Sunday, February 10, 2013

Painting Break: Breaking Preconcieved Notions

What color is water?  If you ask a kid, they'd likely say blue.

What shape is water?  Wavy like this, right?
These are the most basic images and colors that represent water in most of our brains.  As a designer I tap into these innate semantic cues all the time.  They are universal symbols that make our two dimensional and three dimensional designs speak for themselves.  They enable us to convey massive amounts of information into simple graphics and visual cues.

But reality of course is very different.  Take fire, for example.  The hottest flame is actually blue, while the cooler flame is red.  Yet we associate blue with cold, and red with hot.  These things can give you a headache if you think about them too much so I'll move on!

This is one of the many reasons that I feel that doing a little painting between design projects helps keep my creative brain and my rendering abilities sharp.

I decided to do a miniature painting this weekend, of this photo that I took last fall of the wake behind our pontoon:

The original photo I used for reference

I have always been intimidated by the thought of painting realistic water and sky.  But I've decided that I cannot LIVE on a lake and be afraid to paint water.  So, I am forcing myself to confront water by painting some of my favorite photos of our lake.

Look at the water in the above photo.  Funny...I don't see much blue at all, and the surface texture is nothing like my blue waves above.

Some of the colors pulled from the water in the final painting
Water is the color of whatever surrounds it.  Sure, if the sky is clear and blue, the water is clear, and the sand underneath is white, it'll look blue too.  But I don't live in the Caribbean.  And even the Caribbean blue changes minute by minute as the sun rises and sets. 

So when I attempt to paint water I break it down into simply colors and shapes.  I have to throw out all of my preconceived notions of what water is.  It really exercises your brain!!

 The final size of this painting is 10" x 8" so I printed the photo full scale for reference.  I started with a couple faint pencil lines...the horizon, and the outline of the tops of the trees.

Then look at just the overall shades to cover the canvas with.  It's very loose and sloppy at this point.  Ugly!!  I know.  I work the acrylic like water color at this point, so it looks pretty thin.  It helps to blur your eyes here to help your brain ignore the details.  Or if you're fortunate enough to have horrible vision like me, you can just take your glasses off.

Next I start to define some of the waves...focusing again on the blob-y shapes and what color they are.

Amazing how it suddenly starts to look like water when you add crazy colors like really dark gray and a really washed out yellow.

A little more definition in the sky and more detailed reflections (shapes!) in the water.

Adding the black silhouettes is my favorite part.  Now it really looks like a sunset over a lake.

 Finally, the trees and my signature!

 So here are some of those colors I pulled out of the water via Photoshop...
Aaaah, it feels good to stretch my designer brain a little, throw out the preconceived aqua blue wavy notions, mimic seemingly random blobs and suddenly see water appear!

I did this little painting in 3 or 4 hours over the weekend.  A little weekend painting break can positively impact my design projects in many ways.  But the ability to realistically paint different materials and textures ties right into what I do as a designer as well.  I am constantly asked to create realistic renderings of products and displays, and whether I do this via Photoshop or with pen and paper, I am always tapping into this basic understanding of shapes and colors, and how their placement can define materials and textures for the viewer.

Kindof a cool connection if you ask me! :-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Let GF Design Photoshop your Home Remodel Project Ideas

Happy 2013! It's been a while since I've posted anything here, but that is in no way a reflection of my workload! I keep most of my clients' work private and don't announce my connection to most projects even after they are out there in the public's view.  Many of my clients utilize me as their "secret weapon," and I absolutely love making my clients look good in front of THEIR clients!  Being a "famous" designer has never been important to me so I really don't have much interest in taking public credit for my work.  What is important to me is that I continue to do what I love and make exceeding expectations my norm!  However, I will do my best to post more here in 2013 so you don't think that I have gone out of business.  I live and breathe design 24 hours a day  It's in my blood...I just can't help it!  In fact it's so much a part of me, it often doesn't occur to me that what I'm doing might be a blog worthy post.  So, look for more from me here this year!

I'm going to start by showing one of my capabilities, which I have kept quite busy doing for clients, but also recently did for myself.  I do quite a bit of work doing some "extreme editing" in Photoshop, and have edited many photos of homes over the past couple years.  Whether it is a client trying to decide how to remodel his own home, or a Realtor looking to show prospective buyers the potential of their listings if they were to remodel, I have Photoshopped everything from paint colors to wood finishes to new materials and furniture.  It's something that I have been doing for years with my retail fixture design projects, showing new fixture design concepts in stores, but recently I have branched out into homes.

In an effort to keep the photos of my clients' homes off the web, I'll share an example that I did in my own home. Last fall I did a major remodel on my own kitchen cabinets, painting and distressing them.  (See the painting process on my other blog, here, and more details on how I achieved the 1950's style look, here.)  I had been tossing around the idea of painting our oak cabinets since we moved in 2 years ago, but my husband wouldn't budge.  Finally last summer he said that if I wanted to Photoshop it, he would look at it.  Which is what I did...and he was sold.  Behold...the power of the VISUAL!!

You can see just how close the Photoshopped image is to the actual finished cabinets above.  I did end up painting the walls too after the fact, so they don't quite match in the Photoshopped image vs the finished project.  But you can get an idea of how realistic a Photoshopped concept image can be.  I was able to get the image in my head out on paper.  My husband knew exactly what to expect, and he got what he was expecting. 

This can be an incredibly valuable tool as many of my clients have seen themselves.  With a small amount of time and money, you can have real visuals to show various options to your non-visual clients.  The ability to visualize the final product is one of the biggest hurdles that I see between designers and their clients.  Designers are visual creatures, and most of the time our clients are not.  That's why they hire us!  So let's help them see what we see.  The ability to get on the same page visually early on is so important to the success of a project.

Click here if you'd like to get in touch with me and discuss your potential photo editing project!