Thunderhead - Part III: Digital Art Jenga

Posted by Cindi Tanner on

In this last post in the Thunderhead series, we will walk through the steps taken to create “Abandoned House”, the first project in our new mounted canvas “Landscapes” series. The stock photo inspiration for the project is above.

  1. A new canvas is created at the appropriate size and two images are added to it: A) the photo of a stately and interesting old house, and B) the printer’s template for a mounted canvas product.

You can see my work is cut out for me to extend every blessed thing (sky and landscape) in order to fit the template! If I had enlarged the original photo to fit the template the composition would have been ruined-unless you really wanted a close-up perspective of a house that filled up the entire canvas. My goal was to exploit this interesting house with a compelling SKY.

2. Now we see the original sky mostly replaced with bold, wide strokes that seem cartoonish at this point. Remember the layer principle: we are building a Jenga-like design tower. This is the foundational layer for what will be an ominous sky. Oh, I also added dried rows of low, coral-colored brush to the field in the right background and a very pale coral horizon. (The coral color is an echo of the corals in the Elgin House painting featured below).


3. Here the original sky is completely a thing of the past. The new sky is essentially done. 

Here also you can see color and texture added to the stucco walls, window frames, and dormer shingles. These areas now feature much more coral-toned stain and turquoise wood window frames.

Note the reference image of “Elgin Farm House”: I pulled colors from this (primarily the coral and turquoise tones) to add to the new project in an effort to create a compatible color palette between the three paintings in the mounted canvas “Landscapes” series. When I am done with this reference, I will hide it-which is almost the same thing as deleting it but not quite. This blog post demonstrates at least one reason why I kept this reference image in my Jenga tower-so I can show you this technique!

4. Haha! You caught me! I experimented with different collage features. This is a stock image of printed wrapping paper that seemed fun at first. Alas, the thrill faded. At this point, I decided to go instead with the previously referenced stock photo image of cracked, scratched paint as impressionistic, dried mud for the foreground in every member of the three-piece “Landscapes” series:


5. At last, we have the completed project. I restored the wire fence (mostly missing from the photograph) with a super tiny line drawn with a digital ruler and a pencil tool. I lightened the closer wood fence post with wood grain clips from a different photo, and finalized textures applied to the grass foreground as a 95% overlay (meaning, I painted over most of the original grass).

Digital art composition is all about the layers you create, the effects you assign to each (opacity, light, density, hue, rotation, etc.), the hierarchy in which you organize these layers, and your flexibility with the gazillions of tools and resources offered via the program used. All digital painting programs mimic the use of physical media through various brushes and paint effects. The vast advantage provided through digital art techniques vs watercolor is the ability to reverse strokes. Nothing rendered on the digital canvas is permanent. While the process of digital technologies can feel grossly mechanical to the novice, the new plane of freedom realized is ultimately a massive attraction to the artist’s creative heart. 

PROJECT REFLECTIONS: Let’s revisit the two primary motivations for this series: 

1) Old, forgotten houses are extremely appealing! They have historic significance and make one almost ache to know their story. Most of these structures were crafted entirely by hand, sweat, sinew, skill, and always, always, precious hope.

 2) A dynamic, cloud-filled sky is exhilarating. Threatening clouds almost seem to shout for urgent attention: Should we be concerned? Will the kitchen leak? Did I bring in things from outside? Will there be hail? Are we secure inside our home?

Busy, over-scheduled, and distracted modern society is too often sequestered INSIDE; we love our climate-controlled interiors and our technology. I hope we reconnect with a respect for nature and get outside! We are also confident that you will feel inspired by this thunderhead/landscape series to consider the following thought:  

What story does your house have to tell? 

Daydream Portals can provide a unique way to bring outdoor inspiration indoors. Your door wants to tell a story, too.

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