Challenge Your Skills

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NPR recently reported on studies in creativity as presented in recent TED talks. One interesting discovery was that artists (musicians, painters etc) can fall into comfortable repeated patterns relying on unchallenged skills for success.  But, by challenging those patterns and those expectations with new difficulties artists may find exciting new challenges and insights.

As a landscape painter I often photograph subjects, then alter the photos in Photoshop and, further alter them through the process of painting.  For new insights I try photographing from different points of view and distances. Next I reorient the photos to find new contexts and content.

Here are some examples of discoveries through re-orientation.  We look at the same visual information but, find different meanings. Let’s begin with a close-up of a weathered conifer I found alongside a commercial parking lot (example 1).  I was attracted to its tangled patterns.

Example 1. Parking lot conifer as photographed.

This image was then cropped and rotated. I found varieties of ideas thrived in this tangle. First, I cropped the image (example 2). Then I enhanced and rotated the cropped enhanced image. This example 4 follows ideas presented in example 3.

Example 2. Image after cropping and coloring but, before rotation.

Next, I want to change your mental anchorage to allow you to see other possibilities. Example 3 presents reflections on a shallow pool. The reflections resemble a pattern of stained glass.

Example 3. Painting of a pond with stained glass window-like reflections,

Now that you have a changed mental preset I will rotate example 2 and present the new example 4.  If you relax your visual biases you should now see a pool with reflections similar to example 3 in example 4..

Example 4. The rotated, colored and cropped photo now resembling a vernal pool with reflections. Now we seem to be looking down into the pool.

In my final examples I have taken a compilation of photos to discover a new image, a wetland with a misty horizon.  This image began by turning a preexisting painting upside down (example 6) to be able to harvest some of its textures in a new image. The resulting image is seen in example 7.   The cloud reflected water in example 7 appears to lack complexity.  I needed to generate more ambiguity with more possible meanings. Consequently, example 8 presents the image in its present state with more complex patterns.

Example 6. Step one, the substrate (an unfinished previous painting) that would be inverted.

Example 7. Step two, the resulting new image after over-painting.

Example 8. Step three, the image in its present state.


In July (18, 19, and 20) I will conduct a studio workshop on Nantucket with the Nantucket Arts Association. “Natural Elements” a 3 day studio workshop with optional photo walks, July 18, 19, and 20, 2019. Call 508 228 9700.

See my new exhibition and join me at a receptoin and  special opening  from 6:00 PM  to 8:00 pm Thursday May 16th, 2019 at the Ponte Vedra Beach Cultural Center in Ponte Vedra Beach Florida.

And, visit my new exhibition, “Color and Luminance” Susan Powell Fine Art 679 Boston Post Road in Madison, Ct. Tuesdays through Saturday 11-6 or by appt. 203 318 0616, email at


2 Responses

  1. Laurie

    David I often use PS to mock up images as well. Did you hand colour the leaves and tree or did you use a filter/add on?

    • dd_admin

      Laurie, I apologize for my late reply but, let me thank you for your comment and question. I did not hand color. All the PS work was done with their menus. Thank you, David

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