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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Digital Collage and PaintingUsing Photoshop and Painter to Create Fine Art
By Susan Ruddick Bloom
Focal PressCopyright © 2011 Susan Ruddick Bloom
All right reserved.
Where does that kernel of inspiration come from? Does it hit you when you are in the shower or when you are driving on the turnpike? Wherever it takes hold of you, it marks the beginning of the process of making a piece of art. Some artists agonize over each step of the creation process, whereas for some the work flows seamlessly from an inner fountain of inspiration.
There is an endless array of possible starting points. The ah-ha moment can be when you look at the texture of an old wall with peeling paint, the detail on a moth's wing, or the sweep of landscape contours on a hillside. As artists, we can be surprised by almost anything as we explore our world. Anything and everything is at our disposal to serve as possible elements for inspiration.
Often we are taken by surprise when a particular element "suggests" itself to us. The making of art is very intuitive, and the artist learns to follow his nose. The actual making of the art is seldom a smooth ride. Instead, I would compare it to a roller-coaster ride. The process involves many unexpected twists, turns, and bumps. It is full of thrills and can be harrowing at times, but we wouldn't miss it for the world!
Once the seed of thought is planted, where do you go with it? It is important to think this thing through before you begin. What is the total concept? How can you integrate images into the completed work that might enhance that beginning concept? What additional imagery do you need? How do you see it coming together?
Visually, there are many things to consider. If you are using several images, as in a collage, how will you make them read as a whole? There needs to be a uniformity that unites the piece. You want to create a cohesive feel or mood. What will accomplish that for you? There are many unifying factors. Color can be the tie-in for you, or it might be scale, contrast, directionality, or more. We will cover some of these unifying factors in Chapter 2.
We will assume that the creative bug has gotten hold of you and you are now compelled to make a piece of art. So, hold onto your socks—here we go.
What Is a Collage, Montage, or Assemblage?
What form will the imagery take? Artists throughout time have used marble and stone for sculpture, canvas and panels for paintings, paper for drawing and printmaking, and photographic paper for photography, to mention only a few formats. But, there is a dawning of a new age in art materials. We are fortunate to be living in the beginning of the digital age. For the artist, this introduces a whole new array of artistic tools and possibilities. The computer can be used to make imagery and is yet another tool in the imaginary tool belt that artists have at their disposal.
I attended a superb art college, where I was grounded in all the basics: strong drawing and painting skills, intense study of art history, and a good exposure to a variety of different artistic pursuits, from ceramics to fiber art, from lithography to photography. Mastery of the tools and techniques was a must in every field of endeavor. The artist needs to become so well acquainted with the materials and equipment available that creative applications become second nature. Once some mastery of the materials is in place, the work flows more easily. When a more complete understanding of the tools and techniques is in place, the inquisitive mind of the artist can explore variations on the techniques. So it is with the field of computer imagery. The artist needs to prepare by obtaining a basic body of knowledge about computers, software, and printing devices. Once these elements are in place, the artist can begin to fluidly make art using the digital tools at hand.
In this book, I have chosen to concentrate on two digital applications in the field of art: digital collage and digital painting. I will attempt to explore the endless possibilities in this arena with you. How does the dictionary define assembled imagery? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions include the following concepts:
An artistic composition of fragments (as of printed matter) pasted on a surface
A composite photograph made by combining several separate pictures An artistic composition made up of several different types of elements
A varied mixture: jumble
A collection of persons or things: gathering
The act of assembling
An artistic composition made from scraps, junk, and odds and ends
The art of making assemblages
For the sake of consistency in this book, I will refer to assembled images as collages, keeping in mind that in the field of art assembled images could mean many different things, in both two and three dimensions. Traditional collage materials might vary in form, from magazine photos to flattened chewing gum wrappers, from dried plant materials to beach pebbles. Everything is fair game if it can be used for a purpose that enhances the imagery. Our imagery will be digital in nature, but, as you will see later, that won't stop us from making artwork that has a more three-dimensional quality. No digital police will stop you from pushing the artistic envelope. I would encourage you to experiment and explore where these digital tools might take you with your artistic expressions.
What Is a Digital Painting?
Digital painting, for me, usually involves just one image. I start with a photograph that I would like to transform into a painting. I use both a photo manipulation program (Adobe® Photoshop®) and a painting program (Corel® Painter™). I will show you in Chapters 4 and 5 how I approach creating a painting digitally. We will use tools that truly mimic real art materials, such as charcoal, colored pencils, airbrushes, pencils, and paint, but first a word on photography and its impact on the creation of artwork.
Let's put photography's contribution to making art in perspective. Since the daguerreotype appeared on the scene in 1839, artists have seized on the artistic possibilities that photography offers. Artists were the leaders in exploring this new medium. Itinerant portrait painters often converted to the craft of photography and emerged as the first traveling photographers. Samuel Morse, the father of American photography, was in Paris for the presentation of Daguerre's process to the French Academy of Sciences. Most of us know Morse for his invention of the telegraph and other scientific endeavors, but he was also an accomplished painter. Morse brought the techniques of photography to America and later trained one of the most acclaimed photographers of the nineteenth century, Matthew Brady.
The list of artists that have used photography as an aid in the creation of their paintings is long indeed, incorporating such esteemed names as Degas, Duchamp, and Eakins. For some artists, the camera was used to stop-action the position of a body in motion. This was a task easily captured by the camera but not possible for the human eye.
One of the certainties in the art world that seems to transcend time is the dialogue that emerges as soon as a new type of medium is explored. We see that discussion currently, with the advent of digital fine art. Is it really art, if it came from the computer? It is as if the computer has somehow mechanically stained or lessened the artistic output. This cry is an old and recurrent one. Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Steichen are a few of the prominent names in photography that fought that artistic battle in the 1940s and 1950s, when they urged the creation of departments of photography in major museums.
Shortly after the announcement of Daguerre's photographic process was made in Paris, the painters in the French Academy declared, "Painting is dead." If the camera could capture in a few seconds what a painter would take months to paint, what was to happen to the painter? What did the artist have to offer that the camera did not? I think it is no coincidence that painting starts to take a new path in the years that followed. Artists began to paint the essence of a moment in time, creating the impression of the moment rather than a strictly realistic rendition. The Impressionism movement dominated in the years that followed the mass acceptance of the new technology of photography.
New technology has the force to propel art in new and unexpected directions. Change and growth always seem to come with controversy. I'm reminded of the quote that, "Only babies with a wet diaper want a change." The rest of us usually find reasons why we don't want to change. Change often requires retooling ourselves and a large chunk of time to learn new methods. It is easier to impugn these new methods than to learn from them, so beware! If you start to create art with the methods contained in this book, you may indeed be criticized and classified as a lesser artist. Wear the banner of pioneer proudly, though—you come from a fine tradition of artists who have dared to explore new materials and methods to see what those new technologies have to offer in the making of their art.
A word of caution should be extended early in this book. Using the computer to create art will not make you an artist, just as using pastels can't make you an artist. Ultimately, over time, the artwork will be judged on its own merits artistically. Your challenge will be to learn the techniques that this new form of expression offers to you. Once the vocabulary of the digital art world is well known to you and you can understand and practice the techniques, your artistic vision will be what separates you from others in the field.
Ultimately, the tools really don't matter. They are quite simply the tools that allow the art to emerge. Picasso could use a discarded bicycle seat to make art, and Jackson Pollock could fling paint onto a canvas. It was a matter of some controversy whether the work of these artists deserved the title of "art," but over time their vision has come through and the work can be seen in context.
Expect to invite some flack as a digital artist. Some art shows do not allow the inclusion of digitally produced art. Lack of knowledge about this field is the primary culprit, but some of the fault lies with ill-conceived and poorly executed artwork, produced without much consideration of basic art and design concepts. Educate yourself as an artist. Continue to explore opportunities to learn more. Sign up for workshops and courses. Go to museums regularly to study at the feet of the masters. Get together with other artists to work, talk, and critique. The myth of the artist tucked away in an attic garret making masterpieces is just that—a myth. Art is both a visual and an intellectual endeavor. You can never be too knowledgeable. Art is not made in a vacuum but is created in context with our society and current events. It should be no surprise that the art world is being transformed in the digital age, when society and commerce are undergoing enormous upheavals in this new digital world we live in.
Think It Out First, Assembling the Needed Images
It is very important to think through the intended project. What tools will you need? What imagery will be required? Try to extend the project out in your mind. Brainstorm a bit around your idea. Keep notes and draw thumbnail sketches. Maybe try a few little painting and sketching exercises around the concept. One of the things I have discovered in teaching, and in life as a whole, is that most people often pursue their first thought. Given a choice, most people will select the easiest and fastest track, and it is easier to go with that first idea than to take the time to think it through more thoroughly. It is often the case that the fifth or twelfth idea would really work better, but most people never allow that possibility to occur. Take the time to explore your initial concept in depth.
What do you want to communicate? Are you trying to go for a mood or evoke an emotion? Are you trying to create a political satire? What is your intended message? What would be the best method to convey that concept? These are the moments when the course of the project is determined. Take the necessary time to let the idea germinate well.
Will you need to initiate an artistic scavenger hunt to find the necessary imagery for this project? In these litigious times we live in, I think it is always wise to rely solely on your own imagery. Use your scanner as a camera. It is a cheap and very effective tool. Use your digital camera as a collection device. Freed from the consumption of costly film and processing, digital photography has created a willingness to gather a vast array of imagery.
Excerpted from Digital Collage and Painting by Susan Ruddick Bloom Copyright © 2011 by Susan Ruddick Bloom. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsPart I: Planning and Inspiration: Concept; Important Considerations Before You Begin; Inspiration; Part II: Step-by-Step Painting: Painting in Photoshop With Your Photos; Painting in Painter; Assembling a Collage in Photoshop; Assembling a Collage in Painter; Panoramics; Part III: Artistic Considerations: Filters; Experimentation; Projects for You; Essential Photoshop and Painter Techniques; Resources