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/

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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Copying a style

Peter Comparison.png

 

This Easter, I wanted to make a card for my Mom.  She loves Beatrix Potter so I decided to at least approximate her art style.  Trying to copy another artist’s style, especially one that is very different from your own, can actually teach you a lot about process and even improve your normal work.

I began by choosing an image and analyzing the materials.

In this case, the painting was made with watercolor and fine ink pen.  The strokes were delicate and the effect pleasingly mottled.

I thought about using watercolor, but decided to use colored pencils instead so I could get a similar effect with less room for failure.  I used a combination of a brush pen and a very fine manga pen to at least partially approximate the original work.

I looked at how the lines were laid down, the weights, the way the shading was done.  I then decided which elements were important to keep and which weren’t.  I tried to copy the shapes, the line style, in what I did.

I also decided I didn’t want to deal with a background.  Even though I didn’t end up with a perfect copy, I still had fun – you may too if you try this.  It’s a great way to explore new techniques and materials.

 

 

Choosing Colors

 

While this is considered an absolute rule by many artists, especially painters, I consider it more a helpful hint and something to try.

The idea is to use a limited palette of colors to create a unified look. Pick three colors that represent the majority of items in your work, plus black and white, and only use those three colors (and the colors that can be mixed from them) to do the whole piece.

It’s easier than it sounds. For example, a forest painting might be done entirely with a yellow, a deep green, and an umber. Or a seascape might be a deep blue, a deep green, and a purple. In watercolors, usually this means picking three tubes of pigment and just using those. This really does help avoid the problem of the painting looking too busy or garish.  I’m sure we’ve all seen a painting that just uses two many colors!

I’ve been told by an old watercolor painter that this is an absolute rule except in the case of city scenes, but I am not willing to be quite that rigid about it.  Still, choosing two to three colors and using them and their mixtures can make a really nice, unified looking piece.

Interesting Angles

 

It’s a simple idea, yet powerful.

If you are drawing, photographing or painting a particular subject, consider a different angle other than a simple straight on view. For a portrait, try it from one side or the other, tilt the head slightly, etc. When depicting a scene, consider a low angle, or maybe even an overhead angle. Think of ways to add interest. The more interesting a picture looks, the more likely it is to stand out in the crowd. Too many people pick a centered straight on view for a portrait rather than a three quarter view, that can look flat and uninteresting.

Different angles can also help convey mood and enhance your message.

Observation: The Artist’s Eye

If you are a representative artist, observation is the key to everything. If you take pictures, look at your subject from all possible angles. See things others might miss. If you draw or paint, pay attention to where the light falls, where the shadows lie, how the colors change in your subject depending on when you look at it.

Try different ways of looking at an object, too. Blur your vision and look at the masses, the major areas of color or form. Look at a tiny area of it. Try tracing just the outline of an object, to help you look at the negative space around it. Maybe even pull out a magnifying glass.

For example, take a look at this photo.  Can you tell what it is?  You could make it into water, or fabric, or a landscape, or take it as it really is – sun shining off cat fur.

How you see is as important as what you see!

Consistent Lighting

 

Whether you are drawing in chalks or graphite or pastels, painting, or doing pen and ink, pay attention to where the light falls. It can really make or break a piece. When you look at anything, look at what is dark, and what is light, and pay attention to where the light is coming from. Make it a habit to notice.

Before you begin a scene drawn or painted from imagination, decide where the light is coming from. You can create a lot of drama and interest this way. You can convey mood, too, by deciding the type of lighting. Is it strong? Even? Shadowed? Diffuse? What color of light? Golden sunlight of late afternoon? Bright white of an office? Colored, as from stained glass? Soft and diffuse, as from a cloudy day?

Decisions like these can be a great way to add life to your work!