Virtual Paint

Some folks can sit down and look at a subject, put pencil to paper, and draw an amazing likeness.  Others can set paint to canvas and create a work of art that intrigues or inspires the onlooker.

I am not one of those people.

I’m not sure how it happened. My brother, although I never saw him officially paint or draw, demonstrated considerable doodling skills. My oldest sister has lovely handwriting and the next two, in their day, created respectable canvases.

As for me, even a stickman is a challenge.

Perhaps that’s why I compensate with a camera.  It doesn’t require any great manual dexterity to push a shutter button, clumsy as my fingers might be.  But all cameras can do is record the world as it is.  Right?

Well, mostly right. In this era of digital photography, the picture is only half the trip. Digital editors, filters, special effects programs – what you see is not necessarily what you get.


On a recent excursion, I took a simple picture of some tulips.


Not bad, but what could a painter do with it?  Certainly something more abstract, or “artistic”.  Since I can’t draw or paint worth a damn, what can I do?

Call in a virtual painter.

I subscribe to a site called ShareWareOnSale, which on a daily basis sends an email offering free and deeply discounted software. Nine times out of ten I’m not interested, but every now and then a temporary offer for a free photo editing tool comes along. These offers are frequently for older versions of software that the makers provide in the hope that you’ll get sucked in and buy the upgraded version.  Most of the time, the older version works just fine. I’ve acquired a lot of free software via this channel, including a couple of programs that allow painterly modifications on digital photographs.

(Click on any image for a slide gallery)

These conversions were made with a program called Style, made by Hunter in the Woods. It appears a license can be had for $10, and it runs on Mac or Windows.

And if that wasn’t enough…

These came from a program/plug in called Filter Forge. The featured image also came from that program. This application has a silly number of different filters that can be applied to pictures to create different effects, I only looked for those that helped me create the virtual painting style.  The latest standard version is $250, so my older free version was a real bargain.

So despite not having a lick of talent for painting, and without getting so much as a smudge of paint on my fingers, clothes, or anything else in the vicinity given my less than impressive manual dexterity, I’ve ended up with some cool painting like images. Does that make me an artist, at least virtually?

29 thoughts on “Virtual Paint

  1. This is fascinating to me, as an oil painter. I really find all the variations that are possible and the variety of choices, so interesting. Definitely less messy than paint, no clean up and no expense for paint and brushes and canvas either!

    Being an artist is very much about “seeing”.. and it seems these tools are allowing you to see in different ways, so yes we are all artists when we really SEE. If I do a drawing a sketch of a place, I will see that place in a very different way and remember it much more so, than having a photograph. Interesting eye/ brain process.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true, it is all about “seeing”, regardless of painting, drawing, photography, or even writing. And it does help you remember a place, I think that’s one reason why we do it.


  2. J.D. Riso

    I’m like you, Dave. I can’t even draw a stick figure correctly and I compensate with the camera and photo editing. Photo editing has become an art these days with all of the filters. I see so many incredibly talented people on photo websites, even Instagram. But then I see so many who just slap a filter on and call it good, and the alteration actually makes the photo look worse. So, it takes an eye to be able to see what enhances the mood of an image. I think we may be considered digital artists. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it comes down to the core of the image. I’m not sure you can make a good image out of one that was crappy to start with. I’d agree there’s a ton of filters out there that make me wonder, why would anyone ever use that?


    1. I suppose it’s all relative. One mans treasure is another mans trash, so defining whether someone is an artist probably depends on how you resonate with their way of thinking/seeing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I think Gabe uses a program where he’s actually drawing over an image with a digital brush, whereas all I did was apply some “filters”, so his is more of a personal expression. I wonder how he’s doing, haven’t seen any posts from him lately.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I think it absolutely makes you an artist! Some people can draw, some can mold clay, and some can take photos (which is also art, even if you change them afterwards). As long as you are using your creative side to make something new and interesting, then that’s art, in my opinion. Also, in my opinion, what you came up with is very good! Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It kind of gets back to that old question: is it the journey or the destination? Is it the process of creating an image or the resulting image itself that defines whether you’re an artist or just a dabbler?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am artistic in my own mind! I love looking at art, taking photos, drawing, designing things and more, and yet I fear no one else would find my output very artistic! These tools you describe would be like candy to me … I could fill hours playing with this stuff! I am going to check this out as soon as I unpack my last box of books … Meanwhile, I agree with the others that you are an artist!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the filters is actually called “candy”, so your description is apt. One of the things that drew me towards your site was your photographic interpretation of the places you’ve been – I’d say that counts as art too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My nose has been itching like crazy recently, and now I know why! You all have been arting without me;)

    Dave these look like some fun apps – I especially like the “Candy” version. But the real secret is having an inspiring photo to work with, right? And on this count, you’re way ahead of the race.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not surprised about the nose, I also added to your email glut. And yes, it helps to start from a good place, although I did pick the tulip shot somewhat at random – it was one of the first in a recent set and I thought it might work. There’s another free app I forgot about called FotoSketcher, if you were looking to try things out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m like you in a couple of ways: I can’t draw to save my life, and I rely on my camera to artistically express myself. Though I will admit, I’m intrigued by the trendy wine-and-painting classes that seem to be popping up all over the place. I’m pretty sure I can ace at least one of those pursuits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I asked the wrong question. Perhaps rather than “Am I an artist”, it should have been “Am I a painter?” I think anyone who shows creativity is an artist, albeit one man’s art can be another man’s junkyard.


  7. Your post made me smile, Dave. If Basil, my hubby, had to write a post — it would read very much like yours. 🙂 Neither can he paint, or draw, and is a very strong contender for the worst handwriting in the world. Let’s say, he’s not an artist in the traditional sense. Things change when he gets behind the lens. I guess, we’ve all got our ‘hidden’ talents and art is always open to interpretation. The best part of art, these days, is its interplay with science or math. Who’d have thought fractals or light splitting through a prism (something we learn in school) would dominate gallery walls. We’re living in exciting times with the advent of mixed media art and artists.
    Love what you did with the virtual painting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nobody can be great at everything (thank goodness), so we can only express ourselves in the ways we have some talent – although even that usually requires practice. But still, technology is making it easier for us to express ourselves in those areas where we are talent challenged.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Two Eyes, Tulips, One Camera – Plying Through Life

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