Peaceful Sky ouline

For me, being under hypnosis is like drifting through clouds. I’ll hear music, see colors and am totally serene. When I awaken I am very refreshed and energized.

Sometimes I’ll hear my hypnotherapist speaking, but I am not really listening to what she is saying. When a word stands out for me, then I’ll feel a glimmer of awareness.

Peaceful Sky pastel

Then there are those other times when I’m very alert while in the hypnotic state. I will carry on an animated conversation with my eyes closed. I’m often startled by the amazing revelations I uncover as my subconscious speaks freely.

Peaceful sky cutout

Last week, I was really looking forward to my hypnotherapy session.

I wanted some comfort because I was dealing with the aftermath of a huge blowup I had with my oldest son. He moved out for two weeks and now he was back.

Connie, my hypnotherapist was very supportive as usual. But clearly, I wasn’t nearly as stressed out as I was the week before.

It was all because of my new song!


I had some lyrics scrawled on a sheet of paper and softly them sang to her. After I shared more about my new lyrics, we discussed other ways I could help myself feel better. Soon it was time for hypnosis and I moved over to the chair in the back of the room.

As I was floating peacefully, I could hear my newest song. It played over and over in my mind and moved me to tears with its beauty. Lightly in the distance, I heard Connie speaking. It was then when I heard her say the word transformation.

Now I was listening more carefully. As the word turned over in my mind, I felt compelled to speak. I said, “You know, I love the word transformation. It applies to my life in so many interesting ways!”

With my eyes closed, I rattled off a long list. But what stood out most for me was how I have been blessed with the ability to transform any pain or deep emotion in my life into words and music.

I was smiling as I went back into the dreamy state of hypnosis. My song echoed through my body; it was tenderly stroking my heart as I drifted peacefully before awakening.

I decided that I would write more about that word later on.

Playing Guitar

trans·form (verb)

trans·formed, trans·form·ing, trans·forms) altering, change something dramatically, convert something to different energy

“My transformation”

I have often described my mid-life turning point as my transformation. It felt like a perfect description of how I became a completely different person when I embraced writing and music at the age of fifty.

There was something so eerie about how different I felt in my own body with that transformation. My eyesight was different and so was the way I walked; even the sound of my own voice had me thinking I was someone else!

A few years ago, when I presented a rough draft of my story to an editor, she crossed out any place in my story where I had the word transformation; she hated the word and told me it only belonged in a science fiction story.

So as a replacement I used the words healing and rebirth, but those words could not adequately convey the depth of how I felt as much as transformation did.

Recently, transformation came up in my song: “No Words.” For three years, I sang: “You truly are my butterfly, transforming my life with your first cry.”

It was never an easy word to sing and my arranger, George disliked it intensely.

With the newer version of “No Words” that I recently created, I decided that perhaps it might be time to sing something else with the faster tempo. So I transformed my lyric line to, “You changed my life with your first cry.”

Since having children definitely changed my life, that worked fine for me.

Now that I’ve mentioned my mid-life transformation and the use of transformation in my song lyrics, I want share two aspects of transformation related to my art career.


“Transformation as an artist”

I transformed my artistic skills when I went from being a watercolorist to becoming a digital artist.

Ten years ago, I wrote off my illustration career because it slowed to a standstill. I blamed it on the digital age.

I did not easily embrace learning how to use the computer. But I taught myself Photoshop and eventually I could scan and manipulate my images in any way I desired. In addition to becoming a digital artist, I also learned a great deal about working with music on my computer.

The process of learning through experimentation never stops for me.

Transformation happens to be an actual term in Photoshop. I take this opportunity now to share some examples of digital transformation, which I used in my most recent illustration assignment.

A question I often hear as a food illustrator is: “Why are they hiring you and not a food photographer?”

That’s a valid question, especially since my final work looks like a photograph.

So here’s the catch: many times the product I’m illustrating does not exist and cannot be photographed. So I must create something by imagining what it will look like.

I still chuckle with the irony that as a watercolorist my goal was to make everything I painted look photorealistic. Now that I work primarily on the computer, my goal is to make my digital image look like a painting!

But even when I painted, I relied upon photo reference for my renderings.

When nothing exists for me to photograph, I search instead for something similar to what I’m illustrating. This starting point works well on the computer; I can alter any image with tonal, color and shape adjustment. Photoshop transformation is very important for what I do as an illustrator.

Below is the exact specification for the Coconut Fruit Punch flavor ice cream bar I just illustrated. My client was Tillamook (A dairy company, known mostly for cheese)

1. Fruit punch (orange, pineapple, cherry) sorbet core, coconut ice cream outer, white chocolate coating (possibly with coconut flakes).

I went to the market searching to find any kind of coated ice cream bar that was white. I ended up buying one that was white chocolate and vanilla. I also brought home a few boxes of bars with pink centers to resemble the fruit punch sorbet core I needed to illustrate. I would be able to combine my photos.

Photo Reference

This is my photo before I’ve separated the elements and arranged them into a layout.

I began my process by transforming my photos into a layout.

Each flavor needed two illustrations; one for the front and the other for the back of the package. On the front illustration, there were ingredients scattered around the bar.

Below are some of my layouts. The bottom three (G, H and I) represent “Round 2” where one layout was selected and further developed.

All Layouts Coco punch

Once my layout was approved, I created my illustration by working with colored pencil over a print. Below are examples of my final art:

Coconut punch bar front

I also illustrated a dark chocolate raspberry bar.

I also illustrated a dark chocolate raspberry bar.


My abilities were challenged when my client requested another version for the coconut punch flavor. I needed to illustrate this flavor again with a different coating, one that had coconut flakes in it.

I couldn’t buy anything because there weren’t any bars at the market with this kind of coating. But Tillamook was nice enough to send me a dark photo of a prototype bar made in a kitchen at their factory. I was relieved because the light source would work for what I wanted to do.

Bar photo reference

So now I’m going to share how I transformed my reference.

Transforming the bar

First, I “selected” (Photoshop term) only the bar area. There are many types of selection tools available. On this, I used one called a “magnetic lasso.” It is visible as a black and white broken line and moves around the selected area as indicated above with a black arrow.

A box appears around the selected area and it allows me to drag it to another place. But that bar coating still needed work and had to be transformed further to fit my layout.

There are many transforming choices available – I chose “warp.” I rotated, flipped and pulled the shape into the dimensions that were closer to the bar I wanted to superimpose it over. Then I lightened it considerably.

Transforming the bar 2

After adjusting the color, my next step was to apply that layer over the smooth bar. I temporarily changed the opacity level so that I could “see through” the layer, which made it easier to position. But sometimes I will leave a layer slightly transparent for effect.

I refined my combined layers further in Photoshop by using a digital airbrush and eraser. Wallah! I had a bar with a coconut coating!

Transforming the bar 3

“I transform my pain into a song”

The best part about Photoshop for me is the “history” tool. Every step of the way (counting back as many as a 100 steps) I can access where I was before and all mistakes can easily be corrected.

So that leads me to the third part of how transformation is a distinct part of my life.

Even though I do not live with regret as a rule, there are times when I wish I could go back in my life to erase something I’ve said or done. Unfortunately, no tool for that exists that I know of. I’ve chosen to look at my mistakes as an opportunity for learning and changing.

And for writing a new song!

The process of transforming my pain into music and lyrics is both mystical and magical. It is not a conscious choice either. I hardly ever write lyrics just to write them. I first need to hear music to tell me what my song is about.

I can pick up my guitar with every intention of writing a new song. I’ll experiment to find new chords and nothing sounds interesting. I usually give up when I find myself gravitating to chord progressions I’ve already written.

It just doesn’t happen unless there is some deep emotion driving me.

Last week when I was upset about an argument that I had with my eldest son, suddenly I began to hear some very haunting chords that took over my heart.

At the same time that my song started emerging, the situation with my son improved as he and I started talking a little more. Although I was very hurt by what happened, seeing his pain taught me a great deal about how I want to handle my anger differently in the future. I still feel terrible for losing my cool and yelling at him.

Playing Guitar B&W

I am thankful for the blessing of my music; it is beyond anything I could possibly describe.

When I hear my song, I am elevated, my heart is soothed and tears flow from my eyes as I softly hum its melody.

I’m in awe that something so beautiful can come from the ugliness that preceded it.

Original sky

You won't forgive me

© 2014 Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. jmgoyder says:

    You are the most positive person I have ever come across, Judy – such an inspiration – thank you! Jxxx


    • Judy says:

      You’re back! It’s great to hear from you. I always think of you. Julie, you are truly living through a dark time in your light. I see a lot of light shining from you. It’s hard for you to see it since you’re the one glowing. You have no idea how many people you inspire with your honest writing. If I can uplift you at all, then I feel great. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’ve missed you but more than understand.


  2. JBF says:

    Great post. The song is glorious, like a soundtrack for a movie about transformation! Your art process is fascinating — you are so talented. Thanks for all the sharing.


    • Judy says:

      Thank you for your glorious comment. I do agree – even in this rough format without my added guitar it does sound like a movie score! Someday . . . (I do love dreaming) And I always love sharing with you. Your friendship has truly blessed me. 🙂


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