Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege to do a demonstration at the Morro Bay Art Center for the Art Association. I lucked into this opportunity thanks to my dear friend Linda Ortiz. She was scheduled for the event, but was called away. Linda had already determined the topic of altered snapshots, so I decided to go along with it.  As you can see from the results, it was a success. The demonstration was interactive so everyone joined in the fun. It was an afternoon of fun and exploration.

We used snapshots from the 50’s though the 80’s. Depending on the age of the photo, the results varied. The emulsion used in the development process has changed over the years. The first step is to brush water over the entire photo. The longer you work the water, you will soon feel the brush begin to drag, or pull on the surface of the picture. This means the emulsion is beginning to loosen up. 

Because I never know where the experience will lead, I always begin by using a piece of sandpaper and rough up the edges of the photo and lightly swipe over the entire surface. This allows the picture to be marred and relieves the fear and stress that can come with a blank canvas, so to speak. (At least that’s the way it is for me.) It also allows for the creative juices to begin to flow.

Next you use a carving tool of some kind. I usually use an Exacto knife that is on the end of a ceramic tool because it is shaped as an isosceles triangle and the point is easier to manipulate than the acute triangle of a typical Exacto knife. I didn’t have enough tools for the group, so I cut large gauge copper wire into about 6 inch pieces and spiraled one for safety.  The other end was sharp enough to scratch into the photo.

Now the fun begins. The wet emulsion on of the photo can be scratched off and the picture can be turned into anything at all. There are no limits to the creative process.  Check out the tornado! 

After the scratching, the photo is colored using a variety of mediums. My favorite is watercolor and metallic watercolors. Markers work well too. If you use a soft pastel, it is best to shave off some powder and rub it into the picture with your finger.  Acrylics work too, but I suggest you water them down so they have the translucent quality of watercolor. 

As you can see in the finished products, the results are fantastic. The altered photos can be used in mixed media art, made into cards, and included in scrapbooks. Linda has some beautiful pieces where she used her altered photos in small art quilts. The sky is the limit! I hope you enjoy the photos, and again I’d like to thank the Morro Bay Art Association for their kind hospitality and the opportunity to share in an afternoon of creativity.



04/11/2012 12:19pm

Really impressive results. It's like experiencing time travel. One can look at an image and transform it to an entirely different image and location.

04/11/2012 5:11pm

04/11/2012 5:13pm

I hit return before I made my comment, so I will give it another try! These turned out great - such a fun idea. Thanks for sharing.


I really like these ideas of paintings specially that old man on the river side is really amazing. We can't make this type of amazing paintings without hard effort and experience so we should appreciate this artist.

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