A Conversation with Artist Paula Ogier
Nov 14, 2016
Paula Ogier refers to herself a digital mixed media artist. She “paints” over her own digital photographs to create her colorful cityscapes.
Can you explain what digital mixed media means to you?
I think of it as combining a digital medium—in my case, digital paint—with other digital and non-digital mediums. My main tool is a Wacom pen and tablet, which allows me to draw or paint in Photoshop. That’s what I call digital painting. Other mediums I combine with this digital pen/paint process are digital photography and digital finger-painting. Some handmade mediums I might bring into the mix are rubber stamp carving and inking, pen or pencil drawings, or cut paper collages.
You describe yourself as a self-taught artist. Can you talk more about that?
I consider myself self-taught at Photoshop. I did take a short class in it once over a decade ago and didn’t really get it. I wasn’t looking to manipulate or edit photos, anyway, so I found the class boring. What I liked to do was experiment artistically with the paint functions, mostly without photos at that time. My art evolved through many years of experimentation and play. I couldn’t even guess how many hours I’ve spent simply playing with it.
I had a couple of artist friends who occasionally dabbled with Photoshop, so a few times I suggested, “Let’s get together with our laptops. I’ll show you some things I know how to do, and you can show me some things you know.” I’m much better at absorbing things in that kind of environment than in a classroom setting. It was a relaxed way to discover new possibilities and what purpose some of the tools could serve. Just learning one or two new little tools could set me off on another few years of experimentation!
Was there a point where you made a big jump in your skills?
Back in 2008, I was talking with a photographer about Photoshop. When I admitted I didn’t know how to use layers, he was startled. I will never forget him saying, “If you’re not using layers, you’re not using Photoshop!” A little embarrassed and confused, I shuffled off to slowly take a stab at using layers. Initially, it was baffling. Now it’s not unusual for my art images to have as many as 30 layers in them. It’s hard for me to imagine how I worked without them, although it’s certainly a lot more challenging keeping track of 20 or 30 different layers within a single piece of art.
When you’re starting a new city scene piece, do you have a plan for how it will look when it’s completed?
Yes and no. I often have an idea about things I want to try achieving with an image. The first big decision I make is whether I want to paint it translucently or opaquely, because that determines whether the original photograph will be part of the image. If it’s going to be painted translucently, then I’m committing to the elements in the photographed scene. If it’s going to be opaque, I’ll eventually be taking the photograph away and embellishing the scene to suit my imagination.
I often also have some sense of the color palette when I begin, but I always want to stay open to discovering something even better than what I’m imagining. This is a key part of my process. With everything from color to elements to mood, I have a loose plan but I like to experiment along the way. I’m okay with altering my plan, or even tossing it out the window, if something marvelous presents itself. I guess you could say I let the art speak to me as it’s being created.