Author Archives: Dana McCranie

Dana McCranie

About Dana McCranie

Dana McCranie writes, prays, laughs, loves glitter and will hug you even if you try to shake her hand. You can often find her behind her camera, striving to build a photography business. You'll never find her as happy as she is dancing around her kitchen with her daughter, son and amazing husband.

Artful Blogging magazine spring 2012

Artful Blogging Magazine Brings Community into Writing

Artful Blogging magazine spring 2012Blogger Dana McCranie discovers the beauty of community as a blogger and a creative in Artful Blogging magazine.

I’ve loved every minute of writing for this blog. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a writing project that suited me more than this opportunity to explore the world of arts and crafts by diving into magazines and describing the magic I’ve found there. The funny thing is that I still never really thought of myself as a blogger.

In reading through the latest issue of Artful Blogging magazine, however, one theme quickly became clear: The process of writing helps reveal who we are. The artful bloggers all revere their space in the blogging world as a sacred place in which they have grown, changed and enjoyed the beautiful gift of community. Reading this, I was thinking about how one day I would start my own blog and then I’d be a blogger. Then it hit me that I was reading this magazine because I was hoping to write about it … in a post … on this blog.

Reading the insightful words in this magazine made it evident to me how much growth takes place through the process of writing. I’ve loved writing since I was a young girl, but my relationship with the process has not been without its ups and downs and moments of downright self-loathing. But that is, in essence, what an authentic blog does. It explores the ups and downs of the artist’s life, including those moments when we feel we can’t write/paint/photograph/create one more day. Enter the magic ingredient: community.

The current issue of Artful Blogging takes a heartwarming look at the value of community to a blogger. My favorite article, “Redefining Community,” written by Suzanne Sperl (, describes how Sperl’s definition of community changed when she launched her own blog.

This article resonated with me because, in the past year, my view of community has also been redefined. I always perceived a community to be the city in which I lived and the people with whom I shared a zip code but often not much else. Then, after my father passed away, my husband and I became a part of a Gospel community group in our neighborhood, and our lives have not been the same since.

So much about our lives have changed as a result of sharing them with others as we seek to lead lives of service because of the faith in our hearts. One snippet of the article just sang to me and really nailed the unique feeling of support and comfort that comes from having a close-knit community.

“As I sit with that word, community – now, I am reminded that its very essence is that of a web of life that surrounds, supports, and lifts all that is within it. With delicate and tiny threads linking us all by the things we each find most precious in our worlds.”

Popular Photography Artfully Showcases Machines

Popular Photography Artfully Showcases Machines

Popular Photography feature "Good Machines"

Popular Photography feature "Good Machines"

Photographic inspiration often comes from items not generally thought beautiful. See how one photographer created a stunning collection of photos centered entirely on machines.

A tractor, a sewer grate, a box of nails, rust accumulating on just about anything: These are typically not the things that come to mind when you think about photographic inspiration. However, if you’re a photographer, you know that texture in just about anything can generate a response to your work. The items listed above are the subjects from some of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken. They were unlikely subjects that, with the right attention, revealed their beauty to me and (hopefully) through me.

The February issue of Popular Photography magazine featured an article titled “Good Machines” that treated readers to the work of photographer Ian Gittler. This New York City-based photographer and visual artist produced a lovely series of images of different machines and machine parts (seen in the image). His first inspiration came from a collection of engines and distribution manifolds from the early 19th century, and his work shows the beauty he finds in every machine. The images are bold, geometric and gritty in all the right ways.

What I loved about this article was not only the beautiful black and white images displayed, but the knowledge of how the photographer produced and edited those images. The reader also learns that Gittler printed his photos for a gallery show on his home printer. I’m not quite sure why that last bit of information brought me the most joy. Yet, I think it was because I tend to believe there’s some element missing from what I’m creating keeping me from calling it true art.

Gittler’s work disproves that theory, though. He didn’t wait until he had the perfect weather or the perfect backdrop or the ideal model to create his photo. He responded to something that inspired him. Then, he edited that photo and printed it on his home printer. This reminded me that there are rarely as many obstacles to the creation of art as we often convince ourselves actually exist, and the ones that are there have often been erected in our own minds.

What a Cupcake Taught Me About Creative Variety

What a Cupcake Taught Me About Creative Variety

The Stampers' Sampler Feb/March 2012Cupcakes are popping up all over the place, and while the sweet treats are absolutely delectable, blogger Dana McCranie recently learned a lesson from some cupcake cards.

The Stampers’ Sampler is a magazine that truly aims to please a crafter like myself. It’s full of beautiful illustrations of challenging but accessible cards. The most recent February/March 2012 issue got my creative juices flowing by featuring the results of a challenge the magazine had issued to its readers in the past issue: Build a unique card using a given cupcake template.

I absolutely loved seeing the rise of the cupcake in general of late. From gourmet cupcake shops to cupcake invitations, these humble little confections are finally getting the respect they deserve. What was so amazing about the results of this challenge was the variety of inspiration one little template provided. Isn’t it so amazing to see how different artists respond to different challenges? Each creation inspired me and made me want to make my own version.

I know many stampers who feel like taking a card from a magazine and duplicating it is somehow cheating, but I don’t see it that way. As long as you don’t try to pass someone else’s design off as your own, I think most artists want to provide inspiration. Speaking for myself, I would like the art I bring to this world to bless someone else by encouraging that person to make art of their own. I think this challenge is a perfect example of how you can take a basic idea and put yourself into it. Unless you’re setting out to produce an exact copy, two minds rarely go to the same place artistically, even if they start at the same spot. Your work will always be unique because you are unique.

Be sure to check out the amazing results of this challenge and don’t miss the template they’ve provided for the next challenge. After enjoying the results of the cupcake challenge so much, I may just have to participate this next time around.

Pennant 10

How to Make a Whimsical Pennant Banner

Somerset Life magazine Winter 2012

Winter 2012 issue of Somerset Life

Pennant banners are all the rage right now. With help from Somerset Life magazine, blogger Dana McCranie offers a how-to on the lovely creations.

If you haven’t picked up a magazine or looked at a single blog in the past year and a half, you might be unaware of the boom of the banner. Just as relevant as owls and birds, pennant banners are definitely a very popular trend. In the most recent issue of Somerset Life magazine, I was thrilled to see a lovely tutorial from artist Hanne Matthiesen in her feature “A Banner For Life.” Matthiesen describes how she took lovely scraps and fashioned them into a beautiful, mixed-media banner.

I was inspired by her creation to make one of my own for my daughter’s bedroom window. I was recently given a wonderful pennant die for my Sizzix machine, and this seemed to be the perfect time to put it to use.

Making your own pennant really doesn’t require much in the way of special tools other than scissors, adhesive and ribbon. However, I’ll share with you what I used. (All my products came from Stampin’ Up!)

Sizzix Big Shot die cut machine with pennant die and texturing folder (or you could cut the pieces by hand)
Decorative paper
Pastels and sponge dauber
Glue dots

Project Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 1 hour


Pennant 1

Step one of creating your pennant

Step One: Begin by making decorative paper pennants. Cut the paper to fit the die and build it like a sandwich. You start with one hard plastic layer on the bottom, then the die, then the paper and finally the last hard plastic piece. The die should be face up. Then, run it through the machine. The machine can handle several sheets at once, depending on the thickness of the paper. I sent through four or five sheets at one time.

Pennant 2

Running the pennant paper through the machine

Pennant 4

Paper after it's been cut by the machine

Step Two: If you would like to jazz up the plain white pennants a bit, start by running them back through the Sizzix on a texturing folder. This will dry emboss the pieces and give them interest.

Pennant 7

A piece of paper with the dry emboss effect

Step Three: To add even more pop to your white pennants, apply chalk or any color you like to the raised portions of the piece. I used chalk pastels and rubbed them along the raised lines.

Pennant 8

Optional: decorate your embossed paper with chalk

Step Four: Start by arranging your pennants along the ribbon as you would like for them to look. Next, lay your ribbon down and begin adhering your pennants face down. I used glue dots, but any strong adhesive should work.

Pennant 10

Begin adhering your pieces of paper to the ribbon

Step Five: Once you have the pennants attached, hang your pennant for all to see.

Pennant 14

Hang your pennant for all to see

How to See the Beauty of a Single Grain of Sand

How to See the Beauty of a Single Grain of Sand

Coastal Living February 2012After seeing photos of magnified and gemlike grains of sand, Dana McCranie reflects on her childhood by the beach, the passing of her father and the value of art.

I grew up 15 minutes from the beach. My father loved the ocean, and living near water was always a requirement for him. I’ll be the first to admit I took this location for granted. I realized this when I went to college in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and no longer had daily access to the sight of the endless ocean and its beautifully crashing waves.

My first job out of college took be back to the beach, and this time I lived just five minutes from the ocean. After that, my husband and I lived in California for the first year of our marriage and then we moved back home to North Alabama. I’ve spent the past 10 years living a full day’s drive from the closest beach, and I desperately miss the luxury of wiggling my toes in the sand on any given day. When I miss the beach, I’ll often pick up Coastal Living magazine and escape within its pages. It sometimes serves as a quick little substitution for being able to actually make a trip.

In the current issue of Costal Living, readers are treated to a different look at sand. The magazine features images that show just how different each grain actually is and how each truly is its own work of art. Former biomedical researcher Gary Greenberg used to spend his time looking through the lens of a microscope at living cancer and nerve cells. “The Secret Life of Sand” tells the story of how one day he put some sand he received from his brother under the microscope. He saw amazing textures, colors and shapes. Greenberg’s discovery changed his life and led to the invention of a new art form. He now photographs grains of sand magnified up to 300 times their size.

The images displayed on the page are so magical they caused my heart to race. I thought of my father, who passed away a year ago, and how much he would have loved this marriage of art and science. He was a brilliant engineer who loved the ocean. These images would have surely generated a wonderful discussion about life, beauty and fishing.

Some of Greenberg’s photos are featured alongside panoramic shots of sunsets and beaches, “to remind people where they came from,” he says. Although I consider Alabama my home, I know that every future visit to the ocean will be a reminder of Daddy and where I came from. At first I counted it strange that these images of sand should take me to such rich thoughts of my dad, but that’s what good art does. It travels through our eyes straight to our hearts.

Why Creative Pursuits Breed Happiness in You and Others

Why Creative Pursuits Breed Happiness in You and Others

Drawing magazine Winter 2012We all know it’s important to cultivate our creative sides, but do we really have the time? And more importantly, do we actually take it when we do?

No matter where you are in life, if you have a family, you more than likely focus more time on their needs than your own. It seems to be the nature of things these days: We recognize the importance of time to ourselves, we talk about it, we plan for it and–every now and again–we get it.

When that time does come, though what do we do with it? Usually we try to squeeze in some exercise, maybe do a little shopping or spend some time with a friend. All this can be rationalized of course, but do you ever spend time following the divine path of your creativity simply for the pleasure of enjoying it? When you do, is it a guilt-free experience? Obviously the answer to the latter for me is usually no.

We have come to a place of universal busyness that often leaves us viewing times spent crafting or writing or singing as guilty pleasures. I would like to convince you (and myself), however, that this practice of exploring the beautiful depths of our imaginations is not just a gift to self but also to others.

For example, when we are full of anger or grief or any emotion that disrupts the normal harmony of our lives, what is a typical suggestion to healthfully cope with this tide of feelings? More often than not, we are told to journal or paint or dance or sing. Exploring our creative nature makes us healthier, happier people. The more ink I have on my hands, the wider my smile will spread across my face.

Opening the doors to colorful daydreams and following through with them makes you more likely to get paint on your shirt for the sake of a curious two-year-old or jump in puddles to test the limits of those new rain boots. Your creative mind massages the rigid death-grip of control over that never-ending to-do list, and it whispers, “Let go and be you.”

So the next time an opportunity arises for you to learn a new craft or to enjoy that ocean of possibility that rests on the right side of your brain, seize it without a morsel of guilt. You will be better for it, and so will I.