When seen in the light of the photography and art work of Susi Lawson, most everything else comes across as mundane and ordinary. Her work is fresh, invigorating, as well as instantly recognizable. Much in the way that you can tell a Norman Rockwell work of art as soon as you see it, you can recognize a Susi Lawson work of art as well.
There is something about it that jumps off the page and says, "Look at me!" My first experience was at a local bookstore where I was browsing the photography and art magazines and I saw this remarkable cover of .PSD magazine in which this little girl holding an old fashion brownie camera. She is surrounded by a bright blue sky and large puffy clouds and she has an incredible expression of utter delight on her face.
Since then, Susi Lawson has continued to win numerous awards for her work including the NAPP Grand Prize (Best of Show) 2007 Photoshop User Awards, and first place in the Portrait/Wedding category of the 2008 Photoshop User Awards. Now, releasing her third training video, The Fine Art Of Photoshop, she is once again sharing her techniques for creating these wonderful works of art.
The Fine Art Of Photoshop contains 16 videos covering 10 lessons that detail how to work with Photoshop. It covers techniques of working with brushes, painting portraits, how to use photos to begin your drawing and painting, as well as how to draw in Photoshop. It comes on two disks, one with the videos and one with the necessary images so you can follow along.
In Lesson 1, Getting to know Brushes, you will learn how changing the nature of the brush dynamics can change the look you create. You will see how to create textures, use scattering brushes, airbrushing, and even things like grass brushes. Lesson 2, Painting a Cowgirl takes a picture of Cassa Marie, the same girl from the .PSD front cover, and she shows you how to easily turn it into a painted style image. Using the brush techniques you learned earlier, you will create the background, bring brightness to the eyes, and really enhance the hair.
Lesson 3, Cover Painting (3 Videos) is the feature tutorial from this video in which you will see how to create the image that graces the cover of the DVD case. The image is called Hope. While this kind of work is more natural to try to do in Corel Painter, many people don't want to spend the time to learn another program, and so here you will see how to accomplish this painting in Photoshop.
The first part sets up the image, background, and begins some of the treatment to the little girl. The second part completes the base painting. Part three adds details like the butterfly on her hands, some touch-ups to the hair, and some detail work to her shirt. Finally, in what is really the fourth of the videos, you will learn how to add the cracking effect seen on the cover image.
Lesson 4, Smart Smudge (2 Videos) looks at a popular technique in Photoshop painting and examines the proper method to use this technique. In these two lessons you will work with the smudge tool to create the illusion that you are making paintbrush strokes. Then you combine this with regular brushes and work with a layer mask to create the new look. Lesson 5, Blending Textures uses a photo of a fisherman, a water texture, and a marble texture to create an artsy image. Here you will learn techniques of manipulating textures to come up with new results.
Lesson 6, Starry Starry Night examines how to take a flawed image—in this case a nighttime image with a lot of background noise—and make it into a work of art. Here you learn how to add back some of the features that don't show up because of the limited light in the image. These are things like fixing trees, adding stars, and enhancing the lighting by the use of the shadow/highlight control.
Lesson 7, Cartoon Clip Art (2 Videos) teaches you how to create cartoon style images by using photographic images as your basis for creating the line drawn images and then working in Photoshop to fill in the color and parts to make it a cartoon style image.
Lesson 8, Drawing & Painting the Eye (2 Videos) shows you how to work with freehand drawing. You start off by creating a charcoal drawing of an eye by working with shapes, shadows, and technique. Next, using the sketch, you will now see how to paint the eye using more traditional methods.
Lesson 9, Sketching the Face will show you how to draw the face from scratch by seeing how to layout the head dimensions and seeing where the features properly go. While this does not intend to be a complete lesson in doing free-form facial work, it does give you everything you need to get started doing realistic portrait work.
Lesson 10, Painting Hair looks at how to paint hair in a traditional way for two reasons. First, if you want to create realistic free-hand work, you will need to also need to create hair. But even if you only want to transform photographs to paintings, it will help immensely knowing the techniques of traditional painting of hair. Here you will see how to create the strands of hair as well as how to create differing colors and textures of hair.
I found The Fine Art Of Photoshop incredibly easy to follow along with and will have you working with these new techniques from the first lessons. In fact one of the things that I think really make these videos work is the way that each lesson is self-contained; yes, there are sometimes more than one video for a lesson, but it makes for a complete topic.
What also works is that you first get a very short lesson on the base fundamentals of brushes. Then you get right into complete projects that you can accomplish with the basic skills, and then you get some additional fundamentals that increase your skills, giving you more to practice and get even better.
The Fine Art Of Photoshop is available from Susi Lawson Photography for $80.00 plus shipping and handling. Better yet, Susi also has two other videos—Portrait Magic and Photoshop Magic—and you can buy all three at a special bundled price.
If you are still not sure, what I suggest is that you check out Susi Lawson's gallery over at Susi Lawson Fine Art Photography. My guess is that before long you will find yourself wanting to see how she does it. I very highly recommend The Fine Art Of Photoshop.