Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Yet Another Redesign

Well in a few hours it will be a new year and with it comes a new website. Yes I have yet again redesigned my website. I just could not get happy with the layout of the past one and my knowledge of HTML and CSS/Java and all of the bells and whistles were lacking. I finally broke down and bought a program to help me and help it did.

Now everything is in better order under each design and you will be able to choose which store you would like to purchase from. Hopefully it will make browsing and shopping much easier.

Just roll over an image and a pop out menu will let you pick which store you would like to browse and buy.

Greeting cards are available in all three stores but I recommend if you only want one to use Greeting Card Universe, the quality and service is outstanding and you won't be disappointed. Of course you can buy them in bulk but I also offer box sets on CafePress. As for the other gift items the quality is superb no matter which store you choose. So feel free to browse around and drop an email if you so choose. Any feedback is appreciated.

Now hopefully some inspiration will hit and with it new designs so check back soon and see what is new!

to be continued...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Importance of Friends

Ok, well let's see. It has been a while since I wrote and quite honestly this blog thing is difficult for me. It is much easier to talk about a new design or about what inspired me to paint a particular painting but since I have been bone dry for what seems an eternity I thought I would comment on something I realized just recently. I guess the upcoming holidays and the loneliness of them got me to thinking about this.

Not too long ago I signed up for a Facebook account. The reason wasn't to find friends I have lost touch with but to get my name out there and to show my artwork. I never thought in a million years that anyone would even be looking for me but I was wrong, things have a way of coming full circle.

Now in high school I was not popular nor did I care to be, I always danced to the tune of my own trumpet for a drum was too normal for me. I had a few close friends that danced to their own instruments and together we had our own jam session, all of the notes just fit. I wasn't much for hanging out with people my age and most of my friends graduated a year or two before me or moved away which means I lost touch with them easily.

One day to my surprise I get an email through Facebook with no signature saying he liked my work, now the face looked awful familiar and after the shock wore off I knew exactly who it was. It was an old friend from school and we quickly got to catching up. Funny even after 20+ years it seemed like only minutes have gone by, still the same old Jim from school. After a while the old gang seemed to find their way back and almost all of us have reconnected. Athough there may be a country or an ocean between us, for we seem to be scattered all over the planet now, it feels like we never left each other and that can be comforting. Yes we have had our trials and tribulations, ups and downs, happy, sad and losses but it is nice to know that there are people out there who don't judge, who have seen you at your gawkiest yet like you anyway. Who no matter how far you get or how long you have been apart they are there for you. I didn't really know how much I missed everyone until that email.

I guess since this is the time of year we should be thankful that we actually think about the things we are thankful for no matter how small they may be or how far away they live. I am thankful for my friends both new an old, there may not be many of them but they are the best anyone could have and I am honored to know them.

to be continued...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter Solstice Cards

Love it or hate it we all do it. It is about that time of year when the stress of the holidays takes over. On top of presents and cooking, visiting friends and loved ones there is that time old tradition of sending cards. I am not talking an Ecard but a good old-fashioned paper greeting card, the kind you hold in your hand and smile when you open it. Knowing that someone is thinking about you whether they are close or miles away. Everyone loves to get a card, don't let them fool you.

Below are some holiday designs. All of them can be personalized with whatever holiday you celebrate. It can be Yule, Christmas, Winter Solstice or if you just want to send out a Seasons Greetings card.

Of course Zazzle is not the only place to find my cards. Greeting Card Universe has the best quality cards out there, they are a superior quality and can be mailed to whomever you wish (or to yourself to mail) They are also customizable and when paired with my matching postage stamps (yes they are real and you can mail them) and sticker seals and you are sure to have a card worth saving and remembering.

If you are looking for box sets of my cards then visit CafePress

My illustrations don't stop at winter holidays nor does it stop at cards and stamps. I have many different designs available in all of my stores and I am happy to work with you if you need something special.

The Greenman embodies all of nature. He represents rebirth and the cycle of growth each spring. This Greenman is decorated in holly leaves and bright red berries ready for the Solstice, Yule and Christmas season

Greenman Holly CardGreenman Holly StickerGreenman Holly Postage Stamp

Poinsettia Holly Nymph - She makes sure the temperatures are right for growing beautiful poinsettias for the holiday season. She is also in charge of the holly and mistletoe

Poinsettia Holly Nymph CardPoinsettia Holly Nymph StickerPoinsettia Holly Nymph Postage Stamp

Carefully wrapped presents are sure to make your friends and family smile. There are three styles, the first set is for Winter Solstice, The second set is generic holiday greetings and the third is for Christmas

Holiday Bow Solstice CardHoliday Bow Solstice StickerHoliday Bow Solstice Postage Stamp

These are just a few of my designs that are available. Almost all of them could be customized to be for Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice or Season's Greetings. Check often for the newest designs.

to be continued...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Inspirational Cats

I have always been a cat lover. Cats sometimes get a bad rap for being aloof, self-absorbed and uncongenial. Perhaps what draws me to them is not the coldness some people seem to think they portray but the inner kindness and regality.

Anyone who has a cat that owns them can tell you they can be as affectionate, loyal and loving as any dog. Having suffered from severe clinical depression for the past few years of my life I can tell you they have pulled me out of some very dark places. Always by my side and understanding even without saying a word. I owe a lot to them. You are blessed if you are loved by a cat

Their lines are sleek and their demeanor mysterious. It is no wonder that cats have inspired great works of literature, art, songs and poetry. It is no exception in my work either. Having 6 cats I am never at a loss for subjects even if I am not in need of one they manage to make themselves known.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NEW to CafePress - The Flip Mino Camcorder

"Making and sharing great video has never been easier. Or more fun. The ultra-thin & pocket-sized Flip Video Mino camcorder has a handy USB arm that flips out and hooks up to your PC or Mac. This charges the battery, plus lets you use its built-in software to easily view, edit, and upload video and photos to favorite sharing sites."

I have to say I have had a lot of fun designing for this camera. I must admit I have never heard of a Flip Mino until CafePress added it to the line-up. Yeah I know I am a photographer and yes I was asleep on this one. In my defense though I don't normally use video.

I found it easy to adapt some of my designs to the camera but as I was doing so I began to feel a little creative. It was nice since I have been a little dry for inspriation as of late.

I came up with this design while doing one that follows some of my thank you cards, saying the word smile in different languages. I scrapped that one temporarily when I started doing an emoticon for a smiley face. This prompted me to go into the Character Map and see what little characters I could use for noses, eyes, mouths and any other facial features I could find. I actually had a lot of fun creating the little guys to the left and who wouldn't smile looking at them?

This Flip Mino Camera along with others can be found for $179.99 in my CafePress Store

On another note though I still have a long way to go to get all of my websites up to speed and complete, after all it is a very big job but it was nice to take a break and do some silly little designs for a fun little camera.

to be continued...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary, a place I have wanted to tour for a long time. I finally got that chance the past weekend and it did not disappoint. While some may find this place creepy and forboding I however saw a beauty in it. While I am aware that it was a prison and it housed people in some extreme conditions I found myself at peace there. I was fortunate that there was not a lot of people touring it at the time and I was able to stand there and just listen. The busy street outside deafened by the towering medieval walls and only the sound of the wind and an occasional bird singing their song could be heard. The building itself has been left to disintergrate before the restoration and much is still that way, yet in that decay there is life. The picture to the left was taken through a very small crack between one of the cell doors and the wall. I was not able to see inside for myself and mearly stuck my hand and camera through a crack to take this photo. To my eye it was pitch black inside but to the camera's flash this was exposed. Even in a dark dank recees of this building life struggles and grows. Along the back wall and a bit to my surprise is a tree growing through the back wall, taking root and flourishing. The cell itself has been stopped in time for who knows how many years. This may be the first time someone like me has seen inside for what may seem an eternity and I wonder who it was that spent their time here, not able to see or talk to anyone for years. Their only light was a small skylight in the ceiling and their only fresh air was given an hour a day. What brought them there and how did they cope? So many questions and no answers. I took many pictures that day and wondered what the place looked like as it was being built and new, filled with people sent there to repent. I tried to listen for those voices that resonate through the hallways when no one is around and the ghosts of times past. If you are ever in Philadelphia take some time to visit this wonderful place, hopefully you will be able to walk the grounds alone in quiet to get a sense of how small we really are and how lucky we are to walk out the front door.

For more photos of my visit to Eastern State Penitentiary visit my website at Zazzle

to be continued...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Autumn Nymph

Ah, the cold crisp autumn air signals nature to ready for a long slumber, so may you gather those around you close and celebrate all that the harvest has to offer.

Always my favourite time of the year, a time when the dreadful heat of the summer is gone, the air turns cooler and carries with it the smell of apples and fires in fireplaces and things begin to become quiet. While I love the summer flowers and the color they provide, there is just something spectacular about the autumn leaves and the warmness they exude. Taking drives up Route 78 and stopping every so often to take in the beauty. Although the time is short for such splendors they are greatly appreciated and cherished.
to be continued...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Carousel Painting

This past Tuesday I took a little day trip to Turtleback Zoo in West Orange NJ, I planned on taking some photos of the animals that live there but to my surprise I happened upon a beautiful carousel of endangered animals. Camera in hand and fingers crossed that the battery would not die before I could finish photographing each piece. I managed to get them in between rides and riders. The work on this carousel was exquisite and each animal unique in it's own right. There was a red panda, gorilla, dolphin, wolf, an otter laying on his back, an okapi, penguin, an elephant, bald eagle, polar bear, sea lion, seahorse, a giant panda, giraffe, ostrich, zebra, crocodile, a donkey and a tree frog. (pictured left) There were also several big cats including a snow leopard, lion, tiger, cougar and leopard. (I think I listed them all) I plan on painting many of the animals that are on this carousel in the upcoming weeks. I also plan on returning to get better photos for reference. The tree frog, I named her Lily, is available on Zazzle as of right now. She will be appearing very soon on CafePress so watch out for her.

to be continued...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Website Design

Well I have been working tirelessly trying to get my main website up and running and in a more consistent state. (see a little sneak peek to the left) I am nearly half way through now and still have a way to go. I plan on you being able to shop directly from my website. Hopefully it works out smoothly for everyone, trying to maintain 3 stores into one website is a big job. Hopefully I didn't make it too confusing. All of this redesigning is taking up quite a lot of my time and because of this my artwork has suffered a bit. I do however have a small back log of things just waiting to be scanned in and uploaded. Leave it to me to start a major upheaval on the cusp of the holiday season. It may not seem like it now but Halloween is just around the corner then you sneeze and we are celebrating New Years Eve. I would have liked to do more Samhain designs and I may take a short break from the main site to do this but being an artist I have a tendency to flit about, it gets done just not in a linear way. I have also added some extra features to my site including a look at the staff that works behind the scenes at their jobs and a few links that you may be interested in as well as a section just for new designs so you don't have to go hunting for them.

I guess for now that will be it, I just needed to take a short break and write in non-html format to keep my sanity. Keep an eye out for the new site, hopefully it won't be too much longer.

to be continued...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Let it Snow

Ok so summer is barely over, kids are just getting back to school and the weather is still warm. Why then would I be working on snowmen? Well it is quite simple really, I love the winter time. I love the cold crisp air, and the way it stings your nose when you take a deep breath. I love the sound your feet make when you crunch through freshly fallen snow, the smell of fire in their fireplaces and most of all I love the quiet. No lawnmowers, no neighbors singing drunken songs into the wee hours of the night, no motorcycles racing up and down the streets and barely any people out and about, nothing but quiet and the songs of a distant chickadee or cardinal. While I am not a big fan of the holidays I do like the solitude of the seasons end, the purity of the white snow. With that in mind I started to design a few snowmen, after all they are easy enough, just a bunch of circles. I wanted to give them a warmness too, something that is not always associated with snow and the winter and a feeling of belonging and friendship. The original paintings you see here were in fact painted in very bright colors and it just didn't seem to convey the feeling I was going for so I scanned them into my computer. After doing this I opened them in Photoshop and copied the layer resulting in two of the same. I applied a sepia cast to the top layer and cut the opacity down to around 40% allowing the original bright colors to peek through, much of like any color that peeks through a blanket of snow. I added a few digital snowflakes on a third layer and then flattened it to get the end result. Hopefully what I have is a charming old fashioned painting that conveys the warmth of friends and family and the beauty of the winter season.

For products with this design please visit my store on Zazzle, CafePress or GCU

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Four Elements

Earth, Air, Fire & Water

I came up with these designs around Earth Day 2008. Originally I wanted to design a series of greeting cards for the zodiac using their elemental counterparts. Being inspired by nature I began to imagine what they would be like if they had actual entities behind them. Around this time I was going through a "swirl" drawing period. It was just something I was doodling at the time and it seemed to fit what I had in mind so I grabbed my pencils and watercolors and headed outside to channel some nature. The designs came pretty easy once I got going. I wanted to keep them semi monochromatic, which I was successful at and I wanted the viewer to feel the warmth of the sun, the salty water, the slight breeze and the coolness of the forest. I think at least I hope that the viewer can.

Upon the success of these cards and the interest generated by them I expanded the line to include other products on Zazzle and CafePress. I hope to include them on skateboards in the near future and actually design a different version as well as work on a celestial line involving the moon, stars and sun.

to be continued....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Introduction of Myself

For those of you who just happen upon me and are not familiar with my work let me introduce myself. My name is Nikki and I started 13 Black Cats Designs around February of 2008. Initially I began posting my work online as a means of therapy, a way to work through a very tough time in my life that was full of extreme loss and sadness, a bit of regret and anger too. In reality it was a way to drag myself out of bed.

I started simply with just CafePress, not expecting much to happen but that was not to be true. I began getting feedback that was all positive and encouragement, both from strangers and friends, it even helped an old friend reconnect with me. Then a few sales happened and I became interested in painting again, which I never thought would ever be and I opened a second store, this time on Zazzle and right after Greeting Card Universe. To connect them all I purchased my own domain and I am now in the process of a major overhaul and hope to have it all updated soon. With all of that I decided to add a blog. I have been fighting it, after all who cares what I have to say or for that matter do I have anything worth saying? Well I am not sure on the last two questions but I thought I would give it a try. Perhaps I will showcase a few designs and tell how they came about, maybe a drawing lesson or two, who knows? I guess it just depends on how the wind blows.

to be continued...
meow ^..^ meow ^..^ meow ^..^ meow ^..^ meow ^..^ meow ^..^ meow ^..^ meow
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