#64 TAKING STOCK OF MY LIFE AND ART – PART 3

I continue to take stock of my life and my art. In the summer of 2020, I began to prolifically create art for my own purposes. Since then, I have added 120 new images to my stock site: Judy Unger iStock. I explain more about this new direction on these posts:

#57 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE – PART 1

#61 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE – PART 2

For this post, I am sharing my latest illustrations. I have included examples of my photo reference, as well as shots of my paintings in progress. More information about my working process can be found on Part 1 and Part 2.

 CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZO BALL

It might be interesting to know that I originally planned to illustration this bowl of soup as a down shot. I made two pots of soup and took over a hundred photos that way. Even though I found the composition below interesting, it just didn’t seem appetizing enough. Finally, I realized my illustration would be more appealing by adding a spoon and having only one matzo ball in the soup.

The most difficult thing for me to illustrate is anything non-organic. I wanted to be sure my bowl had a perfect ellipse and the spoon was technically accurate. It had been years since I used my plastic ellipse guides and I pulled them out to help me cut the frisket more perfectly.

My painting in progress.

Colored pencil was great for final touches.

My favorite part of this painting was the lovely transparency of the soup puddled on the spoon. (The carrot on the spoon and its reflection was also very cool).

This was my reference photo.

BLOSSOMS

Illustrating blossoms was in the forefront of my mind this past spring. I photographed blossoms from many fruits and started painting apples and blossoms first. Currently, I am working on a painting of pomegranates and blossoms.

Constructing my composition involved considerable Photoshop editing. I even created a digital clipboard of blossoms taken from different photos.

My digital clipboard of blossoms.

I was able to create 5 digital images from my original watercolor painting. Deciding whether to have shadows is always a dilemma for me, so I had some versions with and some without a shadow.

After painting my apples, I moved on to illustrating peach blossoms. I was so captivated by one of the photos on a branch, that I decided the blossoms could stand alone without any fruit in the picture.

My photo for the peach blossom branch needed some improvements.

As usual, a lot of Photoshop was required to improve my original photo. I decided water puddles would detract from the flowers, so I didn’t include them.

The most difficult part for this painting was using liquid masking fluid and a toothpick to keep the stamens light. Once the area around them was finished, I removed the rubbery mask and refined them. I was very pleased with the luminous water droplets on this painting.

Later on, I did include a peach and the blossom was a lot pinker for that painting.

Photo reference for a single peach blossom.

I’ve wondered if it’s valuable for me to do repeat versions of fruit. But for my latest white peach, clearly this variety was quite different from one I had done the year before.

A stock image taken from the painting above.

This was painted a year earlier. I’m amazed at how different these white peaches are.

ATLAS MOTH

My Atlas Moth photo reference. It was resting upon a screen.

I was very pleased to have my own photo reference for this beautiful moth. My photo was taken at a butterfly reserve in Victoria, Canada while on a vacation 4 years ago. The only changes/improvements I made were more feathery antennae and rounding the bottom wing contours slightly. My original painting was against white, however, later on I painted a green and purple background to use behind it.

I lightly splattered paint with a toothbrush for these textured areas.

My painting in progress.

RAINIER CHERRIES

I was so entranced by Rainier Cherries this past summer that I painted them twice. I enjoy sharing my photo reference, which really depicts “flaw removal.” Even with bruises, those cherries were very tasty.

My digital re-creation was taken from both paintings.

STEAK KEBOBS

During the pandemic, I did a lot cooking and my kebob recipe was one of my favorites. I kept looking at the colorful skewers on my barbecue and decided they would be a fun subject for a painting.

It was definitely interesting to capture globules of oil versus water droplets – even though they were similar in many ways. To capture the charred areas, I was careful painting black spots. I didn’t want those areas to bleed and using a dark colored pencil underlay was helpful to prevent that.

The preliminary digital work for my painting was challenging. Although I was initially tempted to paint the kebob against the grill, I went with a white background. Composing the best kebob took considerable time. My favorite photo had interesting bluish reflections on the meat and was packed with kebobs. I roughly isolated a bunch of kebobs on a digital clipboard, and my final photo layout is at the bottom.

My kebob painting was so long, that I broke it apart to create another two kebob illustrations that were a bit shorter.

My kebob painting in progress.

FIGS

Last, but not least, I found figs to be an attractive painting subject again this past summer. I had painted the same variety of black figs the year before and didn’t look at that painting until I finished my newer one. I did like the shiny quality of the cut section on my older painting. But it was still fun to capture the bluish powdery skin on the whole fruit.

This is another digital version taken from my painting.

My older fig painting.

My painting in progress. I do like to have real fruit near me when I paint them.

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#63 INTERVIEW WITH A FOOD ARTIST – PART 2

My first DPI interview: #54 INTERVIEW WITH A FOOD ARTIST – PART 1

I am very excited that my second interview with DPI Magazine in Taiwan has been published. I will share the English translation with this post.

Judy Unger DPI MAGAZINE INTERVIEW 

1. Hello Judy Unger! Since in 2017, we’ve had an email-based interview with you for the Art Quarter vol.16 (Tempting Food Illustrations: An overwhelming banquet for the senses), we are so curious about your recent life! Please share it with us.

It is wonderful to have another opportunity to share my life and art with you. Thank you again for contacting me.

Since 2017, I have continued to explore my passion for music. That same year, my meditation album was featured on the app Insight Timer,” the largest free mediation app in the world. I am a teacher on Insight Timer and share my music through two courses, 46 tracks and weekly live performances. My main instrument is acoustic guitar, and I consider my genre of music to be healing.

My art career has been slow, but I still receive an occasional commercial assignment. Recently, I’ve enjoyed illustrating elaborate fruit labels for 1800 Margarita Mixes.

Last summer during the pandemic, I decided to expand my stock library and kept myself busy painting new art. After years of being somewhat disconnected from illustrating, I began to prolifically paint new images. I still work traditionally with watercolor dyes and colored pencils. But I’ve also learned to incorporate many digital shortcuts. Once I scan my finished painting, I digitally manipulate it to create alternate versions. Currently, I have about 800 images on iStock and Getty, partner companies.

2. We know that your most recent painting is named “Autumn Leaf Medley.” As you said, painting autumn leaves was something you have done before. What drives you to refocus this theme again? What’s the biggest difference between painting fruits and leaves for you?

Thank you for mentioning my “Autumn Leaf Medley” painting. I was drawn to paint this theme because the fall variations of leaf colors captivated me. I wanted to portray their beauty, just as I would for any fruit or vegetable.

I have a newer painting named “Camellias in Bloom.” My camellias and autumn leaves are fully rendered. This is in contrast to my fruit and vegetable paintings that float upon a white background. Lush paintings that fill every inch require considerably more time. I use frisket to mask and keep areas separate and clean. Below are two other paintings that are fully rendered.

I appreciate high contrast in my paintings. I will compare areas to see relationships of contrast. A leaf might look dark enough, but when an area next to it is filled in with a deeper tone, the leaf becomes lighter.

The exploration of color and texture is a delight with every painting. Texture is a “puzzle to solve” and is achieved for me using many inventive techniques. I will sometimes use Prismacolor pencils to delineate details before painting, as well as after. An eraser is often used to smooth things over. Liquid frisket is useful for lighter areas of texture. I apply it with a toothpick, a toothbrush or a quill for fine lines.

The transparency of watercolor allows me to create interesting color combinations. Even muted colors involve many washes of brilliant transparent dyes to create rich tones.

3. When creating, do you have any ritual or odd habits? What do you value most in the process?

If I could describe a ritual element, it would be my fascination with water droplets and moisture. They are in most of my paintings and fascinate me. I am always discovering new and interesting ways to portray those jewels. Whether they are running down the side of a fruit or pooling on a leaf, every droplet is precious.

What I value most about my current technical process is how I’ve incorporated using the computer. It saves me significant time, so I can focus upon the colors and textures in my painting. The digital process has been invaluable and incredibly efficient for creating reference layouts.In the past, I always worked from photo reference. However, those photos couldn’t be easily manipulated. I used to make color copies and laboriously cut and pasted together my layouts.

I would trace my photo reference and then meticulously transfer the drawing to my watercolor paper using graphite paper. It was tedious. I couldn’t know ahead of time how it might come together. Now I am able to pre-plan on my computer and solve all the compositional, contrast and color issues there. I utilize my own photography, and after combining and refining many photos, I print out a reference image to look at while painting. Then I print a very light version of it onto my actual watercolor paper to save the step of tracing and transferring outlines.

I usually draw upon my frisket film to indicate where to cut each petal and droplet.

4. How would you describe your style of artworks? Please select one of your most satisfying works and introduce it to us.

 My work has always been photo-realistic, but I must say it has gradually become even more so. Still, my technique is apparent when areas are enlarged – the watercolor/dye is very vibrant!

Sometimes I refer to my work as “idealistic.” The objects are ideal because I usually remove flaws. But there are times when those flaws add to the realism and beauty. I never want anything to be so perfect that it is no longer appetizing.

My most satisfying work is usually my most recent painting. So right now, that would be “Camellias in Bloom.”

But if I had to name a satisfying older painting, it would be “Perfume Medley.” Illustrating reflective glass objects presented challenges, and it was different for me to explore a non-food subject. This illustration was done before my digital awakening, and I cut up several photos when designing it. I was very inspired by the beautiful bottles of my mother’s perfume collection resting on a mirrored tray. And during the painting process, I discovered myself holding the camera in one of the reflections, which was truly amazing!

5. Give us three of your favorite/ most inspiring things right now. Could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc.

The first thing that comes to mind are my three living children. They are the lights in my life, and I treasure each child. My deceased son, Jason, also lights the way for me and he lives on in my music and songs.

My music brings me joy, and I am blessed to have composed so many songs. I am especially inspired because for many decades I lived a sad and numb existence without music. But all of that changed in 2010 when I began to sing again.I am very inspired by my song Beside Me Always.” I love the piano meditation version and published a book with that name that shares the rediscovery of music and my personal transformation. I wrote my song when I was 17 years old and even read the words at Jason’s funeral in 1992. I never expected that it would carry so much significance later in my life.

I’m grateful for my art career and appreciate the shift into creating art for pleasure. I’ve definitely taken stock of my art and life. For thirty years, I was pleasing other people with my art, and now I’m enjoying pleasing myself!

6. In the end, do you have any ongoing plans or new exhibitions in the future?

I’ve never had exhibitions as a commercial artist, but I would be gratified to consider one. I have signed all of my work and have many boxes of originals. However, much of my art is not meant to be displayed. Dyes are fine for reproduction, but unfortunately they are not colorfast.

I have a lot of dreams, and I am enjoying my journey. My stock image library provides some revenue. I don’t worry too much about financial success – I am fine with the simple lifestyle that I’ve chosen. My joy is simply to have the freedom to explore my creativity and share my heart with the world.

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#62 CAMELLIAS IN BLOOM

My most recent painting, “Camellias in bloom” was definitely an exercise in patience. It also became an opportunity for me to explore endless green color variations because I painted a lot of foliage.

I took photographs of my overgrown camellia bush for a period of two weeks. When the first flowers bloomed, their vibrancy was exquisite and the center petals were more closed up. Later on, the bush had far more flowers blooming, but many of them were in stages of decay.

The digital process of creating a photo-layout for my painting took time. I worked from many photos and chose the best-looking camellias to be my stars. I pulled them closer together than they were in my photos. I made sure to add some buds and chose interesting leaves to fill in my layout.

The left photo was my basis, but the actual flowers were from the photo on the right, which was taken a week earlier.

The camellias were my stars or “heroes” and my goal was to have the background heighten them. This led me to darken the leaves in certain places. I found the blueness to be very interesting and even added purple into the green for another effect.

There were also many details that I eliminated, including speckled moisture on the leaves. I simplified water droplets, but left so many on the flowers that they kept me busy.

I saved considerable time by printing my layout lightly onto watercolor paper. I began by painting the camellia flowers first.

Masking was an important part of my technique. I cut out every petal and the larger droplets. For the smaller ones, I used liquid masking fluid.

I usually draw upon my frisket film to indicate the areas I plan to cut.

When the flowers were completed, I masked over them with fresh frisket film because I didn’t want the red and green colors to bleed together.

I put the pink palette aside and started a new palette that was mostly green. I saved the pink one for later on – because I knew at the end I would do some touch ups.

At this point, there was still frisket film on the red camellias and large leaves.

I completed areas in blocks and constantly found myself going back to rework older sections. The relationships between areas changed as I filled in more of my painting. I was continually darkening leaves and the transparent veils of color added richness. Some of the leaves had well over a dozen washes of color on them.

Although I used a lot of masking with the hero flowers, for the background I only masked the larger leaves. The delineations in the other areas were blurry and didn’t need sharpness.

When the background was completed, I eagerly removed the frisket on the flowers so I could see them again. My next step was to pull out my Prismacolor pencils. Those pencils were great for eliminating darker lines that happen as a result of using frisket film.

I can show this with two close-ups before and after I used colored pencils.

Colored pencil helped to soften the flower’s edge.

I did end up using the pink palette to knock back some of the white areas on the petals. I wanted the flowers to be more subtle, with less contrast.

I spent oodles more hours working over my painting with colored pencil and watercolor touches. But then I noticed it wasn’t significantly improving anything. If I kept working, my painting might become overworked and less sparkly. Finally I stopped and said, “Enough is enough!”

Then I scanned my image, which became yet another opportunity to spend countless hours fixing small details. I had to rein that in also. My main objective was to remove any spots of dust.

For stock purposes, I went ahead and created two paintings of my “Camellias in bloom,” and they were just different croppings of my larger painting.

During the time I was working on this painting, there was another magical surprise in store for me amidst the flowers.

I was having a haircut on my patio and my lovely stylist noticed a tiny bird’s nest resting on a branch. If she hadn’t pointed it out to me, I would never have seen it.

The day after I took this photo, the tiny hummingbird flew away.

I took many photos of that nest and even created another painting layout. This time, the camellias took a back seat to the tiny bird. However, when it came time for me to move forward to paint it, I hesitated. I decided I just wasn’t excited about revisiting this same subject right away.

I might paint that hummingbird someday, or maybe not. With distance the answer will come to me.

I’m already working on two other new paintings that I am excited about. I plan to paint whatever subjects intrigue me. My creative instinct tells me to follow my joy.

I end my camellia post with close-ups of the final painting.

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#61 TAKING STOCK OF MY LIFE AND ART – PART 2

In order to make the concentric rings sharp, I used an exacto knife to score the paper.

Since I painted an onion, I felt compelled to do a tomato after that.

I continue to take stock of my life and my art. I began painting new images for fun last summer and tell that story with #57 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE – PART 1.

This is the first time in my career where I’ve been prolifically creating new art for my own purposes. Since last July, I’ve painted over fifty illustrations.

I’m also excited to share that DPI Magazine will be featuring my work for a second time. My post, #54 INTERVIEW WITH A FOOD ARTIST, will soon have a part two!

Recently, I moved 80% of my stock images from Getty to a partner company named iStock. This is advantageous, because now my work will be in two places. I’ll hope in time to see results.

My iStock images can be seen here: Judy Unger iStock

I have noticed that my recent paintings are “branching” into the fine art realm. I am enjoying garden and nature scenes, but the time involved with filling every inch of my painting doesn’t escape me.

Currently, I’m painting some camellias and am excited to share my painting in progress. I will probably finish it later this week.

I continue to paint new images for my stock library. A few of them I’ve already shared on prior posts. But since persimmons didn’t quite go with a post about apples, I have grouped them here. I will also indicate which images are digital combinations.

Now I’ll just let my images tell the story.

The advantage as an artist is that I am able to remove the brown blemished areas. This is my photo for reference.

I love the brilliance and translucence of that particular water drop resting on the highlight area.

These two berry paintings were originally for a job assignment. When the job was cancelled mid-stream, I went ahead and painted the illustrations anyway.

Having access to a tree with leaves and fruit was very helpful for me. I went ahead to put the autumn brown touches on the leaves, which added to the realism.

I love closeups, because they share the texture. The lighter spots were created by using liquid frisket masking fluid and a toothbrush, as well as a toothpick.

Believe it or not, I actually found myself eating pomegranates while illustrating them. The homegrown fruit was quite delicious!

It seemed strange to have blue reflections on these red seeds, but it added to the realism that way.

The decision to paint a shadow is sometimes a quandary for me. That is why I’ll create an alternate stock version without a shadow.

This was another digital version I created.

This texture required masking with liquid frisket.

This was another digital version I created by removing the yellow squash.

It has been interesting for me to create new medleys by combining many paintings.

I share another digital combination.

I surprised myself by doing another avocado illustration. I have my first one on Part 1 of this post.

The interplay of warm and cool was fascinating for me. The opaque highlight adds coolness.

A stock image, incorporating my new whole avocado with my prior cut half.

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