Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fortunate Event Number 4

This fall stacked up to be a series of fortunate events that began when the printer head clogged beyond repair. Weeks of brain-draining research and assessment later, that decision was made which opened up art card printing right about the same time I was making concept break-throughs that needed a different media than Pastels. I just didn't want to even think about these using pastels.

That's where I was back in November when I discovered Joseph Raffael. He was featured in Watercolor Magazine. After a visit to his website I bought his book, (which I highly recommend). I fell in love with his process and especially his older work. In it I saw what floats around in my head: A mixture of abstraction, realism, and jewel-tone color. It combined neatly with what I was discovering about value, color inversion, and abstraction through Photoshop.

So in the first week of December we had a morning with pretty light. I went to the garden to see what could be found – Joseph Raffael abstraction+realism still strongly in mind. For an instant I was disappointed-what will I find in a garden of brown bushes and sticks? And then I kicked myself. “Think like an artist, look for the shapes of shadow and light, the edges, the movement of these shapes and spaces…color can come later.”

Here is 'Spirea Dreams 3' from that session. There were quite a few that worked out (7) and I had fun turning them into cards…which I’ll post on the card blog. I keep thinking they would make really cool watercolors if done much larger than life. It will be a while before my watercolor legs are strong enough to take on a project like that, so until then, the digital versions are really cool.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year, New Directions

Happy New Year everyone. It’s been a while since I posted, but a series of fortunate events has kept me quite distracted.

Since I first entertained this idea of learning to paint and becoming an artist I have been racking my brain to get a fix on my visual voice. Knowing what it looks like drives selections in reference work, media, and focus. I knew it was nearby, practically underfoot, but I could not get a solid glimpse of it. This led to a feeling of creative resistance as I made myself do ‘something’ until I could figure it out.

 Two of the fall events led to what you see today. First, I began to explore the Photoshop filters and an adjustment layer I had never tried. These tools allowed me to explore the relationship of nature’s values in an image to the visibility of the architectural design in the image. I found that frequently the brights and darks were in the wrong places, and the mid-tones suffered from tonal muddiness. This is just nature, but it is also why we don’t even SEE what’s right in front of us. I don’t have any qualms about turning values and colors on their heads if it helps me find the music. Reality is overrated.

In this image we see the photo crop of the tree canopy. The sky is brightly overcast and the branches dark. This means that the sky fights with the red canopy for attention, and the branches are a non-item.
However, change the sky to black, the branches to white, and tweak the mid-tones into a neutral...and vio-la! Now the branches and canopy are subject and the sky recedes into graphic support.

That was so much fun I tried different color combinations of sky and foliage and found that I could do a whole series with one image. Now I really think these would benefit from watercolor as the backgrounds have lost their luminance, and with dark branches they would benefit from a ‘cleaning up’, but it’s exciting to see the possibilities laid out so clearly.

This break through begged the question: Now what? Is digital art 'the' medium or is this just a step towards painting? Is Pastel really what you want to use for this crisp graphical look? More on the answer in the next post.