I never did catch you all up on what happened at the end of last semester, did I?

The first image here is a .jpeg of my final painting in the Beginning section, last semester.  This is the one which I was excited to work on, several months ago.

"Mudra" 2'x2', acrylic on plywood
2’x2′, acrylic on plywood

I took a photo, divided it into four tones (background [actually divided into two large sections], white, black, +2 intermediate greys), and used 5 mil acetate sheets to block out the color separations.  I believe I divided the original photo into nine color separations (it provided the clearest detail), which presented a bit of a challenge when attempting to pick out the value groupings…particularly where this went all detailed and somewhat abstract (at close range), in the fingers.

I used GIMP to help me out with the original print.  It’s not the easiest program to use, but at the time I had nothing better.  I was hesitant to get a consumer version of Photoshop, because I’d trained on Photoshop CS3 about six years ago (the latest version, so far as I know, is CS6, which I’m thinking is automatically available to those with a Photoshop CC subscription [along with automatic upgrades]), and I didn’t know how far the software had evolved by this time, or if I would still remember how to use it.

Photoshop is much more powerful and easier to use — for me, though I’ve had two semesters of training with it — even in the consumer version.  (This is Photoshop Elements; which runs for about $100 at retail right now, but which is probably one of the most useful purchases I’ve made in some time.)  CS6 is prohibitively expensive, around 5-6x the price of Elements.  From what I can tell…last time and this time, I haven’t been able to find the Pen Tool (vector-drawing tool) in Elements.  I’m pretty sure it’s there in the full version, and I would expect it in CC.  Though Illustrator is really the program largely associated with vector drawing, the Creative Suites were designed to allow a single file (or multiple files composited into a single product) to shuffle between different programs.

Anyhow, GIMP allowed me to enlarge the photo, desaturate it, run it through “Posterize” (through which I could decrease the number of colors), and then take the file to a printer who could print this out at 2’x2′.  At the time, I didn’t know that the image size could be (much) more easily altered in Photoshop, which would have saved the printers some work.  I haven’t tried posterizing anything in PS yet, though I do see where it is located now (under Filter>Adjustments>Posterize).

Given that I posterized this into 9 color divisions…the finicky part of me wanted to make sure that each color was evenly spaced out along the “spectrum” of values, here, while I was also thinking that “it doesn’t have to be mathematical, it just has to look rational.”  There are quite a few errors here — if you knew where they were, the fact that not all the values are evenly spaced probably wouldn’t matter so much.  🙂  And anyway, how would I have “evenly spaced” a shade of mixed paint (I can actually think of a method, but I don’t think it’s that desirable)?  It was hard enough to just mix enough of the right shade to keep it consistent across the whole thing!  (My palette knife came in handy, here.)

The color borders had to be traced through the acetate, then the interiors cut out with an X-Acto.  Then those holes were painted over, and the acetate lifted.  As can be imagined…the acetate layers had to be well-aligned, and I found a number of places where I had to paint, lift, and then wait for the paint to dry, and go back and reposition the acetate to a different area.  Somehow things had shifted in the time it took me to trace and cut different areas, so in the final version I had to allot for things not being perfectly aligned.

The other thing — this was my first time working at this method; so I had my paint a bit too wet in some areas.  Obviously, that meant that in some areas, it wicked underneath the acetate, causing some irregularities in fidelity to the original image (though my prof. had been trying to “get us away from the tyranny of the photograph,” I’m not sure “oops, glop” was a good excuse to do so).  😛  The paint ideally should be dry enough so that it won’t glop and slide under the plastic, but that’s easier said than done.

Should have spent the extra $8...
Should have spent the extra $8…

The other side of this composition would have been nearly perfect except for the fact that I didn’t spend the extra $8 to get a 2’x2′ piece of acetate to mask a large area which had to be underpainted.  I’m kind of not too proud of it, but aside from the border of the pants being hazy, everything else is pretty alright.

I would have gone back in with my white to alter the color just below the cuff of the pant leg, but because I only used two coats of gesso…my whites were not pure white; they were more of a warm ivory tint.  It was really obvious to me that I was painting over something.  Plus, the deadline was fast approaching.  I read on Clara Lieu’s blog, Art Prof, that students tend to underwork their art for fear that they’ll wreck it — certainly true in this example.  I would have had to go over all the whites again in order to cause them to match the blocked-out areas below the cuff…

…or I could have just spent the extra $8.  Seems trivial, at this point, especially since it’s on display; but I had been spending a relatively egregious amount of money on art supplies, at the time.

I’ll be in a higher level of Painting with the same prof. in Fall, though, so I’ll have more time to work at this technique.  🙂  I should be able to use colors next time, too!


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Haru ("Codey") is a second-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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