Archive for the ‘shading’ Category

More Still Wives

October 10, 2008

Kristin Krimmel Photo, Still wife – butter (all images in this post are copyrighted)

In the late ‘Seventies, I was at the Ecole de Beaux Arts de Reims. After the first year of study, I knew I had to continue on. I’m a slow learner. I just hadn’t gotten it yet.  In the second year, things were beginning to click into place. I realized that the artist made the object beautiful.

Sometimes one started with a beautiful object – it made a person drop their jaw in awe at the beauty contained in that object. More often than not, though, I realized that it was how it was drawn or painted or sculpted that lifted ordinary objects out of context and into a realm of beauty. An artist could paint a scruffy old workboot that was really ugly in itself, but with the magic of excellent drawing techniques and the vision of the artist, a beautiful image could be created that made the boots beautiful – or rather, made the image of the boots beautiful.

A rather talented Japanese artist in our atelier at the Ecole often made scathing comments to the first year students in painting. These comments crushed the poor struggling artists, leaving them awash in self doubts as to their suitability for the world of art.

Joji attacked my work one day, saying that women should never be painters since all they ever painted was sickly sweet landscapes and flowers. Of course I was offended. I went home, steam coming out of both ears. How could he dismiss all women painters in one swell foop like that? My fury lasted a few days.

He had done me a favour. I had to think through why I was painting. It wasn’t good enough to go through life painting any object placed before me onto canvas –  a ritual of copying what was over here onto a canvas over there. There had to be some reason for doing it. Painting one more artificially composed still life, time after time, had no real meaning to it.

Oh yes, if a gallery really liked your vase of flowers and wanted six more, then perhaps you could paint those six and keep on going with variations on the theme, until you had done hundreds of them. But what was it all for? The repetition might improve one’s techniques, but eventually the subject and the art would reflect the ennui that resulted. Boring.

And so I asked myself the question – What were women supposed to paint, if these other subjects were offensive? Then I rememberd an adage that had been taught to us in Creative Writing many years back. Write about what you know.

What did women know that men didn’t – laundry, household domestic chores, ironing, dish washing…. these were traditionally women’s tasks. I began looking for beauty in common household tasks. After all, it was how you painted it that made it beautiful.

I began by making drawings of clothes pegs, measuring them to get the proportion right, making visual jokes with them, painting them or drawing them in various different styles. When I had run out of ideas on the clothes pegs which I aptly called “My hang-ups”, I started on ironing equipment. These I called “Still Wives” since, having polled my female acquaintances, I found women were still the prime ironers and launderers in their homes.

I still look for ordinary items to make into art work. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sayeth ancient wisdom; and I’ve cnosen to see beauty in the common items that we use from day to day as a reason for my imagery.

In Art Missionary mode, I would say that I want the viewer to become aware of their immediate surroundings and to appreciate the visual beauty that there is in the so-called ordinary object. I can’t go art preaching all the time; and I’m not always there when someone views my art work. I have to depend on the work to resonate with the viewer.

In the following photo, I really like the composition here, created by the two towers of spice – salt and pepper shakers – with their shadows coming towards us. For me, it’s as interesting as a landscape with a reflection in water. Each shaker casts a shadow, repeating the shape of it, but not so symmetrically as to become boring.  The light casts other shadows that allow the eye to travel freely in the image. There is pattern both in the glass lid and on the table cloth. For me, it’s a meditative image, with yin and yang, balance and imbalance, shapes with pattern and those with no pattern; the light and the dark.

Photo by Kristin Krimmel – Salt and Pepper shaker

It’s late. More tomorrow, hopefully,



Snow and Adobe Photo

January 29, 2008


Here’s what I started with – a decent photo with great light and dark balance, and crisp focus. There is some good texture and a so-so composition. It’s somewhat banal, but I was attracted by the light-dark balance and I loved those rose hips holding up their weight in snow caps. With the sunlight, it’s a warm picture despite the snow. I hesitated to show you this photo because it’s not stellar but it provides context.

I also took this next photo, by focusing in, selecting a portion of the image above.


There are things that annoy me about this photo, so I chose it to modify through Adobe Photo, hoping to find the painterly qualities I was looking for when I took the painting. I did some adjustments with the Image (drop down menu to Adjustments, Colour Balance, Hue/Saturation, Desaturation and Brightness Contrast). I also explored the Filter drop down tools which are found at the top of the screen. In this section, you just have to try each offering to see if any will do things that you want them to do.

Here’s the same image desaturated:


And here’s one, much similar, where I’ve erased out the garage door and given it a solid background,aa-270a-paint-background-small.jpg

This next one I pushed the colour all the way into the blue range. You do it by going to Image, Adjustments, Colour Balance:aa-270a3-small.jpg

These next ones, I explored some of the Filter options – Graphic Pen, Notepaper and Sketch Charcoal:




and Sketch/Charcoal


My last one to share with you is this one in colour. After all that subdued colour, this one’s a blast! I got there through Image, Adjustments, Hue/Saturation and its the Saturation scale that I used to get to this colour extravaganza.


It doesn’t matter what tools or equipement you are using to produce images. For whatever your chosen media, you need to explore and familiarize yourself with them to understand what they bring to the equation of your art work.

Some would say that this computer manipulation of images is not art work, but each time you save something because you like it, you are making a visual decision. The mark of whether it is a good one or a neutral/banal one or a decidedly bad one is up to you and your critics.

The same goes for watercolours – your choice of brushes, paper whether smooth or rough, and brands of pigments will all make a difference to what you can produce. You need to explore them thoroughly to know what works best and most comfortably for you. Only once you are comfortable and at liberty with it will the images flow as if they were done by magic instead of a painstaking hand. I often come back to the image of the figure skater who seems to perform with the greatest of ease, but the apparent simplicity is backed up by a lifetime of practice and pushing the limits for excellence.

And so it goes for each media that we choose to express ourselves with.

With that, I’m going off to my materials to play. See you later!

Everything has beauty

September 23, 2007

Everything has beauty.

Not everyone sees it.

How often we dismiss ordinary objects as ugly or unworthy of attention when really, there is inherent design form to them. Many objects around our homes are infused with design that has been well thought out, but by force of habit in seeing it, or in it’s lowly and ordinary use, encourages us to think no more about it.

How wonderful it is when a light source bathes that object in delicious light, casting shadows upon it or making it repeat itself in cast shadows. Then, if one has eyes to see it, it becomes something outside of its practical use; becomes a wonderful object.

Chiaroscura – the art of shadows

September 19, 2007


Cara Chiaro, dear light

Scuro, shadow and dark

like yin and yang

balancing delicately, boldly

challenging one

to define the other

Chiaroscura, that lovely word that lilts off one’s tongue, that sounds so esoteric, is simply a question of light an dark. Draw a light bulb on a white paper and if you think about it, it’s turned off. Draw a light bulb on a white paper and surround the bulb with the darkest value you can, then the bulb seems to have turned on, the light having been activated by the dark.

How delightful it is to see a bicycle leaning against a post in full sunlight casting it’s full shadow to the ground. Or a wire shopping cart. Or the sun pouring through semi-transparent curtains onto household furnishings, sometimes bearing the leaf pattern of the foliage on the outside of that window.


In representational pictures, it is not only the balance of light and dark that sets the composition that draws us from afar to explore it’s intricacies, it’s the life of the objects within it.

Light defined by dark, in turn is the definer of dark.