Sunday, August 26, 2012

Christmas Gift or Personalised Present Idea

I like to try and think of slightly different things for Christmas gifts.  Ideally unusual things that don’t cost a lot of money are good.  I thought you might find this idea of interest. 

This time of year you can get photo books from the online suppliers at a very good price, before the Christmas rush I guess. 
Top Tip - Always check out the special offers section of their website.

I did a photo book for my son and for my daughter a couple of years ago.  I started with their baby photos and went through the rest of their growing up until they were young adults.  It’ll be a lovely keepsake for them.

How it works

Once you decided which company you are using (use an online search) then log on, choose the book style you want and add in your digital photos to the online formatted book.

I have bought both soft and hard covered books.  Both are very good quality and the photos looked clear.

The online format allows you to add your photos and text boxes so you can explain where the picture was taken, etc or make funny comments about the picture.  There’s a range of page styles and colours to choose from.

Most of my photos were pre-digital so I had to scan them into a jpg file and use this for the book.  But if you are using digital photos the whole process is quite quick to do.

You can make this a bit quirky

Most book formats allow you to add a photo on the front cover.  Instead of a standard photo you could use a drawing of the person receiving the book and include some of their interests.

If you are not too sure about drawing you can do most of the items on the computer.  Use a photo of the person and place clip art images of their interest in appropriate positions using a graphics program.  Print this out and trace off the lines you want from the print off. 

You can add extra details or simplify the whole thing – just use your creativity.  Once you are happy with the sketch then scan it, save as a jpg, and you can use this image as the front cover of the photo book.  Add some text using a text box too if you want.

An example

If I was doing this for me I would think about my interests – painting, gardening, liking a glass of wine with dinner, walking, reading, and so on.  Out of that I would choose a few things to make up my drawing.

One idea could be with me sitting at a table with a big plate of food and a glass of wine and lots of flowers coming in through an open window.  Below the table a pair of thin legs with large walking shoes.  You could make this fairly realistic or more like a cartoon.

For this one I would just use a photo for the face and clip art for the walking shoes and perhaps the flowers.  The rest of the shapes can be drawn with a ruler.

Be sure to consider the format of the front cover of the photo book and to make your sketch in the same format (usually landscape rather than portrait) for the best result. 

You also have the choice of whether to make the sketch black and white or perhaps to add colour.  Adding colour would be good for anyone who supports a particular sports team too.

The sketch can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

Group Gift

If you are a member of a group you could make up a photo book including photos of meeting, trips or special occasions. 

If you've been to a wedding you could get photos from other guests and make up an ‘unofficial wedding album’ using these snaps. 

Should you decide to do a ‘group book’ just order one to check that you are happy with the result and then you can order additional copies knowing that the book is good.  If you find that a photo is too dark/light you will be able to change it before you place the bigger order of copies.

I hope you can use some of these ideas.  Digital photos are nice but it's lovely to have a hard copy version too.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Light Boxes and LED light bulbs

I always plan to make up or buy a light box.  They're very handy when you need to trace a shape or image.  However I don't often need to trace things so lack the motivation to get one.

When I do need to trace something I tend to use the window on a bright or sunny day.  However this method has to be done standing up so it's not handy for complicated projects.

I am not recommending this but at night time I have used a sheet of glass over a table lamp.  This can get a bit hot depending on the bulb in the lamp. 

I recently changed the bulb to an LED one.  It is supposed to use less electricity and have a longer life.  Apparently it is the green alternative to the bulb that was replaced.

The definition from Wikipedia says -
“An LED lamp (or LED light bulb) is a solid-state lamp that uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the source of light. LED lamps offer long service life and high energy efficiency, but initial costs are higher than those of fluorescent and incandescent lamps.”

It's nice to be good to the environment but another benefit is the lack of heat from the LED bulb.  Now when I am tracing over the top of the lamp the glass stays cool.  Much better!

If I ever get around to making a light box I think using LED bulbs will be a great idea.

Of course you can buy some very nice light boxes; you don't need to make your own.

Here's the sort of thing I mean


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Sketching

Around this time of year I always think about how enjoyable it is to do some drawing.  It is the most convenient way to take your art with you when you’re out and about.

All you need is a small pad of paper and a pencil.  With just these two items you can sketch.

There is no need to produce a complete picture – unless you want to.  In just a couple of minutes you can enjoy your hobby and draw a small picture.

Practice makes perfect.  Every sketch will help you to improve your drawing.

This is a great way for passing the time when you have to wait, whether it is for an appointment or perhaps at the airport waiting for your plane.

What to Sketch?

You can draw things that you see.  I find that I notice more detail when I am sketching things.  This type of picture can be a good reference when you want to add details to the foreground of a painting.  Examples of this type of sketching could be benches, people, clocks, foliage of plants.

Concentrating on the light and shade will help to make your drawing more three dimensional.  Try looking at the way the light affects a particular scene, this can help to add an atmospheric look to your artwork.  This will help your sketch as well as giving you ideas about how to add a particular mood to a more detailed picture that can be painted later. 

You can sketch whatever you feel like, maybe even designing your own superhero comic character.  You don’t need to sketch just the things you can see.

You just need Basic Equipment

The basic items are just a pad of paper and a pencil.  If you find you enjoy sketching you may wish to take other drawing materials so that the sketches could have some extra elements.  Perhaps a hard and soft lead pencil so that you can smudge the soft lead areas for shadows and contrast.

Some people like to sketch with ballpoint pens or felt tipped coloured pens.  You can try a range of drawing equipment to see which ones you like the best.

Should you decide to add watercolour paints to your sketching equipment you’ll need to use thicker paper so that the water in the paints does not make the paper cockle (or buckle) too much.

When you are just starting out you’ll only need a pad of paper and a pencil.  There are small sketchpads that are available in art stores that usually have good quality paper in a range of sizes.  However when you are beginning all you really need is a pad of unlined paper and a pencil.

Even when the weather isn’t good enough for sitting outside to draw this is something you can do, inside or out, and with only some paper and a pencil.

This is a good way to improve your drawing skills in a quick and easy way.  And a great excuse for sitting out in the sunshine too.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Painting Technique - Texture Paste Tip

I've had a couple of queries about the use of texture paste.

The main question is whether you can use texture paste only in the foreground.  So I have a painting here that uses texture paste a bit further back in the picture.

As you can see it works just as well here.

This top photo shows the foreground stones.

Here are a couple of photos showing sections so that you can see how the paste has been applied and over-painted for the final effect.

(I adjusted the contrast in the lower photo so that the texture is more obvious.)

Top Tip – You can use texture paste ‘further back’ in a painting. 
Consider using a shallower texture in the further away section and then use a deeper texture in the foreground.  By using the paste more thickly in the foreground you will help to give the illusion of depth to your picture and it will provide a nice contrast to the other section of texture paste too.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Using Texture Paste in a Seascape

I had a container of texture paste that's pretty old and starting to dry up a bit at the top. Rather than waste it I decided to use some for the foreground stone in a seascape.

I took a few photos of some of the stages so you could see how the final painting was achieved.

This seascape is painted on a canvas panel. I like canvas panels as they can be trimmed if you decide that a section of a painting isn’t working.

First I started with a rough sketch of where the stones and main wave would be. Using a palette knife the texture paste was applied. The local stone here has very definite layers in its structure. So it is fairly straight forward to apply the paste to give this effect.


Once the paste was dry a strip of masking tape was positioned for the horizon. In a seascape it is important that this is level or the water looks like it could fall out of the picture. (Not what you’re trying for!)
This area was painted with black acrylic and left to dry. The stone area can be painted quite roughly, with thin and thicker areas of paint to help with the stone shading.
When the picture was painted in I didn’t like the section on the right so I added more texture paste to add some grassy texture to the top and some to improve the stone shape lower down. Once it was dry I carried on with the acrylic paints.
Adding white to the neutral colours gives good stone-like colours.

This is the final painting. The paste made painting the stones a lot easier. Just darken the hollows and lighten the raised areas for an effective look. Adding some crack lines will make it look more interesting too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Keep Your 'Test' Samples

I often shop at our local Lidl supermarket. It does a range of garden, hardware, clothing and craft items. They take in the different things, usually just for one week, depending on the time of year.

I like their stretched canvases; they are a good quality and a very good price. I’m not so keen on the paint brushes though.

They sometimes have acrylic paints and acrylic pastes. Recently they had some acrylic pastes that I hadn’t seen before so I bought a box to try.

Whenever I get new items I try them out on a piece of thick paper or thin card. Then I keep the card with the paint/paste, this helps when I consider using it at some time in the future. I just need to check how it looks to see if it will give me the effect I want.

Obviously once you’ve used an item a few times you know what to expect. However this is a handy tip for the times when you buy new items or for things you only use occasionally.

I have included a couple of photos of the samples I have with the paints and pastes.

As you can see I’m not too fussy about it being very neat!

The lower one is a box of acrylic pastes. It had gold satin, aluminium, crystal (clear), nacre (mother of pearl) and the standard white paste.

Looking for Inspiration?

These types of sample cards can be handy when you want to paint something but don’t know what. They can provide a starting point for a painting when you consider what you can use them for.

That’s what I did when painting this picture of Yoda, from Star Wars. I had bought some metallic paints and wanted to use them. The sheen from the gold and bronze paints made a good ‘alien world’ background.

(As I've mentioned in other posts it is a good idea to paint around the edge of the stretched canvas as it allows you to hang the picture unframed if you want, that is what I did with this one.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Add Detail to the Foreground of your Picture

This posting is about one technique for adding detail to your painting. It is not something I use a lot, with acrylic paints you can easily paint over any details you want. However it is always good to be aware of painting options for achieving a particular result.

How to Add Detail to the Foreground of your Picture

Adding extra detail to the foreground of a painting helps to make the background look further away and can give depth to a picture.

The closer something is to the front of a picture the more detail you can see. So putting in extra details in this area is a good idea.

One painting technique to achieve this is to scrape out grassy things in a landscape. Or perhaps scratch out a texture in other subjects. For example, indicating the texture of the tablecloth in a still life.

Consider your painting surface

The amount of detail you can achieve will depend on the painting surface you are using. You will be able to add more detail when painting on a smooth surface than you can on a rough surface.

Damp is easier

When using acrylic paints I prefer to scrape out the shapes while the paint is still wet/damp. Although you can scratch the dried paint to make some shapes it is easy to dig too deeply and cut into the painting surface. This can be quite a problem on a paper surface.

What to use?

You can use a range of things to scrape out the shapes you want. With thicker paints it can be handy to use a palette knife. The palette knife can be used either flat or edge on depending on the effect you want.

I often use the end of a paint brush. This can be handy for thinner paints and smoother painting surfaces.

Of course you can always use a finger nail too!

Adding extra detail to the ‘detail’

Once the paint has dried you can also paint in further detail to the scraped out shapes for highlights and shadows. This can help to give the shapes extra definition too.

The amount of detail you put into a painting will depend on the subject matter and your style of painting.

As with any technique it is always worth experimenting on a spare piece of paper to make sure you like the effect before you use it on the final piece.