Friday, March 27, 2009

Photoshop "Trick": Making a Color Negative

I had an interesting comment on the spatter technique today; an artist wrote that they thought this technique was not a "proper" use of the paint. Perhaps this can lead to an interesting discussion: What IS proper use of paint? What is allowable or inadmissible? While I personally wouldn't base my entire career on spattering, there are artists who have and do...Jackson Pollack comes to mind. Vance Kirkland. The late performance painter Denny Dent. I've seen many realist painters who use the technique (especially landscape painters). If memory serves, Robert Vickrey, the great egg tempera artist, has used this technique as well.

All your comments are welcome!

So, since we're on the subject (sort of) photos and art, the very fine artist Marian Fortunati had an odd thing happen when posting her photo yesterday: all the colors showed up in reverse, like a color negative (if anyone remembers film anymore!). Go to her blog to hers. Below is a sample of one my paintings with the 'invert' next to it.


Although Marian inadvertently inverted, you can do it by clicking on Control + I (or Cmmd + I for Macs, or from the top toolbar: Image/Adjustments/Invert).

It's an interesting, if odd, effect but led me to thinking how (if we can get past the idea that we're cheating), the computer might expand our painting universes a bit.

What if...what if we underpainted an entire image in it's complementary colors, and then top painted with the 'real' colors...? We know that painting on toned canvases gives good effects. What would this be like?

As you can see if the side by side above, though, the complementaries as seen by Photoshop are, well, maybe a bit drab and weird. If I was going to try this, I'd try upping the saturation, as in the image to the left. (Click on Control + H (or Cmmd + H for Macs, or from the top toolbar: Image/Adjustments/Hue-Saturation) for the Hue Saturation Dialog box, and move the saturation slider all the way to the right).



20 comments:

  1. There was an article in American Artist about doing just that: underpainting in complementary colors first, then letting little bits and pieces of the complementary color show through when putting on the next layer(s) of oil, acrylic, or pastel. The artist stressed the need to match value, though, or else I suppose it could look pretty bad. I've thought to try it sometime but so far have been too lazy to try it. :)

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  2. Hi Jala, Sounds like a lotta work, doesn't it! I'll have to looks for that article, thanks. (You'll notice I didn't say "I" was going to try this!)

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  3. I'd like to see what kind of paintings the person who stated you were not using paint properly produces. [I'll be nice] I can't imagine NOT thinking out of box when it comes to creating art. Some of the old masters used their fingers to touch up or blend evidenced by their fingerprints embedded into the paint.

    I like this negative stuff and yes I remember photo negatives. Still have some...

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  4. Proper? Ha! Now I have a sudden urge to drink tea with my pinky sticking out.

    Thanks for teaching us a new trick (even though I'm feeling like an old dog).

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  5. Without artists who are willing to challenge what is considered the "proper" use of materials, there would be very little growth or change in art.

    What may have prompted the comment you received is that many art competitions and galleries establish criteria for what they will and will not accept. Techniques such as splatter,salt, etc. are sometimes against their rules. This can give the false impression that these techniques are wrong.

    Your blog is great. Keep showing creative ideas.

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  6. Excellent post, r. and thought-provoking questions. Reminds me of the folks who never use black, never work from a photo, never use white gouache on a watercolor, never never never...or they're afraid they're cheating somehow. I think if the technique serves the painting, why not use it! If the painting's overshadowed by the technique, well different story. I do like the effect of underpainting with a complement. makes things "zing." Thanks for the keyboard commands for the Mac folks, too!

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  7. I forgot to comment on the "proper" thing. Using brushes, sticks, fingers, toes, forks, knives, spattering, spatulas...I don't see a problem. I know someone who makes...um...art using her...um...female anatomy...as the application tool.
    !!!

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  8. Interesting trick with Photoshop! I often use my Photoshop to play with my ref photo, mostly to determine where to crop.

    By the way, you are given "A passion for Painting Award." Come and get the award.

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  9. My first thought is "to much work" and my 2nd thought is hmmmm if it gives a painting something unique...try it.

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  10. Thanks Joanne and Liz, for both of your eloquent statements! I'm in absolute agreement. I may quote you in my next post.

    And thanks Jala, for reminding us of many other,um, er, exotic painting tools...(I knew someone who used to make alginate (the stuff dentists use) molds of said anatomy).

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  12. Thanks for the award, Akiko, I will stop by!

    Thanks for your comment, David; I have to admit, as slow as I already paint, I'm more interested in seeing someone else try it than experimenting myself.

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  13. I really enjoy your artwork,and I have an award for you on my blog.

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  14. ummm...you don't paint slowly. Really, you don't. If only I could be as prolific as you are!

    I'm too lazy for the complementary underpainting thing as well. I've tried it, but it really is a chore to get the hue and values just right--and I so often shift my palette as I work through a painting anyhow--the whole idea of planning it out before I start just takes all the fun out of it for me!

    I do love love love playing around with reference images in Photoshop to give me ideas for working with the painting. Although I've never used any of the results in any direct way, I'm sure it informs my way of looking at the piece as I go along.

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  15. Hi Kim, Ummm...yeah, I really DO paint slowly. It can take me weeks to complete some works. I just keep a number of canvases going in different states.

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  16. I'm a little late to this particular party, but I think we should always give ourselves "license" to experiment!! Sometime ago, I used photoshop to make a negative of a relatively boring photo of tulips. Although I never painted it, the negative image was much more exciting than the original because it was totally unexpected.

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  17. I think it was actually Artists magazine, not American Artist. But who cares, we're all too busy and find it too boring to do anyway. :)

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  18. The inverted image looks really cool. Now I kind of want to see a painting done that way with the colors reversed!

    -Dean

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  19. Yeah, me too Dean! I'm just not sure I want to be the one to do it!

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Thank you for your kind comments! They always make my day.