May 2011


This is a video of a recent afternoon I spent in the studio with my three young children… a juggling act between trying to paint my “Persuasion” book-shaped box, and entertaining them with sketches and prints to color.
Although the video was originally 1.5 hours long, edited down to just under six minutes (by yours truly)… you can easily guess how much actual work was accomplished. 😛

Here is the “official” blog post, where I shared my thoughts on the video, and its purpose.

Why not just post the blog here on WordPress.com?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
(Even though you didn’t… I was attempting to read your mind)

In case you’ve never visited my official website before – and you should! Just to say you’ve been there – I have another blog up and running, where I’ve been sharing the same posts.

*gasp* For shame! Breaking the Cardinal Rule of Google…. didn’t I realize it’s a mortal sin to duplicate my content?
Well…. yes and no.

I seriously doubt Google is banishing me to the depths of Shayol Ghul, although it may choose to favor this particular blog, and ignore the other.
As I get far more traffic here… little of it being relevant to my work. LOL
(Entirely my fault for rambling so often about non-work-related things! Mea culpa!)

If you’ve “discovered” me while searching for a vinegar solution to pour over your head, I’m still honored to make your acquaintance.
Really! 🙂

But trying to manage two blogs, which are virtually the same, is tedious and silly. And I don’t plan to increase the number of hours I sit at the computer, trying to compose “original content” for both blogs.

I have too many things requiring my attention in the 24 hours that God has deigned to give us…
And three things always looking to distract me…
[See above video]

So despite the insane amounts of traffic I will undoubtedly lose by abandoning this blog on WordPress…. I would like to encourage everyone who truly wants to follow my work (and my ramblings) – to hop over to my Official blog on TaraFlyArt.com and sign yourselves up.

I’m not quitting the blogosphere…
just relocating my energy to The Website where my presence is needed most. 😉
And I’d love for you to join me!

acrylic painting on wood book shaped box by Tara Fly.

As you might have suspected from my recent posts, I’ve stepped momentarily away from “Pride and Prejudice” …

Many months of pouring over a book I’ve practically memorized, and obsessing over the feline portrayals of each major character, has left me with something almost kin to resentfulness of Darcy and Elizabeth.

I almost loathe them now…

I needed a break, if not from Austen herself, then certainly a respite from her immortal words: “In vain, I have struggled, it will not do…”

I spent one weekend flipping through “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma” – hunting down humorous or heartwarming quotes for greeting cards… but finally found inspiration and solace in “Persuasion”.

Jane Austen's Persuasion, original acrylic painting by Tara Fly

I think what I love most about the characters, and their gradual romance, is how identifiable they are…
Anne and Frederick were young childhood sweethearts; however she decided to reject his proposal, and has spent the last eight years wondering whether she made the right decision.

When he returns to the neighborhood, she discovers he has grown into a successful, handsome man – most popular with the ladies. (LOL, good ol’ Austen… and her wealthy young men always in want of a wife…)

Ah, such a sweet revenge to warm the hearts of all jilted lovers out there….

Who among us hasn’t made the difficult decision to break off a relationship, and questioned our judgement later?
How many of us have accidentally bumped into an old flame and felt that twinge of regret?

Especially if they seem to have flourished in our absence, as if we somehow were holding back their potential.

Jane Austen's Persuasion, portrait of Anne Elliot Cat, art by Tara Fly.

Okay, I don’t usually pine over lost opportunities – it isn’t my philosophy – rather, my belief in destiny and romantic outlook on life tends to mirror Jane’s writings, inasmuch as everything ultimately works itself out for the best…

But there have been fleeting “what if” moments, and I can definitely relate to the self-doubting Anne experiences.


Desiring to paint something new and different – onto some thing new and different – a melancholy vision of Anne (at the Cobb Harbor), gazing out at the distant ships… picturing Captain Wentworth in his naval uniform aboard one of them, sprung to mind.

And I chose to paint her portrait in acrylics onto this wooden box designed to resemble a book…

wooden book shaped box painted in acrylics by TaraFly.

You can find these unfinished wood boxes at local craft stores, like Michael’s and A.C.Moore.
I picked up a couple of them to practice a couple of ideas, because I recognized how appropriately purrfect they were for showcasing my literary cat portraits.

I’ve already commissioned Joe to build similar book boxes, with a couple changes that I made to the design, and hopefully will have some fully handcrafted pieces to introduce as a featured line in my shop(s).

When Anne Eliot is finished, I’ll scan her into the computer for reproduction prints as well. 🙂

birds flying to and from birdhouse

It’s always humbling (and often amusing) to check my blog stats, which admittedly don’t get checked as frequently as they should… I tend to rant and rave with little regard for whether or not anyone is listening.

In fact, I was beginning to grow complacent in the solitude… like the liberation one feels after moving to the country, miles away from civilization, unable to even see or hear one’s neighbors!

As if the entire world was your own – just you and nature – so you strip off your clothes, running naked through the field and singing to yourself.

Uninhibited and free! Rolling in the buttercups… La-de-dah …La la la….

Until the UPS truck pulls into the gravel driveway…

…with a belated Christmas package from your mother; one that requires your signature, because she’s obsessed with lost packages.
And you realize, with equal parts horror and sadness, that you aren’t alone on the planet after all. *blush*

Thanks to Google and a few followers, my solitary ramblings are occasionally chanced upon (usually in awkward moments)… such as when I’m having a bad hair month week: my experience using homemade shampoo bars has been my top-viewed blog post to date!
Other high-ranking posts included my infamous Question of Ethics, and Twitter’s humorous take on Super Bowl Madness.

bird feeder house on tall post

Ranked 5th on the list of Top Posts, and one that Google tends to favor with daily traffic, is my Anti-Tutorial for Photoshop. Despite the thousands upon thousands of PS tutorials running wild and mating out there in cyberspace, people can’t seem to get enough of them!

I spend a fair chunk of time using Photoshop… more time than I ought, considering I’ve changed my artistic direction in favor of traditional acrylics. But PS will always be my guilty pleasure – a chance to reinvent my world into something altogether surreal and magical.

Last weekend, Joe and I were both fascinated by this ginormously, tall birdhouse at Carolyn’s farm. (This image wasn’t Photoshopped… it really is leaning!)

He captured a dozen really cool shots of birds in flight, making trips to and from the house…. as I scrolled through the nearly identical images, it occurred to me: these photographs would look even better if we incorporated more birds!

I decided to use these two:
two birdhouse images with flying birds, photos by Joe Teach

• I decided my background image would be the photo on the left. I cropped out some of the excess to frame it better, which downsized it from an image measuring 10″ x 6″, to an image measuring 6″ x 8″ (at 300 dpi).

• I used the Spot Healing tool to remove some dust orbs, and stray marks which came from the camera lens. Probably cat fur, LOL

Using Spot Healing tool in Photoshop to remove marks

• Next, I adjusted the lighting with Levels. There is an excellent article here on the blog – Cambridge In Colour, that discusses Levels in-depth, if you’re interested in using the tool properly.
I just play around with the white, grey, and black sliders until I like what I see. 😉

adjusting the grey value Level sliders in Photoshop

Now it’s time for the birds!

• I opened the other photo, and dragged the rectangular Marquee Tool (with the dotted lines) across the flying bird to select and copy him.

Selecting the flying bird with Marquee Tool in Photoshop

• I clicked Edit>Copy and toggled back to my working image. Edit>Paste plopped him down next to the birdhouse.
I opened up Levels again to adjust his color to match other photo… and then began erasing the block of sky around him with the Eraser tool, because there was foliage underneath.

Erasing part of a layer in Photoshop to reveal layer underneath.

When he looked indistinguishable from his surroundings, I right-clicked on his layer in the right column, and he “merged down” to join the sky.
Then I repeated the above steps to include the bird perched on the railing…

Adjusting image layers in Photoshop

Except in this case, I had a birdhouse to deal with as well….
In hindsight, I should’ve just erased everything else, save the bird, just as I did with the previous image… that would be the easiest thing to do. I don’t do things the easy way, however, so ignore the following steps….

• I decided to line up the birdhouse with its counterpart underneath – choosing the Layer Screen Blending mode, and later Hard Light, so that I could see both layers together in order to match them.

Using Blending mode in Photoshop to line up images

I dragged the upper layer slowly back and forth, and even tugged at the corners to resize it, until the image underneath was directly in line with my birdie layer.
See how both images lined up appear darker and solid?

Then I reset the Blending mode of the layer back to “Normal”, and merged it down into place.

Birdhouse photograph with flying birds, by Tara Fly.

At this point, I could say the image of our birdhouse was finished. It looks realistic enough…. however, I wanted to play with it a bit more, adding some textures and lighting effects. So I saved it first, just in case I made a huge mess. LOL

At the moment, I’m obsessed with sparkles and bokeh…. and my favorite photographer for all-things sparkly and textured is Night-Fate-Stock on Deviantart.com.
One of these days, I’m gonna experiment with photographing my own sparkles… as Julia claims to create hers by pouring glitter onto the pavement (on a sunny day, with clear skies), and using an unfocused lens – the glitter reflects everywhere. 🙂

Adding sparkle bokeh texture to birdhouse image in Photoshop

• I used Night-Fate-Stock’s Texture 26, (which is stored in my Go-To stock folder), and set the Blending mode to Screen and Opacity to 97%.

I also removed a few of the sparkles because they were distracting from the birds…. I picked up some of the orange color from her background, and brushed it across the sparkles to “erase” them.

Using gradient tool to add color to image in Photoshop

• Next, I created a gradient by selecting two colors – butter yellow and light pink – and using the Gradient tool on a new layer to create a diagonal sweep of color.
I set the Blending mode to Color Burn, at 100% Opacity.

This gradient gave the sky a warm, pinkish glow and increased the saturation of the leaves.

• The last thing I do, after playing with textures: I create a duplicate layer of the background, drag it into the top position, and select “Multiply” from the Blending options. It softens the overall effect, tying everything together…

Using Multiply Blending mode to soften effects in Photoshop

And now you think I’m finished! Right?!

Well…. sorta….

I thought so, too. But I wasn’t quite satisfied, and kept looking at it, wondering: “Something’s missing…..”
What if…?

How about adding one final texture – a linen fabric weave – to give the entire photograph the “look” of a fine art painting on canvas. I found the perfect swatch of fabric – here in DameOdessaStock’s gallery. ♥

Adding a linen fabric weave texture to a photograph in PS

I shared my finished image on my Facebook fanpage on Sunday, and sure enough, someone commented on the lovely details of my painting. *snicker* I did confess that it was a photograph… but see?! Fabric textures do make all the difference. 😉

I also couldn’t wait to print this lovely creation on my Epson R2880 (I used matte photo paper)…. and with an inch border on each side, it looks gorgeous and can easily be framed with or without a mat.

birdhouse photo on matte paper with archival inks, TaraFly Art

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Photo of horseback rider taken by TaraFly at Bellasana Stables.

Bellasana Stables, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

On Saturday, the weather was balmy and gorgeous, and we were itching to get out of the house.
Desiring a new destination rather than our usual jaunt to the local park, we piled into the car for a road trip into the mountains of West Virginia.

My friend Carolyn operates a horse farm, Bellasana Stables in Shepherdstown, where she rescues neglected and abused horses to aid in their recovery. She also takes in retired show horses, race horses, and camp trail horses, and leases space for boarders.

Bellasana Stables in Shepherdstown WV

She gives riding lessons, and “equine facilitated therapeutic lessons” for people with disabilities – for which she received her 4-year college degree.

The kids love to visit her farm… there are goats and chickens to feed, huge horses to gawk over, and children to play with…. although we don’t get an opportunity to travel in that direction as often as we’d like.

TaraFly drawing horses during field trip to farm

I took along my sketch book, and managed to capture a few rough drawings of horses carrying riders.
I needed the references for gentleman cat portraits I have in mind.
We also captured quite a bit of video while we were there… also helpful for later drawing references! Especially now that I’ve learned how to grab single frames from video! 😀

When we returned home, I edited a few clips together to create this new YouTube video.  I saved my favorite bit for the ending:
Check out the horse who untied his lead rope! ;D

Joe also brought along the camera, and we took turns photographing goats, horses, birds… and children frolicking in the grass.

making new friends at the farm

Mia, at left, was happy to make a new little friend...

This was only Jacob’s second visit to Bellasana… and he doesn’t remember his first experience as a six-month-old.

He made a couple additional appearances while still inside my womb, and fortunately survived one disastrous encounter when a horse’s hoof connected with my upper thigh, mere inches away from my very pregnant belly. :/

Artist TaraFly and her two-year-old son at horse farm.

I was standing off to his side while grooming him, and apparently picked a sensitive scab…
I didn’t realize that horses can karate chop kick sideways!

I think the surprise and fear were stronger than the pain, although I had a huge, blackish hoof shaped bruise across my thigh for weeks.

Needless to say, I’ll always prefer animals that can fit comfortably on my lap.

But I can proudly cross it off my list…
“Stung by a hornet? Check.”
“Bitten by a stray dog? Check.”
“Kicked by a horse? Check.”

“Broken any bones?”……

*silence*
(Still waiting….)

Although Joe and I are both leery of these monstrous beasts, their powerful legs, and huge teeth…the children have no fear, and wanted *real* pony-rides.
Carolyn was busy teaching lessons to her regular students, though, and we had to content ourselves with being spectators.

girl horseback riding at Bellasana Stables

Her summer riding camps are starting soon, however, which means more trips to the farm are already in the works. 🙂

If you live near Shepherdstown, WV and would like to check out the farm for yourself… you can contact Carolyn using this form.
You can also catch up with Bellasana Stables on their Facebook business page.

TaraFly's dressed stuffed animals

I’ve recently begun contemplating the idea of making videos to showcase my artwork, creative process, and give little glimpses into my studio and life…. simply because I find it fascinating to watch the videos highlighting other artists at work.

Of course, being the star of a video adds an additional pressure to entertain people along with getting work done. 😛

Once upon a time, YouTube would have been a fertile paradise for me to explore the world of amateur filmmaking.

I was eight years old when my father purchased a video camcorder for my birthday, because I was always begging him to let me use his expensive film equipment.
He had everything a young director could wish for…. fuzzy microphones on stands, a large stop-motion film camera, recording and sound editing machines…. *sigh*
But he pacified me with a hand-held, portable camcorder that shot in black-and-white and recorded onto inserted tapes.

TaraFly's childhood stuffed animals and toys

First Day of Rehearsals - Everyone bring your scripts?

When my friends and relatives visited, I would persuade them to dress up and act out my original scripts.

Lacking human actors, I would direct my stuffed animals in fully staged Broadway musicals…

I costumed them in dolls’ clothes, created sets from cardboard and furniture, played the cassette soundtrack, and did all the voice-overs myself.

These videos were embarrassingly cheesy, and fortunately they were recorded onto very old Beta tapes that no longer exist. *wink*

Just imagine… if YouTube existed in 1988… those horrid videos would be haunting me to this day.
Of course, I might have become a famous Hollywood director at thirteen.

Even as a teenager bitten by the acting bug, I was “impatient for display”, as Ms. Austen would observe.
Woe to anyone surfing YouTube, if I had only known, or they might have happened upon my melodramatic attempts at Wilde or Beckett.

But I didn’t have the forethought to post videos of myself all over the internet in the mid-’90s… or I might be starring in a daytime soap opera by now… or making oodles of money selling artwork, like Jasmine Becket-Griffith – who, at eighteen, was savvy enough to jump onto the eBay bandwagon before it left the station.

No, rather I began my web-adventures playing FurryMUCK (don’t ask) and developing a website devoted to haunted toilets.
And YouTube? What in the heck was that?

I vaguely recall my impression upon hearing the site mentioned for the first time:
It stuck me as a forbidden, voyeuristic place where people uploaded naughty things, hoping for their 5 minutes of fame before the moderators shut their videos down.

Even the name itself sounds… wrong… dirty somehow. 😉

Oddly, I no longer have the desire to stand in front of the camera for very long, much less record myself actually reciting anything… and who would listen, I dare ask?

Yet every morning, without fail, I am bombarded with marketing e-mails touting YouTube as the godsend for artists to expose their work to the masses…
And anyone stubbornly ignoring the potential impact videos have to reach wider audiences?
Well, they might as well shoot their careers straight through the heart and end their misery.

So Thursday night I stuck my toes in the water, and created a short video clip of my Regency cat portraits – using a free program called Windows Live Movie Maker, that I didn’t even realize we owned, until I needed to edit some video of the kids’ trip to the park.

We’ve also been the proud owners of a camcorder for over two years… and we have a webcam… *and* there’s a video camera installed on both our cellphones.
Do I have any legitimate excuse for not shooting more videos? Hmmmm?

Apparently I’m behind the curve… reacting to trends rather than forging new territory.
I always seem to embrace an idea 10 years after it becomes unpopular… like those Spandex leggings and oversized sweaters I wore throughout high-school, à la Flashdance.

Except I graduated in 1998, not 1988. 😉

Strangely though, I’m okay with that. I might not be business-smart and savvy, quick to spot an opportunity, and ready to throw myself into every spotlight.

I’ll embrace my shy, quirky adult nature.

And I’ll embrace that nineteen year old computer nerd who coded a website in tribute to “The Ghost of the Pot Roast”.

And I’ll embrace the fifteen year old girl who wore too much make-up, tried to cut her own hair, and moussed her chopped bangs until they stood straight up in spikes.

I’ll embrace that eight-year-old child who videotaped a stuffed cat singing “Surrey with the Fringe On Top” in Gordon McRae’s voice.

Because, honestly, if that isn’t entertainment… I don’t know what is. 😉