Creativity Workshop: Fresh Take

In Solstice Shadows (above; watercolor on paper, 11×15), Kris Parins used digital technology to preserve her subject’s luminosity—and her enthusiasm for painting it.

I was born and raised in snow country, but I spent the last seven winters in the South painting tropical subjects. When I experienced the season in the north woods of Wisconsin recently, it was as if I were seeing snow for the very first time. The morning after the first big snowstorm hit, the sun shone brilliantly as I headed out the door with my digital camera. I was stunned by the colors of the shadows, overcome by the patterns tracing the contours of the drifts and astounded at the stark contrasts and the intensity of the blue sky. I couldn’t wait to get back to my studio to start painting.

My usual preparation process involves printing photographs to use as painting references, but I knew from experience that printing images is often time-consuming, and I wanted to get at the painting while I was still high with the excitement of the day and the sun was streaming through my studio windows. I imported the photos from my camera into my laptop, set up the computer near my work table, and began painting immediately.

I discovered that the backlit digital display captured more of the vibrancy of the actual scene, whereas photos printed on paper can appear flat with distorted color. Working from a digital display also helped me to capture the feeling of “being there.” Because the image was at least an arm’s length away, copying the photo was less likely, and I could zoom in to see detail if necessary. Plus, skipping over the printing step allowed me to start painting while my enthusiasm was still fresh. I continued to paint directly from my computer display all winter, creating a series of snow scenes.

Use your camera and computer to get closer to the excitement you feel about your subject matter. Skip the printing stage and go directly to painting. Try some of the suggestions described here, or tell us about the technical tricks you used to improve your painting experience. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. We’ll choose our favorite paintings and publish them on our website. One entrant will receive a six-month subscription to online video workshops, plus $50 worth of North Light fine art books. The deadline for entry is December 12, 2011. Happy painting!

KRIS PARINS studied graphic design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “just as the computer was first being used as a design tool,” she says. Working as a freelance artist since 1998, she’s maintained a relationship with technology: “My trusty Mac computer and digital camera are integral to my creative process,” she says. Parins spends her summers on a lake in northern Wisconsin with her husband Dick and their border collie, and winters in a community of artists in Sarasota, Florida.



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