Artist tip – cleaning up your artwork

Though many like the “sketchy” style of artwork, be it a pencil drawing, charcoal work, or watercolor, one simple step you can take to pull ahead of the artist pack is to clean up your art work.

Messy lines (extra sketch lines, ink that doesn’t follow the color in a painting, splotches and smudges) can detract from an otherwise beautiful piece.  Luckily, a little care is all that’s required to turn an artwork from good to great.

It’s good to know your erasers so you can clean things up appropriately.  Most artists know about the venerable kneaded eraser, which is great for cleaning up rough textured paper.  If you are working on smooth paper, though, certain old fashioned drafting tools may work better.  You can use a white vinyl eraser, the kind with the cardboard sleeve (like the one you see above), for many applications.  It’s nice because it’s also gentle on paper but does a very good job cleaning up pencil marks.  As a bonus, the cardboard sleeve gives you a good grip and keeps your gingers clean!

Another secret weapon for cleaning up your sketches is an eraser shield.  They are small, cheap, made of metal, and perfect for taking a bit of a line while protecting the rest of the work.  They look like this:

index As you can see, you can use this to cover your art and then just erase a bit at a time.  Many artists and people who haven’t taken an old fashioned drafting class have never heard of them, especially in this day of Computer Aided Drafting.  I love mine.

 

Last but not least, a really good sketching tool is just a good, old fashioned mechanical pencil.  I really enjoy using one because I never have to sharpen it, I can use a variety of leads, and if I use a light touch with it, the lines are extremely easy to clean up.  It’s perfect for a sketch that I plan to ink later.  Then when I am done, I can make a nice, clean image.   I can go from this sketch to this drawing with very little trouble.

Elephant Sketch 700

Elephant Cow 900

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a last tip for people wanting to avoid messy looking artwork, I do suggest getting to know your graphics programs.  When you scan something in to the computer or photograph it, turning up the contrast even just a bit can help your black and white drawings look that much sharper and clearer.  It takes a bit of practice but is well worth the effort.

As a confession, I used to make the hairiest, sketchiest drawings ever and consider them finished work.  I don’t do that anymore.  I still sketch things out on occasion but I use those sketches as ways to develop ideas instead of thinking they are done.  Now, my erasers and mechanical pencil are my best friends.

Happy creating!

via Daily Prompt: Messy

Art idea: Silhouettes

Silhouettes are a lot of fun to use in your art.  You can make them in any number of ways and they are a great chance to explore the use of negative space.  You can do them in black and white, color, in multimedia, with collage, or use them as embellishments on other things if you’re more the crafty type.  Pablo Picasso used to make cut paper silhouettes of animals when he was a boy.  Silhouette work tends to look elegant and tied together.  It also invites the imagination and can really engage the viewer.

If you’re looking for a new project, this is a fun theme to explore!

Ideas for projects involving silhouettes

Black and White – on a white background, draw the outline then carefully color it in.  Try this reversed, too, so the silhouette is white and the surrounding black.

Black and White with Color – color either the surrounding of the black silhouette, or inside the white one.   You could be realistic or abstract.

Shadow Play – photograph things that form an interesting silhouette.  Or create one behind a white screen then photograph that.

Collage – cut silhouettes of people, animals or objects out of colored pictures.  Place them alone on a plain background or make them into scenes.  You could even use decoupage techniques to put them on an object, such as a box.

Resists – color a silhouette on watercolor paper with white crayon then paint over it.  Or, use frisket or another form of masking fluid.

Papercutting – draw your silhouette onto paper then cut it out.  Glue it onto a backdrop, adorned or not as you choose.

Painting – try something classic, like silhouettes in front of a blazing sunset, or perhaps someones shadow in a window.

A word about Sharpie markers:  Though they are quite handy for silhouette work, I advise photographing or scanning whatever you make right away to preserve what you have done.  They are not archival quality and can fade significantly in just a few years.

 

crows web

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/silhouette/

Beginner’s tips to improve your photos

Do you want to improve your photos by quite a bit, without getting a degree in art or photography?  Make them stand out, and really shine?  Improve the contrast and crop it properly!  It’s simple to do, and I’ll show you how.

(My instructions are for the free art program GIMP, but the process is the same for any photo editing program.)

It’s pretty simple.  First, open your photo in GIMP or your favorite photo editing software.  For folks who are new to this, that usually means right clicking on the picture file and selecting “open with” then picking what you want to open in.

So, now you have your photo open.  Maybe it looks like this.example 1

Not a bad picture, really, but maybe you want to see the lioness better.  So draw a box around the area you want to keep with your selection tool (usually looks like a rectangle in the toolbar) and then use “Crop to Selection.”  In GIMP, that can be found under “Image,” up in the menu.  You’ll get something like this:

example 2

Better, but it could look even better than that!  So try this:  in GIMP, in the menu at the top, go to “Colors” then “auto” then “white balance.”  You’ll get something like this:

example 3

If you don’t like how that turned out, you can go to “Colors” then “Brightness and Contrast” and move the sliders around till you get something you like, like this:

example 4

Sometimes you can preserve the colors better by using the “Brightness and Contrast” tool rather than the automatic white balance, it depends on the photo.  If you are not using GIMP, but instead another program, there will be similar options but they may be called something different.

In any case, there’s a lot you can do to improve an image with very little effort!

 

 

 

Contrasting Black

If you talk to some painters, they will tell you that black is an unnatural color and it shouldn’t be used.  I’m not one of them, I use black even in paintings with color.  Personally, I think black is essential, and a dash of it will really help everything else be more visible.  Black is really great if you want some drama, as in the photo above that I took yesterday.

Here is another example.  Between the two drawings, I think it looks much better once the darks are truly darkened.  That will happen with steady, even pressure, and a pencil that’s on the soft side.

side by side dragon.png

You can also see this principle with pen and ink.  Drawings with fields of black just pop out a little better and draw the eye.  I was trying for this effect when I did this lioness.  I think you will see she stands out a lot better than her stretching sister.

sleeping-lioness-postpro-1000

lioness-1000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black also looks better in drawings when you use smooth fields of it, and let it truly be dark.  Here, by the way, is an example of a painting where I used black in a color setting.  It’s a book cover that had some pretty specific requirements.

Experimental C corrected 800.png

 

 

\https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/black/

Pairing Poetry with Pictures

If you want to draw your readers to your poetry, add color.  Better yet, add a drawing or photograph.  It can be surprisingly easy to pair a poem with an appropriate photograph.  Here I’ll share some tips for doing just that!

First, start with your poem.  I’m using this one, recently written by poet Lenore Plassman.

August Afternoon

Birds down in the creek dive and chatter

the cells in my ears twitch in acknowledgement

tomatoes ripened to a mirror shine

my bones stretch to grasp flown over,

common doves arc my synapses alert,

sucking in moisture another Sunday,

another tromp humble pie and humble be

for now that’s what I get:

another moment piled into all that live

cell into cell, above, below.

 

It’s nice, and could use an interesting photo to draw her readers in.  So I noodle around on Pixabay (I’m a contributing member, but you don’t have to be) and select something that matches the mood and theme of the poem.  I look for something with an area on it that could be overlaid with text.  I come up with this image:

dove-1269441_640.jpg

That works okay.  Next, I think about my text.  I decide to go with a simple font in white to match the simple words of the piece.  I use GIMP, a free program, for all my editing needs.  I work in layers to make things easier.  You could do most of this in Paint if you wanted to.  I placed my text, picked a size that was readable, tweaked the position of various things, and cropped my image to make the poem the focal point.  I got this:

August Afternoon Poem 900.jpg

Simple, eyecatching, and great for Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.  You can even have the poem printed out at a drug store or online, and make little handout cards with them.  Happy creating!

 

 

 

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Sparking Your Creativity

When looking for ideas for drawing, painting, poetry or sculpture, it can be helpful to think outside the crate. Or think outside the corrugated cardboard container. Or the cube. Or the containment device. Or the little space bounded by roughly equal sides and describable by geometry.

It’s not too useful to just say “be creative,” without having some ways to encourage that in your head! Creativity is like a muscle. Once you get your mind warmed up, you will be more creative with your other projects, not just the little exercises listed here.

My mother, who is a writer as well, gave me a great idea so I’ll mention it here. She has been writing poetry and short works with five randomly selected words. That can be a great way to kickstart creativity! You can even close your eyes, open a dictionary, and point. Or find a random word generator and use that. The idea is to cause new, unexpected input to come into your mind and spark new ideas. Creativity often comes when you take two unrelated ideas and play around with how they could be connected. And it’s hard to get new ideas without new input.

Something I frequently like to do is take some object, natural or created, and examine it closely, perhaps even under a magnifying glass or microscope if you have one. Even a pinecone can be a fascinating thing to explore if you really get into examining all the shapes, shadows, ridges and texture of it. Maybe it could become part of a new creature, or an idea for a structural support on a building? This can work for artists, writers, sculptors, or anyone else who wants to rev up their creativity.

Macro photography on the internet can be a fascinating way to look at the world. So can Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” feature. Take a walk and examine something you’ve never looked at before. Read an article about a subject you known nothing about. Pick a word at random and look up websites about it. Read quotes from famous people you’ve never heard of. That can trigger new ideas too.

Creativity requires imagination. If you open your eyes, literally or figuratively, and get interested in the world, great ideas follow.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/create/

Artistic Tenacity

To be any kind of an artist, tenacity is a critical skill.  Whether you are writing, painting or dancing, you must continue to push your limits.  When others don’t believe in you, standing firm against the naysayers will allow you to keep creating.  When someone has hard advice, having tenacity will help you take it and improve.  Tenacity can mean being responsive to events, using a setback as an opportunity.  Tenacity makes success possible. Those who don’t have it rarely succeed!

There’s good news.  Even if you’re a person who gives up easily, tenacity can be built.  Though it can be a natural quality, it can also be a habit.  Just practice not giving up.  If you don’t succeed, just try again later.  As a skill, it can be learned.

Winston Churchill knew a lot about tenacity.  When he was young, he was thin and weak, but he made himself an athlete.  He was terrified of public speaking, but he forced himself to learn and became one of the best orators in history.  That spirit serves all artists and creative people well!

Churchill quotes about tenacity:

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.”

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“What is adequacy? Adequacy is no standard at all.”

“It is wonderful what great strides can be made when there is a resolute purpose behind them.”

“This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

-Winston Churchill

 

via Daily Prompt: Tenacious

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tenacious/