I'm one of the fortunate few. I get to go to work each day and do things I absolutely love! I get to do historical research, I get to help people discover their family legacies, I get to see wonderful photographs, and best of all, I'm sometimes lucky enough to bring some of those photographs back from the brink of no return. What could be better than that?
To a lifelong lover of history, not much. To an artist who's studied anatomy and forensic illustration, not a whole heck of a lot. To someone who thinks research is second only to a nice fresh Snickers bar, nothin is better!
I have no formal education for what I do. I never spent a day in College. I graduated from High School and immediately entered that bastion of higher learning we call the School of Hard Knocks. I thought, at first, to make my way, down a street paved in gold, naturally, as a portrait artist. Everyone raved at my ability to capture a photo-realistic likeness of my subjects. I would be famous, no doubt, in a very short time.
Only one problem with that – two actually. One, in order to make any money at portraits, you need to be able to render them quickly, because the only place you'll get work doing them is at street fairs and the like. I, however good I was, was slower than Christmas. The second stumbling block to my brilliant plan is that no one gets rich and famous, in a very short time, as a portrait artist.
A Deteriorated PhotographIn short order my dream began to fade away as I found myself in another role: working wife and mother. The mother part was good, the others, not so much. I spent the next nineteen years, before acquiring a spine and a divorce, married to someone who had some personal demons and felt a good way to exorcise them would be to tear those around him down mentally. Nothing I did was ever good enough, or even good period. The one thing he conceded was that I was a good artist (not good enough to make a living, though, you understand...) and I do have him to thank for introducing me to the world of digital art.
Before and After
Before and After
He bought me a used Calcomp digital drawing pad and some software, including Photoshop 5.0. During this time I also acquired a job in Corporate America, working as an analyst for the largest Health Care system in Texas. I learned a couple of very valuable things while working in that very well paying job: I had a knack for research and analysis and I wasn't cut out for Corporate America! After 8 years I made a fateful, rather foolish decision; I quit my job and started my own business, in that order. In my own defense, I must point out that the environment of that workplace was slowly killing me, so, while the timing and lack of preparation for the future may indeed have been foolish, it was also necessary.
Self-employment didn't start off with a bang, more like a half-choked whimper, truth be told. I was all over the place, trying to promote anything I thought I was even half good at: graphics, illustration, web design, a little bit of everything. Too much. I had no clear vision of what this business would be. I illustrated a children's book here, designed a CD cover there, but for the most part floundered.
I was about to call it quits, any number of times, and go crawling to work at WalMart, or something, just to pay the bills, but my business partner (aka, my mother) wouldn't hear it! She told me, in no uncertain terms, that this was her dream too, so I'd better just figure something out! I won't say the answer appeared to me in a vision of light, or anything, but somehow, my passions, art, history and analysis, all seemed to coalesce and make sense.
Analysis + history = the family history I'd been working on so long...maybe I could do that for others, as well! Art + history = the family photo's I'd been restoring...hey! Look! Photo Restoration is considered a genealogical service, and I just so happen to be really good at it!!
Before and AfterSo, while still floundering, I began to study and learn. I improved my Photoshop skills even more and began to take on jobs. Then I lucked into doing some heir search work and so impressed the attorney I was doing the work for, that he began to tell others. That sort of started the ball rolling. I quickly began making a name for myself as an excellent photo restoration artist.
I became acquainted with a wonderful lady on line who's passion is marketing and she started me on the road to self promotion, Social Media, and learning to toot my own horn; hopefully without bursting any eardrums. I've been on this journey for five years now; the first four hopefully won't count in the long run!
This past February, I was honored to win the 2008 Photoshop User Awards in the Photo Restoration category, an international contest with more than 700 entrants. While I've always had confidence in my abilities, I now have confidence in myself, as well and have even taken on teaching the art of photo restoration. My goal is to continually learn, grow and improve all my skill sets, be they in family history research or photo restoration. I intend to be one of the top names in photo restoration at some point in the not to distant future. I also plan to continue being one of the fortunate few, getting to go to work each day and do things I absolutely love!
General William Worth
This is the prize winning entry in the 2008 Photoshop User Awards in the Photo Restoration category, General William Worth. This photograph of General Worth has been requested by numerous Historical societies. Very few photographs of the General exist, as he died just as photography was taking off (1849). The photo resides in its unrestored state, at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas. It has rarely been viewed and is in very bad shape. Now it has a new life!