In this post I am going to show a little of what goes into creating one of my digital art pieces. Above is an inept iPhone picture of my computer screen while I was in the middle of writing.
Physical disability has all but destroyed my ability to create by hand, which I can’t pretend is anything other than frustrating. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I devour all the projects posted on craft blogs and my envy knows no bounds.
When I was a child I was always writing or creating something. I would buy cheap notebooks, cover them in fabric (corduroy was a particular favourite) and add a fastening. Or I would make necklace beads out of special craft dough and string them on a leather thong – well, it was the 1960s! Even then I had problems with my fingers so that my efforts were never as fine or as perfect as I wanted. On one occasion I managed to persuade a local gift shop owner to stock four of my corduroy notebooks and four of my necklaces. She sold one necklace to a man she described as a ‘hippy’. That was it!
I was still doing hand-made greeting cards for friends and family in the early 1990s but it was getting increasingly difficult as my fingers were that much more painful and scissors were a nightmare to use. Then a friend said that what I was doing could be done on a computer with a design software called Photoshop. Once I began, I never wanted to stop!
My enjoyment grew exponentially and remains a potent force in my life, giving me a satisfaction I had previously thought could only be engendered by my work as an actress.
It took some while to consider that what I was creating could be called art – I felt true art was only that which was drawn, painted or sculpted by hand. I have now realised, however, that Digital Art is a discipline and craft in its own right. Also, I have had so many compliments from professional artists of all kinds that I do now consider myself an artist.
And now to the nuts and bolts of my latest piece of work for Thanksgiving which I created entirely in Photoshop. I started with a fairly ordinary photograph of a country garden. I say ‘country’ but it was actually a holiday photograph of a garden of olive trees on the island of Crete on one particular day. And a dull day at that!
To use the word ‘started’ is also a misnomer as my original starting point was a delightful vintage Thanksgiving postcard from The Graphics Fairy which I played with for a time and then discarded or, rather, saved for another time.
Over the top of the garden photograph I added a textured background I had created for another design.
This I stared at for some while before experimenting with different blending states until I had the autumn-toned effect I was looking for.
I tidied it up a little by removing the electricity pole in the centre and a few odd birds in the sky. At least, I think they were birds!
My idea was to create an open book with a Thanksgiving message and a pumpkin resting beside it. For the book I had found a piece of clip art from Vintage Feedsacks which was appropriately decorated with sheaves of wheat.
I spent hours turning this piece of clip art into what I had in mind. I struggled to make the sheaves of wheat work in situ but in the end I had to cut them out. Transforming the book into what you see in the completed design took several hours, a lot of tweaks, an overnight break, and a fresh eye the following morning. That fresh eye made an enormous difference and I finished off by adding ‘Give Thanks’ in a style called ‘light coffee’ but which actually looks a better liquid gold than any number of ‘gold’ styles available as Photoshop plug-ins.
Once I was satisfied, I searched The Graphics Fairy for the right sort of pumpkin to nestle against the corner of the book.
I have not gone into every single step in the process, partly because I need to keep some secrets and partly because it would make for a tediously long post! Nevertheless, I hope it inspires you if you are also creative or, indeed, makes you appreciate the ways of digital art.
I dedicate this post to artist Christine Cantow Smith who said to me this morning on my First Night Facebook page: “I’d love to be a fly on the wall to see how you create such treasures!” Here’s to you, Christine, for your endless support and encouraging comments!
Take care and keep laughing.