Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Updates On Things

I'm tired and lack the creativity to come up with a better title.  I have a terrible habit of mentally spreading myself too thin because my mind is kinda like pinball and not like a laser beam.  So in doing that I've wound up getting myself so overwhelmed it's been difficult to get things done I need to get done.  I had a mini break down type thing.  Basically had a crappy day, cried a lot, and talked about it.  Now I feel like I'm ready to push through and get stuff done.  

Honestly, I hate internet logistical stuff almost as much as I hate math.  To put this in perspective for those who don't know me, I spent many of the nights I had math homework crying in frustration over it.  I actually really enjoy the design part.  I get a lot of gratification from it.  It's like making  a large piece of art that has moving parts that all work together.  

I have a bare bones understanding of html and css.  Basically enough to get me by with minor hiccups on the internet.  I also have a knack for figuring things out just by looking at them for long enough.  Unfortunately that is not nearly enough.  

I feel like web design started out how cars started out.  Relatively easy to repair on your own then as time went by people saw a way to make money and with technological advances it just became so convoluted only people who got some serious education or experience were able to figure the system out.  

I had it so close.  So very close.  Then when I uploaded my template (basic instructions for the website's layout, colors, functions, etc.) joomla said it was out of date.  I literally laughed and cried at the same time.  Still not entirely sure why I laughed.  I think it's because this entire thing is positively ludicrous.  

I've decided I want to give it a go with wordpress.  I need to do more research to be absolutely sure.  The website will still have the same address as before.  It will just look different.  I've decided if I like wordpress I'm going to make a template in artisteer on saturday (boyfriend has artisteer on his comp).  I just don't want to settle for a wordpress theme when I just don't care much for the ones offered.  

I've not worked on art in so long it's pitiful.  I'm not giving up on it.  It's far too important. It's just taken a back seat to figuring out the web stuff.  In other happy news I'm getting a new tablet for Christmas and I'm very excited because it will open up a lot of new possibilities for me artistically with my digital art.  :)  Fancy tablets don't do the work they just give you more room to grow than a basic one does.  They can pick up on strokes in a lifelike way which is awesome.  Digital art is a good fit for me because I can do it laying down or reclining so no stress on my back.  I still want to illustrate traditionally because I enjoy it.  I just like the look of digital art too.  So both are good.  :)  

I'll try to be better about staying on top of this in the future.  

One last thing about the jewelry.  I fully intend to have the new necklaces up by tomorrow evening.  So check storenvy soon.  :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Still Learning

Hey everyone.  I wanted today's post to be about my photography and how I've learned. 

So far it's been an uphill battle when it comes to photography the jewelry for business.  Now the flower pictures I take to paint are far easier.  I couldn't figure out for a long time why one was so much easier than the other.  It was like a smack in the face sort of moment when I realized why.  Reflective surfaces vs. matte surfaces.  

Take this for example-

Both are shot in direct sunlight but one turned out beautifully and the other looks completely washed out.  What's the difference?  Flowers and plant life have matte surfaces and the earrings in the above photo do not.  The earrings bounce back the light that's shined on them which gives a very white and washed out look with direct sunlight.  

I've procrastinated on finishing redoing my jewelry photos for this reason.  It takes a lot out of me to do the photos.  There's a lot of bending, reaching, and standing involved and it's exhausting.  I've only got so much energy to work with before it's gone.  Add that to the fact that it frustrates me to tears between the pain and fatigue and you get me not getting it done.  :P

So now my game plan is to use artificial lighting so I can have more control over how much or how little light I use.  Some of the jewelry actually needs more lighting.  Specifically some rhodonite earrings I made.  Rhodonite is more on the matte side of the scale.  It's a lovely pinkish stone but it's not got a very reflective surface so it needs more light to really show up nicely.

I've already taken a few photos using this new lighting system and so far it's gone pretty well.  I'm still learning so some photos are still not turning out how I'd like.  One thing I have definitely learned is don't shoot jewelry on a reflective surfaces because it comes out looking terrible.  I'd post an example of that but I can't find the picture.  I think I may have deleted it.  lol  Basically it makes the jewelry stand out a lot less.  :P

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  :)  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Great T-Shirt War

I've not been as faithful with updates I would like to be.  A lot has been going on.  At this point I don't want to go into detail because I'm worn out and I'm trying to focus on other things right now.  

As for the title, well it is pretty much what it sounds like.  I've been locked in a battle of wits between my computer, redbubble, society6, and CS5 to produce a good tshirt design. 

While I realize that computers are not sentient and therefore cannot be in such a battle with me it certainly feels that way.  Anyone who has ever grappled with a computer program understands what I mean.  

I think a lot of artists like to make it look effortless.  I think society conditions us to believe we have to look like we've got it all together or people will think less of us.  While that may be true in some cases I've come to believe that sharing your struggles humanizes you and bonds you to others.  Keeping hardships and difficulties completely under wraps is way too difficult and stressful to be worth the payout of having your neighbors be jealous you have time to keep a perfectly manicured lawn, perfect hair, and basically live a life that looks as domestically blissful as Martha Stewart's.  

So as an artist and a fellow human being I humbly present to you the evolution of the tshirt designs I've been working on.  

(Putting a watermark on failed tshirt designs may seem ridiculous but I'll tell you this, First rule of the internet- if it's not nailed down someone somewhere will steal it)

Original concept-

This is the first in the Terra Series I made and I love it but it won't work for a tshirt design.  Changes need to be made.  

First draft.  Hard edges don't look good on tshirt designs.  It was the wrong size and I didn't like how it looked on a shirt.

This was finally the correct size but I still didn't like how it looked on the shirt.  It was too long.

This time the dimensions were to my liking but the design still looked too cluttered and boxy on a shirt.

I was finally starting to get on the right track with this one.  I still felt like it looked cluttered.

So close but not quite.  As much as I love the scratchy pencil lines of this design there was too much white.  Soceity6's tee designs make anything white in a picture transparent and while this doesn't look super white on the actual lines the scratchiness was an issue because it let more white through and wasn't solid enough so the design blended into the tee too much which is what I continually ran into throughout these other incarnations of this design.  

So close!  I decided to go with a more vector like image for this and drew outlines and then painted in first flat colors then shading on top of that.  I wanted to keep with the colors of the original design but I despised them in this format.  It looked too much like the lakers.. or mardi gras..  Which, I'm sorry, but I find the combination a bit tacky.  It's just not my taste.  

And here we are at the final design!  I changed the colors to ones that looked nicer together and I fell in love.  

 So now you may be wondering why I haven't made this into a tshirt yet.  Well that's a lovely and complicated story that simply put I can't figure out the color format for redbubble.  I decided to opt out of using society6 for tshirts because I really despise the colors they offer and their format for isolating the image isn't the best idea, in my opinion.  So I've decided to go with redbubble.  One problem, despite changing the color profile of the image to match what they specify the colors look very gray when I upload the image.  So now I've decided to walk away from this for a bit and come back to it because it's frustrating me to no end.  I know there has to be something I'm missing but I'll figure it out eventually.  For now I'm focusing on photography and digital mixed media for the prints I want to make.  If you want to see the other versions of this wannabe tshirt design you can check out my facebook page for my art.  I have an entire album just for them.  lol  So that explains the title of this blog.  Sometimes art is war.  

The splatter brushes used in the background of the last two designs are from texture mate  all the other textures, compass rose drawing, and images are my own.  

Glossary of terms

Color profile- In simple terms it's instructions for computers on how to display the colors of an image.  This is pretty important for printers too.  Complicated explanation here.

Vector- To put it simply it's the blocky colors you typically see on tshirts and other various designs because they can be scaled easily without making it look blurry an pixelated.  More complicated version here with an example picture.  

So that's that.  Thanks for reading.  :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Process

This is my first blog post here.  I'd like to share some of my process for taking photos for my business.  I hope you enjoy this post and it gives you a good behind the scenes look at what I do with my business.  :)

Each photo has quite a bit of thought put into it.  First I take "plain" pictures of each object to show just the product.  Like these-

Then comes the more challenging part.  Taking the "artsy" photos, as I call them.  I use props in these and put more thought into it because I like to take pictures that draw attention to the product.  The above pictures are nice, but do they really grab your attention?  No, artsy photos are more likely to get attention because they are more aesthetically pleasing.  

First I pick out props.  I have a lot of random objects I've collected over the years.  Some are things I've gotten at hobby lobby, estate sales, book fairs, and even presents from others.  Anything pretty that coordinates with the jewelry or contrasts well with it gets used.  

Once I've picked out the items I set up the photos.  I'm not overly concerned with showing the product with extreme clarity because that's what the other photos are for.  I'm going for artistic quality with these photos.  

It's a lot of trial and error.  Some days there's far too much light and others too little so it takes some doing as far as scheduling goes and playing with blinds and curtains a lot to achieve the desired look.  And sometimes I take photos and I'm not entirely happy with them so they get vetoed and I set up for more photos another day.  Examples of photos I wasn't satisfied with-

In the both photos the things that bothered me were the lighting, contrast with the props, and the angle.  Once I get these on my computer and see they're not what I want it's back to the drawing board, aka my room, to look through props again and find another way to take the photo.  

Here's a couple unedited shots of the same jewelry with different props.  

See the difference?  I was much happier with both of these.  The jewelry contrasts far better and the photos do a much better job showcasing the pieces while being artsy looking.  The sand was a mess to deal with but I feel it was well worth it for this effect.  It makes the photo much more interesting.  The book in the first photo is the same book that was in the earlier shot of it.  It looks a lot different with it when I've set it up another way with other props.  

After I get photos that look how I'd like them to I upload them on my computer and edit them in Adobe Creative Suite 5.  I try not to do heavy edits if at all possible.  In the past I had to do more editing because the camera I had wasn't top shelf quality.  It was a nice point and shoot but not what I needed for high quality photos of products I'm selling.  The camera I use now is a GE X500.  My boyfriend got it for me for my birthday.  :)  It's a great  camera it makes things a lot easier because it generally gets it right on the first shot and I don't have to edit very much to get it to look true to life.  Yes, GE makes cameras.  I didn't know that until a couple months ago.  The new laptop my parents got me (another awesome birthday present) is great for editing photos and makes things a whole lot easier for me.  I'm very thankful for both of these presents because having the proper tools makes such a difference!  It's a lovely Dell Inspiron that can support CS5 so I don't have to sit up to work on the photos.  It helps me conserve energy and not hurt my back so I can get more done. 

Here's the photos after some light edits, primarily cropping and adding my watermark.  Sometimes I have to lighten, darken, or even shift the colors, but generally it's all very slight.  Final photos- 

Sometimes I have a little help with set up from my furry assistant, Sophie.  

Here she's helping with lighting checks and setup.  

Sometimes she likes to help when I'm out of the room.  

My sister snapped this photo of Sophie checking the strength of my photo box.  She's a very helpful assistant.  Sometimes she even does quality assurance for me.  

So, that's the primary process of taking photos and set up.  I'll delve into it deeper in another post.  Have a great day.  :)


Friday, April 13, 2012


Why The Gilded Cat?  That's a really bizarre name!

It's a fusion of my business's name The Gilded Butterfly and my artist pseudonym Catlickfever.   This blog is for both of those so it seemed appropriate.  

Okay, so what's with Catlickfever?  That's really weird too..

It's a family joke.  We had a cat when I was a kid who would lick the ice cube trays and my dad always said "Better wash those or you'll get cat lick fever!"  I couldn't decide on an email name when my dad was helping me set up one of my first email addresses when I was a teenager and he put catlickfever as a joke but it stuck.  So there you have it.  

What kind of art do you make?

Mostly digital art (digital painting), sometimes digital mixed media, traditional media (I don't usually post those online), jewelry, and I dabble a lot in many different things.  I have also done lapidary work and metal working.  :)

What do you sell at your business?  

Jewelry, journal jars, and art prints.  

(Jewelry and other gifts here (one print up as well more to come very soon!)- thegildedbutterfly.storenvy.com)

(Art prints here- society6.com/catlickfever

How did you become an artist?

That's a really good question.  I never really felt like I "became" one.  I just was.  I've been told a lot by family members that I was always very creative and imaginative.  I've always had beautiful pictures in my head and now I'm learning how best to put them out in the world where everyone else can see them.  They don't always translate how I'd like so that's why I'm always learning.  I'm not an authority on anything and can't speak for everyone so these are my thoughts on this topic.  An artist is something you are.  You have to have a heart for it.  I'm not saying you have to have great technical skills a tall.  You can be an artist and only be able to draw stick figures.  If you're making things, putting it out there, and creating things congrats you're an artist.  Technical skill is not always inherent and there's no shame in that.  If you have a heart for it the rest will follow with a lot of hard work an patience. 

I'm an artist because I have a heart for it and I pursue it wholeheartedly.  

What program do you use for digital art? 

Adobe photoshop CS5

What do you draw with digitally?

Wacom intuos 5 tablet  

What camera do you use?

GE X500

Where else can I find you on the web? 

Refer to the links on the sidebar.  :)   


If you want to contact me you can do that via facebook or email me at catlickfeverartist@gmail.com (for art/print related inquiries) kait@thegildedbutterfly.com (for jewelry/shop related inquiries).  

You say you're a survivor what did you survive?

A spinal ependymoma.  It's super rare so as one doctor put it I "hit the genetic lottery" with that one.  (more about ependymomas here).  

Why a jewelry/art business?  

With damage done to my spine/vertebrae from the tumor I have chronic pain and I'm not very strong.  I can't stand or sit upright for very long so I have to find a way to make a living that doesn't involve that.  I love art, I have ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon.  I love crafting and anything creative really!   

What happened with your tumor?  

Well, it was misdiagnosed for several years and I got to the point where I could barely make it across a parking lot, my knees gave out at random, and sleep was almost impossible.  I was by all appearances aside from the pain a normal fifteen year old so my doctors never dug into it deeper thinking I was making it up or exaggerating.  One even went so far as to say I was being "an over-dramatic teenage girl."  I did, however, have one doctor who said we should pursue this further because he felt something was wrong.  I was ready to give up ever trying to find out what was wrong at this point because I was starting to believe I was insane.  

My parents basically dragged me to appointments because they knew something was wrong.  This was right after we moved to Texas.  The first doctor I saw nearly brushed me off but my mom told him he needed to watch me walk.  He did and he immediately changed his tune saying that was certainly not normal for me to be hobbling and hunched over.  So I went to see yet another doctor who was a nerve and muscle specialist.  She did x-rays and found I had scoliosis so then I was sent to a scoliosis doctor.  He was one of the first doctors I'd had that showed me true compassion.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said I will get you an MRI today with anesthesia (at this point I was in far too much pain to lay on my back).  So he did and we finally found a massive tumor.  Then two weeks later I was in surgery with a doctor who specializes in spine surgery.  

The surgery lasted 12 hrs and the tumor was 12 in long and as big around as my spinal cord at this point.  The doctor was extremely doubtful I'd ever walk again.  What followed were weeks of excruciating physical therapy.  Initially I was so worn out and discouraged I didn't believe I'd ever walk again either.  My mom stayed with me the whole time I was in the hospital.  One night she was up after I was sleeping praying after what was an especially bad day for me and God told her something.  He told my mom I'd chase butterflies again.  When I was little I loved to chase butterflies and catch them in my hands so I could look at them closer.
I had such wonderful nurses, techs, therapists, and doctors during this time.  I can never truly repay the kindness they showed me.  They did everything in their power to make what was the most horrific and trying time of my life easier.  I spent five weeks in the hospital before I was released.  My mom was with me the entire time.  She watched and learned from my therapists, techs, and nurses how to care for me so I could go home sooner.  Once I was able to use a walker enough to shuffle across a room and back I was released.  At this point I was only mobile with a walker and needed help for everything.  I had months of outpatient physical therapy.  I started off using a walker for very short distances and a wheelchair for longer distances, then a cane, then eventually walking entirely on my own.  

May of the next year I had a second surgery to try to remove the rest of the tumor.  My mom took me and my siblings on a trip down to The Gulf to give me some nice memories before I had to go back in for treatment.  One of the best, most joyous, rewarding moments of my life was feeling the sand between my toes at the beach.  It was something I thought I'd never get to feel ever again.  I was overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness.  

The second surgery was supposed to be less severe in that it would only be a 6 in incision instead of 12 in.  Unfortunately they had to do 12 in again because of the angle of the tumor.  It was less severe in that the recovery wasn't nearly as brutal as the first time around.  The first surgery when they had me stand the first time I collapsed and then nearly blacked out from the pain.  This time I was able to walk across the room and back with a walker.  I had to relearn how to walk a second time with this surgery.  My mom stayed with me the entire time that time as well.  Blessedly I only had to stay in for two weeks instead of five like the time before.  My mom already knew how to care for me from the first time around and a lot of the new techs and nurses I had thought she was a nurse because she was so knowledgeable and good at taking care of me.  haha  I had more physical therapy this time as well but it wasn't as intensive because the surgery didn't do as much damage as the first and I'd recovered a lot from the tumor damage as well. 

Since there were still bits of tumor left radiation was the next step in the process.   I had radiation that September and ended in October.  That was hard too but I was thankful it wasn't surgery again because I didn't feel my body could handle another surgery and it wasn't nearly as bad.  Basically I'd gladly take radiation over surgery any day.  The radiation made me exhausted and sick but in my eyes it was more than worth it if it meant no more surgery.  My mom got me expensive lotion to put on my back to keep me from getting burns.  It worked amazingly.  I never once got burned from it.  Itchy and a red yes, burned nope!  Radiation isn't too skin friendly.  

I had a great doctor for this one too and I've been incredibly blessed to have doctors who are not only the best but very compassionate and kind.  Having had the bad doctors I had prior to my diagnosis has made me all the more appreciative of great ones.  I remember my doctor said we should do one more week of radiation to be sure, I was absolutely crestfallen.  I was ready for it to be over with.  My mom reminded me that one more week of it was more than worth making sure it was over with.  I remember on one of the last days of my radiation the monarchs were migrating.  I saw over a hundred of them on over the span of a couple days.  It reminded me of what God told my mom and it gave me peace.  More surgeries meant more damage which ultimately would mean not being able to walk.  

It's been about four years since radiation, four since the second surgery, and five since the first one.  I'm still stable.  There are still those little bits of tumor but there's been absolutely no progression in all this time.  The surgery and radiation worked.  I started out getting MRIs every 3 months, then 6, this next one coming up will be 9 months since the last one, and after this only once a year will I need them.  My doctors are very optimistic that it's going to stay stable and so am I.  My radiation doctor's PA said I should always trust my gut and my gut says it's over with.  

I have chronic pain now, but I can walk.  I'd take that any day over not being able to walk.  I've lost the ability to walk for a time and I'm incredibly grateful for it now because of that.  My pain levels and what I can do on a given day are pretty unpredictable so that's why it's so important for me to get my business off the ground.  I want to be able to make a living for myself this way since I can't go out and get a job.  My mom has been a really huge support to me and my faith in God has kept me sane throughout this.  I couldn't have done this without either of them.  I felt I should close this by saying that.  <3  

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  

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