Friday, October 24, 2014

Christmas, Bigfoot and Cookies

Everyone knows a Bigfoot fan. They range from those who are continually amused at the idea of such a novel creature to those who make forays into the wild to bang sticks and whoop out calls in hopes of a response. (I often wonder whether any responses are real or possibly another Bigfoot searcher.) Many fall in between, spending their weeknights glued to reality programs searching for elusive cryptids. I've got one of those.

It is in their honor that I created my newest design, "Christmas with Bigfoot."  He's overcome his shyness and is out for a walk, ready to spread some holiday cheer!

Christmas with Bigfoot sasquatch art

I uploaded the design in various parts so that I could arrange the elements (Bigfoot, trees, snow) most appropriately for each product. It was a bit more work than usual, but I'm quite happy with the way they turned out, with each differently shaped Zazzle products getting the best possible design arrangement.

Christmas with Bigfoot Pattern Wrapping Paper sasquatch artChristmas with Bigfoot T-shirt sasquatch art
Christmas with Bigfoot Necktie sasquatch art tieChristmas with Bigfoot Pattern Necktie sasquatch art tie

Christmas with Bigfoot Postcard sasquatch art

Oh yes, I did mention cookies, didn't I? That's why you're still reading. I haven't forgotten and no, Bigfoot did not run off with them. This post is a "two-fer," or rather, a "three-fer."

I've been fascinated with repeating patterns and how they work so well for products like wrapping paper. Using a photomontage technique, I baked a batch of my favorite Christmas cookies—rolled out, cut into shapes and sprinkled with colored sugars—then photographed them. In Photoshop, I then cut the cookies from their background and piled them into a repeating pattern, one with an assortment of shapes and colors, and another with only tree shapes. Here are "Christmas Sugar Cookies" and "Sugar Cookie Christmas Trees."

Christmas Sugar Cookies photomontage art repeating patternSugar Cookie Christmas Trees photomontage art repeating pattern

Don't they look appetizing? (I can testify that they were delicious and exploding with crunchy-vanilla-sweetness!) Here are just a couple of the Zazzle products on which they're available.

Sugar Cookie Christmas Trees tree skirt photomontage art repeating patternChristmas Sugar Cookies Blanket Throw photomontage art repeating pattern

Thanks for visiting, and please come again!



Friday, October 10, 2014

Tetris, Pointillism and the Eiffel Tower

"Not Playing to Win" -- Eiffel Tower Tetris art using pointillism

Sometimes my mind works in strange, roundabout ways.

Take the latest Woot Derby challenge, to create a design in one of four artistic styles, one of which was pointillism. Pointillism is a technique where a picture is formed from a multitude of colored dots. Under magnification, all you would see is dots. Stand back, and they seem to magically herd themselves into a wondrous image of subtle colors.

An outgrowth of Impressionism, one of the pioneers in this technique was Georges Seurat. For inspiration, I looked at his paintings, and was drawn to this one of the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower by Georges Seurat

I thought about how I could use the technique and emulate this picture, but put a different spin on it. Square dots instead of round ones? Somehow that led to blocks, then Tetris blocks which could be used to build a structure and THEN... make the Tetris blocks out of dots. Yes, that would be interesting.

I didn't want to merely throw the Tetris shapes together like a puzzle; I wanted to be sure that if they were constructed in the course of a game, that the arrangement was viable. I started by making the shapes and constructing a tower by copying, pasting, arranging and rearranging. At first I thought I'd have just the tower and perhaps a pile of discarded pieces off to the side. But that didn't satisfy me, so I looked again at Seurat's painting and played around with adding the bridge and the tree to the side. The constant copy, paste and transform actions got old very quickly, especially considering that each paste created a new layer and it was difficult to keep track of which was which. So I printed out page full of blocks, cut them out, and played with them at the kitchen table for a while. Once I had a bridge and basic tree, I returned to pasting it together in Photoshop.

Arranging paper Tetris pieces 2Arranging paper Tetris pieces 1


The next step was to "trace" the design using only dots. I did use the "snap to guides" feature to keep the outlines of all the blocks straight and orderly. And since I was using only cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white, I played around with combinations of dots in varying densities to get the color shades I wanted. Here are some close-ups, the second showing green, orange, purple and dark blue (clockwise from upper right).

Close-up 2, "Not Playing to Win" -- Eiffel Tower Tetris art using pointillismClose-up 1, "Not Playing to Win" -- Eiffel Tower Tetris art using pointillism

I’ve titled it “Not Playing to Win” since creating such a configuration in Tetris (if one were fortunate enough to get the right pieces and know where to place them) would quickly lead to the loss of the game. Still, I imagine it would be worth it and that reflects my attitude about the designs I create for the derby.

Submission for "Not Playing to Win" -- Eiffel Tower Tetris art using pointillism

This design will be up for voting on the Woot Derby now through October 16, 2014 at noon Central Time. If you've ever purchased anything at all from Woot.com, you are eligible to vote. Thank you for your support and be sure to check out all the wonderful designs... I'm sure there will be some excellent artwork on display this week.

Thanks for visiting and please come again!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Autumn Kaleidoscope


Often when we describe something colorful, we call it a kaleidoscope. Remember those things? Put a tube to your eye like you would an old-fashioned telescope and gaze at chips of colored glass reflecting into a mesmerizing pattern. Turn the barrel, and it would change, folding from one design into another.

Autumn is a colorful time as the green of the trees first dulls, then transforms into bursts of orange, red and yellow. For people like me who dread the fading of warm weather, the warm colors are a comfort and encouragement that I can make it through another round of cold weather.

The theme for this week's Woot Derby is Fall and Oktoberfest. They suggested making pies for them (and perhaps that would have curried some favor), but shipping one and keeping it fresh would have been problematic. Instead I was inspired by the kaleidoscope and created a design as I imagined one would appear if it were filled with jewel-like leaves.To make sure my representations were accurate, I searched for leaf models from various trees--maple, oak, birch, hickory and locust. I sketched each of these including some acorns as well, painted on the colors and arranged them over a 1/6 segment of a circle (there's your pie, Woot). I trimmed away anything that extended beyond the pie slice, then copied and turned it to fill the other slices, reversing every other one. And voila—a kaleidoscope of autumn color.

I actually began this design for Woot's Fall themed derby last year, but was unable to finish it in time. Another reminder that seasons change, and if fall comes again, so will spring and summer.

Autumn Kaleidoscope Woot submission -- digital art colorful fall leaves relfected

This entry will be up for voting now through next Thursday, October 9, 2014 at noon Central Time. I'm grateful for your support!

Thanks for visiting and please come again!

Monday, September 15, 2014

You're Spending Christmas with Who? Yes.

It sounds like a line from an Abbott and Costello sketch (and yes, I know it should be "whom"), but for Whovians everywhere, it makes perfect sense. The annual Christmas special has become a traditional way to wrap up the holiday. A glass of eggnog and the BBC are a delightful pairing.

So are we liking the new guy? After four weeks I, for one, am quite happy with Peter Capaldi's version of the iconic character. The new Doctor is a delightful curmudgeon with a streak of eccentric social oblivion, yet remains true to his core values. His attire is both understated and snappy, and the new TARDIS interior has the flavor of traditional elegance with a streamlined, modern flair.

Happily, none since Six have attempted to repair the chameleon circuit, and we still have the classic blue police box exterior we've all grown to love. It's an image that inspires dreams of adventure and a better world, and one that many of us enjoy looking at in our daily lives.

With that in mind, I'm happy to announce (as promised a few weeks ago) a new Christmas police box design in two variations... with and without snowfall.

Police Box with Christmas Lights & Snow Police Box with Christmas Lights

In making this design, I placed each of the bulb colors on different layers then added a glow around them using Layer Styles. It would not have been possible to make the glow the same colors as the lights had they been on the same layer. It's a subtle embellishment, but one I think contributes to the overall impression of warmth. I also added more glow around the top light and the whole than I did on earlier versions.

Police Box with Christmas Lights Close-up 1; layer styles glow Police Box with Christmas Lights Close-up 2; layer styles glow

"Police Box with Christmas Lights" and "Police Box with Christmas Lights & Snow" are available on wrapping paper, greeting cards and a great variety of other Zazzle products including MORPHING MUGS!...because what's better than a police box that appears and disappears as your beverage changes temperature?

Police Box with Christmas Lights & Snow Wrapping Paper Police Box with Christmas Lights & Snow Charm Police Box with Christmas Lights & Snow Candy Tin
Police Box with Christmas Lights Scarf Police Box with Christmas Lights T-shirt Police Box with Christmas Lights Morphing Mug

Several other versions sporting a holiday wreath  and a non-holiday version are also available. Delight the Whovian on your gift list or bring home a little blue box cheer for yourself.

Thanks for visiting and please come again!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jupiter All Over

Threadless submission for Jupiter All Over

Ever have an idea you think is relatively simple and can be knocked out quickly, only to find that once you've begun, it's much more complicated than you ever imagined? That's exactly what I experienced this week.

I dare say that aside from our lovely Earth home, Jupiter is the most beautiful in our solar system. Named for the Roman king of the gods, it certainly is the largest, and astrologers refer to it as the Greater Benefic," some condering it a significator of good luck or at least of expansion. I'd been admiring a photo of it when I thought it would make a lovely print for a shirt. All it needed was a little editing... enhance the color, maybe try some filters to see how they looked.

Er...not quite. The project, at least, surely expanded.

Since I wanted to be sure to include that identifying feature of the Great Red Spot to one side of the shirt, I had to search for an image that matched that placement. Those were fewer than I'd hoped. But after finding this and verifying that it was in the public domain, I downloaded this one:

the planet Jupiter

I started with some basic color adjustment, mostly increasing the overall saturation. It helped me to see more of what needed to be done with the rest of the image.Part of the image was in shadow, and I needed as much colorful canvas area as I could get. Playing with the light adjustments was not enough. So I duplicated the image and adjusted the shadowy part to be as bright as I could without making it look unreal. I then put a mask on it, and a gradient within the mask to hide all the parts that were too bright. I then combined these layers and trimmed the ragged edge. The shadow wasn't gone, but was significantly less.

Jupiter image before editing shadow Jupiter image after editing shadow

After this I enlarged the image to be more suitable for printing via a method called step interpolation. I increased the size and pixel density by small amounts repeatedly until it got to where I wanted it to be. Normally this does not work well on a photograph, often resulting in fuzziness and distortions, but I often use it in my artistic edits where the images are more forgiving.

At this point I noticed the image appearing as if it was composed of many squares. I hadn't had this happen before, so I magnified the original and saw that they were there as well. I was unable to find out for certain, but I'm guessing that the originals were a composite of many pictures taken by the space probe, with minute differences in angle and time accounting for the difference in lighting in each. (Please leave a comment if you can confirm this or some other reason for the image's appearance.)

Closeup of pixilation in Jupiter imageBut as the final result of this was intended to have a more artsy appearance anyway, there was something I could do about it. I zoomed in on the squares and started blending them together with the smudge tool, one by one. I figured these were all pictures of clouds swirling together, so running the colors together a little more would not detract from the final impression. If anything, I think it made it look better, much like layers of paint dabbed and smeared together in a stormy cosmic marbling. Once this was done (and my hand uncramping), I decided any further transformations through filters would be overkill.

In the final phase, I tried a mockup and decided the color needed more work. This time I focused on the reds and yellows to brighten the oranges. The lower portion of the image was also in a bit of shadow, so after applying enhancements to the whole image, I used the selection tool to work only on the lower third, and then smaller sections as needed to bump up the color impact in these. I also increased the sharpness by a small amount and lastly, distorted the image slightly by increasing the width. This was necessary to be sure there was more than enough to cover the entire canvas of the shirt, but not enough to be recognizably stretched out.

Threadless submission for Jupiter All Over

Could this be your lucky shirt? Score it on Threadless and give it a chance! In addition, Threadless is trying something new with this particular competition. Not only can you score the entries, you can also opt to "fund" them. This essentially means filling out a pre-order form to buy the shirt IF it prints. If at least 50 people fund a design, it will print. If it doesn't print, you pay nothing.

And here's some luck for you already, as appreciation for visiting my blog...I'm giving you a coupon code to get $5 off, good for this design only. It's:  KJXEXW

Scoring is going on now through the evening of September 2, 2014 (Eastern Time). And if $5 is not enough, you can earn a rebate by signing up for Ebates and going to Threadless by clicking through their site or downloading their extension (as well as for purchases on many other shopping sites). Thank you for your support!

Thanks for visiting, and please come again!