Sunday, September 28, 2008

Changing Woman. Hand Colored Etching. Approx 6x10."

This etching was one of the Women's Heritage series. Changing Woman is a Native American Deity who, like the earth and the moon, become old and then young again. Humanity also, ages, but in so many ways is able to experience a return to youth. She holds a universal symbolism.

The Women's Heritage Series contains references from women's myths, history and spirituality. Often there are Earth - centered themes included. The images are presented in overlapping scenes and people and include many symbols from various multicultural Sources of Women's Origins. Although the etchings are not available, limited edition giclee prints are, printed on heavy archival paper with colorfast inks.

Surround yourself with symbols from your source.

Images and writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Cygnet. Etching. 9x12" approx.

This etching was inspired by my daughter, who, like so many teenagers felt inadequate and unnattractive even though they are anything but.
This was an image responding to the "ugly duckling" theme... the swan who will one day emerge as a beautiful creature.

The reversed image is a kind of reflection, a metaphor for both my daughter's and my own.

Technically the image was executed as a typical line drawing with a stylus through ground, etched, and then in a second stage, a spray-paint "aquatint" method was employed. This involves etching the plate, and painting out lighter areas successively with asphaltum, to achieve a series of gradations in tone. The longer the exposure to acid, the deeper the pores in the plate, which hold ink for printing.

In this print, two tones of intaglio ink were rubbed into the plate with tarlatan. A rainbow colored charged roller was rolled over the surface. The plate was then placed on the press bed, wet paper was placed over that, under blankets and all were rolled through the press under great pressure. This forced the wet paper to pick up the inks, both on the surface and in the crevasses. Pulling the print paper away, carefully, resulted in an intaglio print.

If anyone has questions about process, please use this blog to ask, and I will answer. I promise not to use any information left on my site for anything other than contacts about my own shows, new work, etc.

About 25 etchings were made, each with a different color combination. I am not able to use my press at present, but I do offer limited editions of giclee reproductions of my etchings for those who relate to the images. These are printed with archival inks on heavy matte paper made for
printing art.

All art images and writing are property of Ruth Zachary.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Somewhere They Are Smiling. Computer Montage.

Here is the final version of this series exploring the idea of a lineage descended through seven generations of sequential mothers. It is also the last of this series using Photoshop as a tool in creating montage.

This generation of women were placed in the foreground, while those of past generations were depicted as a reflection in an antique store window. The dress and bouquet on the youngest member of this matrilineage were also created using layers in Photoshop. The various faces shown were drawn from various stages in their lives, and the final version does not depict a single moment in time.

Each version of this series was carried through in the spirit of joyful play, with the ideas spurring me on, through multiple time-intensive steps. (Computer art is not less time consuming, nor is it easier, and no, the computer doesn't do the art work.) But for me, the use of Photoshop has become second nature, and is used like any tool using paint or pencil, minus paint fumes.

In spite of working with the computer, I frequently return to other traditional media, because those forms can do things the computer cannot. I use my hand-rendered images interactively with other media and photographs within Photoshop to create a final result. Computer art allows an artist to save each step, to be used in multiple new ways in new images later on.

I invite questions if I have not gone into enough detail. My aim here was not to overburden anyone with too much information, but to say enough so someone else working with a computer could explore some of these techniques. I would also love to learn what others have discovered in their artistic journey.

Images and writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The White Dress. Computer Manipulated Photograph.

This image with the old fashioned white dress was one of two or three photos of a Halloween costume. In this case, none of the photos were suitable as they were. The hat was best in one, the dress better in another, and the face more clear in the third.

My task was to put the best together in one format. Each cut out portion was copied and imported into a Photoshop document in various layers.

An experimentally painted panel was scanned in to serve as the background. The same panel was reversed and used over the top of the figure. In the layers tableau the texture was made transparent. Areas planned for the face and clothing details were cut out of this layer and deleted. The layer was cut again into sections so that the desired amount of transparency could be retained in various parts of the composition.

In some cases the painted texture was more opaque and in others, less so. The blending draws the eye to the face, purposely left more vivid. The overall texture lends a uniformity to the whole.

This and the other images of this series was shown to illustrate some techniques that can be useful in Photoshop. The final version of this series will be added in another day or so.

All writing and images are property of Ruth Zachary.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Matrilineage. Computer Manipulated Photos

A copy of the first black and white multi-generational family portrait was colored using Photoshop.

Each of the five heads in the back row was outlined with the lasso tool, and filled with an orange tint, using the "color" mode, with a reduced percentage of transparency.

The three figures in the front were already in color and were added in additional layers. The foreground and the background layers were retained separately over a transparent background, to enable use of separately cut out groupings. Layers must be saved as a psd (Photoshop) document to preserve them, and take a lot of memory. The file size can be greatly reduced as a JPEG document, but layers are lost and the background becomes white.

All images and writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Computer Manipulated Photographs

I have learned a lot of techniques by experimenting with Photoshop for the last fifteen years. People have frequently asked about the methods used for achieving certain effects.

Although it is better to have a hands-on situation to see how these methods work in practice, this forum is certainly better than explaining detailed processes at a gallery opening!

I hope to encourage others to learn from accident and experimentation as I have. I hope that others will ask questions if they have them, and will share discoveries of their own, using this blog site as a place to exchange ideas.

The bottom image (made first) was created by bringing five photos into one document, each on a separate layer, and arranging them in a sequence representing five generations. Prior to moving the photos, the size of each document was adjusted so the figures would all be the same size. The background was created from a digital photograph of a crackled paint texture on an old door.

The top, and second image was an experiment on a copy of the first one. One of the great things about using the computer is that all the steps can be saved, so if you don't like the experiment, you can go back and try something different. The layers were merged, using the merge visible command under layers.

A new layer was created. ( menu) This was filled with white and then the transparency of that layer was reduced to about 50% in the layers tableau. The darker images beneath began to show through. Then the eraser tool in the palette was set at a fine size, and a Wacom pen and tablet were used in a sketching motion to remove the white layer and reveal the dark details
of the figures beneath.

I made several variations on this theme, which I will explain in coming installments. Look for other techniques to come!


The Foremothers. Manipulated Photograph.

People seeing my work on display often ask how
I created a particular effect. There are many
techniques I have learned over 15 years of working with Photoshop, and I am happy to share them.

I hope I may inspire someone else to let accidents teach them, and hopefully that person will share what was learned with me.

This image was created in layers, one for each of the faces. The background came from a digital photo of crackled paint on a door. The figures represent five generations.

Another experiment with the image was tried, after the figures were merged.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Damselflight. Etching. 12x12" approx.

Judith Angell Meyer asked a question about coloring an etching. For those who do not know
about etching, this is a brief description.

Most of the color in my etchings were created using intaglio inks. My etching images were made on zinc plates, with a combination of fine lines and dots etched at varied depths to hold the inks, which are about like oil colors in texture, and usually very dark in value. My method was to push the thick inks down into the crevasses, carefully separating the areas of color. The surface of the plate was then selectively rubbed with tarlatan, a stiff material which clears the smooth levels of the plate to reveal the light values.

The paper was wet when placed over the plate. Thick blankets were placed over that, and the press bed was rolled between rollers under great pressure. This forced the image up so it was absorbed by the paper. The print was pulled off the plate and dried between blotters.

Some of my complicated etchings were remarqued with colored pencils to heighten and separate the colors. Another method of adding color was to roll as many as three transparent colors onto the surface of the plate over the intaglio colors. (See Damselflight)

I use the past tense here because my studio is not set up for printing at this time.

All images and writings are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Earth Woman

Etching size 9x12"

This image was one of a series of Women's
Heritage montages created in the etching medium.
Earth as a Goddess was the theme here.
Later the piece was used as the book cover
for Diane Stein's Stroking the Python.

Does anyone have questions or comments
about this medium or about the images?