Trying Out Useful Mac Apps

Posted August 25, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Computers

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I decided after trying the demo for 15 days or so to buy Pixelmator as it does what I want fairly quickly.

Affinity Photo was a complete wash-out for me in functionality mostly because of its abysmal selection tools. I would scan something in, usually a playing card or similar and it could not select it from the background so I could copy and paste it on a new layer. I tried all kinds of ways and the edges were all raggedy with chunks chewed out all the way around. In Photoshop CS5 which I owned on my old Windows laptop, this was very easily done with one click of the Magic Wand with tolerance set at 65%. After two weeks of frustration I gave up and tried another program.

The other thing Affinity wouldn’t do without some very convoluted steps that didn’t seem to work as outlined in the tutorial, was to put a simple frame on my image. I often post images online and if the background is pale it needs a simple 8 to 20 pixel border to show up nicely on a blog background. I can’t believe Affinity can’t do this.

The third thing is that it does a hazy sort of drop shadow but there is little control over it and it looks okay but not ideal. Okay, it’s a small thing but I use that facility every day and it got completely frustrating.

So, after that frustration I tried out Pixelmator before committing to buy it.

– Selection tools are much better. I have had great success using the Magnetic Lasso loosely around the edge and then clicking Refine and checking the box for Smart Refine. Almost 100 % accuracy and if not I could add or subtract easily from the selection. The Magic Wand is pretty good too with the tolerance set higher.

– To put a frame on you Select All and Stroke however many pixels you want in whatever colour. For my purposes this was adequate and very fast.

– For drop shadows in Pixelmator you can duplicate the object on a separate layer, pull this layer below the object layer, fill the duplicate object with black, add a gaussian blur, and offset it and drop the opacity. Sounds complicated but it gives you a lot of control over shadows and they look good. Miles better than anything Affinity offers and comparable to the Photoshop drop shadow but with more control.

Here’s an example of a fine drop shadow in Pixelmator that looks pretty good.

Beetle1_sm

This particular beetle was a WMF file from an old, old clip art CD I own.  I am currently trying out a program called WMF Converter Pro to facilitate browsing my CDs and converting WMFs to a readable format for the Mac. I’m not sure if I want to do batch file conversions, but at least for single conversions and thumbnail previews this program seems to work. The only unfortunate thing is that it has a black interface that is horrible. This beetle was converted as a PDF and was a bit glitchy due to the file size. I’ll try the EPS format and see if that works better to keep the vector properties without locking up Pixelmator with file size. PDFs can be a bit tricky in other programs, so it might simply be that.

I tried saving another WMF file as a PNG and this is what I got, which is great for my purposes.

Beetle_sm

I want to try further things with the program because it’s $30 to buy and I want to be sure it can do what I want. After the Affinity Photo disaster I want to make sure I put it through all scenarios.

My other two experiments were with the apps Color Palette Converter and Color Palette from Image.  I get frustrated with the Apple colour picker and although I have saved my own swatches at the bottom of the picker, I wanted something to convert .aco files, and then something to get colours from an image, which is something I use a lot.

– Open an image in Color Palette from Image which I bought at a discount for $1.39 I think. Generate a palette up to 20 colours. You can also adjust the Gamma setting to moderate the tones of swatches which is a nice feature without getting complicated. Save it.

– Open this palette in Color Palette Converter and you can save it to the Color folder in the Library file. I suppose I could do this manually but for $2.79 this program makes it easier.

Here’s an example of a palette generated from a photograph of a purse I made.

RunaroundPalette_sm

These palettes are now in a drop-down list in the Apple colour picker and I can choose them quickly and get exactly the colours I want. This might be most useful for people designing web pages, but I just like that I can get the colours and tones I want without trying to sample them individually, plus they are always available across programs.

Not bad for a total of about $4 for these two simple colour apps.

I’m really sorry I bought Affinity Photo, but they are working on a 1.6 version upgrade and I know that will allow you to change the black interface at least. Here’s hoping they improve other simple tasks as well, because I hate to give up on a program I paid for.

I am thankfully getting over the shock of switching from Windows and getting used to the way the Mac does things, and the various functions and apps available for it.

 

 

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Waiting for Toned Paper

Posted August 14, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

I ordered and received some toned tan paper that I bought from Amazon in the States because no one in Canada seems to have it yet. When I received the paper it felt wonderful but had a peculiar chemical smell. The spouse thought it smelled like perfume, I thought it might be detergent, although the pad doesn’t look like it got wet or warped. The corners were bashed in toward the front.

I contacted the manufacturer and sent them two pages so they could see about this smell. They will send me another pad but I hope this isn’t going to be the norm for this paper as I’d like to use it. I hope it’s not some kind of binding resin or glue on the cover as I was quite nauseated by the smell.

I’ve been looking at tutorials about drawing on toned paper, or using watercolour, pen and ink, and coloured pencil on toned paper and the techniques are a bit different. To date, I have used lighter weights of toned paper and also Canson Mi-Teintes but never heavier ones that took watercolour and other mixed media.

I downloaded some photographs of birds with a Creative Commons licence, and printed them on glossy photo paper to use as drawing references for some drawings with coloured pencil and watercolour that I’d like to do up and have framed. I’m inching toward that with practice and references.

While waiting for my toned paper I ordered two books:

ArtBooks_August

 1) Portrait Revolution: Inspiration from Around the World For Creating Art in Multiple Mediums and Styles by Julia L. Kay.

Inspired by the success of printing using my inkjet on glossy photo paper, I decided that I could take photographs of my husband and eventually print them as drawing references and practice doing portraits. I can also take photos of the pets and print them.

2) How to draw with colored pencils on toned paper in realistic style by Jasmina Susak.

I understand how to draw, but I’m not used to using just dark and light tones, particularly white on toned paper. This was an inexpensive reference and has some tutorials to practice which looked good.

It’s never too early to think about what art projects to complete during the winter months.

 

 

Hand Painted Tree Mural

Posted July 23, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Creativity, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

I suppose this is more of a silhouette than a full mural, and it is inspired by the tree decals you can buy for walls. Apart from the exorbitant cost of a decal, this was an odd space by the front door in my foyer, so I knew I’d have to draw my own tree to fit the space.

TreeDrawing_chalk

I drew up a tree on paper, and then took measurements of my wall and the elements like the light fixture that I had to fit the tree around, and modified it slightly. I bought some children’s sidewalk chalk that came with a plastic holder at the dollar store, and used that to sketch the drawing onto the wall, eyeballing the proportions from the paper. Chalk is good because you can rub it off with a cloth if you make a mistake, and redo part of your drawing.

ChalkTree_sm

As I suspected, I had to decrease the width of my drawing once I got started transferring it to the wall. The story is that the tree got blasted by lightning on the left, but carried on growing to beckon people onward through the front door.

I have problems with tendinitis and arthritis, bad knees, and the challenge here was not to hurt myself but to get the artwork done. I first planned this 15 months ago but I needed to wait until the spouse repainted the foyer a pale grey first.

The tree took a day to draw up on paper and adjust, a second day to chalk it on the wall, and two days to put the first coat on. After that I was sore and could only do 40 minutes per day maximum so it took another six days to finish the second coat and do a few touch-ups.

TreeMuralFoyer_JJ

When you are sitting in the living room seeing this, the tree seems to include the whole room, so instead of having this empty-looking foyer with its light and table, it becomes part of the whole room, not just a little area isolated by the front door.

The big “J” was a solid wood one we bought 38 years ago, and I often feature that letter in artwork or crafts; I wasn’t sure it would fit in the tree, but it seems to like it.

What letter wouldn’t like to hang around in a tree?

 

 

 

Books on Painting Water and Bird Photography

Posted July 21, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Books

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I want to do up a small watercolour and coloured pencil drawing of a sandpiper to represent a story from my father’s childhood. Now that he’s dead I’d like to get this done and framed. I was going to use Stonehenge paper because I want to do it on a toned surface with minimal background. Strathmore has a new toned mixed media paper that is heavyweight and can take watercolour better but it doesn’t seem to be in Canada yet, so I might wait a bit to see if it shows up in art supply stores in a few weeks, hopefully it won’t take months and months which is the usual way of distributing supplies here.

So for preliminaries I was looking for good photo references. There are several types of sandpipers here and sanderlings as well. Not knowing the particular species, I found a photo of a Western Sandpiper and a Sanderling in books by Glenn Bartley: Birds of British Columbia: A Photographic Journey, published in 2013, and Birds of Vancouver Island: A Photographic Journey, published in 2010 that will be useful.

BCBirdBooks

I like photographic bird books because you can so easily see the exact birds that might be around you. Even my field guide for birds can be confusing, so I loved these two books and see all kinds of references that might be useful for drawing some of my favourite birds.

The other two books I bought are (surprise!) watercolour and pen and ink books on techniques for drawing and painting water and weather, coastal scenes, rivers, rainy streets, rocks, spray, glittering light on water, all kinds of scenarios.

WaterBooks

The first is by Claudia Nice, Down by the Sea with Brush & Pen: Draw and Paint Beautiful Coastal Scenes. I have about five of Claudia’s books and they are excellent, and she uses different media. She really covers everything in this, from rough seas to coastal trees, even dogs and children playing at the beach.

The second is by Ron Hazell called The Artist’s Guide to Painting Water in Watercolor: 30 Techniques, and he too has some comprehensive scenes and much information on the way light behaves on water and how to paint that, how to paint reflections.

I just need to wait for the right paper.

 

 

 

 

 

Beefing Up Gouache Palette and Brushes

Posted June 26, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork

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One of the fairly local art supply places has a big sale on so I added four more colours to my gouache palette. While fiddling around doing decorative initials and drop caps on my Manner and Material blog, I realized that it was either too laborious to mix certain colours or mixing used too much white, so I bought these on sale. The Winsor Violet cost a lot but it will be so useful and I felt lost without Burnt Sienna. Opera Rose was an indulgence and the Olive Green is one I use quite a bit in regular watercolours so it made sense to buy a tube of gouache in that colour too.

WNGouache_new

While browsing Instagram and looking at people’s watercolours, I saw one woman mention the Escoda Versàtil brand of synthetic sable brushes as being great and holding up to lots of mixing. To date, I have only used relatively inexpensive brushes that don’t last very long, but these Escoda brushes were on sale so I bought a #4 and a #6 round. I use those most often and could only afford two so this was my decision. I will take good care of them!

EscodaVersatil_Rounds

 

 

 

Daniel Smith Watercolour Sets

Posted June 18, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Artwork, Creativity

Tags: , ,

Daniel Smith has an enormous number of watercolours and some with special effects. Way too many for my budget, but I decided to make up a little palette of twelve colours from sets they offer.

DanielSmith_2Sets

The paints come in tubes, so I bought a tin box with 12 half pans that I can squeeze the watercolour into and thus have a nicely organized portable palette.

Medeen_12HalfTin

Is this something I needed? No, but I’m going to have fun trying them out. I also realized that I could drive myself nuts trying to pick the perfect Daniel Smith pigments to buy, and they are scarce in Canada, so I gave up and ordered the sets and tin off Amazon.ca.

I went through agonies of indecision when setting up my main 24-pan Winsor & Newton watercolour palette in a similar tin with purchased half pans. This Daniel Smith tin is just for fun, just to noodle around moving paint around and seeing what happens.

I think I’m going to find the natural pigment in the Primatek set interesting to work with and mix.

 

 

 

Organizing Quilting Fabric

Posted June 11, 2017 by JJ ColourArt
Categories: Quilting, Sewing

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When I moved to a new house I just took all my fabric out of boxes and piled it up neatly, with no regard to colour. I knew I’d have to sort it out once I got my new sewing machine, so that I could more easily find fabrics. After reading some of my new books on scrap quilts, and the recommendations for sorting by colour, I finally tackled this big job and am satisfied that I took the time to do it.

So I bought some wire baskets from the dollar store and laid out 12 of them on tables and commenced sorting my fabric. I folded the smaller pieces into the baskets, and then folded larger pieces and yardage in piles by each basket. The colour designations I used were:

Blue
Teal
Purple
Red
Green
White
Pink
Brown
Neutral Grey, Taupe, Beige
Multi Brights

This is a view of the Purple and Green piles.

OrganizedFabric2

Then I put them back in the flat pack cupboard I use for fabric. I sorted my batting scraps and placed them in a storage bin on top of the cupboard, and inside two bankers boxes I put big yardage for backings, and yardage of corduroy and velveteen that I use for sewing bags.

OrganizedFabric_sm

I also have my current projects laid out so that they aren’t buried and I can access them, which is much more practical.

The cupboard is not quite wide enough to have the baskets spaced evenly so it looks a bit jumbled, but it is so easy to find colours, especially the smaller pieces that are now collected in the baskets, and I discovered many fabrics that I’d forgotten I had so I am very pleased I took the time to sort in this way. It will be much easier to pick and choose fabrics for scrap quilts in the future.