Earthen Jars or How to ‘Paint’ with PhotoScape

"Twisted". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

"Warped". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Why in the world would anyone want to convert a photo into a painting?

Painting was one of the first things I tried my hands on in the art world.  As a young boy, I loved to draw and one of my favorite subjects was Bruce Lee with his various tools for inflicting pain and death to his enemies.  Images of Bruce Lee maiming and killing bad people filled my notebooks and often spilled over to the blackboards to the exasperation of my teachers.  My ‘works of art’ were less violent at home but dad didn’t always appreciate it when likenesses of family pets and members, especially my mom’s, got sketched on the walls when I was left alone in the house.

But it wasn’t always that way and my passion eventually got useful because I got to impress girls with self-made cards during special occasions and I often got picked to represent our school in art competitions which meant that I got to travel with special permission to skip classes from time to time.

"Bowed". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

"Bent". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce

As a young professional many years later, I got to work in a small multicultural community where, outside of my professional engagement, I was also part of a small group of artists.  The group regularly held art exhibits so I got a little more serious with my painting and was actually able to sell a few dozen of my work albeit mostly to colleagues in the office.  It was also then when I got my first professional camera, a Canon AE-1 35mm SLR.

My work as a budding photographer got included in a few photo exhibits but the other use of the film camera was to collect photos of potential subjects for painting.  I’d take photos of prospective subjects, select those ones I like, get them printed (I didn’t have my own dark room), then use these prints as a whole or in part as models for my watercolor compositions.  The advantage of this approach was I can do my painting at home but the process was costly and I end up with piles of commercial prints that eventually rot and become useless.  And so my low-tech approach for converting photos into watercolor versions as well as my blossoming skill in painting in circa 80’s was short-lived.

"Upright but Distorted". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

"Altered". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

Fast forward 2011;  I had this set of photos of twisted earthen jars (factory rejects) that were creatively used to enhance the landscaping of a highway stopover.  I took the photos in the morning when the shadows were long and the colors of the jars and their stony background we very much alive.   But I was not satisfied with the ‘normal’ outcomes after processing.  The images looked ordinary, the rough surfaces of the jars and the stones disturbed me, and there were glaring smudges on the jars’ surfaces – apparently from some material used during installation. A bit disappointed, I played with the photos using PhotoScape, a free photo-editing software.  In looking for solutions to my perceived problems, I tried the ‘Pictorialization’ option in the Filter icon (under the Editing Menu) and chose ‘Water Painting’.  ‘Brush Size’ can be set to vary the ‘painting effect’ on the photo and I chose 10, the maximum size.

"Down but not Defeated". Copyright Jessie T. Ponce 2011

As can be seen in these photos, the rough surfaces of the jars became smoother and the variations of color tones appear like they were created by the brush strokes which I terribly missed having shifted to photography a long time ago.  I didn’t even bother to clean the smudges on the jars’ surfaces but they are less glaring now and they seem to reinforce the character of the jars.  The surfaces of the background rocks however don’t appear to have changed much but I like them anyway because they remind me that the images still are photos and it would have taken ages for me to paint this degree of detail on canvas.

I guess this answers the question of why anyone would like to convert a photo into a painting.  Maybe, but at the end of the day, it always boils down to the photographer’s style and personal preference.

Here’s one review of PhotoScape from Photoshop Isn’t the Only Option: PhotoScape Image Editing Software Review

Related article at Hubpages: Pictorializing Birds at Jurong Bird Park, Singapore

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