Wrapping Feelings in Works of Art with Photoshop on the iPad
Visual artist Karen Cantu uses Photoshop on the iPad to translate feelings into photographs.
Almost a decade ago, Karen Cantu was in medical school. She was studying nonstop, working hard, and sleeping very little, but she was happy. Then, she got sick. So sick that she had to drop out.
“While I was in med school, I really felt like I had a plan and that my life was going somewhere,” Karen says. “So, when everything crashed, I was depressed, and I didn’t know what to do.”
Karen’s father bought her a camera. He hoped it would give her a hobby and help cheer her up. “I found out that I was terrible at taking photos, but his intention was good,” Karen says.
One day, a monarch butterfly was flying around her house, and Karen was desperate to get the butterfly in the frame with her golden retriever, Lilly. The task proved nearly impossible and left her discouraged. But then she remembered Adobe Photoshop.
“I used to do small projects for my mom, correcting contrast or light, but I had never fully created a photo. So, I thought, ‘Maybe I can use the program to add some butterflies.’” Karen says. She spent the next five hours trying to put a butterfly into a photo with Lilly.
It took a lot longer than expected to create the image, but for the first time in months Karen wasn’t thinking about her challenges. “All I could think was, ‘I love this! I love being so into something that it takes up my entire mind,’” Karen says. “And it sounds cliche, but creating saved me. It pulled me from my depression and it gave me a purpose again.”
Editing photos and creating new visual artwork became Karen’s daily therapy. She dove into Photoshop headfirst, teaching herself the program and discovering her individual style.
When the pre-release of Photoshop on iPad was made available, Karen took full advantage. With every beta version, she has found more ways to incorporate new features into her workflow. Here’s a glimpse of Karen’s work and some of her favorite features.
Making inspiration convenient
Karen loves throwing all her energy, thoughts, and feelings into a project. She describes it as “wrapping feelings in works of art.” As an animal lover, two huge outlets for those feelings and sources of inspiration for Karen are wildlife and the outdoors. But that means inspiration typically strikes when she is far from her computer.
“For me, having Photoshop on my iPad has been an amazing experience,” Karen says. “No matter where I am, I can still have the power of my desktop with me to create.”
Working with animals in the desktop version of Photoshop meant Karen relied heavily on brushes. Now, with the ability to use a digital pencil on Photoshop on iPad, Karen has a new level of control.
For example, when editing the fur in a tiger’s mane, Karen can draw each piece of hair. She can change the pressure of the pencil to control thickness and form as if she were hand drawing the image.
“Being able to stop wherever I am and create minute details like every single hair feels like I can put so much more love into my artwork. I feel like I am truly creating every single piece of the picture, and that’s crucial for me,” Karen says.
This emotional connection comes across strongly in Karen’s finished work. In a recent piece, she describes feeling overwhelmed and emotionally crowded by many different responsibilities. The resulting photograph showed beta fish surrounded by flowers trying to navigate their way.
Visual artists like Karen understand that editing such rich images comes with some unique challenges. One of the biggest hurdles for a mobile photo editing app is layers.
“It’s amazing to see how Photoshop on the iPad can handle all my layers so well. I can see each of my layers and do tasks like masking just like I can do on my desktop, and I think some tasks are even easier on my iPad now because I can use my pencil,” Karen says.
Discovering new avenues with new tools
With the convenience of being able to take the power of Photoshop with her wherever she goes, Karen says she often finds herself using it more than the desktop version. But when she needs to switch from one screen to the other, the transition is seamless with cloud-based file storage through Adobe Creative Cloud.
“Photoshop allowed me to discover a new part of myself,” Karen said. “I began creating out of nowhere, and people liked what I did. With new tools like Photoshop on the iPad, I can keep creating in new ways, and I hope that my art can continue to inspire people in the future.”