A Magical Paintbox of Infinite Possibility

I was digging through some old work today & came across this 'volley' I did for a game of Photoshop Tennis. If you're not quite sure what Photoshop Tennis is, the basics are that someone makes a picture in Photoshop, then passes it to someone else, who somehow alters it, then it's sent back to the original person (or to a third player) who alters it again, & on it goes... The element I used from the image that was sent to me was the paper hat - the rest I made in Photoshop. Apart from the photograph of the little boy on the pull-along sheep that I scanned & digitally coloured, everything else in this image I made from scratch in Photoshop - the cloudy sky, the marble, the winged heart, the floorboards, the lapis lazuli backdrop, the moon & the stars.

This picture is from years ago, & my skills have improved since then. At the time, I had trouble making convincing looking fabric - the curtains appear hard & plasticy - but with time, I worked out it was just a matter of blending modes, & I can make realistic looking fabric now.

I look at this image & feel envious of the time I had back then to play & explore & experiment. I was working for someone else at the time, & I had plenty of free time after five to fiddle around with Photoshop for my own education & amusement. Not so lucky these days - self-employment eats up a lot of my day (& night) - but I'd love to be able to make pictures just for fun sometimes, & not to pay the rent.

And I look at this image & remember the first time I ever sat down in front of Photoshop at art school. I had no intention of studying digital imaging - I didn't even own a computer. But when I walked into my first class, & opened this confusing program full of tools & palettes, it took me back to childhood Christmases when my mum would give me boxes of art materials...rows & rows of coloured pencils, oil pastels, watercolours & felt tip pens...& a big sketchbook full of crisp white pages just waiting to be scribbled in. I remember the excitement I used to feel when confronted with the infinite possibility of paper & pencil...& that's what Photoshop seemed to be when I first sat down in front of it - even before I knew how to use it - a magical paintbox of infinite possibility. And I still feel that magic.

Gocco Mania & Other Stuff

Etsy asked me to write a Gocco article for their blog, The Storque, & you can read it right here. Just a brief rundown of the plethora of Goccoed items available on Etsy, & some links to Gocco resources as well. Etsy also very kindly featured some of my picks (& one of my own Gocco prints) on the front page. I took a screenshot!

In other news, I just want to draw your attention to the lovely Pamela Buckley who has a blog called Ophelia Golly. She bought one of my prints a few weeks ago & has just written the most generous & lovely blog entry about my work. I thought it was so great because she's written about how she makes up stories to go along with my photomontages & how she prefers to think they're real rather than a bit of digital sleight of hand. I love hearing people's perspectives of my artwork.

I hope she doesn't mind me quoting her; this is what she has to say about my print Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep:

The story I put with it (almost within seconds of deciding it was real!) was that it was probably a photograph of a magician's children, and he insisted on the dove being part of the photograph as a silent signature of his profession. I am not making this up (well, I am making it up but it is something that I am not lying about believing when I saw it!) and I know that the imaginative talent of the artist was what was behind my suspended belief otherwise I never would have wondered over it at all. (I can also say that having just recently seen the Prestige might have fostered this idea just a little bit too...) But obviously the art is the magic!

I just thought that was so sweet! Thank you Pamela! Ironically, I sold my last 5x7" version of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep today. I'm happy (& grateful) that the entire edition has sold, but a little sad to wave goodbye to the last one. There are still a few left in the 8x10" edition though.

Whew...this has turned into a marathon post. But I can't leave you without posting this fantastic clip from the Jerry Lewis film The Ladies Man...

Before & After

People sometimes ask me about my photo manipulations - how much of them is real, & how much is digital trickery. I thought I'd post a few before & after pics...I don't know about you, but I find them interesting to look at. Firstly is the original photo I used for Gone to Earth: Plate One. As you can see, I even gave the poor boy a new face!

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Although photo manipulation, retouch & restoration aren't my main line of work, I still do some commissions from time to time, & also like to do them sometimes just for enjoyment. I find restoration very relaxing...kind of like unravelling a big ball of tangled string (but rather more creative!), you can zone out & just lose yourself in the painstaking detail of the task.

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It's incredibly difficult to colourise a B & W photo convincingly. Sometimes you want that flat, over-painted look that has a kind of retro quirkiness, but other times you might want to bring the photo to life in a more realistic way. Skin tones are particularly hard to do. No one's skin is uniformly one colour, you have to add those subtle variations like a little redness on the nose & maybe blueish shadows under the eyes.

A friend of mine bought a cardboard folder full of glamour photos from the 1940s & I had a lot of fun messing with them. As you can see from this example, the original has degraded with time; the mid-tones & shadows are quite flat. I've tried to freshen it up, not only with colour, but also bringing back some dimension with tonal adjustments, & painting in some highlights. Her face & arm are quite flat in the original so I've rounded them out in the colourised version with some airbrushing. The hair is still pretty flat & there was not much I could do to bring back the lost detail. I've added a few subtle highlights, but I didn't want to overwork it & make it look too painted.

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