This is an article I wrote for The Artist magazine outlining some of my working methods.


I use layer masks in Photoshop but this is a simplified technique to get some of the benefits without  it becoming too complicated.


I work with textiles as well as with paint, but whether paint or fabric, texture and richness of surface is significant. This encourages the looking at the whole and then the part, the excitement and vitality of the work being as much in the detail as in the larger gesture.


I love colour and surface and this feeds into the way I deal with my subject matter. I use colour in a liberated manner in terms of the actual hue. The local hue is less important than its property – warm, cool, light, dark, intense or muted. This allows me a freedom of expression that can lead to vibrant, exciting and sometimes unexpected results. I believe in preparation and development and find that one work leads to another as I begin to see the possibilities within my subject matter.


Using the computer   
                                                                          


The computer is an invaluable tool and I use it not only to store my images but to manipulate my sketches and photographs to create variations on the theme I am working on. Any photo-editing programme will give you the option to saturate or change the hue of an image, which can be a useful starting point. Often the painting will change, particularly when working on a large scale, as what may look right as an A4 printout needs reassessment as it progresses to a large canvas. However, it is with layers in Photoshop that the real fun begins. Layers can be very complicated. I find the manual gives far more information than I feel necessary to do the relatively simple tasks that are useful when sketching out ideas. I use Photoshop purely to do what I will find useful and no more.


I use the working method described here with all my subject matter, except when I am working directly from the subject, such as on a portrait or an observed still life. One note of caution: use filters and special effects with great care and judgement. Let the computer do some of the work but remember that the creative process is essentially your own.

I am presently working on a series of commissions mostly arising from my last exhibition. I enjoy liaising with my clients and understanding the space where the work will hang is an added bonus and, occasionally, a challenge!


How I use layers in Photoshop to develop my sketches


There are different versions of Photoshop; Photoshop Elements is reasonably priced, whereas the full suite is a much more expensive option. Screen views differ slightly between the various versions but help can usually be obtained from Photoshop Help or Googling any problem you encounter.

 

   

 

To start

I open the image I want to use in Photoshop.


I create a new file – click File, New – and usually select 29x21cm (A4), 112 pixels/cm, RGB colour mode, white background. Name it New File.


I create a duplicate of my original image and move it to the new file. To do this, click on the Move tool (press V on your keypad for the shortcut), then click on the original image and, keeping your finger on the mouse, drag it to the top of the screen, place the cursor on the new file tab and drop it in.


If necessary I make the images bigger or smaller (to fill the file size) by using the Marquee tool (shortcut M) to enclose the image and then the transform command – Edit or Image, Transform, Scale (shortcut Command T on a Mac; Control T on a PC). I hold down shift while pushing or pulling the corner of the image to the required size, which maintains the aspect ratio (relative proportion). I then press return to complete the transformation. In some Photoshop Elements versions you will have to select Constrain Proportions and then drag or push a corner handle. Both images should be similar in size on the screen. However, you can fine-tune the scale later.


Now working with the original file I use the Marquee tool to make a rectangle to enclose the area I want to drag over to New File. Using the Move tool (V) I take the enclosed area over and drop it in position on New File. I then transform it to the size required, pushing or pulling the corners while holding down shift; press return to complete the transformation and move it to where you want it (V).

N.B. At this point I have to make sure the layer palette is showing on my screen – Window, Layer – where I can see that the selection I have taken over to my new file shows up as a different layer. The layer I am working on will be highlighted.

 

 

 

 

 

 What follows is the very simplest way of dealing with your layers  

 

 

Select Eraser (E) and the brush size, then erase the bits you don’t want. Make sure you are working on the layer you want to erase! If you make a mistake go to Window, History (Show History), click on the bin icon and delete the last operation (Command Z, Mac; Control Z, PC).


If you want to move your layer, use the move tool, making sure you are working on the appropriate layer. You can make it bigger, smaller, (Edit/Transform or Image/Resize/Scale) or change the colour, intensity (Image/Enhance/Adjust), all without affecting any other layer. You can continue to add bits to your composition – each move from one file to another will create a separate layer.


When you have something you think might work you can save it if you want to keep the layers separate but then you should flatten (merge) the layers – Layer, Flatten Image – so that the file becomes unified.


Once I have something I think may have potential I save it and name it option 1, 2, 3 and so on.


You can also manipulate your photographs by taking parts of one over to the other. Decide which image will be your background and duplicate that one in the first instance. By creating the new file you maintain the integrity of the original. Then follow the same steps.