Sunday, December 6, 2015

My Fave Photo Apps - Vacation Fun!

I have about a zillion photo apps on my phone, but there are a few that I think are really awesome and I want to share.  During my recent European adventures, there was some downtime in airports and train stations with no wifi or expensive data plan available, so it was a perfect opportunity to play with some of my photos!

1.  First up is Percolator.  It's a "photo mosaic" app that costs $2.99 and makes serious awesomeness like this shot of Saint Mark's Basilica:
It's basically like taking your image and putting it through the coffee-making process with a grind strength and various ways to serve it--like a sweet caramel latte or like a hearty cup of thick black joe.  You can let your image show through a bit or completely replace it with the "grind."  Using shots with a big range of values can lead to a dramatic end result.  This is the same Basilica "percolated" a different way.
If you go to Flickr and search for Percolator, you'll see a ton of other wonderful works done with the app.

2.  Next up is WordFoto which can take your image and turn it into a word collage.  It comes with a lot of preset formats, but there is plenty of opportunity to "fine-tune" your particular image into something perfect.  You can create your own list of words and change up the fonts like I did with this Basilica image to make it reflect special details about my trip:
Using a photo with a nice range of values really makes for nice outlines, but there are lots of options in the app to change the font and how tightly it fits to the image.  You can also adjust how much of the image shows in the background to highlight the text in the foreground.  Here's another example from a visit to Santorini, Greece, while on our cruise:

3. The next fun one is ToonCamera, which at $1.99 is worth it for the cool images I've come up with using the various tools and styles available.  It basically takes a photo and makes it look like a sketch or a painting, depending on the "art style" you choose.   It's very easy to pick options and the strength of the look, so you can really play around with your image.  This is a view of Venice from the bridge to the Academia...
And here's a more painterly image of the beautiful blue sky over Oia on the island of Santorini, Greece.  You can play with the level of detail on the lines and the boldness of the color to highlight what you want out of the photo.

4.  Last but not least is Color Splash that allows you to selectively colorize or un-colorize parts of your photo.  Once you get used to panning and zooming around on your image, you can "brush" the color on or off the photo easily.  This probably isn't the greatest example but I like how the greyscale of the buildings on the side of the lagoon contrast against the bright blue of the waterway with a few red highlights on the boats and the docks.

For only a few bucks, you could have hours of adventures right at your fingertips...making cool artwork out of your own simple photos.  It's a lot more fun than solitaire, I swear!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Venetian Street Art

I first noticed the visual impact of street art in Paris, with both what appeared to be sanctioned and unsanctioned work mixed with "traditional" graffiti or vandalism.  We even used some of it in our art journaling by taking stickers or pamphlets off light poles or stair rails.  On one particular day in Venice, though, I started seeing a lot of really cool work. I put the map away for a little bit and just walked through some streets around the accademia--not really intending to get lost, but that's what happened.  It was a fruitful trip, though, because I found lots of less-populated streets with unique, informal, art presentations.  Like this sun-drenched woman...

Or this lovely leo...
I'm sure there must be some larger context to these pieces, given that some of them are in the form of stencils or stickers and can be reproduced at will...might be an interesting project to see if I can figure out the artists and inspiration.

The cat just makes me laugh.

This is probably just a graffiti bit, but cat is fun

Some puppy love next to a canal:
This one is almost sculptural the way the building material has started to erode.  Looks like there's an artist "tag" on that one so may be able to find the creator more easily.
Scary magic dude next to a scary, dark walkway.  Perfect scenario.
A rolling wave of garden near an actual garden.  They must have gotten tired of the big brown building that didn't match the beauty of the lagoon or the tree-lined paths.

A sailor in Venice.  
I think I'll do some more digging to see what I can find on these particular images and figure out what the artists may be trying to say versus what I'm hearing/seeing/thinking.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Solitario Esploratore

Just a week ago, on a sunny Sunday much like today's in Pennsylvania, I spent some time solo wandering the narrow streets in Venice.  After B left, I took a couple more days in the city before heading north to Germany to catch a flight home.  I took in lots of delightful scenery and reveled in the uniqueness of the city

Stopped off for a cappuccino and a little sweet and did some sketching from a photo of that shot from the Ponte dell'Accademia.  I took the waterbus over instead of walking through the maze.
Epic pen in action...
I'm looking through photos from the trip today for some inspiring bits to take with me to Art of the Carolinas this week for the various classes I have going on down in Raleigh, North Carolina.  These window shapes are just so beautiful.  I expect to see them in quite a few pieces in the near future. 
I've got a variety of classes coming up, including some collage, cold wax, and underpainting techniques.  I want to use these colors and textures as inspiration...will be a neat way to re-live some of those days just wandering around.
Wandering and trying to take a selfie with a pretty canal in the background when some motorboat runs through it.  haaaaaaa.  I bought the scarf when I arrived in Paris at the train station when I arrived and it became a staple for the entire journey.  If you're coveting, you can find it on Amazon.  It's very cozy and somehow managed not to stink too badly after three weeks of solid wear.
Since my solo adventure had no agenda and no purpose other than to soak in the sights, I was able to fool around with camera apps a bit.  Here's one with some Hipstamatic going on:
And here's another Hipstamatic shot of an iconic Venetian lion in a square near Arsenale.  I took a walk away from St. Mark's square one morning and found a more idyllic garden in a residential area. It was a wonderful part of Venice that I hadn't seen before and really made it feel more "real" and less like a giant collection of tourist venues.

I made it over to the Guggenheim museum and spent a couple of hours enjoying the collection.  They had a special Jackson Pollock exhibit going on, but I found a few other inspiring artists...going to save that trip description for another post.

The next morning, I stopped at a little cafe in the Serra Dei Giardini and had another cappuccino (can you really have too many of these little creamy delights?) and did some more sketching.  Even got the paints out since the sun was so nice.  I used some of the Amalfi watercolor paper that I got from my new favorite Italian paper shop, La Ricerca.

I stopped for lunch on the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and had "pizza pantalone" which is basically pizza with my favorite salad on top:  bresaola (a dried beef), rucola (arugula), and parmesan cheese.  I added some lemon juice and olive oil and it was perfect!  Throw in a glass of vino rosso and a great novel and I had a wonderful lunch while reading and enjoying the crowds at the markets down the street.

I took the bus back over to the Academia, but was too was already closed early with Monday hours.  So, I took the long way back on foot and made an important stop at the request of my Mom:
Had a bellini at Harry's Bar.  They weren't crowded, so I had some space there at the bar to get out my pen and paper and captured the moment to make it a little more special.  The manager was standing nearby, noticed what I was doing, and actually explained that all the bottles on the shelves have been in the same place since the bar opened.  He gave me a copy of a little book that had old pictures of the bar with the bottles arranged just so.

A little further on my walk back to the hotel, the gondoliers were massing back in their stalls near the square.  I liked this action shot as they moved in all sorts of directions as the sun started to set.
The sun was setting on the Italian leg of my adventure, too.  The next day I had another long travel day with a flight up to Frankfurt, a shuttle van ride down to Reichenbach-Steegan, and then some time with the Horines awaiting transport back to the States.  All goodness...even with 100 pounds of luggage to haul over bridges myself.  haaaaaaa

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Buongiorno da Venezia!

After a day at sea where we spent the day relaxing with facials at the spa and lots of time at the stupid Popeye slot machines (come on spinach can!!), we woke early on our final day coming into port in Venice.  B had trouble sleeping the whole cruise, no thanks to my own snoring issues, so she was up early and poked her head out the curtains and happened to see this! 
We got to witness the gorgeous sunrise over the Venetian skyline right from our room.  Eventually, we threw on jackets and shoes and went up to the 4th deck (from our room on the 3rd) and took some more pictures.  It was hard to believe we were pulling into the final moments of our adventure together!  But, we arranged it so we still had the whole day and one night in Venice to do some exploring. 

By this time, my suitcase had to be at least 70 pounds, plus there was another smaller bag with a pull-handle, my backpack (at about 25 pounds) and my purse (compact but heavy with art pens and paper jammed in there with a bunch of Euro coinage.  B's load wasn't much better, so we were dreading the transition from the ship to our hotel near the Piazzale Roma.  I actually did use some logic to pick a hotel on the northern side of the city, but there isn't a button on Travelocity that shows you how many bridges (i.e. flights of stairs) you'll have to traverse to get somewhere.  We got a taxi from the port terminal to the Piazzale Roma--only 20 euro for a two-minute ride, but it was worth it to have someone schlep the bags.  Then, we got up over the first bridge (of two) that had ramps built in for easier transit.  We got to the second bridge and just sort of stood there looking at each other.  There was a man hanging around by the trashcan nearby who eagerly approached us and then helped us over with everything in one trip.  Another 20 euro...again, probably worth it.  We got checked in at the Hotel Canal and were delighted to find there was no elevator in this little three-star delight.  Before dealing with that bit of joy, we left our bags in their care (except for my heavy-ass backpack, that I decided I needed to carry) and headed out for a trek about the city.

It was actually more beautiful than I remember, having been here last in about 2004.  I picked up a map at one of the zillion trinket stores near the hotel and we started on the path to St. Mark's Square via the Rialto bridge.  We took tons of pictures along the way just capturing the skyline on a grander scale and smaller, more micro scale looks at texture and design.  I'll do some other posts with more of those later on.

The goal was to get through the crowds to St. Marks...and we did!

It was a gorgeous sunny day--and a Saturday--so we joined massive crowds and lots of pigeons in the square.  While I stayed outside to sketch a bit, B went to see the interior of the basilica.

This was only one of the short sitting breaks we took that day aside from lunch.  A few days later, B's phone reported that we actually walked ten miles that day! 

This is the sketch I did that morning.

After some yummy pizza for lunch, we decided to go into the Doge's Palace.  For all the times I visited in Venice when I lived in Italy, I'd never been there before. Beautiful gothic architecture and massive amounts of art in the museum...a great tour.  We passed through the Bridge of Sighs, as it's known, and actually got to walk around the prison area.  Creepy...especially since it was Halloween. 

Just one pic of a typically ornate ceiling.  Sadly, I didn't write down the details or artists...guess I'll have to go do some research during my Art History class next semester!

There were a few rooms displaying the contents of the armory with massive swords, helmets and other tools of death and destruction.

This is a view from one of the upper floor windows.

Out in the small piazza, the marble statues and details were just beautiful.

Another big part of our day was my paper hunt.  Italy is known for hand-marbled and decorated paper and I'm a paper hoarder, so, of course, when I saw this paper shop (the first of many), I had to stop.  The shopkeeper used the paper to cover books, boxes, pencils, and all sorts of things.  He had full-sized sheets, too, but more exciting at this shop was the scrap box.  I showed him my art journal, with the collage and painting in it, and explained that I could use small pieces if he had some.  He let me dig through his box of scraps and gave me a huge bag to fill before measuring it out and selling it by the ounce.  He gave me a good deal with all the variety of good stuff I jammed in there.  B was tremendously patient and let me have my little paper-fest!  I think I need to do a whole other post about the paper and all the goodness I found in various shops as we wandered, so saving all the rest of that story.
We went over the Ponte dell'Accademia, traversing the Grand Canal, as part of our venture back to our hotel up in the Santa Croce area.  The view of the canal from that bridge is one of my favorite from the whole trip.  I promised B that I'd draw it a bit the next day, once I was left solo.

Once we got back to the hotel, after walking what was apparently 10 miles, we still got the opportunity to carry our bags up a nice narrow flight of steps to our "room with a canal view" and three-star luxury.  If you can't sense my sarcasm, I do not recommend this hotel and will send comments to Travelocity as such.  The only redeeming quality, in my mind, was that you could smell bread baking in the morning and the croissants were delicious.  If you are a troubled sleeper, though, the smell of bread and yeast at 0430 may not be a good one.  haaaaaaa

Here's a happy girl from Venice to leave this post on a positive note...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In Olympia

With only two days left on our cruise, B and I were feeling the time fly!  Our next port of call was at Katakolon, Greece.  Our excursion for this area involved the ruins at Olympia and a tour of a vineyard, complete with wine tastings!

Our tour guide for this day was Demetrius and we met him at the bus for Group 1.  This trip ashore was a little easier than the day prior at Santorini.  For that stop, we had to ride on a tender from the ship to the shore.  Basically, a little water bus took us across in some crazy waves splashing like crazy.  This was just a regular old bus, with only about 25 folks on it, so we had plenty of room.  Demetrius liked to smoke, so we got plenty of breaks for bathrooms and wandering around while he stepped away and lit up.
He gave us some good information on the ruins and the layout of the town, but it was hard to understand him over the transmitter he was using, so I didn't pay a whole lot of attention.  B and I were more concerned about whether our seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Hostetler, had given us good information about Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian column styles.  haaaaaaa

I got to enjoy wearing the same scarf for about the 18th day in a row.  It's sitting on the chair with me here in Venice after getting a workout today, too.  

This stone arch is the entryway onto what was basically the track for the Olympic event.  It's not a round and round track as you might expect, but runners went from one point to the next and then back for multiple "laps."  There were also no bleachers or seating, just grassy hills as it was easier for people to recline and relax.
B and I agreed that we enjoyed the Ephesus ruins more...just more to see and a better story about the everyday life of the citizens.  But, it was still interesting.  Once again, our tour took us to a local marketplace so we'd have an opportunity to positively impact Greece's economy.  I just had a simple cappuccino served up by a rude Greek woman.  Delightful.

Next we headed to the Mercouri estate to tour the vineyards and enjoy a sample.  We didn't have very high hopes for this one because the day before, on Santorini, the "wine tour" consisted of about 20 minutes to taste three wines, eat a tiny piece of cheese and then get the spiel to buy something in the little shop...not impressive.  

But, we were surprised and delighted at Mercouri to get an in-depth tour from the estate's owner who talked about the many generations of his family that have worked the vineyards and the farm for decades.

Mr. Kanellakopoulos, the owner, took us through an outbuilding housing a historical look at all the tools used for various crops at the estate through the years.  There were cats and kittens all over the place, taking care of the farm, I'm sure.  I watched one walk to the middle of our crowd of folks, scratch a bit, then take a poo just at the time Demetrius walked over to pet it.  I'm sure I was the only one who saw that and laughed to myself.
We then went through the cellar to see hundreds of barrels of various red and white wines in their processing state.  The highlight was, of course, the tasting.  Both the red and white varieties were delicious and we were happy to have wonderful Greek olive oil and cheeses to share.  (Mind you, after the previous day's experience, this was like a feast!)  The timing of meals in Europe is just something I can't buy into...lunch at around two and then dinner after eight.  I'm ready for a noon time lunch and then dinner at my Mom and Dad's table at five thirty or six.
In the bus on the way back to the port and the ship, we ran into a little delay in the form of a sheep herd.  Probably a couple hundred head were making their way up the hill on the narrow road that was, allegedly, designed for two cars.
I did a quick little drawing while celebrating my rude Greek customer service and made this little Greek girl.
That night, back on the ship, it was formal dinner night, so we dressed up and headed to "The King and I" dining room for our dark-of-night 8:30 dinner seating.  Our fellow table guests were a group of ladies from Scotland who know each other from a dart club.  They were completely hilarious and altogether puzzling...couldn't figure out who was single, married, or gay or even what their names were.  It was so funny, though, that we laughed and laughed all through our shared meals.  This particular evening, there were only two of them at the table since the others were all out on the deck watching Jurassic World.

Got home to our room to this cute little bunny.  Smooches.
Bunnyman knew we needed help getting through the evening as it was now time to brush our teeth and wash our faces with the tiny spittle of a faucet.  Good grief.  Only a few more times and we'd be back to land-based plumbing in Venice...with its own set of challenges!  I'll share more on that one later!  haaaaaaaaaaa


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Bedford, PA, United States
I'm a retiree/artist/student who makes things. It's a nice kind of lifestyle!

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