Tidying up

©2019, Emma Pittson, “La Malbaie”. Photoshop.

I hope you’re enjoying the new layout for my website because I sure am! I’m in a real Organizing-And-Take-Stock moment of my life. Some people relax by watching TV or reading a good book, but for me, nothing soothes my nerves as much as decluttering. Now, if only I could get my family onboard…

And while sorting through some old files, I found this old gem from 2019 that I’d never posted. I was done during a moment of downtime between projects at work, and was the inspiration for the lunchtime landscape studies that got progressively more involved and sophisticated. The Charlevoix region of Quebec has some pretty spectacular scenery and I’d love to go back and try my hand at Plein Air painting, but I think I’ll have to wait until the gas prices go down before I head out on another road trip.

Stripes

©2022, Emma Pittson, “Stripes”. Rebelle 5.

For this piece, I decided to keep things simple and low-concept: just a roughly painted self-portrait, using a reference photo taken with my computer camera (note the tell-tale glowing blue neck). I kept the brushwork loose, and even cheated a little by sometimes relying on the eye dropper tool to help me get the right colour. There have to be some advantages to working digitally, right?

This piece was also an opportunity to better understand the newest addition to my digital painting arsenal: Escape Motion’s Rebelle 5. It’s early days still, but this might turn out to be one of my favourite softwares. Photoshop will always reign supreme for the sheer number of tools at one’s disposal, but Rebelle 5 has a much better “surface texture” feeling. Many digital painting programs claim that they can mimic the sensation of pushing paint around, but this one comes closest of all, in my opinion. And if nothing else, how can you not like the ripped edges of the canvas? Talk about a perfect little detail that I never knew I wanted!

Backlighting

©2022, Emma Pittson, “Backlit”. Rebelle 5.

I learned many things while attempting to complete this painting, such as the importance of working from a good reference image, and just how difficult it can be to accurately convey shadowed skin tones as well as brilliant, sunlit hair. Quite the challenge!

In fact, it was SO challenging that I made no fewer than 5 attempts to get this painting completed in a way that made me happy. After two false starts with oil on canvas and a number of digital tests, I wondered “Maybe this just doesn’t want to be painted?” For someone who hadn’t touched traditional paint in over a year (and is more comfortable with acrylics, to boot), a blurry, shadowed portrait with serious backlighting maybe wasn’t the safest, easiest way to ease myself back into painting. But of course, I couldn’t give up. Not only was I keen on trying to reproduce the halo effect on the hair, but also… the subject of the painting is my own daughter!

Experimenting With Colour

©2022, Emma Pittson, “Glasses”. Photoshop.

With all the enthusiasm of a New year’s diet, at the start of January, I vowed to throw myself into judgement-free artmaking. The plan was (and still is!) to produce like nobody’s business, and at the end of the year – HOPEFULLY – end up with a massive output of art from which I will be able to detect certain patterns, like “what subject matter do I gravitate towards?”, “what colours do I use most often?”, and most importantly “what am I trying to say with my art?”. I know, I know… the pressure to have the Big Questions answered kinda short-circuits the whole “judgment-free” thing, but “Quantity Leads to Quality” and all that jazz…

Part of my plan also involves experimenting with different artistic approaches. My Pinterest account has an Inspiration page filled to the brim with figurative art, and quite a lot of it is done with large areas of flat colour, something I find completely fascinating but have never really attempted to do myself. And that’s how this portrait came to be! Going against my detail-oriented ways was both scary and exhilarating, but ultimately, I’m undecided about the success of this piece. On the one hand, it got me out of my comfort zone (which was the point), but on the other hand, doing it made me feel like I was wearing someone else’s identity. So maybe… I should do this more often? 😉

Vintage Cleveland

©2022, Emma Pittson, “Vintage Cleveland”. Photoshop.

When I saw this young woman’s portrait (so-called “Cleveland” because I think it came from the Cleveland Municipal Archives), I just knew that I had to breathe some colour into her. Surely this is a woman who would have had no problem asking for, nay, demanding equal pay! Or maybe I’m projecting a little bit…

Here is the original for comparison: