View of the Rio Terra Catecumeni, facing the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, 2013. Digital Oil on Canvas.

 

If you’re going to cheat, then be sure to do it well. In fact, do it so well that it becomes an art form in itself.

If you contrive and manipulate to create an artistic representation of the world around you that gives you and others pleasure, such as through the medium of photography for example, or indeed through more classical mediums of paint on canvas, does that not qualify as art? Is it cheating if your methods of achieving your representative artistic masterwork don’t follow conventional, tried and tested, classical, and dare I say it ‘traditional’ processes?

I think not. In fact, I believe that creativity should know no bounds. However, creativity is only as elastic as one’s ability to conceive of the possibilities of its expression.

Have I been cheating then, in turning my hard earned photographs into digital oil paintings with the help of a rather ingenious app. that allows for a broad range of personal interpretation and style?

Perhaps the question should be: could you have created the same image?

The above image began life as my second visit to Venice, Italy, back in 2013 when I was fully in throes of early love and rapture with the most beautiful of ancient european cities. I stood on the small but robust bridge of Rio Terra Catecumeni, by the imposing white marble covered structure of the church of the Santa Maria della Salute. It had just turned 5:57pm and the deafening clang of the huge bells of the Salute began peeling across the city, as they had for over three long centuries, only gaining three minutes on the rest of the city’s bells which joined in the choral din at staggered intervals over the course of the following fifteen minutes. This was a daily affair, and I’d come especially to experience it up close and personal.

The bells of the Salute seemed to be in competition with the rest of the 109 bell towers in the city of Venice, ringing out with a fervour of a petulant child, clearly unmatched by the others. In the midst of such a cacophony, interspersed with the sounds of the water buses chugging up and down the length of the Grand Canal that I stood facing, I found myself laughing hysterically at both the comedy and the sheer enchantment of the scene before me, that required the fullest sensory participation possible. With every clang reverberating through my body, making me flinch and giggle even more.

The evening light was warm and inviting, making the usual dulled colours of the canal burst and come alive. Sunset in Venice is quite something else.

Traffic on the canal and on the ground was busy with tourists all enjoying the pleasures of Venice in their own way, and adding to the ambience that I hoped to capture with my little point and shoot camera that was my trusty travel companion at the time. The briny air was warm and was laced with cigarette smoke and chatter, as people passed by behind me on the bridge. I lined up my shot and waited for the right moment as if I were waiting for all the actors on the stage before me to take their positions before I pressed the camera’s shutter button. A scene existing for the briefest of moments, just long enough for me to capture its magic on my digital device, and for me to look back on and enjoy through the wonders of modern technology for years to come.

Photographs are always a work in progress to my mind. The technology of my camera at the time was of a much lesser quality than the kind of equipment I sport these days when out on a shoot. The digital rendering of the original photograph that I took that day wasn’t great, however, with the kind of digital editing tools that exist now, much can be achieved in realising my original artistic vision.

Now, I’ve been a classical, conventional artist for as long as I can remember and my desire to paint Venice has existed almost as long. Imagine then my absolute delight when I recently discovered a clever little editing tool that would allow me to do just that, but without the canvases and the tubes of paint, or the many hours spent waiting for paint layers to dry, or indeed the smell of turpentine and linseed oil infusing the whole of the apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love to paint in the conventional way, but it is a very involved process, as producing anything via analogue methods often is. This tool however, has allowed me a certain degree of artistic freedom that I perhaps wouldn’t have explored through more traditional means. Instead I spend my hours getting the colour palette and feel of the composition just right, so that it conveys exactly the right mood and tonality. I then focus on the details as a painter would, bringing out just enough to draw the eye to particular areas of the composition, so that they might tell a little story as your eyes trace over them, and bring some of the magic I see in my mind’s eye to life. You see, every piece is a work of art, and a work of love for me. And like every artist that ever was, having others enjoy my work is part of the enchantment.

Have I cheated, or have I simply created something new?

In being innovative and breaking the existing moulds, are we spoiling things or are we in fact creating opportunities to view our lives in a new way?

Here are some more digital oil paintings of Venice that I’ve been working on lately. I hope you enjoy!

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11 thoughts on “The Art of Cheating

  1. Phew, you’ve opened Pandora’s box and I can now sally forth with a clear conscience (I always feel a bit guilty when I tweak). You’ve put my mind at rest … and those works of art others are indeed ‘works of art’. Boom boom~!

    1. Ha! I’m glad you approve! 🙂

      It’s funny, up until a few years ago I would have contested any such tweaking of photographs tooth and nail, believing it wasn’t right to tamper. But then it occurred to me that as an artist, it’s exactly the kind of creative license I exercised in creating works of art. Then when I discovered that every famous photographer in history has tweaked their images in order to comply with artistic sensibilities, then well, I just threw caution to the wind. Also, I have spent hundreds of hours in the last few years tweaking my photos, so it’s no longer a novel or a particularly controversial thing to do. Plus it’s huge amounts of fun, especially as I don’t like to delete even rubbish shots. The challenge I set myself is to always try to do something with them. What else am I going to do with them all? 😉

      1. The camera is just another brush … all I desire these days would be a digital version of my earlier Olympus OM2n. Then I could concentrate entirely on getting a good image—and then I could sit down with the computer and huge stack of coffees and play play play for hours. (I say play because you have to enjoy it, right?)

        1. Yes, playing is the important part in all of this. Creating art should bring you joy, I think, no matter your tools.
          Sadly, appreciation for classic art is low these days. People don’t know what they’re missing.
          Someone quite rudely tagged one of my digital paintings ‘traditional art’ the other day. Had I presented it as the mere photograph that it was, it probably wouldn’t have been treated with such irreverence. But there you are, young people these days don’t know their aardvarks from their elbows. Art is art.

      1. Good heavens~! Madame, you can poke me any time. Poke, push, prod or otherwise inspire (but I warn you, take away my coffee and your life expectancy promptly drops from three score years plus ten to decimal zero zero zero not-much of a microsecond) …

        1. Ha! Yeah, I hear ya! I bought myself a hazelnut flavoured blend the other day that I’m learning to like. Though straight out of the canister it’s a bit strong. Mixed with other, normal ground coffee it’s pleasantly palatable. It would probably taste loads better with sugar, but I haven’t taken sugar in my coffee for years.

          1. I buy beans.
            Months later I come across ’em in a cupboard (the depths of our cupboards are not for the faint-hearted), fish ’em out and grind ’em (burr grinder—they actually grind) and use a wee cheapie French Press I scored at an op shop.
            Black is beautiful but when I fancy cow-juice I latte it up with a wee boiler-steamer gadget I scored in the RSPCA shop—no instructions with it but Mr Google answers all questions. It turned out that someone had tried to heat their milk with it. Not good, you put water (not milk) (tut~!) in it to create steam and use the steam to heat and froth your milk. (Took a lot of effort to clear their residue, but once done it works a real treat~!).

            1. Yes, I remember your posts about your coffee contraptions from a while back. Glad to know they’re still doing you proud. I used to grind my own beans too, but as I drink mostly decaf these days beans are out unfortunately.

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