I like to use what I have, which is what led me in the first place to leveraging my own artwork and incorporating it into my art quilts. To paraphrase a popular expression, it’s not the size [of the collection] but how you use it. As I have discovered in my artistic adventure during the last few years, variety of resources is the key.
For my work in digital design, variety translates into photos, backgrounds, and marks or writing. I do not believe that photos must be superlative. In fact, I find that the quality of the image isn’t important because it will be masked with either a filter or a layer. If you treat everything as either art or a potential source for your digital notebook, interesting and creative designs will result.
Original photographs. This includes photographs you have taken and digitized. Suggestions include photos of people, flora and fauna, and textures, such as bark, rock, weathered siding, or anything with texture. Photos will end up being modified, so again quality is not necessary. Simply look for color and line. Some suggested ways of creating a “photo library” include organizing by subject, specific use in quilt, color similarity, or by theme.
I’ve read suggestions to take numerous photos of same subject matter. That way different perspectives, views, colors, and lines can be obtained from one subject. Thinking about color and line is important when snapping a photo. That way photos serve a dual purpose—photos that are both interesting and can be used for layers or backgrounds.
The following is a list of types of images one might consider using when creating a folder of images useful for creating digital fabrics.
Sketchbook Art. Sometimes it is difficult to get started with a digital image, and I have found that sketchbook art is a good source and/or starting point. The hard work has already been done and once digitized, then you can use all or part of the image. Here is an example of one of my art journal pages. In Photoshop Elements, it can be used as is or modified with filters or other layers.
Marks. “Mark-making” is an effective surface design generator. You can make your own marks with a permanent black marker such as a Sharpie or Pitt pen and then scan the sheet of marks, creating an image for future use as a layer or filter. Another effective way to use marks is to print your “mark” image on organza and use as a physical layer in your quilt.
Monoprints and/or Gel-prints. Create your own textured or colored backgrounds or artwork from gel-plate prints or monoprints. Digitize on a scanner or with a camera. Once digitized, all parts of the image can be used for layering—which can change the coloring of your image or simply printed onto fabric. Or you can slice the images up with the crop tool (and even change the color of each segment) to add to a future collage. This photo is a collection of prints I made with a commercial gel-plate. I can use these images as backgrounds when layering with other images or simply print them onto fabric and cut them up.
Scanned stamps or drawings. Hand-carved stamps can be useful in digital work. Prints can be scanned straight from a sketchbook, which is what I did here to obtain individual images of some of my favorite stamps and print plates. Black ink is the most effective and you can always change it once you have digitized. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways—scanned or by creating a brush.
Photos of your quilts. I think this is self-explanatory. In the past I have used segments of quilts I made and printed the segment to fabric. Using sections of other quilts you’ve made is a quick and easy way to fill a large area
Photos of fabrics you’ve dyed or even enhanced. After I dye or print on fabric if I like the color or effect, I take a photo. I’ve found that they can be used as another source of background material, as simple layer, or just used again printed out onto fabric. All you need to do is put two layers together for some interesting effects. Here is a collection of some of the fabrics I have photographed and then used in a digital design.
Purchased textures. Purchased images—especially textures—are a great source of image material to use in creating depth and variety in fabric deign. Resolution is typically 300 dpi, which is more than enough for effective manipulation—and there is no worry about copyright issues. You can also find free backgrounds on the Internet that are downloadable and ready for use in the same way.
Surface design work. Using your own—already completed work—can make interesting layers. I make it a habit of photographing most everything I do—usually on my phone. You never know what is going to make an interesting layer. Photograph as you create dyed fabric, resists, stamped, print blocks themselves, writings/text, monoprints, papers used in design work, maps, architectural drawings, scribbles/doodles.
Collage or mixed media. The result of this work can easily be used whole or cut apart. In addition, you can create a paper collage and then print or mix with another photo.
In my next post, I’ll discuss creating my own original art using Photoshop Elements. Below is an example of several of my “original” images I created through a variety of techniques.