Monday, January 19, 2015

Metamorphosis Of A Photo

Today I thought I would show you the steps taken to make the final photo creation.

Here's the photo of a lovely coneflower (which, by the way, I did not take, it is a free stock photo. Free is good!)

 In this next picture, it has been cropped, bringing the selected image closer, and then changed to black and white.

This is a texture sheet; I added it to the photo in Photoshop Elements 13 (PSE13), blended it in the overlay mode with an opacity of 82%.

And this is the result. The writing shows, and the color from the texture adds interest to the photo. I could stop here, but I thought I would go a little further.

 Here I added a filter with Topaz, a wonderful plug in that works with PSE. I really like the resulting warmth and the immediate feeling that there is a story here.

Now the photo is ready to go into the Bellesouth Studio and will be available as prints, pillows, cards and phone cases!

Hope you enjoyed seeing how this was done!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Poinsett Bridge

Today I had a treat - it was the second sunshiny day in a row and we went out for a ride, taking the dogs with us. It has been months since I had left the house for something other than a doctor's appointment or a hair trim. We picked up lattes, mine was decaf, and started down the road. We ended up at Poinsett bridge, a familiar place to us and our dogs. I hadn't been able to visit there since the summer of 2013. 

 Poinsett Bridge, named for Joel Roberts Poinsett (of Poinsettia fame), was built of local stone in 1820 as part of a road from Columbia, SC to Asheville NC. The bridge includes a 14-foot Gothic arch, is wide enough for a carriage, and stretches 130 feet over Little Gap Creek. Though no longer in use, the stone bridge remains largely intact. The bridge is part of the 120-acre Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve . Poinsett bridge is off U.S. Highway 25 north of Greenville, SC. and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. It is a lovely area and attracts local visitors especially in the summer to escape the heat. 

It's in a very narrow place between two mountains, which I guess was why it was chosen as a place to build a bridge. It was part of a road to connect Charleston SC with Asheville NC,  and especially used in the summer when wealthy homeowners could escape the dreadful heat in Charleston, with its yearly dangers of Yellow Fever and Cholera.

Today I focused on the arch, topped with a lovely keystone. I imagined workmen's hands place each stone carefully to support the bridge. As you can tell from the width of the arch, the bridge was just the size for a worse and wagon, stage or carriage to cross over it in comfort. Each stone could tell a story.

The photograph may need a boost in contrast, so I may do some tinkering with it tomorrow.I like the angle of the bank and the creek, I just think the overall image needs to be richer. 

On another note, I noticed that Blogger has lost all of my pictures and I need to look into that. I'm not happy about it and I have been thinking I will change my web address for my blog. Perhaps this has pushed me in that direction!

PS, here I changed the contrast, which creates more interest-I really like this much better!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Painter's Primer, Part Two

Last week, I posted here  about a list of 100 points made by teacher Irwin Greenberg and given to his students. He called it the Painter's Primer and I had some issues with a few of his points. We covered 1-10, and now I will move on with 11-20.

11. Don’t settle for yourself at a mediocre level. Although a somewhat awkward sentence structure, this is a good point. I think it's dangerous for our creative processes if we start to think, "Well, this is good enough." Be better than "good enough".

12. Don’t allow yourself to be crushed by failure. Rembrandt had failures. Success grows from failure. Again, I agree. In fact, all artists had failures. Or if you aren't crazy about the word "failure" (I'm not!), use the word mistakes. I've found a great many of my mistakes become "happy accidents" and I do learn a lot!

13. Be a brother (or sister) to all struggling artists. This is so very important. Everyone needs encouragement and it's not that hard to find something to praise about someone else's work.

14. Keep it simple. Another important daily habit. Less stress that way.

15. Know your art equipment and take care of it. Referring back to #5 of the first list, if you invest your money into quality supplies and tools, take a few minutes to make sure you know how to keep them in top shape. What a waste of your time and money if you get ready to work and found you had not cleaned your brushes, or left the covers off of something and it dried out.

16. Have a set of materials ready wherever you go. If you are a painter, there are all kinds of travel kits, and DYI travel kits to put together so that you make the most of every opportunity when out and about. If your medium is in another field, you might try carrying a small journal or sketch book with you, to jot down ideas, or sketch an idea triggered by something you see. Today's cell phones make it easy to capture an image of something that inspired you.

17. Always be on time for work, class, and appointments. It's not chic to be late. It's rude. And since an artist's reputation is made of fragile things, personal habits such as this can go a long way in bolstering your reputation. Perhaps there is another artist who is looking for someone to collaborate with them on a project, or someone who is taking referrals to find someone to do a certain art piece. Be the one that others respect and recommend. Being a Diva only works on TV, and really, it doesn't even work there.

18. Meet deadlines. Be better than your word. This can be part B of #17 above. Again, it's your reputation you are building. Become known as someone who can be trusted.

19. Find a mate who is really a mate. (Read "friend" for mate.) This takes time, and also requires developing instincts about people in general. There are a lot of people out there who are only looking for someone to give them a boost, without returning the favor. Your friend, or mate, doesn't even have to be another artist as long as they support you and have faith in you. And remember, it's important to return that support!

20. Don’t be envious of anyone who is more talented than you. Be the best you can be. Envy can be a real killer - of time, of creativity, of yourself. It sucks life out of you. There will ALWAYS be someone who can do something better than you - so what? Life is not a competition, although our society certainly pushes that idea. Develop yourself, learn from others, and grow in the sunlight. If you let envy in, your eyes have turned away from your true calling and you drift into darkness. Be aware of how easy it is to be envious, and turn yourself away from that steep hill. I find that if I immediately praise the person, even if it is only to myself. I have freed myself of being dragged down by the chains of envy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Painter's Primer, Part One

I recently came across an artist page called Linea: How Artists Think, part of the Art Students League of New York. The post I was reading was a reprint of a painter's primer by Irwin Greenberg, given to his students at the High School of Design in NYC. He passed away in 2009, at 87. It's a long list of 100 points, and I thought I would share it with you a few at a time, and give my thoughts on each point. Here's the first list:

1. Paint every day. This is a good idea if you can, but I would open it up to do something related to your art in some way, whether it's looking at an exhibit, finding something that stirs you for your next project, or even trying another art expression. Sometimes you need to refresh yourself with a new outlook. 
2. Paint until you feel physical strain. Take a break and then paint some more. No. This reminds me of the old fitness mantra of "no pain-no gain", which did no one any good. I already deal with this in some ways because of my illness, but even if you are completely healthy, I can think of no better way to turn yourself off from something you love to do, than to make yourself feel strain.
3. Suggest. OK, I can interpret this as "What if ...?". It keeps you out of a rut, and even if the original idea doesn't work, you never know where it will lead you!
4. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters. For a painter, I can see this being an encouragement. Or you can look at the work of masters in other areas. But for a painter, I would suggest looking specifically at the work in an area where you are struggling, whether it is the form, or handling light, or understanding perspective. There are numerous sites online to help you work out your struggle.
5. Buy the best materials you can afford. Absolutely yes! It is so important to have excellent materials. Not only will it make a difference in your work, but it will lift your spirits not to have to deal with cheap brushes shedding their hairs in the midst of your masterpiece, for example.
6. Let your enthusiasm show. I agree with this, too. Exclaim to the world, wherever you are, that you love what you are doing. Share it! Be ready to share how you did it! People are starved to find beauty and someone who enjoys sharing their abilities.
7. Find a way to support yourself. Always a struggle in these days. In fact, always a struggle down through history. But there are ways, if you are willing to deny yourself some of the latest tech toys and do work others may not want to do, such as housecleaning or being a part time nanny. Perhaps even pizza delivery!
8. Be your own toughest critic. I don't agree with this, because most of us tend to be perfectionists anyway. I'd rather say "Be honest with yourself." There are enough prima donnas in the world who think what they do is greater than it really is.
9. Develop a sense of humor about yourself. Yes. Absolutely! Learn to laugh when it doesn't turn out the way you wanted. It's ok, you're not the first artist to have that happen, and it won't be your only time to have it happen. Ask yourself if it's really worth raising your blood pressure over.
10. Develop the habit of work. Start early every day. When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water. Hmm, well .... yes and no. Developing the habit of working on your creativity, rather than occasionally dabbling in painting a little something, yes, it's a good idea. But some artists aren't early risers. Picasso painted until 3 in the morning, than slept till the middle of the morning. Find your own rhythm, what works best for you and then stick to it. Drinking a glass of water is a good thing as well, but if you struggle with low blood sugar, having a small snack is actually better for staying alert and focused.
Any thoughts on these? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Let me know!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: Digital Expressions by Susan Tuttle

Over the holidays, I added a few instructional books to my Arts library and one of the books was Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art With Adobe Photoshop Elements, by Susan Tuttle. I have had time to look through it, be inspired to do a couple of projects, and share with you some of the pros and cons with this book, as I see them.

I have been teaching myself to use Photoshop Elements (PSE) for the past year or so. (Please also realize that Photoshop and Photoshop Elements are two different programs. PSE is much cheaper and, for me, just fine for what I do with it.) When I first purchased and opened the program, it was very intimidating to me, because there is a lot to it, and most of all, I had no idea where to start, so I drug my feet. In the past couple of years, tutorials about the basics of PSE and also different facets of using all the parts, have sprung up on Youtube, which has been a boon for people like me. I took an online workshop last summer on using PSE to create digital art, and it was informative and great fun. I do not have a technical mind, so I had to absorb a lot of the instructions slowly, by watching the directions repeatedly. I also get frustrated with the Youtube videos, because, although there were many, many videos explaining how to do certain steps, I did not really know what to do FIRST. I hope that makes sense to you!

Ms. Tuttle's book was great for a person like me- all of the information for creating projects was organized together. At the beginning of the book (after stating clearly that she was not writing a PSE operating manual), she lists the PSE tools she will be using, and the explanations for what they do and how you will use them. There are 25 projects, and at the beginning of each one, she tells you what skill you will need to accomplish the project and refers you back to the page number where the explanation lies. It is a wonderful format for creating a project like hers, or to use the information as a springboard for your own inspiration. And there is a CD included with a few images and textures for you to use. It's a book I will refer to often!

The cons are few, but notable. Mainly, this book was published in 2010, which means that in this digital age, it's on the old side as far as technology. She used PSE 6, I have PSE 13 (that's how fast they develop the newer software!) so that means that some of the ways she does things in the book are outmoded. There are many more features in PSE now, and I found I can do in a click what she takes several steps to do, such as merging photos. To me, the artwork is dated now as well, because again, there is more you can do to get the look you want than you could 7 programs ago!

But these minor drawbacks don't make the book useless at all. You need to be somewhat familiar with PSE to understand where you can take a short cut now from the directions she gives. It's available at, and you can purchase a used book pretty cheaply! It's a great book for mastering creative digital techniques.

Before I go, I'll share a project I worked on today; it's not perfect, I'm still seeing what's possible to do, but it was fun putting it together. I'll give some more information about the project in another post.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year

Wishing you a Happy New Year, 3 days into 2015. Still pretty much new, though, so I am sure you won't mind another New Year's greeting. Did you make resolutions? Years ago, I decided that the only resolution I would make from then on, was to make NO resolutions at all. It was immensely calming, knowing I would not have to feel defeated when something did not work out the way I resolved for it to do!

I do, however, like to think about what directions I'd like to go, and what projects I'd like to pursue. And of course, I always hope that this is the year a breakthrough is made in solving the puzzle of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, the disease I struggle with, but of course that is out of my hands. But as far as projects and directions, I do have a few ideas.

One of the projects I would like to see accomplished is to have my work hanging in a local gallery. There are possibilities there, but not anything I can discuss at the moment. Of course, I want to continue improving in my artistic creations, especially in working with encaustics. I purchased a small bottle of propane a few days ago to use in smoothing the wax. I just have to get over my fear of having it explode in my hands, or setting the house on fire! But I am eager to try it, so I will have to will myself to proceed, with caution of course!

Also, before the end of last year, I had determined that I really needed to cull things from my studio and give myself a peaceful place to create art. And I have already begun in that area, giving away some things I no longer needed or used. And I will probably have more to give away as I keep going. I think it's easier to accomplish something like this by beginning before the Day of Resolutions, because the momentum is already there! Flat surfaces will probably always be a problem for me, (always wanting to fill any flat surfaces!) but since I am emptying drawers and baskets, then there is more room for the items cluttering these flat surfaces. 

And it's my desire to keep up with my blog regularly, though I can't say it will be each day, because of my health. But I want to share my thoughts and projects with you, and also some insight into a couple of books that have come my way. And I look forward to being inspired by other artists and by my blog readers. So, please share if you have any thoughts or comments about what you are doing that may benefit others.

Most of all, I would love to see 2015 be a year of blessing for so many people who have been in such hard struggles for the past few years. That is out of my hands as well, but I can pray for this and try to be a blessing in small ways to others. So many people have done the same for me.

May you have a healthy and productive 2015!