Old Letters

Long before I was married, I kept scrapbooks. I pasted in cards, ticket stubs, ribbons from bouquets, invitations, report cards, little notes, event programs, greeting cards and personal letters. I don’t remember any rhyme or reason to creating pages; I just pasted things down as I got them. For example, one day, Bill left me a note in the quad at UCLA where we’d meet for lunch: “Hi–..I was here where were you? Dropped by to say hello before heading off to study – oh well will call tonite.” I had placed his note in my old scrapbook.

The photos on this page are from the last scrapbook I kept while in college. I found some letters from Bill, one actually mailed with a stamp costing five cents in 1967. The “Grim Fairy Tale” is actually three pages long, filled with Bill’s musings about classes, his goals, his doubts, the draft and his love for me. I showed Bill the letter this afternoon; he said he didn’t mail any letter from the Van Nuys post office on January 19, 1967. He said neither note was his handwriting. Hmmm, what doesn’t he want to admit fifty-five years later?

I am creating some pages about a few things I saved in my old paper scrapbooks. I want to tell the stories so my family will know why I saved them.

Photograph Memorabilia

  • Arrange letters on white board. Take photograph.
  • Open cards, placing ticket stubs and wrapping paper found inside cards. Take a photo of each.
  • Create new 12×12 page.
  • Place solid paper 1 from ArtPlay Palette Remembrancer.
  • Place photo above solid paper.

Note: Using a white board for a background to photograph memorabilia makes it easier to blend a photo or to clip it to masks.

Clip Photo to FotoBlendz Masks

  • Create multiple copies of the photograph of the two letters. Clip them together.
  • Open just the png file of main masks from Remembrancer FotoBlendz No. 1.
  • Place several masks and clip photo copies until just the letters are revealed as desired.

Use Template Layers to Build Background

  • Open Remembrancer Artsy Template.
  • Delete the small frames.
  • Arrange the background layers below the masked letters, delete layers as desired.

Add Artsy Transfer Layers

Note: I group template layers and artsy transfer layers.

Add Splatters and Small Frames

Add Elements, Title and Journaling

After printing this layout at Persnickety, I’m going place it as well as the original letters and cards in plastic sleeves in a 12×12 album. There are a few other things in my old paper scrapbook that I will photograph for creating a pages. Writing the stories gives context for why something was saved. These are stories I want my family to know.

A Story

I usually begin my scrapbook pages with a photo. In this rare instance, I didn’t have a photo. I wrote what I remembered instead.

My family moved from Houston to California in 1953. I was seven at the time. We left behind a new three bedroom house with a one car garage: the type built for WWII veterans, the one that had two closets in one bedroom, perfect for playing house with my sister.

We left behind the woman who mothered us six days a week. Her name was Pauline, but we called her Big Mamma. She was warm, loving and made the best okra with tomatoes as well as Spanish rice. She taught me to count and write my numbers to a hundred. She braided my two pigtails every morning.

We visited her a couple of years later. I remember her hugs and climbing the wooden stairs to her home to see her new refrigerator and I remember she made us ride in the front of the bus on the way there while she went to the back. I remember asking why my sister and I couldn’t sit next to her, one of us on each side.

Write the Story First

  • Place solid paper 5 from ArtPlay Palette Noetic on a new 12×12 document.
  • Chose the Horizontal Type tool T and create a text box. Write a draft; edit as needed.
  • Place Paper Texture 1 from ArtPlay Palette Noetic below the text to frame your story.
  • Transform the text box to fit the space.

Use a FotoBlendz Mask

Add Transfers to Build Background

  • At the top left, place Gold Leaves 2 from ArtPlay Palette Noetic just above the mask layers.
  • At the bottom right, place Gold Leaves 1 above the mask layers.
  • Place Splatter 1 from ArtPlay Palette Noetic above the texture layer

Place Title and MultiMedia File

  • Place “You” from Remember WordART Mix No. 3 to the left of the text box.
  • Add text to complete the title.
  • Place psd layers of MultiMedia file from Noetic Bonus Collection to the left of the title. Adjust position.

I wanted to tell this story even though I didn’t have a photo. Try creating a layout of your own focusing on a story, a page without a photo. More of my stories are on my blog, photosandstories.com.

Classic Artsy Style

Ten years ago I posted another layout with this photo of hydrangeas from my garden in Anna Aspnes Gallery at Oscraps. In the description box of my post, I wrote:

“I’m new to using Anna’s artsy things, very unsure of what I’m doing, certainly coming from a more traditional background. So I appreciate the examples here. Photo taken yesterday in my garden. I used Anna’s new kit and paper, ArtPlay Autumn Haze and an overlay from ArtPlay Fall 1.”

Comparing the old layout on the left in the screenshot below to the one on the right that I just created, it’s evident I’ve changed as an artist over the last ten years. I describe my artsy style as classic, but there are many other artsy styles. These are some of the characteristics of my style.

Classic Artsy Style Characteristics

  • Use a solid paper for a clean look.
  • Consider design principles when creating a page.
  • Focus on photos, either blending a photo into the background with brushes or clip the photo to a fotoblendz mask.
  • Use artsy transfers to create depth and interest as well as support page design.
  • Add title and journaling.
  • Use a multimedia file to create an easy cluster.

Use a Solid Paper for a Clean Look

Consider Design Principles in Placing Photo

Create a Visual Triangle with Artsy Transfers.

  • Place the layers of file 5 from Artsy Transfers Bountiful above the mask and photo.
  • Group the layers by pressing the keys command + G.
  • Move the layers to the top left, adjusting their position using the grid.
  • Turn off the text transfer layer.
  • Place the layers of file 1 from Artsy Transfers Bountiful on the bottom right of the layout.
  • Group the layers by pressing the keys command + G.
  • Move the layers to the bottom right.
  • Turn off the white transfer layer.
  • Adjust position of paper layer.
  • Use the grid to place Flower Transfer 1 from ArtPlay Palette Bountiful where the lines intersect on the bottom left.
  • Duplicate the transfer to intensify the color.

Note: I turned off the masked photo for this screenshot so that you can see where I placed the transfers on the grid. I actually added the transfer layers with the mask and photo in position.

Add Title and Journaling

Use a MultiMedia File to Create a Fast Cluster

  • Open file 2 from MultiMedia Bountiful No. 1.
  • Drag the layers to top of Layers Panel.
  • Group layers by pressing the keys command + G.
  • Move layers into position as a group.

Embrace your own journey to find your style. Take some time to look back from time to time to see just how far you’ve come as an artist.

Begin with Guide Lines

I moved my blog to a new domain, photosandstories.com, during the first week of August. I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to share for the first post on my new domain. Often, it’s good to review the basics. Below I share one design principle that guides my creative work.

I frequently start a new document by adding guide lines that divide a 12×12 inch page into thirds. In the same way photographers use guide lines to place subjects in a photo, I use guidelines to create pages. I start my pages with my photo. On this page, I placed the photo on the right two-thirds of the page. Since I generally include journaling on my pages, I also think about placement of journaling. The journaling fills the left third.

For the page below, I placed the gnome extraction in the middle third, placed the journaling on the left top third and left roughly the bottom third blank to create white space.

On the next page, the photo is asymmetrically placed in the middle third with the journaling on the bottom right third. Asymmetrical designs are far more interesting designs.

On the last example, notice that the photos and journaling focus the eyes across the middle third of the page. As I look at the finished layout I think I want to change the background so that I can emphasize the photos and journaling horizontally arranged across the middle of the page.

Have you thought about your process recently, what you do first to create a page? What do you want to change about your process? Try applying guide lines to analyze the design of layouts. I’ve learned a lot about design by applying guide lines to the artsy paper in Anna’s ArtPlay Palettes.

Inhale Exhale

I finally felt like venturing out with my camera to inhale the sweet smell of my beautiful peonies and cut some to bring inside. I feel like I’m breathing again, inhaling and exhaling: gardening, swimming and walking without as much arthritis pain in my spine. It’s especially nice to have a little more energy to get back to creating again.

It’s fitting I think that my first layout after an extended hiatus showcases my beloved Sarah Bernhardt peonies. They are the first to bloom in my garden. This layout uses my favorite creations by Anna, Artsy Transfers, to color a background sketch, create a visual triangle of color and build depth on a layout.

Build Background
  1. Place solid paper 2 from ArtPlay Palette Aubade.
  2. Create a black and white sketch using the Photocopy Filter. Duplicate. Change the blend mode of both sketch layers to Linear Burn.
  3. Extract one bloom using the Magic Wand Tool, blend mode Normal at 100%. Extract again using a soft round brush to include the shadow from the photograph. Change the blend mode to Multiply at 85% opacity.
Place Transfers from ArtPlay Palette Aubade.
  1. Below the extraction place Transfer 2 from the ArtPlay Palette Audade. Change the blend mode to Multiply at 50% opacity. Add a Hue and Saturation Layer to adjust the color to blend with the photo extraction.
  2. Place Splatters 1 and Gold Paint.
  3. Place Transfer 2.
Create a Visual Triangle of Color with Artsy Transfers
  1. Place all the layers of file 1 from Artsy Transfers Romance below the sketch layers.
  2. To create the visual triangle of color place a another set of layers from file 1 below the first set. Using the Transform Tool, select and flip the layers horizontally. Then adjust their position and delete layers as necessary. Use a layer mask to hide parts so that the two sides look different.
Continue Building Background Depth with Artsy Transfers
  1. Place the layers of Artsy Transfer Romance 3 just above the paper. Delete the cream paint layers, an art stroke and floral transfer. Adjust position of layers and blend modes as desired.
  2. Place a copy of the Pink Paint from ArtPlay Palette Romance just above the sketch layers. Change the blend mode to Multiply at 50% opacity.
  3. Place a second copy of the Pink Paint just above the solid paper. Change the blend mode to Linear Burn at 100%.
  1. Place the net and shadow from ArtPlay Palette Aubade below the extraction.
  2. Place the string and shadow from the same palette above the extraction.

For additional ideas for using Artsy Transfers see a recent post by team member Michelle James, 7 Ways to Use Artsy Transfers. Anna’s combinations of shape, texture, transfers and color in Artsy Transfers are my favorite of Anna’s designs because they are so versatile.


Every September, masses of Goldenrod flowers cover the twenty-four acreas of unplowed Stolley Prairie. The blooms last only a few weeks, but what a beautiful scene while in bloom. Stolley’s father encouraged him to preserve a patch of land from his farm saying that he “had kept it as a prairie because you only plow a prairie once. Then it’s no longer a prairie.” The purchase agreement stipulated that it would remain a prairie in perpetuity.

The effect of a sea of yellow is beautiful, but one photo doesn’t show all the striking detail in a prairie scene. Had I just created a one photo page instead of including some of the details I saw on my walk, the viewer would not have seen the Monarch butterflies attracted to Goldenrod when they are blooming. They would not have seen the flowers in detail. The detail photos clipped to the template enhance this page.

Clip Photos to Template Masks
  • Place Solid Paper 2 from ArtPlay Palette Daffodil on a new 12×12 blank document.
  • Open template 2 from Stitched Template Album No. 1.
  • Reduce size of all layers and place on left.
  • Clip photos to masks.
  • Place one of the text boxes included with the template to the right of the photos.
Use Artsy Transfers to Frame Template
  • Open file 3 of Artsy Transfers Daffodil.
  • Place below template layers and group them.
  • Adjust position so that the white layer lines up along the left edges.
Use Artsy Transfers to Create Depth Around Template
  • Place layers of file 5 from Artsy Transfers Daffodil above the group of file 3. Turn off stain and adjust positions.
  • Duplicate layers of file 3 and place below. Invert and adjust position.
  • Place layers of file 2 from Artsy Transfers Daffodil on the right side. Turn off layers as needed and adjust position.
  • Place the yellow and green stains from Artsy Transfers file 4. Adjust position of stains.


In 1865 H. H. Bennett began a career as a photographyer — and Wisconsin Dells would never be the same. By combining mechanical skills with an inherent love of nature, Bennett was able to produce technically amazing, aesthetically mesmerizing landscape and personal portrait photographs. His images were so compelling that they sparked a tourist influx and helped foster the growth of one of Wisconsin’s most beloved tourist destinations.

After Bennett’s death in 1908, his family kept his vision alive. His widow Eva was 44 and had two young daughters. She kept the studio going using the techniques Bennett taught her and passed that knowledge to her children, Miriam and Ruth. During the 1950s the family created a museum in the studio Bennett ran. The family preserved and displayed Bennett’s original equipment, negatives and prints.

This layout combines a sketch technique with which I’ve been practicing and something different than how I normally create with Anna’s FotoInspired templates.

FotoInspired Template
  • Clip photos to masks of template 6, FotoInspired Template Pack 2P.
  • Add Adjustment layers to turn the majority of the photos to black and white.
  • Reduce the size of all layers to about 35%.
  • Create a composite of all the layers.
  • Frame the composite with psd frame 2 from ArtPlay Palette For the Record.
  • Clip composite of file 2 from ArtsyKardz Embers MultiPack above the photo composite. Change the blend mode to Color Burn.

Note: I deleted the layers with all the photos clipped to the template layers by accident.

Fill Background with a Sketch
  • Resize the sketch to fit the page.
  • Clip copies of sketch to png masks 2 and 6 from Ember FotoBlendz No. 1.
  • Above the masked copies clip Artsy Papers 1 and 2 from ArtPlay Palette Ember to the top sketch. Change the blend mode to Color Burn.
  • Then clip composites of files 1 and 4 from Artsy Transfers Embers on Color Burn.
  • Next clip copy of the photo on Color Burn at 60% opacity to the sketch.
  • Place another copy of the photo and clip a composite of transfer 6, both on Color Burn at 50%.

Note: I experimented with different blend modes, positions and opacities to colorize my sketch with paper and transfers.


Position layers of file 1 from MultiMedia Branches No. 17 above the frame.

This is a wonderful little museum for those who love photography.

Pomeranian Please

With Kate in second grade now and me at home, it isn’t easy to stay in touch. I try to message or Facetime with her everyday just to see what’s happening. We had a longer conversation than usual on Wednesday which continued on Friday. Poor baby, she wanted a dog for her birthday, a little Pomeranian.

Design to Accommodate Story
  • Place the dialogue of messaging with Kate on the left.
  • Place layers of file 4 from Embers FotoBlendz No. 1 on the right for a photo.
  • Position journaling below photo on the right.

Note: I changed screenshots of dialogue from my iPhone to black and white in Lightroom before cutting and pasting them together. I then created a composite and added a Hue and Saturation Layer to give the screenshots a warmer look. I changed the blend mode to Linear Burn.

Clip Photo to FotoBlendz Layers
  • Place Solid Paper 2 from ArtPlay Palette Embers. Reduce the opacity to 50%.
  • Below the Solid Paper 2, place solid paper 1 at 100%.
  • Above both papers, place Transfer 1 from ArtPlay Palette Embers. Mask as needed to ensure photo is clearly visible.

Back to School

Kate and I walked to school this morning. As she reached out her hand to hold mine, she talked about hoping her bestfriend, Gabriella, was in her class. There were no noisy lines of kids standing behind teachers holding signs. I reminded her to wear her mask and to wash her hands often as she waved and walked through the door.

After school, I called Kate on FaceTime to see how her first day
went. Kate said she sat next to Gabriella in class. “Like right next
to her?” I asked. “No,” Kate responded. “We spread out our arms
and if we could touch fingers we had to move further away.” She
told me she liked PE best because they played games.

  • Clip photos to masks.
  • Adjust with Adjustment Layers as needed.
  • Convert one photo to black and white with Adjustment Layer.
  • Remove mask below journaling.
MultiMedia Document
  • Place layers of file 3 from MultiMedia Documents No. 2 below the black and white photo.
  • Adjust width to fit the title and journaling block.
  • Turn off layers not needed.
  • Move the UrbanThreadz layer to line up with title.
  • Place layers of file 2 of MultiMedia School No. 1 to the side of the journaling.
  • Reduce size of layers to 85%.
  • Turn off thread layer.
  • Above the multimedia leaves, place pencil from ArtPlay Palette Axiom. Recolor and give it a shadow.
  • Place chalkboard from ArtPlay Palette Time. Add name.
  • Place pencil shaving from ArtPlay Palette Studious. Recolor and mask as needed.
  • Place mask 3 from 12×12 Page FotoBlendz No. 2 just above the background layer.
  • Clip two copies of graph paper from ArtPlay Palette Studious to mask. Change the blend mode of the top layer to Hue.

Going to school during a COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t seem to bother Kate at all, not like it bothers me.

To the Moon

Kate told me the other day that she’s looking forward to going to second grade soon. I know she wants to see her friends again. However, it’s not definitive yet whether she’ll physically attend class or be at home remote learning on her computer. The COVID infection rate here is over eleven percent. I think I’d rather we take a little trip to the moon.

Mask Photo
  • Open photo in Photoshop. Add Black and White Adjustment Layer. Adjust.
  • Create a composite by pressing Command, Option, Shift + E.
  • Using the Elliptical Marquee tool, make a circle around just the faces on the composite.
  • Click add layer mask while still on the photo.
  • Apply layer mask.
  • Place space man from Bonus with this week’s release on solid paper 1 from ArtPlay Palette Twilight Zone.
  • Just below the spacesuit layer, place the small round photo. Adjust size and position. Reduce opacity to 60% to make it look like it’s behind the suit’s face window.
  • Decide where to place title and journaling.
Add MultiMedia

Note: I created the title by erasing part of a word art from Twilight WordART Mix No. 1. Next I use Adobe Garamond Pro in different weights and sizes to create the rest.

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