Thursday, 30 December 2010

6 ways your image manipulation software can help you judge your work

By the time we have finished a painting, we spent so much time looking at it that it becomes difficult to judge it.

You need to put some distance between you and your work. One way to do this consists in taking a photograph of the work. Picasso once told Brassaï: "It’s strange indeed, but it is through your photographs that I can judge my sculptures… Through them I can see my sculptures with a new eye..."

Image manipulation software like Photoshop Element Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (PC/Mac) or GIMP (a free open source alternative) let you do much more.

1. Watch the photograph of your painting as a thumbnail. This is the equivalent to stepping back from your painting. The minute details disappear and you can check the overall composition.

2. Flip the image horizontally. This is like looking at your painting into a mirror. If the vertical elements have a slant, you will see it immediately.

3. Make a black and white copy of the photograph of your work. This way you can check values. If you took a reference photograph of your subject, you can also turn it into a black and white photograph in order to compare the value range on both photographs.

4. Convert your picture to pure black and white. Turn the black and white photograph of your painting into a notan by pushing the contrast. In Photoshop, use the “Threshold” filter in the Image/Adjustments menu. Mid-tones disappear and you are left with pure light (in white) and pure dark (in black). This way you can judge the balance between large planes of light and dark areas. This contrast dictates how well the painting will stand when looked at from a distance.

5. Frame your work. Adding a frame to your work changes the way it looks. It is easy to add a “virtual frame” to your painting. The first way to do this in Photoshop is just to create a rectangle slightly larger than your work and to put the cropped photograph of your work on top of it. Then try different colour (black, brown, gold, etc.) for the rectangle so that it complements or contrasts with the painting. You could also photograph one of the real frames in your stock, extract the frame from the picture and copy it onto a transparent background, so that you can put it on top of the photographs of your paintings.

6. Hang your work amongst masterpieces. A painting may look good on its own and look different when surrounded by other paintings in an exhibition. You can create a virtual gallery of paintings you like with an empty space left to hang your own painting. Wikimedia Commons will give you a choice of images of works by past masters to copy into your virtual gallery.

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Katherine Thomas said...

Those are such good ideas! I'm going to copy them on a note and tape it to my wall. I know what you mean about not being able to judge one's own art.

Rosalie said...

Great ideas. I'll try these.

Starrpoint said...

You know, I have found this to be true.

Paintings I loved, did not look as good photographed, but some I was disappoint in looked great when I saw them in the software.

It was like looking at them fresh. Also I was able to see the negative space better.

Now I will photograph as I go, making slight corrections that have improved my work.

And sometimes I have liked it more as I progress than when I finished. Showing me I have gone astray.

Horst said...

Thanks for showing on how to get a NOTAN.