By Jeremy Sutton
In this tutorial, I take a low-resolution black-and-white image of Ray Charles and, with the help of Corel® Painter IX, turn it into a colorful portraitone that expresses his exuberance and the power of his music. The specific steps covered here are less important than the overall philosophy of approaching an image with an open mind and a willingness to experiment and take risks.
A note about copyright
Although my initial image was a low-resolution (162 x 170-pixel) photo that I found on the Web (see below), I made the effort to contact the copyright holder (Associated Press) and purchase the rights to make a derivative image. I also found out the identity of the original photographer (Ira Schwartz), and I make sure that I acknowledge him whenever I write about this image. My point is that although it is easy to find imagery these days, it is important to protect and respect the rights of artists and copyright holders. Whenever possible, if I am using reference photos, I work with my own photography and obtain model releases.
Prepare the source image
I usually prepare my source images by cropping, resizing, and using Adjustment Layers (most frequently Levels) in Adobe® Photoshop® CS. I save a layered master file as a Photoshop document, and a flat version as a TIFF document for opening in Corel Painter. In this case, I cropped the photo and resized it to suit the resolution and size I wanted for a printed image (40 x 40 inches at 150 dpi). This was a huge increase in size from the original (not recommended!), so the resized image was very diffuse and pixilated. I applied the Effects > Focus > Super Soften filter in Corel Painter to reduce the pixilation.
Create a "muck-up"
I opened this cropped resized image in Corel Painter (see below) and used a variety of brushes to paint in a colorful rough painting (my "muck-up" stage). The brushes I used included the Artists > Sargent Brush, Tinting > Diffuser, Photo > Burn, Big Wet Luscious, and modern art in a can. (The two brushes from earlier versions of Painter are included with my Painter Creativity book and also with the newly released Painter IX Simplified for Photographers DVD set.) I also used Paulo's Goodbrush (on my Painter Creativity book companion CD). This muck-up stage forms my underpainting, from which I develop a more refined final painting. My focus in the muck-up is energy and motion rather than detail and contours.
Generate a Zoom Blur version
I then applied the Effects > Focus > Zoom Blur to the muck-up stage to create this explosive blurred version.
Generate a Woodcut version
I reused the muck-up stage and applied Effects > Surface Control > Woodcut. I played with the Woodcut sliders until I liked the effect.
Mix all three versions
I now had three versions of my image: a painted muck-up, a Zoom Blur and a Woodcut. I pasted the painted muck-up and the Woodcut onto the Zoom Blur. From the Layers palette, I sampled the options for each layer from the Composite Methods pop-up menu and finally chose Overlay and Magic Combine, respectively (see below). This process illustrates the general principle of generating variations and then combining them together. When mixing different versions of a file, you can use cloning or layers, or a combination of the two. With the layers approach, I experiment with all of the Composite Methods. Instead of applying rules or formulas, I just go by what works visually.
When I work with layers and finally get the look I like, I save that layered file as a RIFF to preserve all of its special layer properties. Then, I flatten the image (Drop All from the Layer pop-up menu) and resave the file as a TIFF. This is important: you want to preserve your flexibility to edit and adjust layers in the future, but you also want to be able to blend your colors and paint in a flat image. This approach (saving a layered version and a flat version) preserves future flexibility. Large files saved as RIFFs sometimes become corrupted, so having a flat TIFF is an added safety feature to ensure that you don't lose any of your hard work.
Equalize and burn
I applied Effects > Tonal Control > Equalize to the flat image. I then went back over it with the Photo > Burn brush to bring out contrast and emphasize the shadows.
Create a Loaded Palette Knife version
I used the Palette Knives > Loaded Palette Knife on the image to distort the image further and add some lively colors.
Colorize the crazy layer
I pasted the Loaded Palette Knife version as a "crazy" layer over the previous (Equalize and Burn) version. I played with all of the composite methods and selected Colorize. This is an example of the way I continually generate variations, adding them as layers on previous versions and experimenting with the composite methods. As before, after saving a RIFF version with the layer, I flattened the image and resaved it as a flat TIFF.
Add a border
Before I start painting, I typically assess whether a source image needs any canvas added around the edge. Sometimes, I decide to add a border later in the creative process, depending on how a painting evolves. That is what happened in this case. I wanted to be able to pull the paint out into the white and emphasize the explosive energy coming from the center. The default paper color is white. I chose Canvas > Canvas Size to add a white border. If you add a border after you've started painting, your original source image (which does not have the same border) will no longer line up with cloning, and the Tracing Paper function will not work. To continue with cloning, you would need to go back and add exactly the same border to your source image (resaving and renaming the images to reflect that they have a border added).
Blend and smear
I used a combination of Blender brushes, such as Smear, and painting brushes, such as Big Wet Luscious, to extend and diffuse the paint at the edge of the picture, creating an explosive effect with paint emanating out from the center.
Print and mount
To print my final image, I opened it in Adobe Photoshop CS and used the Layers > Adjustment Layers > Hue and Saturation to slightly lighten and saturate the image. I used the Epson® Stylus Pro 9600 Print Engine with UltraChrome ink and printed this piece on PremierArt Water Resistant Canvas for Epson. Next, I fixed the ink by spraying with several coatings of Krylon® Acrylic Crystal Clear protective non-yellowing finish. I then stretched the canvas on 1.5-inch stretcher bars and added some additional acrylic paint and gels.
I hope you've enjoyed this insight into my creative process. What I've most wished to share with you is the improvisational and experimental way I approach the creative processthe technical details are less important. I encourage you to take risks and not be too cautious with your images. You'll be surprised at what unfolds!
To see more examples of my artwork, please visit my art Web site, jeremysutton.com. To learn about my books, DVDs, and classes, please visit my educational Web site, www.paintercreativity.com, where you'll also find articles, tutorials, and links related to Corel Painter. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.