Art the Lazy Man’s Way

I’m struggling right now to paint a watercolour the traditional way.  For those times when I’m fed up with watercolour, I’ll have go at a subject with soft pastels and I’ve also dabbled with acrylic paints.

I keep trying smaller versions of this particular watercolour, a landscape, trying to squeeze enough out of my limited technique to have confidence about going larger with it.

When I’ve finally had enough for a while, instead of trying another painting medium, sometimes I play around with my digital photographs.  There are a number of software programs around which can almost simulate a painting from a photograph.  In addition, the various versions of Photoshop have enough filters and plugins to experiment with, although sometimes the final product is pretty lame.

mr-chilliwackrvoct30-019sat.jpgTake the so-called watercolour filter in Photoshop, either Elements or the more full-bodied versions.  Here’s an example of a landscape photo.

And then there’s Photoshop’s idea of a watercolour rendering (see below):  Definitely very s0-so… very little of that liquid, transparent, looser quality that I’m striving for in my own watercolours.

In fact, I haven’t found a really good filter or even a more complicated process that will convert a photo to an appealing simulated watercolour.  They may be out there, but I haven’t found any.  This one seems close, but you’ll need to absorb six pages of mr-chilliwackrvwc.jpgdetailed instructions as you work your way through.

At this site is another example of an attempt at making a photo into a watercolour, but it looks nothing like that medium to me.

And this site has another variation that starts to come closer to that unique watercolor quality.

But, it turns out, simulated oil paintings are an easier job.  Here’s a photo of mine, from the Grand Canyon, and a digital oil painting transformation (although it suffers from a horizon line in almost the exact middle):

canyon.jpgcanyonart.jpgI start to get some painterly satisfaction from this…  This was done with the aid of a program called Art Rage.  I first starting playing with this software when it was in beta and free.  The full version is now $25, but there is still a free version — Starter Edition — which is somewhat reduced in function but still at least as good as what I used in beta.  It’s a lot of fun, I find.

A similar program, although more complicated to use, is called Deep Paint 2.0 which has been released as freeware by its developer.  (It can be difficult to find, due to scrambled links on one download provider, so follow this link….).

Here is another example from the Grand Canyon, original and digital paint version, done with Deep Paint:



Basically, you use a digital brush as expressed through your mouse, or as a pen on a graphic tablet such as one of the Wacom series, and the program confines the colour variations and textures chosen to the underlying shapes of the photograph.  I know, it’s cheating.

There’s another program called Gertrudis, not free, that does interesting alterations to photos.

Here’s a photo and a transformation into a mock pastel:

gondolier.jpg gondopaint.jpg

And finally, linking back to the real watercolour painting I’m fighting with, here’s one of the subject photos and a rendition through a program called Virtual Painter:


Actually, the result has some watercolour quality to it, and aren’t those just lovely colours!

Besides the fun of making this ersatz art, I find some value in the clues it gives me for doing towhillrevwc.jpgreal painting work: looseness, different colour choices, and especially simplification.  They teach me how much I enjoy an ambiguous, rough quality.

Time to get back to the real drawing board…


Explore posts in the same categories: Art, Culture, Internet, Painting, Photography

4 Comments on “Art the Lazy Man’s Way”

  1. forestrat Says:

    I would love to be able to paint. I used sit and watch those “how to paint” shows on the PBS station on Saturday afternoons. They always made it look so easy. Unfortunatley not only do I have a tin ear, I seem to have stone hands. Keep at it. Maybe you can post some of your work sometime.


    P.S. My wife ran into Tony Bennett on an airplane once. He was going to Indianapolis to promote his paintings – first I had heard that he was an artist. Here’s a link to his website

  2. fencer Says:

    Yes, the TV artists always make it look like a walk in the park.

    Tony Bennett seems pretty talented, not just a singer. Thanks for the website…


  3. qazse Says:

    Thanks for all the research and assessment you conveyed. I have only played with the Msoft photo edito’s watercolor and find it poor. My sister in law Laurie Fry is a watercolor artist in the Methow Valley of Washington. Here is a sample of her work accompanying a haiku on twisp :near twisp 2


  4. fencer Says:

    Hi qazse,

    Nice watercolour! It’s a medium I struggle with (well, I struggle with most of ’em…).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: