Friday, April 21, 2017

Who Doesn't Love Mom? Here are Some Awesome Clipart Collections to Celebrate Her.

"A mother is the one who fills your heart in the first place." — Amy Tan

In just a few weeks we celebrate the women with children — whether they held them close to their hearts from conception, or loved them from the moment they physically held them there.  They are the soft loving arms that provide comfort and protection when the world wrongs us, or simply because a hug is important.  They are the stoics standing strong and confident when we fear or when pain might overtake us. They are our multi-taskers, our organizers, our rocks.

Mother's Day then, is a time to say thank you to all the moms for doing their best to love, support and guide their offspring. Today's featured clipart collections here will recognize this special event.

But first, let's consider motherhood. As most women,  I can approach this from both sides, since I have had one and been one.  From the moment I became a mother life got a whole lot better. For me anyway. I can only hope my children are as pleased and proud of me as I am of them.

Parenting as they like to say comes without a guide book. There are many factors that come into play that make the experience unique with each and every child. I know I wasn't perfect, but really, all any mom can do is follow her instinct, love her children unconditionally and make sure they always know it.

I was first welcomed into my own mother's arms in the last part of the baby boom.  Having already given birth to her 'millionaire's' family a decade previously, the announcement of my impending arrival came as a bit of a surprise to Mom. Or perhaps that's a bit of an understatement. To say she was less than thrilled was apparently more accurate. Yet, undoubtedly from the moment the nurse handed me to her that feeling changed. The process of pregnancy and childbirth makes the bond between mother and child something very unique.

Like those early times of my existence, the relationship between Mom and me remained a mixed bag through the years. We often butted heads.  The first time I heard the reference of oil and water was with regards to us. Yet, as I got older and had babies of my own I began to unravel the mystery of Mom, discovering that she was simply doing the best she could. Let's face it. Raising a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s couldn't have been easy. 

Even at our worst, however, it was always to her I ran when I needed something. It was always to home I came when I needed a boost. It was Mom I missed when I was under the weather, Mom I phoned just because I needed to hear her voice.

And these days what I wouldn't give to be able to hear it again. I was blessed to have my mother with me for 60 years. Yet, no matter when, the loss of the family matriarch is never easy for a family.  Though frail and fretful towards the end of her journey, though saying goodbye to her husband of 70 years took away some of the spark from this once spirited woman,  she was still the mother who gave everything in her to give to raise her three children. For that she will be forever missed and forever loved.

Moms aren't perfect. They don't always have the answers. They don't always do what you need or say what you want to hear. They will make mistakes. But having had one, been one and now having watched my daughters become them I know that there is no greater love, no person who will sacrifice more or fight harder than your mom. Remember her this Mother's Day in a way that shows you know.

And if you need clipart for projects to promote our honour this special event here are some terrific collections:




With tens of thousands of new images added weekly there is always fresh, exciting content available for any project.  The Mother's Day collection alone is extensive with over 2,000 images.



Pay one fee and download what you need from over 20 million images.  From vintage to banners the Mother's Day collection has something for everyone.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Warm Your Heart With Awesome Animal Photos from iPHOTOS.com in Celebration of National Pet Day

Today is National Pet Day.  It might be a dog or cat you have, it might be a bird or rodent, it might be a lizard or snake, but today is the day to really show them how much joy they have brought you. Make that walk extra long, throw a special treat their way or just spend a little extra time snuggling. 

From here, in recognition of their special day, the collection of photographs to be shared at the end of this post will feature our feathered and furry friends.

The  pooch has always been my preferred choice of pet. Even when they weren't exactly everything one might hope for.  The first dog we owned when I was a child was a nasty-tempered fox terrier-chihuahua cross. Despite his diminutive size he possessed a ferocity that held strangers at bay and often had my young chums quivering.  Tiny  accepted pats on his terms. Picking him up was never an option. Crawling under the covers at night, he nibbled on any toes that might have brushed against him.

Why we kept him is anybody's guess. But just like a curmudgeonly old uncle will do, he managed to somehow earn our affection. When we ultimately had to say goodbye it  broke our hearts.

Since then there have been many dogs in our homes, all with unique personalities. While memories of them always bring a smile one make me shake my head as much as thoughts of that first one.  He was a holy terror. So much so that I only have one picture of him.

 Why he allowed himself to be snuggled between my young friend and me (one the right) on that day I have no idea. Since it often seems dogs are smarter than us, perhaps he thought it would be fun to leave me with this memory so no one in future would believe the stories I told about him.

In truth, getting a picture of any pet isn't easy. All that charm and energy can result in a lack of cooperation. If you've tried and failed, here are some tips that might help.

PET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

• Digital Photography School offers nine tips to getting that perfect shot of Puff and Spot. 

• Exposure Guide suggests some ideas to capture great photographs of your pet, along with some technical tips.

• Digital Trends spoke to pet and landscape photographer Josh Norem about working with animals as subjects and how to make the most of their personalities.

I had some success once with our beloved husky-cross Ani.   Which was fortunate, since having a nice portrait of your pet can be more important than you might think at the time.  The camera just happened to be in my hand after she stole a ball from a neighbouring pooch.  She laid down, proudly protecting it between her paws as she kept a close on me crossing the lawn, unsure of my motives. 

With her gazing straight into the camera lens it became a favourite following her passing, and now holds pride of place on a wall in our living room. 

Photos of people and pets reflect the special relationship and bond that we form with our animal friends.  iPHOTOS.com has a great inventory from which to choose. If you need something in recognition of National Pet Day or for other promotions or projects celebrating animals there are plenty of options from which to choose.



Friday, April 7, 2017

Be the Life of the Social Media Party. Here are 8 Sources to Create Your Own Memes

#TGIF #FridayFeeling #FridayNight #FridayFunday

Today is Friday, for which hashtags express one fairly clear emotion. That is if "Yippee!"can be considered an emotion.

There is plenty to look forward to on this particular day of the week. Whether it's two days and nights of socializing, or catching up on household chores, or just kicking back and relaxing, after a full work week it's all going to be good.

Friday. The day of the night when the weekend begins. We can meet for drinks after work and extend it into the wee hours since there is no alarm the next morning, the  starting gun for the typical daily rat race.  The break is at hand, yet we can look ahead to two days off from the grind; those 48 precious hours are still there for us.

I enjoy working. I love the environment and the people who share it with me. I like what I do and find it satisfying. But,  I'd be lying if I said I didn't take great delight in the weekend. Beginning Friday.

I love my Friday date night with hubby. We have set the mood for relaxing,  with a moratorium on cooking supper, instead bringing in takeout pizza. We turn off the television, sip some wine and chat about events that have passed and those ahead of us.  It's the perfect lead in to Saturday and Sunday, as we look ahead to sleeping in, chilling with family and friends, completing tasks if we want, pursuing entertaining distractions and enjoying a little more control over the 'where we will go' and the 'when we will get there'.

So yes, when the work week calendar hits Friday, it just feels good to be alive. It's anticipation and realization. Even though the weekend isn't all relaxation for the majority of adults, it's a change and Friday is the prelude.  It's the promise of a cup of tea and a good read, of having that time for a quiet walk in nature or a sit down with friends.

Is it any wonder that across the board on social media sites, this day is the focus of celebration. It's exalted, adored and enjoyed. Besides the hashtags to promote the Friday vibe, endless memes have been created praising this particular day of the week, essentially as it heralds the time for the party to start.  While sharing some of the best is common, it can also be fun to create your own, just because you want to. Or perhaps you have your own witty or unique thought to share.

SO GET CREATIVE AND MAKE A MEME
 
There are  many online meme generators created specifically for this purpose. The one above was done with iPHOTOS.com Image #408845 and memebetter.com  Here are a few examples you might want to try:

imgflip Meme Generator

Meme Generator

Make a Meme

Meme Maker

memes.com

Meme Dad

Meme Creator

Meme Better

If none of the photos offered with these programs are quite what you're looking for, or you want to be sure that you are covered for copyright issues, you can, as I did, upload one of your choice.  There are great online resources for images that provide many options. If photographs are your preference,  iPHOTOS.com has over five million images that offer quality and diversity. When it comes to clipart iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com each have extensive inventories.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

295 Easter Egg Hunt Photos to Enliven Your Holiday Projects

April is upon us. The skies are crying, but the flowers are sprouting and the birds are trilling.  In a bold move, I've packed away the heaviest of my winter clothes and intend to do the same with the boots very soon.

While sunshine is always favoured over rain, they both work to brighten and clean the landscape. Grass will green, trees will bud and flowers will bloom. All in time this year for an Easter weekend that arrives as late in the spring as is possible.

With a wistful hope for sunny skies and balmy breezes then, I'm looking forward to the air of excitement and wonder that accompanies my ever-increasing contingent of beautiful grandbabies most of the time. Let alone when something celebratory is happening. 

Since five out of six of them are under the age of five, this year's Easter egg hunt promises oodles of fun.  And in the hopes of contributing to that as much as possible,  I've already been on the search for games and goodies to make their quest even more entertaining.

Undoubtedly, Easter is first a religious celebration, one of the holiest on the Christian calendar. It's intended as a time of mourning and reflection, as well as a time to rejoice.

But on the flip side it's a holiday that captures imagination. It's carefree fantastical fluff, with images of soft bunnies, downy chicks and painted eggs. After a winter of dreary white and grey, Easter's pastels put us in a playful mood.  Sporting light and airy spring duds we venture outdoors for festivities, including the annual egg hunt. The joyful smiles, the enchanting chuckles and lively exuberance of a pack of little ones scampering like little bunnies to discover what's been hidden in the various nooks and crannies of the garden, are as uplifting as spring itself.

Little Missy, the elder of our crew, is clearly team captain on outings such as this. She's first out of the gate and always first to discover. But as a true leader, she's equally happy to help those younger than herself.  Watching her encourage and guide them is absolutely heart-warming.

Her brother, our Little Mister, is full of mischief and action. He's a confident, mildly chaotic hunter/gatherer, who takes delight in distracting the others with charm and shenanigans. An alluring scamp he's full of smiles and impishness while cavorting around the lawn.  It's quite impossible not to watch him and laugh.

Sweet Bean, who's just a week younger than Mister, sees the world with eyes full of wonder. She takes a cautious approach to hunting, not wanting to miss one amazing thing out there. Her awe at each discovery often puts her behind the others as she pauses to appreciate what she's found rather than rushing on to the next.

Little Lola is only a year and a half. But there's nothing that brightens her adorable face more than following her three older cousins around. I can hardly wait to see her participate this year.  And I suspect will be thinking too about the next Easter when her baby brother can join the fun.

There is so much to enjoy at this time of year. But there is nothing more amazing than seeing the happy faces of delighted, beautiful children. Therefore, if you need something to advertise an Easter event, these egg hunt photos are sure to get attention:

iPHOTOS.com Easter Egg Hunt Photos

Friday, March 31, 2017

10 Tips to Consider When Taking Your Vacation Photos

Well, it's a momentous time of year. Calendar pages have been flipped and perused, decisions made and vacation days booked.

Typically, I tend to take my time off throughout the year as I see fit or as need dictates. This year, however, my husband and I have a different plan in mind. With an eye to a specific place we are focussing the majority of our holiday planning between the months of May and September.  Our decision is based on a need to hang out in an old haunt. To return to a stomping ground that shaped some of our best memories.

Because of my enjoyment of photography, we have revisited those memories over the years and often felt a strong draw to the place that created them. The pictures I took encapsulated a golden time in our lives — summers spent with our young family at a lakeside getaway. Friendships were made that have endured. Stories were written that we come back to with laughter when we meet those friends again.  And a resort town became our second home.

So, now it is time to write a new chapter. It's time to create new memories and to enjoy a little pre-retirement lakeside.  And since we're decades older than when we experienced extended sojourns there before, we're definitely going to need that camera in my hand again to help us remember every good moment.

As well as taking pictures of  friends and families, of our gatherings and parties, though, we can't ignore that we will be holidaying in one of the most picturesque places on earth. This is an area where sunsets are renowned.  The silhouettes of moored yachts rock and sway before the brilliant hues of pink and crimson. During the day butterflies dance in dunes, while gulls dip and dive from sand to surf. Boats cruise the water, kites dot the sky.

It's all just about as picture perfect as you can get. Yet, it can be challenging to do justice to even the most beautiful landscape when you're trying to capture it in a picture.  Knowing and understanding your camera is important for success, of course. But there are many other factors that I've discovered over the years, which are equally essential to consider.  Here are just a few of them:


1. Look with fresh eyes. One of the first lessons I learned about photography when working for a newspaper many years ago, was to try and find a way to see my subject differently than the rest of the world.  Sometimes that meant getting down on the ground. Other times the right shot came because I climbed on a ladder.  Ultimately, play with the angles and try to find unique ones that will change the way you see your subject.

2. Use the zoom. Getting up close and personal puts the focus on what's important.  Again in the newspaper business, it was desired when taking a picture that we fill the frame  and get rid of any extraneous details.  It's a lesson that's shaped a preference in my photography to this day.  No point in taking Uncle Bob's picture on the hill if we can't see it's him.


3. Don't miss the beautiful start or end of a day. No matter where you vacation, sunrises and sunsets will always be the perfect way to highlight your destination. Finding points of interest, such as a sailboat gliding by the setting sun, or early-morning runners moving towards the dawn, will make your photos even more visually interesting.

4.  Everything is worth the time. When taking vacation photos overlook nothing. When it comes to remembering that special vacation, everything is worth a shot — from the food on your plate to the twinkle lights on the patio.  Move in close to highlight something significant,  or zoom out to capture an environment in its entirety.


5.  Catch them by surprise. Candid shots are always a favourite. They capture the magic in a mood or moment.  It's wonderful to look back and see your loved ones happy faces of people who were blissfully unaware they'd been caught on camera.

6. Don't get caught unaware.  Keep your camera close in order to seize every possible opportunity for a great vacation picture.  While you can have a few situations or locations in mind that you know you want to photograph, never forget that there will be ones that your hadn't planned on. For these you'll want to be ready.

7. Patience as always is a virtue.  Find a place and wait. You never know when a story will unfold in front of you. How much more lovely a picture will your streetscape be when it includes the soft gentle kiss on the cheek of an elderly man by his sweet granddaughter.  Which will also take us to the next tip.


8. People. My husband was always a big fan of photographing the scenery of the places we visited. Pretty those pictures might have been, but it's the ones that include people in them that we return to time and again. Highlights of the landscapes we've seen are nice, but it's the faces of loved ones, some who might no longer be with us, that will be cherished through the years. Even strangers, as mentioned above, will make your photo more interesting.


9. Go for action. Sometimes you can't avoid those stiff, posed, formal shots. But since this is vacation photography it's so much better if you can opt for a little more fun and action in your picture. Don't just stand in front of the Trevi Fountain; toss a coin or indulge in a little tomfoolery in front of it.


10. Flip it. Don't just take horizontal pictures. Turn that camera on its side and zoom in for a nice, tight, vertical shot.  Some scenes demand it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Conversation in the Age of Social Media and the Safe Use of Digital Images

A comment was made in a business meeting recently that really struck me. There was nothing particularly deep or profoundly insightful about it. It was, though, a few simple words put into question form that brought home the reality of today's world.

"Who would ever have thought that we would be using images to express feelings and emotions?"

The query was prompted by discussion regarding  the emojis, animations and stickers that accompany iMessages, Facebook statuses and even emails.  Without tone to convey sentiment or reaction, we incorporate emoticons bearing every imaginable countenance. Hearts, broken and otherwise, reveal deep feelings of love and passion.  Those playful emojis, animations and colourful static images lighten chats and add an element of whimsy to our messages. It's a new way to communicate in the era of smartphones and the death of conversation.

The use of visual elements, however, is also in play in a big way in blogs.  The importance of adding a photo or illustration to the words one writes is well documented. There are many social media experts who speak to those benefits, which include the recommendation that a minimum of one image be included in a post to highlight the message or support it.  Pictures will make the blog more visually interesting and will help the author reach the target audience.

The addition of visuals will also improve Search Engine Optimization.  Be sure when using them, therefore that they are keyworded and titled.

Since digital media now plays such a large part in our communications, it's imperative that people understand the need to find a safe source from which to acquire it.  Searching for images on the internet is not the best route.  The ones that are found are quite likely not free to use and may contain a virus. It's often easy to miss the fine print that explains the image could be protected by copyright and including it in a blog or other social media posts could get the blogger into a whole lot of trouble. Maybe even sued.

The first step in protecting yourself is to accept that accessing quality digital media content which will be virus free and legally safe to use is going to cost  a bit of money. This is true whether you are CEO of a large corporation or owner of a mom and pop shop. It is true whether you are a teacher or a student. It is true whether you are a graphic designer or scrapbooker.

The good news, however, is that there are many very affordable options. Online subscription graphics services such as iCLIPART.com, iPHOTOS.com and Clipart.com offer a variety of plans to meet any budget or need. The content is royalty-free, meaning that once you have signed up you can use the images over and over without any hidden fees or extra charges.

These sites and other similar ones will have terms of use that explain what usages are permitted. In the case of the aforementioned, if blogging is your thing, a subscription to any of them means you can add the photos and illustrations to your posts provided they are there as decoration only.

If you just want to enhance your iMessages  there are fantastic sticker packs available for purchase. Vital Imagery Ltd., for example has several for sale on iTunes.

The important message here  is that no matter what you have to say and how you choose to say it, you better have legally obtained the right to tack that super happy face on to the end of it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Celebrating Diversity With 2 Amazing Image Collections

"If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity." — John F. Kennedy

What would the 35th president of the United States think of the world we've created for ourselves more than a half century after he spoke these words? Has society ever been more divided? 

The war against discrimination continues to be fought on a number of fronts — ageism, racism, sexism, homophobia.  Extremists target those societies that they feel threaten their cultures and beliefs.

And the 45th American president today couldn't be further away in his ideals or  political savviness than his much-admired counterpart from the early 1960s. Elected this past November to serve one of the greatest countries in the world is a man accused of being homophobic and misogynistic, of being a businessman of questionable ethics and morals. Indisputably his untruths have become fodder for news agencies and late-night comedy. He quite literally lies about lying.

There is irony in calling this man the leader of the free world. Many have claimed he appears to care little for the rights and freedoms of others. He looks down on lower and middle classes, has frequently expressed disdain for women, Mexicans and blacks. Not to mention the vitriolic nonsense spewed regarding Muslims. 

Sadly, of course, there are others from other countries much like him.  And so, the question again — could we have gotten any further away from the idea of a world safe for diversity?

Assuredly not. Yet, I as I did in the 1960s I  believe there is hope. I see it in the marches, where men and women, of all colours and religions, come together to protest injustices. I see it in the uplifting posts on social media, highlighting examples of 'colour blindness'.  I see it in the faces of two six-year-old boys, one black, one white, who got their hair cut identically to try and fool their teacher, whom they believed would be unable to tell them apart.

The majority of people are inherently good. They live by the rule that all are created equal. That the one they stand beside is brother or sister regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual preference.  That diversity makes this world richer.


Maya Angelou once said, "It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."  My heart is always gladdened when I see examples of that beauty and strength, regardless of how whimsical the source. Such as the glimpse I got just the other day.

When it comes to facing each and every morning,  I have a little ritual I practise that gets the endorphins moving. I dance. Rather than take on a treadmill at an hour of the day when even smiling is asking far too much of me, I turn to YouTube, pick a tune and let the music take me away. I dance as if no one is watching — because no one is — and let sublime replace surly as the mood of the morn. 

On this particular day I decided to boogie to The Beatles, a band that exemplified  pacifism and open-mindedness, come to think of it.  When a 1968 video of them performing Hey Jude live on a David Frost show came up in the rotation, though,  rather than continuing to shake a leg,  I paused instead to watch.

The Fab Four were seated on a round, centre stage, surrounded by a very lucky studio audience.  Closeups of each Beatle, including dreamy Paul McCartney at the piano, eyes gazing soulfully into the shot, dominated the video. Eventually, however, as they reached the repetitive final refrain, the crowd began to move in and dance around them. At which point I became aware of something pretty cool.

Diversity. While Caucasians might have been the majority, rather typical of 1968, here in one room the lines between race, gender, age and religion had been crossed. From the sweet little blonde to the middle-aged man in a turban this group of strangers blended racial, gender, age and religious groups.

A charming, bespectacled boy in conservative suit and tie filled the screen just before the camera shot to an elderly gentleman with colourful flowers over each ear. There were black, white and brown; male and female, old and young, WASP-y and most defiantly not so. And all seemed blissfully unaware that any differences existed. As is often the way, music was the link that brought them together and erased any differences, 

Which inspired these thoughts today and my desire to see what type of images might be found online when searching graphics services like iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com for diversity. Here are the results:






Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ah, the Camping Life. Enjoy it Here in These 2 Great Clipart Collections

A quiet, open space nestled among towering trees. The lullaby of leaves rustling in a gentle night breeze soothing the raw nerves, easing away the tightness that has taken a grip on shoulders and neck. Stars twinkle overhead as a crackling campfire mesmerizes. A tent with cots and bags waits on standby for sleep to come.

To many, this is camping. Our daughter and her husband, before parenthood, made frequent visits to the deep north woods of Ontario to get away from it all. There was no hydro, no running water, no cellphone service. The site they chose even lacked an outhouse.  What it did offer was solitude, peace and quiet. They slept next to the soothing flow of the impressive French River, accompanied at times by crying loons and heralding bullfrogs.

When they became engaged, they chose this place as the spot for the nuptials, arranging to take over a picturesque lodge for a wedding getaway weekend. It was my husband's and my first trip there. Though we might often have shaken our head at their pleasure in rudimentary vacationing, we couldn't question the magic of the area. Stepping out of the car, I could see my workaholic husband's shoulders drop, as if all the cares and concerns had been lifted. The quiet and calm wrapped around us like a hug from Mother Nature and we welcomed it with our whole being.

That said, as much as we enjoyed that visit, and made a point of returning every summer for several years after, it was always to stay at the lodge. Pitching a tent in the wild might have been appealing in my youth, but all the bears in the area couldn't have dragged me out there now to sleep, eat and swat black flies.

Camping is an affordable holiday though for many people and can fortunately take on many forms. There are those who pack up tents, those who load up RVs to tour various places and those who take those travel trailers and park them in a favourite spot.

It was the latter that provided many enjoyable vacations for our family as the children were growing up.  They were golden summers that began when my parents decided to upgrade their trailer and I, having enjoyed some weekend libations, impulsively agreed to buy the old one. Extra incentive came in hearing that there was going to be a vacant lot in front of my brother and sister-in-law's trailer.

Humble, though serviceable, that little RV suited my husband, me and our two youngsters well at the time.  We were surrounded by a pack of kids the same as as our two and the close community feel of the park provided them with a freedom that didn't exist many places. The adults also enjoyed an amazing friendship that has, in some cases, endured to this day.

That utopia lasted for a good length of time, though things definitely changed when two more babies arrived in quick succession, taking me out of party mode. Eventually,  though, our older two picked up some jobs that often meant they couldn't get away for the weekend. Then a change in career saw me working every other weekend and the hassles of packing and unpacking for a crew of six finally lost its appeal. It suddenly seemed in our tiny little trailer that I still had all the chores to do that I did at home, but they were twice as hard.

Thus, with some heaviness in our hearts, we sold and said goodbye to a lifestyle that had for such a long time meant so much to us. We have returned to the area every summer since,  renting a cottage or room for a brief stay. Yet in recent years we have begun considering the possibility of returning to the park. It's beginning to seem to us that once camping is in your blood, whatever form it takes, it seems to stay there.

In a very short time, camping season will be here again. It's the perfect time then to share these collections of images from two fantastic clipart sources. Both are online subscription services that offer quality, affordable options for using images royalty-free in personal and professional projects.








Friday, March 17, 2017

Say Spring With 130 Sunny Daffodil Images from Vital Imagery Ltd's Graphics Services

There is probably nothing in the world that says spring like the sunny daffodil.

From the first glimpse of them poking out of the soil, to the lovely hue of full bloom, these cheery yellow flowers exemplify all the good stuff about the coming season. They are among the first harbingers of the warming temperatures, the advent of colour in our gardens and a sign of rebirth and rejuvenation.

After a long, dark, dreary winter, it's exhilarating to spy the first shoots sprouting from the dark, rich soil. Once that happens, we know that within a short time petals of sunshine will open to transform the mood and spirit of the world around them.

Also, like the return of the robins, the daffodils' bloom reminds us that the days of cold and snow are mostly behind us.

There's still a bit of time to wait, of course, before the daffodils have their day. Winter hangs on and for anyone who might have doubted that, you need only have spent the past week in our corner of the world. Blustery winds, blowing snow and a chill dampness were like a collection of bratty kids showing up to ruin the day with  nasty temperament and bad behaviour.

For this reason, we are pretty tickled waking up to a morning such as today's. Just a few days before spring's highly-anticipated official arrival, it was , despite a lingering nip in the air,  an otherwise gorgeous sunny morning, topped by an invigorating blue sky with nary a cloud in sight. Today, we can feel hopeful that Old Man Winter has taken his mischievous offspring and gone away. Even knowing that he has a habit of staying at the party a bit too long, every day from here on in depletes his enthusiasm for bluster. 

Such a morning is restorative. We feel spring's imminent arrival. The heating sun is making short work of the lingering snow on the roads, while icicles melt in streams from the eaves.  We know the first daffodil buds will be popping up soon, like children eager to greet a new day.  For those tired of winter, you couldn't help but feel hopeful that it won't belong before the landscape is graced by gardens of the perky flowers.

It's little wonder that the Cancer Society chose this early bloom as the symbol for its annual campaign. Since the April kick-off is only a few weeks away, since this horrible illness has touched the lives of virtually everyone, either through the loss of a loved one or having been stricken themselves, we wanted to celebrate this emblem as a representation of hope and life.

A selection of clipart to be used in spring projects, whether promotional or personal, can be found at online services such as iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com. These provide diverse content and once you have subscribed you can be assured you are legally able to use the images and need not have any concern about viruses. Get an advanced look at the spring's blooming bit of sunshine here:

iCLIPART.com Daffodil Illustrations

Clipart Guide Daffodil Illustrations

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Free Brushes and Helpful Tutorials to Create Your Own Flourishes and Swirls

flourish (n): an act or instance of brandishing: an ostentatious display: a decoration or embellishment, especially in writing: rhetoric,  a parade of fine language; an expression used merely for effect: a trumpet call or fanfare: a condition or period of thriving.

Working in the world of images as I do, when I think of the word flourish it's with an eye to those swirls and curls used as graphic accents to add visual interest to a project.  What I've also noticed about them is that they can often be all that's needed.

One rule of thumb I've found effective throughout life is that less is indeed more. There is a minimalist approach in my decorating attempts. I don't festoon myself with chunky necklaces and scarves, being more drawn to light chains and tiny baubles. Lining my closet are clothes of solid hues; no lively prints nor crazy stripes adorn them.

This preference was further entrenched in my mindeset during two decades in journalism. Get to the point early and succinctly was the best way to ensure readers were going to actually get the point.  On the advertising side of the business, it was only good sense that the design not be so full of elements that the eye is unsure of what to take in or where to look first. Design and production staff often talked about the effective use of whitespace.  One of the most successful ads the sales manager created during his tenure was actually comprised of 90% negative, or empty, space much like the Google website design.

I've often pondered the notion that novices when designing,  might tend to over think the project. A desire to add more, to look at what's been done and feel that something is missing seems a natural tendency.  It's enlightening, therefore, to see what people with experience can do.  Our daughter, always an artistic sort who has dabbled in graphic design for some time, decided to craft the stationery for her wedding four years ago. Invitations, thank you cards, etc.,  were stylish, but simple, created with images from an online royalty-free subscription source.

One of the trickiest projects was the name cards for the dining tables. Having gone with a black-and-white theme, and given the limited space on the cards, she settled on a pretty flourish as the best, and the only necessary, decorative element.

These swirls, designed to decorate and embellish,  run the gamut of styles, from unflashy to elaborate. Regardless of which is used they undoubtedly add a touch of elegance without being overwhelming. They are ornamental without being garish, attractive without being showy.

While lovely swirls and flourishes are available on sites such as iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com it's also possible to make the design personally. Using image editors, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, you can add your own special flourish to your project. Since it's Tutorial Tuesday, here are some resources for free flourish brushes and tutorials to help you design originals:

Flourish Free Brushes (645 Free Downloads)

50 Free Swirl and Floral Brushes for Photoshop

Vector Swirls, Swooshes and Florals for Illustrator

Draw Vector Flourishes in Photoshop

How to Make Flourishes in Illustrator

Create a Flourish in Photoshop Elements

Create Custom Flourish Brushes in Photoshop

Leaves, Branches and Flourishes

Floral/Flourish Design Tutorial

Free Vectory Flourish Brushes

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Find Sunny Images and Say Hello to Spring With These 2 Great Websites

We've waited for her. Eagerly anticipated her arrival. When she gets here we will look to her with, perhaps unfair, expectations. She, and she alone, can take the weariness from us, can lift our spirits, can chase away the doldrums that have besieged us for months. Illnesses will ease, viruses will flee in her presence. In just a couple of weeks, spring will finally return and  I for one couldn't be more ready to greet her.

It's been a dark, dreary winter this year. Though temperatures have been much warmer than is typical, we walked through most days with clouds hanging over us. Environment Canada claimed that the great city of Toronto  enjoyed just under 49 hours of sunlight in January, about half of the seasonal average.  While I'm not a fan of winter's chill I'd take a deep freeze with sunny skies over a world of grey any time. It has only served to make spring's allure that much more enticing.

In this corner of the world, folks are ready to let the sun shine in, with silent prayer that when spring does get here, she's in a good mood.  Already businesses are promoting their seasonal specials. Clothing stores are clearing stock and pushing the newest arrivals; goodbye to the bulky knits, hello to light and airy fabrics and colours. 

Nurseries are waking, preparing now for the busy months ahead of them when the green thumbs and the wannabes descend upon them in droves. There will be clearing and cleaning of greenhouses, reviving and replenishing of the inventory.

Spring means a shift in household priorities, too. With the increasing warmth we are drawn outdoors to take stock. As the trend continues, as the snow and mud recede and
diminish respectively, we begin the tasks of raking and tidying. Before we know it the patio furniture will be hauled out of storage. Plants will be potted, gardens seeded, beds filled with blooms.

Clothes fresh off the line, the gleam of newly-cleaned windows opened to blow away the staleness of a long-closed home are on the list of my favourite spring chores.

For now, though, we wait. Spring, like a baby, is new life. Just as we can't control the length of labour, the timing of birth,  the speed of delivery nor the gender of a newborn, neither can we know for certain what the new season will bring to us. Though we know her due date, spring might take her sweet time in getting here, offering  nothing but dismal days of damp and cool.

But just as it is with a baby, we know that when she finally does get here, it's all worth it.  We will revel in the beauty of the new life spring gives us. The colourful blooms, the songbirds' melodies lighten our hearts, minds and souls.  We savour each and every moment.

Until then, as you prepare your welcome to spring, as you create promotions or personal projects themed to this time of renewal and rebirth,  you'll be looking for beautiful images to use. Here are some terrific spring collections from two online subscription graphics resources:

 
 



Friday, March 3, 2017

Get Picture Perfect Photos of Babies and Children with Expert Tips from These 6 Resources

We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our newest family member next week. Our son and his fiancée have been given a date of March 9 for her doctor to urge the little one along and I'm already excited for that new baby smell and plenty of cuddles.

I'm actually going to have a lot of Grandma time around then. A few days after the birth,  my daughter's two little ones are coming to visit and my husband and I plan to take them to meet their tiny little cousin. As you can well imagine, I'm already thinking of the photo ops.

Taking pictures of tots, whether they're newborns, toddlers or preschoolers can be a daunting task. In all their adorableness they are suitably photogenic.  Yet, they do present some special challenges.

Infants are often easiest because they tend to sleep. A lot. They enjoy being held so posing someone else while they hold the baby is usually quite simple. 

Never forget, however, that every moment of this photo shoot is dictated by the baby's needs and when infants aren't happy everyone knows. Besides the time spent getting the pliable darlings into all kinds of precious poses, there will also be diaper calls, wardrobe changes and snack breaks galore.

The real fun, though, comes with toddlers and preschoolers. They fidget, they squirm. They clearly aren't interested in following instructions. Their mood can swing to extremes minute by minute. Distraction is a given.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, co-operation with children under five is rare.  Spying them in a picture-perfect situation and sneaking up on them before they move on is often the best chance for success. Once they notice the camera, anything could happen. They rarely stop in one place for more than seconds at a time as fascination with everything beckons. Or they will decide to be perfect hams, voguing for the camera. Until, like the flip of a switch, they decide they're done. Trying to convince them otherwise can be a scary prospect.

As for trying to pose them ... well, that's always entertaining.

Yet, when all the hassles are over there's no question that young children are one of the most beautiful photography subjects and worth the spit up, poop and tears.  My grandchildren range in age from 17 to the not-quite-here-yet. While the eldest is less interested in being one of my photography subjects now having more than paid his dues over the years,  his cousins, all under the age of five, have come to expect the focussing of my camera lens on them. Often. How could I possibly resist any chance to capture those giggles and grins, their wide-eyed wonder and delightful personalities?

So next weekend should be fun. On the one hand I have three beautiful subjects. On the other, getting them all into a shot isn't going to be easy. When it happens, let's not forget there's still the technical stuff to work on too. It can all be a bit overwhelming for an amateur shutterbug.

Rather than hope for the best then, I've decided to do a little homework.  The thought of getting a great picture of two of my beautiful grandchildren with a lovely newborn one is worth it.  Here are seven sites that I found to be quite informative:

4 Tips for Connecting and Photographing Kids More Naturally

Photographing Tots and Toddlers

5 Tough Love Tips for Photographing Toddlers

Photographing Toddlers and Getting Them to Sit Still

10 Tips for Photographing Toddlers

6 Tips for Photographing Newborns With Siblings

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Create Fantastic Digital Worksheets and Presentations with an iCLIPART.com Pro Subscription

Every day, our children's minds are given into the care of educators whom we hope will not just teach them but inspire in them the desire to learn as well. 

Since children are uniquely different, from the tip of their toes to the top of the head, in personality and intelligence,  a one-size-fits-all style of teaching is far from effective. Finding a way to rouse students from intellectual lethargy and ensure they understand the lesson, is only half of the monumental task facing educators. It's also important they stay interested and are eager to absorb more and more information.

To do so, it's imperative that teachers find creative ways to reach those young minds,  using not just words but worksheets, assignments and lesson plans designed to stimulate. 

My two eldest kids are educators, albeit at distinctly different levels. One is working to mould the minds of middle school students, while the other is an ECE in a junior kindergarten program.  Though the approach is obviously different, the starting point is essentially the same. Whatever tools are used can enhance the experience for the students, as well as for the teacher.

I know the amount of time my son and daughter spend trying to achieve this balance. Fortunately, they're both still young enough and enthusiastic enough that they have fun devising a lot of their own materials. But what happens when the well of imagination and creativity runs dry? Or quite simply when a teacher runs out of time to prepare a lesson plan?

Fortunately, there are wonderful online resources to help out. The most well-known is TeachersPayTeachers from which educators can sell and buy lessons, printables, worksheets, etc. There are categories for all grades, as well as for homeschoolers, higher learning and adult students,  and the site offers a variety of subjects and budgets. To learn more you might want to check out this blog from EdSurge

TPT isn't the only option, however. You can take a look at some others here:

TeacherLingo
Teacher's Notebook
• BuySellTeach
• educents

While these are excellent resources for teachers looking for a little support, it's also important to note that many of these sites have created, in some cases, a lucrative second income for those interested in sharing their materials with others.  According to information from EdSurgeNews teachers "have earned more than $175 million of materials on TPT since it's launch in 2006." Given that this blog was written in 2015, one can only assume that number as grown.

Regardless of who's creating the tools for learning, they all will need good graphics. Captivating and appropriate images are a necessity for teachers' classroom materials. Here again there are options to be found online, including the fantastic, diverse content on  iCLIPART.com . What's also exciting about this website is that it offers a Professional subscription for anyone interested in creating digital worksheets, documents or presentations intended for multiple distribution.  It's perfect, therefore, for people involved in the creation of online educational materials.

The subscription price is $295 for one year. However, currently anyone looking for this type of usage can ask to receive a discount coupon code by contacting bizdev@vitalimagery.com 

 

Friday, February 24, 2017

7 Handy Tools to Transform Your Favourite Photos Into Sketches

"When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family." Jim Butcher

Family for most of us is everything. In part, I suppose, because they are there for you when you need them most. They might never forget your misdemeanours, nor let you, but they will forgive and accept.  Though they might be quick to throw a dart, they are also likely to be the first to take one for you if someone else tosses it in your direction. No poison can come from outside the circle. No one will defend you with as much ferocity.

Of course there are exceptions, but most of us can count on our family, from siblings and parents, to cousins and in-laws. Like anything else in life, however, the family you have today might not be forever. Time and circumstance has a way of changing the players. It might be a divorce, a new marriage or the arrival of a baby or two that alters the family you see today from the one you will know a year from now.

Regardless, they are the faces we most love to see.  Several years ago, while visiting an acquaintance's home for the first time, I noticed the grouping of family portraits she had on her wall. There was one featuring her, her husband and their three adult children, then one of each of her kids with their spouses and their offspring. They are updated every three years, she said, because little ones change so quickly.

A brilliant idea, I decided, and booked a sitting immediately for my brood and their families. At the time, our eldest was married with three teenage stepchildren, our daughter had just had a baby, their little sister was newly engaged and our youngest was single with a son.  By the time we were ready to update three years later, two new babies had come our way, as well as a new in-law.

Since then, though, I've had difficulty keeping up with the players.  When it comes to who's coming into this family and who's not, it's been a bit of a revolving door.  Efforts have been made to update the portraits as necessary but the result has been a mish-mash of styles.

After much thought,  I've decided, therefore, that at least for now,  I'm going back to the old days. While, the grandchildren's pictures will be put into a collage suitable for framing once I know we've been blessed for the last time, the portraits will be of my kids. Alone.

The idea also struck me that perhaps a sketch, rather than a photograph, might give those pictures enough of an artsy vibe that they could hang in place for eons. I considered commissioning an artist,  but having seen the good and bad of this type of work, was reluctant to shell out cash for something that looked absolutely nothing like the subject. Then a friend told me  she has had great results turning pictures into sketches with image editing.  Since I have some fantastic photos of my kids, I decided it might be worth a try.

Here are some tutorials and tools I found to get me started. Most apps have versions for Apple and Android.

Prisma
This popular photo editing app has many stunning photo effects

Photo Lab
This picture editor has more than 600 awesome effects for your photos.

SnapsTouch
Super easy, super fast: I gave this one a quick try using a photo of my beautiful granddaughter to see what it might do. Here were the results.

PicMonkey
Use this popular editor's artsy effects to transform a picture into a black-and-white pencil drawing.

wikiHow: Make a Colour Image Look Like a Sketch in Photoshop
Just one other effect that can be achieved with the magic of Photoshop.

PhotoFunia
Another online photo effect that turns your photos instantly into a sketch. Since little time was required it was another one for me to test out.
Lunapic
This one might be my favourite. Simple but with extra effects to further enhance the final results.
There are limitless options when you search online for ways to change a photo into a sketch.  These are just a few examples that a quick look revealed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Irish Eyes Will be Smiling Over These 8 Great St. Patrick's Day Clipart Collections

Such a treat the past few days have been weather-wise in this little corner of the world. As we celebrated our Family Day long weekend we were welcomed by temperatures well above freezing at a time of year when the chill of winter is so damp and deep it normally seeps into our very core.

Where typically we are buried under snow, longingly looking ahead to warmer days and burgeoning life as we enter the last week of February, currently we are seeing patches of boggy lawn with streets lined by banks of crusty grey snow. Rather than shivering and shaking we've been out and about in light jackets —  bareheaded and un-mitten-ed.

And it sounds like we can enjoy more of the same for several days to come. Temperatures are actually expected to soar into double digits later this week.

No matter what the rest of winter has in store for us, though, there's no question that we have become inspired to gaze expectantly ahead. We look to spring, to that time of year when existence just becomes a little more carefree. We will doff the heavy outwear and cumbersome boots, our worries over travel on snowy roads ends and we surge forth from our winter cocoons.

Spring is in the air and our daydreams colour with shades of pastels and green. The latter plays a big part in a celebration that arrives just days ahead of winter's demise. St. Patrick's Day, with its images of happy leprechauns, cheery rainbows and verdant shamrocks is a fun and lively party.  Like a charming ebullient friend, the Irish holiday chases away any leftover weight of woeful winter to lighten our hearts and brighten the end of the season.

When I think now of St. Patrick's Day, my mind first wanders back to my childhood school days, when the theme was prominent in our arts and crafts. We didn't understand much about the occasion, nor did we know anything about its origins. The story of Ireland would be buried deep in the roots of some of our family trees, but few of us were aware.  March 17 was something we celebrated regardless of our lineage. What we did know was that there was something endearing about the day.

St. Patrick's Day is still almost a month away, but with February drawing to a timely, and lovely, close it's not too soon to turn our thoughts that way. Particularly when it comes to preparing. Whether you're an educator looking for images for the classroom, or an establishment contemplating how to promote that green beer, you'll be in need of a great graphics resource. Here are some great collections from iCLIPART.com and Clipart.com, royalty-free subscription services.