I am thrilled to introduce you today to Karen Alsop!! She has very kindly agreed to a blog interview with me today.
As she is described on her website storyart.com.au, Karen is an award winning Australian, Melbourne based photographic digital artist. Expanding on two decades of photographic and graphic design experience, Karen brings photography and art together to create stunning artworks that tell a story and take the viewer into another world.
As I read through your blog articles I was intrigued by the change in direction your business took once you had children. My own background is in Engineering, and once I had children I felt like I had “permission” to engage in art and craft again and really just enjoy the process of it. Did you have any similar permission giving moments, or other ways in which you found having children impacted your creative work?
Having children certainly contributed heavily to the change in direction. In my book ‘Once Upon a Time’ http://storyart.com.au/downloads/once-upon-a-time-book/ I talk about the change in mindset particularly with weddings when our children came along. With many weekends away from them (both my husband and I shoot the weddings), my parents needing to baby sit for extended hours, I needed to find a new direction that suited our changed family dynamics.
My theming is also strongly influenced by my children. I love to create imagery that ignites the imagination of children (and adults). When my children come home from daycare and I show them an image I’ve been working on, I love the way they find amazement in my imagery. The joy they get talking about what is going on in my artworks gives me an insight into the joy I’m bringing others that are seeing my work for the first time. Of course, having them participate as models in many of my artworks is an added bonus! They love seeing pictures of themselves up everywhere.
What was the initial idea behind your creation of An Epic Tale and what kind of audience do you find it appeals to?
I see An Epic Tale directly appealing to families with young children in particular. I wanted to create this image as a part of a teaching project, taking my online followers through the journey of creation from photographing behind the scenes to the photoshop production. I also wanted to showcase some wonderful Queensland scenes (on a recent trip) and icons and integrate them into the story.
How long did it take you to plan and photograph the elements in An Epic Tale?
I started the planning process in Melbourne. I envisioned the scene in my mind and set out to locate the perfect elements. I needed a Castle (Sunshine Castle in Bli Bli was arranged over the phone before heading up there). I also needed a beautiful landscape so planned some drives through the Montville area. I arranged for my models prior to heading up to Queensland too. The children I chose are children models and were comfortable posing for the camera.
It’s hard for me to say how many hours go into this sort of planning, as I tend to multitask a lot and work through my projects in steps. But the planning, the photography and the photoshopping would probably equate to about 20 hours of work (Creating the Dragon would be around 5 of those hours, as I made him from multiple images I’d taken of different animals).
What would you say was your creative approach in creating An Epic Tale?
My approach with An Epic Tale and many of my other images starts with an idea. I wanted to use a Castle, and feature some boys dressed as nights fighting a dragon. Over time my concepts might change slightly. With this one I decided to make it a bit more light hearted so that the boys weren’t fighting the dragon but rather befriending him.
I heard in one of the interviews I listened to that you take about 10-15 hours to edit your images – is that about right for this image too? Do you have a technical approach to putting the image together? And what tools do you use?
Each image is different, and while some images have taken 40+ hours, others might take me 3 hours. It all comes down to the complexity of the composite, how many elements need to go in it and how much manipulation is required. I have become much faster compared to when I first started, so I’m now finding I don’t spend more than about 10 hours even a complex image. This comes down to careful pre-planning with shooting the elements, and having a clearer understanding of what I need to do in the post production stage.
My main software tool is of course Photoshop. I also use Lightroom to pre-edit my Raws before opening them in Photoshop. I use a Wacom Tablet (I have an Intuous Pro connected to my main computer, and I recently purchased a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 which enables me to work portably).
Do you have a particular medium in mind for when the work is finished? E.g. digital, print, canvas… Does this affect how you put the image together or in the final editing process?
I certainly aim to print my work. I have an Epson 3880 which produces beautiful prints up to A2 in size. I love to print on Canson Photographiq Rag or Platine (depending on the image). I keep printing in mind when I edit. I’m particularly aware of ensuring I don’t lose detail in my blacks and don’t completely blow out my highlights (I’ve learnt a lot from entering the national print awards).
Any other tips or encouragement for those hoping to learn more about creating story images?
I really want to encourage readers to follow their passion. Work out what makes you tick. What are you inspired by. I took a big risk turning my attention to this genre and stepping away from regular wedding and portrait income. I gave myself 3 years to see if it would take off and turn into a viable business. I threw everything I had into developing Story Art. I’m thrilled to share that I’m seeing massive results (both financially and also in recognition of my work) all within a year of taking that leap. I know that I’m obviously following the right path in my journey and that is exciting.
Surround yourself with people that believe in you, that encourage you, but also give you feed back on what needs to improve. Don’t be afraid of CC! (Constructive Criticism)
I’m running workshops worldwide in 2016 and I’d love to help you in your own digital art journey. Details on my workshops can be found here: http://storyart.com.au/compositing-workshops-2016/
Thank you so much for your time, Karen!
If you haven’t seen any of Karen’s work, please pop on over to storyart.com.au and be prepared to be inspired!