Found Art in Altered Photos

The world is new every day.  A different slant of light, a different shadows, gives different meanings, a different mood. Found poetry hides in the lines of ordinary text. Found art hides in the shifting shadows or drying puddles.

On my early morning walks, the tiny water-saving sprinklers are hard at work before the sun evaporates the water. When a breeze kicks up, the spray drifts onto the sidewalk. The water 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 composition of the sidewalk.

Hard-water stain holds mysterious patterns

The 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, which produces remarkably good close-ups. I printed it out on a heavy stock to alter the photo, to bring out what I saw in the pattern. Using Prismacolor light-fast pencils as the art medium, because they  work best on an uncoated stock, I began to highlight the found art.

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. Printed on acetate and colored with alcohol markers, the image would be completely different. It’s always surprising and sheer joy to find art already existing in nature. It just needed a few highlights to bring it out.

–Images and tutorial (c) 2008-10 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