Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Grandmother Time, drawing in pen and ink and on the computer about 7x8”  by Ruth Zachary

Last week I planned to try more experiments to draw into abstract background compositions, and hopefully to produce a combination of abstract design and realistic imagery, so that they could serve as illustrations for poetry chapbooks.

My reason for wanting to do them in color was that even though black and white is more economical to publish, having a larger colored version would allow the work to serve double duty. A second black and white illustration of each piece would meet the second goal at the same time.

My color layering experiments did not work for two reasons. Black or white do not work in the layering process very well. Also realistic imagery does not work well either. The boundaries of realistic shapes would have to dominate but be compatible with the underlying layers.

I have since decided to work in a new way. I am making black and white background drawings, designed in a similar way as my approach with designing colored compositions.  The drawings are sometimes done using technical pens on white paper, and sometimes I also create a composition directly on the computer. I expect the optimum size of images will range from 9x12” down to 4x6”. In some cases I will use parts of drawings done in the past for card designs. I expect they will do double duty again as new designs for note cards.

I use three or four major tools for drawing in black and white on the computer. First I establish shapes, geometric or organic in solid black and whites with select tools. Next I place a layer under the first design attempt, and fill it with solid black. Using the eraser tool in a very fine size, I begin to draw by shading and scribbling with the eraser on the white areas of the design to create black textures. Sometimes I use a large uneven brush. This creates contrast and variety.

To reverse the look, I try using the pencil or paintbrush on the black shapes with white to create more textures. It is best not to have wet edges, as this will not create totally black and white sharp edges, best for reproduction. Also a sharp edged point on the pencil will have a jagged rather than natural look.

Another great tool is to select areas of the composition and go up to Image> adjust> and then go t o invert. This will reverse black to white, and white to black. It is easy to make a very complex drawing in a couple of hours using just these tools.

My plan now is to draw figures, people, faces, landscape elements and animals to be scanned into my computer, and cut them out, and place them carefully over the background I have made, and to continue to draw into the background to reconcile the appearance of the subject with that of the background. This process is much more simple than layering. The modes are not used. The top layer is merged with the background.

To have consistent drawing textures and qualities to tie the series together, I will take parts of the backgrounds previously created and include bits of them into new drawings.

Writing and Images are the© Copyright of Ruth Zachary.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Time Goes Flying By and I Am Running Out of Time.

Well, another week has gone by and I still have not made my concept work the way I envisioned. Above are two more attempts.

The first is a set of note cards first executed in black ink on white. Since I have already learned black and white do not work in layering experiments, I colored the blacks using the gradient tool. This offers a set of variations of gradients, of which I picked a rainbow colored option, applied diagonally to the images. These still retained the whites but darks were colored at 70%, in color mode and transparency also selected.

The second version shows the image with two layers of abstractions lain over it. The top layer was a magenta composition used in the “overlay” mode, and the second layer was a blue composition used in the “lighten” mode. As you can see, white does not allow the other colors to be seen. Affected colors are seen in the dark areas. This is closer to my original concept, but not satisfactory. Never the less, there are things to be learned from experiments which don’t work, and I do like the color better than pure black and white, where it did work. I like # 2, 4 and 5 the best.

My next approach may be to draw the illustrations using hand made methods without consideration of the abstract designs. I might try copies of layers over copies of these drawings, and experiment with erasing the portions of the overlays that don’t work. At least nothing is lost in these experiments!

Writing and Imagery is the Copyright of Ruth Zachary

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Illumination. Experiment by Ruth Zachary.

Only a percentage of these experiments with layers of textures in Photoshop produce something worth while. If one thing is gorgeous by the end of one work session, I am usually satisfied. But I have tried several different approaches to the idea I wrote about on May 28th, and so far none have resulted in the “look” I was trying to achieve. Above is an example. It would make a greeting card, but the technique doesn't conform to my vision.
I believe I know why it doesn’t work. White seems to act as an opaque when layered in many modes, so often the white areas block out the layers underneath. In the modes which do not destroy transparency, it seems that the blacks and whites are inverted. I have not tried making different layers more transparent, and I will try that too, in my next trials, and share my results.
But in the mean time, I think I must work in color… using colored pens, and either colored pencils or water colors in my “drawn” illustrations for the realistic sections of my work. I will start small, with small sections only slightly larger than my eventual illustrations. If the edges are vignetted, (blended) they may be used in different configurations for future layering, I believe.
So, On to the next good thing! All this does take time, and so I'm not blogging as much lately.
Writing and imagery are the Copyright © of Ruth Zachary.