Hello friends.

(Shall we play some relaxing music for this relaxing afternoon? Yes, let’s.)

Rusty and I are sitting on the front porch, a Caribou Cooler within arm’s reach and dozens of chipmunks rustling through the front yard with their cheeks filled with our tree’s falling acorns. I think they’re in Heaven and Rusty is either really enjoying them or really hating them. He’s on guard dog mode it seems, hoping that one day he’ll come face-to-face with those little dollies. (Momma won’t let him – I once tackled him in the mud while wearing PJ’s to save a baby bunny from his wrath. I’m a friend to all the animals in my yard.)

I love this time of year. Can you tell it’s getting near to autumn just by the way the sun hangs in the sky at this time of day (it’s 6pm right now as I write to you)? I can. Or what about how blue the sky looks lately? I always notice how much bluer the sky is in the fall – maybe it’s because of the reds and oranges contrasting the blue? I don’t know, but the other day I looked up and felt a thrill knowing how close we are to nesting season.

So, naturally I begin to think about how the summer went. Did I get a lot accomplished? Did I take advantage of the weather? Did I cook summer-ish meals, taking advantage of farmer’s markets? Did I just sit and enjoy life as it went by or did I rush through it? Did I avoid doing things out of fear, like avoiding the beach because of wearing a dreaded swimsuit? Did I watch enough sunsets? Did I take Rusty on enough walks? Did I say ‘yes’ to more adventures with Paul?

Although I’m not completely happy with how I spent my time this summer (I can always use more outdoor time and can always use more ‘not caring what people think’ attitude to enjoy the beach and can always be more spontaneous when Paul asks if I want to go on long bike rides), I’m super happy that my friend Stacie got me out of the house at least once a week to take long, leisurely walks.

Sometimes I get too comfortable in this house. Working from home and painting all day in my PJs puts me in a bit of a rut; although I love my peace and quiet, I do realize I need to get out of my comfort zone every now and then so I don’t permanently stick to the walls of my house. So, almost every week this summer Stacie and I met at different places to enjoy an hour walk. It wasn’t much, but it’s something I’m going to miss as she goes back to school, working in one of the libraries I left at my last job.

Sometimes we went to a busy shopping area to walk, sometimes we walked through woods where we couldn’t hear the nearby traffic, sometimes we walked around a sailboat-filled lake enjoying the bustling city, and sometimes we walked through romantic gardens. (I like to tell her she takes me on more romantic dates than Paul does. :))

On our walks we chatted about the cares of life, dreams getting accomplished, family outings, daily life adventures (like when Stacie wasn’t being careful and took a scissors to her poor fingers), and more. It was only an hour or so a week, but it was a moment in the week I most looked forward to. It was calming, refreshing, it got me to talk to real people (Rusty isn’t a person, no matter how I argue it in my head), and it pushed me to go to places I’ve never been before. It was always an adventure, even if the walks took us just down the road from our houses.

Now that school is starting and Stacie is becoming more limited with her time, I’m hoping I can still do the walks on my own without her. She was my motivation – now I only have to answer to myself and to be honest, I’m a bad influence on myself. :) Perhaps it will have to be something that is on my actual schedule, blocked out once a week on one of my days at new locations and Rusty can be my new walking buddy. (He’d like that, I’m sure.)

As autumn creeps nearer, I hope you’re enjoying the preparation of it all, enjoying the last pieces of summer (hello State Fair!!), and I hope there are tiny bits of your week that bring you joy like my walks brought me. Cheers, friends!! :)

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!