PARK!

24 Jul

PARK

This fall my favorite publisher duopress is rolling out a cool new project: PARK: A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons. PARK is an oversized book with an accordian-fold interior that extends to almost five feet in length.

fold-out in grass

duopress’s goal for PARK was twofold: 1) Celebrate the beauty of Central Park, which represents city parks in general, and 2) Take full advantage of the uniqueness of the fold-out.

hipstersWe envisioned an abstracted, exploded view of the Central Park stretching across the five-foot spread, with the seasons evolving from left to right to show the passage of time—something that couldn’t be done as fluidly in a traditional book. Additionally, we decided to fill the park with characters whose stories develop as the seasons evolve. For example, we meet a pair of hipsters in the spring on the left. As we see them in the summer and fall their beards are longer and longer until, in their final appearance in winter on the far right of the book, they actually come alive.

The next challenge was finding the perfect illustrator and designer for the job.

ILLUSTRATION

In early 2014, riding waves of success from his blog-turned-book All The Buildings in New York (Universe Publishing/2013), James Gulliver Hancock signed on to illustrate PARK. James, a globetrotting Aussie and part-time resident of Brooklyn, NY, created all of the art from his home in Sydney.

James working 2

PARK was a dream project for me! To draw Central Park, an icon of New York City, and play with a whole bunch of quirky characters through the seasons would be so much fun. I also loved that duopress was up for doing a different kind of production in the form of the fold out and the large scale.

kid on bikeThe drawing on the back cover of the kid on the bicycle showing how big the book is really sums up the playfulness that I loved about the project from the beginning. And which kid didn’t love Where’s Waldo? it was a dream to be able to make my own take on that style of project. Also having lived in New York through the seasons, it was so fun to represent some of my experiences through the seasons—because the weather in each season is so graphic and obvious in the northern hemisphere.

It was definitely an ambitious project for me, but like most I started in the begging and worked to the end. :-)

It was fun to do really rough sketches at the beginning, basically just circles for placement, then build that up to a second sketch and then take it all the way to final. I had to draw quite large to get all the detail in there, so there was quite a lot of collaging together of drawings to make the huge final. It was always a matter of zooming in and out to get a sense for it on the computer as it came together, but there was nothing like the moment when I saw it produced in all it’s finished glory!

DESIGN

beatriz typography

From her studio in Toronto, free-lancer Beatriz Juarez joined the team to design the book, including the title type treatment, which she created by hand.

I start with a blank page and sketch the title in as many styles as possible with markers. For Park I tried many styles, with letters that were totally script and fluid, until I got to a more cartoonish style. When I think I can get more organic options to a a particular style, I switch to my brushes. I probably filled a whole notebook with 250 pages trying different styles. When I chose the 4 characters I was happy with, I put them together in Photoshop. Retraced them and clean them up.

LAUNCH: Book Expo America

James & Mauricio at BEA

In early June, team duopress met in Central Park’s hometown of NYC to debut an advance copy of PARK at Book Expo America. All new book projects are a roll of the dice, especially for small indie publishers like duopress, but PARK: A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons was extremely well received, and publisher Mauricio Velázquez de León (seen above with James Gulliver Hancock) is optimistic:

At duopress we focus in publishing books that can’t translate too easy into the digital world. All the hand-held devices and high-tech tablets in the world can’t really compete with the size of a fold-out or a board book. I believe fold-out books are making a comeback. I see more an more coming into the market (That’s great news for Park!) It seems that Fold-Out books are becoming what pop-up books have been for years; a real competition against a world saturated with screens.

kids looking at Park

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PARK, A Fold-Out Book in Four Seasons (duopress/2014) is available now. Click here to order on-line.

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Since its inception in 2006, duopress—a small indie book publisher currently based in Baltimore—has been producing award-winning, innovative   books and gifts for curious children.

duopress specializes in city-specific books and puzzles that reflect the company’s love for kids in a contemporary cosmopolitan style. Visit any US metropolis and you’re bound to see Cool Counting books, Doodle Books, Local Baby books, Foodie books, and puzzles produced by duopress. See them at the publisher’s website, here.

Violet Lemay joined the duopress team as an illustrator in 2010 and since then has collaborated on more than twenty duopress projects, eventually becoming the art director in May of 2013. See Violet’s portfolio site, here.

 

Vine Animation

19 Mar

ISS_top of shoe

Meet 8-year-old Isabella Ivory Edelston-Finch, the star of Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

ISS_Cover_forweb*

Isabella’s Shoe Studio is a Doodle Storybook™ book that I wrote and illustrated with the help of my friends at duopress in 2013. To help promote the book, I’ve pursued every creative idea that’s popped into my head.

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Felt Dolls

First, I made felt Isabella dolls. We featured them as prizes for social-media-driven photo contests, and gave them starring roles in travel-based slide shows. This photo was taken by fan Christa Bellock of Elgin, Illinois, who won a felt Isabella in a Facebook contest. (Click here to follow Isabella on Facebook.)

1902717_10151994133532196_935633935_nPaper Dolls

Then, I designed paper dolls for promo events. The photo on the left was taken at aMuse Toys in Baltimore.

Seeing all of the cool ways that kids were adding color to the paper dolls gave me a new promo idea: Vine stop-motion animation!

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. . . . . V i n e . . . . .

Vine is a mobile ap/social site owned by Twitter that features 6.5 second videos. To create vines, you have to load the Vine ap onto your phone (no video cameras!) and set up an account, which is very, very basic. Once the ap is loaded and running all you do is click the video icon to get started. Touch the screen to record. As long as you hold your finger on the screen, you are capturing video.

The trick with Vine is logistics. I found it next to impossible to hold the phone, touch the screen and arrange my chosen shot, all at the same time. In order to make frame-by-frame animation, I needed a device to hold the phone for me. I ended up buying Joby’s gorillapod flexible tripod.

vine studio

After coloring a bunch of dresses, attaching the tripod to a stepladder and taping my Isabella paper doll to the shooting surface to keep her from moving, the rest was easy. I recorded her for a few clicks, changed her dress, recorded some more, and so on.

paperdoll vine screenshot

First Attempt: Isabella Paper Doll Vine

Click the image to the right to watch the resulting vine. If you’re unable to view it, create a vine account following the steps above— it’s easy!

While you’re working on your vine, a progress bar on your phone’s screen shows you how many seconds you’ve recorded, so it’s easy to gauge your progress.

The paper doll animation is adorable but we felt it didn’t showcase the true nature of Isabella, or the intention of Isabella’s Shoe Studio—which isn’t really a “fahsion-y” kind of book.

New Concept: Isabella and the Sneaker

After flipping through a copy of Isabella’s Shoe Studio for inspiration, I decided to attempt a more elaborate stop-motion animation in which Isabella actually moves, and interacts with a shoe illustration in the book.ISS_highTop

The high-top sneaker on these pages spoke to me. The text on that page says, “What inspires you today? Draw it on this sneaker.” I saw Isabella popping out the top of the sneaker with a pencil. Isabella would touch the blank surface of the shoe with the pencil, and the shoe would proceed to decorate itself as she slid down the side of the high-top. That was my basic idea, which became slightly more elaborate as I got to work on making the vine.

How-To Guide: Frame-by-Frame Animation

20140319_155308To begin figuring out how to shoot the vine, I made a frame-by-frame storyboard. The storyboard became my go-to reference throughout the entire process.

After watching some incredible animated vines by Pinot and Ian Padgham (see links at the bottom of this post) and counting the clicks, I figured I’d need between 20-30 frames. Because a page from an open copy of Isabella’s Shoe Studio would be the “stage” for this animation, I made 3o grayed-out prints of the page from the book—approximately one page for every frame.

20140319_155953Then, using a light table, I penciled Isabella onto every sheet making her interact with the shoe—old-school animation style.

In addition to animating Isabella I knew I’d have to color the shoe as I went, which meant drawing in a copy of Isabella’s Shoe Studio. I didn’t want to use more than one copy of the book for this project, so I couldn’t draw Isabella directly onto the open book.  Instead, I used the light table again to ink the drawings onto clean printer paper. Then I cut them out and lined them up on my work surface. I quickly shaded her jeans with an Ebony pencil and used a pink crayon stick to blush her cheeks.

Once all of the little Isabella’s were cut, colored and arranged, I stuck some bright orange notes among the cut-outs to keep myself on track time-wise as I shot the vine, and to keep the cut-outs organized and true to their corresponding frames on the storyboard.

isabella cutouts 1

Besides Isabella and the shoe, the third element in the animation was the pencil. My idea had it popping out the top of a 2-D drawing of a shoe, so it had to be flat, not a real pencil. To make the pencil I photographed an actual duopress pencil, adjusted the photo in Photoshop, printed 12 copies on a single sheet of card stock, and cut them out. Voila: pencil!

isabella cutouts 3

The last step (and quickest, by far!) was to shoot the vine. With the book propped up on my trusty Ikea bookshelf, an area that is well-lit by both the sun and overhead electric light, I used double-sided tape to attach each cut-out to the page, one at a time. Between each shot I added a bit more color and design to the shoe—because, after all, Isabella’s Shoe Studio is a book that invites you to design and decorate shoes! The photo above shows the “stage” after shooting…. with the shoe fully illustrated, and little Isabella’s everywhere.

sneaker vine image

The resulting vine is adorable. To watch Isabella slide down a sneaker, click the image on the right.

Once you’re on Vine, follow me, and I’ll follow you!

Inspirations/Extra Help

Pinot on Vine

Ian Padgham on Vine

Tips from Nick Summers

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To order Isabella’s Shoe Studio, click here.

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To view my second vine (Isabella and the Sneaker) on youtube, click here. I used iSkysoft to download the vine and covert it to a .avi file, which I was then able to upload at Youtube. The version of iSkysoft that I use is not free, but is very useful for downloading various forms of moving images—including Picasa slideshows.

Go APE for Art!

23 Feb

APE

Recently I was honored to be included in a local small works show sponsored by Glens Falls NY’s  Art In The Public Eye (APE).

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Art In The Public Eye is a not-for-profit group whose mission “is to cultivate a partnership between the area arts community and local businesses, to promote established and emerging artists and local commerce, and to create greater access to the arts through cultural activities and public exhibitions.”

Gallery 99 is kind of a guerilla art exhibit, occupying a different vacant storefront in Glens Falls every year. The event was headed up by the super-team of Liz Wilcox and Jennifer Kraft, APE’s executive director and director of marketing. These dynamic women co-own Samantha’s Cafe and Catering. (By the way, for you foodies out there: In my experience, Samantha’s is Glens Falls’ most highly recommended restaurant, with good reason. Standard Glens Falls greeting = “Nice to meetcha! Been to Samantha’s yet?” <– well-deserved!

I met Liz and her adorable daughter Daphne at an Isabella’s Shoe Studio promo event at Sketch Design Lounge in Glens Falls a few months ago (click here to read more about that).

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Photo by PJN Photography

Soon after, Liz invited me to Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, 2013’s APE fund raising auction /costume party, whose theme this year was vintage circus—fun!

Later, Ms. Wilcox invited me to participate in Gallery 99. Despite an over-busy schedule I was able to take part, because I had painted a series of shoes for the event at Sketch, and they were just begging to be shown again—in a box, ready to go. All I had to do was to drop them off.

spectator

guitarThe Gallery 99 show included a broad variety of art—paintings, jewelry, hats, batik scarves… even a cigar box guitar and matching amp! Many of the artists rent space in Glens Falls’s Shirt Factory—definitely worth a day trip, if you’re in the area.

All participants helped out, volunteering a few hours manning the gallery. Our schedules overlapped, giving us all a chance to chat and get to know one another. Spectacular people, each and every one.

Glens Falls has got it going on, Class. I hope you all can come visit some day.

Meanwhile, *like* APE’s Facebook fan page.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.15.41 PM

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Like the shoe paintings? A few are available for sale as greting cards at my store on Zazzle.com. Click here to check it out.

SKETCH!

15 Nov

SKETCH sign

Recently I had the pleasure of co-hosting a party at SKETCH design lounge in Glens Falls, NY to promote Isabella’s Shoe Studio (duopress/2013), a Doodle Storybook™ which I wrote and illustrated.

bw groupShop owner Rianna Hogan-Cerro did most of the heavy lifting, advertising in the local paper, and ordering cupcakes, books and art supplies. Together we concocted the following fun activities for the party-goers:

Felt City Wall

city wall 2

Let’s face it—Isabella’s Shoe Studio is (unintentionally) a bit gender-biased toward the pink end of the spectrum. We certainly didn’t want to exclude boys from the fun! I suggested putting paper on the wall so that everyone could work together to draw a city mural, an idea that was no doubt influenced by the many Doodle books I have illustrated for duopress. Rhianna took that idea and made it a million times better by suggesting that everyone draw with washable markers on pre-cut pieces of felt. As the pictures clearly show, she is a genius.

Felt Shoe Wall

baby lily shoe wall

This was all Rhianna’s idea—a little something in felt, for our tiniest guests. Kind of like shoe colorforms, for the wall.

Isabella Paper Dolls

paper doll in colorI cut out free-standing paper dolls for all of the girls (bonus: they looked adorable standing on the craft table before the party started), and printed activity sheets featuring a variety of outfits for everyone to color and cut out for the dolls. The girls were instructed to design shoes to go with each outfit, and were given examples to get their creative juices flowing.

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Shoe-Design Worksheets

shoe pageRhianna and I each created activity sheets to get everyone designing shoes. On the advice of my friend Jodie Fitz, I added a written activity, asking participants to draw their favorite shoes and then explain their affinity for those particular shoes: Were they a gift? Hand-me-downs from someone you love? Have you worn them somewhere special? Or do you love them just because they are beautiful?

drawing pigtails 3

Illustration Demonstration

As everyone was drawing and gluing glitter and eating cupcakes and generally having a fantastic time (the place was slam-packed!), I started chatting with some of the girls at the activity table. The teacher in me r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to help them with their shoe drawings, so,  I stood at my easel. With my Pentel pen-brush and soft vine charcoal, I began drawing the shoes that they were wearing, and then began drawing each of the girls, as if they were characters in Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

In between drawings we took book-signing breaks.

signing with Viv

In short, the party was an amazing success.

One of the moms sent me a note the next day:

I was at the party today at Sketch and wanted to thank you again for such a wonderful time! You were kind, gracious and attentive to each of the children. We will promptly be framing the drawings you did for us… She is very honored.

My very best regards,

Liz Wilcox

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Violet Lemay tailors events for schools, libraries, and bookstores. To check availability, send her a note.

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SKETCH is an amazing place! Rhianna teaches sewing and drawing classes, and also hosts parties and sells a variety of incredible inspirational books. If you’re ever in the Glens Falls area, you have to stop by! Meanwhile, click here to follow SKETCH on Facebook.

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Thanks to Rhianna, my husband Fred, and my friend Laura Conklin for all of the photos in this post.

cross-promotion: Mail Me Art

17 Sep

MMA_cover

This past spring I was invited to participate in Mail Me Art: Short and Sweeta gigantic group show that travelled to three London galleries over the summer: The Framers Gallery, Factoryroad, and Croft Wingates. The events, all for charity, were organized by my friends Darren and Jane Di Lieto.

posters

The following description, written by Darren, was taken from Mail Me Art‘s website:

Mail Me Art is a fun little project that was created by Darren Di Lieto of The Little Chimp Society in late 2006. He was looking for a way to connect on a real world level with all of the brilliant and talented illustrators who had become part of his community and network. Mail art was the perfect way to accomplish this task. The Mail Me Art project has held exhibitions up and down the UK, and was published as a very nice book by HOW Books. It has also been featured or mentioned by Digital Arts, Computer Arts, Design Week and The Telegraph over the years. Mail Me Art is still going strong to this day and there seems to be no stopping it!

5books

When I got the call, time was in short supply. I was up to my eyeballs in work, rushing against no less than five book deadlines at once for duopress:  Doodle AmericaYummy Food DoodlesSan Francisco Baby,  Let’s Doodle Around Baltimore (a special project for the Baltimore school system), and Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

I couldn’t say no. Darren has helped me out many times in the  past, sharing his knowledge with illustration students in my classroom live from the UK via Skype—despite a rather hefty time difference, and his own busy schedule. We are friends.

Also, I have taught self-promotion classes for many years, and I try very hard to practice what I preach. I would advise a student in a similar situation to just DO IT! Short-term pain, long-term gain. And anyway, Mail Me Art was a charity event, so I wasn’t going to turn it down.

From the moment I accepted the challenge, I knew that I would paint a wing-tip shoe on a manila envelope. Thanks to overlapping deadlines, I was swimming in a sea of shoes! Happily exhausted, other ideas were not exactly floating to the surface in abundance.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 9.08.46 AM

When my art made it across the pond, Darren asked, “Why a Shoe?”

He asked several of us to write about the inspirations behind our envelopes, for possible inclusion in the book that would accompany the exhibit. I was more than happy to oblige. From the moment I accepted the written challenge, I knew I’d be talking about Isabella’s Shoe Studio, because that was my honest answer. My contribution to Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet was a shoe, and the reason was Isabella’s Shoe Studio.

MMA cover

The exhibit has come and gone, but the book Mail Me Art: Short and Sweet lives on, and is available at amazon.co.uk. It is beautiful and I am honored to be included. Please click the link, have a look, and take a few minutes to write a review. Darren and I would both be grateful.

MMA_interior

Isabella is in there—she seems to be everywhere that I go, lately.

Gans Saratoga*

As a bonus, there are a bunch of photos in the final pages of the book (contributed by Yours Truly) of my envelope beginning it’s journey here in Saratoga Springs.

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The moral of the story, Class, is cross-promotion: promoting others and self simultaneously, and all (in this case, anyway) for the greater good.

delicious irony

3 Sep

Last February I was busy making art for several duopress books, including  Yummy Food Doodles, which, at long last, is available in bookstores. Hooray!

YFD_Cover_Med

This is an exciting announcement deserving of fancy hoopla, but all I have to offer is a blog post—so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a little about me, my association with my favorite publisher duopress, and this project’s history—in celebration, and just for fun.

ficus

first, a bit about me

My husband, who is extremely witty, likes to compare me to a ficus.

He hugs me and says, “My ficus.” Sweet, right?

Don’t be fooled. A ficus is lovely, for sure, but aesthetics factor only slightly in his analogy. As a rule, the ficus is so delicate that its leaves pop off whenever you move its pot. The ficus is super-sensitive, and that is his point.

We’ve been together for nineteen years, so I can’t exactly argue. To know me is to love me, and he loves me very much, despite my finicky nature. My skin is sensitive—I can’t be anywhere near poison ivy, oak or sumac without breaking out in a rash. It’s true, I don’t even have to touch it. Poof! Rash. My eyes are sensitive—no bad art, please; it keeps me up at night. And my stomach—my poor, poor stomach. About my gut, I could write a book.

Technically I have I.B.S., a title I avoid because it connotes all manner of disgusting imagery. Frankly, I feel that is nobody’s business. (If you want our friendship to continue, don’t make that into a pun.) After years of trying to come up with a better descriptive for my bad digestion, “sensitive” is the only word that sticks. There are entire groups of food that I have to avoid, and I don’t eat much of anything in a single sitting. I can’t, because I have a sensitive stomach. That’s all anyone needs to know. It’s annoying, and maybe even a little sad, but as far as medical issues go, at least it can be easily managed. And unlike most of my peers, I don’t have to worry about cholesterol. As a result of my health problem, I am actually super healthy! Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

and now, about the food books

Here’s another dose of irony: The girl with a sensitive stomach is developing a habit of making art for books about food. (Another topic about which I could write a book: God’s sense of humor.)

Violet InterviewThis is a still shot of me trying to make a video promo for My Foodie ABC, the first book that I illustrated for  duopress. (By the way, I hired a film student to help with that project. After months of struggling he wasn’t able to deliver, which made my stomach lurch and gave me an opportunity to practice forgiveness.)

and, the author!

My Foodie ABC was written by Puck, who is actually Mauricio Velázquez de León. Puck writes specifically for kids, but Mauricio writes specially about food for Saveur magazine, the late Gourmet magazine, and the food sections for many Lonely Planet books (including the upcoming The World’s Best Spicy Food). Yum!

MF_C-E

My Foodie ABC is charming, educational, and will definitely make you hungry. I made the art and also laid out the colors, textures, patterns and scans on every spread. Whenever I open it, my sensitive eyes are delighted. We did a great job with that book.

placemats_bookNext came My Foodie ABC Placemats, also penned by Puck. The placemats book was equally beautiful; as a bonus, it was interactive. Recently My Foodie ABC Placemats went out of print, which is sad, but it paved the way for duopress’s hugely successful DOODLE book series. duopress has produced eight DOODLE books, with more on the way.

So, that about brings us up to date.

8 doodle books

Yummy Food Doodles

YFD_Cover_MedAs I mentioned earlier, last winter, we made Yummy Food Doodles: words by Puck, art by me, and design by Charla Pettingill. We’ve been promoting it for a while because the book debuted at Book Expo America in NYC last  spring and has been available on-line ever since, but it is now available in bookstores—an announcement worthy of hoopla, indeed!

Click here to get a copy for your favorite foodie today, or, better yet, order it from your local bookstore! And… bon appétit!

pasta

baby, let’s go OUT

7 Jun

WheelerforLamay&Duopress-1

Last fall, my family moved to a new city. I introduced myself to the manager of the neighborhood Barnes and Noble, showed her my books, and got invited to participate in two in-store signing events. The manager, an advocate of the arts, slipped me an invitation to exhibit the books at a larger event: the Chronicle Autumn Leaves Book Fair in Glens Falls, New York. My stuff was set up across the aisle from the table of The Hyde Collection, a local art museum. The B & N manager, my new FRIEND Beth, had told me to find them and introduce myself, because you just never know.

It was a busy day but I made sure to stop by The Hyde’s table, show my books, and drop a card or two before packing up. The lovely young lady at the table—Courtney Nettleton—told me she was about to leave her museum job to throw herself full-time into PJN Photography, the business that she ran with her husband Pete. But. She loved My Foodie ABC enough to buy a copy, and we stayed in touch.

Courtney is heavily involved in Glens Falls, New York’s thriving arts community. I think she is the unofficial mayor of GF, actually, and I have no doubt that we will collaborate somehow or other in the future. Meanwhile, she and Pete are using My Foodie ABC as a prop in their photo studio, to the delight of baby Sadie, her mom Shannon, and, of course, my favorite publisher, duopress.

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WheelerforLamay&Duopress-3*

Class: Illustration can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of local, regional, and national groups to join—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Society of Illustrators (NYC or LA)—groups that thrive on semi-regular meetings. If that’s not your cup of tea, you could participate in a show, teach an art class at your local community center, or assemble an artists’ group in your town. Getting out will not only stimulate your creativity and nurture your soul, but could also further your career.

In his book Imagine, How Creativity Works, Jonah Leher describes the importance of “interpersonal collisions” (p190). It’s important to get out because you just never know who you might meet, and what will happen as a result.

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I visited PJN Photography’s studio and can’t recommend it enough. Fun, unique, artful photos, made by wonderful folk. Check out their on-line portfolio, and be sure to like them on facebook.

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