About the artist
This week we discover the warped reality paintings of Teresa Lunt. Teresa grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Mendham, New Jersey. She became a photographer with her first camera, a Brownie given to her by her parents. Art has always been an interest for Teresa; as a child she was selected to participate in the Tam O’Shanter Saturday morning art classes held by the Carnegie Museum of Art at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Music Hall. For a time she put art aside as she majored in Geophysics at Princeton and then spent her career as a research scientist in computer science in California. Much later in life, her technical background combined with her art interest, led her naturally into digital photography and photo manipulation.
Traditional and digital media
With the advent of the iPad, Teresa moved onto that platform. She focused on warped and blended images using a combination of her own photos and copyright-free images. Later, having seen the same stock images used repeatedly in other peoples’ digital creations, she felt the need to make her works more her own. She studied drawing and painting using traditional media. This enabled her to original digital creations from scratch. Teresa continues to explore traditional media; using her drawings and paintings in her work and also creating original digital art from her imagination.
Surreal and imaginary images
Teresa’s aim is to create an imaginary or surreal quality with her images, using many techniques to achieve this. Modifying the colour palette emphasises the mood, creating mystery and revealing the personality of the subject. Flattening or smoothing the image or placing parts in shadows allows light to draw the eye to key elements. The use of blur and glow gives a dream-like quality to the image. Warping and pushing pixels around creates a distorted reality. Teresa often overlays images with variations of themselves, or with other images for an otherworldly effect; experimenting to create unreal scenes or objects. Some images hint at a hidden depth behind a face or object.
How did you first get into digital art?
My parents were serious amateur photographers and I became an avid photographer through them. They would let me watch what they were doing in their darkroom. I became serious about photography later in life; learning how to develop black and white negatives. I realised how much possibility there is for manipulating the prints in the darkroom. At some point I became interested in photo manipulation using Polaroids and image transfers. Later I started using Photoshop and various plugins. I started to fully explore image manipulation of my scanned slides and later digital captures.
Because of my professional technical background, using technology for photo manipulation was a natural for me. When the iPad came out, I started using it for digital art. I began with photo-based art such as warped and blended images. Concurrently, I started learning painting and drawing using traditional media. Now, with that foundation, I use various painting and drawing apps to create purely hand-drawn or painted digital creations. Although sometimes I start by photographing one of my paintings, and reimagining it digitally.
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
I love the freedom of using a mobile device, to create art anywhere. It’s also great to have my entire collection of artwork available to me wherever I go; whether it’s on the device or in the cloud. Having discovered online communities of people also exploring digital art on the iPad. I found that it is so easy to share and learn and find inspiration from others.
Having done so much photo-based art in Photoshop, I knew the value of layers, masks and undo; there’s the ease of creating multiple versions of the same work and the ability to repurpose image elements in other works. With my technology background, I knew that it would be easier for me to master the apps than to learn the many traditional mediums and art forms. Also, there is no mess, no clean-up, no toxic materials!
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I love warped reality. I’m attracted to unusual faces, figures and scenes. I love a basic simplicity to an image, with a well-defined colour palette and a hand-made feel. A strikingly simple image with with an unusual face. Art reminiscent of folk or primitive art or illustration. Pop surrealism. I also love simple abstracts based on shape, line and colour.
What inspires you?
So many things inspire me! Things I see every day around me that I capture on my phone for future reference. Art I see on Instagram and Facebook and through web searches, or seen in museums or magazines. I’m a voracious reader and I often copy descriptive prose that I read in novels into my notes; that gives me an idea for a piece. I use iOS Notes to capture these images and notes as well as quick sketches of ideas that come to me. I have so many of these pieces of inspiration that I have created dozens of folders, each with hundreds of notes on different categories such as portraits, abstracts, surrealism, and so on.
What is your artistic motivation?
I want to create unusual, fanciful and striking pieces. My work is primarily for myself, just for the love of it and I feel driven to do it! I love to learn and explore different media, technologies and styles of art. I also love to share my art with people, and to help others learn how to create art using the various apps available. That’s why I have so many tutorials – maybe 200 of them (too many!) – on my website.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?
Maybe it’s typical, but my most recent is always my favourite! One of the images I love is the still life I’ve included in my choices for the interview. Firstly because of the way I was able to represent the water in a very simple, even primitive way. Using interesting patterns in the various surfaces in the image adds layers of interest without making the result overly busy. I love the use of shadow and light, and refraction of stems and leaves as they pass through the water.
Name three artists who inspire you.
I love so many! Here are three artists I follow on Instagram.
@kratkaslavka (Slavka Kratka) a Czech painter. I love her fantasy villages scenes.
@alwaysamuse (Mary Martz) iPad artist. She makes very original, indescribable images. Perhaps my favourites are the fake magazine covers.
@brookewandall (Brooke Wandall) has a quirky style all her own. Somewhat abstract and very expressive, delicate and beautifully colored images that pull you in.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
When I first started trying to make iPad art, I didn’t know how to use the apps. There were so many to choose from and those for painting and drawing seemed to rely on a lot of knowledge of traditional tools: brushes, media, colour mixing, how strokes interact, and so on. This was all very intimidating.
I also felt I wasn’t good at drawing. So I started with photo manipulation and blending, which I was already familiar with from doing something similar in Photoshop and other photographic means. Since then I’ve devoted myself to learning drawing, as well as various traditional media, and I’ve attended workshops on the various apps, and I just barged into digital painting and drawing. Through feedback from my instructors and fellow students, I’ve learned more about how to represent my vision and what makes a good composition. I’ve had tons of encouragement from my hundreds of online artist friends.
I’m now focusing on just a few apps and developing my own style; I think I must have one because people tell me they recognise it! I’ve decided on styles that I won’t try to do, to allow me to develop the skills and vision that inform my own voice.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
I think I was pretty fearless in my childhood as far as art went. I loved painting and drawing people and scenes. My parents bought me a Kodak Brownie camera when I was 7 and I learned to love taking photos. On two separate occasions at my morning art classes I was asked to come to the stage, in front of a huge number of fellow students in a packed Carnegie Music Hall, and recreate one of my crayon paintings but on a huge paper and using pastels, which I was not familiar with. I don’t recall being afraid but I must have been at least a little.
I became interested in science and maths as I got older and started a technical career. Art was a sometimes hobby, although I continued doing photography. At some point I lost my belief in my ability to create art. I felt I could photograph, but not draw and paint. Really anyone can do these things with enough practice. Perhaps it sounds trite but I would say just do it and keep doing it. Try to get constructive feedback from other artists and instructors. Don’t strive for perfection and beauty or give in to your inner critic. Instead, focus on making progress. Make some art every day. Explore what interests you, even copy to learn new techniques, and keep exploring until you find your voice.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
I use an iPad Pro (largest size) with Apple Pencil; I find the large screen and the stylus essential for detailed work. I’ll always get the largest amount of storage available so I never worry about running out of space, and I use Photos in iCloud to transfer images to my iMac. I use Lightroom on my iMac to catalog and store my images. This way my favourite images are always available to me through Lightroom Mobile on my phone or iPad. I have a small backpack just large enough for my iPad, so I can always have it with me when I travel.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
I started by using iColorama when I was primarily doing photo-based art. iColorama is my favourite for photo-manipulation, along with its companion app, Metabrush. They have lots of great effects that I haven’t found in other apps. I still use iColorama to finish every image I make. My other favourite go-to apps are SketchClub and SketchBook Pro. Elasticam is an app I find indispensable, I use it to fine-tune some of my images. There are so many great painting and drawing apps available, and I have used many of them. I like a simple UI and the ability to get to functionality with a minimum of clicks, I want to pick not mix colours and I want the ability to output large high-res PNG images.
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
I used to use copyright-free images from Pixabay and from the Rijksmuseum when I was still mostly doing photo manipulation and collaging. These sites were good because I could get free high-res images and not worry about complicated copyright requirements for their use. I stopped using them because I came to recognise the images and saw many artists using the same ones I had. I also gradually understood that much of the appeal of the finished pieces was the beauty of the original images or models. Thus the artwork didn’t really feel like my own.
I also used a lot of my own images, but I’ve come to work much less with photography these days and prefer to originate my work from my imagination. I will refer to photos for inspiration or to understand how something looks and sometimes use photos as reference for my paintings, both digital and traditional. For this I use mostly the Sktchy app. I like Sktchy because the photos are usually selfies and even they are not professional photos, so don’t have that polished studio look to them but instead feel more natural. I use them to understand how to capture an expression, and I will often replace the other image elements with my own imagined hair, clothing and background.
And finally, do you find that digital art is often dismissed as a valid art form?
Digital art seems to be accepted more today than previously, with big name artists like David Hockney now using the form. There is certainly a very large community of mobile and digital artists; one has only to look at Instagram! If you look beyond so-called fine art and consider such art categories as commercial art, stock art, and illustration, I would guess that most professional artists are using digital these days.
Within the broad collection of digital artists, however, there do seem to be divisions. There are photo-based digital artists, digital painters, digital illustrators, mobile artists, and mixed digital/traditional artists, to name just a few. Sometimes they identify themselves according to the app or platform they use. Unfortunately, these various communities are not always very accepting of each other. I sometimes find it hard to find a group of likeminded artists to share with because I do work that crosses several of these boundaries. I prefer to enjoy and be inspired by art no matter how it was produced.
Thank you for sharing your work and insights, Teresa!