Being Brave for the Global Talent Search

Pragmatic. Practical. I go through life with a jaundiced eye, a cynical look and a wry quip or sar-caustic remark at all the foibles of the world around me. The most frequent butt of my humor is me.  Not always in fun… I hate flowery phrases and refuse to wade in maudlin sentimentality. I’m too old for all that nonsense. A search for deeper meanings makes me ill… Express emotion??? Not me.

R i g h t… Don’t believe it. It’s mostly an act. Sometimes a good one, but still, an act. I fall to pieces at the slightest provocation, like when I created my journal cover for the Global Talent Search.

I grew up wanting the typical things that were acceptable for a girl of my era–a husband, two kids, a 2-car garage in the suburbs (and a career as a ballerina or a Broadway star). I got part of that; the husband, the house, and one of the kids (forget about the Broadway thing–when given a choice between ballet and college, I opted for college). The house got a bit tedious when I found myself in the middle of a coffee-klatch of wives discussing FLOOR WAX, but that’s a different tale.

I was married at 21 to a man I met in third grade (we’ve just celebrated our 45th anniversary). At 24, my son was born. When I was 33, I developed fibromyalgia and reluctantly decided that no more children were possible. If I couldn’t lift a bottle of orange juice off the table, what on earth was I going to do with a new baby?

So, we only had the one chick and every moment of his childhood was precious. Two summers ago, my husband started to scan the slides from those years into the computer–until we both became so overwhelmed and upset by nostalgia that he had to stop. So where is this saga is heading?

In May, I took the Make Art That Sells part A class with Lilla Rogers ( I first started to feel my age when she gave the assignment to draw ‘vintage pyrex.’ Hmmm–you mean those bowls I’ve had in my cabinets since I was first married? (Yes.) Gee, I’d never thought of myself as antique before.

I had a free pass to enter the Global Talent Search with a prize of two years’ representation by Lilla. I knew I didn’t stand a chance, but that was okay. The topic, however,  was more vintage; this time a journal cover featuring vintage playground equipment.

My artwork typically starts with a photo, and I always use my own. Way back, when my son was little, we had a Jungle Gym in the back yard with swings and a slide. So I decided to start there.

A number of colleagues have asked for an explanation of how I built that cover, so in conjunction with this, my “brave” posting for the Build a Blog You Truly Love class ( and in celebration of the start of Part B of Make Art that Sells, I decided to combine both purposes.

Here’s a mock-up of the finished piece:


Friends, you thought I was just creating a journal cover. I cried myself through every step of the way…

First was the search for a suitable image to use as a basis for the design. Way too much nostalgia… Eventually, I settled on this prize winner (good thing I know Photoshop!)


Do we have an exposure issue here?


Fixed, but not still not a prize to anyone but a mommy.

I was certain that no one would want to purchase a journal cover with the back of my house showing, so the house had to go.


To replace it, I used trees from a photo I took at Longwood Gardens


but the tones were not harmonious.

The next step involved making all parts of the image look like they belonged together, which meant a slight stylization of the image.


Now everything looked uniformly odd.

I then digitally painted an overlay using brushes that I created from photos of oatmeal and dryer lint (notice the fine fibers!)


If you look carefully, you can see that I actually painted on a layer directly above the image; the legs of the swing set are partially visible.

Next, I decided to add some toys that my son liked that weren’t in the original photo. More photos to search and more sobbing…

image7 image8

and an improved version of the slide from a different photo. In reality, the slide was attached to the swing set. Here’s the image at this point, with toys and extras added and the painted layer partly integrated.


Can you spot the other truck and the bucket and shovel?

I altered the blend mode and opacity to get a better view of the swing set and my son. After all, he was supposed to be the focal point!


Not good, but you can see he’s there.


And I added suitably sentimental text.

The next step was to make my son into the real focal point of the cover.


Blend modes and painting in some of the layer masks helped with this. I also added the image from its pre-painted-overlay stage to the top of the layer stack and altered its blend mode and opacity. The only step left was to add the word “Journal” in type to compliment the phrase. I wanted it to look stamped, so I altered the type with a layer mask.


Now it was ready for its final layout and I sent it on its way.


I didn’t win; I didn’t even make the semi-finals, but that was fine. I probably had one of my most emotional and personal art-making experiences ever. And I loved every moment of it–thorough the tears! (By the way, I also love flowers, cute babies and puppies, and the color pink.)


Meet the Author

Sherry London

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Debbie Schaefer Oct 9, 2013, 10:46 am

    You win because you won me over in this post. I love that you are honoring that moment in time (your son on the swing) in a priceless way. It really is the heartfelt process that matters (but I love the end result too!). Beautiful!

    • Oct 9, 2013, 10:53 am

      Debbie, thank you SO much! I even cried while I was writing this BLOG post (grin) –Sherry

  • Dawn Conery Oct 9, 2013, 11:09 am

    Oh i just love you Sherry! You are so real and amazing and generous and loving. What a wonderful post, made me cry too! Love your journal, perhaps you could print it out and attach it to a real journal and record some of those thoughts and memories. What a gift that would be to you, your husband and your son!

    • Oct 9, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Dawn, I love you back! This was really the most emotional image I’ve ever created. –Sherry

  • julia grifol Oct 9, 2013, 11:33 am

    Sherry, I loved your post! So great to read about you!Thanks for sharing how you created this lovely illustration!

    • Oct 9, 2013, 12:43 pm

      Julia, thanks! I am so glad that you enjoyed reading the post. –Sherry

  • Melissa Oct 9, 2013, 11:55 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Sherry. Beautifully written and had my full attention. I absolutely loved your Journal design when I first saw it…I like it even more now 🙂

    • Oct 9, 2013, 12:44 pm

      Mel, what a lovely compliment! Thanks. –Sherry

  • Anne Reynolds Oct 9, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Brave post Sherry! And really interesting.
    And I’m checking out the blog course now ….

    • Oct 9, 2013, 1:53 pm

      Anne, thanks. I think is the last running of the course. It might still be possible to sign up though. –Sherry

  • Michelle Oct 9, 2013, 2:48 pm

    GREAT post and I love how brave you are to put yourself out there in a competition. Your journal is such a treasure. I consider Pyrex vintage, not an antique by the way. 😉

    • Oct 9, 2013, 5:16 pm

      Michelle, thanks. The competition was easy (grin). I went into it simply hoping for a portfolio piece. It’s not like Lilla was going to make me wear a sign saying “loser”. My ego was not involved in this at all. I was amazed at my own emotional reaction to the piece. Okay–I can accept being ‘vintage’ rather than an antique (grin) –Sherry

  • Harmony Harrison Oct 9, 2013, 4:29 pm

    Sherry, your photoshop skills really impress me, as does your courage. Thank you for sharing your artwork, and thank you for sharing this photo-memory of your son.

    • Oct 9, 2013, 5:17 pm

      Harmony, thanks. Your own honesty and writing skills are also very impressive. I’m glad we met in class. –Sherry

  • Susan Michael Barrett Oct 9, 2013, 4:33 pm

    Sherry, I love the mix of emotion with a tutorial! That is one special journal. So glad to be taking this course with you. xo

    • Oct 9, 2013, 5:19 pm

      Susan, thanks so much. It turned out to be a very special journal. At some point, I’m going to try to have a real journal printed with that cover. I’m glad that we’re taking the class together as well. –Sherry

  • Pam Oct 9, 2013, 11:37 pm

    High five on this sentence: “The house got a bit tedious when I found myself in the middle of a coffee-klatch of wives discussing FLOOR WAX, but that’s a different tale.”
    I want to hear that tale now….I can’t stand that kind of “socializing”. Great post and I love how you wove in a tutorial. What a wonderful healing experience. PS: That journal looks like a prize winner to me!

    • Oct 10, 2013, 10:38 am

      Pam, thanks. After reading your blog post today, I can see why that resonates with you! –Sherry

  • Tasha Stanton Oct 10, 2013, 6:04 pm

    I admire your brave girl stuff! I treasure one of those bowls that used to belong to my mother in law. I had a second child at age 46 and his kindergarten classmates thought I was his Grandmother at first, after a lot of volunteering and being 3rd graders now they don’t do that. I like the other parents but there is a huge age gap. On the bright side we will have a deeper understanding of the 70’s 80’s 90’s etc. We have seen a lot of pattern come and go. I saw a steamer trunk in a thrift store, I took pix so I could explain what it was to my son. You’re not getting older… you’re getting better used to be in some commercial. If only I could remember…

    • Oct 11, 2013, 11:46 am

      Tasha, thanks! Given the alternative (grin), I try to grow older (or grow up!) gratefully and with some humor, I hope! –Sherry

  • Tasha Stanton Oct 10, 2013, 6:05 pm

    I forgot to say I love your journal!

  • Barbara Evans Oct 11, 2013, 12:44 pm

    fascinating I loved seeing your process and the finished picture

    • Oct 11, 2013, 1:10 pm

      Barbara, thanks so much! –Sherry

  • Erin Warhol Oct 11, 2013, 4:47 pm

    Love your Journal! And I loved hearing about your step-by-step process of creating it.
    A spiritual teacher once told me, that kind of crying is our soul’s “Tears of Joy”… in the presence of another. Lovely!

    • Oct 11, 2013, 4:56 pm

      Erin, thanks so much! It felt good finally writing about it as well. –Sherry

  • Shelly Penko Oct 11, 2013, 11:03 pm

    What a beautiful journal cover and the blog post just makes it even better. I am amazed at all you can do in photoshop. The combination of art and technical knowledge and skill is so impressive. You must be a really well rounded person! ♥

    • Oct 12, 2013, 12:21 am

      Shelly, I am still in awe of Photoshop and its capabilities every time I use it. One never learns all there is to know about it. I am really glad you liked the posting! AS you can tell, my strength is in photo manipulation. I need to somehow translate that into pattern design–something you do so well! –Sherry

  • Diane Cassidy Oct 11, 2013, 11:06 pm

    Hi Sherry. I took my first ed2go class with you—Intermediate Photoshop, and really enjoyed it. (However I can’t say that about the next couple of classes I took.) I’ve recommended you to many of my friends. I was so hung up with the “How to make a ghost” assignment that I’ve been making ghosts ever since and am trying to figure out how I can make —a book— out of them. As for this blog, I loved it. Altho I’m way older than you I could identify with so much of what you were saying. Thanks so very much for sharing. Diane

    • Oct 12, 2013, 12:23 am

      Diane, of course I know who you are. Actually, you were just about my first facebook friend! I’m glad that you’re still playing with the program. I am happy that you enjoyed the post and it’s always great to hear from you. –Sherry

  • Stacey Plants Oct 12, 2013, 10:43 am

    HA! You sound like my dear mom here, who I love to pieces: “I hate flowery phrases and refuse to wade in maudlin sentimentality. I’m too old for all that nonsense. A search for deeper meanings makes me ill… Express emotion??? Not me.”

    HA! I knew it: “R i g h t… Don’t believe it. It’s mostly an act. Sometimes a good one, but still, an act. I fall to pieces at the slightest provocation.” (This makes me crack up at all the times my mom rolls her eyes at me for discussing topics that delve below the surface.)

    Anyway, I so enjoyed your super brave, revealing post of what lies below the surface for you, Sherry. And watching your amazing journal come to life was truly fun to watch. I agree with others and feel your entry should have won. It’s a fabulous piece!

    • Oct 12, 2013, 12:14 pm

      Stacey, I’m really glad that you liked the post and my work. My son would probably be amazed that I had the nerve to say I *wasn’t* emotional. He remembers a constant watering pot. I still cry every time he visits and has to leave to go home… –Sherry

  • Lizy Nov 9, 2013, 11:55 pm

    I’m taking the UGTR workshop and found your blog through the webinar.
    Beautiful post 🙂 your words inspire me. Thanks for your help and mentorship in UGTR.

    • Nov 10, 2013, 10:45 am

      Liz, thank you so much!It’s my pleasure to be able to help in UGTR. It’s such an honor to be able to work with Michelle! I hope you enjoy the class. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help! –Sherry