I’ve always been a bit artistic, but more of an illustrator than a painter. Sue Vincent was our painter, and a very good one – though she was modest about her achievements.
In the early days of the Silent Eye, Sue and I worked together to create a version of the Silent Eye’s enneagram – seemingly a nine-pointed star, until you look deeper – in a style where I laid out the geometry in Adobe Illustrator, and she added the ‘heart’ of the interior in a rose-based design. People were still commenting on it, years later. it was a very emotive image…
When we lost Sue, we lost our ability to have ‘paintings’. There are some subtle – and usually emotional – creations that need the gentleness of touch that the painter brings.
Our world brightened in this regard when Giselle Bolotin offered to help our work with her designs for the Silent Eye’s Oracle Deck – a work in progress; example below. But we can’t keep abusing Giselle’s time and need a degree of expertise in the use of simple ‘painter’ techniques to support the photography that Stuart and I rely on within our blogs.
So, I gritted my teeth and bought a licence of Adobe Fresco for the iOS platforms – iPhone and iPad. My iPad is rapidly becoming my main creative tool – something I would have thought impossible a few years ago!
It’s not that it’s better than my desktop Mac. For one thing, it’s far less logical. But it’s very fast at doing certain things; especially with images. I may not be a painter, but I’m a busy photographer… and the iPad/iPhone combination is at the very heart of that work.
I have a love-hate relationship with Adobe. In my former, corporate life, I had a licence for their entire Illustrator/Photoshop suite, including the desktop publishing component – InDesign, in which the three years worth of monthly lessons were created. Adobe let all these older licences ‘die’ when they brought out their new ‘CC’ architecture, and would not update the older software to be compatible with new Macs. I can see the commercial logic – just about all the big software companies have moved to an annual ‘subscription’ model – but their actions increased the cost of running Adobe software as a ‘small creative user’ by an order of magnitude.
With the considerable skills of Caroline Ormond joining our management team, we were able to migrate the older InDesign documents to a Microsoft Word format, enabling us to roll out a new generation, protected from the considerable price hikes we would have endured. Despite all this, I remain a big fan of how Adobe software works and is thought through for the ‘professional’.
Generally, I avoid Microsoft applications, finding them non-intuitive and layered with things you need to know from their history, but Caroline says, with the right medication, I may even be able to use Word myself…
But back to Adobe Fresco; the App with which I hope to become a ‘painter’, albeit of simple things…
After some particularly harrowing TV news from Ukraine the other day, I took Tess for a walk along the old canal path. Festooned with golden daffodils, it’s a joy at this time of year.
There, in the middle of the path, were a group of daffodils that had been mutilated, perhaps by some children venting their frustration at something. I picked them up and photographed them in my hands, seeing in the unnecessary death a loose parallel with the unthinking emotions that drive occupying soldiers to massacre civilians. I’m not comparing the two, but the blind emotions of destruction are related.
By photographing their ‘wounds’, I felt I had prolonged their life a little bit longer. Later, I wondered if they would form a visual centrepiece for a post… this one.
The bright yellow reminded me of the Ukrainian flag. I considered whether I could create a photo-based image that also had that flag’s blue as well? To do that in the way I wanted, I would have to ‘paint’ over the photo in a way that showed the brushstrokes.
Warily, I opened the Adobe Fresco app and began to learn. Several hours later, I had the opening image, above, made by layering the broken daffodils over a recent landscape of Derwent Water, then painting over some of the flowers in different brush strokes and colour washes with a digital ‘watercolour’ brush.
It’s not great… but it’s a start. We can get better from here. The exercise also let me channel my feelings about Ukraine onto the flowers. Perhaps their mutilation was not a total waste.
Note: You can see more of Giselle’s work on her Instagram page. Just key in ‘Giselle Bolotin’.
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.