Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blue Horizon

'Blue Horizon' Acylic on Box Canvas 61x76cm (shirley shelton©copyright 2012)

'Blue Horizon' Acylic on Box Canvas 61x76cm (shirley shelton©copyright 2012)

Do you like abstract art? That was the first question I was asked at art college. Can you imagine what my answer was?

A big resounding...NO!

No, I didn't like it. I didn't 'get it' and like many I thought it a refuge for the untalented who seemed to indulge in something the proverbial child of ten could knock out.

How much our tastes change! Now half the paintings I work on are abstract or semi abstract. Why the change? I'll tell you at the end of this post...

Blue Horizon is a semi-abstracted sunset with an oceanic flavour thrown in.  I've used copious amounts of acrylic texture paste as well as several glazes. These build layers, give depth and create both that swirling, tidal effect and the subtle variations of light.

I've used a variety of blues to compliment the bright oranges and yellows which give the piece an acute sense of colour and vibrancy.

So, why my change of heart regarding all things abstract? Two words; Jackson Pollock. I saw his exhibition at the Royal Academy in London and I immediately sold! Only when I saw those massive canvases in the flesh did I finally..get it!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Reflections of Antiquity

Reflections of Antiquity (shirley shelton©copyright 2012)
I must admit I love to experiment and try new effects be it in my painting or my photography. Well, a girl needs a challenge and with 'Reflections of Antiquity' I certainly found one!
Sometimes when I'm searching for inspiration (one of those duh moments) I find it helpful to simply put the breaks on and play. Allow the imagination some R and R to experiment and see what happens?

In this case I decided to play with a set of 12 inch wooden African figures which adorn my living room and I wondered how these might turn out via my flat bed scanner? If you've never used your scanner for anything other than documents then start doing so right now...

Much of the alchemy of such a project occurs in Photoshop and after importing the scanned images I began shuffling them, examining the possibilities and looking for a decent composition. After much trial and error I settled on the profiles, both figures facing each other with hands poised studiously beneath their chins.

I then imported a number of different textures, pasted these over the figures and fiddled with filters until I got the effect I wanted.

The pose seemed to evoke a certain Egyptian flavour and to go with this I downloaded some hieroglyphs (what else?) which I again pasted and adjusted using filters which with a bit of tweaking gave the impression of being carved into the stone behind the figures. Cool!

Once I was happy with the tone, levels and general composition I exported the image into Corel Painter. Photoshop can do just about anything but when it comes to brushes Painter is King! It has a formidable array of texture brushes and painterly effects which can really add that extra 'razzle dazzle' to any image.

The watchword here is experimentation. You have nothing to lose by really going for it and trying something new and indeed everything to gain. Using different methods and multiple programmes not only opens your mind up to new and exciting possibilities but I have to say there is a great feeling of satisfaction that comes from drawing together such numerous strands and tying then all successfully together. Great stuff!



Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Solitary Bench on a Snowy Day

Solitary Bench on a Snowy Day (shirley shelton©copyright 2011)

A bench on a cold day. A snow covered and solitary bench in a park as the whole county reels under the grip of cold weather...

The solitary bench is a subject often captured by photographers with a far keener eye than mine. But it's a subject begging to be approached again and again since it can symbolise so much or conversely mean absolutely nothing?

Real life often fails to deliver the requisite drama to a shot which is why black and white or sepia are especially good at conveying a mood of isolation. By subtracting colour we are required to engage the image in a completely different way and with a whole array of different emotions.

Photoshop again fills in where real life can't by producing the snow falling effect. Photographing falling snow (like rain) can prove very difficult and the end results hardly resemble what our infinitely more adaptive eyes can perceive with ease. In this case once I'd desaturated the image, tweaked the levels and was happy with the tonal values I pasted a photo I'd taken of shingle over the top. Applying the 'hard light' filter removed the dark background enabling the shingle to stand out as an effective substitute snow.

 You can the effect by comparing the original (bottom photo) with the digitally enhanced one (top) That's showbiz!

 The empty bench. Symbol of solitude and captured in a million black and white pictures of parks filled with leafless trees yet void of colour and people. Lonely images. Cool images? Images that sit well with our modern tendency to favour the bleak, the dark and the cynical?



Friday, December 02, 2011

Sunflowers in a Blue Vase

'Sunflowers in a BlueVase' (Digital Image) shirley shelton©copyright 2011
Hmm, continuing on with the theme of Sunflowers (there's a pattern developing here) I offer a very different treatment from my last entry. In this case a portrait and though in many ways it's more conventional than 'Sun Scorched' it's none the less highly stylized and owes it's entire look to digital enhancement.
I was initially drawn to the shape of the vase and it's exotic design. I also felt the blues complimented the colours in the flowers and both co-existed nicely with the door as background. I especially liked the scratched, weathered appearance of the door (which, incidentally is to my garden shed) Note that the door as background doesn't detract from the main subject. Rather it's gnarled, aged surface contrasts perfectly with both the elegance of the vase and the fresh, organic forms of the flowers.

Again I used my Sony A350 and again a 90mm lens. I shot it in RAW (my usual preference) and after playing with the basic look and levels in Adobe Camera Raw I opened the file in Photoshop. This allows me a myriad possibilities as well as complete freedom to 'work up' the image intuitively. In this case I duplicated the layer, converted the top layer to black and white and then played with the filters until the image had the required 'stylized look I was after. 

I think this image works well. It puts a different spin on what might have been a very conventional vase of flowers. It's balanced with being boring and has an interesting background that doesn't compromise the subject. Of cousre I'm biasd and proudly so! But as always, you guys do the judging.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011


'Sun-Scorched' (Digital Image 2011) shirley shelton©copyright 2011

Here's a piece of trivia for you. Know why sunflowers are so named? Well, because they belong to the genus Helianthus annus and "Helios" translates into sun in Greek. Hmm, now fancy that...
That and the fact they do actually resemble the sun (well at least a sun in a children's drawing) and their association with warmth, summer, Van Gogh and all we miss in these winter months..brrrrrr.
They also make for great photographs which is why they are so popular and why their image dominates the internet in countless clones of similar shots and why therefore I've felt the need to do something different. Don't get me wrong, I love sunflowers and I enjoy looking at them and I've loved painting them but if I'm going to put a photo of one on my blog I'd really like it to have a sliver of originality as opposed to the same old same as?
I took the original sunflower image this summer using my Sony A350 with a 90mm lens and edited mostly in Photoshop though I did add some of the textural elements in Coral Painter. Again this is a perfect example of experimenting with layers, unleashing their potential and with it your own creativity. In this case I simply stacked layers with different textures and after playing with various filters and getting the results I wanted I used the eraser to carve away unwanted elements. The text effect I created separately using free transform-warp then added it as another layer to the main image. Once I had all the elements together I tweaked the levels and adjusted tones and colour to finish off that fiery look.
I think Sun-Scorched resulted in a dynamic and interesting take on what could have remained a good but very 'bread and butter' photograph of sunflowers. As a painter I enjoy stretching other creative muscles and again with digital the potential is limitless. I mean really, there are no limits to what you can do and those purists who think digital manipulation is some form of artistic blasphemy obviously need to come into the 21ist Century pronto!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Splish Splash

'Splish Splash' (Acrylic & mixed media on Box Canvas 137x60cm shirley shelton©copyright 2011)
shirley shelton©copyright 2011
Ok, it's been a while since my last post but hey, life has a habit of intervening! Other projects and concerns fight for attention and before you can spell B-L-O-G....six months have past and not a word or a picture published.

Bad girl. Must and should do better? Fair enough. OK, I'll give it a go!

Hmm, Splish Splash just happened. No prior planning or product of commission. I was simply looking for something to compliment my living room, pick up the colors, echo the theme and generally indulge a desire to simply 'splash' a slab of my imagination onto canvas. No restraint, just gut, muse and possibly a slice of the id?
Splish Splash is abstract as I like it with color, texture and composition hopefully coming together in in a riot of extravagance. I don't deny it's personal and thus it's ability to please will be governed by your own taste. I've again used the diptych format which I always feel lends an interesting play on space and again the medium I've used is acrylic with acrylic gesso to build up areas of thick texture. The result (I hope) is a playful fusion of color, surface and a sense of perhaps 'controlled' madness?
I'm happy with the result but as always, you guys are the ones who judge and you either like apply the big thumbs down!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Dandelion Daydreams

'Dandelion Daydreams' (shirley shelton©copyright 2011)

'Dandelion Macro' (shirley shelton©copyright 2011)
So, how do you add sparkle to an otherwise 'ok' image? The two images above demonstrate the creative potential of Photoshop and the fact that there are always different ways of developing an images potential.

Dandelion Macro (above bottom) was taken on a bright day using a 90mm Sigma macro lens. OK, it's a good, crisp shot with a nicely blurred background and I suppose I could have left it at that. But is it original or in any way dynamic? Perhaps not. Alas it echoes a million such images found in galleries across the web. Nice, well taken photographs but with little to mark them out as being hmm...


So enter Dandelion Daydream or... the danedlion makeover...
When starting out manipulating an image like this it pays (unless you already have a firm idea) to be open minded and to go with your instincts. This allows you to respond to 'chance happenings' (or those wonderful little accidents) which ultimately gives your work a more spontaneous feel.

So I open my image in Photoshop and after a few tweaks to correct levels and tone I duplicate it in the layers palette. This is where the action is. Where the image will take shape and ultimately suceed..or not!

Oh and remember, Photoshop will not 'cure' a badly taken photograph. It is not a cure for sloppy practice and if you don't have a strong image then go away and practice more with your camera!

Next I selected a few textures to play with. You can find sites all over the Internet supplying an infinite number of wondrous and varied textures. Or (as I did here) you can create you own from anything your imagination cares to find. In this case I used a texture I'd conjured up some weeks back using shattered windscreen glass (like tiny diamonds) on my flat bed scanner. Try it. A scanner makes an excellent producer of textures weird and wild!

Using this shattered glass texture as a second layer in the layers Palette I experimented with the different filters until I found the one that gave me the effect I liked. Then it was a case of taking the layer in Photoshop's awesome black and white adjustments and simply (and intuitively) working until you get the look you like. Then I added a sepia tint, checked levels and finally sharpened until I had what I wanted!

As I 've said before, these are not supposed to be detailed tutorials but rather a peek at my working methods. A look 'behind the curtain' at my working methods. There are those who fail to be impressed by work created in such programmes as Photoshop (usually those who have no idea how it works) claiming either that it is some how 'false' or somehow untrue as a piece of art. Others simply think that it's 'computer generated' and that you simply 'push a button' and...presto the work appears! Both are ill informed and thus nonsense.

An artist utilises the technology of the day. The Impressionists in the 19th Century utilised advances in paint pigments which produced brighter more luminous tones than ever before. You don't accuse Degas or Monet of somehow cheating?

Photoshop is a tool which allows an artist to take their work to another level or to experiment in ways hitherto unimagined. Personally I find that incredibly exciting!



Sunday, May 01, 2011

A Hard Days Week

It's been a busy week (phew) with muggins (above in painterly mode) trying to be in a dozen different places doing a dozen different things..


But do I complain?
Well of course I do! But what fun would life be without it's challenges? Anyway folks, when I haven't been painting I've been photographing and when not engaged in either I'm glued to my computer immersed in the wild and wonderful world of photoshop. And when not doing that? Well, after all... a girls got to have a private life!

So, I hope you'll enjoy my subsequent offerings as much as I've enjoyed creating them!