We’ve reached that strange time at the end of the year that I call Holiday Limbo. I saw it described in a post on Facebook as “…that time between Christmas and New Year’s where you don’t know what day it is, who you are, or what you’re supposed to be doing”. Disorienting as it is, I’m enjoying the feeling of being a bit outside of time, or maybe even a bit outside of this dimension.
Adding to that feeling this year was a rare Christmas Eve snowfall that let us wake up to a White Christmas. It was gone in a few hours, but for a few magical hours, the city was hushed and covered in white. A morning person I am not, and usually I lurk in my jammies until at least noon on Christmas morning, but I shinnied into enough clothes to withstand the temperature and not scare the neighbours, and went out and snapped some photos.
The day’s festivities took over, and I didn’t think about them until the day after (Boxing Day, here in Canada) when I was lolling around wondering what to do with myself, feeling kind of creative but too lazy to really get up and do anything. I decided on some Photoshop play. I got a glass of eggnog, one of the sinfully delicious peanut-butter bombs a friend made for me, and settled down with my laptop.
Here are a few of the results — you may need to zoom in to see details, depending on the device you’re using.
These were all done using the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop, as well as a few other controls. I pushed the saturation way up on this one to achieve a kind of Van Gogh look.
Even my humble, in-need-of-fall-cleanup garden looks pretty wonderful under this treatment.
This is the view from my studio window. Normally, there is so much detail that the view is a bit chaotic, but the process simplifies it into a pleasant whole. I’m definitely taking notes for doing some non-virtual painting here!
Another compositional view of the same house and trees across the street as in the first photo, tweaked to emphasize different things. I left the colours more natural, and worked on bringing out the shapes of the Garry Oak trees. Winter is my favourite time for those; their branches grow in such fantastic contortions, mostly hidden by the leaves all summer.
This is several large branch-trunks of the gigantic cherry tree (L) and the single one of the birch (R) which live in our back yard. I pulled all the saturation out of this one, to just leave the essential shapes dancing across the image. I find this delightfully fresh looking, like a whiff of cold wintry air when one has been cooped up inside too long.
The front of our house is not the most photogenic thing, though it is a lovely place to live — it’s just hard to get a good angle to show the whole place to its advantage. It’s fronted by a row of mature sword ferns that are taller than I am, which were mashed down by the snow into this interesting heap. On this image you can see, more than in most, the “brushstrokes” that Photoshop makes when the Oil Paint filter is applied. By playing with the sliders, you can make these a different size, or shinier, and more or less obvious. It looks a bit mechanical, but I still find myself with an urge to touch the screen and see if it’s textured!
Another scene of our backyard cherry tree, this time with a warm colour range emphasized.
This was a most enjoyable pastime for a quietly festive afternoon. If you’d like a little more technical explanation of what I did here, sign up for my every-other-Wednesday email below — I’ll be doing a full tutorial in the January 3 issue!
I’ll leave you for this year with a favourite quote from one of my favourite writers:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
― Neil Gaiman