Can Illustration be Fine Art?

Ever wondered what those caricatures of cows with the scenic backdrop of a farm you see on the milk cartons in the supermarket are? Are they a form of art or illustration? Its images like these that lead us to the age old question – what is the difference between fine art and illustration? This dilemma has been haunting not just artists, but also non artists for centuries.

If you go by the classic definitions, an illustration is a visualization or a depiction, such as a drawing, sketch, painting, photograph, or any other kind of printed version of things seen, remembered or imagined, created by an artist using a graphical representation. It explains, visually represents, or just decorates a written text, which may or may not be of a literary or commercial nature.

On the other hand, fine art is just art for art’s sake. Simply put, an idea, concept or thought brought to life on paper or canvas. In other words, art is the idea itself whereas an illustration is a depiction or explanation of an idea or a story.

Historically, book illustration and magazine/newspaper illustrations have been the predominant forms of this type of visual art, although illustrators have also used their graphic skills in the fields of poster art, advertisements, comic booksanimation art, greeting cards and cartoon-strips.

Most illustrative drawings were done in pen-and-ink, charcoal, or metal point, after which they were replicated using a variety of print processes including: woodcuts, engraving, etching, lithography, photography and halftone engraving, among others.

Today, there are five main types of illustrations: educational “information graphics” (eg. scientific textbooks); literary (eg. children’s books); fantasy games and books; media (magazines, periodicals, newspapers); and commercial (advertising posters, point of sale, product packaging). Many of these illustrations are designed and created using computer graphics software such as Adobe IllustratorPhotoshop, and CorelDraw, as well as Wacom tablets. The traditional methods like watercolors, pastels, casein, egg tempera, wood engraving, linoleum cuts, and pen and ink are also employed even today.

There is an ongoing debate on whether illustration should be categorized as a fine art, an applied art – or even a decorative art. However, looking back in time, one will find innumerable illustrative masterpieces thereby leaving no doubt that this visual art form deserves a place alongside other fine arts like painting and sculpture.

As we glance through the history of art, we realize that during the first 30,000 years of art, artists were able to earn a decent living working for kings, priests, pharaohs and popes and commissioned art for temple walls and public spaces.  It adorned palaces and royal tombs and the homes of aristocrats.  Then monarchs began to disappear and Popes stopped commissioning new art.  The birth of capitalism gave rise to a new commercial class that became the new patrons of art.

The talented artists who once painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel adapted themselves to their new clientele by adopting two distinct business models.  The first produced what we now call “fine” or “gallery” art for the private collections of the rich and corporate class.  The second one evolved thanks to the newly invented printing press, wherein instead of selling a painting to a wealthy patron, artists made multiple copies of a piece and sold them for smaller amounts to larger numbers of (less-wealthy) buyers.

Here are a few visuals that show the evolution of art into the field of illustration through time: 

It is this technological development that brought about revolutionary changes in the history of illustration, eventually leading to the creation of the twin pillars of modern day illustration:

  1.  The ability to create and distribute quality reproductions of an artwork to large audiences.
  2.  The ability to collect marginal, proportional payments for that art from large audiences.

These two developments created potential opportunities for talented artists.  They became the core economic model for illustration, and the key distinction between modern illustration and fine art.  Thanks to these developments, the talented masters of art who were once unaffordable under the old business model of art now became accessible to the general public.

One cannot deny the fact that because of its wider audience, illustration is often broader than fine art. But does that mean the commercial angle affects the quality and character of art? In my opinion, broader appeal to a popular audience does not diminish the greatness or quality of art.

I firmly believe that there is a very thin line distinguishing art from illustration and this distinction has nothing to do with the artist’s skill or the quality of the work.  It is equally easy to find examples of illustration that are superior to “fine” art and vice versa.  I feel that the narrative/decorative divide helps us to categorize a piece either as “art” or as “illustration” and every artist is free to exploit this aspect to his or her discretion.

While fine art visually presents an idea as it is in its purest form, an illustration is a form of visual communication or representation which defines a given piece of text. The writing as well as the illustration together explains the concept or idea. This marriage between art and typography can be seen all around us in various forms like packaging of consumer products, children’s’ books, assembly and installation instructions for furniture, electronics etc., and my favorite form of illustration – road maps. Even postcards are a form of illustration! Or would you consider them fine art?

So I leave you to ponder on this and decide for yourself what you would like to put under the category of illustration and what you consider as fine art. Personally for me, any form of communicative expression is art, be it illustrative or not, for every drawing or doodle is a window to a deeper abyss that holds the true message  or meaning behind the work and also expresses the artist’s personal beliefs.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2011/10/old-question-finally-answered.html

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/illustration.htm

When your Artwork makes it as a Magazine Cover Page….

Greetings to all Art Dungeon followers! I have great news!! It gives me great pleasure to share with you all that my artwork titled “et ressurectionis”, that I had shared in one of the earlier posts (https://theartdungeon.blog/2020/10/04/et-ressurectionis/ ), has made it to the cover page of a magazine! How cool is that!!

Here are a few snapshots of the magazine’s with the artwork that extends from the front cover to the back cover as one continuous piece. Also including the original painting and a small write up explaining it that was published in the magazine.

The front and back of the magazine
The front cover
The write up
The original artwork

Do click on the link above to know more about the concept, medium and techniques behind the artwork!

All done with the Work of Art in Progress!

Hey folks! In continuation with last week’s post titled Work of Art in Progress (https://theartdungeon.blog/2020/10/18/work-of-art-in-progress/), today I will be sharing with you all the completed artwork. I have titled this piece “Painting Nature in its True Colors”.

I have already covered the thought process behind the artwork in detail last week, but just to recap, this painting is based on the theme “Nurturing Nature for a Better Future” and is intended to be the cover page of a magazine. It is my attempt to depict how Mother Nature, like all mothers, keeps showering us and our planet earth with her blessings in abundance and nourishes us unconditionally. But if we don’t look after her, she will eventually get drained out and will have very little or almost nothing to offer to our future generations as well as our planet. Hence, we need to nurture and heal her by painting her with a colorful palette of clean, green lands, water and air, for the future of her child that is, planet earth, depends on it. To delve deeper into the concept behind the artwork, please click on the link above.

The finished artwork titled “Painting Nature in its True Colors

In today’s post, I am going to talk about the technicalities of this artwork. Let’s start with the medium. I have used watercolors, specifically watercolor brush pens for the entire piece, along with a bit of prismacolor pencils here and there, just to enhance those highlights and shadows. I have also made use of a white gel pen to accentuate the lines of the hair locks of Mother Nature that symbolize the wind as well the waves of the sea. The blossoms scattered on the mossy green landscape have also been rendered using the same while gel pen. Apart from this the fiery flame-like locks representing fire too have a touch of white in the form of highlights.

Coming to the technique, I have employed the classic watercolor trick of “wet 0n wet”, wherein the area to be painted is dampened with a wet brush first followed by the application of paint. Most of the painting is done using this technique, but at some places, especially the finer details, I resorted to first applying the color on the dry surface and then going over it with a wet brush.

Hope you like the final product!

Work of Art in Progress

Greetings from The Art Dungeon! I have been toying with the idea of sharing a work in progress for a long time, but procrastination has always got the better of me. So here I am, finally getting down to it and what could be better than the piece I am working on presently?

Today, I am going to share with you all, the evolutionary process of the artwork I am working on currently. As mentioned earlier, it’s work in progress so bear in mind that I am yet to finish this piece. I believe that the journey is as important as the destination hence it becomes imperative that I give you all a sneak peek into my process. So let’s dive right into it!

This artwork, which is still untitled, is meant to be the cover page of a magazine with the underlying theme, “Nurturing Nature for a Better Future.” I have depicted a personified version of Mother Nature, endowed with all of her classical elements – air (or wind), fire, water, earth and aether (or space) which also explain the complexity of life all around us. These elements are essential for the survival of all living beings and therefore should be respected and protected from any abuse.

Here’s a slide show of images showing my creative process:

I have represented air and fire in the form of the flowing locks of the female form of Mother Nature. The tree bark-like hind limbs, its roots and the vegetation adorning the figure symbolize the earth or land. Water is represented by the surging waves of the sea next to the land and the backdrop of the artwork forms aether or space.

These elements, which form the basis of all living life and matter, are blessings that Mother Nature bestows upon the one and only habitable place we have in the universe – planet earth, depicted in my artwork as the offspring in her womb.  Not only does she nourish and nurture our planet, she cares for us as well, thus making us all her children.

The earth in the womb of Mother Nature symbolizes our future and only if we take care of the mother, can we have a healthy and happy future. Nature is like a refillable prescription that keeps providing to us in abundance and adequacy, just like a mother does to her child. But if we don’t look after her, she will eventually get drained out, consequently affecting our future generations as well as the future of our planet. Hence, we need to nurture and heal her with all that we can for a better tomorrow.

So how do we do it? All we need to do is replenish our planet with greenery, crystal clear waters and clean air. I have depicted this in the form of three human hands representing vegetation, water and wildlife respectively. It is with our very own hands that we can paint our beloved planet with these colors of Mother Nature and make it a better place to live in. For it is air that moves us, fire that transforms us and water that shapes us. Let’s nurture nature for a better future.

Like I said before, this artwork is still in the making and this post is meant to be an insight into the creative process behind it. My next post will hopefully feature the finished piece where I will delve into the technique and medium I have used. Should also have a title for the artwork by then but am open to suggestions, so do share your ideas in the comments sections below! Cheers and watch out for more!!   

“et ressurectionis”

Hey folks! After a hiatus of two weeks, I am resurfacing with a new post! Finally got a chance to get back to the drawing board after a long long time, so the artwork I am sharing in today’s post not only serves as a comeback to my blog but also to my art!

“et ressurectionis”

I call this one “et ressurectionis”, which is Latin for resurrection. This artwork is once again inspired by the present Covid-ridden scenario that our world is relentlessly fighting day and night. It has been almost a year since we have been in the clutches of this dreaded virus. While we continue our attempts at understanding this miniscule yet powerful entity, it in turn has taught us a lot of valuable lessons, not just physical ones, but also on a spiritual level.

Thanks to the corona virus, mankind has been restrained to the confines of his four-walled dwellings like never before. This alone time, or “Me time” as I like to call it, has given him the opportunity to contemplate and retrospect on what he was, what he has become and what he should actually be. It has given him a chance to delve into the depths of his psyche and confront the real pandemic that has been plaguing mankind for centuries – his own vices, namely anger, violence, greed and his lust for power as well as wealth. Not only is he fighting a deadly biological contagion, but also an intangible one, that is far bigger a threat to the existence of the human race that the organic pathogen itself.

This artwork is a representation of man working towards his long impending goal – to break free from the shackles of his own vices and emerge renewed and victorious not just from the pandemic, but also himself. The blue phoenix in this painting is a personification of mankind reborn after it succeeds in purging the pathosis that’s decomposing his humanity along with the physiological affliction that’s wearing him out physically, for a blue phoenix  is a symbol of rebirth, a return to being, and a new spiritual path.

The phoenix teaches us not just to let go of our old self and our limiting self concepts, but also inspires us to embrace and accept the new us that is abound with all the goodness in the form of virtues that have been listed on the feathers of the phoenix in this artwork.

In times of doubt and confusion, the blue phoenix symbolizes strength, transformation and renewal. For only from the ashes of who we were, can we rise up to become who we are to be. That is how we are rediscovering ourselves as we get past COVID-19.

Art and Faith

The marriage between religion and art has always been one full of turmoil. There are several instances from the past as well as the present when the most artistic imagery depicting religion has been considered disrespectful or derogatory to the faith in question or has managed to create a scandal. Many artists indulging in religious art are grossly misunderstood when all they want to do is express themselves.  

This compels me to ask the inevitable question – should artists mix art and religion and if they do, should they be left uninhibited, free to explore the realms of religion through their art or should they be sensitive towards matters of faith?

Art has the capability to illustrate and express religious beliefs, customs and values through iconography and body postures. Religious paintings are personal expressions of an artist about religious themes and principles as seen through his eyes. Moreover, aided by their aesthetic skill, artists have improved our understanding of religion. They have succeeded in bringing history to life with their clever manipulation of colors, textures and styles thereby expanding our horizon about past events. Until recently, religion and art were symbiotic, with aspects of the former making up the subject matter of the latter. 

Religious art serves decorative as well as reflective purposes and its main objective is to assert a moral message of the religion it represents.   Not only does it tell the story of a religion as told in its holy scriptures, but also provides an insight into the varying lifestyles of different religious groups.  It helps in keeping religious traditions alive and visualizing religious events from the past. Religious paintings can idealize and glorify a religion and possess the power to make believers out of non believers. 

In my understanding, the harmony between art and religion ceases to exist if it is communalized. When religious art becomes a vehicle for propaganda and serves the selfish motives of fundamentalists and right wing zealots, it loses its aesthetic appeal, leading to criticism and subsequent demand for curbs on artistic expression. The line between expression of and regard for religious beliefs is an extremely thin one.  An artist needs to take care that his portrayal of religion through his work doesn’t hurt anyone’s religious faith and ideology. In order to do so, every artist needs to be open-minded and think beyond religion and politics so that his art spreads positivity.

I am also of the firm belief that if the artist is expected to revere and respect the religious sentiments of people, they in turn too need to view his art with an unprejudiced mind. If art is to achieve its purpose, mutual understanding between its creator and viewer is the key. While trying to be sensitive towards the religious sentiments of his audience, the artist shouldn’t end up curbing his artistic expression for it is he who gives visual narrative to religion and god. 

In my opinion, one must first appreciate religious art solely for its creative genius before cross analyzing its objective. While each viewer will have his or her own perspective and draw his or her own inferences from it, they must also make an attempt to see it through the artist’s eyes, without being judgmental. Religious art is the external expression of the artist’s personal vision. What the artist depicts is a rendition of his own belief and faith and a projection of the world around him from his point of view, without any intention of offending others. I believe he deserves to be appreciated for his shear artistic genius, regardless of the subject matter.

I am convinced that as an artist, while I should have the liberty to portray religion through my work, I also need to practice self constraint to some extent so that my work doesn’t hurt anybody’s religious sentiments.

What’s do you think? Do you think artists should be given the luxury to explore religion as they wish? Or should they restrain from mixing the two? I leave this post open to you all and would love to hear your point of view so do share your opinion in the comments sections below. If I get enough feedback, my next post will hopefully be a compilation of all the views I get. So fire away!!

Where did Your Art Supplies Come From?

Since time in memoriam, art has been mankind’s favorite creative activity and we have indulged in it with the help of innumerable tools, techniques, and mediums. Most of the basic art supplies we use today have revolutionized the art world to such an extent that it’s impossible to fathom what art would be like without them. But have you ever wondered how and when they came into existence??  Here’s a history of art materials that I consider to be the backbone of the art world.

Pencil

This basic tool that makes it possible for us to give form and shape to our creative thoughts came into being due to the discovery of an unusually pure deposit of graphiteinEnglandin1564. It’s this graphite that makes up the writing part of a pencil which is commonly referred to as the “lead”. The name graphite originates from the Greek word graphein, which means “to write.” Artists’ pencils come in a wide range of hardness, depending on how much clay is used to bind the graphite.

Easel

Easels are believed to have existed as early as ancient Egypt. The first written record of an easel was by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century. In the 13th century easel painting became more popular than wall painting.

Pen

The earliest versions of pens were the brush pens used by the Chinese for writing (1st millennium BC), reed pens used by the Egyptians (circa 300 BC) and quill pensor pens made of bird feathers(7th century or earlier). Then came the metallic pens and ones with metallic nibs in the mid-19th century which didn’t have a reservoir of ink in them, and had to be dipped in inkwells. Thereafter, fountain pens, which don’t have to be dipped in ink constantly, were developed in 1884. Ballpoint pens were invented in the 1930s or 40s, and soft-tipped pens became commercially available only by the 1960s. Most pen-and-ink drawings done before the 20th century were produced with reeds or quills. Some famous artists that favored pens were Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Rembrandt, and Vincent van Gogh.

Paintbrush

Paintbrushes are one of the earliest art supplies known to have been used as early as the Paleolithic Period. Evidence of this can be seen in caves in Spain and France and in early Egyptian tombs. Paintbrushes have been made of animal fibers such as hog bristles or horsehair, and more modern brushes are made of nylon fibers, polyethylene, or even wire.

Oil paints

Until quite recently it was believed that oil painting had originated in Europe in the 11th century. In 2008 it was discovered that oil paints extracted from natural sources were used in cave paintings in Afghanistan in the7th century (around 650AD). But it was also discovered and popularized by painters in 15th century Netherlands.By the end of the 16th century oil paints replaced tempera and become the medium of choice for several artists in Europe, especially Italy. Some of the world’s most famous paintings like the Mona Lisa have been created using oil paints.

Crayon

The basic components of a crayon—wax with pigment—can be traced back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt and Greecebut the earliest forms of crayons, i.e., chalk and pastels were known as early as the 16th century. Wax-based crayons were probably developed sometime in the 19th century. The good old Crayolas used in school were invented in 1902.

The Paint Palette

In the early medieval times, artists would put their pigments into several bowls, eventually ending up mixing paints and having lots of dishes to wash. This led to the development of the artist’s palette.

One of the oldest known depictions of the palette—a small wooden disc with blotches of paint on top, appears in De Mulieribus Claris, a 1374 collection of famous women’s biographies by Italian scholar Giovanni Boccaccio. One of them is a palette in the shape of a nine-pointed star held by a female painter as she works on a Madonna and Child composition.

By the 16th century, the kidney bean-shaped palette with a hole for the thumb emerged, as seen in an engraved portrait of Flemish painterHans Bol. Rectangular palettes were also used among Flemish painters such as Dirck Jacobsz, who included one in a 1550 portrait, as did Dutch Mannerist painter Joachim Wtewael in a self-portrait from 1601.
It eventually reached other parts of Europe by the mid-17th century as is evident fromArtemisia Gentileschi’s
Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting from the 1630s and Diego Velázquez’sseminal 1656-group portraitLas Meninas. Little has changed about the classic artist’s palette since, other than the introduction of materials like plastic, acrylic, and safety glass in place of wood.

Canvas

Canvas was originally introduced in 14th-century Italy as a more affordable alternative to wood panel. However, it took centuries to catch on because most Renaissance art was made for and funded by wealthy families who preferred lavish panel paintings. Works on canvas were considered less significant and reserved for secular paintings to be hung in private summer properties. By the 16th century, Italian artists and their patrons started to realize that wood is prone to decay, and canvas became the ideal surface for painting. The best quality canvases came from Venice and eventually spread to Northern Europe, where they slowly overtook the panel tradition. Staunch panelistPeter Paul Rubens’ first experiment on canvas, Wolf and Fox Hunt(c. 1616), helped popularize it in his native Flanders, and by the 18th century it became the de facto surface for painting.

The Paint Tube

American portrait painter John Goffe Rand single-handedly revolutionized art with his invention of the paint tube.
Rand was frustrated with the shelf life of his oil paints, often finding them dried up before they were even used. At that time, there were only two options available for storing paint – in fragile glass jars or syringes, which were dangerous to carry around, or in pig bladders, which artists would fill with pigments and seal with a string. To access the colours, artists had to poke a hole in the bladder and scrape out as much paint as possible. Since the hole couldn’t be re-sealed, whatever paint they didn’t gather went to waste.


In 1841, Rand had an epiphany: Small metal tubes would make storing paints simpler, cleaner, and handier, while increasing their longevity and portability. By March 6th, he had taken out patents on these “metallic collapsible tubes,” and they soon became a hit. In 1904, British chemist William Winsor added a screw able cap to Rand’s tube, allowing painters to save colours for later use. Pigment experts could then produce and sell paints in bulk without fear of them drying out, thereby making the medium cheaper.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.britannica.com/list/art-history-the-origins-of-7-of-your-favorite-art-supplies

https://www.creativelive.com/blog/inventions-that-made-us-more-creative/

Artist Block

Do you find yourself staring at the blank white canvas perched on your easel, foxed at your inability to make a mark on it? Have you been mulling over your first brush stroke not just for a day, but for weeks, months or even years? Well then, Houston, we have a situation here! Time to sound a Code Red, for what you are experiencing is the Armageddon of the art world – the dreaded artist block. It is the apocalypse that’ll devastate and annihilate your artistic progress.

But relax! No need to panic, for it can be averted. As artists, we all have had those phases in our lives when we feel utterly confused, perplexed and frustratingly stuck. This is the time when innovative ideas seem to run dry and art inspiration is sorely lacking. It’s a common dilemma that can afflict all artists at some time or the other during their artistic journeys.  

What exactly is an artist block?  

Also known as a creative block, it is a period when artists cannot access their creativity and/or they cannot bring themselves to create a new piece of work. They feel like they have run out of things to draw. Simply put, it is a time when artistic drive is missing.

What causes an artist block?

The most common cause is a lack of inspiration or ideas. But inspiration is not the only problem, it’s also inactivity. If you are not practicing your art regularly, you will eventually run out of inspiration. So the key is to keep working and keep the momentum going. On the other hand artist block can also happen if you are mentally or physically exhausted. So do take care of yourself and take a break when you feel like you are burning out. Sometimes just looking at the world around you and enjoying it sights and sounds can help you grow as an artist!

How do you get rid of artist block?

Whether you’re uninspired, worried your work isn’t good enough or just can’t think of anything to sketch, the creative block is for real. But you must not let it get to you. Life gives us enough inspiration to be creative at all times. It’s up to us to find it and put it to good use. There are numerous ways to come out of this dry spell of creativity. Here’s how:

1. Create something on the canvas even if it’s just a simple sketch or a splash of colors. It is these marks and textures that will inspire you.

2. Travel or just go out for a stroll to the park or beach and look at everything afresh. The little subtleties of nature will appear to you in a totally new light.

3. Visit an art museum, gallery or online art websites that showcases art genre of your interest to draw inspiration from the old masters.

4. Enter an art competition to give you a goal to work towards and spark your creativity. Moreover, if you are selected and get to attend the art show, the works of other contestants will serve as a source of inspiration.

5. Read inspirational art quotes by the great masters of painting. It will not only inspire you but also motivate you once you get to know how they succeeding in combating their own lull periods.

6. Read art books if you are stuck with common issues like how to start a painting, what medium to use or how to fine tune your style.

7. Take a break if you feel you are experiencing artist burnout. It’ll give you time to contemplate on your status as well as progress as an artist. If you are just stuck on a particular painting, start a new one and toggle between them to keep the creative juices flowing.

8. Use creative exercises like drawing or painting your favorite subject for a month, making ten spontaneous paintings within a time limit, or recreating a series of an old painting in new ways each time.

9. Attend an art workshop where you can explore new techniques or media. You can also ask a friend or mentor to give you a creative challenge to work on.

10. Find a muse that inspires you andtake photos of this muse. Then go through the images and sketch or paint specific aspects of the subject in detail.

11. Clean up and revamp your studio or work space. A cluttered work area hampers creativity and kills inspiration.  

12. Take a timeout from email and technology and just focus on your creative practice.

13. Visit a library or bookstore and explore a topic or subject you’ve been wanting to paint.

14. Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs with a good workout, a solid meal, good sleep and some meditation.

15. Maintain a journal, scrapbook or notebook of your doodling and random musings that you can refer to later for inspiration.
Check out my blog post titled A Tour of My Sketchbook

16. Socialize and unwind with friends and acquaintances. It will clear your head and rejuvenate the creative center of your brain.

17. Take inspiration from other genres of art like literature, music, dance and even culinary arts for new ideas. 

18. Create a Pinterest board with images that inspire you and make note of specific characteristics that appeal to you about each artwork as well as how you can incorporate these features in your own work in your own unique style. 
Check out my Pinterest inspiration board here.

My Secret Tool

As an artist, I’ve come up with my very own fool proof solution to overcome my creative slump that seems to have worked for me each and every time, at least till now! I come up with my most creative concepts just before I hit the sack. As weird as it may sound, it’s when I close my eyes and shut my brain off to the outside world that I am able dive into the deep, dark abyss of my mind and conjure magical innovations. I also keep the notes app on my iPhone handy when I’m out on a long leisurely stroll. My best ideas come when I’m surrounded by nature because my mind is free to soar and explore new horizons.  Besides these two trump cards, my trusted sketchbook and Pinterest board have always got my back, so plan B is also in place!

I consider these a form of “therapy” when I find myself in the shackles of a creative rut. You are most welcome to try them out if you are in one too. This is my troubleshooting mechanism, maybe it can be yours as well!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-Artist%27s-Block

https://www.icreatedaily.com/artist-block/

Capturing Your Art with Your Smartphone

After toiling for countless hours on a painting and finally completing it, we are so eager to share it with the world that we often rush through the most important part of the process – photography. Like framing, photographing your artwork is an important aspect that determines how successful you will be in getting it exhibited in galleries or selling it.

But this is easier said than done. One option is to hire a professional photographer, but what do you do if you can’t afford one? Well, why not give it a shot yourself? Bear in mind though that the photos of your work should be as high quality and professional as the artwork itself. 

We often invest in a wide range of photography equipment, from simple cameras to expensive DSLRs but not all of us are skilled at photography. Most of us struggle with common issues like uneven lighting, incorrect colors, and glares and shadows. If you are still a novice at photography, a smart phone will work just as well enabling you to take professional images of your art. I myself am not a professional photographer so I make regular use of my iPhone to document my work. Here are a few tips and tricks that I use to get the best out of my phone and help me get some great shots.

Preparing for photography

  • Make sure your smart phone is fully charged. You will need it to take multiple shots before you get the perfect one!
  • If you are clicking indoors, turn off artificial lights and open the curtains to let in natural light. If you are outdoors, select a shaded area to avoid glare. A cloudy day would be ideal.
  • Clear any clutter in the room and around the painting to enable you to take clean and tidy photos from various angles or distances.
  • Set up your smart phone on a tripod (if you have one). This will avoid all those blurred clicks.
  • Set up your artwork on an easel, wall or flat on the floor as you deem appropriate.
  • Use clear tape to tape your artwork to a wall if it’s on paper.
  • Keep a grey cloth handy to serve as a backdrop if there’s no bare wall.

How to take a shot

  • Taking shots in natural light will bring out the true colors of your painting accurately. You can hang your canvas on a wall outside away from direct sunlight to avoid any reflection and take a shot holding your phone vertically. Alternately, you can place it on the floor next to an open door and stand directly over it to click. This way the light outside the door will be your natural source.
  • If you own a tripod, now is the time to use it. If not, just stand or sit still with your elbows against your body and take the picture. You can also try propping the camera on something solid. This will prevent your shots from getting blurred. Take several shots as some will be out of focus or blurry.
  • Ensure that the camera is vertical, i.e., the lens should line up with the artwork and not tilted. The key is making sure the angle of your painting and the angle of your phone are the same otherwise you will get a distorted perspective of your painting. Most phones, especially the iPhone provide the grid function in their camera settings that can help align your phone to the object being photographed. You can use it for shooting an artwork on the wall as well as one placed on the floor.

How to avoid glare with Smartphone

I always make it a point to photograph my work before it’s framed. That way, I can avoid reflections formed on the glass or Plexiglas on top. Even so, sometimes the natural sheen of the artworks, especially in case of oil paintings can lead to reflections. If for some reason you have to photograph your work after framing, here are a couple of options:  

  • Use polarizer filters, specifically the linear and circular ones. They are especially helpful in taking photos of a framed artwork as they reduce the light reflected on top. They also make the colors more vibrant. Just pick up the right ones for your smart phone lens.
  • Being a novice at photography, I have no clue about filters so the next best option for me is to take my shots from different angles. This requires repeated adjustments and tons of patience as I have to keep moving to different positions until the glare is no longer visible.
  • Another reason for a glare or a reflection is the flash of your camera which is reflected straight back into the lens resulting in a glare so it’s best to turn off the flash.

The best time to take photos outside is when it’s overcast as the cloud cover acts like a giant diffuser — like the umbrellas photographers use — so that the light is uniformly distributed and the artwork is evenly lit. If it’s not cloudy outside or you can’t find the perfect shaded spot, you can get two lights of the same power and color and place them halfway between the camera and the canvas at a 45-degree angle pointing toward the artwork (this will help eliminate shadows and reflections on the painting). This is what it should look like:

  • You can also use a translucent plastic bag or a white sheet as a cheap diffuser by hanging it over the light making it softer and less direct. Just make sure you don’t do this on hot lights!

Editing your photos

Most phones come with basic photo editing options but for editing finer details, you can download a photo editing app on your phone or on your computer. Some commonly used ones are Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed, Moment app, Picsart etc. While Photoshop is still the most popular, Photoshop Elements or Gimp allow basic functions such as color correction, cropping, and other minor adjustments. Here are the features that you need to correct in your image:

  • Correct the colors in your image if you feel they don’t match the ones in your original artwork. This can be done using “color correction,” “color balance,” “temperature,” or “tint” options on your phone. You can also adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation of your colors.
  • Crop the image so that your artwork fills the image and is devoid of anything distracting in the background
  • Resize your image if required and save it with the appropriate dimensions and resolution in jpeg format.

There are several other professional tricks that can be practiced to improve your photographs so this is just a starting point.  I hope these shooting tips will be of some help and make photographing your art enjoyable!

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions. I am not a professional photographer so the tips I have shared below are merely suggestions. Please hire a professional photographer for more professional results.

Sources and Credits –

https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/4-steps-to-photographing-your-art-like-a-professional

https://dgillart.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/photographing-artwork/

Art for a Cause

“You give but little when you give of possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Creating art can not only be satisfying, but also makes us ponder and reflect about pressing issues. This is why art created to raise awareness for a cause can work wonders. It can awaken powerful and lasting emotions that consequently lead to positive action. Most artists make use of this power not just to express themselves, but also to make a statement, or contribute towards a cause.

The mere creation of an artwork aimed at creating awareness or towards a charity has a positive impact. It’s always a pleasurable experience to be associated with nonprofit organizations and other charities that are making a difference.

Artists help charities in many ways depending on their personal choices and artistic skills. One doesn’t always need to create foundations, donate big pieces of art. When it comes to painting for a cause, the sky is the limit and no contribution is too big or small. Here are a few ways through which artists can make a difference:

  • Collaborate with charities that share a common belief or work for a common cause. Paint murals for them to create awareness.
  • Create awareness through your art about current issues like environment, health care, poverty, homelessness, animals, women’s issues, peace etc.
  • Conduct workshops in hospitals, libraries, museums, clubs, neighborhood religious and cultural groups.
  • Raise funds for the charities you collaborate with by offering a percentage of proceeds from the sales of your art through an auction or raffle.
  • Volunteer for an art therapy workshop. This will be especially beneficial for those struggling with emotional and stress related issues.

I have personally experienced the contentment and satisfaction that comes with creating art for a cause and contributing it towards the betterment of the society. It gives me great pleasure to share with you that some of the artworks from my recent COVID-19 series are up for exhibit and sale through the online Facebook portal of the art gallery, Nero Art Hub (www.neroarthub.com). A percentage of the sales from this series will go towards charity. Here are the artworks that are on display:

Another contribution of mine is an artwork from my Navrasa series titled Veerangana – The Unsung Heroes. I contributed this towards an online exhibition to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas conducted by Youth For Parivarthan, a non-profit organization. The painting is my tribute to not just the fallen soldiers of the Kargil War but also their families, who live on bravely with just their memories to hold on to. Here’s the artwork followed by the links to the exhibition:

(https://www.facebook.com/YouthForParivarthan.Official/photos/pcb.2833925406821188/2833924936821235/?type=3&theater&ifg=1

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDHCBADgnF-/ (scroll through the images to see my artwork).

Many artists have used their talents to help create awareness for a cause or contribute towards charity. You can do it too. All you need to do is find the cause that touches your heart and inspires you enough to create something artistic. In the words of Seth Godin –

“Art is an original gift, a connection that changes the recipient, a human ability to make a difference. Art isn’t a painting or even a poem, it’s something that any of us can do. If you interact with others, you have the platform to create something new — something that changes everything. I call that art.”