Author: Aiii

Mini Model Mentor – Episode 1 – A Love Story

Mini Model Mentor – Episode 1 – A Love Story

eilee elementaree






I’m launching this little series for aspiring or existing model builders, dollhousers, railroaders and other hobbyists who are looking for some ideas and inspiration. Some of my posts on Twitter have gotten a lot of love with photos of my model building work, and I thought I would quench the curiosity of these fine folks with some tips, warnings, observations and discoveries.

I have almost ten years experience as a professional model builder, and prior to that I was (and still am) a dollhouse enthusiast and builder. I’ve designed some dollhouses but never built them, because as my skills improved, I kept changing them! And for a good long time I was getting the desire fed while getting paid for it, the perfect combination!

This is the first of the Mini Model Mentor series, and I’m not sure how often I’ll post episodes, but I chose something special here for the first one. I will also post on my Twitter account when I post another episode here (where it may be easier to read), so Follow!


This is the story of a model build I did solo, from receiving the architect’s specs, to delivering to the sales office.

Actually I can’t show you the draftings, because:

  • I didn’t draft them, and
  • I didn’t photograph them

But here we are at an early-to-middle stage of the project. All walls have been re-drafted (we have to adapt from the way architects build to the way model builders build with our specific materials); they have been cut (on a laser cutter), custom paint mixed and airbrushed on, assembled and glued, and a few built-in features are being fitted and/or put in at this stage.

These models represent two possible basement options that the builder would accommodate for prospective owners, who chose options pre-build. One featured hardwood flooring, and the other, cork tile. Each had a wet bar, bathroom, storage areas, and a small hall at the bottom of the stairs. One had a small wine rack over the wet bar, and the other was to get a built-in wine shelf in the area of the large storage room.

The body of the model comprised of floor, walls, stairs, cabinets are all made with varying thicknesses of Plexiglas, or acrylic. Cardstock is cut into shapes to size for each interior wall and airbrushed before installing into the model, with enough overlap planned to prevent gaps at convex wall corners. Paint is custom-mixed from given specs provided by the architect and/or their interior design team. Seams and empty gaps will later be covered with a smoother cap and a clear top, to keep dust out of the display.

Nearly everything for the structure of the rooms is CAD drafted and cut on laser cutters. The shops I worked in used Epilogue or Universal Laser Systems laser cutters hooked up to a cooling unit to vent the smoke and exhaust and prevent fires (as many times we cut paper- or wood-based products). The software was whatever vector program of choice, mostly AutoCAD but sometimes Illustrator or even Revit.

The flooring was mostly painted onto medium-thickness cardstock. “Boards” or “tiles” were lightly scored by the laser cutter, but could have been done with a craft knife and some restraint. I use X-Acto or Olfa blades.

“Carpet” is simulated here with stone-fleck textured spray paint for this scale; it worked quite well because it is a matte finish. “Hardwood” and “cork” textures were custom painted (we worked with real samples), and then were embellished, to make more realistic variations. More detail on this later.

Accurate, appropriate scale of every detail is of utmost importance.

Next pic (I’ll do pictures and then talk about them):

Above is a little better shot of the wood floor; unfortunately, all detail in the countertop is lost, as all I had at my disposal then was an early 1-megapixel point-and-shoot camera with no macro-lens capacity. The countertops were painted gloss black as a base, with metallic copper or teal, and pearl gray as an extremely light overspray: just a few flecks here and there. This was followed by several very thin coats of clear gloss, to simulate granite.

The window wells needed gravel; we had many scales of “rocks” in stock in the shop, but in a pinch, you can find fine gravel outside (I highly recommend washing it out!)–or even fresh (never used) kitty litter clay bits. Since exterior walls were two thicknesses of ¼” acrylic thick, I had to make a sill and lining all around the window interior to visually clean it up.

The well itself was either sheet Styrene or Sintra (this was a few years ago), heated and bent into the desired shape. This should always be done in a very well-ventilated area; most plastics emit toxic fumes, and anything with any vinyl content should NEVER go in a laser cutter, due to noxious gases and low melting point of these plastics that will spoil the shape of it anyhow. All Styrene and Sintra we cut by hand either with craft knives or on the bandsaw. Of course, a floor needed to be traced first and fit into the bottom of the window well, in order to hold the gravel. Later a window itself and blinds were made to fit into the opening.

The large storage room area was to be a concrete floor, and standard gray primer was perfect for an interior concrete floor look.

Styrene strips were used for all of the baseboards, door facings, other trim, and many furniture elements and details that you’ll see later on.

You can see I’m fitting a couple paneled doors at this point. They are layered Plex too. Panels can be carefully beveled at the disk or belt sander, preferably held by needle-nose pliers because we like our knuckles. Next.

This ^ is the other model with the cork tile flooring. It’s all one sheet. You can do individual tiles if you want to, but deadlines count! And much of the time, folks won’t notice the extra work you went to. This is cut to the shape of the room, to fit under the baseboard (before installing it), and scored to show the “tiles”. Then it’s primed with spray primer, then airbrushed with a custom mixture of the perceived main base color. Last it’s dry-brushed with a small brush with a few diluted hues of watercolor to simulate the sample supplied by the architect’s interior design team.

The cabinets were made of Plex/acrylic and the doors are just two layers; the outside one being more of a frame. They’re airbrushed a flat color.

The wine rack was fun. I made it much the way the separators are assembled for liquor boxes, just cut out of acrylic with a bandsaw. Yes, that’s right. I can’t emphasize how much pliers help in these tiny operations….

The sink was sourced from a tray/insert from an old eye shadow compact. Another sink was created with a cutout of a product package; you know: the sort of vacuum-formed blister packaging types of plastics you usually throw away. If you get heavily into modeling, you’ll look at such things differently. I found one the right shape and size, drilled a hole for a “drain” and painted it like white enamel. I can’t tell you how much found trash helps with weird shapes! It is especially helpful when working with a low budget yet high imagination and synthesizing cognitive skills.

You’ll notice the urn in the shadow of the corner; it’s just a couple of beads, with the tip of a weed from outside stuck into it. Your brain completes the illusion because of the scale and context it’s surrounded by. I’ve done the same thing with bullet casings picked up from a shooting range: depending on caliber, they can stand in for wastebaskets, vases, or those retro metal tumblers from kitchens of the 60’s. “Next slide.”

Here we see the bathroom–each is identical between the two models. You can see the sink bowl itself that I sourced from a packaging insert, and painted after drilling a wee hole for the drain (you can get the tiniest of drill bits with a special small eggbeater-style manual drill for such needs; I recommend a small vice as well).

Fixtures and furniture are not mass-produced at all of the scales in which we find ourselves building models (that is largely decided by clients, as they have to fit these things in certain spaces). So most times, you’re on your own to create everything from scratch, or repurposing what you can find, to simulate parts.

That’s definitely the case with the toilet, which I had to sculpt freehand from either Fimo or Sculpey, I don’t remcall which.

The faucets and shower rods were particular challenges. I procured different diameters of Styrene rod, and had a small propane torch at my disposal. You can start up these little torches that are attached to their own tanks, have it going in a safe spot (a tempered work-worn THICK glass tabletop like on a light table is divine), and work the shapes bit by bit. PLEASE have a fire extinguisher AT HAND. I would VERY briefly hold a longer-than-I-needed length of Styrene over the flame *while twirling it* so that it heated as evenly as possible, to heat it only just enough that it would bend, stretch, or in some cases, press the end perpendicular onto the glass surface to “pool” it, to make a “flange” shape flaring out at the end. Most of these operations you don’t do in one go, nor do you get it right without a little practice as you get used to the material. Again, have lots of ventilation blowing fumes away from your face (or anyone else’s). It gets hot so a variety of tweezers and forceps are handy! This was a lot of trial and error. And it’s how I managed to create tapers, flares, and curves in things so they look just like metal once I finished, cut them to length and painted them! I did the same thing to make bottles with clear or color-clear acrylic rods of various diameters.

The shower curtain is also an interesting puzzle to solve. None of the fabrics I had on hand were thin/shapable enough (there are fine silks but they’re very delicate). We only needed white for the color, so I actually used one separated layer from a single facial tissue, accordion-folded it, and used a small hole punch to go through all those layers on one end after folding it. Then I threaded it onto one of those rods I was working on for the shower curtain rod; it was only shaped and painted on one half. I scooched the curtain over and taped a baggie over it to protect it from overspray, and melted/flared the opposite end to the width of the shower stall, painted it, removed the baggie and had a completed assembly. The tissue held the folds quite well; it may not form the most natural drapery (it’s almost impossible at this scale; fabric is a weak link), but luckily, neither do plastic shower curtains! We went back and forth between these and shower doors a couple times.

The tiled sink counter and shower walls were scored acrylic, same technique as with the floors. I think the bathroom floor was scored for tile as well, but my photos don’t quite capture it.

Up there’s a fun view: I just set my camera right into the model, and the lens is about at a (to-scale) child’s-eye-view through a doorway.

Through the opening you can see a “projection TV” screen, that’s just a couple of lengths of Styrene (one square tube, and a smaller half-round at bottom) flanking the “screen”, on which is printed an image from one of my photos.

Throughout the place, any image used in art, I used reduced prints of my own drawings, paintings and photos, so nobody else’s copyrights were infringed in this commercial project, and I knew my work was in no danger from such tiny images, and easily could give my limited permission, being in charge of the project and all.

I tell you, those doorknobs in the foreground that you can barely discern were THE WORST. They’re trimmed push-pins. I had tried to laser-cut holes for them, but the holes were too small and too shallow. After gluing it up and discovering this issue, because I’d been too lazy to actually measure the pin diameter with our calipurs, it was VERY hard to hand-drill with those tiny drill bits into that Plex/super glue combo. Yes, laser-cutting actually melts out a hair larger than what you drafted, but I was that far off. Next time, make it just a bit bigger, because the thin-viscosity super glues we used do wick into cracks pretty well. Those things are in there SOLID.

Also, remember to measure your doors to be a little shorter than the openings, to clear the flooring thickness. This I did remember to do. You can get hinges, but that’s if you’re going for that extra-realistic layer of detail that includes outlets and switches; we weren’t. And buying those things ups your budget a shocking amount.

Above we see another denizen’s-eye-view, with the camera in the model. I had no idea what it would capture! Here you can see the built-in wine shelves through the “glass” door.

You can also just tell that there’s a small corbel holding up the cantilevered countertop on the peninsula for the wet bar in this model (the other had no peninsula).

This is also a better view to notice that there is some penciled variation on the “hardwood” flooring. (What I would give now to have had a macro lens then). Oh I wish you could see the detail!

It’s also easier to see layers on the doors, and the cabinet doors at this angle. I even hand-filed a bevel into the interior of the cabinet door frame layers on the front.

The cabinet doors do not open in these models, so they’re not hinged, but rest assured I could have done it, and know the sources for that small of door hardware as well. I do not make my own hardware outside of some doorknobs; the rest is far too intricate. Most of the commercially-available ones are made of brass and are impressively accurately scaled to the last detail. You can spray-paint it whatever color you want, but know that priming and painting throws off the scale, and gums up the works, and the nature of paint is fickle: once dried, it will crack and flake off with too much part movement. You can try your hand at anodizing or oxidizing or otherwise chemically changing their appearance, but I’m NOT your instructor for something like that; do research and follow ALL safety recommendations.

What’s all this? Fabric??? Precious few models go to the extreme of interior decoration, (but it’s a dollhouser’s dream). I was the perfect team member to put on this project because of my dollhousing background.

When doing furniture it’s nice (and helps to fool the eye beyond these few details) to put actual fabric on SOME of the “upholstered” pieces. I find that the “fat quarters” in the quilting section of any fabric store are a FANTASTIC source of color-coordinated, small-scale prints that will really make a room look nice. Remember that you need some solids, too, and those can be done with just plain paint, sprayed on finely in several coats with an airbrush if possible, to make it look soft.

Regarding furniture and pillows that use fabric, think like an interior decorator: you do NOT put the tiniest, most tedious patterns on the largest pieces of furniture, nor do you put the “large” prints on something so tiny that the pattern doesn’t even repeat before going off the piece. Don’t mix so many patterns that it’s too busy. Give the eye some rest. Use a lot of neutrals and use your primary and secondary “accent” colors sparingly, or at least with marginal taste and restraint (yes, I worked in interior design before too). That may sound too conservative and traditional, but remember that working in this tiny scale it is VERY EASY for it to look cluttered, and it’s not a good look for sales.

When wrapping fabric around a base shape to glue it (like a cushion or main body of a sofa), to glue it, you can cut a notch out of the corners (not too far!) to make it lay flatter. Bunching fabric throws the scale off faster than anything and ruins the illusion. If you sew, use the shortest stitch length on your machine, or do it by hand, with fine thread. Watch fabric glue; it may stain and stiffen–test first.

^As you can see here, I chose to go quite modern with the furniture and keep it simple. Geometric forms are great–and fast! I used some sort of catalog for ideas of styles for sofa sectionals and chairs, as well as the barstools and bedroom furniture. Look for styles that are so common that nobody can say it’s a direct copy of someone else’s work­–or make little changes of your own to personalize. I stuck largely with solid colors for speed of production and visual simplicity. Modern is wonderful! Each piece that I used for the sofas, I rounded the corners and edges (carefully on the disk sander platform, holding them with needl-nose pliers to keep my busy fingers working. Acrylic (Plexiglas) is nice and hard, so you needn’t worry about the plier grip teeth making much of a dent; if instead you’re using wood for “cushions”, use some rubber shelf paper trimmings between the pliers and the wood; it not only minimizes dents, but also helps to grip the wood. Please do NOT use Balsa or basswood; it’s SO soft and spongey it nearly self-destructs. Trim sections that you find at the hardware store have furring strips and other trim that you can even use as extrusions to cut things mass-production style.

Various colors, thicknesses and shapes of sheet/extrusion Plex and Styrene were used for many items. Lampshades were Styrene tubing cut to length (or “height”); the bulb clip/spider/top ring of lampshades were CAD drafted/cut out of 1/32” Plex on the laser (this is so thin I had to draft and cut a few times for it not to melt out of existence; sometimes cutting half-way through a couple times instead of one go will help prevent such melting; just don’t move it between). I don’t know but if you have one of those Cricut things (I never used one), you might be able to cut one out on there; no idea but experiment if that’s what you have!Drum/cylinder lamps are super mod, and easy to make. Lamp bases were more Styrene shapes glued together, then to the shade assembly.

Paint all your parts before assembly!

The blinds were awful; I’ll never do those again like that. They had to balance perfectly in the middle and glue did not cooperate long enough to keep them straight. How I cussed those things.

Bottles were fun. I melted clear acrylic rod in several places along its length and stretched it in a very controlled way wherever I melted it (stood holding the rod over the torch twirling it, again so that it would melt evenly around and stretch evenly, and standing with my arms outstretched to do that instead of sitting gave me the control necessary to stretch it and keep every part of it straight. Sitting simply limits your range of motion in some operations, same as with drawing; moving larger body parts in an arc makes a prettier arc than concentrating with your hands and fingers.) Once I had my acrylic rod melted in a fat/thin/fat/thin pattern, I could cut in the middle of each fat and thin area to make individual bottles.

Ah…the foosball table, my piece de resistance. Double-decker cabinet assembly with cleated legs, actually spinning bars with players.

This was a personal challenge to me; I can’t tell you why–I am the worst at playing foosball! This is my win I guess.

The client wanted some element of a game room in each of the two models, and gave me full artistic license (since I certainly know what I’m doing). I made one of these for each model (and a third for myself!) Once my husband and I move, unpack, and I find it, I’ll take a better photo of it and post it someday.

The rods, or axis on which the “soccer players” spin, are made of very thin Styrene rod. The handles are the same stuff, just thicker, a simple butt joint glue-up. I made a mistake and spray-painted them all black at first; you’ll see I corrected that in other photos­­–since it was already assembled by that time, I had to paint them by hand with white enamel puddled in a cap, and a fine brush that probably had less than 10 short hairs on it. Three layers (at least)!

The ”field” for the “players” on the table was simply printed out to scale and covered with thin acrylic for shine. Don’t forget the hole for the ball, and the hidden ramp inside for its exit.

Do you see the toothpicks on the worktable? One is standard, the end cut off, and the other is a lathed “fancy” toothpick for cocktails that you can buy at any supermarket. When I looked at that, I saw the little soccer players I needed! Now…I could have just glued it up: rod/man/rod/man, like –|–|– but there’s no way that it would ever have been straight. I made the judgment call to use tiny drill bits again, and drill through every single one of those little “players” manually, while the toothpick (still whole) was clamped in a wee modeler’s vice. I had many fails–it took lots of patience. Successfully drilled parts were then cut off the end of the pick, painted (double-stick tape on scrap Plex is handy for this), threaded on “rods” as rods were threaded into the finished cabinet holes, and handles were glued to the ends. Whew!!

What makes a house a home? Well…family, but the next best thing is all the tchotchke people put in it; it’s not just furniture and fixtures!

Here you can see the lamps in the background, but also BEADS are priceless for everything from vases to cannisters to dishes of all shapes and sizes to urns to lamp bases to objets d’art. Stack a few pretty little ones for perfume bottles on a vanity. String some wee pearls for a necklace next to them.

You will also see some of the “artwork”–complete with frames procured from the scrapbooking section of one of the hobby stores I frequented. All of the art again is reduce prints of my own art; you can do your own photos with your printer. Some folks take shortcuts with images cut out from decorating catalogs, but I do not like flirting with copyright infringement, even with images from ads.

You’ll also notice I’m using a LOT of tiny little clear boxes, in which I organized these many tiny parts. I can’t emphasize enough how very important sturdy storage and organization is in miniature making. Keep “like” things together, label containers; when inventory depletes in any supply, write it on the list to replenish right away!

Also, if you can, notice that the work table that these are all on, is a sturdy particle board with a glass insert–this is a light table. This is vital in model making, even if you’re not testing a model that’s going to be lit: it quickly reveals where any gaps are that you need to patch, fill or redo. Most of my shops’ projects had an accuracy tolerance, one down to 1 or 2/1000 of an inch. Any flaws show up BIG in little things!

And here we are, almost finished.^ I did use cloth on the bed and for the throw pillows, and I combined a cloth pillow as an accent on the side chair in the same room. Cloth pillows also embellish the sofa (we were scolded as interior decorators not to call them “couches”, and “it’s not ‘purple’; it’s ‘violet’” and “they’re not ‘customers’; they’re ‘clients’!” And there’s a coordinating purple throw and vases on the chaise and coffee tables respectively–positively SWANKY.

The doors are all hung and the blinds are in (you can see I still struggle with the blinds on the left) and the windows have their trim now.

The top cap that covers up seams and structural gaps, like the one behind the shower nozzle, is on top, making it present much cleaner.

Holes have been drilled on the corners, through which I attached the clear Plex viewing pane, which protects a model from dust, dangerous hands and spillage, and basic devastating destruction. The top is screwed, not glued, because I just may be called on to make changes/repairs, and don’t want to damage it to get in.

Remember these models are not built for playing! It’s a huge liability and they are not for kids. These items are not constructed in a way to survive handling; they’re never meant to be touched (or left in the sun). There are entirely different specs and actual laws for designing toys, and we are not in that sector. Small parts, as everyone knows, are dangerous to small children, and children can break even the sturdiest of toys. Being that models like these are often at least four or five digits in cost, you don’t want to confuse the two. They are strictly sales tools or professional display only.

Styles come and go, and these two models will remain a timestamp of 2006, like a time capsule. It’s one of my favorite projects ever, out of almost a hundred models, and I’m very sentimental about it. It cost the client many thousands of dollars but I didn’t care, so still, I affixed a label to the bottom of them, announcing: “Lovingly handcrafted by” (me), with my contact info, because I was very interested in buying them back, once their units were all sold and these sales tools were no longer needed…. Alas, apparently someone else valued them too.

And here’s just the next room over, in that same model. Even today, with these low-quality photos, I can nitpick the heck out of it, and observe half a dozen things I’d fix: the cursed uneven blinds (you have no idea how many times I redid them), the slightly curled-up screen, the wall corner I should have touched up the paint on the edge of…but that cork floor is perfection. That was one of the hardest faux scaled textures for me. And I was THE go-to person to match colors and patterns; I have an uncanny ability with that, stemming from my drawing and painting background. Mom used to take me to stores to match items back home in her closet–I have perfect color memory.

And that’s the thing: everything you do is informed by everything you’ve done. You see in this and many of my model projects, I used my pre-existing skills in drawing, drafting, painting, sculpting, dollhouse building, beading, general industrial design (I have a degree in it) including woodworking and welding, and plain childlike ideation (I will never grow up)…this was the perfect profession for me…and I do indeed miss it. Perhaps I should give it another go…the economy will always boom and bust, again and again…maybe just keep starting over. I do love it…as only an obsessive compulsive can!

Of course you can see much of my fine art on this site, including Drawings and Paintings. or browse them or my photography or digital work through their parent Galleries page. You can see my more recent fine-art photos on my Twitter feed (of course I shot all these in this article more as a documentary style). You can also see some of my other more industrial design related works in my portfolio on – the site for my LLC.

Important note: PLEASE source as many materials you can from your area mom-&-poop’s, not chains and online sources. These neighbors are on the endangered species list from lack of local support; we’ve lost some epic hobby stores in recent years. Model railroader places are great sources for the architect set. These little one-off stores are almost always full of great people with super-helpful advice, and that’s worth a LOT!

So…these up here are the two models: covers on, bases affixed, in their last photo before I drove them over to the client for display as sales models. Pretty, aren’t they? Pristine. I was SO proud of them, and everyone had finished and gone home, and nobody saw them all dolled up and done, ready for their debut.

I got to the builder’s sales office, and the one lady exclaimed, “How neat are these!”, showed me where to place them, and went about her sales duties while I set things up and wiped my fingerprints off, finding the right places in the spotlights to show off their best features. Of fanfare. No fawning. No fond farewell.

I was SO sad to let them go!!! I’d worked on them every day for oh, maybe three months or so, lots of overtime and care. It’d be like, for me, adopting out a kitten­­–as if any of them were expendable! I want to keep ALL the kittens!!!!!

Oh. I am so all over this thing. My work is me: my attention to detail, my skills, my solutions…but this pair, it had my personality.

So this isn’t just a documentary of mechanical fabrication of a product to market.

It’s a love story. An all-out, unrequited-heartbreak, never-see-them-again, rip-your-heart-out story.

Or at least MY heart….

Here’s a different view of the same bedroom/cork floor model. I think this was taken earlier: I’d gotten confused from flat plans on which way the stairs went (it’s just a bunch of stripes); I thought the door on the other end was to an under-stair closet! (To be fair, I’d lived many places with such closets.) From this angle, you may notice there’s a distinct difference back there in the bathroom: no curtain, but instead a sliding glass door. I’d forgotten about that. Styrene and Plexiglas comprised that. Something that size, we used about 1/32” Plex if we could get it, otherwise 1/16”. This was yet another change order from the architect. Maybe they couldn’t source doors for that size opening, I guess. Maybe it was budget…I’ll never know. Personally, I prefer curtains to sliding doors because it’s just easier to clean the place1

Of course, I use the terms Plexiglas and acrylic here interchangeably, much like folks do with “facial tissue” vs. “Kleenex”. Know that either way it’s gotten pricy. There are suppliers specifically for these plastics, in most cities, and some will cut it to size for you or even laser-cut from your draftings (because of troubleshooting in the end it’s easier to cut in-house, once you get past the initial cost of a laser cutter)–of course for a fee. I find their shops–much like I find hardware stores and model supply places–to be as stimulating as a candy store! I geek out because I truly love it.

Note that the cost of many model materials only underscores the wisdom of doing sketch models–or really scrutinizing everything you do to the utmost, as you do it. Chip board is a common material for sketch models, and so is foam core. Choose whatever’s closest to the thickness of the materials to use in each area of the final, or finish, model. Disclaimer, I did not do sketch models for every project; it is your choice. Some students feel more confident after having done some. You can also do them simply as context models (less detailed but show the surroundings of your main project).

Yes, it’s more time to do a sketch model. But usually such time should be built into the contract–it’s by job, not by the hour. Experience guides you on that charge, and on your need for sketch models: mistakes cost you. Of course that doesn’t help with client change orders…but designers of all types know THAT dance.

Here’s roughly the same view on the other model, with the hardwood floor and the peninsula, and those barstools! They came out well, sturdy as could be. Well, for something super-glued (this kind of glue is notoriously brittle and why things should not be handled roughly). For more flexion you can use an epoxy, but it’s hard to mix and apply discreetly. And cleanly with such a thick viscosity.

Note the shower curtain rather than the sliding doors in this one. This was a point of back-and-forth; the curtain won. I was sad, since I’d cleverly used I-beam from another scale as framing for those doors, so that they actually slid (too bad it’s not animated; see the previous frame for the door).

Back in the bar area, the little thing hanging on the wall is a beautifully detailed “clock” that was actually a fancy button!

I repurpose many things as I’ve mentioned, generally more in dollhouses than in professional models, but thinking outside the box is essential.

I used needle-nose pliers and bend paperclips into clothes hangers and reading glasses.

I took caps of acorns, file the stems off/flat, invert them and used them for knitting baskets, with “yarn of rolled up bits of embroidery floss, and two straight pins sticking out at odd angles, suggesting knitting needles.

I separated that embroidery floss to half its bulk and did tiny little embroidered lazy daisies onto a wee lace-trimmed pillow I put on one of my dollhouse beds. In that dollhouse I used a trimming of Grandma’s tatting (lacemaking) as a doily.

I wrote teeny little letters by hand on thin paper and place them next to teeny little envelopes I folded and “addressed” and “stamped”. And I mean teensy-weensy!!

My eyes aren’t what they used to be, but now I have a jeweler’s loupe (magnifier), and I could paint a scene on a grain of rice I swear.

All for love of the craft.

I can’t even stop writing about them I loved them so.

And here they are and there they were, nearly as I left them, gone, bu-bye. Mine nevermore–except my DNA is in them, with my own personality and care, every bit as much as my blood, sweat and tears.

Folks, artists put pieces of their souls into their work, and let each go, as others take it away….

Never treat that as worthless.

That object…sometimes…it’s a person. Treat it with respect. Know it forever holds the stamp of their essence.

It’s not just a sales tool. It’s part of them, part of its time; part of our culture.

This is like the difference between existing and living. Not just making a living, (in order to make more art)…

Meaning. Integrity. Caring.

It doesn’t matter what you create: a model, a painting, a meal, a child, a home, a book, a film, a song, choreography, a community.

It’s you.

It’s them.

It’s us. It’s all of us.


 – Eilee













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The Creative Well

The Creative Well

Well…your Eilee is still creative. It looks different sometimes! The creative well is indeed not dry. It’s experiencing a bit of a quiet renaissance, in fact. But I’m still in the building stage, not even ready to tease yet…but I will.

I wasn’t really sure what to call this post, as there are so many things it’s about, and I’m just stream-of-conscience here with no plan, but I think it’s an important topic to address as creatives, when we find ourselves challenged, that we also find ways to adapt.

I’ve written posts about how to accommodate the creative drive while incapacitated, but a new challenge has presented itself these past eight months, and we’re not done with it either. What does a creative do when their creative space is taken away?

My husband and I are in transition, housing-wise, trying to wait out this crazy market to get a bigger, better place to accommodate a family member, by staying with a different family member to save money up for that place. Time is a factor and so is money. Necessarily, 98% of our belongings have been in bags, boxes, stacks and storage all this time. Living out of a suitcase for months on end is very trying. I do not have my recording booth, my art studio, my desk, and some days, my sanity. There simply isn’t room. It has truly threatened my mental health at times. So I dive deeper into the art I have access to.

Since we’re saving, I can’t rent any type of studio. I just have to make do. So I’ve shifted the emphasis onto photography and digital art, as I have a camera case, and a laptop that don’t take up a lot of space, nor make a mess; this isn’t our home. Luckily I’ve long kept a religious record of everything I’ve created up to now.

I’ve been a photographer since the 80’s and I was a digital artist for many years, so this isn’t entirely foreign, but I was very into acrylic paintings (very LARGE ones) for the past 15 years or so, and the withdrawals have been intense. I’m still writing the occasional song, just not doing good recordings for the moment, but still have plenty of mixing and mastering to do with the over 200 I’ve already written – I’m far from hurting for material there either!

But as I alluded to before, my photography’s undergone quite the renaissance. I’ve learned a new (to me) camera, improved my composition and my thoughtfulness about narrative and context, learned new genres and techniques, and my skills have leveled up a few tiers to match my traditional and digital visual art and musical and writing skills. It’s getting very exciting!

And the reason why it’s exciting is that I’ve wanted to integrate my visual art, wordsmithing, musical and photography as well as digital-still and/or animated endeavors into sort of a creative fusion: singular pieces that incorporate several media and genres in harmony. I’m putting together amazing things and I think that the NFT space, with all its versatility, has only inspired my own versatility. I’m still acquiring skills, too!

I often say if I didn’t have to sleep I’d have a chance of bringing at least a tenth of my ideas to fruition. I feel that more than ever. It does take time, though. The more moving parts, the more considerations must be taken in maintaining (or improving) quality. I don’t believe in throwing things together carelessly.

Look for new things on the horizon….

NFTs Coming Soon!

NFTs Coming Soon!

I am pleased, flattered and mind-blown to announce that I have received an invite to put my work on the prestigious NFT platform Foundation. I pushed the quality of my work for years–decades–and this is a rare validation of my efforts. For those unfamiliar, this platform, which is akin to getting into a juried gallery exhibition, is not beginner-level. Some of the best photographers out there are on Foundation, and I am honored to be associated with it.

Artists often toil along without any reward or pay to create art, most of which comes with an enormous up-front cost–but eventually it can get to you; you’re only human. Recognition and sales help to fuel our art, both financially by funding supplies, and creatively, because we can afford to experiment and innovate further.

For this opportunity I am indebted and grateful to my friend Christene, who connected me with Shannon, whom I have only just met. Christene believes in my work and alerted me that Shannon had invites. Shannon bestowed this on me with no prior kinship with me and literally nothing to go on but the power of my portfolio and Christene’s recommendation. Both of these ladies are storm chaser/photographers–and forces of nature for chasing! In fact, this niche genre has a growing and passionate throng of WOMEN WHO ROCK creating these incredible image of live storms, at great risk to their own safety. Each lady has gorgeous photographs well worth checking out:

Christene has her Twitter page, and a fun and adventurous YouTube channel with live chasing footage and authentic storytelling – it’s a dangerous and interesting life, storm chasing! I very rarely do it, as I had more tornados than I cared for growing up in and around Joplin, MO and Jonesboro, AR; each has been wiped out by them in the past. It’s better that Christene shows you the ropes, because she definitely can do it with humor!

Shannon is, of course, on Foundation but also hosts her photos at her website – or visit her Twitter at @shannbil if you tweet (or if you don’t)! You can also find links to her Instagram and OpenSea from her Twitter. If you act fast, she has a most fascinating video of a live tornado on Foundation!

Here’s the tweet with my work samples (that apparently did their job) that I submitted for consideration:

I am SO excited!!!!

Be assured: I’m taking all of the necessary time to set this up and do this NFT launch right…I will let you know when ready….




 – Eilee






All content on this site © 2013-2022/present L. Eilee S. George, All Rights Reserved.

9/11: Twenty Years Later

9/11: Twenty Years Later

My recollections on this day are not unique or special in any way. My viewpoint of it in real time was far removed from those in it, those who were impacted directly by it, whether by death, injury, survival, by being a bystander just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, or as someone who lost someone they loved, cared about, or knew, or someone who helped in the thick of it; or one of those who helped in the aftermath. Theirs are the stories that should be heard.

Mine will be truncated. I lived in Chicago at the time, with a loved one working downtown, whose life and safety was in question as I tried in vain to contact while phone lines were jammed…but I lost no one; Chicago and many other major cities were spared after fearing the worst: how many more? When will this end? Where will someone strike next?

As a nation, we were shaken to the core. This doesn’t happen here.

Thousands of stories were revealed in the hours, days, weeks months and years that followed. They began to be increasingly inspiring, miraculous, encouraging in the midst of great tragedy that also unfolded chapter by chapter. We began to witness the kinship that a nation in tragedy feels for each other: the neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers. In the places most affected, these accounts were so unprecedented in my own lifetime. I remembered my parents recounting how almost everyone in the nation worked together “for our boys” during WWII when they were kids, and I wondered if this was going to be like that was.

The human goodwill was infectious to other parts of the country. It seemed everyone had less than six degrees of separation from it. And we could relate to each other like humans should…for a while.

In the twenty years since, we as a nation, with exceptions of course, seem to have lost our gratitude, our empathy, our priorities, and our civility. We have largely lost our unity. Much of it was from political polarization and I’m not taking sides because I will not affiliate with any party; I feel none is worthy. Many other nations of the world shakes their heads at our hypocrisy. We are more divided than ever.

Many of us have forgotten. And will again. We need to be reminded.

Perhaps all of the memorials and remembrances today on the media are viewed by a few as overly sentimental, trite, obligatory, even propagandist. I do not. At any rate, I try to take something good out of anything and if possible, at the very least, a lesson or three.

I’m not astute enough to work in government. I cannot draft deft policy. I cannot change the world. But I can choose to check my own attitude, to not be misled or decide without due diligence, to not grow complacent and jaded, to be mindful of Who or what I come to worship and make corrections as necessary.

And if my view seems dark for a self-professed Christian, keep in mind two things: I am yet a fledgling in this walk, and all Christians are fallible and exist in the dichotomy of trying to transcend human imperfection while very much still shackled to it in this life. My eyes are open.

I’m just an artist. I can just make images, songs, poems, pleas for others to do the same daily fresh-slate commitment to reprioritize, to care, to love more, to make the most of life in the areas that count. But we as a species are easily distracted. Myopic beings that we are, it is astonishing how difficult it is to focus on what’s truly important. Don’t give up. Recommit. Recommit. Every day, recommit.

We need reminding.

Never forget.









All content © 2021 L. Eilee S. George, all rights reserved.

Storytelling Art

Storytelling Art

A long time ago, a nine year-old Eilee began her path as a wordsmith, publishing a poem in the school paper. Hundreds of poems and stories later, she’s only just now beginning to consider publishing in earnest.

Baby steps for now: I thought I’d apply my obsessions together–to write fanciful (yet true) stories about my paintings. Every painting has a tale to tell, and at long last, I’ve given them a “voice”. I don’t know how many folks are lounging about on the site looking for stories, but these narratives will really let you in on the essence of the work in a way that dry statistics can never do. See these vignettes here – just scroll down past the main gallery to the “backup” gallery (it’s the only one with real descriptions, and is also past the list of “sold” work titles).


– Eilee


Some Notes on Copyright

Some Notes on Copyright

Copyright is a topic that has become, sadly, rather polarizing in the digital age where people feel increasingly, and erroneously, entitled to take whatever they want and ignore who that may hurt or the fact that it’s wrong. The truth is, that copyright serves a very good purpose, for all of society.

People who are creative possess skills and produce contents, whether visual, audio, or experiential, that are considered a commodity. Commodities are marketable things that have value within a society; therefore, they have intrinsic value on a monetary scale, depending on the scarcity and quality of the output. This is not unlike commodities within the stock world, such as metals, grains, and other goods deemed necessary for human consumption.

Now on the surface, some people would consider art, music, writing, drama, et al to not be “necessary”, and as Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” goes, it is not at the basic foundation of need. But whom among us would consider living without these things as “living”, rather than as merely existing? What if all chairs looked and felt the same to everyone, and were for many unattractive and uncomfortable? What if all walls were bare, all buildings the same; what if we had no music and no books to read? Is that a world you want to live in? In this context, the value of these “luxuries” goes up exponentially, as they are expression of humanness itself. Even the poorest tribes with the most simple of structures, since our species hit the earth, found art and music a necessity of human function: a vehicle by which to say, “I am here; this is my life; hear my noise and see my story.” This is built into us. It is a “need”.

Through time as humans developed skill and complexity in the various arts, their output began to be coveted; time of the creators was being demanded and that time is worth sponsorship–money, other living expenses, patronage in any of its forms–in order to help the artist to survive and to afford the tools with which to create the art, regardless of the form of art. The equipment is not free; nor should the art be. Artists must eat and pay bills just as much as anyone else. This is the area of their skill. The skill has been studied and honed for many years, as is by others in other sectors. The skill is desired and requires both time and money to produce beforehand. Therefore, it must be compensated, or it cannot exist.

Painters, actors, musicians, writers, dancers, sculptors, opera singers, poets and the like are people just like you who worked hard to learn their craft and deserve to be paid for it, who offer a commodity others want and should therefore receive compensation – people who have mortgages and kids and have to do things like purchase supplies for their creative endeavors and pay for utilities and, you know, eat.

Nobody expects plumbers or lawyers to do “spec work”. It is beyond insulting to expect a creative to do freebies “because they love it” or “because it’s so fun”. It is no less work. It is no less effort. Anyone who thinks that their own job is so much more toil and struggle is likely in the wrong job, and that is not the creative’s fault. It is not a cake walk. It often involves hazardous materials, an inconsistent income with no health insurance, constantly fluctuating markets, a decreasing appreciation in our society for the arts despite the documentation of each culture through history, the training of higher thinking skills…I could go on and on.

Copyright is there to protect the creative worker from those who would steal profits from their work (and food from their table) by misappropriating it. It is not wrong for anyone to expect to be paid for his or her own work. It is wrong for anyone else to steal it.

The moment a creator creates, he or she owns that creation solely–even if they don’t register it. It is a natural right. Copyright registration is an added layer of protection for those at risk of being stolen from, in that it proves that by a given date, this work was created by this person. It is the evidence by which an infringer can be taken to court for using that work without permission, or for claiming wrongfully that it is theirs instead of belonging to its creator.

Merely posting a work online does NOT make it “public domain”. It merely makes it publicly viewable/listenable, but that work is still the property of that copyright holder (again: registered or not). Buying a CD does not carry with it the composer/musician’s copyright; that is why it is only for personal use, not playing commercially in a business and that is why we have things like ASCAP and the MMA and the rest of the transitional mess we are currently in as politicians try to simplify rights. Buying a painting does not carry with it the painter’s copyright either. The purchaser never has the right to reproduce the work, digitally or physically, whether for a gift or for sale. That is strictly the right of the artist through the artist’s lifetime plus 75 years after the artist’s death for the artist’s heirs. That is copyright law. It doesn’t just control resale of copies or unauthorized public performance or exhibition; it also establishes that the creator also has sole right to embellish, alter, do derivative works or destroy the work–anyone else who does any of that without having bought all of those rights (as well as buying the work) is in violation of federal law, and in some cases, international copyright law too. Buying an NFT (Non-fungible token, digital art on the blockchain in the cryptocurrency world), does NOT transfer copyright/reproduction rights either, unless it is strictly expressed so in the coded “smart contract”.

The only three things that MAY be an exception (with limitations, of course) to this concept are:

  1. You do a “work for hire” (you are under the employ of a corporation who pays you to create for them, and that’s already in your contract that you agreed to before taking on the gig), OR
  2. You actually sell the rights along with the work (say for instance, a songwriter who got duped by a recording company, as happened for decades but is less likely now as musicians are educating themselves and each other against predators).
  3. You purposely, yourself, put it on a rights- free status (for which there should be documentation surrendering all rights or specifying which rights you surrender).

Simply buying a book doesn’t give the purchaser the right to make copies and sell them. The copyright belongs with the writer (and depending on his or her contract with a publishing company, with the publishing company on their behalf, again, another area where the artist needs to beware and make sure they’re with a reputable entity).

If artists never got the money coming to them for their output, they would cease being able to afford to put anything out.

Sure there are those trust-fund kids and bored kept spouses who are sponsored by personal connections in their craft, but in a pay-to-play world, the talent pool is awfully crowded, shallow and altogether infested with ickiness.

This brings me to an aside on “contests” and vanity (insert area here: presses, galleries, publishers, etc.) that prey on those with more dollars than sense (or talent), and bring down the market rate for all legitimate artists. DON’T DO IT. Everyone who falls for these predatory tactics hurts the entire group. Some of us are trained, skilled, and trying to make a living, and not just armchair weekend hobbyists. By watering down the inventory with substandard work, you actually make our culture in our time look bad to future generations. Stop it. And such purveyors of “contests” that “let you show” your own work “in your portfolio” (hello, you don’t need permission from anyone to do that!) are predators who want to amass tons of free work, screwing a bunch of wannabes to get something for nothing (= a “chance” at a bogus prize) that they will sell later without compensating or crediting you. Giving even perceived legitimacy to these things by participating, collectively hurts all art everywhere. Anyone that tells you they have to SELL you “wall space” isn’t into selling your work at all. Legitimate commercial galleries make money off of the people who BUY the art – NOT off of the people who make it and who already spent the time and money to make it!!! If artists pay galleries to show their work, there is no incentive for the gallery to ever sell it: they already got their profit off of YOU.

I can imagine that this new Non-Fungible Token trend is ripe for the same type of victimization as people figure out how to do it; it is new and hot and there’s a lot of buzz and lots of big “cash” being thrown about (particularly for those who can name-drop already, just like it was in the old-school art game; don’t be fooled). “Buyer beware” is an old adage but to be honest, it’s much more of a thing, especially today, to remember: “Creator beware”.

A few insane sales prices notwithstanding, the market may not sustain these prices (not financial advice); there are only so many players that can trade on that echelon, and the newness may wear off…folk today have famously short attention spans. However, I believe the relevant “Web 3.0” is the future, much as “Web 2.0” was 35-40 years ago, to become the essential-to-life Internet we all know and use. I am looking into dipping my toe into this income stream but I am not putting my whole savings into it. I don’t expect anything, but you can’t gain anything if you don’t try. I am risk averse but I am aware that technology advances and those who don’t keep up get left behind. It’s best to be well-versed in both worlds as the transition comes. I’ve been studying the space for months, and learned a lot.

I will learn more about how copyright is treated in this NFT market; “ownership” is a term slung around in a way that lacks clarity for those who don’t do due diligence and seek it. It should not be played with casually. Do your own research, and check it against multiple sources. Don’t listen to rumor. The US Copyright Office offers some bulk-filing options, and as an artist one should only be minting one or a few images to the blockchain at a time anyway–especially a 1/1 artist (as fine artists are more likely to be, it’s a completely different section of NFT’s from those enterprisers who are selling the infamous pricy profile-pictures like Bored Ape Yacht Club and Cyberpunks in large numbers). But back to the main topic of this post…

Artists should not be proponents of copyright only to protect their own artwork. They should want to protect their entire industry. We should be a community looking out for each other rather than competing for blood.

I was offered  a great deal of money to rip off another artist’s style more than a few times. Every time I turned it down. As a website designer, I had clients try to get me to steal pictures off of the ‘net to use on their websites–even after I made them sign a contract that this would not happen! I even had one client try to pass something off as her own photograph. I can check that against image search online. She stole it from a bakery in Canada. I fired her. That is how strongly I believe in protecting ALL copyright. I will not artistically cannibalize or steal or betray people like that. Nobody should. We’re adults who should have honor and accountability; many children know better than to try to pull off that kind of thing. If you don’t want to be a victim of wage theft, don’t do it to others. If you do want that…well, get some therapy.

In the long run, regardless if IRL or digital art, copyright protects the earned, deserved and good and right credit and income for the creator of anything. They are the only ones who should have it. Anyone calling themselves an artist should be producers of original material. Anyone doing anything else is already known by another set of titles: thief, opportunist, conman, morally bankrupt, and defendant.

Here is my official statement on this topic:

I do not, and will not, forge the work of any other artist, living or dead, for any commercial or other purpose (other than personal self-education in practicing, as art students do, using masterpieces as a teaching tool). Please do not ask artists to forge other artists’ (particularly living or recently passed artists’) work; copyright infringement and forgery are unethical and in most cases highly illegal on a felony level. I have been repeatedly offered crazy amounts of money to do this simply because I have the skill, and I always turn it down; I don’t care if “nobody will know” – I will know; God will know; it’s taking food off of someone else’s table. No. I do not cannibalize my own, nor would any reputable artist. If you like the work of a certain artist, please invest directly into their continued practice if living, or if not, purchase versions of their legacy at the licensed gallery or museum of your choice in order to promote arts education. Thank you so much for your cooperation and understanding. .

I have far more to say on this and related subjects, but I wish to devote more time to it than I currently have. It will likely involve more of the mechanics of copyright filings as well as actual quotes from the law. But you know I’ll throw some editorializing in there somehow. Thanks for reading.


 – Eilee


All content on this site, unless otherwise noted, are © 2012-2021-present Linda Eilee S. George, All Rights Reserved.

Site Redesign

Site Redesign

The year 2020 has been one of incredible disruption and adaptation. It has been an opportunity to grow, although not everyone was up to the challenge, but many were compelled to be and are better, in ways, for it. The phrase “new normal” is already tired, but nonetheless appropriate. We are weary, but we trudge onward. We are a flexible species and we shall survive. Yes, we need to breathe and work through some mental health moments now and then, but that was always life. We’ve learned to do that and that we can best cope by keeping ourselves productive.

Throughout the year I have been creating little components of media, with which to ultimately redesign this site, and at long last, December has been the month to implement it all. has a new, more responsive and modern theme as its substructure – but in keeping with my styles of art, music, and writing, it has only emphasized the vintage look, sound and feel that are so integral to my output and my brand.

I’ve taken pains to create and include relevant animated banners to each section, and I made pertinent animated GIF files to adorn each page (posts mostly excluded) for a cheeky bit of fun. I’ve constructed a flowchart-icon style Site Map, that is separately referenced (in part) on most pages of the site as necessary, and left breadcrumbs all over, in order to keep you aware of where you were, are, and can be. As some of the old pages have moved or been retitled, it’s necessitated some housekeeping: I’ve double-checked most of the links so far, but if you find any that I missed, please email me here! (And thank you ahead of time.)

Fun facts about many of these icons…most of the antique items are in my own home, and a few others still at my parents’ home. Mine now include the record player (my Dad’s, from the 40’s when he was wooing my Mom back in school), Dad’s old Chicago phone, 8mm camera, film projector, the Model A he restored, and the radio that he listened live to FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech as a little kid. The piano is still at Mom’s; she played on it; she taught on it; I learned on it. The typewriter is the one I learned to type on; the palette is the one I use (the other side of it is quite stained); the cash register is a vintage toy from my own childhood, the uke mine, the paint and pencils and Brownie camera are all mine. This reinforces the homey feel of the site.

I have loads of old books and frames and artist mannequins, and since I taught myself to do calligraphy in about 7th grade, the quill and inkwell are also mine. And the house on the Home page is actually that of my grandparents. There’s a lot of personal history worked into these (usually merely utilitarian) elements. Despite the fact that I need this site to do its job and encourage commerce in a year that’s been unprecedented for its hostility to any income in the arts, I wanted the entire site to feel like home: familiar, comfy, welcoming. It has a story. Not just my story, but my whole family’s story, as they are part of me. Welcome.

I hope that you find this new iteration of the site as stimulating, informative, warm, almost-analog-homey, and visually lovely as I hope it to be for my visitors. Thank you for browsing.


 – Eilee

A Little Poetry

A Little Poetry

I was about to post this to Twitter after working on it off and on today. I kept adding thoughts to it, so it became sort of a suite, if not stanzas, which are most irregular for this form (rules, schmalz), but feel free to read each as an autonomous unit. I’ve written poetry since I was about nine (and started winning contests right away). So much of my poetry of late has been channeled into songs instead of pure poetry; it’s nice to get back into the practice – like a hug from an old friend. This is a little out of my normal style, but what can I say; I felt called. So here’s some haiku for you, brought on by a few current and converging phenomena:

4-stanza haiku written by L. Eilee S. George 9 April 2020 combining themes of a pink supermoon, a deadly pandemic, and recovering from a parallel illness and reuniting with her husband

Digital Photos: Organize Inventory

Digital Photos: Organize Inventory

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY: How to Organize Your Inventory

Organizing digital photos isn’t necessarily fun, but if you’ve any volume of them, it’s necessary.

If you’re anything like me with a digital camera, you take a lot of pictures hoping for that one really good one or few, in each batch. In the interim, there are lots of keepers, and for one reason or other you might want to find them again. The more photos you take, the more desperately you will need to stay on top of organizing them when you first file them away in your computer, or it will mushroom on you. Organizing digital photos is part of what the graphic design industry terms “digital asset management”, although it involves more than that, but organization is key.

This post is about photos from digital cameras being stored on a laptop or other PC. Trying to organize photos on a phone or tablet device is different as they are not quite as user-friendly (or dumb it down to do it for you assuming you never want to edit them and make them very difficult to access for that purpose), and are best to be figured out on forums or tutorials specific to your device.

My system probably isn’t the best, but it works for me, and you have to be flexible and alert to your own particular needs, but I have a base that is scalable for just about anyone.

Number one thing, to house your photos in an area separate from all the other guck on your PC, create a folder called Photography. That’s level One. You’re going to make many more, but they all go in there. If you also use and store stock photography from online that you’ve purchased, by all means, make a MyPhotography folder instead, or in addition, in order to differentiate.

Digital cameras typically assign file names and sequential numbers to their photos, and sometimes put them in folders that are numbered, before you ever copy them to your computer. However, those names don’t describe what’s in them, and what those folders contain are not necessarily all the same kinds of photos (you may have taken photos of your kid’s play, that car part you need replaced, and a bunch of other unrelated stuff, all within one folder, because they are often by date and we rarely have days where only one thing happens). So those need to be in separate folders to find them again. The good news is that you are not bound to the organization that these relatively useless camera-generated file and folder names impose on you. There’s nothing really relevant and meaningful in those names and that arrangement; they’re mere placeholders, and you will forget where certain pictures are, wandering about in a bunch of odd numbers. If you haven’t already, figure out how to rename files on your computer (sometimes just clicking or right-clicking will lead you to the option). Sometimes I leave a tad of the original folder number or filename, in case I forget what I had already uploaded by the time I grab more off of a large photo disk (I don’t like to delete old folders off of photo disks before I’ve backed up my laptop).


Organizing Process

When I’ve just uploaded a disk to my laptop, right away I sort through the pictures to identify what categories they are, and rename the folders accordingly, and create/name new ones and move appropriate photos to them, to accurately reflect what photos are in each folder. Do it as you go, because if you let it pile up and you’re a prolific photographer, amateur or not, it will snowball on you!! Often I include, in the new name, a truncated notation of the year and month, as well as an abbreviated hint as to the folder contents. Now, all individual photos don’t get renamed unless they’re really good ones – you could waste a lot of time doing this for every single photo, but every single one won’t be worthy: …oops, took a picture of your feet by accident between photos of the kids playing ball. Well, you should actually delete that one; save space on your drive for good ones. On my Mac I view whole folders at a time in icon view, bumping up the size of the thumbnails so I can get a real feel for the composition. From there I can add an “a” to the front of the filename of each individual image I find that is exceptional, so they all go to the top together, making it easier to rename those special few when I’m ready, but more on that later. Big picture now.

You can use this reference screen grab illustrating some of the organization I will be describing, for you visual learners:

If you prefer something of a flowchart, a simplified version of it might go a bit like this:

On with it.


Folder Hierarchies

Still, at first I had a lot of subcategories and not a lot of top-level organization. So I created, under the Photography folder, three Level 2 folders to sort things into: People, Places, and Things. Most photos fall into one of those categories. You could make more if needed (I did)  but hear me out. Now, it’s probably not an exaggeration for me to say that I have over a million photos on my 2TB laptop drive. Insane, right? Okay; I own it. I have my own version of photo stock for my web clients’ sites, my graphic design, painting, music promoting and book writing resources, so it suits me. I’m also something of a family archivist. Obviously, with SO much going on there, the top three categories aren’t going to be enough to corral so much content, and retrieve what I want effectively. So under People (Level 2), I have folders with names of groups of people I know, and then under that, individuals within that group; then folders within those folders of different events with each of those people. For example, on the level under PeopleI have folders like Family, Friends, In-laws, Church, etc. – these represent Level 3. You can add what is relevant to you, like: CarClubSoccerTeamWorkmates, or whatever else. Then on the next Level (4), say in the Family folder, I can list individual names like Mom, Dad, etc. Now, if it’s more than one person (which it often is), and a grouping that occurs a lot, I make bilaterally located combo folders (also Level 4), like MomNDad or NuclearFamily or GeorgiaCousins. You personalize it how it works for you of course. If there’s too much overlap, and you can’t decide between two equally appropriate locations, you can always commit to one, and in the second, make an alias or shortcut to the first folder, so you can find the photos in either place; cross referencing takes a little time on the front end but months later you’ll have saved hours trying to figure out where things are. Now, you can have another Level (5) under, for example, NuclearFamily, and have events like birthday parties and family togetherness. An example of a Level 5 sub-folder name would be 1988DadBdayLake, which right away tells you who and what event are featured, and when and where. With a name like that, I can later search file names based on any part of that folder name and find it and others like it quickly.


File Naming and Keywords

Now, say there’s a favorite photo in that little sub-folder that you really want to be able to recall. If the camera named it “IMG_3878.jpg”, that’s useless to you. You know it’s an image, and 3878 means nothing. Being sure to retain the extension, you could name it “DadCatSleepLap.jpg” and stand much better odds of finding it when you want it in a jiffy. I normally retain the 3878 part, discarding what’s before it because it’s the same for everything, but if I Photoshop multiple versions and place them in different places I can search for all of their locations at once, fast. Also, the cuteness of Dad sleeping with the cat asleep in his lap may have warranted more than one photo, and that number is conveniently already there, making that unique.

Going back to Level 2, if you recall, I had PeoplePlaces, and Things. Under the Places folder are sub-folders Colorado (where I happen to live and therefore take the lion’s share of photos), and EverywhereElse, where I put my traveling photos and visits to out-of-town family. Yes, there are overlaps between that and People, and I make aliases to navigate between these areas as a cross-reference. Hey, if bothering to do it at all, do it right.


How to make an Alias/Shortcut between folders:

On a Mac you make an alias by right-clicking on the folder you want to refer to, and choosing “Make Alias” from the pop-up menu that results; on a Windows machine it used to be about the same thing except it was called a Shortcut. I haven’t used a Windows PC regularly since Windows XP, so it could have changed, but try right-clicking to see what shows up. After you’ve created the Alias or Shortcut, you have to drag and drop it into the new location that you want to connect to it from, while leaving the original folder in its original location.



Separate the Good from the Mediocre

Sometimes I have lots of good pictures in a folder and don’t have the time to think of how to rename them all just yet, and just so I have them handy together to rename, I will simply change their filename by retaining all of the original name but putting the letter “a” in front of it, like this: “aIMG_3878.jpg” (that filename less the “a” being the default naming pattern by my Canon). Since the computer automatically lists photos in alphabetical order, all my favorites in that folder are now at the top of the list column, easy to find. Sometimes that’s enough, but it’s no help in searches from outside of that folder. If your filenames are numeric at the start; numbers will be above letters, so using a zero instead of “a” in front might behoove you better.

There are renaming applications and other programs you can use to facilitate this. Adobe Bridge gives you the ability to put the same metadata on a group of files as well as a renaming prefix that you designate. If you’re just renaming a few things this isn’t really necessary, but for bulk renaming these are great tools.

But this post isn’t how to use those programs. It’s about how to name things so you can find them and how to arrange your folders of information in a manner that’s logical to navigate.

Now, back to Places. You may have an EverywhereElse folder too, if it’s useful to you. If you travel both domestically and abroad, I’d then make Level 4 sub-folders of those. Then you can separate by country or state on Level 5 – whichever is appropriate for the place. After that you can separate by city, specific location, and/or date (and abbreviated detail) on Level 6, especially in cases of places you’ve gone to multiple times. Note that you may not need the same number of levels in different categories. Your Level 5 might not be a folder but be actual photos in a particular area, where a Level 6 doesn’t even exist there. That’s okay; this system scales up and down to all needs.


Filename Abbreviation Codes

I take tons of nature photos for paintings. Since I have so very much content on my laptop, and since I’m a tad obsessive-compulsive, I’ve developed a consistent abbreviated nomenclature in my filenames that uses partial keywords that I can search, in order to find all of the photos in that category. Let’s say I took a photo on Mount Evans that has mountains in the background, forest and a stream in the mid-ground, and a flower in the foreground. The camera-assigned filename we’ll say was originally “IMG_7211.jpg”. The new filename would include MtEv for Mount Evans, Mtn for mountains, 4st for forest (or Tr3 for tree if one is dominant), H2o for a water feature, and Flr for floral. It was originally from 306CANON folder, and was taken in May of 2014. All the photos in that folder would be in a folder renamed “306c14MaMtEv”and the file would be renamed “MtEvMtn4stH2oFlr211.jpg”. The 211 is retained because I may have taken 20 pictures within that folder that have those same features in different configurations, and they can’t all have the same exact filename. The folder name retains the 306 because I may have gone to Mount Evans 3 times in the same month and I’m remembering visit number two. The “c” (from CANON) after the 306 is just there to separate it from another number: the 14 representing the year. Note that in my ‘feature’ abbreviations, each starts with a capital letter and ends in a lower-case letter or number (e.g., Mtn, Tr3, H2o). This makes it easier to distinguish between each abbreviation when looking at the file name as a whole. I try to keep each to three characters but sometimes four are necessary to discern what the abbreviation stands for as opposed to another one. I do keep a cheat sheet of abbreviations to refer to in case I forget or develop a new one, so I always use the same one consistently.

The reason I do this is: if I need, or a client requests a photo for their web site or a painting, that has this or that feature, I can use the search feature on my laptop to key in these consistently-applied abbreviations, and quickly have displayed for me every filename on my entire computer that I’ve renamed that includes those abbreviations, without the litter of unrelated files hiding them. If someone wants something with mountains and water I can search H2o and get all the ones with water and easily focus on those that also have mountains by looking through the search results for ones that also contain Mtn. Just about on the spot I can see or show a client a bunch of thumbnails of relevant images.

You very well may not need that much detail, but it’s nice to know it’s possible if you ever DO need it.

Again, here’s that screen grab illustrating some of the organization I’ve described above:

And the (simplified) flowchart:

And so on and so forth; you know there’s more.

Of course you would add more to and under that, but this is a general illustration. For instance, under Painting one might want subfolders entitled Still Life, Portrait, Landscape, Abstract, etc. Under that level on Level 6 I arrange things like individual work by title, and even progress photos while making each work – usually for more complex things like paintings, sculptures and furniture designs – not so much for drawings. As I’ve said, you will need to tailor this method to your own priorities and content. You also may have to create some temporary sorting folders while you’re in the process of organizing things. Be patient with yourself; you’ll get there, step by step.

Sometimes organizing large amounts of data is daunting, but if you stop and think about how it is identified, that is truly the key to organizing it by category.

Some other abbreviated nomenclature that I use for filenames are: Nat for nature, Aml for animals, Txr for textured background shots (like for wallpapers), Cld for clouds, Cty for city shots, Rok for cliffs, bluffs or large rock formations that are dominant, Rd for roadways, Sno for winter shots, Roz for roses (since a lot of my flower shots are roses; we have quite a few growing in our yard), Bld for buildings (architecture), Brk for bricks, Brj for Bridges, Aut for fall scenes, Spg for spring and Smr for summer, Brd for birds, D3r for deer, B3r for bear (yes we see them occasionally), and so on…. With generally 2-3 letters, you must choose so that it doesn’t look like another word, so choose wisely. Windows machines, as I recall, are fussier than Macs with file/folder name lengths, so this is where the extreme abbreviating comes in (and why I don’t use spaces). Years only need be 2 digits. Months I abbreviate with 2 letters: Ja Fb Mr Ap My Je Jl Ag Sp Oc Nv Dc. You could easily mix up the J months – but note that the second letter is one that no other J month possesses in its full name. Sometimes I’ll even note a dominant color in a photo if there is one, especially floral shots: Rd, Ylo, Blu, Grn, etc. because some clients will choose things based on color, whether it is to go with their logo or their bedroom curtains.

Obviously you can pick and choose from these methods for what you actually can use. I just wanted to present as many examples as I have found useful.

I hope that with your dedication, your photos become more organized than this post! Photos are great when you can find them. Happy shutterbugging.


– Eilee





All content on this site © 2013-2020/present L. Eilee S. George, all rights reserved.

How to Keep Sanity When You’re Laid Up for Weeks

How to Keep Sanity When You’re Laid Up for Weeks

…or Months

You may have noticed I haven’t been updating my calendar lately.  : /

I haven’t been doing much lately. It’s far time I explain myself, for those who wonder if I fell off the planet. It wasn’t that extreme. I was in a pile-up on the Interstate a couple months back. I’m still under medical visits and physical therapy. Among my injuries are numerous back and neck traumas including ribs that had been separated from my spine, whiplash, a jammed hip and a dislocated knee. I’m hobbling quite ungracefully. Now I’m also sick with Flu B during the coronavirus pandemic and in limbo for a permanent crown after a root canal. But I’ve been a songwriting and web design enhancing machine. Now if only I could get well enough to earn some coin to afford to file copyright for all of these new tunes…well, I do have irons in the fire. And I achingly miss performing, but am having an awful time getting up onto certain stages for lack of good access (not to mention venues rightfully closing for quarantine).

At least it’s temporary, and I’m always able to keep myself busy in the meantime. Mind you, all this followed two months of another nasty flu, which I got in late summer or early fall, before I had a chance to get a flu shot. I did get better from that. And I got the shot as soon as I safely could. But it can’t cover every strain… 🙁

So…now I have time…that’s a gift. Who knows; I may post more. Also, I have a lead on a couple of website commissions I have the ability to work on in this condition…that’s a gift too, but they haven’t started yet. The thing is, this is a golden opportunity to catch up on all those things you “never have time to do”. (For those are more mobile, who love to clean – and those who don’t – this quarantine is quite possibly the best, deepest spring-cleaning opportunity we’ve ever had. Using it?)

Several times in my life I’ve been laid up and secluded from normal life: mostly years ago, when I had cancer, when I had foot and ankle surgeries, numerous times I’ve had flu, sinusitis and/or bronchitis or pneumonia; additionally: Norovirus, even shingles. My Bible, favorite music, computer, ukulele and sketchbooks don’t let me down at such times. I’m a bona fide guru of productive down time.

Sometimes we knew I was going to have a surgery sufficiently ahead of time to allow us to prepare, as with my foot and ankle surgeries, and we set up command central directly at my bedside, with as much remote control (and grabber sticks) as possible:

Be prepared! Or overly prepared!


Whatcha got there? Click for details.

Now, this post was at first being written addressing being nearly completely incapacitated and confined to bed, but these principles can be applied to less limiting situations, like stay-at-home orders during a pandemic. Read on.

Careful observers will see in this photo that not only do I have my (old) computer and printer but also a microwave, nuke-able salmon and rice, snacks, a sketchbook, colored pencils, a sharpener, various office supplies including a pen and paper and scissors, paper, a lap desk, language books, meds, napkins, plastic flatware, paper plates, fans for temperature control, the ubiquitous lamp and clock, speakers, cords, keyboard, rechargeable batteries and a charger, my camera, a trash can, wind-up toys to tease the kitties with…and you can’t even see the cooler and tissues and books we just put on the bed next to me during the day, or the flowers folks sent that Greg put around the room to cheer me up or the medical TENS unit or automated icer for my surgical sites the surgeon provided. It seems excessive to have a whole office and half kitchen by the bed, but it was quite necessary for the time involved, especially as we lived in a tri-level house and I couldn’t navigate the stairs to reach the kitchen let alone the office, studio or den. I didn’t even miss the TV though. There’s “never anything good on”. But I did have an arsenal of Brit-com DVDs to tickle my funny bone if need be. Nothing tragic or melodramatic allowed! And they say, laughter is the best medicine.

Of course, if you have no notice before an illness or a sudden severe injury, it’s hard to pull this off, once on the sick list. You’ll have to find a kind soul to help you. I happened to be lucky enough to have married one. 🙂

Wallowing in your misery will NOT help you get better faster. Doing something constructive at least makes the time bearable and distracts you from the pain. I went off the hard painkillers to common store Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen within 5 days – sometimes 2 – on any surgery I’ve had, because I knew people fighting addiction to them. I don’t care for pain any more than the next person, but pain is useful and built into you for a reason: it warns you when you’re about to hurt something by trying too much too soon, and you can’t tell if you’re feeling better if you’re drugged into oblivion! Doctors always ask you what pain level you’re at; how can you give an accurate answer to that while on painkillers? I also think it’s good to build your pain tolerance, because you never know when you’ll need some. You’re free to disagree but I’ve amazed people with my ability to withstand intense discomfort. (It’s the frustration, not the pain, that gets me; it’s a mental battle, and that’s why I attack it this way.) We’re only getting older (it beats the alternative)…we are guaranteed to face more challenges, yet still must think, function, and forge on!!

Hobbies and side hustles via the Internet are fantastic ways to keep your attitude up when your body is down. I’ve used times like that to study foreign languages, read through the Bible, write or learn new songs, design outfits, do some good old-fashioned foundational drawing practice (as opposed to studio painting), study how to build and improve websites, find new recipes, tour the world on Google Maps, do brain-training puzzles, catch up on news and business trends, clean out my email inboxes, and do small approved exercises that can help wherever needs improvement at the time. Sometimes I research whatever ailment or injury is vexing me to be in the know and have some sense of proactive control (or at least what not to do). Many times I’ll post videos on my Vimeo channel since I have time to edit and export (slow), or write in a blog on one of my sites–if I don’t have a client or two needing attention on their sites. Rarely I tweet…I can clearly write a novel of a blog post about being sick (usefully at least, but who wants graphic tweets about being sick?) There’s no limit to what you can busy yourself with. Sometimes I plan my next painting(s) or series. I’m also verrrry slowly working on a couple of books. …Often I cuddle a kitty or two. For example, our are Peekaboo and Yeti:


(Pictures reposted by permission of–since it’s MY site.) Got that, cats? MINE.  : P

(Images from my 1st-ever, aka “practice” website while learning how to design websites. Odd experimentation as a writing/photo editing exercise too. But silly and fun.)

Some folks will devour reading material; others will crochet; others will try their hand at poetry or felting or jewelry making; some will call old friends; some will tweak their abilities at macro-lens photography; heaven help them, some will get sucked into toxic social media…some will just watch TV. I never have a TV in the bedroom, but I have never regretted getting a laptop instead of a desktop. Mine’s on its third life (hard drive) and it’s worth its weight in gold to my mental productivity and self-education. For a change, my husband streamed a series or two from cable while he was recently sick, when he wasn’t (wisely) sleeping to aid his recuperation (most of the time; they said it was flu but we still suspect strep throat because of his symptoms and the fact that sometimes cultures give false negatives – we just learned that). Personally I don’t find shows or video games to be a good use of time from which I can derive later benefit, so I make stuff or study. It makes me feel better. And I’ve been taking supplements and have really improved my immune system the last few months…I even avoided that dreaded Flu B my husband fought for over 2 weeks. (Ha ha, it came back around to me a couple months later). He’s all better now. (Update: after 5 weeks/2 rounds of ineffective antibiotics, I’m finally feeling almost well! Apparently a virus all along.)

If you need rest, by all means, rest. One of the things many of us wish we had more of is sleep!!

Being bedridden or limited in activity is a real downer for a nature-hiking enthusiast (oh it’s winter anyway), but there are plenty of ways to keep your sanity in the interim, and you may reclaim or discover pastimes that will stick with you long after your recovery, because you’ve deepened your knowledge and expanded your horizons.

Science supports that keeping one’s mind nimble and learning new things is incredibly beneficial to the body, and vice versa. I have certain immune and arthritic issues that in some ways negate that claim, but I’m (ask anyone) not normal. Still, weight training and stretching are so helpful for my arthritis (plucking ukulele completely eradicated it from my hands – free lessons here), and getting out and active does help my immunity when I can get there. Part of my immunity issue is vitamin D deficiency, because after so many radiation treatments my oncologist told me that I’m not supposed to be in the sun…ever, for the rest of my life…and the protection required is nearly prohibitive, especially in hot weather. Conversely, my mom is an octogenarian and is very physically active for her age (or for twenty years younger for that matter) and is still sharp mentally and curious to learn more, always. Many studies show that physical and mental training actually support and complement each other. Don’t take my word for it. Look it up!

So if you’re normally sporty (or even if you’re not) – and down for the count, don’t cheat yourself by whining or wasting away while in convalescence. You can shorten your recovery time both literally and perceptively by being proactive in your physical therapy (or other doctor’s orders – I follow mine for best results…I hope), and by keeping your mind occupied along with whatever else in your body safely still works. (That doesn’t mean eat the place out of house and home, though; you may not be able to work it off just yet). But DO SOMETHING! Because…

You can still do great things!!!

Do well. Get well. Be well. Stay well.

♥ – Eilee






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