Tahoe, 2012

I’ve been creatively-minded all of my life; at one time, I even actually wanted to paint.  Not that I wanted to be a painter, but wanted to capture what I saw or felt on canvas.

I learned fairly quickly that I don’t have enough patience for painting.  I also learned that I’m WAY too critical of myself and my art, especially when trying to paint nature scenes.  I never felt that I got the clouds quite right, or the layering of leaves on a tree and their shadows.

I think this is why I came to love photography.  I can let Mother Nature paint her canvas and I just have to capture the beauty She creates, though even doing that isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Some days I might have to wait for more than an hour to catch the light just right, or–as happens more often than not–I’ll wind up taking 10-20 pictures of the same image, hoping that one of them is the awe-inspiring shot that I can see in my head.  Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I’m not.

One particular time where I’m quite certain I was successful was when my family went to Lake Tahoe in December last year.  Craig’s daughter, Athena, hadn’t seen snow since she was about two years-old (which to me, doesn’t count), and I’d been missing it myself.  Growing up in Michigan, Christmas just doesn’t feel the same to me without it.

Lake Tahoe 2012 - Snowy Bridge

Snowy Bridge

We stayed in South Lake Tahoe, near the casinos and a nice forest preserve.  I awoke before the others (as I normally do), and ventured out for a nice hike in the woods, hoping to see some lovely scenery and grab some great shots.  Boy were they FABULOUS!

Lake Tahoe 2012 - Snowy Path

Snowy Path

But the pièce de résistance for me was when I turned to look behind me and saw the morning sun shining through the trees.  This was one of those shots that I’d tried to capture a little earlier in my walk, but it took me about 10 different tries (and about 30 separate shots) to catch my favorite.

It was actually one of those moments when the beauty of nature brought tears to my eyes.  I stood in wonder of what I was seeing for a good minute or two before my brain finally engaged enough for me to snap the pictures.

Lake Tahoe 2012 - Heavenly Light

Heavenly Light

This is one of those images that I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to reproduce using paint on canvas . . . at least, not to my liking.  So, again, I’m glad I turned to photography, where I at least have a chance of capturing it.

These and other images taken during our trip to Tahoe in December 2013 are available for your viewing/purchasing pleasure at our Etsy store.  Come and take advantage of our holiday sale, too!

Thanks for reading.

Stippling. It’s What I Do.

Hello, this is the Craig Smith part of the duo, and this is my first ever solo blog. Thank you, thank you, but save your applause until the end. We don’t know if it’ll be any good yet.

With our first combined blog, we had told you a little bit about how I got into the stippling that I do.  I think for this blog I’ll tell you a little about stippling as an art form, and my process in creating it.

The type of artwork I create can sometimes be called by either Pointillism, or Stippling. Recently, I discovered (informed by Alyx) that they are actually slightly different things.  According to Dictionary.com, Pointillism is a theory and technique developed by the neo-impressionists, based on the principle that juxtaposed dots of pure color–as blue and yellow–are optically mixed into the resulting hue (like green) by the viewer.  The most famous example of this is the painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”, by  Georges Seurat. If you want a REALLY close up view of the painting, watch this clip from the movie “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”.

A-Sunday-Afternoon-on-MEDIUM Seurat-La_Parade_detail

Also according to Dictionary.com (paraphrased), Stippling is a style of painting, drawing or engraving executed by means of dots or small spots. The term is attributed to the Dutch word ‘stip’ (dot), or ‘stippen’ (to dot).

So, essentially, Pointillism actually deals with dots of COLOR that get blended in the viewer’s brain, whereas Stippling is more of a BLACK and WHITE thing. So I guess what I do is technically Stippling (note to me: update all references and file names).

How do I do it?

First of all, I’ll choose a photographic image. The best images are ones that have high contrast. Lots of black and white, and middle grays help too. A lot of the best images have a lot of dark areas. Unfortunately, that means a LOT of dots, but the results are worth it. Then I’ll redraw the image onto my art surface, usually Bristol board. I lightly outline the objects or features in the image in pencil, and also outline areas of general shades or areas of similar darkness/lightness values. I will usually have a print-out of the original image next to me as I work, so that I can reference the values for all the areas that I outlined. Then I pick up my trusty Koh-i-noor Rapidograph technical pen and start putting dots on the paper. I do this until I run out of dots, or my arm falls off.

Work In Progress of Golden Gate Bridge

That’s it. It’s very time consuming, and oftentimes aggravatingly mundane. Especially in large areas of the same value, where there’s not much thinking involved, just placing a large number of dots in a large area. One of the best benefits of this style, if using solid black and white, is that it’s great for reproduction. It’s essentially the same process that newspapers have used for a millennia. This means it can be reproduced very accurately even at very small sizes. The main difference being that newspapers use filters and patterns in a mechanical process with the actual photo, whereas my work has the biological random factor in the placement of dots on a drawn image that makes it true art.

And there you have it. That’s how all the stippling images on our website came to be. Speaking of which, you can check out all my images as well as lots of photographs from Alyx at our Etsy shop. Please comment and share liberally, we love visitors.



P.S.:  Now you can applaud if you’re so moved.