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Nikki Tran Blog | Designer. Artist. Photographer bio picture
  • and welcome to the blog! I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with Rusty, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just the two of us - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with your cup of tea and begin reading. Enjoy, friends! (Latest posts on the right!) --->

Hello friends!

Happy Tuesday, top o’ the evening to you, and all that good jazz. (Music? Yes, let’s. )

Since this lovely little blog has been neglected the past year, I realized I never got to tell you the story about how I met my kindred spirits, or my people.

About four years ago, after being on Instagram for a year, I “met” a group of wonderful girls. I don’t even really remember how we magically met, except for one of them randomly commented on a photo I had posted of my teacup and a Beatrix Potter biography book.  I’m assuming I went to her page, saw that we had a lot in common, and then the rest of our group just snowballed, randomly bumping into each other and forming our little group we like to call The Kindred Spirits Club. (You’re never too old to start a club.)

From this group I’ve received lovely hand-written letters in the mail, birthday cards, Christmas cards, Thinking of You cards, random online messages of inspiration and motivation, virtual shoulders to lean on and bounce ideas off of, and a window into a world with people who were just like me.

To be honest, making friends has been hard for me ever since I left elementary school, when I grew up with the same 20 kids from pre-school through 8th grade. We were a little family and we knew each other’s quirks, talents, and how to push each other’s buttons. I loved them.

And then as I got older I began to realize how little in common I had with people my own age. I felt weird, like I was an outcast. I was teased for liking black and white movies, for listening to old music, for thinking about marriage and a family when I seemed too young, and for spending a Friday evening at home instead of at parties (I did finally come out of my hobbit house and “live a little” the summer I met Paul – my friends at the time could turn any boring night into a thrilling, spontaneous adventure and I loved them for it).

So when serendipity stepped in and I found myself in a little group of women who enjoyed sipping tea and reading Jane Austen, or watching Anne of Green Gables and writing down their feelings, I felt as if my eyes had literally been opened.

(To be fair, I do have a couple of people in my immediate life who enjoy a good Jane Austen novel or will indulge me with a cup of tea. You know who you are and thank you. :))

Fast forward a few years to this past April: I was Paul’s stowaway on his work trip to Seattle and had just posted on Instagram how I was enjoying the Seattle views. I completely forgot that two of my kindred spirits lived in/near the area and received an excited message from Melanie asking if I was available to meet her and possibly Sarah the following day. (To be honest, I was nervous. When you’re about to meet people you’ve held in high regard in a bit of a fantasy life, you get a little worried the beauty of it all will shatter from reality.)

Long story short, we were all able to meet the following day (the day after my birthday!) for a possible picnic and tea party. I was a big ball of nerves and excitement while I waited for Melanie to pick me up. Would this be awkward? Would her voice match her letters/messages? Would we have anything in common? Maybe she lied and hates tea and Jane and Anne and Beatrix! Maybe she’s going to kidnap me!

Oh goodness, it was the easiest thing in the world. Melanie picked me up at the hotel we were staying at and conversation was as easy as if we’d been friends forever. Her voice matched, there was no rope in her trunk (just adorable quilts and a large picnic basket), and we had so much to talk about! As we pulled up to Sarah’s house, the same questions went through my mind, but just like Melanie, Sarah was a friend from the start and we had THE MOST MAGICAL DAY. Seriously, it almost tops Walt Disney World.

Even though the weather was windy, chilly, misty – all Pacific Northwest-ish – Melanie convinced us to hike 20 minutes through the woods to a cliff on the ocean for a breezy ocean-view picnic. I had my boots on, I was ready to go. Thermos full of tea packed in the picnic basket? Check! Beatrix Potter teacups? Check! Individually packaged sandwiches for all of us? Check! A bouquet of flowers for extra magic? Check! A camera to document it all? Check!

This is Sarah’s beautiful art studio. She’s such a talented watercolor artist and I LOVED getting a peek into her old and new art, her latest projects, and just to see where she does her paintings.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Oh yes. Melanie lives in the country and has chickens. She’s adorable and brought Sarah eggs. Of course.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Melanie took a bunch of photos of our hike up (you can visit her blog post to see it – you might have to scroll a bit to see our picnic, but if you have time you can see all the picnics she plans and photographs, they’re adorable), but I started taking photos once we reached the top. It was worth the climb.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Sarah and Melanie setting up camp. I swear I helped.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

‘Twas windy.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Wind or rain, we are picnicking!!

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

She wrapped our sandwich boxes with ribbon, cloth, and Anne of Green Gables paper. People like this DO exist!!

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

This was the view from our quilt. I just have no words.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comKindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comKindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

A side view from our quilt. Also, there were some people out and about and they were all wearing hiking gear and winter jackets and we were just having a lovely little time with hardly enough jackets/mittens/hats raising our teacups to them as they walked by, pushing against the wind and rain. Don’t mind us! We’re in Heaven!

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I don’t think I could smile any bigger, do you?

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

We survived for about 40 minutes out there. It was as windy and as cold as it looks, but we were so happy. Melanie turned her phone music on and played instrumental music from Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables. All we needed was Mr. Darcy to come walking through the fields. Swooooon.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

That’s a bunch of wild rosemary on my picnic basket that Melanie picked, because why not?!

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

And then, because it was “my birthday” and because they’re like little angels, Melanie and Sarah took me to the most beautiful tearoom to celebrate turning 29. Sarah was so generous and footed the entire tea party bill. I’m pretty sure I cried tiny tears once or twice.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I was on Cloud 9. Also, these 2 photos are Melanie’s photos. All day she felt like she was documenting too much – so grateful she did.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Nummmmyyyy.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

My new gal pals.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

(Melanie’s photo again.) Because they sneakily told the waiter it was my birthday, I got to wear the lovely crown and even got a candle in my dessert. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Notice I even have Mickey around my neck. Lucky lucky me.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comKindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

(Melanie’s next 2 photos.) We could have stayed there for hours and hours. Having too much fun, but reality was soon catching up with us and we each had to go back to our own worlds.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Before we split we ventured to the tearoom’s gift shop down the road. Saw this adorable teacup tribute in the sidewalk, snapped a photo, then I bought a Jane Austen mug as my souvenir and proof that this whole day actually happened.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

It was so sad to leave them. I felt like I was living a dream. However, there was a beautiful boy waiting for me at the hotel when Sarah dropped me back off and as usual, he always makes everything better. Even when I felt like I had just woken up from the best dream ever.

Since Paul is the reason all this magic happened (his work trip, I’m just a stowaway remember) here’s some of my favorite photos from the rest of our days where we explored Seattle, ate good food, watched fish being thrown, and walked through the rain and jumped in puddles. (Paul was not as good of a puddle jumper as I was. I am younger after all.)

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Seattle and this little nook of it. I fell in love very quickly.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Ya know, just making friends.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

The Seattle Spheres of Amazon!! They’re super cool – I felt like we were in the future while also visiting Jurassic Park.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comKindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Turning 29 was not too shabby.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

The market was SO MUCH FUN!!!

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comKindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

We watched the fish being thrown. My life is complete.

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Huzzzah!!

Kindred Spirits Club | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Well, I suppose that’s it, friends! I hope you enjoyed seeing my new friends and one of my favorite trips with Paul. And I hope, if you’re like me, it encouraged you to not give up on finding your people. They’re out there! Perhaps typing behind a screen or perhaps right in front of your face but you’ve never talked to them before! Or if you’re lucky you’ve found your people. Keep them close and love them lots. Kindred spirits are rare and oh so wonderful. Cheers, friends!! xoxo

  • MomAugust 22, 2018 - 8:17 am

    You have wonderful friends and a great zest for life. :)ReplyCancel

Hi friends!

I’m in a super chipper mood right now – the first thing on my agenda for today was to book our next vacation!! And I did!! I’ve been dying to visit the Carolinas ever since I watched The Notebook in 9th grade (call me a hopeless romantic, what can I say?) and finally we’re visiting Charleston, SC and staying on the ocean at one of the nearby beaches (love that Airbnb)!! So right now I’m bouncing around the house as a big ball of energy and excitement. :) If you’ve ever visited that area or live in that area, let me know if there’s any must-sees/to-do’s we should experience! :)

Onto the actual topic of today’s blog post:

I read and listened to what you all wanted in future blog posts and so today I’m going to show you how I turn my watercolor art into actual prints. Music while we read? Yes, let’s. Might as well go with a beach theme, right? :)

Before I began really diving into creating prints, I truly thought that everyone just created their art on one sheet of watercolor paper, sold it, and that’s it. But as I did more research and made many errors in my trials I learned that that’s not the only way to do it. You can also create art digitally, by piecing bits and pieces of your art together to create one whole art print! I admire the people who can create an art print/pattern on one piece of paper without needing to use their computer. I’ve tried to make one complete art scene or page and I just can’t; I change my mind where I want things to go and it just doesn’t end up looking nice and put together. I need more control.

It’s like film photographers vs. digital photographers – there’s no one way to do it, both types of people are photographers, they just get their end result in different ways. (When I first began photography I actually thought I wasn’t a true photographer because I wasn’t doing it the original, darkroom, film way…)

So, let’s begin, shall we? (I’ll put a list form at the very end, but for now I’ll explain the process in detail.)

The first thing I do is create my art. I use these supplies and paint whatever I’m painting at the moment with any spare sheet of watercolor paper. Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comOnce I’ve painted everything (sometimes I have to cut art into separate pieces of paper to make it fit on the scanner) I scan it into my computer and save it to my external hard drive. I use this scanner and for the most part, it works pretty well. I find that it helps create a crisper scan if I lay a heavy book on top of the art print that I’m scanning.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Once it’s scanned, I open it in Photoshop. Before I do anything else, I select only the art and copy and paste it into a new document. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool and drag it so it’s covering the whole art piece, then hit copy (Control+c), open a new document (Control+n) and change the Background Contents to Transparent, and paste your art into it (Control+v).

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Next, I delete the white space in the background using the Magic Wand Tool. I do this because, for example, when I’m designing a calendar page, the background of that calendar page is already white. If I were to place a scanned watercolor piece with the white paper still included in the photo, it may not be the same color white and you could tell the difference. By deleting the white space and only keeping the art in Photoshop, I can place the art on any color background without the white paper present. Does that make sense?

To do this, click the Magic Wand Tool, change your tolerance number to something appropriate to your art print (if you have high contrast between your art and the white space, use a higher number like 25-30. If your art fades into the white space like the ocean below, use a smaller number like 5-10) and then click on the white space. Once the white space has been selected (it’ll look like the photo below), click Delete on your keyboard.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Once the background has been deleted, I clean up the rest of the print by erasing the scanned book that was holding it down, and other white specks that made it past the Magic Wand Tool.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Because scanning doesn’t always capture the color and deepness of hues as much as I’d like it to, I often will tweak the painting in Photoshop to enhance it. I generally just bump up the contrast and saturation a bit. I save it as a PNG file instead of a JPEG file (if you save as a JPEG it will have a white background again – saving it as a PNG saves just the art, not the background).

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Then I open InDesign to actually design. In the photo below, the calendar page is already put together, but if it were a blank white page, just go to File, Place, and then find your PNG file of whatever art you choose, and place it wherever you want on your design. Notice the ship, the Bon Voyage, and the map all started on the same piece of watercolor paper (photo at the top) but were imported separately so I could edit/design them how I choose. Like I said, I need to be in control.

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

So there you have it friends! Every illustration you see on my calendar pages have all been individually painted, scanned, edited, and designed using Photoshop and InDesign. I couldn’t imagine painting/designing this on one try and one piece of watercolor paper, so I’m thankful for technology. :)

There’s definitely more to the process of designing digital art, so I’m thinking I’ll create another blog post to go further in depth. Deal? If you have any questions, click the Contact link at the top or comment below!!

My coffee is drained, Rusty is sleeping under the windowsill, and it’s time for me to continue painting for the 2020 children’s calendar. I LOVE this new project. Just wait until you see it, friends. :)

If you’d like to purchase one of my NEW 2019 wall calendars (the full March page is below!), just click on the link below! You can pre-order it now (my printing vendor says they’re already finished and will be shipped soon, so hopefully in the next week or so?!) or you can wait to purchase when they officially arrive. :) I hear they make great Christmas gifts…..:) xoxo friends! Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend! And I hope this was helpful to those who want to start creating your own digital art. :)

http://shop.nikkijeantran.com/2019-calendar

Digital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comDigital Art Tutorial | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.com

Turning Your Art Into Digital Prints

1. Create your art using whichever medium you use. (I’ve only done these steps for watercolor, so it may be different with other forms.)

2. Scan your art and save to your computer or external hard drive.

3. Open your art in Photoshop. Outline your art using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, copy it, open a new document with a transparent background, and paste your art into the new document.

4. Delete the white space from your art using the Magic Wand Tool. Make sure your tolerance is set to an appropriate number. (High contrast between white space and your art, use higher number. If white space fades into your art print, use a lower number.)

5. Clean up any leftover marks using the eraser tool.

6. Enhance your art by bumping the saturation and contrast a bit.

7. Save file as a .PNG.

8. Using InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator, begin designing your art by placing separate art pieces onto a new document. Adjust sizes, transparency, even duplicate your art to create patterns!

Hi friends. :) Shall we have some music to begin? Yes, let’s.

It’s already been one incredibly fast year since we put our first home on the market and I realized that I’ve barely shown you our new home! Like I said in one of my most recent posts, this blog has been neglected, so I’m doing my best to catch it and you up on life over here. :)

By far one of our favorite things about this 111-year-old home is the perfectly screened in wrap-around front porch. It’s as if we have an extra room in the house three seasons out of the year. We didn’t get to use it as much last year since we moved in the beginning of fall and were quite literally too busy to enjoy it, but the last few months we’ve really come to appreciate this extra living space and we try to spend as much time out there as possible. It’s screened in. We have little to no excuse not to use it.

So, come hither friend. Welcome to our front porch. There’s lots to do – would you care to sip tea and watch the sun go down? Or would you like to listen to the birds and paint a while? Or maybe just lounge about on the couch with a good book in hand? Or, if you’re like Rusty, perhaps you’d just like to stare at strangers and yell at them to go away? (He needs to better his manners.) Or better yet, would you care to dine beneath the twinkle lights listening to the sounds of cicadas reminding us autumn is near? Your choice.

Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? Here’s darling Paul on our very first day of owning this house. We had just come from the signing and picked up dinner. Our first meal in our new home. :)

Front Porch | Nikki Jean Tran | wwwnikkitranphotography.com

Just a few weeks in and Paul already had the twinkle lights dangling and Rusty already figured out this was his new happy place. At our first home, because of the layout, Rusty never got to watch things from the window. He always had to be outside in the backyard if he wanted to watch the world go by. Now he has his very own porch. :)

I began to fall in love with the light very quickly. We never had dappled lighting at our first home – there was nothing to block the sun coming in.

The view from the porch when autumn comes to town.

The first snowfall. My heart melted pulling up the driveway to this after a day at work. Do you see those big green bushes in the front of the windows? Pay close attention – they’re leaving us in the next few photos. :) (Although I do love the snow sitting on top.)

Once the temperature was above freezing I made do with living on the porch again. Electric blanket, tea, books…what more could I possibly need??

My heroes, Joe and Paul, pulling up the overgrown greenery. They eventually tied it to the pickup and heaved it out of the ground. Success!

Children cheering them on. (Also, we were used to not having to rake leaves at our first home – we learned our lesson that this place actually has to be raked continuously.)

Ta da! No more overgrown bushes, just a few beautiful Annabelle Hydrangeas. Soon they’ll be flowing every which way, their white blooms weighing them down. Hurray. :)

I like to rearrange furniture a lot out here. This was a before shot to what it looks like now.

:) :) :) :)

Yes I dress my dog and yes he loves it. Trust me. He wags his tail when he sees me pull out his drawer of clothes and actually will put his head through the head hole. I promise. He loves it.

The sun is just about to go down. I’m very grateful we get to see bits of the sun setting among all the houses and trees.

My newest furniture arrangement! This little table was my sanctuary at our first home. It sat on the deck with the lake in view and I used to sit out there regularly with my diary and some tea listening to the birds go to sleep and watching the stars pop out. I needed to give it a useful spot at this house and I think I did. I love it here.

I took out my big camera to take some decent photos of what it looks like now. Rusty is not a fan of the camera. :(

The poor hydrangeas were being suffocated from weeds up until I decided to make this blog post. Nothing makes one weed as quickly as someone about to photograph their garden. :)

My sad excuse for a tomato plant. I didn’t prioritize a vegetable garden this year, clearly. :(

Mickey is here to greet you, always.

We bought Rusty a little castle for him to rule over the front porch! Everything is his kingdom as far as the eye can see.

Welcome to our humble abode, friend.

I hope you enjoyed a tour of our little nook. :) I listened to what you all voted for in the blog post poll and I’m gathering ideas for blog posts I think you’ll all enjoy (including this one :)).

Also, in case you missed it, the 2019 calendar I’ve been working on like crazy these past few months is finally available for pre-ordering!! :) :) Click the link below to order yours now – I’ll be shipping them out as soon as they’re back from the printer, for sure by September 10! I’m so grateful for all the orders that have already been coming in – you all just keep making my day. :) Xoxo friends and have a lovely Thursday and weekend!!

Shop the 2019 Calendar