I’ve spent most of my artistic life as a photographer, following in the tradition of Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Ansel Adams. I’ve worked with cameras and films of many sizes, from single lens reflex cameras using 35mm roll film, to a custom-made wooden field camera with dual backs that used both 5 x 8″ and 7 x 11″ sheet film.
Almost all of my film work was done in black and white. I processed the film in tanks or trays, and made prints in a traditional darkroom. I sandwiched sheets of film with sheets of paper in a large glass contact printer, or enlarged smaller negatives onto paper I’d inserted into a 4-bladed easel, using a 4×5 Beseler enlarger outfitted with Schneider lenses and a Zone VI cold light head. I worked that way until the spring of 2012, when I made the leap to digital cameras, Photoshop and inkjet printers.
Not long after I started using a digital camera, I realized that all of my favorite pictures were abstractions. Many of them were reflections in water. I used Photoshop to make them even more abstract; to blend the colors and shapes so they were more painterly, less recognizable as photographs. But they were still photographs at heart, and my tools were those you would use to create and enhance photographic images.
I’d known that digital painting existed as a medium for some time, but I felt no connection with it. Then, one day, I came across a video tutorial by John Derry, one of the creators of the popular digital painting application, Corel Painter. Released on lynda.com, Derry’s video Digital Painting: Street Scene demonstrates how to use Photoshop’s mixer brush to create digital paintings that use a photograph as both a template and a color palette.
Four weeks after I’d finished Derry’s tutorial, in December of 2014, I made a digital painting that I thought was worth committing to paper. Over the next twelve months, I refined Derry’s approach, keeping some parts and discarding others, until I’d arrived at something that works for me.
I enjoy making digital paintings so much that I’ve given up photography, other than as a source of material for new paintings. May the spirit of Ansel forgive me.
I hope you enjoy viewing the results of my ongoing explorations.