Monday, June 29, 2009

Rejuvenating Old Photos

One of the satisfying things about working in Photoshop is being able to give an old photo new life, or in some cases to repair the damage done by time and careless handling. My guess is that this picture of my Uncle Ken was taken in the early thirties, and the photographer hand-tinted the bird on his sweater and the grass in the background (which was probably green to begin with). After I’d scanned the photo and got it on-screen in Photoshop, I could see this “painting” was crudely done, but I decided not to alter the color, just brighten it up.
You will get some idea of the original state of Uncle Ken’s photo if you compare it to the one taken of my father at the same time (see below left). Restoring Dad’s childhood picture is probably the most difficult task I’ve attempted in Photoshop. The vertical creases through his face were really challenging to repair. I actually thought re-working the eye area would be the hardest, but it turned out to be the chin. Go figure.

The interesting thing about photo retouching is that each picture presents its own set of visual problems that need to be solved. While the tools to do this are available in Photoshop—I use the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing Brush tools the most—in the end it’s more about the moment-to-moment creative decisions you make than anything else.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Journaling and Memory

I rarely re-read entries I’ve made in my journal because I’ve found I don’t like what I’ve written—or more accurately, I don’t like to be reminded of the mood I was in at the time. I know some people use their journal to celebrate, but I tend to write in mine when I want to ponder the meaning of life, or to whine.
On the other hand, I don’t mind revisiting the art I’ve done—even if I don’t like it. My collages and drawings have their own kind of memory that has nothing to do with how I’m feeling about the events of my life at the time. In this journal I used dollar store paints for my backgrounds. It’s not the kind of paint I’d use on canvas because it’s too thin and has a chalky texture when it dries. But I’ve found it works just fine on the paper in a Moleskine sketchbook.

I like the two green pages below mainly because of the stamped dress. Anything paper-dollish appeals to me for some reason …maybe because I got so much pleasure from playing with paper dolls as a child.
What I remember about the red pages at the beginning of this post is how annoyed I was by the way they turned out. It was the first time I’d used a Copic marker and I really disliked how thickly I drew the lines around the map shapes. Normally I would have just obliterated what I’d done and started again. However, there’s something about being almost at the end of a journal that makes you anxious to finish it, so I let them be.
I think I was feeling much the same way when I did these last two pages of the journal. When in doubt, Stick in a Parrot is my motto. Well, not really. But what a parrot represents to me is Joseph Cornell (with maybe a splash of Monty Python?) In any case, if you have an image that appeals to you, just pop it in when you feel stuck. It may not do anything to improve what you’re working on, but at least you’ll feel good using it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weekend Play Spaces

I thought I’d show you some of the pictures I took yesterday when I was at my friend Bev’s for an art day. Six of us got together to play with alcohol inks on bamboo tiles, dominos and clear plastic—and later on, pouring UTEE into molds.
A few months ago Mary taught me how to make molds. I was really pleased with how they turned out at the time, and took them along to our playday. By the time we got to that point, though, my camera had run out of juice.
Because I’d posted photos earlier in the week of different art tables, I really noticed how people worked yesterday. Some were messy, some were neat, and still others (like me) seemed to swing wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other.
What I tend to do is to get messier and messier until I reach the point where I only have a postage stamp-sized space to work in. Then I regroup and start all over again in pristine surroundings. It’s obvious to me that 50 per cent of the time I spend creating involves tidying and sorting, 30 per cent involves trying to make decisions and the rest of the time I’m hands on.

(I really don’t like to think about how productive I’d be if I was (A) Neat (B) Decisive).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Art Tables...

It just occurred to me now that I have other photos of art tables to share with you. To the right is Carin Brahm leaning on the stamping table that she shares with her cat Sammy. Below is a shot I took of Carmi's studio a couple of years ago. I know she has reorganized recently can read about it on her blog, but this photo will give you some idea of how industrious and inspired she always is.

Art tables

I wish someone would do a book on artist tabletops. Not only would each one be different, but I’m sure they’d also be inspiring—or at least satisfy some of that insatiable curiosity we have about other artists and their stuff.
I took this photo of Mary’s art table (see above) when I was up at her boat last summer. I love how she always has tons of stuff going, and yet it all ends up working together.

I got this shot of Anita and Brenda’s journals at Artfest. Brenda was working on a double-page spread of her experience in Susan Wooldridge’s poetry class, and I remember wishing I could draw as well as she does.

Jeanne sent me this picture of some of her pottery finds when she went mudlarking recently on the banks of the Thames. defines mudlarking as: Chiefly British: a person who gains a livelihood by searching for iron, coal, old ropes, etc., in mud or low tide. I used to call it “rooting around the beach hoping to find cool stuff,” but mudlarking sounds much more romantic to me. (You can read more about this on the Icons: a portrait of England website).

And finally, here’s a photo of my own art table, which John took last week. The mixed media piece I’m working on isn’t finished yet, but it’s definitely progressing. Just looking at the photo reminds me of that when I’m tempted to think nothing has “happened.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Soul of a Flower

It’s always a good day when you feel you’ve accomplished something creatively. What I find difficult, though, is working away for hours but having little to show for it—at least in a tangible sense. That’s certainly been the case with today, but I don’t feel disappointed. I think I’m finally beginning to understand that there has to be an in-working before there’s an out-working. And furthermore, the process keeps reinventing itself in different ways.
While I was playing in Photoshop tonight with these photos John took this afternoon, I started thinking about how I amazed I am when our flowers actually bloom every spring. For maybe 51 weeks of the year they’re getting ready for this. Then they do their thing, peak and start all over again. The funny thing is, the same plant seems to produce blooms with a different personality each year. Like this pink poppy for instance. This year you can see the carpals and stamens through the petals, and the effect is like looking at a tiny soul cradled inside each bloom. I can see now why people become addicted to painting flowers and I know I could stay up all night doing this. (If you’re working in Photoshop, I would recommend experimenting with the Dry Brush, Palette Knife, Paint Daubs and Water Paper filters).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Empty or Spacious?

I spent some time looking through my journal tonight because I felt too lazy to do anything creative. I’d never realized it before, but some of my pages look kind of empty …as if they wanted me to add something to them and I’d forgotten to.
On the other hand, why should I add something just for the sake of adding something? In the parrot spread above, the pink flower is a transfer done on Japanese paper that Mary showed me how to do back in February. After I glued it down, I kept adding things until it looked done and then I stopped.
Is the right hand page on this lilac spread empty or spacious? Hmmm. I keep changing my mind about this. I have a feeling I won’t be adding anything to it though. Some things are just better left as a question mark.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday Night

Tonight I talked on the phone to my sister Pam about romance novels, created this ATC in Photoshop, and then played several intense games of Tetris to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game’s invention.
I’ve been a Tetris fanatic for about fifteen years now, and it’s the greatest time waster ever. I usually play on my vintage Game Boy, but since the batteries are drained, I had to go online instead.
Tetris is the only game I play and I’m addicted to it. I’ve always felt guilty about this and a little embarrassed too. Tetris is the kind of game you associate with nerdy teenage boys and the movie Hackers. My family thinks my Tetris habit is hilarious, but the weird thing is that with all the practice I’ve had playing it over the years, I’ve actually become really good at it.
Aside from wasting time in an absorbing manner, is there any purpose to playing Tetris? I didn’t think so until I read an article about an Oxford University experiment which found that Tetris reduces post-traumatic stress syndrome.
I’ve gone off track here because what I meant to write about is: How come it’s Saturday night and everyone I know is either on the computer or watching TV? In other words: what ever happened to date night?
Not that I’m complaining. Back in the 70s I received the Antisocial Person of the Year Award from my group of friends. As my boyfriend at the time explained it: “Susan’s idea of a really good time is reading a book.”
I never felt like I had to be out socializing just because I was supposed to …although I do remember going to the movies one Saturday night on my own, and then running into the guy I was dating with another girl. I made a point of going over and saying “hi” to them just to see the look on his face.

In retrospect, it must have been this traumatic event which eventually led me to Game Boy, and the healing power of Tetris on a Saturday night.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Photoshop Magic

The New York Times ran an article a week ago called Smile and Say ‘No Photoshop. It basically focuses on how magazines have gone overboard with digital enhancement. Thanks to the Photoshop wizards who work their magic on models that are already gorgeous, pimples can be removed, teeth whitened and hips whittled.
But Kate Winslet wasn’t happy with the result when she posed for British GQ a few years back. She complained the cover photo didn’t look like her because her legs had been Photoshop-ed to look longer and skinnier.
In a recent issue of French Elle, Sophie Marceau appears on the front cover without make up or any digital tinkering. She looks fabulous of course, although it seems sad to me the magazine has to tell us that nothing has been done. Should we consider everything is inauthentic unless we’re told otherwise? And where do you draw the line?
I gave Emma’s boyfriend Bryan this picture of them for his birthday, and I must say Photoshop came in very handy here. I combined three different photographs to come up with a composite that worked. But I didn’t remove any blemishes or whiten any teeth. I try and avoid doing this for the most part, even though I’d be tempted to fix myself up if I was working on a picture with me in it.