Tuesday, July 30, 2013

GIMP-Glowing Rainbow Text Outlines

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Glowing Rainbow Text Effect using GIMP, and as my memory sucks, I’ll turn this into a blog post and tutorial in hopes of committing it to the memory banks.
If you already have the basics, but are not already a GIMP-geek, this may help.

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Here’s what you get if you use a solid fill of turquoise on your textoutline layer, and drop the layer below the brown main text.  The rainbow colours are the result of using a large brush with fuzzy transparent edges and drop in some colours. For the top image, I took an extra step, and duplicated the original text, repeated the ‘path’ instructions but ommitted ‘grow’ and dropped in some other colours into the original brown text.
Now I hope I have this thoroughly memorized and never need read this again.
Also, highly recommend having the The Book of GIMP, by Olivier Lecarme and Karine Delvare.  Mine is thanks to the foresight of Whitchurch-Stouffville Library, I’ll be borrowing it often. I also did some searches for tutorials that were helpful, but in the end, still had to muddle through to get it all down.
Have fun.

PS. It also works with line drawings, select by colour, and 'grow selection' etc.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Each-Uisge, Illustrated using digital technology

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Each-Uisge, digital art using GIMP, and scanned graphite sketch
Each Uisge is a Scottish waterspirit. Regular readers already noticed I’m fascinated by water. The legends surrounding Each-Uisge are dark ones concerning drowning and death, and the pervasive fear of strangers.  He (seems to be characterized as male) usually appears as a black horse or pony and is compelling and seductive, especially to children who are lured into riding his back, but once aboard they cannot jump off, and Each-Uisge takes his rider down into his watery lair (seaside or lake).
I read this long ago, and it stuck, probably because it hits on a number of instinctive levels; even now, children are admonished never to talk to strangers, and especially not get into cars with one, and how much is that exactly like the Each-Uisge legend…no wonder, archaic as it is, it has so much power. 
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The final image began with a piece of paper, and a pencil. The traditional stuff of art.  As usual, it’s A4 (office paper), on a clip board which serves me well as a sketchbook, allowing me the freedom of sifting, sorting and winnowing the spillage of my mind.  The horse came off just as I wanted it, but I had trouble envisioning the human figure.  My art reference nudes didn’t have quite the right pose, and I still couldn’t get things right (those versions now in recycling).
So I set up a photo-shoot for myself donning lavender leotard reserved for the purpose (once upon a time I taught dance).
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After transferring the result to my tablet, I have a handy portable photo reference (although I’m still using a really primitive means to prop it up), and with much eraser finally I have the figure. The horse drawing is underneath this page, and visible to me as I’m drawing. Once I get a drawing right, I’m reluctant to redraw it unless I must.
Once satisfied, I used scissor and tape to stitch it all together, and then scanned it in black and white in GIMP (like photoshop but free).  This allows me to cut the image and superimpose over another (and much more).
Once that was done, I made a digital painting for the image using a mouse, and then applied fractal filters and other manipulations, to get the final result.
I’m still not sure if it’s finished and ready to post on Etsy. I still need to decide on what paper to use. I have mat card stock, but I probably want to try a few more, and make sure I can print it consistently first.
Here’s another, using a scan of a linocut.
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She’s a more benign water spirit, and my physical print looks good on mat paper, so I probably will post this one to Etsy, but not today, I've run out of steam.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Frenchman’s Bay Beach, Playing Hooky

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Frenchman’s Bay, Lake Ontario, Pickering Ontario Canada: accented by a lone wind-turbine, with an aging nuclear power plant looming in the background, I consider this one of the most interesting landscapes I’ve ever swam in.
We used to call it playing hooky, skipping school. Last week the heat was excruciating, (34C), and summers are short, so instead of keeping butt in chair and maintaining the discipline of making art, I headed south to Frenchman’s Bay, Pickering. I grew up there, with a view of the Pickering nuclear generating station from my bedroom window. It hadn’t seemed ominous at the time, being brand shiny new and a hope for the future—clean energy (we’ll figure out what to do with the spent fuel rods later (they still haven’t figured that out)). So some things, remain exactly the same as I’d left them.  But other things change for the better.
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I don’t recall ever, on the many times I walked along the beach as a child, thinking, oh, what a nice place to swim. In fact, I only remember swimming  once (enticed by big waves) and needing a bath when I got home. I remember the water being murky, opaque, green, smelling of fish, wreathed in scum, and dead fish scattered along the beach. Maybe it was never that bad, but that’s how I remember it. 
But that’s not how I found it this summer. I’m still not over the shock/thrill of walking down to the water and seeing it clear and tinged turquoise. While not quite comparable to the pristine beaches of Lake Superior, it was decidedly inviting and beautiful, and I must confess one of the most interesting beaches I’ve every been swimming at.  As a sci-fi fan, the atomic-age scenery created by having the Pickering Nuclear Power Station as a backdrop was not lost me.  The singular show-piece wind-turbine, adds a 21st century touch, and a 1/2 kilometre of clear water and sand beach to swim across made it a surreal pleasure.  I’m still trying to find out how and what changed with the water quality, as it’s so much better than I remember.  And it’s always good to know when that things can change for the better.
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Graphite plein air sketch on A4 paper
I try to maintain a certain discipline in my weekly routine, and the day was still an ‘art day’, so I brought along my portable art kit, a metal (and therefore damp-proof) clip-board and a small stack of A4 paper (my version of a sketch-book). I rarely do on-site sketching, as when outdoors I’m either physically engaged (walking, cycling, skiing, SWIMMING!) or I memorize with my eyes (and camera). But I guess I was feeling guilty about mid-week hooky, so after my first swim, I knuckled down and did some sketches. Most of it was pretty sketchy, folks just WILL NOT STAY STILL, but this pair were parked on the picnic bench just in front of me, oblivious to my observation and they pretty much stayed in one position as they ate their box lunches and thumbed their smart phones.
Mostly, though, my sketches come after the experience, after thoughts and feelings percolate back to the surface.
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This is one I did a few days after my first experience swimming in the beaches downtown Toronto (Cherry Beach and Kew Beach), also a pleasant surprise, as the water was very nice.
BTW: if you’re thinking of swimming in these places, it’s always good to check the beach reports before you go.
Toronto Beaches are tested daily.  http://app.toronto.ca/tpha/beaches.html
For Pickering, Frenchman’s Bay (tests weekly)  Durham Weekly Beach Report (OPEN-means good for swimming, POSTED-means polluted)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Owl Pussy Cat Mermaid Art

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Here's a very keyword friendly linocut. Cats and Owls are both very popular, apparently. So I thought I'd mash it all together, and heck, the Owl and Pussycat Edward Lear poem gives me an excuse to throw in a keyword friendly Silvery Moon and Small Guitar.
I can be sarcastic about all this, but it turns out that I fell in love with this one. It started out with a very sarcastic sketch, inspired by my re-reading the poem, EGADS! I wouldn't want to be that cat.  And then there was Rambo at my side, who forever wears a sour jaded expression (with catsonality to match) and it came rather quickly together. Carving it into life was another story, that took days and hours, but the waves were exciting… almost justifies, heck it DOES JUSTIFY the multitude of hours I've spent watching waves swish, smash and dance upon the beaches of Lake Superior. Burned right into my mind they are… so I gave my latest Mermaid a similar treatment.
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She was conceived with some help from Art Models 2 for the pose, the seaweed strewn rocky perch is a memory from my first and only trip to the ocean. 
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If the watermarks are bigger and more prominent than usual, that's because I was unfortunately reminded of the myth and attitude that unattributed art found on the web is fair game for all including commercial use. Sad, sad, sad.  I am more than ever grateful to those of you who seek out and purchase original art. Thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in fair payment for labour.
Both are available at Etsy:
Owl and Pussycat,
Mermaid
As always, just looking is absolutely free.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Comes of Staring Out the Window--foam plate tutorial

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Here’s a work in progress of my latest foam plate.  Sometimes you need go no further than your chair for inspiration. At a loss for ideas (I actually spend most of my time in that fog) I shifted my gaze away from the blank page and stared off into the middle distance. Luckilly, at this time of the year, my favourite clematis is in full bloom and sight, having climbed up the veranda rail, with a bit of help (see the yarn in the top left of the pic below)
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It’s my favourite clematis for a number of reasons; it’s big, it’s bold, it’s blue, and it has a green anemone centre. It looks like aliens have landed.
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So squinting and staring, I went ahead and sketched it in big bold lines to capture its essence.  My distance vision isn’t perfect, and somehow sitting outside beside it to sketch felt like cheating (sitting outside is my reward for a days work), I reached for my binoculars just to check up on a few details.
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Transferring the sketch onto the fragile foam was the next challenge. I like the orientation of the original image, so I definitely needed it reversed as a relief block.  For linocuts, this step is easy. You just lay the sketch face down onto the linoleum surface and rub the back of the page.  I tried this, but saw no results. For my next attempt, I lay a graphite sheet (paper that has been thoroughly coated in graphite/pencil for tracing images) face down between the foam plate and the sketch, and drew/inscribed onto the back of the page. This left indentations on the foam, and huge swath of image obscuring smudges.
Back to the drawing board. Literally. I used my graphite stick (shown) and drew over and deepened the pencil. (a graphite stick like a pencil that is all lead and no wood)
I tried step one again on a fresh sheet of foam, laying my work face down once again, and rubbing with fingers and checking to see if there was any kind of visible image.  Success! sort of. The image was barely visible, so I used a yellow highlighter to redraw the lines.  I use yellow or light colour, as I will be using a pen to inscribe the negative spaces.
Since my transferred image was reversed, I needed to reverse my sketch to use as a reference.
Enter the Poor Mans Lightbox.
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You can pay a lot of money for a light box, which is a box that houses a fluorescent light, topped with translucent glass. They are handing for tracing, as you lay your page onto the glass, and the light shines through and your pencils show up.  If you’re handy, you can make your own for much less. I’m not handy.
I’m not rich either—but I do have a window. So the poor mans light box consists of tape and a window. Here you can see it in action, my sketch has been taped up facing the outwards, I get to use the reversed image for my reference.
Many hours later, my plate is somewhat closer to completion. You may wonder why I don’t just use lino, but there are times when only a foam plate will do.  Inscribed foam has soft edges that blend well visually with the gelatin prints I want to layer it with, so it’s worth the work in this case.  I have no idea how many impressions I’ll get from the plate. While I don’t formally edition my work (this would force me into counting and storing things), it’ll be limited by the medium itself.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dog Girl and Flower Boy—Cross Border Collaboration

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5x7 inch mixed media collage using gelatin monoprint, coneflower (from my 2011 garden), glassine paper (recycled from Claudette's work), coloured pencil, graphite (fine point mechanical pencil), water color & paper (from Claudette's mailing)
When I opened Claudette's latest mailing, dots and dashes spilled out onto the floor. I wasn't expecting loose bits of art!  But it was instantly inspiring. While I'm not sure how long my pale orange flower prints have languished in my stack (they may even be more than a year old), I know they were made with black-eyed susans from my garden. While my stash lies throughout dark corners of my home, unaccounted for, unsorted, uncompiled, this orange variant sprang instantly to my mind.
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I have exactly two, as they came from one pull of A4 paper, split in half.  First, I studied them (see, artist staring off into the middle is actually getting work done!), and then doodled onto some blank paper, but Dog Girl and Flower Boy appeared almost instantly, as if they both existed in their entirety before pencil ever hit the page.  Only after that, I cut them out, rearranged, erased and change some angles so they could interact on the page. Then I transferred them onto flower print #2, and redrew with the fine liner pencil. I LOVE using my mechanical pencil to make art, since I distinctly recall being told (in art collage) that these pencils were completely inappropriate for creative art and should be reserved for drafting. HAH!
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Claudette shipped me some other intriguing tidbits, tests on glassine (I think) or tracing paper from our previous collaboration. I used those, and coloured pencil to create the brilliant blue halos around the characters.
This adventure with scissors and paper would never have happened had I not engage in collaboration with Claudette. You just never know where you will end up if you deign to dance with a partner.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Five Fabulous Warm-Ups—gelatin monoprint mixed-media

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Very Miniature Mixed-Media Gelatin Prints, approx. 1.5cm x 7cm
Sometimes I slice and dice my gelatin prints to into smaller pieces, from 9x12’s to 5x7’s, for instance.  And on occasion, bits of the bits mewl out to me like abandoned kittens, begging to be saved. And save I do (I’ll spare you yet another messy desk pic). This morning I chose to use them as ‘warm-ups’.  I’ve been, of late, disciplining myself to NOT turn on the computer first thing in the morning, as it becomes a constant excuse to leave my chair.  So now, from 8-10, I can be found where an artist belongs, at the drawing board, with pencil in hand (more or less).  Sometimes, coffee is just not enough, and small bits are less intimidating than large, and here they are, each one unique in thought and execution. I quite enjoy them. I don’t see a market for them, though, so I’ll like them save them for gifts and trades. I wouldn’t dare use them as bookmarks because mine have tendency to land in the bathtub. These were completed with coloured pencil (most) and pen ink (the black).  I scraped back with a knife and added in fresh pencils to get the brilliant cabuchon blue jewel in the centre.
Warm-ups are wonderful things in and of themselves. I’ll look forward to doing more.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cross-Border Collaboration

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Happy Canada and Fourth of July (coming soon) for the United States of America.

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than to present the finished Zodiac Cross-Border Collaboration. North meets South, friends and neighbours meet and make something beautiful together.
 
The lost has been found.  I had it tucked into a reference book for safe-keeping, returned the book to the shelf (see what happens when messy folks attempt to organize?) and lucky for me, I reached for that book a few days later.
Here it is, finished. Claudette sent me the started image done in watercolours and coloured pencil with lots of delicious white space to splash around in, all compositional elements are hers, which saved me a lot of  headaches and head-scratching. I filled in the details using coloured pencils and impressed line technique.
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This is what she sent to me.

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