Soda’s Valentine–More Visuals

Quick blog today, heavy on images, light on words–which is sometimes a blessing for both of us, Dear Readers.  Worked hard last night to complete pages for the upcoming book Soda’s Valentine, and digitally “altered” photos are my main style.  Here are some samples of what I have done thus far, before and after things.  Feel free to print the “before” pix and use them as the basis for your OWN altered photographs.  Colored pencils and pastels work really well for this–you can see the process on this Halloween blog post here.  Children and adults really find coloring on photographs a fun, freeing activity.  Art is involved in the project, but no one is looking at your actual drawing skills when you do this–it is about having FUN without feeling intimidated by a blank piece of paper.  Instead, you are decorating a photograph!

Okay, here we go with a few of the photos I’ve worked on for the book!













Three out of….like 26 or so pages, I know…..LOTS MORE to be done!  But, it is happening.  Next blog will be about actual illustrations I am doing for any “empty” page space there is between and around the photo illustrations.  So, arty-art-art is coming atcha!

In the meantime, print out the BW images above and do some Soda art on them!  Have fun!  Back to work I go….

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.


The Style Of It….

So, here we are, down to the nitty-gritty where Soda’s Valentine is concerned.  Thursday–day-after-tomorrow–is Valentine’s Day, and I doubt I’ll be finished.  AH, such is life.  But, as with most projects, I got new ideas when the illustrating began.

I know, I know, I was going to do it all with photos.  And I still am.  Well, mostly.  But, since it is a kid’s book, and since I love visually interesting things, and so do children, I decided to do it right the first time and fulfill my vision.  It might take a little extra time, but so what?

First, I had to determine what my vision for this book is.  I started by thinking of what kind of LOOK I wanted.  I didn’t want it to look boring.  And, when I viewed my photos all together, they felt a little, well, blah.  They were okay, mind you, just not eye-popping.  They were pictures of a cat in a house doing what he does.  Now, normally, I would throw some really fun, jazzy illustrations in there to pop the visual interest up a bit.  But I didn’t want to get involved with full-scale illustrating on this project.  We are talking 6 hours or so per page.  I wanted to spend no more than, say, an hour per page.  So, how about altering the photographs?

Good idea, I said to myself.  So, I had a couple choices.  I could print the pictures out and draw on top of them.  I could color them selectively, add all sorts of squiggles and shapes and just have a good time.  Here is a blog post that shows that very project, albeit a Halloween post.  I thought this was the way to go, initially.  But, as I thought it through more, I realized that then I would have to scan all the pictures back into my computer to prepare the files for the printer.  Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like too much work, but trust me, it is.  We would be looking at possibly doubling the time it takes to produce the book from this point on.  Now, don’t get me wrong–there is something beautiful and fun about a black and white photo with art applied on top of it.  But, fortunately, I have a computer set up that allows me to do much the same thing digitally, thus eliminating the printing, waiting for the prints to “set” for 24 hours, then applying the art and risk messing up the art (and then having to repeat the above process) and then scanning, putting the page together, etc.  So, wanna see what I use for digital illustration?

IMG_0157_1549 copy

There it is.  My Wacom pad and pen.  I have a couple of these, for different computers, and they are different models, but they all do the same thing.  They allow you to use the pen, or stylus, just like you would a colored pencil or an ink pen or a paintbrush.  At first, when you get one, it feels very awkward to use instead of a mouse, but after a few hours, you will never use a mouse again.  These tablets and pens are pressure sensitive, so they respond much like a real art tool would.  So, I decided to apply ART to my photographs using the pad and pen, inside my image editing program, which for photographs is good old Adobe Photoshop.  Note–you can use whatever editing program you want.  I just happen to have lots of experience with Photoshop.   Now, there are TONS of tutorials on Youtube for learning Photoshop, so this isn’t going to be that kind of how-to.

I opened up a shot I thought would be fun to start with—Soda contemplating the messed-up toilet paper roll.


Now, what to DO with it?  First, I went black and white.



Then I cropped the image to the correct proportions for my book, which will be square, 8.75×8.75 inches all the way around.  Then, I went crazy, using my pen tool and all sorts of fun ideas for a bathroom.  And this is what I ended up with.


Okay, I love it.  But then again, I don’t.  It seems too….random.  Too un-Valentine-y.  So, I went to bed.  Sometimes, going to bed is the best solution.  And when I woke up this morning, I did THIS, in about 20 minutes.



And I LIKE it.  I feel like it is what the book needs—some whimsical, fun, altered photographs with a Valentine theme.

Teachers and parents—feel free to download the BW image above and print it out–encourage the children to apply art to it using colored pencils to achieve some really cool effects like those detailed in this blog, to which I already referred earlier in this post.  You can also have them write their OWN narrative or poem based upon the photo that they decorate.

So, here we are.  I have my STYLE for the book down.  At least, most of it.  As you noticed, the book is square. And not all the photos I took for the book will work in the square format.  So, that means there will be space….and I hate space that isn’t doing ANYTHING.  An upcoming post will be about all that empty space, and what I intend to do about it.  Now, I’m off to work up some more photo-illustrations.  I will do a couple more blog posts about them over the course of the next couple days, but without the long narrative, just so you can see progress.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

The Great Soda Motivator

So, finished shooting the book Soda’s Valentine!  Thought I would recap all the action in one post, so we can get on with the next step in illustrating, which I will come to in a moment.  But, first thing is first.  We need to talk about chicken.

Soda is ready to do another book.  All because of chicken.  He has found his reason for living.  And that is….chicken.  For those of you mailing him Valentines this week, make sure they are made of…you guessed it…chicken.


I agree….not my idea of a great meal, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There were 4 different shot “sets” I needed to get for the remainder of the book.  And chicken factored heavily in all of them.  First, Soda needed to “eat” a box of candy.  Now, I’m not going to feed my cat chocolate for 2 very big reasons.

1.  Chocolate can kill cats.  So, that one is out.  He’s not eating a heart-shaped box of candy.

2.  I love chocolate.  So, Soda is not eating a heart-shaped box of candy because I’m going to eat that candy.

Instead, to make it look like he ate the candy, me and my kids ate the candy (most of it) and put some tidbits of chicken in the holes where the chocolates were in the box.  Then, we scattered a couple chocolates around, and even bit into a couple so it looked like he HAD eaten them.  Of course, with chicken around, he completely ignored the chocolates.  And we got the pictures pretty quickly.



He didn’t even GLANCE at the chocolates once.  Clearly, he and I are going to get along famously, because, as a vegetarian, I don’t eat chicken.  So, all chicken goes to the cat, all chocolate to me.  It works.

The next shot set was one with Soda and candy again, but this time, those little conversation hearts.  I just wanted a shot of the cat reclining on the hearts–a close-up.  This one didn’t even require chicken.  We simply spread the hearts out, and my husband petted Soda on his tummy while I shot the pics.  Easy peasy.


Then we moved on to Soda and the high heels.  Chicken was again required.  I wanted pix of him messing around with the shoes in whatever way cats mess around with anything.  So, I pulled out a pair of red high heels, concealed some chicken in the toes, and let him have at it.  Now, Soda is adorable, but he isn’t a great ball of fire in the brains department.  He is pretty catered to in our house–he isn’t allowed to be outside, so he doesn’t exercise his hunting “problem-solving skills” very often, and his food appears in a bowl every morning.  We had to show him where we placed the chicken to get him going.  But after a few minutes, he got into the act in a big way, and pushed the shoes all over the floor, stuck his paws inside them, and generally used all his rusty brain synapses to figure out the puzzle of the chicken in the shoes.  We got some cute shots.


By the time we got to the last set, Soda was actively demanding chicken by attempting to paw it out of our fingers.  I wanted a shot of him wearing a pair of cupid’s wings, sitting next to an arrow and a bow.  The wings are a prop I keep in the Studio for children’s portraiture.  The bow and arrow were easy–sticks from the yard, construction paper, string and hot glue.  So, we set Soda up on the pretty red loveseat, put the bow and arrow next to him, and promptly realized the feather wings were going to be too large.


In the process of discussing this with my husband Mike, Soda Pop did a very cute thing….he sorta jumped on the wings.  And in my mind, I got the hilarious picture of a cat pouncing on Cupid.


Now, I know I write children’s books, but I also have a fairly black sense of humor at times….So, I felt I had to put this little image collage together….simply because it made me laugh.

soda valentine

But I don’t know if I will use these images in the book.  I will have to think about it, and make that decision probably the day before I submit the digital book file for printing.  So, I needed to make the images I intended to make, which is Soda with the wings ON.  In order for that to work, I had to take pictures of Soda in the correct position, AND pictures of the wings separately.




Then, I could digitally combine the wings with Soda, and shrink the wings down so they fit the cat.


Here is the result.  And sorry, but I still like the one of him jumping on the wings better.  Oh well, it will require a bit of rewriting too.  We will see.

So, today we learned a few things.

1. Chicken is important.  It makes all Soda Pop photo sessions just FLOW.

2. Building your own props is an easy solution–and they don’t have to be that fancy.  The bow and arrow took about 5 minutes.

3. Sometimes the props won’t work exactly as planned.  Our angel wings are too large for Soda.  So, I had the choice of getting smaller wings, or digitally altering the ones I had.  Digital alteration is easier and quicker, so that was the route I chose.

4. Sometimes, you get something unplanned that you like better than what you originally had in mind.  I am undecided about which Cupid shot to use, but I’m going to prepare them both so I can choose.  I am also facing the possibility of some rewrites.  But that is okay.  Projects grow and change during execution.  I am still on track for finishing, I am just not entirely sure what the finished project will be like.  That’s okay.  Be open to changes.  Good ideas strike at strange times!

So, we are pretty much done with the shooting.  Now, I am on to page design for the next step!

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative. This BLOG is about her creative journey into all her creative endeavors, including writing for children and adults, art and illustration, photography and photo-illustration, and book-building from beginning to end.  There may be other “sidetrips” that can’t be predicted–so hop in and enjoy the ride!  You may learn more about Tracy here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

A NEW BIG Project….

I’ve been away from official blogging for a few months now. What can I say…life happened. Some of the changes are good, but one, at least, was quite sad for me. My 95 year old Grandmother passed right before Christmas.

So, that changed a few things for me, and made me rethink priorities. I’ve now got the weighty responsibility of archiving all of her photographs—there must be at least 500–and transferring them to digital format. Some of them are as old, or older than she was, so they are very precious to my family. I am amazed at how much looking at all this ancient history makes me simultaneously miss her, and also makes me feel close to her. I am lucky.

In addition, I’ve renewed my connection with BETWIXT, and we are hard at work on what we envision will be an animated pilot for a children’s television show based upon Inclement. The first episode is a retelling of Sylvia McBye Learns To Fly, with some added characters.  It has been written, and we’ve done basic recording for scoring purposes.  Now we are searching for the right animator to bring it to life.  In addition, I’m storyboarding the script.  So, lots of work ahead.


And I’ve started serious work again on my next novel, The Western Radio Hub, which is the sequel to Buck’s Rodeo.

Lots of exciting things happening there, and currently, our heroes are caught in a mysterious fog settling upon some version of the Loess Hills and an unknown person in pursuit behind them.  How I get them out is brewing in my head for tonight’s writing.

Finally, I have a BIG project I’m working on, one which I wish to share with anyone who may be interested.  Soda Pop has a new book!

And I am going to journal about the making of this book, from the beginning ideas clear through the publication process.  I’m hoping it will encourage others to follow their own creativity wherever it may lead them.  However, during this process of documenting the making of a book, there will be other “side trips” of creativity.  I am also a professional photographer, running my own portrait studio.  I am also a Mom, running my own family.  Writing and illustrating is just a part of what I do.  So, my BIG PROJECT is more than documenting my journey with Soda’s Valentine.  It is also about the entire process of my life, and how the process is messy.  Seemingly disconnected things all come together to form projects in ways that cannot be predicted.  That is how creativity works.  Randomness of experience, of talent, and complete chance all mesh together at exactly the right time in exactly the right way to form….well, hopefully….magic.

Some of the “magic” I was able to capture this morning, on what I call my Super-Fog-Walk….just a random impulse to walk in the fog with my camera.

So, join me.  If you are a teacher, please feel free to follow my progress as I work to bring Inclement into our “real” world, whatever that may be.  I may post excerpts from my novel one day, photos another, and then illustrations after that.  I may post creative ideas I did with my kids, or coloring pages, or game ideas, or how-to articles.  Follow along and spread the word.  Creativity is like that—like the revelation Dorothy Gale had at the end of the Wizard of Oz–all she was ever looking for was right there, in her own backyard.  Creativity is there, right there, in our own backyards.

Tracy Lovett is an artist, author, illustrator, photographer, wife, mom, and all around creative gal trying to spread the message that creativity is one of our most important qualities.  She uses her books, photographs, and writings to encourage others to just take the chance and be creative.  You may learn more about her here.  You may follow her on Facebook here.

31 Days of Halloween–Project 14

Another crazy weekend of photography for me, so I’m falling behind on my posts! However, we will persevere! Today, we are going to do some printmaking! You will need potatoes, paint ( I used orange and black, because of fast-approaching Halloween), paper, and small, sharp knives.

Small children will need an adult to actually cut the potato for them. My older kids–11 & 13, loved cutting their own potatoes for printing. First, slice the potato in half carefully, making a flat cut surface for your “stencil”. Then, come up with a plan. Are you going to make jack-o-lantern faces? My boys liked doing this, and, in fact, that was ALL they did.

So, play around with the potato and your knife, cutting out eyes, nose, mouth, and any other details. Obviously, the larger the potato, the larger and more easily you can cut your shapes. Our potatoes were not huge, but each potato “stamp” only took a few minutes to complete.

We then painted the surface of each potato stamp with whatever color we wanted to use.

Then, grab some colorful paper and stamp away! Experiment a bit with each stamp–because of variations in the cuts, each will require different amounts of paint, and different amounts of pressure.

Do NOT expect “perfection” from any one stamp or print. Have FUN with this! You can create Halloween cards for friends, stamp on fabric, or just make a whole lot of fun designs on paper!

And the magical part of all of this is that when you are done, you can THROW the potatoes away! This little project is quick, fun, and works with any theme or holiday. Experiment with different fruits and vegetables as well.

Check out my new children’s book,  I HATE HALLOWEEN, which can be purchased here, and visit Bug Summer on Facebook and post pix of your own Halloween art projects here!  Have a tremendous day!

Luc Calms All My Fears….

I was on tv this morning. For like 6 minutes. And for those of you who are on tv all the time, I know this isn’t a big deal. Fine. And for those of you (like me) who aren’t on tv all the time, let me assure you, it isn’t a big deal. Or, like most things, it is only as big a deal as you make it.

Let me tell you how big a deal I made of it over the past two weeks. Two weeks was all the lead time I had for this little appearance. My friend Jared (founder of the kid’s band, BETWIXT that collaborates with me on great school presentations and other creative stuff) arranged this appearance for us on a local (Omaha) morning tv show that has replaced Regis and Kelly now that Regis is gone. So, there are these two Omaha tv people that do this show, called The Morning Blend, which is a blend (get it?) of all sorts of Omaha light news and human interest stories.

The timing was great for me, because I’m just beginning to publicize Buck’s Rodeo, my new novel, so yay! The tv station sent me an email asking me for lots of info including talking points that had to be returned a week before the show, and I did that little piece of homework pretty well. I emailed it the day it was due. Good enough. I also planned to email up some illustrations from my books, but that one slid by. Oh well. I decided to print canvases of my illustrations and actually bring them up to the studio. They could be set decor for the band.

Mission Accomplished

For the first week that I knew I was going to be on tv, it really meant nothing to me. I would look at the calendar to schedule photography shoots for people, and skip March 26th because I would say to myself “no, have to be on tv for that one” and then I’d schedule on another day and promptly forget about the 26th.

Cue the spring time change. Spring forward. Sounds so cheery. Right. For me, it’s a spring detour to sleep loss hell.

I remembered 8 days before the show that I wanted a new dress. Now, I am NOT a big shopper. So, I decided to find it online and have it shipped. Ok, so, after mulling it over for a few hours on a few different sites, I picked out a dress that I thought was suited to my body type, was colorful and fun, and wasn’t expensive. Bam. Ordered that baby. Delivery looked to be 4 days before the appearance. Alright. Shoes I have. No issues there.

Nope. No problemo with the shoes.

So, I have lots of things going on in my life during this time period. LOTS of photography work to accomplish. Lots of homeschooling to do. Lots of dishes and laundry and dog walking and breathing and sleeping and all those other things that we do all the time . Hair. I had to figure out my hair. Then, stroke of luck, I was chatting socially with my hairstylist, told him about this tv thing, and he offered to get up at 5:30 in the AM(ouch) and do my hair for this. ALRIGHT. I was cruising.

So, there we go. Clothes. Shoes. Canvases of illustrations. I didn’t really have anything else to do except survive my workload until the day of the deal. Unfortunately, my psyche didn’t quite see it that way.

First of all, sleeping over the past two weeks has been impossible. (thank you stress and TIME CHANGE.) I’m laying in bed with talking points running through my brain. All the stuff I can cram in 6 minutes begins to jumble itself and reorganize into craziness. My photography workload seems to get deeper. Consequently, I get tireder. Add to that the not-sleeping thing. Starting to get crabby here. The house gets messier.

This is my desk. I didn't have the courage to show you the rest of the room.

I imagine it is probably because I am turning into a walking zombie due to sleep deprivation. Wednesday, the dress isn’t here. Kids aren’t picking up the slack around the house, and the hubby has his own problems—inspectors have shown up at his job, and he’s working 12 hour days with an hour commute, so he’s basically eating and mostly sleeping when he’s here. Time change doesn’t bother him. Okay. Disaster is starting to loom, at least in my brain if not in reality.

Sleeping like a baby....

So, fast forward a few days to Friday last. My dress STILL isn’t here. It is coming UPS. It has to either get here on Friday, or it won’t BE here in time for the show because UPS doesn’t do Saturdays, at least not in Sidney, Iowa if you just pay for the cheapest shipping. Okay. I am starting to feel the first flutters of fear. Tired fear. No. Rephrase that. Exhausted-why-in-the-world-did-I-ever-decide-to-publish-books-and-be-a-mom-and-a-photographer-all-at-the-same-time-oh-and-I-have-to-be-on-television-in-three-days-and-I have-NOTHING-to-wear-fear.

Saturday was a wash. I felt like I was swimming in molasses.

Yes. I'm swimming in this. MMMMMMM.

I had a list of things to do (I am a list-compulsive) but couldn’t STICK to the list. Running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Thinking of alternate wardrobe ideas, none of which thrill me. Then, hey, I find out UPS decided to deliver it to the Post Office on Saturday instead of driving two blocks to my home and dropping it off here. Since we have a PO box, the dress is here. Okay. I’m feeling mildly better. But TIRED.

But, I realize I don’t have jewelry. Seriously. I don’t wear much jewelry except for my wedding rings. I buy art supplies and camera stuff, not sparkly stuff. So, I call my husband to pick up some cheap bling at a store in the town where he works. I describe it in miniscule detail because I want what I want, and he doesn’t pick out jewelry because I never ask him to, and I see how he dresses, so I figure I better be exact. (Luv you honey.) I am starting to panic a bit about the talking points. Am I going to sound stupid? What if they ask things that aren’t on my list of talking points? What if my dress is too low cut and I look like a hooker?


What if I look old? (I am.) What if I look fat? (I’m not, but I sometimes think I am, and the tv puts on 10 lbs.) What if I look like an old, fat hooker? Wouldn’t it be better to look like a young, thin hooker? Or, and this one is the most important—What if my subject matter just isn’t interesting?

Sunday, the day before the tv deal dawns. I feel calm. I slept well. I focus. I work. I print canvases. Stretch ‘em. Talk to Jared and TJ–the band BETWIXT. Finally. This is how it’s supposed to be. I feel nervous anticipation, but no dread. My talking points are lodged firmly in my brain. I try on the clothes and shoes and accompanying undergarments. Not bad. I have a glass of wine before bed.


I sleep. I get up. My hairdresser does my hair and it is awesome. My dress is pretty good. I don’t feel too fat or hookery. My shoes are great. We are on time–actually early. Everyone gets there early. It is a small tv station–this is Omaha, after all. But, it’s gonna be fun. I think. They tell me I will be on toward the end of the show with the band. Okay. There are other people on the show too. A guy talking about hard drives and how they fail. Good deal. I had that happen to me once. Another person talking about college basketball championships. Fair enough.

And then, there was this guy. THIS guy. This guy was the headliner.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Being GaGa’s ex-boyfriend and writing a book called The Drunk Diet is great. More power to him.   I haven’t read the book.  It could be a transformative read. It might very well be better than mine.  The title is provocative.  He most definitely has more money in the bank than I do.    He was there with his mother and his aunt.  He said “hi” to me in the hall.  (I am an idiot.  Until after the show, I had NO IDEA who the hell he was.  Pop culture FAIL.)   And believe me, I don’t think I’m all that. But, after seeing him and watching his interview, inexplicably, all my worries melted away.  And then, it was all good.


To see MY interview, which I have decided NOT to watch to protect my fragile sanity, click here: