I love the media of pastel – for the rich color and soft shapes that can be depicted. Autumn is a great time to be inspired by the natural landscape, to find images particularly suited to pastels:
Those people familiar with my work probably correctly guessed that the images above are not pastel works but rather are abstract photos that I took and created, with the intent of using them as reference images for future pastel paintings.
Do you ever find yourself wanting to ( perhaps even needing to) do something different with your painting – but are feeling blocked, just unable to get started? One solution may be as near as your smartphone.
Specifically I am suggesting that you use some common photo apps with built-in transformative filters. Take a standard image and then apply a filter or six to see what happens. I’m not suggesting just painting the transformed photo but you might start off that way and once you creative juices are flowing, use that first painting as a jumping off point for a second.
These are some variations I came up with using the Cameraringo app on my Android device:
To me each of these variations suggests a different approach/media/color palette that I could use, and once applied to one image I’d likely carry the idea across to a little series.
Incidentally, here is the original image that spawned the five variations shown above:
I have often used camera motion during a long exposure to create an abstract photo. I recently took some of these photos one evening in downtown Edmonton and discovered after the fact that I have used a good variety of camera motions for different effects.
In my previous post I shared 5 abstract photos from a 2014 February 17 photoshoot. Here are another 5 from that particularly creative and productive batch.
As with most of my previous abstract photos, my basic technique is to use a long exposure (made possible by a neutral density filter) and then move the camera in a particular direction during the exposure. Post processing to emphasize color and contrast is usually also required.
Someday, I am looking forward to using some of these photographic images as inspiration, starting points for large paintings.
John’s forte is painting urban scenes with watercolor. Our painting location for this day was the Garry Oaks Winery. This place wasn’t an urban location but John found a suitable building on the premises to use as the subject for his demonstration piece. Not being particularly drawn to buildings myself I found this site with many opportunities for landscape paintings. I’m particularly fond of the parallel lines of the rows of the vineyard.
Shortly after our arrival at 9 AM, the group gathered together and John began his demonstration. Unlike many instructors who do not like to actually demonstrate by creating a full work from start to finish, John did. He did do a few things in preparation before the group arrived and also did a bit of work while we were scattered in the fields. Nonetheless, through the two demo sessions that he did we got a good idea of how he approached his work. John works in watercolor so many of the tips and techniques (e.g. masking off sections of the painting and use a mouth-blown sprayer) of that he shared won’t have direct applicability to my current style but I have carefully tucked away his approaches for future use.
One thing that John talked about which is fully applicable to any media, concerned values and planning your composition. He said to consider that your scene has three regions: a foreground, a middle ground and a background. Also consider that there are three value families: Light (say values 1 to 3, on a nine point scale), middle (values 4 to 6) and darks (values 7 to 9 ). John suggested doing thumbnail sketches of the composition using all of the combinations of value families with the three regions. For example you could do the foreground in your darkest values, your mid-ground with your middle values and the background in your lightest values – or you could flip that around making your foreground lightest and background darkest. Or maybe you make your middle ground darkest
There are 6 combinations of the value families that you can assign to the three different sections of your painting and each can impart a different mood on the scene. Also worth remembering is that you don’t need to be a slave to reality – just because nature is presenting you with a scene where the background (e.g. distant hills and sky) are very light, your painting does not have to be the same (it could be – but that your choice!).
This lesson stuck with me, it was with me through that day as I tried to apply the idea, but it was also there in the back of my mind throughout the rest of the week. A good principle, a good lesson!
After the morning demonstration, I wandered up and down the road beside the vineyard looking for just the right scene to capture my attention. I ended up finding a nice spot in the shade under a massive old oak tree, looking out over a section of the vineyard with curving rows. I would spend the rest of the day in that spot and although the painting, didn’t turn out to my satisfaction. I kept repeating my mantra from Day 1 ” I don’t have to produce a finished painting, I am just here to learn”!
During the course of the day, John made the rounds to visit the students scattered around the property, offering individual suggestions. He got to me quite late in the day and suggested that I add a figure as a focal point. I don’t often include figures in my landscapes (although I often thought I should). Anyway, I did put in a suggestion of a figure and have to agree that it does add a focal point to an otherwise ungrounded painting. What do you think?
So that was day 2 – another day of solid learning, another day of not so successful painting – and all in a very beautiful locale. [click here to read about Day 3]
When I made the trip from Edmonton to Salt Spring Island for the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) 2012 workshop, the primary purpose was the workshop, which was focused on plein air painting. My personal goal for the trip was a bit broader than just painting. For me, this was an opportunity to indulge my other artistic passion – photography. On this trip I carried three cameras with me: a Nikon DSLR with three lenses and accessories (all of the photos in this blog post came out of the Nikon), a Panasonic point-and-shoot camera and my Samsung Galaxy S III . Between these cameras I collected some 2500 images over the 10 days!
Within the realm of photography I had three distinct goals:
1. The first was to capture reference photos of the varied coastal and inland landscapes for use in landscape paintings.
2. My second goal was to take some good, clear quality photos that can stand on their own.
3. The third goal was to capture abstract photo images that might serve as references for abstract paintings.
With these abstract photos I do not look for details or necessarily recognizable elements. I am more interested in capturing colors and patterns and flowing lines. My basic technique for abstracting an image is through motion between the camera and subject, during the exposure. This often requires a slow shutter speed which may necessitate using a neutral density filter. I usually will move the camera (in one or more directions) but on this trip I was also traveling by train so I also made use of the train’s motion relative to the landscape outside. In this blog post I share a few of the abstract images I generated on this trip.
That first image was shot from the train on the way to Vancouver. When I got to Salt Spring Island I spent my first day (the day before the painting workshop began) hiking with my camera gear. I set off for a favorite place from my visit to the island 5 years earlier – the rain forest in the valley of Cusheon Creek . With the heavy, lush tree cover, it was not very bright (except for where the sun broke through the canopy). These conditions were however quite suitable for the long exposure shots that I was taking.
As beautiful and quiet as the Cusheon Creek area was, it was a bit unnerving – just as I entered the area I noticed a sign warning that a cougar had been spotted in the area! Fortunately I did not run into one (but it was always in the back of my mind).
After this day of photography, it was 5 days of painting (with a bit, okay quite a bit, of reference photography) before another free day to wander about with the cameras and then a couple of travel days. I returned to Edmonton from Vancouver via the train, so once again had an opportunity to see what type of abstractions I could capture while in motion.
In this post I share some recent abstract landscape photos. I’ve called this losing the landscape because I have pushed the abstraction to the point that the images may not read as originating from the landscape – but they all did.
As I have done to create abstracted photos in the past, these were made using a 2 to 4 second exposure (with neutral density filters to allow that exposure). During the exposure I move the camera about in a linear or rotational fashion, or just with a gentle random shaking.
This next image may be the most suggestive of a landscape, with the green and blue
This is another series of abstracted photographs. As I have shared previously, the technique I use is to employ a neutral density filter that allow me to use shutter speed in the 2 to 4 second range. During this long exposure I will move the camera – normally in a direction parallel to the lines I wan to emphasize. In the previous and next image I would have followed the line of the vertical trunk. Generally I don’t want too great a range of movement and might go back and forth over a short displacement during the exposure.
“Morning Light” was the result of a bit of a happy accident. I neglected to stop down my neutral density filter sufficiently to get a “proper” exposure. The image was over-exposed but still one I could work with in post-processing. I liked the over blown background exposure that resulted.
The yellow at the base of the tree (that you may be able to make out in the previous image was from the lichen that I typically find on the trees around the Edmonton region. Especially in the winter this color seems intense. However, straight out of the camera, these long exposure images typically do not have much color, so I usually will bump up the color saturation significantly to get an image that feels to me like what I was actually seeing/feeling.
Not much to say about this group of photos, other than that they were all taken using long (4 seconds) hand-held exposures with deliberate camera motion. The early morning time of day is responsible the dominating blue cast to these images.
I frequently have been achieving “painterly”, abstract effects on my photos through the use of intentional camera motion. By using a neutral density filter I am able to shoot at a 2 to 4 second shutter speed which allows me plenty of time to move the camera about, effectively painting with the available light upon my camera sensor. In general the effect is to soften edges and blur the image but depending on the type of motion, different results can be achieved.
Here was the basic scene (i.e regular shutter speed, no motion) that I used for the following demonstration:
In this next image of the same scene I used a 4-second exposure and moved the camera vertically – more like tipping it forward and back using my wrists. This type of motion tends to preserve the vertical elements of the picture, such as tree trunks.
In this second image (again a 4 second exposure) I moved the camera rapidly in a horizontal fashion throughout the exposure. The effect is to soften, to blur those vertical edges. If there were a strong horizontal element it would of course have been reinforced. I like this motion for a landscape with a definite horizon line.
In this final variation I incorporated both vertical and horizontal motion – rapidly moving the camera back and forth horizontally for a couple of seconds, then moving it up and down for the last two seconds. The edges are soft and I like the grid like texture that results
Another of my standard “tricks”/requirements with these long exposures with camera motion is to increase the contrast and color saturation during post processing. Here, for example is tha last image straight out of the camera: