Saturday, October 31, 2015

CreativeSpaces :: Sketching Gear in my Camera Bag

Yes I always do carry a small sketch book in my camera bag. Why?

There is always a sketchbook in the back of my camera bag.They are not full of finished art works, mainly there are squiggles that are really little more than doodles. There are also notes on the lighting, time and conditions. Maybe I have sketched the horizon and marked where the sun/moon rise or set. Perhaps I have scouted around for an interesting foreground silhouette. Occasionally there will be records of some key colour aspects of what was happening. Most are just me trying out some composition decisions, often this is just getting a feel for shapes and tones (not exactly notan but similar).

I prefer to have the mini A7 visual diaries. Every now and then you might find the local art supplier has a selection of sample pads made up at A7 size, at a very attractive price. There will be watercolour and various drawing surfaces and perhaps fewer pages than the normal pads but they will be attractively priced. They are idea for the camera bag. I also include and old/used (ie short pencil), perhaps a pen and I have been experimenting with woodless pencils, they can be sharpened or broken off and used as a crayon, They are also very black.

Sometime ago, I had seen a video by Matt Kloskowski talking about the 50/50-rule. Which basically suggested spending 50% of the time to capture what you want but then spend as much time again doing something, original, creative or experimental. This was a nice coincidence because I had years previously made some notes or more key words on different things to try out, scrawled on the back page of an early little sketchbook. Here is my list of alternative ways begin to see a photo.
  • sketching is about seeingWhat is the first thing you see? Do you return to looking at it or something else?
  • What should be left out?
  • Which details are help tell the story?
  • Is the Light? Hard, Soft, Low Key High Key, Direction
  • Is there a way to balance the mass/tone. Avoid symmetry
  • What is the important Colour? Emotion? Atmosphere?
The best reason of all to have a sketch book in your camera bag is it forces you to look and find an image (not just focus on perfecting a crop in your viewfinder). An Artist has to see their subject and figure out where to put it on a blank page. You don’t have to spend long just a few squiggles will give you an idea of what to capture. This really seeing is likely to modify how you position the camera and take a photo, much better than just lifting the camera to your face and finding an image in the view finder.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Creative Spaces :: The Plein-air Sketching Kit

the joys of plein-air painting I enjoy painting and sketching outside. Very little of this work gets directly into exhibition pieces but that’s not really my purpose. I find I do remember more and connect with a place more strongly when I have spent a little time sketching.

Over time my “sketching bag” has evolved to include more paints (watercolours and water soluble media) and brushes. If I use pencils they will probably be really soft (eg 4B or 6B) but I have begun to use ink pens more often. I’ve become a real fan of Derwent’s Inktense blocks.  Whilst charcoal is good for the studio, it can’t stand the travel and rough handling so I have found conte is way better.

I currently have two identical smaller re-purposed shoulder carry bags (handout from a tour group) and have them fitted out with similar basics. One is just a little more slimmed down than the other. Things get used up and I make occasional changes of what I consider is essential, particularly the surfaces I am painting/drawing on.The contents of the "Fatter" Sketching Bag & Accompanments Sometime I just have a basic sketch book, other times I might want good quality watercolour paper (ie > 300gsm) I pretty well always have one packed and ready to go. At the moment I have only the one folio to carry better quality media (ie individual watercolour or pastel papers) it also holds a drawing board that can be attached to a camera tripod, (see my tripod easel post), This normally travels with the larger kit which is logical as it has more watercolour paints.

Yes all that stuff does fit in the dark blue bag! Easily!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

CreativeSpaces :: What is a “fold out” studio?

fold out studioIt’s really nothing fancy, “”fold out” studio is just my name for a portable workspace (and specifically the equipment and media for it). I have had a fair bit of practise in creating such a “portable” studio. One of my favourite places to create is in a place down the coast, a couple of hours drive. To use it I must include all I want in the back of the car (space is generally limited) and I need to be able to hand carry the bits, thus weight has also been a consideration.

I think it is reasonable to assume anywhere that can make a functional studio space is likely to already have a table (or desk), chair (or stool), access to water & power. From the car boot experience I like to have everything fit in a canvas style duffle Contents of my "fold out" Studio Duffle Bagbag or a couple of smaller carry bags. Fitting it all in a duffle bag also means when necessary it can easily become standard luggage for flying (ok not much room left for clothes).  It also needs to fit in the bottom shelf of my studio cupboard.

What I expect to be able to do it is is sketch, paint and also take or process (lots of) photos. I also want to be able to use my basic tool kit of photo management and post processing software (ie I need a computer and preferably access to the internet). I also prefer music (usually jazz) when I’m creating (I have an old IPod nano but I find my phone does just as well and I usually have a selection of music on the Laptop as well). Earbuds/headphones so I don't annoy others

So what goes in the Duffle Bag?
  • Sketching gear, Optionally [Plein-air Sketching Kit, or Portable Sketching Desk]
  • Painting media pencils, watercolour [Pastels,Acrylic]
  • Brush Roll(s)
  • Surfaces, Sketch books, good watercolour paper, Small “test” canvases
  • Light Drawing Board (fits into base width of Duffle Bag)
  • Folding Easel
  • Empty Trays and Containers
  • Old Towels (as Padding, Cleanup &/or Drop Cloth)
  • Power Board (not shown)
Other Items Hand Carried.
  • Android Phone (LG 7L)
  • DSLR Camera (usually my Pentax K20D)
  • Laptop (Toshiba)
  • USB Backpack Harddrive (for backup, extra music)
  • WiFi Modem
  • Battery chargers

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

CreativeSpace ::Time for a Change

An optimistic view of my studio Whilst I have the luxury of a Home Office and a separate Studio. They are significantly different places with different meaning. The office is the place to work and I can leave the work behind when I leave the room. Creativity doesn’t work that way, it just happens and is difficult to turn on and off. The environment has a lot more sway in the creative process than most folk appreciate. Unfortunately my studio has succumbed (or more precisely keeps succumbing) to clutter. A stained glass filter from Dreamscope might make it look inspiring but all the junk it hides makes it hard to just sit down and create. So how to fix it?

When I really though about it I don’t limit my creative spirit to the studio anyway. I have different places where I do find inspiration and focus to create. Some are handy, a few steps away, some take time and effort  to travel to. So before cleaning up my studio yet again I spent some time contemplating these places and what I need in those locations. Being in the right place at the right time is difficult but being there with the right tools is more important. So I’ve spent some time thinking about what might be that right tool. Is it just a sketch book, a camera (smartphone maybe but would a DSLR  be better?). Mind map of my creative spacesWhat about colour, watercolour, pastel or camera again? Do I need computer tools?

This let me group my work and media into the places it may be useful, not the place I tend to dump it (ie not the table or floor of my studio). Not only was this interesting it refreshed my thinking about what I need and always having it ready. This journey will make a nice set of blog posts so stay tuned.
My objective for the next few years is to seek out artistic residences that I can both learn from and perhaps return a little extra new knowledge back into their community. Having myself prepared to create in other spaces is an important first step.

Monday, October 26, 2015

PhotoProject :: One Image Three Ways

Sometimes it is worth taking one image and processing it in a variety of ways. Yesterday sunset was very memorable. Here I firstly have a Raw image processed in Lightroom (just of tone & colour balance). Next is a bracketted set made into a tonemapped HDR using Aftershot Pro, Finally I have used a Dreamscope filter.
RAW Image postprocessed in LightroomHDR created in Aftershot HDRAngel Hair Filter from Dreamscope

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Discovering the simple elegance in chromecast-ing

I must admit I had been ignoring Apple TV, streaming, chrome casting and such. Unlike the supposed typical Australian net user I don’t use such technology to download pirate videos of the lastest TV show from the USA. So I am late coming to the wonderful little chromecast dongle. Rather than playing with streaming video, I came across the wonders of the chrome cast as a way to avoid cables and incompatibilities when giving a presentation (or training session) directly from my computer. What it can do is allow you to throw your screen onto any modern TV and most data projectors without a cable. Thus avoiding resetting screen resolution, cables not long enough or other such hassles. The TV, Big screen or projector just needs a HDMI input and most recent equipment will come with this. You just plug in the chromecast dongle into the HDMI socket (it generally needs to be connected to separate power supply, a charger is supplied with the dongle but any powered USB port is fine). No need for a bag of extra speciality cables

There is a downside, you need to have WiFi, both to set up the the chrome cast at a new location and carry the stream from your screen during the presentation. Most venues these days do have internet & WiFi but if they don’t and If you have a smartphone that can create a local hotspot that will be fine for running a powerpoint or a live demo of software. Perfect for a travelling trainer. However it could be a very expensive way to stream cast a full movie from somewhere else on the internet, depending on your phones data package.

You can broadcast from your phone or tablet via special apps, and you probably already have some of these. For example the You Tube app on android will direct the YouTube clip to your chromecast, no need to download it first. Google Slides, can make a slide show presentation located on google drive directly controlled from your from your phone (and yes it can read powerpoint files). The real power lies in the ability to send the contents of any chrome browser tab, to the chromecast, and thus big screen it is connected to. The current version also has the ability to send an application output or your entire screen (these later options are in beta release and can be a little laggy at times). So as long as you have a chrome browser you can send anything you can get on your PC screen onto a larger presentation stage. All without any fuss.

I also like the backdrop (aka screen wallpaper) settings on the unit which lets you use your own pictures from Google Photos, Flickr (or facebook if you must) or just stick with the google selected photo as a slideshow screen saver.

Monday, October 12, 2015

PhotoEditingTools :: HDR well After the fact

 The unprocessed Bracketedv Set of Photos

IMGP7994_HDR VersionSome time ago I used to take 5 photos in my bracketed sets. I was experimenting with different EV steps and this set remained unprocessed. Further these are all jpeg not RAW. Its not a gripping image but has a little potential as an abstract composition. I came aross the set when I was checking through my photos and thought I should give Aftershot Pro”s HDR merge a try out with 5 images rather than just 3. There was no need to worry it worked perfectly. The only item of note was, it is very important to run the feature based align when you are merging 5 hand held images, but Aftershot did a great job.

Not yet a great photo but a pleasing improvement none the less, much closer to what I feel I would have seen and attracted me to take the photo. These days I normally only take three photos but 1.5 EV apart and in RAW on my Pentax and 3 photos 2 EV apart on my Canon. There is lots of well meaning advice of the right settings for HDR, most of it apparently given with authority but totally prescriptive and usually without explanation. If you have decent software I suggest you experiment for yourself and find those settings that best suit you and your camera, and be gentle with the sliders during tone mapping (aka avoid the lurid colours).

Sunday, October 11, 2015

PhotoFriday :: My Favourite Location (this year)

_IGP9542-Jells Park
My all time favourite photographic location is still probably South Walkerville, but over the past year I have been taking a lot of photos just down the road in Jells Park. The scenery may not be  world shattering but I am enjoying capturing the migrating birds, the subtle changes of light and reflections.

For PhotoFriday‘s topic My Favourite Location

Saturday, October 10, 2015

ArtInspired :: becoming personal with your media

dream paint palette
Click on the image to get it as a free screen wallpaper from flickr 
Something very personal for many artists is their brushes, paints and pens. Maybe its because it can be  a windows into how they might make their marks. However knowing the brand and hue of the colours in the palette, that the artist use number 9 red sable brushes, is not going to help you recreate a master piece.

The artist however know how to use their media. They seldom have to think about the paints or brushes when they are creating their masterpiece. I'm of the opinion camera gear is a lot like that. Gear envy will not help you to taking better photos. Taking photos with a camera at hand (perhaps the one in your phone or an old camera you can get a lend of) is going to become something personal you can rely on.

Friday, October 09, 2015

PhotoProject :: Tinkering with Luminosity Masks

Multi-image stitched panorama VB beach sunset 06

This is a multi-image stitched panorama, that I have played around with luminosity masks. Firstly with an inverted mask to lift the shadows a little and improve clarity(while protecting the sky), Then a second layer with a straight luminosity mask to add a glow to the sky.

All in the cause of recreating the feeling of being there.

Monday, October 05, 2015

An Antipodian Walk in the Woods

An Antipodian Walk in the Woods A dreamscope interpretation of a local track

“We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods