adobe Bridge or Photoshop Elements Organizer). For example, kits that are primarily red and green go in one stack, while the orange and yellow kits are in another, all in a folder for color sorting. I’ve also sorted copies of the previews into different folders using different criteria, such as a Theme folder giving me Vintage or Winter kits in their own stacks, or a folder of Presets, such as glitter styles and edge brushes.

Stacks of themed previews
Just a few of the “theme” stacks I’ve created to hold previews of the kits I’ve bought over the years. I created a cover sheet to help me find the right theme quickly.

The stacks of previews often give new life to kits. I spot kits, old and new, that go together when I’m sorting them. I then sort them into a folder that previews kits that pair well, the same way designers often partner with each other to create a kit, and now I can use them together to create a whole new look. Previews have also become a quick look inside my creative world. I’ve discovered that I have a strong affinity for certain color schemes and themes, even if I don’t have need more going by what I have to journal or scrap. I now consciously try to expand my creative horizons by looking for new styles and palettes, and when I see another Autumn or Seaside kit (huge favorites of mine), I try to resist them if they look too much like what I already have. That way I do mind my budget a bit better, although I still can’t resist a good Flash sale.

Courage To Continue art journal page
Even when I’m focusing on a single kit for a layout, I usually find that I want something additional, as I did here with this art journal page based on a kit by Jen Maddocks. Sometimes using a template also calls for an element a kit doesn’t include, and if I decide I want additional elements, I can quickly locate them in my”favorites” folders of duplicate files.

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Pep Talk Art Journaling

After the iNSD sales

Every time Scrapbooking Day sales roll around, I fix a budget and look for designers I haven’t yet collected to add to the list of my current favorites. I’m way past the time where I could justify my purchases because I didn’t have much of anything to work with. Now it’s simply “I don’t have (enough of) this designer,” or more often, I want the new “look.” And hard as I try to stick to the amount I’m going to spend, like any gambler I don’t keep my promise not to go over budget. I say like any gambler because at this point, I have enough to cover today’s and all future needs, if I’m creative in how I reuse what I do have. I’m gambling that I’ll somehow manage to use a bit of everything I buy.

Then, feeling guilty, I renew my vows to use the assets I have— however long I’ve had them—and to make sure I’m having a good time. I don’t want my pages to become a chore to avoid. I have enough of those around the house as it is. However, with plenty of family photos making me feel I should be productive and get more of those scrapped—work before play, right?—I can use a little extra shove to create pages for my own well-being. I keep my computer filled with quotes and ideas to help me face a blank screen, but recently Tangie & Co (Rebecca McMeen is the Co, I believe) have begun including an “itinerary”  for newsletter subscribers. If you want to get involved with any aspect of art journaling, both digital and mixed media, their site is worth a look.

Subscribers get a link every odd-numbered newsletter to download the itinerary—a PDF that includes a challenge, a quote, ideas to spark a journal page, etc. If you are a paid Art Journal Caravan member, you get this plus other goodies on a regular basis. This past week’s challenge was to create a page with a skull, 3 cacti, and 6 flowers. The quote: “It is possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems.” There was no requirement to use the quote with the skull and cacti, but I thought I’d try to figure out what the pep talk was in the quote and illustrate it.Pep talk example 1Pep talk example 2I often look for quotes that inspire a positive attitude towards life. And I certainly give myself little pep talks from time to time. Just getting out of bed is an affirmation that life can hold some good, even today. But no matter how uplifting the statement, not all are capable of getting me to feel the pep. In my own journaling, I want to acknowledge my feelings and, hopefully, develop a truthful awareness of myself and my world. When I come across a quotation like this one, I try to figure out if it resonates with me in any way. In Kenya, 350,000 Somalis live in a “temporary” refugee camp. As refugees, they enjoy none of the privileges of residents to find work and make homes outside the camp. Some have been there for 25 years. Some were born there and have had their own children there. Does telling them that it’s possible to go on add anything to their lives? They live that truism every day. Practically all they have is hope and, if lucky, love within their family.

Art Journaling a positive message
The Quote: Maybe it’s not about having a beautiful day, but about finding beautiful moments. Maybe a whole day is just too much to ask. I could choose to believe that in every day, in all things, no matter how dark, there are shards of beauty if I look for them.—Anna White
Created using Jen Maddox’ Preamble art journal kit

Or what about us who are much, much more fortunate? If we’re on the brink of giving up, will this statement pull us back, affirm our feelings, but also buoy us as we attempt to manage the challenges we face? Or does it hold us responsible for outcomes, by implying that we can achieve anything merely by refusing to give up; our fault if we don’t?Pep talk example 3Pep talk example 4I’m at a loss for just what I should take away from this quotation, and juxtaposed with a skull, I decided to illustrate a slightly less positive response to it. Perhaps context would have told me more. Some affirmative statements help us gird our loins, go out there, and win one for the Gipper. Others, like the one above, feel more like part of the often relentless pressure from my society to always have an uplifting message for everyone.

Journaling truth about women's lives
The Quote: The only way for a woman to provide for herself decently is for her to be good to some man that can afford to be good to her.—G B Shaw, 1898. Credits: Mischief Circus and others.

I don’t mean that I think my art journaling should be a lengthy and hopeless diatribe against the world. That would be pretty shallow. The pain in life gives shape to our joy, but even small pleasures are equally real, and joy and laughter happens among us all. My art journal is where I want to express the complex emotions and nuances in my life, with or without words, and feel no pressure to follow the social edict that if you haven’t anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. So I came up with nothing good to say, and I had a lot of fun doing it.Pep talk example 5As Granny said of the unicorn in Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies“See clear! Don’t let the glamour get you!  See what’s in front of your eyes! It’s a damn great horse with a horn on the end!” Even fantasy must reflect real life to resonate with us. No unicorn is entirely beneficent. There’s that horn. . . Art journaling has the potential to be a powerful influence on our lives. If we treat it with respect, it can express our humor, our reverence, our joy, and our pain. It can be our political, sociological, and philosophical statement, our diary, our way of keeping awake to our lives. It can be therapy. If you find a quote that expresses what you believe, use it. If you find one that fires up your opposition to it, use that, too. At the end, an art journal page is about you and for you, and has nothing to do either with what “art” should be, or what you should feel about anything in your life. It’s a space to record what you do feel.

Skull and Cacti with flowers
The Quote: It is possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems—Nicholas Sparks. The Response: (Except for this poor guy. . . there’s always this poor guy. It wasn’t terribly possible for him. . . Became utterly impossible, if you ask me. . .) Credits: Mischief Circus, G&T Designs, Raspberry Road, and others.