Playing in the Digital Snow

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.

snow oil paint1

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.

snow oil paint2

Even my humble, in-need-of-fall-cleanup garden looks pretty wonderful under this treatment.

snow oil paint3

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!

snow oil paint4

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.

snow oil paint5

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.

snow oil paint6

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!

snow oil paint7

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

5 responses to “Playing in the Digital Snow

  1. These are lovely experiments, Karen! I’m looking forward to catching your “real paint” takes on these. You sure captured amazing compositions for all of them! I love the one with the pink sky, and even more, your backyard – the colors, the whole thing, just perfect!


    • Thanks, Rachelle! Now I’m on the hook to try some real-paint (I actually need to brush the dust off the tubes, I’m teaching a beginner’s acrylic class this quarter). I’ll be sure to post the results!


  2. Those digital are gorgeous; made me drift off to wonder how I could bring something new to my comic. Though, I am always changing, so I will stick with the direction I’m going.

    I do get that limbo feeling. You should see my to-do list. I even added soul search to it. What I didn’t add to the list was to publish an ebook of my comic. May be that the list is so long, I’m just jogging my memory about those prior projects I want to do. I figure if I get even a 3rd of the list done, it’s an accomplishment.


    • Thanks, Tosh! Your comics are great the way they are, and so unique (I don’t know anyone else doing comics with photography and handmade dolls!). You could experiment with the filters, though, maybe for a dream sequence or altered state of consciousness.

      An e-book of your comic is a great idea!

      I should probably add “soul search” to mine as well. Probably everyone should — we don’t make enough time for that kind of thing in this mad world!

      Jessica Abel talks about those backed up projects, and calls it “idea debt”. Her article about it helped me sort through all those to-do projects and decide what to keep and what to toss:

      I’ve reached that age where I’ve accumulated so many unfinished projects, some of them with physical entailments, that I really needed to pare down — which is still big on my New Year’s list!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m going to check out the article. One thing I have on my list is to read something positive everyday. If it relates to me improving professionally, that counts.

        Thanks for the compliment. I so admire how you’ve dedicated yourself to the craft. It definitely requires diligence. The marketing piece is an entirely different monster. And those self-checks are necessary in general. We can’t be living out here all willy nilly.


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