Tag Archives: photoshop

Beech Trees Journal Quilt


Back when I was taking photos of urban scenes to adapt as decorations for a local after prom party, I also took a number of pictures of beech trees.  They live in Brookline, just a street over from Beacon Street, and they are truly magnificent.

This quilt is small, about 8 1/2 x 11″.  I used the bucket feature in Photoshop Elements 3.0 to change the background colors, which transformed the branch patterns into something resembling stained glass.  I changed threads at least three times quilting the piece, which is a departure from my generally lazy approach to thread.

I’ve recently been back to visit these trees and have come to the conclusion that they are most beautiful when the branches are bare.  This time of year, leaves are plentiful, obscuring the muscular structure of the trunks which I so love to look at.

After Prom Party Decorations for Newton South, 2009

Newton South’s after prom party takes place at the high school, which is a nice way to avoid having kids out on the roads at 4:00 in the morning.  Parents go all out to transform the space.  The theme this year was music, and my hall was “Remix”.  Others were Rock and Roll, Reggae, and Disco, to name a few.  I tried to do visually what Remix artists do with music — that is, to borrow, warp, repeat, interrupt.  Most of the photographs were originals that I took in and around Newton and Brookline, MA.  Most were changed with photoshop elements.  A few images here and there (esp. the skateboarders) were downloads from the internet.  Although the eleven 4′ x 4′ collage panels were interesting in and of themselves, the overall effect was somewhat disappointing.

The  collage above (not one of the 11) is on foam core board and hung from the ceiling.  It’s 8′ x 4′ and includes a Lawrence Lessig quote (about 2/3’s showing above).  The full quote, from the introduction to his book, Remix, reads as follows:

I then want to spotlight the damage we’re not thinking enough about — the harm to a generation from rendering criminal what comes naturally to them.

Here are some more pictures, all from the Liberty panel:

Here are some close ups of collage from the lavender paper pieces, which, as I said, were about four feet square —

Most of the parents helping me hang the decorations didn’t know what Remix was, which made me feel a little better, because before I heard Lessig’s interview on NPR some months back, I didn’t either.

If you’re interested, check out “Girl Talk“, Greg Gillis’s very intricate work, or go to ccmixter , a community remix site, or read “Remix”, which cites many artists.

Lessig is not anti-copyright, by the way, and does not advocate piracy.  However, he makes the argument that copyright laws do not fit the current landscape and badly need updating.  No one would ever expect a high school student to get permission to quote Thoreau, say, or Whitman, in a paper.  And yet, the maker of a YouTube snippet using 40 seconds of badly recorded music (in other words, not a potential source for an illegal download) can and has been sued.

Since digital technology has ‘democratized’ the ability to create with music and images in a way unimaginable twenty years ago, we now have an entire generation of people comfortable and adept at documenting their experience with sound and image, and laws designed to address movies and books.  These young people are obviously not a group paying enormous sums to lobbyists to protect and promote their interests.  If you read “Remix”, you will not be surprised to find out that Lessig’s expertise and frustration with the difficulty in changing outdated copyright regulations has segued into a new focus, which is advocating that MONEY be subtracted from lawmaking.  It just keeps producing the wrong result (is GM even listening?!!)

I recommend Lessig’s book and his blog.

Saying YES and being GLAD

“I think you should get bitter as you get older.
It means you’re paying attention.”
Craig Ferguson

So often, with children and opportunities to volunteer, one can find oneself up to the eyeballs in unpaid work, wondering, “Did I really say ‘Yes’ to this?!!”.

Volunteer work is work, make no bones about it.  It can be fun and offer a host of positive (and often unexpected) benefits — friendship, discovery of skills one didn’t know one had, satisfaction of a job well done.  Some of my volunteer work has spun off into paid work, which is often the fantasy of an organized, creative PTO Mom.  But!  With college a mere heart beat away (three years is a heart beat), volunteering feels rather unadvised in my case (I am considering NOT grocery shopping this week to save money)…

So the question is, how can I get through this commitment to help decorate the halls of the high school for the after prom party without believing myself to be a complete and utter fool?!!!    My older son is not even a senior!!

Here’s how —

1) I am learning a lot about photoshop.

I’ve used the ‘cut out’ filter for a long time — a natural for a quilter who tends to see images in terms of blocks of color — but I have learned how to ‘bucket’ color in to areas with the express intention of making a more interestingt ‘cut out’ image.  In the Brookline landscape above, I brightened sections after cutting out and then cut out the entire image again, in order to enliven the lower right corner, which had gotten dark and uniform in the process.

2) I bought myself some paints, which I think will have benefits down the road.

3) I am so clear that I will never, ever do this again.

4) I finally got to see the inside of a neighbor’s house that I’d been dying to see.  I’d heard for years that she has beautiful taste (she does).

5) I have listened to some good music online doing my research that I never would have listened to otherwise.

The theme is all hush hush, but here is a stylized picture of the hall I am responsible for.

I have managed to find a way to incorporate my recent obsession with a collection of beech trees in Brookline…

My longstanding obsession with rooves is also making its way into this hallway.

Streetlamps are also making an appearance.  Cleaning out an armoire a couple of weeks ago, I came upon some pictures I made when I worked at a copy shop in San Francisco in the early 1980’s.  They’re a cut up and re-imaged house photograph with a street light.  This copy machine had a dial that scrambled (or skipped) passes of color, producing what is now easily done with photoshop.

It’s true we are drawn to the same images over and over, isn’t it?

color xerox, 1980

Isabella St., Northampton, MA

Beacon St, Newton Center, 2009

I guess this is yet another example of how radically computers have improved our lives.  The color xerox machine I used to make the top two pictures was almost the size of a small car, used carcinogenic toner, and did not provide a preview of the color-changed result.  Each copy cost a couple of bucks!

Since I’m behind on my Journal Quilts, some of the new photoshopped images will go directly onto fabric and become quilts!