Sunday, July 8, 2012

Canna - Learning to Subjugate Color

Today's post is a Canna foliage portrait. You can see from the snapshot below of the Canna bed, that it would be easy to overlook this patch as completely unremarkable. Pursuing the back-lit foliage, I was up close and personal when I noticed the lovely texture of the palm trunk in the background. From then on, the goal was to find some arrangement of foliage that included interesting spaces.

You can see from the snapshot that the foliage is a luminous lime green edged in wine. I am a sucker for color, so naturally took the initial processing in the direction of purple. I was enamored of this version for quite a while (third image below.) and was preparing to paint it in watercolor, when I realized that the values were misplaced for a painting composition. The lightest areas were in the background, while the large shapes were colorful, but too dim to function as a subject.

I went back to Photoshop several times over a matter of months seeking an improvement in values and coloring and eventually arrived here, at this more neutralized version. It was a long journey because I had to fall out of love with purple before I could accept that what worked for this image was to subjugate color, brighten the canopy leaves, and allow the lines to carry the composition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Using Digital Tools for Artful Purpose

This picture is an example of a photo that was improved dramatically, made artful even, with careful cropping, big color changes, and Photoshop filters. This daylily from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens summer 2011 held its blooms at about 6 feet high. The blooms were yellow, making little contrast against a hazy blue sky. Why even look for a shot? Because I liked the slender simplicity of the plant and the distant foliage  had interesting texture, though the eye homogenized it all into summer green. When I found a bronzy green that made the foliage interesting, it led to the idea of pushing the yellow of the daylily into a contrasting orange red. The flashed out highlights on the petals suddenly became graphically important, knitting together sky and subject and lending fitting emphasis to the flowers. The fresco filter pushed the darkest color even darker, further highlighting the subject and granulating the color values  in the tree canopy.

What is the story here? Exuberance. Fearless simplicity, Openness....a daring and refreshing attitude in an overly complicated world.

Consider the Story in the Composition

Trumpet Vine (Campsis) with Canna.
One of the things that digital art is teaching me is how to think about story while I'm composing and deciding on artistic treatment. Stories don't have to be complex, as long as they transmit a concept.

One is accustomed to thinking of the flowers as the star of the show, especially red ones, so the eye finds the flowers first, but in this case, it's not about the flower, which is uncomfortably washed out. Notice how quickly your eye drops to the beautiful bark that glows beneath the flower and flows along the trunk. Then it slides up the colorful stained glass canna stems where the cool elegance of  emerald foliage stops you, makes you linger in the canna shapes. Finally you realize that under consideration is a trumpet vine flower,  hot, glaring, and leaning against a pole with a magazine-model's studied coolness basking in a lavish setting.

The subject is not the flower, but the attitude. I keep hearing that song..."I'm too sexy for my shirt..."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Spirea Series

For a while now I've been trying to think of a nice presentation package for my digital art work. Because it's not traditional imagery and treatment, I am hoping that providing a sense of 'presence' will help viewers consider the imagery as interpretation, not journalism. Here's an idea that has stuck with me.

In these images I have used Illustrator to help me work out a plan in which I print the image with footer signature, title and print number. I intend to print on Polar Matte paper for the most part. It's a luxurious velvety finish. Then mount this as a float, and print the colored 'background mat' so I have control of available colors. The complete package is assembled of rag mat or foam core with background mounted, float with image on top of that, and a mat spacer at the perimeter made from the  foam core I used for the float. Topping this off is a hinge-mounted top mat. The assembled package is sized for a 16x20 frame (image on the print is about 8x12), and will be slipped into a cello bag for sales. While I will strive for white mats, I am finding that images that feature significant darks are overwhelmed by a white mat, but seem to pop in a colored mat of proper value. Here are Illustrator samples from the Spirea work of December 2010.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For the Love of Cabbage

Winter of 2011 I grew some ornamental cabbage on the patio. I love how the thick veins branch in ruffled leather and how beads of rain dance on the surface. It's very textural, but it's still just cabbage, right? I think of the digital production process as a puzzle and a journey. When I'm thrilled, I know I've found what I was seeking.
I see a good metaphor here as well. We are each simple cabbages,. but God sees so much more than that. God sees our spirit, our design, the life and the art flowing together. In God's eye, cabbages are so much more interesting than they think they are.

Cabbage - Dreamer  by Carol Anne Brown
Cabbage - Brave Heart by Carol Anne Brown
Brave Heart
Cabbage - Happiness by Carol Anne Brown

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life is a River

I love rivers as metaphors for life, and this image is particularly rich with metaphoric possibility.

Today’s piece is again from the Nantahala River trip. The steep mountainsides keep the ambient light low and the reflected sky cobalt clue. Golden fall colors set the river aflame. Nothing special was done to this image aside from standard brightness and contrast adjustments…and creative cropping.

Nature is such an enormous canvas; there are dozens of stories being told everywhere we look. Our minds average them into an overall experience. Even within the viewfinder, what was aimed at one story, on closer inspection may reveal a composite of several woven stories. Maybe it’s just my perspective, but I find that these competing threads dilute the impact of an image. I always look forward to the gems my cropping tool and I will uncover as we sift through a photo shoot.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reflections In Old Nantahala

One of my focuses on the Fall 2011 trip was to photograph reflections in water. I hoped to capture some inspirations for abstracts.Across the road from the big aqueduct I wrote about in the last post is the old Nantahala River. It's a demure little creek now, with a couple decent falls along it's path.We had stopped at one of those falls. To my left the falls, and to my right...this.
Well, this was part of it, anyway.
There is no enhancement here, the colors were satiny glorious just as you see them here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nantahala Aqueduct

 (edited May 4, 2012)
I have not shared much from my body of digital art online for several reasons, but the ‘Just 3 Years’ thought frame has really challenged the validity of those reasons.It also launched a wave of deep thought, that just today has clarified something for me. My digital art is it's own journey. I use the camera to explore my world. I bring to it my own perspective, and in post processing, I reveal even more of what I was sensing in the field. I'm usually not happy with it until I'm surprised.

Today’s entry is a piece of the Duke Power plant's aqueduct photographed on a recent trip to the Nantahala gorge area. I rarely do landscapes or architecture, but this hunk of pipe was just so beautiful, I couldn't resist.

If you’re not a local, Nantahala means ‘land of the noon day sun.’ The gorge itself, for which the national forest is named, is a rather limited area of steep and closely set mountains in western North Carolina. It gathers the area waters into the Nantahala river which is collected in the man-made Nantahala Lake. The Duke Power company siphons off lake water through a giant aqueduct running along Old River Road, which appears to be the original Nantahala river, (now a quiet creek along a sandy road). I recently came across a mention that this pipeline may not be in use any more. A much larger creek spills out of the bottom of the lake. Locals call this Dick's Creek as nearly as I can gather. The two merge again later while still in the gorge. (You can see a snapshot of what I think is called Dicks Creek Falls on my nature blog.) The water from the aqueduct pours (or poured? might not be in use now) through the turbines at the bottom of the gorge where it joins the smaller creeks and creates a great river famous for exciting rafting.

The exact name of this aqueduct pipe is unknown to me. Given it's location, Nantahala seems to fit best, but there is a nearby wide spot in the road called Aquone that gets credit for an aqueduct, apparently bored through the mountains with a waterfall inside of the more I research the more confusing it gets.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marketing is Art Too

Today, Alyson B Stanfield of the ArtBizBlog asks why some artists are uncomfortable with commercial promotion of their work. Is there such a thing as too commercial?

Personally, I think when artists express this concern, they are really asking a hidden question and revealing a hidden fear:
  • The Question: Do they have permission from the ‘star-makers’ to do their own marketing? The anti-branding of Thomas Kinkade by snarky critics was very effective. Their derision was irrelevant to Kinkade's market, but it certainly instilled fear of commercial marketing (and distaste for one very effective body of work) in the minds of artists! What they all seemed to ignore, was the fact that Kinkade's market was not the typical artist's market. He was targeting the people that artists (who want to make a living) abandoned long ago.
  • The Fear: Due to the widespread misuse of statistics and language, and to its association with mass produced goods, 'commercial' marketing in general smells in-authentic. It also sounds like it's out of scale for the typical artist career. The very word 'commercial' may be the source of resistance.

Both the question and the fear reveal a need for more information:
  • Everyone who wants to sell their art needs to self-brand. It creates a consistent and ‘sticky’ message. When you pay big money for Manolo Blahnik shoes…notice that it’s the artist's NAME which accrues all the mystique and value created by the quality of the shoe.. A marketing professional can help you assemble a memorable and classy combo of  typeface, coloring, and catchphrases to use throughout your marketing pieces.
  • Placement is essential. Your brand will acquire the  perceived economic value of the product that surrounds it. This applies to art shows, galleries, print publications.(This is why Kinkade needed his own galleries.) If you show in a yard sale, you can make a sale, but only at yard sale prices. The higher up the socioeconomic ladder you travel, the more it costs to be presented and presentable, both in marketing production and in your own social skills. The price of your work reflects these costs.
  • Marketing can begin as simply as determining the subject matter and style that best reflects your spirit and promises a long creative pathway. Fill show walls, website pages, newsletters, and gallery fliers with that style work + your name. Repeat.  Repeat some more.  Ta-da! Branded and marketed. If you desire further reach and  targeting of your audience, professional services are well advised.
  • Use the commercialism necessary to reach your buying audience. Marketing makes the knowledge of and access to your work convenient to the buyer. Each target audience (and there are subsets within each), has a specific expectation in price, subject, and quality.
    • The mass market (suited to prints, mass production,)
    • The upper middle-class market (suited to artists with local reach and local pricing with traditional and regional styles and subjects.)
    • The academic and private collector markets  (Unique artistic voices reflective of a collection theme or of private collector taste.)
If you want to sell your art on a regular basis, 'commercial' is not a bad word. After all, its root is 'commerce' which is your espoused goal. A marketing professional designs the whole package, from commercial art to messaging and publications to suit YOUR art style and target market. If you look at the package and don't LOVE the way your work is packaged, then pick another marketer. Marketing is art too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Golden Moment

"Golden Moment" Watercolor on 300lb Arches Cold Press

Oh my, it’s been so long since I posted last. Whatever have I been doing?

Well, I embarked on my study of watercolor. One needs paints. Which ones? That lead me to books on techniques that specialized in glazing, mixing, textures, and color theory for palette selection. 

Along the paint education path I found Hillary Page’s encyclopedic reference book, Guide to Watercolor Paints. I learned a great deal about pigments, light-fastness, why certain ones mix better than others according to their light refraction curve, paint names, and how paint handling varies by manufacturer. Wow. I love this stuff. I sadly dumped some Holbein favorites that were not light-fast, others that were opaque, and ordered some Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith paints to go with the remaining Holbein favorites.

I spent months mixing colors and creating charts to explore and document proportions between 2 mixed colors. In every chart was a surprising discovery. I could be a professional chart maker. (LOL)
Finally in June I felt ready to try putting the elements together into a painting. The first one worked out well enough, but I won’t publish it here, because it was soon eclipsed.

The second pass was with a very flawed photo of Alocasia leaves as seen in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Fortunately I had a good memory and my trusty Photoshop to help me find my way back to inspiration.

I used wet in wet to mingle complimentary colors into browns. I carved in veins while wet. I masked to save hard edges. I mixed and glazed and painted wet on dry. Finally, I used Pitt Pen to build in texture and contrast in passages.

**I have since darkened that pale stripe up the center leaf...but have not re-photographed because it is now framed.

The knowledge gem that this piece delivered was about the additive property of colors in glazing.

The background was giving me fits. Having removed it twice, this final pass produced results I could accept.

I began with a rich coat of Hooker green (which is PG7 and PY150-Nickel Azo). It was grass ‘green’ so I glazed it with a coat of Holbein Peacock Blue (PB15-Phthalo blue + PG7) which I had used in the large leaf already. I did not get blue green. I got a richer Hooker green. Why? The extra layer of PG7 and the fact that PB15 and PY150 make green, I had nothing BUT green on the paper! Note to self.

I wanted it to be earthier and much darker, so I mixed Hooker green with Quinacridone Burnt Orange (also already in the painting) until it was a perfectly balanced coffee brown. What I got was a rich forest green now with a granulated brown texture. Hooker does have a slight granulating tendency, but it doesn’t always show up. Another batch of rich coffee-colored glaze, and I had finally found the value and texture I had been seeking. Lucky me!