Monday, November 19, 2012

Beanie Santa Turns Ten: The Back Story

Ten years ago I played around with Photoshop as much as I do today.  One project that I took on for fun during the Christmas holiday of 2002 was a painting of a beanie Santa seated in an antique child's rocker in front of the Christmas tree. It's turned out to be my most popular holiday-themed artwork.

Most of you know me for my black and white fine art photographs, especially those of Mayan Indians in Guatemala.  I've also done award-winning landscapes, animal photographs, and lots of other genres. However, I love to make Photoshop work for me in whatever endeavor I choose.  It would have been easy enough just to position the doll in the chair and snap a photo.  But I wanted more -- a painting!

Beanie Santa by Tom Bell.  Copyright 2002.  All rights reserved.

Many of you know that when I'm not doing fine art photography, I use my camera, Photoshop, and Corel Painter to create digital images that are more akin to paintings than photographs.  Back in 2002, I was using only Photoshop, version 7, I believe.

This image came about because I'd been looking for a way to do something creative with my Dad's old chair.  It's a child's rocking chair that my Grandfather had made for my Dad in around 1922 or 1923.  My dad kept the chair, then passed it on to me for my son.  Over the years, the rocker had broken one of the runners, and the woven seat came apart.  My dad patiently rebuilt a runner, and then using bailing rope rewove the chair's seat.  I assure you that with it's age and wear, it has much more character than it ever did in the roaring 20's.

My wife had acquired a Beanie Baby Santa.  When I seated him in the chair in front of the Christmas tree, my idea for holiday decor was transformed into the ideas for a painting.  My mission was to bring out the warmth of the seating and the texture of the wood. I even wanted you to get a feel for Santa's wooly red costume.  I rearranged some of the decorations on the tree.  The red star to the left of Santa was a must to add some balance, and the gold reindeer to his right brought out the balance on the other side. I used available light, with some daylight coming in from a window on the right because I didn't want the image to feel artificial.

In Photoshop, I added some brush strokes with filters, but the thing that really made it pop was I rendered a lighting effect while adding texture.  With some final color adjustments, I was able to bring out the golden warmth of the seating and the rich red of the chair.  It's cropped as it is because you don't need to see more to get the whole story.

This image (along with many more painting and my fine art photography) is available on my website at:  You can use this code: YKJYTT  for a $10 discount on purchases of $50 or more through the end of the year.

For those of you who might like to try a similar project, I'd be interested in your results.  If you'll send me your best efforts, I'll post my favorites in a future blog entry.

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