Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Feeding Time

Feeding Time
Procreate on iPad
Prints Available on Etsy

Detail - Chickadee and Titmouse

Detail - Wren

I have become a bit of a birder over the past several years. I'm not sure if it started with the purchase of a camera, or the sighting of a hawk outside my office window (see below). For some reason it took me a while to recognize that in myself but I now clearly realize that I love watching birds. Heck, I love all animals, maybe that's why it feels weird to specifically single out birds.

A few weeks ago I was up early and painted an empty feeder, as birds have come along I've taken photos and have added them. Although these particular birds weren't actually all there at the same time it's not abnormal for me to look out and see 7 birds on the two side-by-side feeders. It's quite a sight! Who needs television? HAH!

Hawk on a limb outside my office window a few years ago.

My latest obsession is hummingbirds! I just love these little guys.

Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Hummingbirds - composite of four different photos taken near one of the feeders

I recently got a hummingbird feeder, which quickly turned into three hummingbird feeders, and have been thoroughly enjoying watching them! It's amazing how they just all showed up as soon as the feeders went out! I can see them perched up in nearby trees, on the fence, etc. keeping and eye on their feeder of choice. They're quite something and they just might be the subject of a future painting...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Colorado Bunny

Colorado Bunny
Procreate app on iPad
Prints Available on Etsy

A couple years back I went to Colorado to visit my friend who'd just had her first baby. One morning we went for a walk and this bunny was just hanging out watching us go by. He even posed for me to take a picture so I, of course, did. S/He been on my "to paint" list ever since and I've finally managed to get to it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Puppies in the Mountains

Riley in the Mountains
Procreate on iPad
Above is another plein air, or if you'd prefer a digital painting from life, of my puppy Riley. This was done this past weekend while we were in the mountains. Riley and I were relaxing on the deck. He on his bed, I on a porch swing. I didn't get to work on it long because he got up to check things out.

Mountain Puppies
Morgan, my baby girl (top left)
Riley, my baby boy (bottom right)
Look at that big grin! I'm pretty sure they enjoyed themselves! That makes me a very happy puppy mama!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Plein Air
Procreate App on iPad
Prints Are Available on Etsy
For a long time I have been dying to get a pochade so I can do some plein air painting. In particular I've had my eye on one of the Alla Prima boxes. They are very beautiful, hand-crafted boxes! I may still end up getting one at some point, but recently I've decided to give my iPad a shot for plein air. Why not? I already love painting on it. There are so many benefits of painting on an iPad, no mess, no lugging heavy paints, boxes, tripods, etc around.

I was up in the mountains this past weekend staying in a lovely "cabin" "camping". Why the quotes? I grew up camping, sleeping on the ground, in a tent. Luxury camping was a KOA cabin where you had to walk up the hill to use bathrooms and take a shower (a SHOWER while camping? I was bowled over the first time I heard of this). To me, if it has running water and electricity (not to mention the three stories, wrap around deck, foosball table, hot tub...) it is no longer a cabin, we now call that a house. How can one say they are camping when they are sleeping in a house? I'm not sure how but that's what we were calling it. Well, so, while "camping" in the "cabin" last weekend I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I did a few plein air paintings on my iPad in my favorite painting app, Procreate. I found this cool little twisty tree by a creek and above is the end result.

It was so peaceful up there and so nice spending 3 days without a television always running and not even wanting to have my phone on me. I'm rather sad to be back.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

iPad Ibis

A while back I went to the beach and took some photos of some Ibises feeding at the waters edge. I've painted one really small, 4"x4", and one rather large, 36"x36", in oils. I thought this one should be painted differently so I pulled out the iPad and dusted off my stylus!

Procreate app on iPad
Prints are available in my Etsy Store
Now, if I could just get transported back to that spot for the day...or maybe a bit longer would be nice.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Macro Photography Without a Macro Lens

It's been a crazy summer! We redid our floors, organized, and purged! Once we got all of that done and were ready to start getting ourselves outdoors for some bike rides wouldn't you know that the rain just has not let up. Bummer!

With all that time spent staring out the window longingly, hoping for the slightest hint of sun, I spent some time online looking at lenses I'd like to buy for my camera. I've been wanting to try my hand at macro photography for some time now so naturally, I checked out some macro lenses. I found several which I'd love which all had one thing in common, phew are they expensive!

It's awfully hard to justify spending that kind of money on something I just want to try so I kept digging and I found some other very affordable and incredibly fun options! Extension tubes with or without electrical connections, reverse mount rings and close-up lenses. What each of these items does is allow you to focus in closer to your subject which allows you to fill the screen and not have to do post image cropping which can kill the resolution of your image. I chose to try out the extension tubes without electrical connections, and reverse mount rings.

Before I go into each of these options I'll say this about both options I tried.

  1. I personally need a tripod for most images unless it's incredibly bright out. Many people don't have this requirement but it turns out I'm a rather shaky person. I didn't know this before so through this process I have had a bit of self discovery here.
  2. Depth of Field, the area which is in focus, is tremendously reduced.
  3. Focusing to infinity is no more. With each of the options below there is a specific range in which you can geth your image in focus and that is it.

Extension Tubes

First off, the extension tubes. These are available with electrical connections ($50-$200 or without the electrical connections ($12). I opted to try without the electrical connections. What's the difference? The electrical connections allow you to use your lenses auto-focus and aperture settings. Both of these have work-arounds without electrical connection tubes. For focusing, you just use the manual focus, that's rather simple and I'd more than likely choose to use this regardless. For the aperture, it's a bit trickier. I'm using a Canon 60D camera, so what I say next pertains to that specific camera. First, I mount the lens directly to the camera without the extension tubes, next I change the aperture to the desired setting. Third, I hold down the depth of field preview button and while continuing to hold the dof button down, remove the lens. This can be a bit tricky and it tests my coordination skills a bit so it's good if you hold the camera over something soft or close to a table so that if you drop the lens or the camera they won't get damaged.

When you first start playing with the tubes you really don't have to worry about the aperture but after I used them a bit I started wanting the aperture changed. The reason I did is that while using the extension tubes, your depth of field is really REALLY small. How small? If you're taking a photo of a fly, for example, if you're focused on it's nose, it's eyes may be out of focus, that's how small.

So, first you mount the tubes on your camera, then you mount your lens on the tubes and you are ready to go! I have three lenses and I tried each of them with very different results.

First I tried my Tamron 18-270. Hmmm...I just didn't care for this one. I may try it again at some point but it just didn't give me what I was looking for.

Second, I tried my 50mm, or nifty-fifty as many call it. I loved it! I had exactly what I wanted and can get so close to my subject that there is no need for any cropping the image after the fact. The downside, you HAVE to get very close to your subject in order for it to be in focus, this makes most living subjects flee, bummer!

Bee Mimic Hoverfly
Bee-Mimic Hoverfly

Raindrops on a bougainvillea
Rain Drops on Flower Petal

One of my favorite flowers! I just love these!
Flower Unfolding

Pepper Blossom
Pepper Blossom

Writing Spider
Writing Spider

Third, I attached my 18-135 kit lens. I almost sold this lens and am now incredibly happy that I didn't! For living subjects, this has by far turned out to be the best option for me as it allows me more working area so I can be further away from my subject.

Here are some GREAT examples of cases where I didn't want to get TOO close:

Climbing up from the abyss of our over-due to be mowed lawn.
Wasp Climbing Up Out of the Grass

Bumble Bee
Bumble Bee

Prehistoric Spider (Spiny Orb Weaver)
Spiny Orb Weaver

Grass Hopper

Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider

Ants with Their Aphid "Cows"!  My sister sent me this ant documentary a few years ago. It's amazing! It made me really appreciate ants. In the video it tells how ants raise and milk aphids, it was so cool to see it in action yesterday!  http://www.youtube
Ant with their "Cows" of Aphids (They keep them like cattle and milk them for the nectar they produce.)

Reverse Mount Rings

The first thing about these which you need to know, if you choose to try them, is that since they attach directly to the front of each lens, you need a different one for each of your lenses. For example,  I need a 62mm ring for my tamron lens, a 67mm ring for my Canon 18-135 lens, and a 52mm ring for my 50mm lens. I couuldn't find the 67mm so I purchased the 62mm and 52mm rings.

First, you screw the ring onto the front of your lens, next you mount the lens backwards onto the front of your camera.

What the reverse mount rings do is double the focal length of your lens and makes it a macro. I can get amazingly close with my 18-270 lens, however I don't use it very often. Maybe I just haven't found the right subject for that one. It's length makes it rather cumbersome and with a telephoto mounted backwards, operating can be rather amusing, hard to get the hang of (for me anyway), and cumbersome. I prefer using the 50mm reversed and have been able to get a few rather interesting shots that way.

And More Rain! At least I've finally found something to do in it! Too bad I don't have a waterproof camera...
Rain Drop with Reflection of walkway

Extension Tubes AND Reverse Mount Rings

You can get amazingly close using both together! I haven't done this very much as it's been a bit closer than I have wanted to get, however it's great fun to try and you can get some reallly interesting shots this way.

Pepper Blossom
Pepper Blossom

Maybe one day I'll get some shiny new (or new-to-me) macro lenses but in the mean time I'm sure having a lot of fun playing around with my new toys!

Monday, February 18, 2013

iPad Painting Apps

For the past two years, since purchasing my iPad, I have been painting in the Procreate app and have absolutely loved it! I tried a couple of other apps, read reviews about many, and compared the features of each one. In the end I chose Procreate and have not regretted my decision one bit. Procreate just feels right to me. There are many great apps out there and ultimately the decision is based on what each individual is looking for. For whatever it's worth, here's my experience with a few of them.

ArtRage - $4.99

This is a fantastic app. Absolutely so cool you will just love to play around with it! The tools are exactly what you'd find in your traditional setup. You can even take a virtual tube of paint and squeeze it out across the canvas. It looks and feels just like the real thing, it's amazing! You can even see the depth/thickness of the paints on the canvas. Have I mentioned it's amazing!? It truly is! One caveat...because it is so cool, it takes up every drop of energy my iPad2 32G has to give. Now, would it be better on an iPad4? I do not know. I would imagine that the new iPad4 128G is better suited for this app, however, as I don't have one of those I can't say. I can only say that when I tried this out for the first time, I got maybe 10% through my painting and got so sick of the lack of memory warning, shutdowns, and loss of work, that it just wasn't worth using.


Brushes - Free? Kind of...

OK, so this app is currently listed as free. An interesting idea which I can't decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, you can use this app and get a feel for whether you like it or not without spending a dime. That's definitely a nice idea. My hangup is that each feature I want costs money. Right off I didn't spend more than a couple minutes in this app before looking for the layers only to find that you much purchase layers. $2.99 for 10 layers. That might not be so bad except that I already purchased Brushes for my iPhone back when I didn't have an iPad and brushes was NOT free and which included layers. So, for me, to buy a second time what I already had leaves me very disgruntled. While this might be a great app, and I know many people do love it. I haven't looked at this app, except to take this screen shot, since making that discovery.


ArtStudio - $2.99

One feature which I used in the painting below and really liked was the gradient tool. I used that to create the beginning of the background. Once I had the gradient I wanted I went back in with a brush and played with it a bit more. It was a great starting point. I can see using that tool in the future then importing the background from ArtStudio into Procreate.


Another feature in ArtStudio which I liked was the way you can save a color palette along the right side of the screen which is always available. You can also save 36 more favorite colors inside the color palette which is easily accessed by clicking on the top color icon on the right.


You can also turn all palettes off in ArtStudio by clicking on the icon in the top/right corner of the screen, so there is that option if you're looking to get rid of the clutter.


ArtStudio has customizable brushes which is a must, though once I get one I like I tend not to change the shape much. I do adjust the opacity and size quite often depending on the area which I'm working on.


Procreate - $4.99

Procreate offers the ability to save 84 favorite colors inside of the color palette and has no permanently open, on-screen color palette. I do like that there is more screen real estate available without the palette on the right, however, I also enjoy having the colors so readily available in ArtStudio. So, that's one of those things where for me, it would just depend what mood I'm in which I prefer. If there is a way to hide all of the tools in Procreate, I don't know of it yet, though with such a minimalist setup I can't say that I've ever felt the need for it.


Customizable brushes. There are many options here!


Special effect brushes. These are a new addition to Procreate and must be purchased. They do look very cool, though I haven't bought any and don't see myself doing so in the near future.


My personal favorite app is still Procreate. It is a dream to paint in and has all of the functionality I'm looking for laid out in a way which works very well for me.

If you love Photoshop and want to paint in an app which feels nearly just like it then ArtStudio is for you. Having said that I love Photoshop and use it solidly for graphic design, however when I'm sitting down to do a digital painting, for some reason I prefer something a little different.

I LOVE layers! One thing you can be sure of, if a painting app doesn't offer layers, that's an app I will not be purchasing. Inspire is among the apps which I've looked into and almost purchased. I would love to try Inspire some day but I just can't see buying it if it doesn't have layers, I know myself and I will not be happy.

Monday, February 11, 2013

M&M iPad Puppy Portrait

Monty and Maggie
ArtStudio App on iPad
I painted this portrait of two sweet rat terriers using the ArtStudio app on my iPad. This is a great app with may features similar to the ones in Photoshop on the computer. I plan on doing an app comparison between ArtStudio and Procreate in my next post but the short of it is, in my opinion, they are both great apps so it comes down to personal preference.

Monty Detail
Maggie Detail

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hawk on the iPad

Procreate App on iPad
Prints available on etsy
There was very little down-time over the holidays however I was able to sneak onto my iPad a bit and I  painted this Christmas week. This is from the same hawk photo which I'm referencing for the oil painting (which I'm still working on...).

I really enjoy the vibrance of painting on the iPad and though I recently did a painting in the Art Studio app (I'll be posting that soon), I still find Procreate to feel the most natural to me. Procreate has recently added some upgrades as well which I'm really pleased about! They now allow you do save Procreate files as native files in dropbox. This allows you to remove them from the iPad to save space and load them back on later if you want to work on them some more. There is also the ability to export as a layered/editable Photoshop file, png, or jpg file. As a graphic designer/illustrator, I own Photoshop so I love this! I am able to make changes on my computer if I want. Usually I'd just make the changes in the original file on the iPad, but sometimes I see a little thing once it gets onto my computer and I love having the option of making the adjustment there.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coming Up for Air...Gus Portrait Final

Between getting ready for the holidays, experiencing the holidays, and being crazy busy with my graphic design business (Bendt Design) I am just getting a chance to post some new artwork. I was commissioned to paint this lovely boy for a Christmas present. I really enjoy painting portraits and this one was no exception!