Tuesday, November 8, 2011


You know, I like art. I do a lot of it in Photoshop - at least my visual art. Outside of writing, photography and design-work are what I love, so it's no surprise that I spend a lot of time online going through Photoshop tutorials. Over the past eight years that I've been learning photography, and the past five years of learning Photoshop, I've picked up some really awesome skills that I don't share much anymore since writing has kind of taken over my life. Still, today I plan on spending a good portion of the day learning some new techniques in my visual art category. Why? Because it's 100% relaxing for me. It helps me focus my creative energy elsewhere, and when I step away to do some writing, I can think more clearly.

The interesting thing about Photoshop, though, is that there are tricks to learn (I'm not sure there's really any true tricks in writing). There are so many things you can do in that program - in fact, I've heard even the creators don't know everything it can do. It's up to the artist to either figure out what works for them on their own or go online or look in a book or magazine to see some ways other artists get a certain look or technique in their artwork.

For instance, I just discovered Andrzej Dragan. His work is stunning, and there's a technique out there called the Dragan Effect named after his style. I want to learn how to do it, and that's what I'm hoping to today - or at least start. Here's some of his work.

It's hard to pinpoint what Dragan does that's so stunning, but it's the amount of detail, the way the picture pops that really seems to be the technique. As an artist, I know how much work goes into this - and it begins with a good photograph first and foremost.

Also, it's not that I want to copy another artist. It's that I want to master a certain technique so I can build it into my own personal style. I tend to do this with my writing, as well. There are tutorials out there for the Dragan Effect - clear, step-by-step instructions on how to achieve the effect, but it still takes the touch and skill of the artist to pull it off, which is why nobody can get that Dragan Effect exactly. His style is his own.

I think with writing, there are "tutorials" out there on how to write a specific way, but if you're a true artist, you'll realize there may be things that sound like tricks (in Photoshop, there really are some), but eventually you'll move beyond anything even remotely resembling a "trick". You will have learned your own skills and how to incorporate them into your unique style.

So, have you ever relied on tricks and tutorials in your art form? Have you done so in the past?


  1. Well, I guess the term "tricks" and the term "art form" are both user-defined. I'm trying to learn to bake, for example. I consider that an art form, and I'm relying on as many tricks as I can find!

    When I write, I'm also very open to tricks. Like you, I work with the trick for a while until I feel like I really understand it. Then, I either more away from it, internalize it, or adapt it to my needs.

    I feel like what I consider my writing voice is a result of which books I happened to encounter and which I liked, along with which writers I've encountered and liked. My voice becomes a combination of my own impulses and the tricks I've learned.

  2. Whenever I like something I'm reading, I try to use it as a tutorial, to figure out what the writer's doing that I like so I can steal it for my own work. My style, or voice, or technique or whatever is just a collection of shiny things I grabbed from other people's art.

  3. I don't try to emulate anyone in particular, to answer your question. I just go and see what needs fixin', then I start over. :)

    These pictures speak to me. I think it's the eyes that speak volumes. I can feel her pain, his boredom and the woman in the bottom photograph is looking at me as if I'm intruding, and yet she's yearning at the same time. My take anyway.

  4. I'm very much a photojournalistic style with my photos (not much Photoshopping, good photos to begin with) and I feel the same way with anything I produce. I absolutely hate stealing writing styles, painting over a graphic to make it my own version, or even sometimes saying someone else's words. It makes me cringe. But I think you can learn to produce your own style and voice by learning how other people do it, not necessarily copying them.

    Those photos are really gripping.

  5. Domey (or anyone) interested in cooking, check out Cook's Illustrated (www.cooksillustrated.com). They are full of tips, tricks, and step-by-step instructions to food greatness. I'm not affiliated with thyem in any way, other than being a satisfied subscriber (print and online). I'm making sweet & saucy salmon on the grill tonight, while I still have decent grilling weather.

    I play bass and guitar, and there are tricks to learn in fingering...hammer-on, pull-off, slap & pop...but a trick all alone may give you a lick, but it won't make up a song. Being able to pull off the fingering is important, but it's just as important to make it fit the context of the rest of the song.

    I think things like similes, metaphors, personification, etc. can be considered writing tricks. There are more tricks, like enter late / l;eave early, and as with the music, they all have to gel together and flow. Making that happen is the real trick...

    LOVE those photos!!

  6. Wow, this is a dead post...not a good subject, eh? Or I just forgot to add it to my networks today. Oh well!

    Davin: I'm along the same lines as you, honestly. I feel like a lot of where I am and what my writing has become was left a bit up to luck, in a way.

    Scott: I thought about you as I wrote this post and how you talk about what you're reading on your other blog. A lot. I think as you internalize all that, you're really looking at it like a tutorial, and that's fun. Do you ever read anything and not think about writing, though? I have a hard time doing that these days.

    Charlie: Ooo, I like how you explain the photographs! I think you've hit on something there.

    There's something to be said about photos which come straight out of the camera already just how you want them. I find that much harder to do with digital, but I do aim for that when I take photos. I'm also the type of artist that I adore photo manipulation. It's its own art form for me - a different sort of medium that I really enjoy. :)

    Rick: We have the America's Test Kitchen Bible. Well, we call it the Kitchen Bible. A bit of brilliance, it truly is. I'll have to check out that site!

    You're lucky to have decent grilling weather...!

  7. I thought a bunch of people would chime in and talk about how they've read King's book and the Donald Maas books.

    I'm reading the letters of Flannery O'Connor in the evenings and, while there's nothing in them about the craft of writing, there's a lot of interesting stuff about living as a writer.

  8. Those enlarged hands are freaky . .

    The details are intriguing however; makes the people almost like they will walk off the canvas. Does he portray happy people as well?

    I think its good to have a "hobby" outside of writing. Some other form of creative outlet. I used to consider reading a hobby; now it is such a part of my writing life I almost cringe when I think of picking up a book to read.

    Your post makes me think I should take up Crewel stitchery again; just to focus on something else. I remember I used to be pretty good at it . .


  9. Scott: I have ready very few books about writing, to be honest. I really like John Gardner.

    Donna: Oh, I know, huh? The pictures are creepy in general. I have yet to see a happy one, but I think that's the point somehow... :)

    I think having other hobbies outside of writing is an awesome, almost necessary thing. At least for me. Makes me more well-rounded.

  10. How interesting/intriguing are those photos! wow.

    I don't think I'm aware of much when I write - the black hole just spits out stuff-provides the words-and I hope for the best. Is it the best way to write? I don't know-it's all I know!

  11. Kathryn: Ooo, I want a black hole that spits stuff out! Mine is like wringing blood from a stone. :)

  12. Dragan apparently photographs not the subject, but the soul. I don't know if that's teachable. I've stumbled upon it once or twice, but can't seem to replicate it.


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