Friday, January 30, 2015

A year of found art

You know I'm a devotee of regular art -- projects in which you commit to making something every day, week or month according to the rules set at the outset.  I've been doing daily art every year since 2003, which you can check out at my other blog.  These projects have been my personal activities, but for some time I've also had the pleasure of doing regular art with a partner, Uta Lenk, my quilting pal in Germany.

We started out in 2010 and 2011 by exchanging emails every day, each with at least one photo.  Then in 2013 we did thirteen posts, each consisting of thirteen images of thirteen objects.

Last year we changed the rules and exchanged photos of "found art" --  accidental patterns and compositions created by man or nature and discovered by camera-carrying observers.  We had both enjoyed taking this kind of picture in the past, so we didn't have to search very hard to come up with our weekly contributions.

One of my favorite places to find found art is on the sides of dumpsters.  They get scratched up by rough handling, then they rust in the scratches, they attract graffiti, and occasionally they get painted over, yielding surfaces that remind me of Pollock or Rothko.

One of Uta's favorite subjects is reflections, and she's much better than I am at finding them.

I'm posting our found art to the blog we started in 2013, Dreizehn Thirteens, in case you want to see what we have been up to on both these projects.

And yes, we're doing a joint project this year too, but for now it's just between the two of us.  We'll fill you in later.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning Photoshop -- posterization and abstraction

Yesterday's lesson in my online course in Photoshop Elements was abstracting a photo to a gray scale with simplified shapes.  Since the course is geared to quiltmakers, the assignment was to make an image that could theoretically be printed out and cut apart into templates.

What fascinated me was the vast spectrum of abstraction that can be achieved with a couple of slider bars in the program.

Here's the image I started with:

After putting the photo into a gray scale, you use a filter called "cutout," which has three slider bars.  The most powerful seems to be "edge simplicity," which goes from 1 to 10; the higher the number the greater the abstraction.

So here's the image at 7:

and here it is at 10:

The 10 image just above is shown with four tones of gray.  If you chose three tones of gray, you'd get an even simpler image below:

If you chose seven tones, it would be more complicated:

As you can imagine, there are many hundreds of possibilities just playing with the three sliders in the cutout filter.  If you did want to make a relatively realistic quilt from your abstracted image, you'd have to walk a fine line between simplifying too much, so the adorable child is unrecognizable, and not simplifying enough, so that the templates would be way too detailed to work with.

Here's the image I chose to work with; I think the edge simplification was about 5 and I think it had seven tones of gray.

It was a lot more detailed before I got to work with my brush tool, painting out a lot of irrelevant stuff.  For instance, the sink and the window on the upper right side of the picture are now gone; the T-shirt no longer has cartoon characters.

You could easily spend the rest of the week fine-tuning, and I think that using the brush tool to overwrite a posterized image is very conducive to overkill.  You start "improving" this part of the image, then you zoom out to look at the whole thing and the part you just "improved" doesn't really match the adjacent parts, so you work on them for a while, etc.  Just like when you buy a new sofa and realize that the carpet looks pretty shabby and the drapes don't match....  I wonder if Photoshop Elements has a filter called "enough already."

And as I was fussing away at this process, whiling away the afternoon, I was thinking how terrible this would look as a quilt, and how I would probably prefer to have hot splinters driven under my fingernails than to try to make a quilt from templates.

I've seen so many quilts made from photoshop patterns, and almost every time I wonder why.  So much fiddling and fussing to produce an imitation photograph.  But that's my prejudice.

I think this lesson has revealed so much to play with in photoshop that my head is spinning.  Not at all sure what I might ever want to do with the images I come up with, having pretty strenuously ruled out the possibility of using them for quiltmaking, but I am eager to play some more and see what happens.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The SAQA collection -- seeing it all

I wrote yesterday about the new fabric collection designed by SAQA members, and got some comments about the different colorways available.

Each design has three colorways.  I tried to put in a link so you could see all of them, but for some reason that page has the same URL as the page that only shows one colorway per design.

So if you click here you'll get the following screen, showing the designers of each of the fabrics.

And if you follow the hot pink arrow and click on the tab called "The Collection," you'll get all the colorways.

By the way, last week I wouldn't have known how to make that nifty hot pink arrow, so you see I'm really learning things from my class with Pixeladies.

Friday, January 23, 2015

New SAQA challenge -- it's quite a challenge

First, a shout-out to the Pixeladies, Kris Sazaki and Deb Cashatt, two art quilters who have made a great day job out of their computer knowledge.  They conduct online classes in Photoshop Elements and I am taking class 1, the total beginners' program.  I may write more about the classes later but for now just let me say they're great teachers.

Yesterday I tackled the lesson on how to make quiltlike designs by copying a fabric swatch, cutting "squares" out of it, and arranging them into patterns.  Sure, I could have googled "fabric designs" or gone to any one of the prominent fabric manufacturers' sites, but only minutes before I had looked at my email and found a call for entries from SAQA.

It seems that last year SAQA paired up with Andover Fabrics last year to put out a collection called Urban Textures, six different fabrics designed by six SAQA members.  Now the fabrics are in the stores, and there's a challenge to make quilts from the fabrics, which will be shown online and in the SAQA Journal.

Longtime readers of this blog may recall my ambivalence about challenges; they're a temptation I try to resist except in closely defined circumstances.  But now I needed some "fabric samples" to practice my Photoshopping, so I got them from the Andover site.

After most of the day I think I have pretty much mastered the art of making nine-patch "quilts" on my computer.  I can even make twelve-patch quilts!  But what I realized about the SAQA collection is that it's not really a collection, it's a bunch of unrelated designs.  Each of the designs is attractive by itself, and if you were to combine all three of its colorways you could probably make an interesting quilt.

I particularly like this first pattern below,  "Urban Gesture," designed by Elizabeth Brandt.  I can't tell from the website how big the designs are on the fabric, but I hope this one is REALLY BOLD.

Unfortunately, the six patterns don't play well together.

Not sure what kind of responses they will get to this challenge; I suspect those who participate will buy just one of the fabrics, perhaps in different colorways, and combine it with stuff from their stash.  I don't anticipate much mixing.