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About Anima's Blog

My name is Anima and I'm an emerging artist living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My blog is on tips for artists, artist reviews and interviews, art business and marketing, art collecting, how to decorate with art, oil pastel painting tips, giclee print information, finding creativity and inspiration, my travels, works in progress, new paintings, personal revelations, and everything in between.

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Avoiding Blurry Photos the Low-Tech Way

Photograph:
A dewy green leaf on the McKertcher family farm. I took this photo just after sunrise on June 19th.
© Anima

On my journey to becoming a better photographer, I'm setting some very simple, very basic goals. My plan: hone one skill at a time until it's instinctive.

Now that I've mastered carrying my camera around and taking pictures of everything that strikes my fancy, it's time to get really ambitious. It's time to work on taking pictures that aren't blurry. Don't laugh. Camera shake is a real challenge for me. According to my husband, Ter, my photos look like they were snapped during a minor seizure.

Why Such Blurry Pictures?

Apparently, there are at least 4 reasons for blurry pictures:

  • The focus is on the wrong item
  • The subject moves when the shutter is open
  • The camera moves when the shutter is open
  • The depth of field is too shallow

I'm going to stick to my one-goal-at-a-time/keep-it-simple-stupid motto and worry about the camera moving while the shutter is open.

Avoiding Camera Shake

Digital Photo Secrets is my starting point with these tips on avoiding camera shake:

  • Hold your camera with both hands
  • Keep the camera close to your body
  • Bring your elbows to your side
  • Hold your breath
  • Lean on something for extra stability

I'm also trying these pointers:

  • Keep your feet planted shoulder-width apart when standing
  • Press, don't stab the shutter release button
  • Don't move the camera for a moment after your shot is complete
  • Take your time with each shot
  • Practice

I keep reading that a tripod is the best solution, so eventually I'll buy one. But for now, I'll be avoiding blurred photos the low-tech way.

More Articles on Preventing Blurry Photos

Here are some other resources on avoiding blurry photos:

Related Articles

Share your blurry photo tips and stories.

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Posted by Anima on June 24, 2008   2 Comments Links to this post



2 Step Journey to Becoming a Better Photographer

Anima photographing her reflection in the trailer while camping at Miquelon Lake Provincial Park in Central Alberta

Photograph:
Anima photographing her reflection in the trailer window while camping at Miquelon Lake in May.
© Anima

There's a simple 2 step process to becoming a better photographer. Dozens more steps can make you a great photographer but these 2 set your foundation. They may be common sense but I'm only now implementing them myself. Once again, common sense proves not so common.

One thing I've never considered myself is a photographer. For about 92% of my life I've barely taken a handful of pictures a year, all terrible, with the occasional decent fluke. With the discovery of Darren Rowse's Digital Photography School, I'm inspired to change.

Besides slavishly reading through everything on DPS, the plan for becoming a better photographer is this: Practice. And more practice. Trips to Miquelon Lake, Crimson Lake, Montreal, Southern Ontario, and the Devonian Gardens this summer should afford me plenty of opportunities. Two trees in a field of wheat east of the McKertcher family farm near Milverton, Ontario

Photograph:
Two trees in a field of wheat
Photographed east of the McKertcher family farm near Milverton, Ontario shortly after sunrise on June 19th
© Anima

So what are the first 2 steps to becoming a better photographer?

Carry your camera everywhere

My camera is now crammed into my giant suitcase of a purse along with hand sanitizer, lotion, and baby wipes. (Those baby wipes are indispensable, even in my baby less state.)

Take your camera out of your purse and snap some pictures

Between just plain forgetting and feeling self-conscious and touristy, this is easier said than done. Your companions may wonder why you're photographing a random leaf or ceramic tile. Just smile and keep clicking. As artists, we're used to not fitting into the conventional mould anyways so what's the difference?

Well, my journey starts with these 2 steps. I'll keep you posted. Where are you on your journey to becoming a better photographer?

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Posted by Anima on June 22, 2008   0 Comments Links to this post



Reader Question: Under-Drawing or Preliminary Sketching Mediums for Oil Pastel Paintings

Reader Question


A fellow artist and friend who's dipping her toe into the joyous world of oil pastels asked me:

With oil pastels, do you draw out everything in pencil first? I'm doing some practice runs but the pencil blends in a bit with the pastels... what do you do?

Quick Answer


I sketch with a neutral colored oil pastel stick or sometimes a soft grey colored pencil.

To Elaborate


In over ten years of using oil pastels, I've tried a lot of mediums for drawing out my composition. In this post I'll discuss using pencils, colored pencils, and oil pastels. There's pros and cons to each, but I definitely have my preferences.
For oil pastel paintings, I almost never under-draw the composition with graphite pencils.

Why I Almost Never Under-Sketch with Pencils


Graphite pencils are a natural first choice when it's time to draw your composition before painting. They're as comfortable as fleece pants on a cold northern Alberta day. After all, as artists, we've been drawing with them since grade school. When the general public thinks of the word 'draw', the word 'pencil' isn't far behind. So what's the problem, then?

On paper, pencil is an easy fit. But it's a different story on canvas which is my support of choice for major paintings. The natural roughness of the canvas' gessoed cotton or linen is a hassle as a surface for pencil. Pencil will skip over and skirt around the bumbs, making your lines look shaky and broken.

Ever made a mistake on your drawing? How about changed your mind about where to put your subject's hand? Pencil can be forgiving but not always. If your marks are too dark, they may not totally erase away, whether you're using canvas or paper. In fact, some papers can't bear up under vigorous erasing at all.

Plus even lightly drawn pencil marks show through under layers of light to medium values of oil pastel.

Ok, I'm done raining on pencils now. They're not all bad when it comes to under-drawing. Pencils are great for drawing fine details (eyes and ears), complex subjects, or structures that call for precision (architecture). So if you're the kind of artist that completes detailed under-drawings before the oil pastels go on, you may want to consider pencils anyways. Just remember to press lightly!
For oil pastel paintings, I'll sometimes sketch with colored pencils.

Why I Under-Draw with Colored Pencils Some of the Time


Colored pencils marry the precision of graphite pencils with a soft blendable mark. Of course, the softness and blendability (is that a word?) will vary depending on the brand of colored pencil. So choose the brand based on your preference: hardness for precision and softness for blending and forgiveness.

I strictly use gray colored pencils for my under-drawing. Gray is such a lovely neutral color. It blends well with oil pastel colors and leaves a light mark that's easy to cover up. I tend to cover up changes more so than erasing them, so they fit well with my painting process.

Why I Under-Sketch with Oil Pastels


Because I like forgiveness and I need a lot of it! Changing my mind about compositional details is something I like to have the option of doing. It's my peroggative, right? Sketching with oil pastels gives me that freedom more than colored pencils and definitely more than a graphite pencil. They'll either blend with your other layers of color easily or be covered over, depending on the techniques you use for applying the oil pastels.

Be careful when under-drawing with colors that are dark or contain yellow. Dark oil pastels will stain your support and then their goes the forgiveness you were hoping for. Also, yellowish oil pastels may add unwanted tints to the colors you lay over top.

I typically use a warm pale grey color. It's easy to see over the whiteness of the canvas but blends beautifully with all the other colours.

The only negative to under-drawing with oil pastels is the lack of precision. Try cutting the edge of a blunt stick of oil pastel with a razor to help you make more detailed marks. But even with this trick, you'll rarely achieve the accuracy of a pencil (graphite or colored). But if you're like me and save your details until you get further along your painting process, then oil pastels are definitely the way to go.

What about you? What medium do you use for under-drawing your oil pastel paintings?

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Posted by Anima on May 13, 2008   1 Comments Links to this post



Color Reference Tip for Artists

If you're an artist, I recommend you go to Home Depot and grab one of every single color card from the CIL paint collection. I did this on Saturday. Then I grabbed the Ralph Lauren color sample book for good measure. I'm not sure how long it actually took but it felt like an eternity - there were hundreds, and hundreds of cards. Plus, I braved a record-breaking snow storm and icy roads. Ah, the joys of spring in northern Alberta!

So why bother? For three reasons:

1) Commissions


Getting the colors right on a commission is critical, especially when your collector has plans for where the painting is going to hang. But the words your collector uses for colors might be vague, inaccurate, or just plain different from what you're used to. For instance: peach, coral, and pink, or turquoise, aqua, and sea green, or mauve, lilac, and lavender. Which one is which, and would your collector, husband, sister, and best friend all make the same call?

It's so much easier to have them just point to the color on the card! This even works when there's no chance to meet with your collector locally. Just have them email you with the names and brand of the colors they like.

Then all you have to do is match their selections within reason.

2) Choosing the Right Color


Whether it's for a commission or your own self-directed painting, take the color samples to the art supply store when you're picking out your oil pastels, or your colored pencils, or whatever you're medium of choice is. If your memory is anything like mine it's best to have a tangible reference to work from and not a vague recollection.

3) Inspiration


This was an unexpected side effect of looking at all those colors. I felt instantly inspired. It was kind of like the feeling I get at the art supply store when I'm looking at all those gorgeous oil pastel sticks. Honestly, I'm getting tingly just thinking about it.

The different hues, shades, values, and tints can really get you going if you ever get painter's block. Just imagine all the color combinations you've yet to explore!

How About You


Check out how Jerry Lebo uses color references or share what you use for reference colors and why.

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Posted by Anima on April 21, 2008   0 Comments Links to this post



Easy XML Sitemap Creation and Blogging for Artists

Build an XML sitemap easily.

Create an XML Sitemap for your Artist Website or Blog


For months now I've been thinking about creating an xml sitemap to submit on Google's Webmaster Tools. Being busy, being lazy, or whatever label you want to use, meant I hadn't put any effort into learning how to go about it. And thanks to Katherine Tyrell of Making a Mark and I never had to. I've finally done it and it was dead simple.

Check out her post on how to add a sitemap to your website to learn how. Plus she includes other helpful hints for your website or blog.

For anybody who has ever looked at the page on Google which describes how to create a sitemap this will seem like a complete godsend. It took me hours and hours prior to this to even get my head round it and even then I couldn't create a proper xml sitemap and gave up!

Blogging for Artists


Looking for 27 pointers on blogging as an artist? Robert Bruce did a guest post on Problogger about just that. It's food for thought.

1. There’s never been a better time to be a working artist. Ever.

2. There’s never been a worse time to be a working artist (if you’re not truly dedicated to your craft).

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Posted by Anima on April 17, 2008   1 Comments Links to this post



Painting Tips for Realistic Hair and Shadow Colors

Finding the colors in shadows.  Sand dune shadow.

In the last week I've read a couple really exceptional posts with painting tips that I'm going to start using myself.

Painting the Colors in Shadows


Jerry Lebo of Sixty Minute Artist offers an excellent exercise on exploring shadow colors.


The first message I want to get across is: shadows are colors! Let me say it again another way: the color you are putting in the shadow is just as important as the color you are putting on the highlight. If either one is wrong--the painting will suffer. Okay, so how do you find the right shadow color? Well, first, you need to be able to see the shadow color. So let me give you a little exercise that I have learned that will help developed your mind and eyes to better see shadow colors.

Secret to painting hair: visualize a ribbon

The Secret of Visualizing Hair as Ribbons


Ever struggled to paint hair simply but realistically? For many years, I've had varying degrees of success with painting hair. After reading James Gurney's article on the Ribbon Secret, I now have words for what I've been trying to do all along.


Earlier this week we looked at how to solve the “string mop” problem by using big brushes, keeping the masses simple, and softening edges. It also helps to visualize masses of hair as ribbons. In a real ribbon, the highlight goes across, not along, the curving shapes.

What are your useful painting tips and techniques?

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Posted by Anima on April 16, 2008   0 Comments Links to this post



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