Archive for the ‘Personal’ 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!




You’re Hiring a Graphic Designer…Now What?

January 12, 2016

Let me start off by saying, “I LOVE working with clients.” I love the people who drive me, give me opportunity for success, and most importantly, make my job……well, a job.

So while in many ways sharing this information does help the designer, my intention here is to further the client’s understanding of the method behind the madness. To really put your mind at ease about what will come next when you choose a professional designer, (besides greatness of course!) I mean, let’s face it. Hiring a designer for the first time can feel like an expensive gamble!

While I can only guarantee the following content is what goes down after hiring me for a job, I’m sure many designers will be, (or if we’re being confident about it, SHOULD BE) similar.

Alright, so you’re going to hire a designer, here’s what’s next:


© Noel 2016



I put this first because it’s something both parties need through the entire project process. Simply put – design is hard! Have you ever played the game where you draw on paper what another is describing with your eyes closed? That is what being a designer is kind of like. It sounds terrible, but don’t get me wrong, designers LIVE for those types of challenges.

We just have to ask for you to be patient with us, and we will do the same for you. Like the game mentioned above, we are trying to make a masterpiece from a mere “thought pebble,” or trying to extract an already completed masterpiece from your head and put it on paper.

Talk about a challenge! Which brings me to my next client tip…



It’s not as scary as it sounds! This may actually go down multiple times throughout a job. Usually once in a consultation before the project starts, and again after each draft, or before the final. Either way, its not a test! I can assure you these are questions you will know, or at least have an opinion about.

After you’ve given your description of the project, an artist may still need more to build the picture in your head for ourselves. The more questions you allow us to ask, the closer the drafts will be to what you were imagining. Often making for fewer revisions and faster completion. These are just a few questions you may hear along the way:

  • a) Any color schemes you’d prefer?
  • b) Size specifications?
  • c) What styles\themes do you like?
  • d) On your examples, what parts do you love? What parts do you hate?

The list goes on and on, and will change throughout the process. If you just plain don’t know on some of the questions – that’s ok too. After all, as the professional we are here to help. Most the time the questions you don’t know will quickly become apparent after the first draft.

There is only one tip I have for clients with absolutely no idea on what they’d like for their project:

“If at all possible, allow a little extra time and\or money to make room for trial and error. It isn’t a matter of IF we can create something you’ll love, but when there are no guidelines, design concepts and revisions could literally be endless.”

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image



My only end goal is for you to walk away happy, with a quality and successful finished project. Plain and simple. To achieve that, however, expect nothing less than honest communication – from both of us. You likely hired a professional for one main reason:

“You wanted/needed help , and you’re looking for someone with expertise to do so.”

As a client you will want to give your honest opinions of my work, which I need and appreciate. Likewise, I will need to be able to speak to you honestly about your ideas and concepts. It is never my intension to be rude, mean, or talk you out of something you love. Rather, I will always give feedback about your ideas because its my job.

It is my job to try and catch any “red flags” before, or during the design process. If I can be open with you about it, it prevents problems, design flaws, or even costly mistakes. In the end, the famous line I tell every client is,

“I will give you my professional advice, because its what you’re paying for, but its up to you whether you take it to heart, or with a grain of salt.”



Every company and freelancer operates with their own process, so it is here that I speak mostly for myself. First, in general terms, all companies have a “design, revise, deliver” set-up of some sort. Often with their own regulations on money deposits, how many concepts and revisions they offer, how they deliver the final work, and of course, final payment.

For me personally, I like to keep things as simple and clear cut as possible, while still meeting all the needs of my client. Often this means providing different service options with various “price points.” Allowing clients to choose a budget and design process they feel works for them.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Like all companies, I have rules I follow for payment, delivery and such, but I try to make my services flexible enough for any potential prospect.

Now I ask, does hiring a professional designer seem as scary? I hope not, because we rarely bite. If anyone has any questions they can think of about hiring a designer, I would love to give you my best input. Just comment below!

To get more updates from Noel Photography and Design, follow me here on WordPress by blog or email, and be sure to hit “LIKE” on the Facebook page for posts, offerings and everything creative!


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!



The Underground – New Featured Collection!

March 20, 2015
© Noel Photography and Design

© Noel Photography and Design


It’s about that time to publish another featured collection, one that I’m particularly excited about! This brand new, never seen before series is titled, “The Underground.”

On my mini vacation to South Dakota, I was fortunate enough to take a tour through a winding maze of stalagmites and stalactites, deep underground. In my (probably bias) opinion, the results were amazing!

With scattered, dimly lit lights, the caves natural beauty sprung to life. Most of the images I couldn’t bring myself to do any adjusting or adding of filters. The simple, organic beauty of the unedited images were too breathtaking.

Visit my websites “Featured” page to view all the images from “The Underground!”



If you enjoy my work and want to receive continuous updates, please follow me here on WordPress, and “LIKE” my page on Facebook!

Happy Creating,


© Noel Photography and Design

© Noel Photography and Design

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