Impressions of Artista Impresso (A Mobile Tutorial)

I’ve been playing with a new app this week, and thought I would share! JixiPix Software has released a new app for both iOS and Android, Artista Impresso, which creates an impressionistic painting style out of your photos. I love the JixiPix apps for their adjustability, and this is another great one for the app arsenal. Let’s take a look at how it works.

But first, a quick Mother-in-Law update: They found no sign of cancer in her nodes, so we are all incredibly grateful for that. She should be going home today. She has come through surgery fine although pain has been an issue. My husband said she described the pain as “wearing a barbed wire bra.” Ow!! Yeah, I think men and women alike can sympathize with that. Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers for my family around this. I definitely feel the love of my blog community!!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

It all starts, of course, with a photograph captured with ProCamera. We’ve had a lot of foggy mornings this winter, and the greyish cast to the trees comes from the fog in this one.

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The first step is to add some color, which is done with a series of layers in Mextures and Snapseed. This is the image that I pulled into Artista Impresso:

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Most of the JixiPix apps perform similarly. You load a photo, select a preset, and then fine tune the options. If you don’t want to click through the presets, you can use the Randomize feature to randomly try on presets. You can also Undo your changes, which is much appreciated when you are playing around with options.

For Artista Impresso, once I’ve loaded my photo, I can select between the two preset menus: Alla Prima and En Plein Air. Within each menu are TONS of preset options. You can see I’ve selected “Sorbet” from the En Plein Air Presets for a purpley-pink color tone. (Note: All screenshots are from an iPad. The layout is the similar on an iPhone, but the icons take up more of the screen space.)

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Now we customize! Let’s walk through the menu options. We can change the brush size, color enhancement and painted edge. This is where I go in and get rid of the annoying edge that all of the presets add. I think the edge is supposed to make it look more like a “real” painting, but since I’m always blending the output with something else, I want it gone. Thankfully, in this app, I can eliminate it.

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Next we can change the substrate texture and strength, choosing between canvas and linen.

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For En Plein Air Presets, you can now adjust your color palette. You’ll notice the En Plein Air Presets have a stronger color shift than the Alla Prima presets. The “Limited” style keeps more of your original color than “Full.” You can also shift the Palette, creating more varation in your output. I didn’t make adjustments here for my example.

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For Alla Prima Presets, there is a different option in this location, called Artistic Finish. This allows you to modify the colors by choosing an alternate color and texture overlay.

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Finally, both presets allow you to create a “Detail” area of the image. In the selected Detail area, you can select a more finely detailed brush stroke than the rest of the image. Move the center dot to center on your desired detail area, and then change the size of the detail area by dragging the individual points of the ellipse. Don’t use two fingers to change the size of the ellipse. That just pans and zooms the image (a nice feature in itself).

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When you like what you’ve got, you go back home and save. The output is saved at the same resolution as the starting image.

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Here’s the final output from Artista Impresso:

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For me, this output becomes a layer in an overall edit. A “painted” image like this will provide color and texture variation, as well as softness to the lines in the photograph, as I blend it with other images. Here is the final image, which was the result of using Snapseed, Mextures, Autopainter, Autopainter II, XnView Photo FX, Image Blender and Artista Impresso:

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I want to point out how much variation there is in the detail. Since I post low resolution images online, you can’t always see this, so I zoomed in here:

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While you don’t necessarily notice this detail as you look at a whole image, this subtle variation in texture and color is what gives an image depth and interest, especially when printed. That’s one of the reasons I use so many apps blended together. As I’m working on an image, I look at the overall results but I’m also zooming in to see what is going on at a detail level.

The image I shared earlier this week, Holding my Breath, also used Artista Impresso as one of the layers. JixiPix Software has a full range of mobile apps as well as Photoshop and Lightroom plugins. Definitely worth checking out!

Enjoy your impressionistic photo editing!

Holding our Breath

Today is a big day. It’s the day of my Mother-in-law’s surgery and the beginning of her treatment. If you have a moment of spare time, please send thoughts, prayers and positive energy her way.

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I posted this photograph over the weekend, with the title, “Holding my Breath.” She commented, “Me too.” Yeah, we all are. We are waiting to see what the next steps are. Not much else we can do.

In the meantime, I want to thank you all for your lovely, heartfelt advice on how to support my MIL from afar, in the comments on last week’s post as well as via email. I wanted to summarize your advice here, to make it easy to find later, for me and others to refer to…

Share. Cards, postcards, notes of encouragement and hope in the mail. Keep something coming regularly. I know how to Liberate my Art in the mail! Cards, postcards I have. Routines are my specialty. I can do this.

Connect. Call, text, Skype. Let her know we are thinking of her and available to talk. Also realize she might not feel like talking, and respect that. I’m not a big phone talker, and we seem to have forgotten about Skype, moving back from Italy. We will have to make use of this wonderful tool for connecting, again!

Ask and Listen. Ask her what she needs, how she is feeling, what is worrying her. And then Listen, closely, to what she has to say. Asking is sometimes hard! It seems like we should already know what to do. But we are already starting, and she is answering. My husband is there for the surgery because he asked what we could do, and she answered she wanted him there.

Support. Use services available in the area. Send a random gift of pizza, hire her a cleaning service. We may not be able to be there, but we can find support for her from devices there. This is one area we will be watching out for opportunities to help!

Many of you reminded me that every cancer journey is different, she is different, and what she wants and needs will be different. Just as we are different, and what works for one family may not work for another.

And one final reminder… She is not her cancer. She is a person, with a life and interests and passions beyond this one thing. We need to not lose sight of that, in our support of her along this journey.

Thank you for all of your comments and recommendations last week, and for your thoughts and prayers for her today. I feel truly supported by you all!

It’s time for some Mail Art!

It’s time to shift gears a little bit on the blog, sharing a few pieces of art that have arrived in the mail as part of the Liberate Your Art 2015 Postcard Swap! I’ve received 10 envelopes so far from locations far and wide, including from The Netherlands, Norway and France. It is early, and there is still plenty of time to join and make your postcards before the deadline. You can learn more and sign up here.

This is always exciting, when the decorated envelopes start arriving. I want to share a few with you! If the artist provided a link on their postcard, I’ve included it, otherwise we will just have to leave our appreciation in the comments here.

This first one is from Christie in Florida. This envelope was a cornucopia of detail! So many layers and fun stuff to see, I couldn’t decide quite where to focus my photograph until the celebration of “Mail Art” caught my eye!

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This gorgeous painted envelope came from Peggy in Colorado. (My home state! Go Broncos! Oh wait, they lost in the playoffs already…) Peggy brings to life a wonderful bare tree structure in some of my favorite colors. (Were you pandering to the swap leader, Peggy? Very smart of you! Here you are on the blog!)

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Kate‘s doodles arrived on her envelope from Michigan, bringing to mind music and electrical engineering symbols! Do you see the resistors, capacitors and ground symbols? (Oops, the techie in me is showing…) I’m not sure if that was intentional, but I like it. What do you see?

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Finally, we have one from Lisa in Virginia. I love it when the stamps are integrated so nicely with the envelope art!

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And a lovely message was included on the back…

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That’s what mail art is all about: Encouragement and inspiration. There is nothing like a beautiful piece of art arriving in the mail to make you smile! Liberating your art really does “let your heart speak to other’s hearts.”

If you haven’t joined in the swap yet, you still have time!

Learning a New Language

We are learning a new language in our family, and it’s not one we wanted to learn. We are learning the language of cancer.

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My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She has “poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma,” and a bilateral mastectomy scheduled for next week. It’s Grade 3, and they think Stage 1, but they will find out for sure after the surgery. Then they will decide the next steps: chemo, radiation, etc. Everyone is optimistic for a full recovery.

Don’t know what that means? Consider yourself lucky. You haven’t had to learn this language yet.

We live halfway across the country, so it’s been a chain of conversations and bits and pieces of information on the phone, through my husband, and Facebook, of all places. I’ve been doing some research on the web to understand what the words mean, but what I really want to know is what I can do.

So that’s why is sharing this here, because I could use your advice. For those of you who have been through this, who have learned this language already because of friends or family or your own experience… What can we do? How can we help, from 1500 miles away? Any suggestions or ideas? Because I just want to be there to give a hug, to bring a casserole, to clean the bathroom. And we are too far away.

My husband is going to be there with his family for her surgery next week, and I’m sure there will be more trips in the coming months. I’m so glad we are no longer in Italy, because I can’t imagine being that far away. But Oregon to Colorado still seems far, too far.

And I just want to know what to do.

Hitting the Wall

I’m coming off of a three day weekend of binge-working on my book, and I noticed an interesting trend. Each day, within a few steps of meeting my daily goal, I started to get tired, less motivated and less productive. Regardless of how much or little I had on my plan, I would hit a wall just before meeting the goal, and it was time to stop.

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I thought I would have boundless energy to finish this project, but apparently my energy lasts only so long within a day. And that length of time is correlated to my daily goal. Hmmmm… There must be something psychological in that. Something inside that says, “Close enough, you can stop now.”

While it’s exciting to see the book progress, I’m now in the least favorite zone of completion. It was thrilling to get a first draft done, and fun to choose the best photo examples. I’m past that though… It’s now time for revisions of the manuscript and creating annotated figures from the photos and screen shots. It feels like slogging through mud, and I can only take so much at a time.

Hence, the daily wall.

I know from every other big project I’ve created, this is the part I like least. It’s always fun to outline and plan. It’s exciting to meet those first milestones. It’s the detailed work to push through to the finish, when everything should be downhill, that is the hardest for me. Always.

But I’m on track to my plan to meet the deadline, so guess there is nothing wrong with backing off when the wall looms close each day. Go for a walk, read a book, hang out with my family.

And the next time I start, picking up where I left off, I’ll be fresh. The wall will be nowhere in sight.

Apparently, it doesn’t appear until I near my goal for the day.

What Makes Up “Creativity”

This morning I want to consider the definition of “creativity.” Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been talking here about how to facilitate creativity, through routines and deadlines, but what is “creativity” anyway? How do we know we are being creative vs. just filling time? I believe there are a few things that have to be in place to make an activity fit the “creative” name.

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First off, creativity involves transforming something. Taking materials, ideas, whatever you’ve seen or learned elsewhere, and then putting something together in new ways.

Creativity involves transformation, making connections between previously disparate things.

I don’t believe being creative is “making something out of nothing,” but making something new out of what already existed before in pieces and parts. Whether that new thing is a painting or a meal or a novel, you can see that the pieces that make up the new thing — the paints, the ingredients, the words — existed before. The artist then put them together in a new way. This transformation is the first element of creativity, but it’s not the only element.

The next, and I believe vital, element of creativity is engagement and challenge. You have to be solving a new problem in order for creativity to be involved. You have to be actively thinking, working, and resolving as you move through the process. This doesn’t mean you have to be solving a new problem for humanity, but solving a problem that is new to you. A problem that engages your creativity.

If you are making something you’ve made before, time and time again, with no new element of challenge involved — that’s not creative. That’s following a recipe. “Take Thing X, combine it with Thing Y using process steps A, B, C.” If you can follow the steps to get a predictable outcome without problems along the way, that’s manufacturing. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, because accomplishing a finished piece involves skill and expertise, but it also doesn’t mean it’s creative. Creativity requires that there is some new challenge involved in the process of making something.

The element of challenge is one of the most important pieces of creativity.

It’s the challenge which keeps me learning and moving forward. It keeps me trying new things, seeking new ideas to add to the mix. It also helps explain why being merely productive is not enough for me creatively. Why I don’t stay in one place for too long with my art or my business or even my corporate job. Because once I’ve got something all figured out, once the process is in place and predictable, it not as fun anymore. It’s time to face new challenges, solve new problems, create new things.

In my art right now, I have lots of problems to solve. I still have so much to learn about mobile photography. I’m facing new challenges every day, in every piece I create. The image I’m sharing today is no exception. The tools are not always there or the way to achieve my vision is not straight forward. That’s perfect.

Combining existing elements in ways that require overcoming challenges, that’s what makes up “creativity” to me.