Making Art in Real Life vs Digital Art

So my creative time recently has been spent on learning Mixed Media art.  This is my fourth piece, and the largest at 10″ square.  It occurred to me while finishing this off that there are a lot of parallels between real life art and digital art that have relevance for digital artists.

I say this because I came to digital art via photography.  My skills in painting and drawing by hand are non existent so making art in the physical space has never been an experience for me.  Of course, I am doing it all backwards most likely 🙂

Tip # 1  Start with Quality Ingredients

There is a colloquial phrase here in NZ “You can’t polish a turd” which certainly applies with art, of any kind I’m sure.

Quite simply, you need to start with quality ingredients – be it paints or photographs and digital media.  This can be an expensive and time consuming exercise, but what you put into it will dictate the quality of the final result

Tip#2   Prepare your Background Properly

Of course this might depend on your final image, but in my experience, taking time to prepare a good background enhances the overall image. It adds textural depth and interest to the image, rather than being blank space.

In the piece above, my background is crumpled tin foil (shiny side down), strips of plastering tape and paper die cut steampunk cogs. It helps frame the image and give the eye points of interest to move around.

Doing the same in a digital image is important, it can be harder in some ways, as you lose the benefit of the 3D effect and have to make up for that in different ways.

Tip #3   Have Enough Stuff

It can be challenging to put together an interesting and varied piece of art if you have a limited choice of options to use.

Invest in a range of different elements, so you have choices.  Also, don’t be afraid to experiment and use things in an unusual way.  In digital art, I found creative application of brushes and masking and colours could have some really interesting effect.  All it took was some time, and the willingness to think outside the box.

Tip #4  Build Layers and Depth into the piece

You can see from the image above, I actually have a key sticking out of the keyhole element.  This piece has elements stacked 4 layers high – starting from the background.

Careful placement and balance of elements is important for a cohesive piece.  It needs to work as a whole, not just a scattering of different bits.

In digital work, the layers are virtual, but still have relevance in the placement of the components – should this bit go in front or behind that bit, maybe a mask here or there?

Tip #5  Colour is Important

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You can see from the images in the above slideshow, a radical difference.  One was the first development of colour application – the image has been coloured and toned, a vignette effect added in.  But it was all one tone and lacked impact.

The final image has copper, gold, verdigris and patina effect added.  Suddenly different elements stand out, the background has the colour tones blended in to support the overall effect, it has become a more interesting and effective piece

Sometimes you might have to rework an image several times before you finally reach the finished piece that you envisioned.

Tip#6  Once the Glue has dried, there is no going back

This is where digital varies from real life art – if you are saving your work in Photoshop layers and keeping those intact, then everything you do can be changed as often as you like.   I wonder now, if that lack of final commitment makes it harder or easier for us to create?

With physical art, once the glue has set or the paint has dried, there is not much you can do to alter a piece.  With this 4th work, I actually did it in stages, taking time to place elements and let it sit over night, and see if I was happy with it. The glue was only applied once I had manipulated the design and decided how each piece should sit.

Taking the time to do this made it a better end result, I know I made many changes from my original concept.  Because each time the glue was applied, it was a final commitment, so it was important to take time to get the positions right.

Tip#7  Seeing your art for real in the physical space is awesome

Like many photographers and digital artists, I don’t print my work often enough.  I know that I should, but cost is a factor.

So being able to work on a piece with your hands and see it come to life when the paint is applied for the first coat is a delight I could get quite addicted too 🙂


So my thoughts on the links between making art in the digital or virtual space, and getting messy with the paint brush on the lounge floor!

Who else out there does art in real life?  What are your thoughts on the links between creating physical art and digital?  Do you agree with my tips?






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New Article Published on DPS

Hi everyone *waves* boy the change back to normal hours for the end of Daylight Savings has been kicking my ass big time!  I have been SO TIRED this week, and now the sun is setting at 6pm and I can’t cope!

Plus we had the dregs of Cyclone Debbie rain and rain and rain (though we got of lightly compared to everywhere else) but its been cold and wet and dreary and it isn’t even winter yet and its too depressing!

Good news is I have had another article published on Digital Photography School

10 Reasons Why Photography Is a Great Hobby

My first article got criticised for being to negative and got lots of comments.  Ironically this is a positive article and hardly has any comments at all!  I will have to be more controversial in future ones 🙂

Please pop by and have a read, and share where appropriate!

Comments here or there are also appreciated 🙂

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Crimson and Lime Green Gerbera

While shopping yesterday at a fruit and vegetable barn I don’t usually go to as its on the other side of town, I spotted this bunch of gorgeous crimson gerbera, that are highlighted with touches of lime green on the backs of the petals.

Of course they found their way into my basket, and today I spent some quality time with them in my studio.  I have many textures from Denise Love of 2LilOwls – and she uses her own still life photography to show off her textures.  Denise has a particular style with her photography that I have long tried to emulate, without sucess, and with much frustration.

Today I tried to shoot in her style, these are the steps I went through:

  1. Setup the scene with an interesting base – an old book of sheet music
  2. Use a physical prop that the flowers interact with that fills in the frame, adds to the story but does not dominate – old pointe shoes and their ribbons
  3. Add three flowers staged to overlap in layers to add depth to the image, but also positioned to catch the light and have one as the hero
  4. Edit in LR with a Kim Klassen preset to enrich the colours and add a subtle matte finish
  5. Finish off with a subtle texture and an emulsion frame

I am *really* happy with this image, it took ages to position all the pieces the way I thought they needed to be, changed lens to my zoom, changed the height of the tripod and the angle of the camera, all to make it a very intimate portrait.

The final bit that made it zing was the LR Preset from Kim Klassen, that made the colours rich and added real punch to the flowers.  A couple of 2LO textures to finish and voila!

This image was going for more of a negative space styling, again edited with a KK preset and finished off with a 2LO texture from the Savory range, a new one and I quite like it.

This image has been edited with a different KK preset – that mutes the colours but highlights the lovely texture in the back of the flower.  Edited with a couple of 2LO textures to add a slight grunge effect that I think works with this colour styling.

Given that summer appears to be over, its been suddenly cold and dark in the mornings and lots of rain, today was a good day to be inside with the camera, creating new work 🙂

Three quite different styles of images here, interested in your likes and dislikes, why one works for you or, perhaps, doesn’t work?

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Mixed Media – Trying a new artform

Yet again I must apologise for an extended blogging holiday – however this was an entirely unexpected one.  My employer holds an annual golf day for customers, and my job is event photographer.  This time I was asked to drive a branded golf cart for the day, and somehow it aggravated my old car accident injury in my neck.  Subsequently spent the next week in agonising pain and up to the eyeballs in pain killers!

Fortunately it did improve so I was able to spend time sourcing supplies online (thank god for the internet!) for my next project – Mixed Media art.

I came across an artist – Finnabair – who does this amazing sculptural 3d mixed media art and fell completely in love with it.  Turns out she has just released her first online tutorial, so I waved my credit card at it and sat down to watch.

Because of her copyright on the process, I can only show you the before and after, but not the intermediate steps.

First you need SUPPLIES!!

Lots and lots of supplies – you need all the hardware and bits to make the sculpture, and you need the gesso and adhesive and shiny powders and stuff to make it all pretty.  Fortunately she has a range of her own quality products and they are available in NZ!

I got a starter pack of the Art Basics range which is the tubes at the top, plus shiny powers and also took a chance on some paperclay – the pink things are silicone moulds for the paperclay.

It was challenging to be stuck at home unable to drive or do much except look online for options, but a friend took me on an outing and I managed to pick up some various bits and pieces, plus stuff I found online.  The paperclay was fun, and after a few trial runs, think I have got the hang of it now.

This is my work in progress with my boxes of stuff – my paperclay keys on the plate to the left, buttons and steampunk bits, and the box with the alphabet was a donation from a fellow crafter.  Used a 6 x 6″ canvas as the base medium.

Closeup of the finished piece once all the elements are assembled.  Looks a bit of a mess really but that is the magic of the process Finnabair has developed, you go from the above to this…..

Isn’t it fabulous!  For my first go I am SO PLEASED how this turned out 🙂

Learned lots – I need better stronger paint brushes, my hair dryer does a great job of being a heat gun replacement.  You need a *lot* of stuffs to fill in all the underneath spaces so it stick together properly.

This was really fun and exciting to see how it came together as a cohesive piece of art.  Tomorrow I am going out on a drive to collect shells and pebbles from the beach for more interesting textural elements.

Have you tried Mixed Media?  Have some favourite artists to recommend?



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In Absentia

So apologies for my recent absence here, real life has been somewhat busier than expected lately.  Last week I attended two conferences and had only one day off during a two week period!

One conference was on my day job – technology.  The other conference was much more interesting – in fact it was the Women Who Get Shit Done Unconference – and one of my fellow attendees has blogged much more eloquently about it than I could have

What an Unconference Isn’t

Three days of immersion with women, talking about wide ranging topics, and just generally hanging out and enjoying the company of some very cool women was an unexpected treat.

Hopefully I will have time and energy to return to my creative efforts soon, and I will be back posting again – right now as a result of the conference I am cooking up ideas about how I can take my images into more of a business setting, start selling prints and looking at making some money to fund travel and other related costs!

I am still alive 🙂

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Photography Props

props-6036Welcome to my new readers, some of whom may have found me via Instagram.  Please say Hi – would love to hear what attracted you to my images and what information you have found useful on the blog!

One discussion with Allen around my props used in my dark light food photography led to this post.

Above is an image of my dishes and plates with a soup spoon beside them for scale.  You can see the dishes are all quite small -thats because the smaller the dish, the less food you have to put into it – and a food image looks best when it is abundantly full – so yes small dishes and side plates.

Nearly all of my dishes are specially chosen for a matte (not shiny finish) – you can see the small black dish in the bottom left corner is very silvery and shiny and reflective, which I was concerned about but the size and shape was so appealing I bought it anyway 🙂

The big flat rectangular thing is my favourite prop – its a piece of slate, which is a natural stone.  I love the texture.  On top of that is some of my utensils – spoons and a bamboo scoop. Finally a couple of linen dish towels.

This is the stuff I use most of the time, I have some silverware, glass bottles, other fabric but this is the basis of my collection.  Carefully chosen for size, shape, colour, finish, adaptability – all in neutral colours and plain pattern so that the food becomes the hero in the shot.

I spent a *lot* of time on Pinterest, researching props and getting ideas and recommendations before I went and purchased these.  Some are new and some are well used and purchased in second hand shops.  The most expensive item was the linen towels which were $16 each.  The four metal rusted pie dishes cost me $18 in total and the slate which should be expensive cost me $13 from a commercial kitchen supply.

My distressed chair cost me $30 to buy and about $20 in paint and sandpaper supplies (both of which I already had on hand) and the same chair new was $169 but mine was broken.

props-6034Same picture but this time showing Taz who was supervising from a safe distance 🙂

So there you go, a look behind the scenes at the props, thanks Allen for the questions and discussion. Any tips on other prop ideas on a budget gratefully received 🙂

Questions and feedback are always welcome!

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Digital Watercolour using Rebelle

There is a particular style of art I really like, which is a combination of watercolour and sketch.  My Pinterest board has many of these images, all done by talented artists, of which I am not one, when it comes to using real paints.

Rebelle is software that digitally produces a realistic watercolour effect.  It is *so* real, that I have actually spent the last few weeks learning how to use actual watercolour paints, so that I could understand and use the software better.  Which has been a fun and interesting experiment in and of itself.

The above image was one supplied to Awake students by Gary Henderson, and is a lovely lighthouse, very unlike the shorter squat ones we have in NZ.

How I made this:

  1. Bring original photo into Rebelle, load up a colour tracing layer and then paint in the watercolour layer over the painting.  It automatically picks up the colours of the image which makes this a LOT easier. Painted everything except the sky.
  2. Open PS and bring a jpg file of the lighthouse file up,  add in three separate layers, and using special watercolour brushes paint in the sky, sampling colours from the original image
  3. Layer in the sketch made of original photo in Akvis Sketch over the top, and remove excess sketch elements and soften sketch effect to be less overpowering.

It is far from perfect but it has achieved the effect I was after.  My biggest challenge is painting large areas of sky with Rebelle, the maximum brush size was simply too small and I couldnt manage a soft wash without too many brush edges looking obvious.  This did not please me aesthetically.

However the specialty watercolour brushes I had bought recently worked very well in filling up the sky with softer blends of colours.  Three different brushes were used to give a bit of depth and softness.

Finally the sketch layer adds the structure to the image to bring it all together and make it whole.

This isn’t a technique I am going to use a lot, it really only suits certain images. Plus all that fiddly painting was giving me terrible hand cramps!

It might seem like a lot of work to turn a photo into a painting, there are easier options, but I personally like the authenticity of the watercolour style done this way. 

Do you like it? Perhaps too fussy for you?  Got some painting tips to share?

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