I can be called a lot of things: creative, kind, funny, pinhead, goofball. But one thing that I can never be called is an artist.
Give me a piece of paper and a pencil, and I can write prose. Put a camera in my hands and I can capture an image. But give me a canvas and put a paint brush in my hands, and I'm totally useless.
I can look at a scene and see how the light plays on it, how that light and shadow contrast, how the colours play with each other. With a camera, I can take advantage of that light and shadow, and create an impression.
But to paint that impression is utterly beyond my grasp.
Or it used to be, before digital photography and photo-editing software became possible.
I use two photo-processing tools to manipulate what I capture in megapixels: Aftershot and PaintShop Pro, both from Corel. (I'm not against Photoshop—I'm just in a fortunate position where I don't have to pay for these apps, and they work incredibly well together.) Ninety percent of the time, I use the exposure controls, enhance the black, control the contrast, saturation, and luminescence, add fill flash, and sharpen my images. Perhaps four percent of the time, I render my photos in black and white, and will play with the exposure and contrast, and may throw in a filter, to boot.
The remainder of my photos will have a special effect applied, such as selective focus, vignetting, special colouring (taking away some, adding more to selected areas), and rendering the photo as a painting.
I don't have the skills to paint, but my software does.
Is that cheating?
When I apply this feature to an otherwise simple, or uninteresting photo, I can sometimes create a much-improved image. In 2009, after my family vacation to Italy, I looked over the thousands of photos that I shot. Many, I deleted because they were duplicates, or were badly exposed, composed, or unfocused. Others were fine but they just didn't stand out. And so, I put them in a Reject folder, where they were mostly ignored.
I hate to delete a photo unless I know that there is no way that I am going to use it. That's also why I have binders full of negatives, many of which no longer have a printed photo.
The other day, as I was reminiscing about that trip to Italy, I took a peek into the Reject folder and saw images that I hadn't paid any mind to since 2009. One photo caught my eye: I liked the composition, but the image itself didn't say anything. It was part of a garden that ran along the western edge of our rented villa and led down into one of the vineyards. In the late afternoon, the lighting was calming. Green bushes were interspersed between olive trees that lined the edge, that marked the end of the garden and the beginning of Sangiovese vines. The occasional Cyprus tree pointed upward. A stone stairway kept visitors of the garden on the right path.
As a photo, it was okay. But when I applied the PaintShop Pro art media effects to it, playing with the softness control, with the brush width and the angles, I saw a result that reminded me that a gentle breeze flowed through the valley, that the sun was warm but starting to cool as it dropped toward San Gimignano. I could see movement where my camera had frozen time.
Staring at this painting, I was back in Tuscany.
Pour me a glass of wine, will you?
I still don't call myself an artist, but this is as close as I get.