Prints that Win: Kung POW Chicken!

Tracye Gibson Sunset Print Award

For the second year in a row, Tracye Gibson, M. Photog., won a Sunset Print Award for her artistic flair and masterful use of Photoshop and Corel Painter.

Last year’s winner, Little Miss Muffet, combined Gibson’s portrait photography with digital paint. This time around Gibson had an idea featuring fighting roosters, but didn’t have any roosters nearby to photograph.

“For the Master Artist competition category at the Southwest PPA you don’t have to take the photo yourself; you just need to show how you put the elements together,” explains Gibson. “I usually shoot my own photography for that category, but I don’t have any roosters in my backyard here in Fort Worth. I know I’m from Texas, but… I’ve been obsessed with roosters and chickens lately because I like trying to figure out how to paint all the different feather textures.”

Gibson bought stock rooster illustrations (the four images at the bottom of the panel) as the basis for the image she had in mind and went to work with Photoshop and Painter.

“I composited different parts of the roosters together and positioned them in Photoshop. Then I took it into Corel Painter and painted in multiple layers. I like to add colors with pencil on the print, but I didn’t have time for that,” says Gibson. “For the background I went in and grabbed some colors from the roosters, drew some oval squiggles and overlaid them over each other. I took that into Photoshop and put a motion filter on it – zoom, I think – so that it gives it that center pow look. I did some cloning with different brushes, did a lot of dodging and burning, and always take it into Photoshop and apply other filters and layers as well.”

Gibson framed the final print with two layers of plain white mat. Though Gibson says she normally uses Sunset inkjet paper for her competition prints, she used Hahnemuhle Torchon for this image because she thought the texture of the paper complemented the image. Gibson floated the mats a bit, added a bevel to the outer mat and colored the bevel with a burnt-orange pencil.

“Presentation is very important, especially in the Master Artist category, because they want to see the before images, and sometimes it’s hard to get them on there without being distracting,” says Gibson. “I laid the before images on top of the top mat, backed everything up, photographed it, and sent the file in digitally just in time for the deadline.”

Prints that Win: Little Miss Muffet

Using Corel Painter for portrait photographySome of the greatest photography is accidental, or at least not pre-planned and posed. Such was the case with Little Miss Muffet, which won a LexJet Sunset Award, Best in Show and Best Portrait of a Child at the recent American Photographic Artists Guild (APAG) competition.

For Little Miss Muffet, it was less accidental and more what the winning photographer, Tracye Gibson, calls a “grab shot.”

“My camera was on a stand and my Pocket Wizard was in my hand. I was adjusting lighting while she was playing around and making silly faces. I knew the lighting wasn’t perfect and neither was the focus, but since I usually paint my images in Corel Painter anyway, I just kept snapping away while I was adjusting everything,” recalls Gibson. “When a good friend, who knows my style of work, saw the raw images, she said, ‘You have got to paint that as Little Miss Muffet!’ Sure enough, she was right.”

For the competition, the image was printed with her Epson Stylus Pro 7800 on LexJet Sunset Photo Gloss Paper 300g, laminated with a gloss laminate and applied to a foam board. Gibson says Sunset Photo Gloss shows up better in competition lighting and the blacks, color and contrast pop more.

Award winning competition photography“The style I use is more of an oil-painting look so it doesn’t work as well on matte or art papers. I plan to experiment with canvas at competition, because they’re going to allow that now and I’ll use a gloss coating in that case,” says Gibson. “I print a lot of my painted photography on canvas and hand-embellish it with acrylic, which is a lot of fun.”

Gibson says that the ability to print her own work helps alleviate any unwanted surprises.

When she first printed Little Miss Muffet she noticed that the shadow behind the spider had a lot banding because she used a Gaussian blur and lowered the opacity, which will sometimes cause unwanted banding.

“I couldn’t see it on the monitor, but once I printed it I saw it and I was so glad I print my own work. If I had sent it out, they probably wouldn’t have noticed it. The judges would be sure to notice it, however,” she says. “In competition I like to use an actual a print; a lot of people are now submitting their entries digitally and I think that’s a loss for the industry. Number one, you don’t want to sell digital files to a client, plus I feel like I have more control with a printed image, because you don’t know what kind of viewing conditions a digital file will be under.”

Little Miss Muffet obviously caught the judges’ eyes and any flaws that could have deducted points were caught by Gibson in the print proofing stage. And, like many award-winning photos, Little Miss Muffet tells a story.

“When I first painted the spider, for instance, it was too scary. I wanted it to look more like a storybook so I ended up painting a smiley face on it; the spider was still scary, but it gave it more an illustrative storybook feel to it,” explains Gibson. “Plus, my favorite images of kids are those where they’re not smiling big, cheeky smile. In Little Miss Muffet, she has a shocked look on her face, so it’s not the typical portrait.”