Archive for the ‘Lifestyle of a Creative’ Category


Old School Desk Refurbish : Lifestyle of a Creative

March 10, 2016

Once again, I have strayed from the graphic design and photography loop, just a little. For those who have seen previous tutorial posts, I have a special category just for them called “Lifestyle of a Creative.” I decided this was fitting, because as a creative, I can rarely contain the craftiness.

That being said, several months ago I found this FANTASTIC old school desk. My intent was to not only use it for “the personal,” but also to use it as an adorable photo prop. I just couldn’t resist. So now, if you will step with me outside the box, let’s get this thing from rusty to rustic perfection!

Desk Refurbish | © Noel

Desk Refurbish | © Noel



Frankly, because of the “dinged up” rustic look I wanted to keep, there really wasn’t much prep on this item! In fact, there’s only two steps for prep, or three if you’d like to go above and beyond.

1. Despite that it’s wood, scrub and wash that baby down! This desk in particular had mud soaked into the wood. I’m guessing it was sitting in an old, abandoned school house for quite some time. (Which makes this piece even cooler!) So with a hose, no soap and a plain ol’ rag – wipe and spray it down. Let it dry for several hours or over night is best.

{TIP: Washing down wood not only cleans the surface, but in the case of staining, it helps to open up the grain. Allowing the wood to receive the stain better and look richer.}

2. Unlike mine, if you’re wanting the desk to be smooth, have less dings and more “fresh” wood to paint on, then you’ll need to do some sanding. (As with any older item, masks are recommended during sanding.)

3. For those who want to go a step further, these old desks can be taken apart and reconstructed with wood glue and new bolts. Some may even choose to replace the old wood. (However, I shall not be doing that in this tutorial, as I want all the original parts.)

Cleaning it all up! | © Noel

Cleaning it all up! | © Noel


Like with many old, industrial designs the base of the desk is very heavy cast iron. As a fail on my part, the only shot I took of the base before starting was while it was wet. However, as you can see toward the bottom – it’s pretty rusted. Basically, both legs were covered. The good news? You can actually REMOVE rust. WHAAAAT!!?? Crazy, I know…

Rusted Base | © Noel

Rusted Base | © Noel


So, as some may know, you can remove rust from metal using a steel wool pad. It’s actually quite effective, but very time consuming. Again, I didn’t want to lose the original little quirks of the desk. In fact, I kind of liked the rust, I just wanted less of it…

My goals for the base were to: 1) Keep some original charm 2) Make it contrasted from the wood, and 3) Have it still look really nice and clean….Talk about wanting it all, right? Well this is how I achieved that:

1. Using a steel wool pad and a wet cloth I started rubbing away. Scrubbing the rust, then wiping it away with the rag. Silly me should have realized even after I started doing this, the metal was still pretty beat up. It wasn’t going to be the clean, consistent look I wanted after the rust was controlled. This was frustrating, because while I wanted the metal to look older, I didn’t want it to be AS beat up as the wood. It would just be too much going on for this piece. (Especially as a photo prop.)

2. After removing a lot (but not all) of the rust, I decide to cheat and add some consistent color back in with spray paint. The wood was still raw and unpainted, so I just taped off the edges like so:

Tape off the wood. | © Noel

Painter’s tape works wonders. | © Noel

3. Using a combination of RUST-OLEUM Metallic Black and DESIGN MASTER Glossy black, I lightly and inconsistently began painting. Take turns painting and then rubbing with the steel wool to keep some of the rust and damage showing. Avoid an excessive amount of the metallic finish vs the glossy, because it almost has a “sparkle” to it, which is not a classic look for metal. What was achieved was this:

© Noel

Painted and Distressed Base | © Noel



For the wood, I was originally going to paint it shanty chic – like distressed ivory. That was until my “other half” kindly reminded me how gorgeous keeping it classic wood would be. He was right – therefore it would have to be stained. Before we jump into this, let me warn: Staining is NOT for the faint of heart! It is definitely an art all its own and I am still mastering this skill myself. The tricky part is keeping the color even, because remember, it’s already soaking in and drying as you go. Any place that dries and is then rewetted will start to look richer, creating streaky lines on the surface.

{TIP: For amateurs like me, keep just a couple paper towel sheets with you and continually wipe as you go. This will simultaneously smooth out excess stain that can get tacky if left on the surface AND keep your stain consistent and even. Oh – and wear gloves! 😉 } 

Wear gloves and keep that stain smooth! | © Noel

Wear gloves and keep that stain smooth! | © Noel

As for the product I used a two-in-one: stain (the color) and polyurethane (the seal). I wanted a classic stained look, but I needed some color. To contrast the dark metal and give the desk a “rich” feature, I chose MINWAX PolyShade in Bombay Mahogany. What an awesome difference! Plus, it matches the rust. 😉

MINWAX PolyShade Bombay Mahogany. | © Noel

MINWAX PolyShade in Bombay Mahogany. | © Noel



Finished Product |© Noel

Finished Product |© Noel

and a few accents and finishing touches……

Accents and Finishing Touches. | © Noel

TA DA!!!! | © Noel


There you have it! Simple and sweet right? I think the whole process from prep to finishing touches took about two days. For now this lovely piece will hold it’s place on my porch, but I am [impatiently] waiting to find the right client’s kiddos to use it as a photo prop. Maybe YOU!?!?


For more updates from yours truly, follow me here on WordPress by blog or email, and hit that LIKE button on Facebook! Until next time 🙂 —

Happy Creating!




Meet Your Noel Photography and Design Artist in 2016!

January 1, 2016

2016. WOAH!

As an artist, I am completely psyched about this particular year, due to all the new changes for Noel Photography and Design really coming into effect. Two of those included a state-to-state move (yes again), and the decision to start 2016 as a completely full-time, independent, graphic design and photography artist.

Again, WOAH.

A couple years ago, some may remember the “New Year’s Resolution” list I had made for myself. A large majority of my list I completely nailed, but there were a few parts I floundered on. (That’s typical right?) Small failures aside, I have FINALLY accomplished the most important task on my list. Hence the reason for my super psyched-ness. (Not a word, but too excited to care!) Here was the goal:


Find a career path I truly love, that really uses and pushes my abilities.

In some respects, WHY was I really thinking I would accomplish that in just one year? So if I’m being completely honest, it took me almost two years to get everything in place to jump in as a full-time artist.

Since so much has been changing for myself and the business, I decided January 1, 2016, was the perfect time for a little meet and greet of yours truly. So allow me to introduce myself…


Yes, literally, let me first introduce myself for those who don’t know.

My name is Jen Noel, and I am a 25 year-old artist of photography and design, living in the wonderful midwestern state of Nebraska. I am super crafty, bold, a little random, but totally awesome at what I do.



For four very busy years, I attended Morningside College in Sioux City, IA. Accomplishing a Bachelor of Arts, with three majors including graphic design, photography and advertising. A title of which is a mouthful, but has been completely worth achieving.



While the decision to become a full-time artist was recent, I have never, not been working in my field. Previously, I was splitting my time between part-time graphic design and photography, and other various types of customer service positions.

Much of the experience from those other jobs have provided the solid foundation for my outstanding and quality service. In fact, August of 2016 will mark my 7th year of working in the graphic design and photography field!!!



Trick question! I honestly don’t favor one more than the other. Here’s why:

I chose to pursue both fields, plus advertising, because there is A LOT of overlap between them. All three are quite similar in education, skill, technology, uses, and the actual workplace. Actually, it’s almost as if they feed off of one other. In a nutshell, I LOVE what I do from A-Z!



It took me many years to be able to answer this question clearly. I’m so eclectic, and many things catch my attention that can set off my creative mind! (A little A.D.D. if you will.) But…

In a broad terms, I am inspired by contrast. In everything. Have you heard the phrase, “opposites attract?” That’s often the style of my work.

Sometimes it’s a literal contrast of rich colors, light and dark, or black and white. Other times it’s a concept. Perhaps of vintage and modern, beauty vs. unsightly, or edgy mixed with delicate. The list goes on and on. Those are the things that often grab my attention because they are so bold. For those who have already met me, this comes as no surprise, since I myself am quite bold. 🙂

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

That all being said about my style, I’d also like to add a side note. I don’t like to achieve the bold looks by over editing in post production. While I occasionally get wrapped up in the abilities of technology, there’s something wonderful to be said about the purity of a photo. Therefore, not all, but a large majority of my images, the editing is kept to a minimum.


In graphic design it’s a bit different. Mostly because I’m not typically designing for myself, but rather for the client and their needs. While all my work has an underline tone of my style, my eclectic side comes in vary handy for design. It allows me to connect to a project despite what the subject matter may be. Giving me the ability to create quality design work for any client.



I’ve always been a “jack of all trades,” but here, I am guilty of having some favoritism.

a) As for photography, since the first time I picked up a camera, I have always been a sucker for nature. It actually wasn’t until college when my passion for portraits really began to grow.

There is something so mysterious and calming about the natural beauty to be found all over the world in nature. It becomes addicting to travel, and do your damnedest to be at the right place, at the right time, camera settings ready, with your finger on the trigger.

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

I quickly realized that portrait photography can be quite similar. Again, I became addicted. Like nature, you’re waiting for the right moment, the right expression, and sometimes the right light. Portraits have the ability to capture someones character, emotion, passion, and sometimes the most raw form of themselves. It’s no surprise the human body, as a part of nature, has the ability to speak in many ways that are non-verbal. Personally, I think that is amazing.

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY


Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

Image is © Noel Photography and Design | DO NOT COPY

b) For design, my favorite part is much more technical and generalized: Composition. Remember when I said there was a lot of overlap between my fields? Composition is one skill that comes in handy in both photography and design. While I’m great at and love the devil in the details, I like to think “big picture.” (Again with the need for contrast.) Layout designs require planning, thinking and strategy. It’s almost like an artistic mind game. I love that.



I never stop creating, and my friends and family often tease me about it. I guess I just like to be busy. I love trying alternative photography processes, scrapbooking, crafting, sewing, painting, cooking, and up-cycling vintage furniture, frames, and other items.

Outside of creating, I am very family oriented. I have a close relationship with everyone in my immediate family, so the time I get to spend with them is important.

When my schedule and bank account allows me, I love to travel to new places. Usually to take pictures and go antiquing. Yes, I said antiquing. Vintage camera, frames and other random things have began to take over my house.

Lastly, when the weather allows, I enjoy getting outside. Hiking, biking, boating and playing with puppies make my outdoor adventures quite enjoyable. 🙂

As you can tell, my personal life is quite eclectic and random as well.



Now that I am officially a full-time artist, I could not be happier! My most important resolution for early 2016, will be finding the right design office and studio space. Ideally, an inviting area to accommodate a wider variety of clients throughout the whole year, in addition to the year-round outdoor sessions.

Not to mention, I look forward to joining in with my new community. A new space will provide opportunity to better connect with clients, and other local businesses of the Thayer County and surrounding area. Which to me, sounds like a blast!




Ah yes, secret time. I’m a little OCD, I hate spiders, I love to sing in the shower, and the numbers on the toaster are minutes. 🙂

Alright folks, I feel I’ve covered quite a bit of the Noel in Noel Photography and Design. If you have any questions you think you’d like answered, comment them at your own risk!

Don’t forget to follow me here on WordPress by blog or email, and also on Facebook. Most importantly, if  it hasn’t happened already, I look forward to meeting everyone in my new area, and hope YOU will be one of my 2016 photo or design clients!


Happy Creating!



Lifestyle of a Creative : Dresser Refurbish

August 14, 2015

Every now and then my creative juices get off track from my usual graphic design and photography. To accommodate for that, I have a special category called “Lifestyle of a Creative” for followers to find these projects. In this case, I finally decided to refurbish my old dressers. In today’s post, I will run you through the process of this renovation.

© Noel 2015

© Noel 2015


On this particular dresser, it was a mix of real wood and laminate pieces. Therefore, I opted not to do much sanding, and use quality, interior paint, in an eggshell finish with paint & primer in one. First, make sure all surfaces are wiped clean. Then I removed the all the metal pieces I could. For the hardware, RUST-OLEUM Hammered grey spray paint covered nicely, and gave the handles an awesome texture!

© Noel 2015

© Noel 2015

After taking the hardware off and painting them, tape off edges for clean lines on both the dressers’ base and drawers.

© Noel 2015

© Noel 2015

Lastly, I wanted to compliment the hammered grey handles with a modern and textured top. The original top was made of a laminate piece, so to avoid paint chipping from items sliding across it I needed something more durable. The solution is these cool backsplash adhesive tiles from Home Depot. They are originally meant for something like a kitchen backsplash wall, so the adhesive is very strong, the tiles are durable, and stainless steel textured.

© Noel 2015

© Noel 2015

Before sticking the tiles down, lay them out across the top to make sure they are arranged properly and fit well. The tiles can be cut into smaller sizes with a very durable blade. However, in my case everything fit perfectly without having to trim any of the pieces. The final results were awesome!!

© Noel 2015

© Noel 2015

To keep track of what Noel Photography and Design is up to, follow me here on WordPress and on Facebook.

Happy Creating!



Frame Up-Cycling: Repainting and Backing (2 of 2)

July 8, 2014

I hope everyone enjoyed the first section of this tutorial Frame Up-Cycling: Repainting and Backing (1 of 2). So, now that we have the frame painted, its time to go through the steps of fast and simple backing. On this particular piece, I am framing a chalkboard, but I will insert specific changes for framing photography\artwork.



1. Your frame & the item you’ll be framing (Remember to take accurate measurements of the size of the frame.)

2a. IF YOU ARE FRAMING ART WORK- You’ll need a piece of glass cut to the proper size. I suggest a regular piece of glass from Lowes, Home Depot or Menards. Non-glare glass is really the best which can be found at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. A cheaper option is clear acrylic.

2b. The chalkboard I will be using is glass spray painted with chalkboard paint.

3. Two to three ACID FREE foam core boards. You can find these at Michaels\Hobby Lobby. The size depends on your frame, but it should fit as close as possible.

4. White\black Poster board

5. Staple gun

What you'll need.

What you’ll need.



Artwork Related Steps:

1. Clean glass with either rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or hot water and mild soap.

2. Make sure the glass has dried well, then insert your photograph\artwork. If you are using a matte on the picture, again be sure its acid free.

3. In this tutorial, I am simply inserting my chalkboard.

Insert artwork or item to frame.

Insert artwork or item into frame.



Next, using the acid free foam core boards, stack 2-3 boards behind the artwork\subject matter. Most average frames will only require 2 boards. The over all goal here is to make sure that the boards fill at least to the top edge or slightly above the frame opening. This will hold everything tightly for the final cover.

Stack boards behind artwork.

Stack boards behind artwork.



Using the poster board, you will now cover the filler boards. The poster board must be cut large enough to sit on the frame edges. By having the poster board sitting on the frame edges, and then stapling the poster board to the edges you will hold the glass, artwork and filler boards tight and secure in the frame.

Poster Board Placement

Poster Board Placement

Staple Poster Board to the Frame Edge

Staple Poster Board to the Frame Edge



After you are finished stapling, YOU’RE DONE BACKING! The last thing to do is to add the hanging hook of your choice. Here is my finished project!







Good luck on step two of up-cycling a frame. Please share and comment with any questions. Remember to follow Noel Photography & Design here on WordPress and click here to find me on Facebook!



Frame Up-Cycling: Repainting and Backing (1 of 2)

April 23, 2014

There are so many ways to be creative in photography- including when it comes to framing. If you’re like me, you enjoy having creative projects, and you know that framing can be expensive. Therefore, in this [two part] tutorial, I will first be giving instruction on how to antique a flea market frame. In a later post, I will follow this with a tutorial on how to easily back an older frame. So let’s get started!


1. Two-Three paint colors of your choice. (This particular frame works well with 3 colors because of its layered look. Most other frames will only need 2 colors, the base and antiquing color. Not pictured is the antiquing color: Martha Stewart, Black nickel in metallic.)

2. Medium size paint brush

3. Light-Medium weight sanding block

4. Paper towels & Newspaper\cardboard

Americana Acrylic Paint (Colors: Sea Glass & Lt. Buttermilk)

Americana Acrylic Paint
(Colors: Sea Glass & Lt. Buttermilk)



As previously mentioned in Trash or Treasure?: Flea Markets & Up-cycling, its important to make sure the frame you choose can handle any work you will be doing to it. (Unless you’re prepared to fix it!) The frame should be structurally sound to take stapling for re-backing, and strong enough to hold for wall hanging. (No rotting wood, nails falling out, or old glue likely to come apart.)

In addition, the wood\texture should be strong enough to with stand some light sanding. Occasionally, older frames have soft wood, which is fine. In fact, it can often add character to your project. However, avoid overly soft wood that crumbles to the touch or brush. Here is the frame I have chosen:

Flea Market Frame

Now that you’ve found the right frame, it’s time to prepare it for paint. As I mentioned, older frames are fragile overall because of just that- they’re old! Therefore, you will want to use a fine to medium weight sand paper. All you’re really trying to do is mildly “rough up” the surface so the paint can grab hold. Do NOT use powered sanders. Most sanders are so powerful they will sand any designs right off or ruin the older frame!

After you’ve finished sanding, using a wet paper towel wipe down all surfaces of the frame. This will allow your paint to apply and stick easier by removing dirt from sanding and being in storage.

Light Sanding & Wipe clean

Light Sanding & Wipe clean



First apply the base coats. Since this frame is actually consistent of two frames layered, I chose to paint the inner frame with the Sea Glass and the outer frame with the Buttermilk (ivory) color. Be sure to use two coats to eliminate streaking and inconsistent color.

1 Coat vs. 2 Coats

1 Coat vs. 2 Coats



Next, using the black metallic color, we will do the antiquing. The easiest way to get an antiqued look is to use  a “dry brushing” technique. That means using minimal paint (or a basically dry brush) and a light hand movement over the surface. This technique tends to be easier on textured surfaces, but it can be done on either textured or flat. Here is what both may look like:

Flat Frame vs. Textured Frame

Flat Frame vs. Textured Frame



TA DA! Here is it looks like after everything’s done!

Finish1 Finish2



Good luck and please ask any questions you may have! This is a two part tutorial, so get started on your frame painting project and be ready for the follow up of how to back an old frame. Remember to find me on Facebook and follow me here on WordPress. Until next time!



I Can Do Better.

January 2, 2014

It’s finally a new year! And let me tell you, I am more than ready for a fresh start. 2013 was an extremely stressful year with graduating school, my personal life and moving to Colorado. Though it was both a blessed and chaotic year, I’m ready to hit restart.

Most years I’d make the resolution to not drink pop, exercise more or diet. You know, the typical resolutions that one might choose. However, this year, I decided to pick something even cheesier. I want to work on being a better person.  Make better decisions, stand up for what I want, push my best abilities to the max, and really make my time productive. I want to wake up in the morning and feel accomplished, not regretful.

As I mean to apply this to my life in general, you are probably wondering why I’m writing about it here. Well…this new resolution applies to my creative life as well. While I’ve had a fun year creatively in 2013– I CAN DO BETTER. So I’ve made a partly detailed and partly general list of things I want to accomplish this year in design, photography and my career. >>The list for the year is as followed:


>Rebrand myself in design for personal and work interests. Including a package created for employers.


>Create several new series of photos using every different function of my camera.


>Get my Alive to Ride campaign to reach more people and get 200 LIKES on Facebook. (Which by the way, feel free to CLICK HERE and check the page out!)  🙂


>Reach 250 LIKES on my Noel Photography and Design page.


>Continue to learn more about social media and all of its functions.


>(This is an easy one BUT) Read more material on design and photography. Anything that will help and inspire.


>Learn at LEAST 15 Photoshop tutorials that will better my photography and\or design.


>Find and complete at least 10 different design challenges, either for personal or commercial use.


>Finally start and keep updating my Noel Photo and Design board on Pinterest.


>Learn and master a new alternative photography process.


>Redo old design work to look as originally intended, instead of what I was capable of on a deadline.


>Find at LEAST one way to use my talent to help someone else.


>Sell a piece of work.


>Finally finish my website! 


>Travel to a point of interest to do a series of photographs.


>Find a career path I truly love, that really uses and pushes my abilities.


So that’s a pretty good list and I’m sure I’ll have to update it as a think of new things, BUT here’s the best part. You my friends and followers will get a front row seat to the whole process. My goal is to achieve these challenges one or more times before 2014 is over. I hope that you will all follow along and help to make sure I’m staying on track! I think the best way to start to better yourself is to take what you’re most passionate about and run with it. That is how one will really begin to excel.  I can’t remember the author, but I once read a quote saying,

“People are happiest and look prettiest when they talk about something they really love with passion in their eyes.”

Therefore, on my journey to be a better person, I’m going to start with my passion, and let everything follow from there.

*Again to keep up with how my goals are coming (and to help make sure I’m not slacking), follow me here on WordPress and inject my updates into your newsfeed by LIKING my page on Facebook at Noel Photography and Design. I’d also love to hear what YOU are most excited about seeing off my list!*

Wish me luck!!!



Trash or Treasure? Flea Markets and Up-cycling.

August 5, 2013

Hello friends and Bloggers!

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for a new artsy project or cool decor, while saving a little green.  My way of doing that is heading out to local flea markets and antique shops to search for awesome finds! But if you’ve ever been to a second hand store, you know that there is a lot of just plain junk. So here are some helpful ways to find useful items and things you can refurbish for your own home, without becoming a hoarder or having an up-cycle project blow up in your face!


1. HAVE SOMETHING IN MIND BEFORE YOU GO. Before even leaving your house have things in mind that you are looking for. Maybe you need a cool old frame, an interesting vase or a new dresser to repaint. Whatever it may be, remember what you’re going for and don’t pick up random stuff.  Many people look at stuff and say ‘I’ll think of something to use this for later.” That’s when hoarding starts! 🙂 So remember what you need and stick to it.

2. ASK YOURSELF THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS. Where will I put it? What will I use it for? Can I buy it new for the same price? If you don’t have useful answers for the first two questions, and you can buy it new for the same cost, this is a bad purchase. When we find interesting things we don’t have a plan for, once again it’s hoarding. This would be my only exception to rule #1. If you find something not on your list, but you REALLY DO have a plan or idea for it, then buy it for “someday,” otherwise leave it on the shelf.  Your, “I’ll think of something later,” box is full enough. We can’t always plan for what we find, but we can ALWAYS know what we’ll do with them before we buy.

3. MAKE SURE ITS DURABLE. This is an important rule to follow when you are buying items or furniture with plans to refurbish. NEVER buy an item without making sure its stable, durable and can handle whatever beating it will be taking when you are redoing it. If an item’s foundation isn’t strong, its a BAD purchase. You’ll end up putting more into remodeling it, then if you would just go to the store and buy exactly what you want. Not to mention, your project will quickly turn from fun to a terrible disaster.

4. THINK ABOUT IT. If you come across something you like but you can’t answer those three questions correctly, LEAVE AND THINK ABOUT IT. The nice thing about flea markets and antique stores is you can walk away from something and it will be there a couple days later. If you are unsure about your purchase, go home, do some research. If you decide it’s a useful, good buy then go get it later. Nine times out of ten, it will still be there or another booth has the exact same thing.

5. SHOP FOR YOURSELF ONLY. Remember not everyone enjoys second hand finds. Don’t buy things for people unless you know they really will take it and use it. Otherwise you just end up with more stuff you don’t need, or force your friends to keep stuff they don’t need!


I hope this will help you keep your junk to a minimum and help make the most out of your treasures. I always love a good craft project, and cool finds. But when our creativity outruns reality, we need these simple rules to keep us in check. Happy hunting! 🙂


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