Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Tools Of Your Trade

If you are an artist or a photographer for any length of time, I know that you have heard the debate about whether something used differently than it was intended could possibly produce "real" art. Many of the artists and photographers that I chat with on an online forum have often come to verbal blows over this subject. Some of the photographers maintain that they only offer "pure" shots for sale, they don't dabble in the world of photo processing with the likes of Photoshop, or Corel, or any of the other programs that allow one to work with their photos. 

Here's the bottom line - it is very rare for a photo not to need processing of some sort. Even well respected and famous photographers such as Ansel Adams processed his photos - in a darkroom. He would dodge and burn under a special lamp, or use chemicals, to get the effect he was after. Today's digital cameras do the basic processing within the camera now, but they will not give you a pristine picture that matches what you envisioned when you made the shot. Your eyes see things with emotion, the camera is a mechanical object, and will take what it sees with the available environmental issues - the lighting, the wind, your hand not being as steady as you wanted, all these things affect a photo. But if you shoot in Camera Raw, you have left the door open for a chance to make the picture look more like what you wanted to convey by using post processing tools.

When Renoir was painting, he was part of a group of artists who were shunned by the older, established artists in his day. They did not accept these new artists into the fold, did not allow them to exhibit, discouraged art patrons from supporting them, and why? Because they did things much differently than how it had been done before. So, the older artists assumed that these young men (and a few women) were Wrong. And therefore, not real artists.

We all use tools in what we create. I use pottery scrapers in my encaustic work. There are many different types of brushes. There are as many styles of photography as there are people, almost. But often the generation which is older perceives the tools they were taught to use as The Tools. Period. No, they are the tools, and it's open ended. Refusing to take advantage of what's available to use is fine if that's your choice. Being critical of others, dismissing them for going way outside of the box, and condemning them as not being "real" artists is not acceptable, it's small minded and mean. And grossly incorrect.

I had a page in my journal where I had played around with some shapes and some colors. It always looked like it could go somewhere, but I was not sure how to bring it there. So I left it for a while to simmer in the back of my mind. Today I realized that a photo processing tool I had in my virtual toolbox on the computer might make a difference in the appearance and take it where I wanted it to go. So I put the two together, did some blending and tweaking and was very pleased that the final result was just as I had hoped! So it was a mash up between hand painting and digital photo processing. And it couldn't have been better! 


No, I just didn't push a couple of buttons. Yes, it required some knowledge and skill. And Yes, I will give this another go with other paintings I have done.

I could expound with even more detail about this subject, and perhaps I will in another post. Meanwhile, I'm just enjoying all the different ways one can create!


  1. I completely agree with you Rebecca. I have had a time in this town I live in because I don't have a FA degree. I am self taught and have been looked down on by the academic art group that pretty much run the art activities in my town. So I just do not participate anymore. Its to much stress for me. I think I'm an artist, so I guess that is what is important. I try to think outside the box when I paint and do use unconventional tools sometimes. That's what makes it fun! I so enjoy your blog!

    1. There are bullies and snobs in every walk of life, and frankly, sometimes I'd like to deck them! Not very peaceable but there it is. I do not have an FA degree either and have seen some work by a few who do have the degree, but their art is not appealing. Keep doing what you're doing and give yourself the the satisfaction of enjoying your art. And someday soon, hopefully, the people in your area will wake up! :)


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