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Friday, June 18, 2010

Art and soul wrap up (finally!)

This falls into the “better late than never” category. Finally, I am getting around to concluding my Art and Soul experience; in other words, a wrap-up of the other three classes I took. You can find my “paste paper experience” HERE.

It’s good timing, really, since the bulk of this post will be on my classes with Marie Otero, who is currently running her first online Photoshop class, Digital Magic.

(Disclaimer: Marie and I are friends, so you might think I'm biased. I guess I am, but I promise you I have not exaggerated my reactions to her classes, etc. She truly is a gem.)

We have just concluded Week One in Digital Magic and it’s been a blast. More on that in another post.

So, back to Art and Soul. Before I get to my experiences in Marie’s “Surface Magic” and “Lovely Layers” classes, I do need to say that if you ever get a chance to take a class with Linda and Opie O’Brien, do so! They are a husband and wife team who are both talented and entertaining. Leslie and I both took their Alice Meets the Dali-Mama class and while it had its ups and downs for me, I am very glad I took it.

The “down” for me is very specific: I did not like the substrate we used. At first, I thought the funky black roofing material was very cool and looked forward to using it in the class project. But after several minutes of cutting it (with good, sharp scissors), my hand hurt and a blister started to form. Tough stuff! Admittedly, I don’t have strong hands, but still. I do like the look of this roofing material and I am a big fan of using non-traditional items in art. But I wouldn’t use this again. It was hard to cut, I found it hard to punch holes in it, and there were some problems getting papers to stick to it, making collage a bit frustrating. My glue stick wouldn’t work at all and I had to resort to using goopy ol’ white glue. That was successful but it’s a messy substance I typically try to avoid.

Having said that, I love the concept of the class and was amazed at some of the beautiful projects my fellow classmates produced. My “Alice” is certainly not the pick of the class by any stretch of the imagination, but Linda and Opie do have a photograph of it on their blog, which you can see HERE. Mine is the Alice doll in the third photograph down, on the right. HERE'S a close-up. Linda also showed us an excellent technique for hanging and knotting beads and charms on our doll using waxed linen thread, which would work in many different circumstances. For me, very useful information I will definitely use in the future.

And you should have seen the piece of tin that Opie cut for Leslie! He has tin snips that will make you drool. He cut the edges off a decorative burner cover and his cut edge was so, so smooth. No buckling or creasing whatsoever. If you cut metal, contact Linda and Opie about purchasing these; I believe they sell them.

I've gone backwards with my class wrap-ups, as my first two classes at Art and Soul were both with Marie. Her “Lovely Layers” Photoshop class was great fun -- above is a collage I created, based on one of our class projects but using my own photograph -- and I definitely picked up a few pointers. Many people asked me in advance why I was taking a Photoshop class, as they were puzzled why someone who is comfortable with the program would take “lessons”. I have tried very hard to explain that even when you feel quite competent in a software program like Photoshop, there is always a lot to still learn. Always.

Every Photoshop artist has their own style and it’s great to get an insight into someone else’s workflow and methods. Was I already familiar with what Marie taught? Yes. But did she show me something I didn’t already know? Again, yes! And that’s what’s wonderful about a class in something that’s familiar to you…when your eyes pop wide open and you realize you’ve just picked up a fantastic trick or tip. Heck, I'm taking Marie’s online class right now and while Week One is covering techniques I already use, she’s sharing some amazing approaches that never would have occurred to me. Her Photoshop knowledge is stellar and she's such a calm, patient teacher.

And now onto the Surface Magic class, a class that truly was “magic” to me. Maybe I’ve been living under a proverbial rock, but until recently I did not know that something called “digital grounds” even existed. But Marie taught us to use digital grounds to coat the surfaces of many oddball substrates so that we could then run these items through an inkjet printer and print our art and photographs on them.

Did you ever think you could run a piece of plastic through your printer and not have the ink smear everywhere? Can you even imagine running kitchen tinfoil through your printer and not creating an unsightly inky mess? Well, I did it – both, plastic and tinfoil (see below for my "foil art", one of my favourites) – and created beautiful art. No mess whatsoever. The trick is the digital grounds.

Once you’ve properly coated your substrate with the grounds and allowed the surface to dry, it can be run through your inkjet printer. It’s astounding. Magic. We printed on absorbent materials like mulberry paper (see image at the top of this post), we painted magazine pages with gesso and acrylic paint and then printed on them, we printed on many different asian papers, we even used brown paper grocery bags. I printed an angel image on heavily textured wallpaper and the result was, if I do say so, fantastic. See below.

Everything worked great once it had been treated with the digital grounds. As you can see in the photos here, the coated substrate is taped onto a carrier sheet (we used cardstock) and then that's just run through the printer. Easy-peasy. Just imagine all that you could stick to a piece of cardstock: the possibilities are endless. Before we left Virginia we had some shopping excursions, which included perusing store aisles looking for things to print on! I bought plastic-coated envelopes and thin plastic report covers; we even hit Trader Joe’s where Leslie convinced the cashier to give us extra brown paper bags!

Marie also taught us how to make “skins” using digital grounds and had one already prepared for each student. She has a great video on her blog about this technique; you can watch it HERE.

And I have to put in a good word about Marie’s husband, Rick. What a trooper! He manned a workstation during the entire Surface Magic class to help students get their artwork printed and was the go-to guy during the Lovely Layers class. Every teacher should have such a great assistant!

Marie is teaching these two classes at Art and Soul Portland this fall and I urge you to take both if you have the opportunity. They'll really expand your digital art horizons!


Lost Aussie said...

The work you created during the classes was stellar Lennie. Thanks so much for all the generous feedback!

Susan Williamson said...

Wow!!! Fabulous work Lennie. Thanks so much for explaining things. I want to try all the different digital grounds. Wish I'd been there with you. And by the way ...I agree that no matter how comfortable you are with Photoshop, there are always new ways to stretch yourself and learn.

Leslie Jane Moran said...

Whew! I was there and even I learned something from this post!:) That sums the week up alright! I too loved Marie's Classes and continue to learn and be inspired by all the wonderful Photoshop women who surround me. It is possibly the one thing that I carry on with after the classes are over, the tin snipping, not so much :)

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