Tutorial: Altered Photograph

An artist sees nature in a new perspective every day. In a different slant of light, with different shadows, with different meaning.

On my early morning walks, I noticed that the tiny water-saving sprinklers are hard at work before the sun evaporates the water. When a breeze kicks up, the spray hits the sidewalk. The water here is hard, so the place where it hits the sidewalk deepens to blue-gray. The edge of the stain is often a red or pink color, depending on the material the sidewalk is made of.

water puddle, dryingThe patterns are quite ordinary, except when they are in the process of drying. At that point amazing things happen to them. They dry from the outside in, leaving Rorschach-like patterns. I photographed one of the drying puddles with my iPhone camera, which produces remarkably good close-ups. I printed it out and took a closer look. I printed the picture on non-photographic paper, 100 percent consumer-waste recycled, slightly heavier than normal. I chose this paper because I wanted to use Prismacolor light-fast pencils as the art medium, and they work best on an uncoated stock.

I saw a tree, clearly at the top. I was surprised to see the Lady-of-Guadalupe-like pattern around the figure, giving it a spiritual feel. Using Prismacolor pencils, I began to pick out the design. First I darkened the edges using French Gray 70 percent, then overlapping strokes of Indigo Blue and Dark Grape.

Next, I used French Gray 30 percent and 10 percent, along with Sky Blue to give more contrast between the light lines and dark lines. I started with a light touch and used a bit more pressure once the picked-out lines made sense and created a pattern.

There were several possible figures that could have emerged from the center, under the tree. To begin, I(c) Water Tree, Quinn McDonald called up the face I saw, using Cream and Light Peach, blended together. The work is still in progress, but it is clearly an image of a tree with a strong aura, reaching out beyond the light above and the dark below. The woman is most likely an earth-goddess, awake and watching beneath the tree.

There are other possibilities and I will create a series, each with a slightly different image. It’s always surprising and sheer joy to find such wonderful art already existing in nature. It just needed a few highlights to bring it out.

–Images and tutorial (c) 2008 All rights reserved by Quinn McDonald. Quinn is an artist and certified creativity coach who runs workshops in writing, presentation, journal writing and collage. See her work at QuinnCreative.com