Photo Magic – Somerset Studios, July/August 2012

Many decades ago I was surrounded by tubes of Liquitex paint, watercolor paper, Rapidograph pens and consumed by the desire to express myself artistically. Fear and perfectionism gripped me, and I was unable to put so much as a mark on the paper. The first shutter click of my Nikon F2 completely freed my creative spirit. My camera enabled me to get past the mind’s chatter that kept telling me I wasn’t an artist and had nothing to create. My mind quieted as I focused the camera lens on the natural world and captured images while exploring the play of light and the craft of composition.

With the advent of digital photography and the abundance of images at our fingertips, fodder for creating mixed media collage art is truly limitless. Most of us don’t go anywhere without a camera, and now we have good quality cameras on our cell phones. When building a digital library, I find my eye drawn to reoccurring themes. Birds, doors, windows, flowers, and textures are genres I use the most in collage. Textures are especially exciting because they can be used for layering in photo editing programs and also make a great backdrop for journal pages and quotes.

In addition to taking my own photos to incorporate in mixed media collage, there are tons of places to collect images. I have bought photographs at www.bigstockphoto.com and also bought the rights to sell collage art made from the pictures. Etsy has tons of images for sale. With a multiple year subscriptions to Somerset, I received a free CD of vintage images. Many libraries sell a wide variety of used magazines and also rescuing catalogs and mags from the recycle bin is a great way to collect pictures. I scavenged in my mom’s hall closet and found a stash of the most amazing vintage photos of my family.

It was exciting to read the call for submissions for the July issue was a beach theme. I grew up with sand between my toes and so the prompt got me immediately stalking beach themed items to photograph to incorporate into my submission. The local shell store provided a treasure trove of gems. I purchased starfish, sand dollars and interestingly marked shells. I snapped photos of the vintage art on my friend’s wall, printed them on laser paper and cut out the painted palm trees and sun to decoupage on the art pieces.

Once my favorite photos are gathered the picture editing fun begins. I adore the Pixlr-o-matic app that can be installed on a phone or computer. You can transform your pictures with different light techniques, but my favorite feature of the app is the amazing border assortment. Picmonkey is a newly discovered free photo editing software that is extremely simple to use and offers countless possibilities for photo magic. Effects that took hours in a darkroom to achieve can now be done in minutes with the click of a mouse.

The assembling of my beach line series was like putting together a puzzle. I cut out all my images…several kinds of palm trees, flowers, shells, and mermaids then moved them about on substrates prepared with an old nautical map or a watery painted surface. If I had a pleasing composition but weren’t sure if it were the “final answer”, I’d photograph the design and continue shuffling the images around until they found their permanent resting place. The resulting beach collage series was such a soulful exercise for me, marrying three of my most favorite things…the beach, photography, and writing.

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