Creativity Workshop: Beyond the Ordinary

La Falda Leventada (top) by Nicholas Simmons was created as a quick, loose sketch. With Photoshop, he was able to expand the composition’s many possibilities (bottom).

Many watercolor artists have experience using computers and programs such as Adobe Photoshop to crop, enhance and otherwise alter their reference photographs, but how many can say that they’ve applied these tools to their paintings? Viewing your composition through the lens of a graphics editing program is a fascinating way to explore the endless possibilities hiding in your work—if not also in your head—and to stimulate new ways of thinking and seeing. It should be emphasized that the computer isn’t always a good artist. Knowledge of the subject, an eye for balance and competent drawing skills are necessary in order to make decisions and corrections where technology has gone “wrong.” In other words, technology can enhance, but not stand in for, aptitude and experience.

Try It!

Take a photograph of one of your paintings and put it into Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements). Go to the menu bar at the top and select Filter, then Artistic, and then Cutout. A new window will appear with your image and three adjustable parameters. A good place to start is with the following settings: Number of Levels, Edge Simplicity and Edge Fidelity. Moving these settings in opposite directions will intensify the simpli?cation and abstraction of the image. Save the altered images you like, and then plan a new painting based on one of them, or even a combination of several.

Get together with your painting group or complete the Creativity Workshop Activity on your own. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to with Creativity Workshop in the subject line. We’ll publish entries on our website and one entrant will receive a gift certificate worth $100 to North Light art books. The deadline for entry is June 20, 2009. See the winners of previous Creativity Workshops and read the stories behind the paintings by clicking here.


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