The Day That Changed My Photography Vision

Mike and I visit family in Rhode Island about twice a year. Each trip brings a fun set of new experiences and it is our favorite ocean place to “get away”. Having just returned from our Autumn trip, I am beyond excited to share something new and completely different with you.

I was asked by Mike’s sister, Michelle, if I would take some photos of her for her yoga business. She needed a new profile picture and images to use when advertising her yoga workshops, Facebook announcements, and other online/digital and print material.

Up to now, my photography efforts have been centered around still life. I hesitantly said “yes” to her request and began doing some research on portrait and lifestyle posing. We knew the ocean/beach would be the perfect shoot location and she had already decided on her outfits and several yoga poses that she wanted to incorporate.

Before flying out to Rhode Island last week, I chatted with Michelle to give her some “food for picture thought” prior to our arrival. I was nervous as this was a new photography challenge that I was about to undertake. I just couldn’t mess this up or forget a photo opportunity during the shoot. Having tried portraits in the past with less than stellar results, I was determined to reach deep into my creative vision and make this a collection she would love and I would be proud of as a first official whole-hearted attempt.

I could see in my mind the images I hoped to capture. I knew exactly how I hoped the weather and light would be. I could see the colors, feel the wind, and hear the waves in the shots. Now it was up to me to work with my head and heart to capture Michelle’s spirit and the surroundings just the way both of us envisioned.

On the morning of October 7, 2018, we prepared for the shoot, we had a general plan, ideal weather, gear packed, and set out at 8am to the beach…

I could not have customized a more ideal day for this shoot. The sky was overcast and white, the ocean was sharing glorious aqua and blue/grey waves, the light was perfect being both bright and moody at the same time, and the ocean wind was perfection. It was as if the “portrait gods” decided that with this being my first official portrait and business/lifestyle shoot, both Michelle and I would leave completely happy in this environment - on this remarkable day.

Yes, I was nervous. I was scared. I was excited. An then back to nervous. I had made sure to study focus points, proper posing, and action styles. I studied as much as I could about portrait photography and yet, the nerves were jangling all over. Studying all of these things were helpful indeed, but when the action of photographing at the beach and the yoga shoot begins, you better be ready….I better be ready… it’s GO time Joan….You got this….I hoped…

I took a deep breath, let my heart talk to my eyes, I guided Michelle along as she went through the dress shots, she guided me through the yoga poses, and together we created these lifestyle and yoga business images and that I am beyond any measure of thrilled with…. we are both very happy with the captures…

DISCLAIMER - This post is VERY image heavy so I will catch up with you at the end.



Michelle uses glitter beautifully as part of her Yoga teaching so this had to be incorporated into the shots….


After changing into yoga gear…the yoga poses came to life…


LOVE the reflections in the wave washed sand…


All in all we took close to 160+ shots with this being a small sample of the complete collection. She has many wonderful options for her yoga business needs and several that will make beautifully framed fine art prints.

Having never taken location portrait shots in my life, I have to say this was the most incredible, beautiful, fun, wet, wonderful, happy shoot I have undertaken. My heart just smiles each time I look at what we captured.

Makes me believe I CAN do portraits and location shoots…

Makes me believe I CAN so so much more to capture life and emotion in the camera…

Thank you Michelle for asking me to do this for you. Thank you for the fun and laughs. Thank you for letting me show myself “I can do this” and be so proud of the results. Love you Missy!

And thank you to you, my wonderful readers…..I have been so excited to share this with you and hope you find them as beautiful as we do.

Next Up - I am going to ask my best buddy Jill if I can shoot images of her gorgeous daughter Annie.

This is going to be FUN!


Kitchen Refresh Reveal

After about six weeks of working on this kitchen, I am so happy to say out loud, "we are finished!"  The only small remaining detail is the installation of white outlets to replace the old cream colored units and that will take place next week.

I could have waited until that was complete, but I was chomping at the bit to show this off!

Here is a new view of the kitchen refresh.......

I have to say, I am so happy with how this vision turned out.  This refresh included a deep clean, massive organization, many strokes of primer, and a new coat of Benjamin Moore Super White.  It now feels so light and just feels so good.

Let me take you back in time several weeks on that fateful Saturday when I just couldn't take it anymore....I was tired of the dark tunnel feeling this kitchen had.  Tired of the dark wood....tired of the 70's feel....just tired.....

I began with removing the hutch cupboard and heavy spindle.....already a BIG improvement....

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This main entry way needed to be a clean crisp welcome with bright clean walls, minimal styling, and fresh new areas to explore seasonal decorating.  The large open white wall was calling out for a enhancement that spoke to the "unexpected"...a surprise addition if you will!

I pondered so many options and in staying with my "fresh" objective for this room, open shelving was strongly considered, but dismissed due to the OCD I would develop with dusting.  Framed prints were also considered for this wall but also dismissed to prevent a "basic" feel that I felt coming on.

This wall needed something grand, unexpected, and beautiful....

Enter the large wood silver-gilt frame that was being stored in my lower studio....

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The white countertop where the hutch used to sit is now going to be the main area for taking culinary images while I explore my baking.  Nicely lit on both sides, this will be perfect for the many photo ideas I have.  When not being used for photos, it is a crisp and clean welcome to the new kitchen...

Let's continue....

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I will not be adding any curtains, valances, or shades to these windows.  We are heavily surrounded by woods with gorgeous trees that are decoration enough for these views.

Let me share an up-close of the frame as I am in heaven with this addition.  The silver gilt finish enhances the new stainless oven and vent hood on the opposite end and helps tie the neutral color theme together with detail.....

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I am getting charged up by the fact this frame is so ornate, showy, and unexpected for the theme in this room.  Loving the juxtaposition of styles and yet the colors all tying the look together.  Maybe far out on the design correctness scale but we are LOVING IT!

Moving on to the dark wood beams, soffits, and window trim.  A quick "before" reminder of where we began....

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And then.....the bright beautiful AFTER....

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I had no idea how priming and painting this dark wood would bring this room to life again.  I had hopes but no solid visual of the result.  Again, I could not be happier with the brightness!

Looking at the kitchen from the opposite dining room entrance, one can really appreciate how far this room has come.....

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The white wood trim gives this room an "important" feel.  This detail alone, in this REFRESH project sealed the deal for me!

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As the kitchen was coming together, I couldn't stop there.  I just had to add some freshness to the dining room.  This room already had the window trim previously painted in white (on the left wall that you can't see) and the walls displayed a green sage color.

Since I started this project in the hardest room in the house, the kitchen,  the dining room needed to be part of the kitchen dynamic so on went the primer and Benjamin Moore Super White to the walls and wood ceiling beam in there too...

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I still have a bit more work to do in the dining room and will wait to show you the full end result when it is ready.  Both rooms are tied together with a fresh and clean brightness that is going to be a joy to decorate with small fun touches!

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So with that, thank you for sharing this project and journey with me.  Now that the foundation has been set, I feel free to dream up new ways to decorate and refresh this house in my style, create new culinary goodies, try some DIY decor ideas, and take many many photos of the processes!

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If you would like to see this project from start to present, please visit these links:




Thank you again for following along during this project and I hope this inspires you to create freshness in your home.  Knowing you can create a completely different look and feel with primer, paint, organization, and cleaning, proves big results with minimal cost!


Kitchen Refresh - New Range and Vent Hood!

As the Kitchen Refresh continues it's march forward, it was a VERY exciting day when the new range and vent hood were scheduled to be installed.  We are delighted with our choice as it makes this corner of the kitchen so fresh and cohesive with the rest of the room.

We had an older almond colored range and hood vent that needed updating.  The oven was heating up slower and slower and the vent hood fan did not seem to be as strong as it once may have been despite scrubbing the screens.

As we began removing the older units, I knew I would have to remedy a strange "patch" job on the right side wall corner between the range and vent hood.  We had become accustomed  to a strange piece of molding that we figured was used to hide a paneling seam.  With the painting and priming underway, this small trim piece had to be taken down and properly fixed.

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I removed the trim piece and discovered a 1/4" gap that was far to big for just joint compound.  To solve this issue, 2" pre-scored drywall corner seam strips which worked perfectly.  I spread a light layer of joint compound on either side of the gap and carefully pressed the drywall tape into the corner.  Once it was smoothed out, I spread a top layer of joint compound over that to seal and hide the paper edges.

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When the joint compound dried, I sanded, primed, and painted the corner which resulted in a smooth finish.  With the stove removed, I was able to clean the area and fully prepare the walls for the new appliances.

The following day we received the call that the new range and vent were going to be installed!

We chose to purchase our range and vent from a local dealer and arranged all of the install details through them.  Mike and I both appreciate the customer service of our local appliance dealer and we feel good supporting small business in our community.

They began the install with the stainless hood vent and tested the fan.  The completely enclosed LED lights made the whole area sparkle.  I picked out this model especially for the completely enclosed vent which has two large screens that can simply be removed and popped into the dishwasher as needed.  What a difference from the former model! 

Next up, the range was brought in and slid in place.  Everything fit beautifully and as the packaging and tape wraps came off, I found myself absolutely delighted!! 

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The Maytag model we chose has four burner areas that include a "power element" for rapid high heat and a 5th burner that acts as a warmer.  I have to also add that the oven handle makes me smile....looks so commercial cool to me!  I call the stove top "Mike's real estate" as that is where he cooks.  My real estate is the huge three rack oven with both Bake and Convection features!!

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I love the look of both black and stainless together which works perfectly with the other black appliances.  I also appreciate the huge oven window which is amazing.  The oven has a smooth bottom (no coil heating element) which is new to me and so appreciated.  I may be years behind with these "new to me" features but they excite me nonetheless.  Baking is going to be incredible and Mike is going to love his stove top options!

I am now at the point in the Kitchen Refresh where the final coat of paint is going on the windows, beams, and soffit areas.  There is also a small area under the hood vent that needs touch up from where the old model was removed.  We also purchased new translucent light panels for the ceiling and Mike is going to replace the outlets from off-white to white before the new white switch plate covers are re-installed.  All of these small updates will make for a grand improvement!  

We are seeing the end of this project with the hard work of cleaning, organizing and painting coming to a close.  Now it's time for the fun and unexpected decor elements that will make this kitchen truly "ours" in look and feel.

Stay tuned for what's next!


Kitchen Refresh - Organizing, Demo, and Primer-Primer-Primer!!


With the Kitchen Refresh fully underway, two of my main goals are the elimination of clutter and clear clean countertops.  As mentioned in my previous post, Mike and I combined households about 5 years ago and as middle-aged adults, we both had years of kitchen accumulation.

The first step was to completely empty each cupboard, drawer, and counter area.  Scrub them clean, top to bottom.  Items were then sorted, duplicates removed, and only those we needed (and USED) were kept.  Once the inventory was fully accounted for and deemed keep worthy, the process of finding a proper home for each collection began.

I wanted to restock the kitchen into "zones".  My zones would contain all things baking and his zones, all things cooking.  Knowing the cupboards and areas in the kitchen that he and I visit regularly for our respective kitchen tasks, I discovered more cabinet and drawer space than I thought existed with this reorganizing process!

His spice cupboard in a previous life was a mass quantity of various sized jars and little containers.  We originally put these containers on two small lazy susan holders and this did not end up working very well.  Spices were lost in the back, tipped over in the middle, and just a headache.

It was during the cupboard cleaning that I found these metal adjustable risers built for this specific purpose.  I removed the lazy susans, sorted and purged the spices, and adjusted the risers for the full width of the cupboard.

Much much much BETTER!.....

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All of the spices are in plain sight, easy to grab, and have a nice organized home!

I plan to do something similar the cabinet next to this one for all of my baking supplies and will show you how that comes together in future post.

The next issue of countertop real estate hogging came from two knife blocks.  Both had sat side by side on the counter and it was really crazy how much room they both took up.  The solution was found on a recent trip to Target.....knife block for the drawers!!

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This is the main collection of knives that we both use most often, they are now easily accessible, and I love that they are hidden away.  Having the extra drawer space is being efficiently utilized!

Next up was the large white wicker basket on top of the fridge that held the massive volume of ziploc containers and lids.  Visit Here for the details on the start of this project and to see where we began and the infamous white fridge basket......

At first, this idea worked OK but then it became an eyesore as the quantity increased.  Lids fell to the bottom, the random "lidless" containers added to the mess, and it was becoming ridiculous.....

With my newly found empty base cabinet areas, I choose to sort these by size (with their respective lid) and placed them in white baskets that fit nicely in the pizza oven cabinet.  The baskets are a great size for this purpose and easily slide out to grab what we need.  They are also a terrific way to prevent him (ahem) from accumulating an over abundance of these containers.  If they don't fit, they are not allowed in....if they do not have a lid....they are not allowed in.


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This is just a sampling of the many organizing ideas that happened in this kitchen and as move are discovered and developed, I will be sure to share them!


I used the term "demo" loosely as there were only two areas that required a little muscle and creative thinking.  You may recall this end area of the kitchen and how that hutch cupboard and thick heavy spindle became the bane of my existence?  Here is a before shot in case you forgot.....

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The first order of business was to remove the hutch top.  This is relatively easy as it was just screwed on to the base cabinet.  Once it was taken down, the room already felt more open.  This shot was taken just a few minutes after it was removed (before the drawer knife blocks) and with the microwave was moved into the space to keep it out of the way.

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You might also notice that the spindle is gone!!  Halla-freakin-yullah!  I sawed it in half with a bow saw as I do not like power tools, gave each separated chunk a whack with the sledge hammer to loosen, and rocked them back forth until they came free.  Since the spindle was not supporting anything, it came out very easily and made a HUGE difference!

This area is where I intend to take a majority of my culinary and baking pictures.  The huge window to the right of this space allows a very unusual light that I am anxious to play with.  The base cabinet that held the hutch top will be my main photoshoot surface and I am quite excited to have this new set up in the kitchen as I bake!


I am not going to go into a ton of detail about the primer process suffice to say that the thirsty dark wood trim and soffits took three coats.  While I was at it, I gave the walls three coats.  The walls were a very unusual paneling that had a "feather duster" blue and mauve painted technique.  Below is a sampling of the primer result...

I love how the beams, trim, and soffit look so much more significant and important in this room now that the dark is gone.  It is hard to see in these images but the overall brightness gives the oak cabinets a new look and feel. 

From the start of this project, I knew WHITE was going to be the paint theme.  I wanted this room to feel brighter and more open not only for our cooking/baking needs and ease of cleaning, but also for kitchen photography. 

As I prepare to paint, I am going out on a limb and am choosing Benjamin Moore paint.  Having always been a Dutch Boy brand girl, I am excited to try something fresh and new.  At this time, I am leaning towards Benjamin Moore Super White in a pearl finish.....I will share more on that soon!

On a final note for this update, Mike and I took the plunge and ordered a new range and hood vent.  Below is the corner where the current almond colored model and hood vent are being removed, a weird trim piece was removed and patched, and the whole area ready for primer.  The last two pictures in this group give you an idea of the 80's blue and mauve paneling paint technique BEFORE being assaulted with my primer mission.  And all of this to prep the area for the new appliance arrivals and install!  

For the new range, we choose the larger oven capacity and five burner smooth top with both Bake and Convection options, the finish is black and stainless with an industrial feel, and combined with a stainless fully sealed hood vent this corner will be wonderful!

As you can see this project is moving along slowly but surely and the results will be worth the time and elbow grease.

Next Up.....Installing the new range and hood vent along with my decision on paint and a few sneak peeks of the final outcome.

Thank you for following along and see you soon!


A Kitchen Refresh - Introduction and Planning

I don't want to rush what is left of summer but I just can't help but think about Autumn and baking and new culinary photography ideas.  These thoughts of sun-filled cooler days, rustling colorful leaves, and warm spicy fragrances are swirling in my brain.

Over the last several years, I have found a newly discovered passion for baking.  Whether it is a recipe for homemade bread, cakes, muffins, scones, or pie, I am intrigued and want to try it.  At the same time, as I am teaching myself the science of baking and the proper techniques, I notice I miss many photo ops for awesome blog content and this is a problem.

You may recall that I set up a photography studio for stills in our lower level family room.  It works great for taking images of vintage culinary props, fruits, and vegetables but not so perfect for baking processes and the outcome.  Carting things up and down the stairs, keeping the ingredients fresh and "in the moment" are practically impossible and limits the food/baking photography blog post vision.

It quickly dawned on me that the ideal place to take these types of photos is the kitchen but there were some hurdles I needed to cross to make this space better suited for my needs.  In all honesty, these hurdles are the reasons I have avoided using our kitchen for baking photography. 

The list of hurdles was long and seemed impossible to scale.  But, at the same time, this was a new creative project and I just knew there was an answer.  The answer needed to be affordable, easily done by myself, and not take years and thousands of dollars to complete.

The first step was to get a complete scope of this new project and to make sure the effort was worth the time and energy.  I began with an evaluation of our current kitchen state and how we use this space.

First of all, we have a galley style kitchen with east facing windows - not ideal for natural light.  Entry to the kitchen is on either end - one from a short hallway in the main entry area of the house or from the dining room.  The length of the kitchen is nice and the appliance layout is very functional.  In our house, HE cooks and I bake so we are rarely in the kitchen working at the same time - the galley style works for our needs.

We have beautiful oak cabinets that I do not want to paint. 

Yes, I said it....NOT. Going. To. Paint. 

I have painted kitchen cabinets in the past and let's just say I will not do it again.  The oak cabinets need to stay just as they are.  Fortunately, the cabinets have a Shaker style simplicity and the hardware is workable.  This in itself is a HUGE cost and time savings!

On to the countertops......formica with oak trim.  They too are staying.

I also live with a man who has a thing for black appliances.  Very nice black appliances, but black nonetheless.  When we combined households about 5 years ago, I came from a white appliance world to his dark appliance world and adjusted my kitchen design sense accordingly.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate the sleekness of the black and am enjoying working with this color. 

Our microwave and refrigerator are quite new and we have both decided it is time to replace the range.  Currently an almond color, our range has served us well but I started to notice that the oven is heating very unevenly and although the smooth cooktop is working well, we would both like to have the 5 burner areas rather than the 4 we currently have.  Convection oven features are still up for debate and that will continue to be a topic for discussion.

This man is also one that does not like to throw anything away.  He is the "keeper" and I am the "tosser".  Together we make the perfect team of necessity!  We meet in the middle, discuss the actual usage, and it is usually me that has the courage to toss or donate.  When he and I combined households, we simply rearranged our belongings to all fit together.  This will also give you an idea of the over abundance of kitchen things we have crammed into poorly utilized kitchen spaces.

Speaking of poorly used kitchen spaces.....a MAJOR cabinet gutting, sorting, cleaning, and reorganizing was needed A-SAP!  I want to pull everything out of each cabinet and drawer, sort the items, and rearrange them into new neatly organized serviceable areas.  

Our kitchen has not been updated in a veeerrrrrryyyyy long time.  The wood trim on both windows is dark brown.  There is a heavy wood soffit around the cabinet area that is also dark brown.  To add to the dark brown trim, we have a suspended ceiling that is decorated with dark brown beams which are nice but again, they are dark brown.  Additionally, there is a half-wall at the main entry end of the kitchen with a large spindle support (not on a support wall - just decorative) that is guessed it....dark brown and very thick.

Finally, there is a large hutch type, floor-to-ceiling cabinet on the end of the kitchen at the main entry area that although nice, is worthless for storage.  The shelves are too narrow and the upper cabinet section too small for anything other display pieces.  It was taking up valuable real estate and I was not afraid to take it down.

 So here I the middle of a HUGE pre-refresh kitchen mess.  Starting this project from the inside out, I am beginning with cabinet purge, reorganizing, and cleaning process.  With that, what better time to take BEFORE pictures than when the kitchen looks like a thrift sale on a rainy day....

Here we go.....please remember, a properly done project needs to get worse before it gets better....

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This is our kitchen in the middle of my cabinet cleaning, looking in from the dining room:

Number 1 - notice the dark brown trim, beams, and soffit?

Number 2 - notice the hutch-type cabinet on the on the far wall?

Number 3 - notice the massive amount of clutter, refrigerator clippings, and the white basket that hold the countless ZipLoc containers we have?

Yep, me too.

Onward into the madness we go.....

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Ah it is.  The 1970's dark brown spindle.  The awful hutchy cabinet thing that drives me crazy all accented by dark brown window trim and dark brown beams.

Hmmmm....ok....let's continue......

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I love that we have a window looking out into the trees right at the kitchen sink.  I do not love the the brown trim on said window OR the color of the walls throughout the kitchen.

Next is a view of the nice counter area on the opposite side of the sink.  This is actually a nice size area for kneading bread dough, rolling pie crusts, or scooping cookie dough AND has perfectly placed outlets for my KitchenAid mixer.

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Yes, the Little Debbie collection is to keep my momentum charged so here we go.  List in hand.  Projects nicely planned for maximum results with limited time.  Visions of WHITE WHITE WHITE covering the dark brown.  Open, airy, bright, clean, and organized.....I can see it already!

Next Up...cabinet and drawer cleaning and reorganization.  White primer has taken over the dark brown and my version/process of removing an unwanted spindle and cupboard hutch - it is looking so much better already!



The Gallery Exhibit - August 2018

I cannot believe that it has been about one year since I had received notice from our local art gallery, ArtZ, that my work was selected, along with two other creative artists, for a month long exhibit in August 2018. 

Over the last several months I have been putting the final touches on framing, print packaging, labeling, pricing, and locating the ideal show props for the wall that will display my photographic creations.

Having no idea a year ago just how much time would be involved in this complete process, I dove in head first and suddenly here we are!

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I wished and planned for a complete exhibit look that married happily with my theme of the "sophistication of utility".  I feel it came together perfectly...

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The photo above is a small section of the display and was right after the initial "set up" on August 1st.  There was so much activity and I was on cloud nine! 

I wanted a unique piece to hold my matted prints that I had for sale and when I discovered the wood laundry basket and stand, I just knew it would be perfect.  With my old blue and white quilt, it makes a wonderful display that fits with the theme.

Then "the hanging".....

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On Set Up day, I was delighted to have so much help from the gallery representatives and the "hanging" process went smoothly.  I snapped this photo of my amazing "helpers" during the process!  Small adjustments were made once the prints were hung and again, I could not stop smiling!

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It was a bit tricky to get a nice full wall shot with all of the set up taking place and using the camera on my phone, I hope you get the idea.

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Oh man...those wood floors....LOVE!!

My collection, although small in size, worked very well together.  All in all, I completed nine framed prints and 15 matted prints for the exhibit.  Below is a quick phone snapped gallery of the prints....

I am thrilled with how the vision of the muted print colors on cotton rag fine art paper, combined with the white heavy mats and champagne gold painted vintage wood frames all came together.  It truly speaks "me" and "my work". 

For the first time showing my work in a gallery, I learned a mountain of skills, worked through several challenges, internally smiled at various stages of the process, and now finally see my work on display.

It was truly a moment when it all came together....almost magically surreal for lack of a better explanation.  

I will be attending an Artists Reception at the gallery on Friday evening (8/10) and that will be the icing on the cake.  With my work being shown the entire month of August, I am hopeful to receive feedback (good or bad) from visitors and area creatives as that will continue my artistic growing adventure and one I will remember for the rest of my life.

I send so much love and thanks to my family and friends for all of the encouragement and patience over the past year while I prepared.  Many thanks to the wonderful gallery representatives at ArtZ (Amery WI), and to my small and wonderful group of blog readers.  Each and every one of you gave me the courage and fortitude to make this dream a reality.

I sincerely thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.



PS.....Can't wait to show you what's coming next!!