One of favorite techniques at the moment is Soufflage, which is a surrealist technique invented by Jimmy Ernst around 1940. Since I’m always caught up in my head and overthink everything, it’s nice to let go and just blow ink around to see what images develop. (Traditional Soufflage was done by blowing paint.) After that, I let it sit for a while as I decide what I see in the ink, and then build a painting around that.
I find this part of the process quite relaxing, so I hope you find watching to be relaxing as well. Here I’m showing it at 2x speed to keep the video from being 10 minutes long. Enjoy! And I’d love to hear what you see in the ink, feel free to tell me in the comments.
As I mention in the site’s subhead, and in my Artist’s Statement, I absolutely love story. When I read, or watch TV, movies, and live performances, I tend to become completely immersed. When I can’t sleep, I keep my thoughts from spinning around in an anxious cyclone by telling myself stories. I’ve written countless novels, novellas, and shorts, though most have never seen the light of day outside of friends or critique groups. I’ve read and watched countless more.
I’m also a visual person. I see images in clouds, trees, splotches of ink, and most other places. In my technology writing career, when describing complex or difficult concepts, I provided details for illustrations I felt would better get across the material than words alone. When writing a fiction scene, I “see” what’s happening in my head.
It’s not surprising, then, that in my art I also find myself drawn to story. On one hand, I create comics, crafting stories to share with an audience. On the other hand, I create paintings, drawings, and 3D forms that suggest stories rather than explicitly telling them. Not only do stories allow me to express myself to the world, they also allow me to interact with and affect people in ways that it’s difficult to do otherwise. Stories offer not only escape, but also at times profound insights into the world and people around us, along with insights into ourselves.
Embarking on this stage of my art career feels like launching into an amazing adventure. I hope you’ll join me for a while. Maybe we can build a new chapter together.
“Soufflage” sounds like a cooking technique, I know. Soufflage is a Surrealist painting technique invented (or at least named) by painter Jimmy Ernst back in 1940. In French, “soufflage” means “blowing,” and that’s basically all you need to know about this technique. Jimmy Ernst blew paint on the canvas to create shapes free of the conscious, rational mind. I blow ink, instead.
Once I have the ink done to my satisfaction, I decide what image I’m seeing, and then build an illustrative mixed media painting around it. I like the process of discovery involved in not controlling everything from the outset.
If you’re ever art blocked or want to try something different, I highly recommend looking into the wide variety of techniques that the Surrealists (both writers and artists) used. There’s a number of weird and interesting options!
Along with making patterns, my other favorite digital technique is making color variations, both of my patterns and my paintings. These variations can be fairly straightforward color-themed shifts, or they can involve more complex effects and alterations beyond simple color. The simpler changes you can see in part of my Forest Spirit variation series, where I’ve shifted the colors according to the elements. The air piece among those variations, though, involved more complex adjustments since flipping it to a negative threatened to drown out any detail in the environment. You can see a sample set below, for the full set of variants see the Forest Spirit variations link earlier.
Some of the transformations are more involved, especially for patterns. I’ll use everything from color inversions, color overlays, pattern overlays, and more until I get something I like and that I feel will look good on products. Honestly, I think I’ll play with every aspect of Photoshop in the process! See my digital pattern Kaleidescape to see a breakdown of how it, in particular, evolved.
If anyone has relevant questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.
I’ve always been someone who straddled multiple worlds. This tendency continues into my art. Once I get a solid photo of one of my traditional media paintings it’s fun to make digital variations, and to play with little pieces of them to make digital patterns. For an example, I’ll use my Forest Spirit and Variants piece:
I first choose an interesting section of the painting, like this one:
I may play with making it a seamless pattern, like this:
Or I may start expanding it into a larger pattern, playing with it in a variety of ways, and build out from there. When I do spirals (example shown below), I’m starting with a square sample. I decided to minimize the edges but otherwise keep the squares intact, like a spiral made of overlapping cards, in a nod toward the origin of the initial pattern piece.
Color shifts and so on can also be a big part of the process. Here’s the first that I was really happy with it, called Ring of Angels. Which colors I choose and what process I go through to get there can drastically change the mood of the same exact pattern.
From there, depending on the pattern, I might also choose to tile it into a separate creation. I enjoy doing this with my spiral patterns as it’s interesting to see how they come together in the process. For an example, here’s Ring of Angels tiled, which I’ve titled Angelic Dreams:
I hope you found this brief glimpse into my process interesting.
You can find a wide range of products with both of these patterns in my Society6 shop. Sign up to Society6 using my referral link and you’ll get $10 off a purchase of $40 of more!
I came across an awesome and somewhat local idea called The Big Picture. The general idea of the project was to collect square black and white drawings and arranged them so they each occupied part of a grid of a larger image. (In this case, the image is a banner from a photo of a forest in North Vancouver, BC, Canada.) The individual submissions are small enough that giving each a background color for that section of the photo allowed The Big Picture to be both a photo of a forest and a collection of individual images, all at once.
But this project didn’t just involve a drawing. The drawing needed to be a moment of your own life’s story, submitted along with a short explanation of what this moment was and where it featured in your life. In addition, everyone submitting had to share their own connection to Vancouver, whether they lived there or had visited or simply wanted to visit someday.
A friend had given me his old drawing tablet a while back. I had it all set up, but had been focusing on painting, so hadn’t used it yet. This project seemed like a great reason to pull out the tablet and draw on there. Of course, doing so meant a bit of humility since it takes a while to get used to drawing on a tablet with the reduced physical feedback (compared to drawing on paper). You can find my submission here. If you feel like it, take some time to look around in The Big Picture and see some of the others as well!