Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009 Painter Workshops: Florida

I'm pleased to announce that I'll be teaching my Dip a Paintbrush into your Photographs Painter X workshop at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre in 2009. Here is a description of the Palm Beach Photographic Centre:

The mastery of digital imaging concepts and technology is essential for anyone working within the photographic arts today. With the explosive growth of digital photography, photographers have a critical need to become proficient in digital imaging. Foreseeing the need for training in digital imaging technology, the Palm Beach Photographic Centre began digital imaging workshops 14 years ago with Photoshop™ 2.0 – the first photographic workshop program to do so. Our workshops are taught by world-renowned artists as well as industry professionals. Software taught includes Adobe Photoshop®, Adobe Premier® and Corel Painter™.

Digital workshops are limited to ten participants, each having access to their own high-performance Macintosh‚ and PC Windows-based imaging workstation. Participants may specify their preference when registering for a workshop.

Dip a Paintbrush into your Photographs workshop Description:

The focus of this workshop is learning how to transform your photographs into painted artworks. One of the common mistakes made in beginning expressive interpretation is the failure to convincingly replace the vocabulary of photography with that of painting. We will initially focus on these vocabularies and gain an understanding of their differences. We’ll look at the preparation of photographs for interpretation using Adobe Photoshop, then investigate Painter’s expressive brushes as applied to photographic source imagery. You will work on your own images, transforming them into personal expressive artworks. Be prepared for an exciting and inspiring week with John as you immerse yourself in a creative odyssey of expressive exploration!

This is a 5-day immersive workshop and is being offered on two dates: Feb 9-13, 2009 and Oct 19-23, 2009. Pricing is $975.00 for Members and $1045.00 for Non-Members. Full travel, lodging, and registration information is available via the workshop webpage.

See you there!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

But Is It "Art"?

“I recently attempted to enter some of my inkjet-printed Corel Painter work in a local art show. The prints were declined by the judges because they didn’t feel that they fit into any of the competition’s media categories.”

I hear stories like this all the time from digital artists. Despite the fact that computer-mediated art has been evolving for over three decades, many traditionalists have trouble embracing the medium of digital art. This scenario is not new. The medium of photography took a similar path in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well.

The early technology of photography (heavy equipment, slow film speed, lenses) served to create imagery that reflected the soft-focus “pictorialism” found in painting of that era, when photography had yet to find its own voice. By the end of World War I in 1918, camera equipment had become more portable, enabling photographers to shoot a wider range of imagery. Advances in film technology facilitated greater experimentation in the darkroom. This evolution provided photography with its own vocabulary and hastened its acceptance as a valid art form.

Digital imagery has followed a similar trajectory. In the 1970’s, computer technology was just beginning to embrace imaging. Output was crude by today’s standards—images were composed of ASCII type with large, visible pixels and limited color. Today we have archival output on traditional fine art media, pen tablets capable of capturing the full gestural expression of the artist’s hand, and advanced applications like Corel® Painter™ and Adobe® Photoshop®. And so the question remains: “Is it art yet?”

The definition of art is a slippery slope. There are dozens of blanket expressions covering the subject: “Art is in the eye of the beholder,” or “I know it when I see it,” and so on. This is how I define it: art is human expression that communicates the originator’s emotion or feeling to others, prompting the receiver to experience the same emotion or feeling.

I don’t claim that this definition is exclusive or all-encompassing. It is simply the criteria that works for me in both creating imagery, as well as experiencing it. My goal is to communicate an emotion or deep feeling to others. By this criteria, art expresses the human condition between the sender and receiver.

This communication can take place via an extremely wide range of media: paint, word, dance, stone, cave paintings, and the list goes on and on. The problem with a new media format like digital art is that it doesn’t easily fit into the public’s preconceived notions of art. The result is the aforementioned rejection of a digital print in an art competition.

There will always be those in a position of power that utilize their personal art measuring sticks to dictate public taste. As artists, we must follow our own creative muse and express that which is vital to ourselves. The audience may be large or small, but is it art?


John Derry
Somewhere in Nebraska

Excerpted from the Winter 2008 edition of Corel's e-zine, The Painter Canvas.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Portrait Enhancement

Some of you may know that I write a column in Rangefinder Publishing's AfterCapture Magazine. The AfterCapture website generously converts articles from the print version and makes them accessible for anyone.

I recently did a two-part article on enhancing portraits. The first installment, Portrait Enhancement, Part 1, details my workflow for cleaning up an image in Photoshop.

The second installment, Portrait Enhancement, Part 2 utilizes the cleaned up image and I go through the process of using Painter to create a watercolor-style result.

AfterCapture is available as a free subscription. You just need to fill out a qualification form to receive it in the mail. Alternatively, you can regularly visit the website to keep up with current issues.

Friday, October 24, 2008

100 Days

I've been "off the air" for some time acting as my wife Pam's primary caregiver while she's been recovering from a bone marrow transplant at the Lied Transplant Center/University of Nebraska Medical Center on July 12th. The 100 days following the bone marrow transplant have been closely monitored by the doctors as Pam's donated marrow grows and replaces the previously destroyed (by chemotherapy) marrow.

These 100 days following a transplant can be a perilous period as the patient is temporarily functioning without an immune system. A variety of immunosuppressive drugs are used to protect the patient, as well as a temporary lifestyle that avoids large crowds, prepared fresh foods, exposure to live plants—in other words, a hermit's existence. Pam has undergone twice-weekly blood tests to monitor her progress.

A potential danger in the wake of a bone marrow transplant is GVHD (Graft VS. Host Disease). The donor's bone marrow (the "graft") can potentially see the patient (the "host") as an unrecognized foreign invader. When this happens, the patient can suffer a variety of disorders affecting the skin, digestive system, and liver. During the first 100 days post-transplant, these effects are referred to as Acute GVHD. Beyond the 100 day period, they are referred to as Chronic GVHD.

I'm happy to report that Pam's 100 day exam revealed no GVHD. In fact, her recovery has gone very well. An interesting side effect of the transplant is that Pam's blood type has changed from type O to type AB. This is because the donor is type AB and the new marrow continues to produce this blood type. Pam's donor was a male. Consequentially, Pam's blood DNA now tests as male! As I like to say in my best Austin Powers voice, "She's a man, baby!".

In many ways, the 100 day mark feels like the closing of a chapter. Our lives are slowly beginning to return to normal. Pam is looking forward to returning to work. I'm anxious to focus on teaching once again. We'll have to live with the shadow of leukemia going forward—there is always the chance that it may return. However, there are many leukemia survivors out there. The photo of Pam was taken at the Cancer Survivor's Park here in Omaha.

We truly appreciate all of the positive messages that we've received during this period. It really makes a difference knowing that folks are thinking of Pam and have her in their prayers. Thanks to all who have purchased the Equinox print (It's still available!). The proceeds are helping to soften the blow of the medical costs associated with the transplant.

I'd like to especially thank Jinny Brown and Karen Bonaker for their efforts to set up and manage a contribution page, Gift of Life - a Tribute to Pam and John Derry. I had no idea Jinny and Karen had initiated this effort until I noticed that I was repeatedly getting PayPal Equinox print payments from Karen. Why would she buy multiple prints? A little googling provided the answer. Jinny and Karen: Thank you so much!

Hopefully, this will be the last time that I'll have to write about leukemia and bone marrow transplants. I intend to now return my focus to Painter, Photoshop, pixels, and all of the usual suspects.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Equinox Print Offered for Purchase

Many of you may know that my wife, Pam, had a reoccurrence of leukemia earlier this year. Needless to say, this event radically changed our lives. We relocated to Omaha, NE in order to be close to the Lied Transplant Center ant the Nebraska Medical Center. The Lied is a world-class transplant facility. Last month, Pam received an Matched Unrelated Donor (MUD) bone marrow transplant. So far, she is out of the hospital (although still under close supervision of the transplant specialists) and doing very well. The next phase is watching for any signs of rejection by the donor bone marrow. We are optimistic that this will all be a memory at some point.

The financial toll of the transplant has been pretty devastating for us. As a result, I am offering signed prints of Equinox for purchase to help pay for the costs associated with Pam's transplant.

Here is the story of behind the image:

Equinox represents a life-changing event in the Derry family’s lives. On March 20, 2006 —the first day of Spring, or vernal equinox— my wife, Pam, was diagosed with leukemia (AML). On that day, it was raining outside. The rainwater ran down our window, obscuring a grove of trees. This scene represented for me the emotions of that day. I felt compelled to record the moment and Equinox was born. Equinox has since been accepted into the prestigious Loan Collection of the 116th International Exhibition of Professional Photography and is being featured in Professional Photographer magazine.

Equinox is being offered both unframed and framed and is hand signed by the artist. If you are interested in purchasing a print, please visit the Equinox Print Page.

Thanks to everyone for the many messages, prayers, and good wishes during this time. We really appreciate it!


Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Gift of Life

On July 12th at 2:30 CST, my wife, Pam, was blessed with one of life's miracles: a bone marrow transplant. It is a miracle on several levels.

The bone marrow came from an anonymous donor. Someone we don't even know or have any idea of where he lives was willing to go through the painful process of a bone marrow donation in order to provide Pam with the distinct possibility of regaining a normal life. Thankfully, there are millions of such individuals around the world that have signed up as potential bone marrow donors. When someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia, blood testing is done to find a potential match in the bone marrow registry. This ultimately leads to the patient receiving a donor's marrow. Without it, she would die.

Donor bone marrow is processed to remove everything but blood stem cells. Blood stem cells have the ability to develop into all of the various crucial components of healthy blood: red cells—the carrier of oxygen, white cells—the infection fighters, and platelets—blood's natural coagulation agent. These stem cells are delivered as a simple transfusion and find their way to the patient's bones, where they replace the diseased marrow that has been destroyed by chemotherapy and/or radiation. The photo shows the stem cells making their way to Pam's blood.

These stem cells then set up shop and effectively replace the patient's former immune system. In the process, they kill any residual blood cancer found in the patient. The patient will even take on the blood type of the donor. All of this occurs under a blanket of drug mediated immunosuppression designed to prevent any of the patient's residual immune system from attacking the donor's replacement immune system. Because the patient has no immune system until the new one takes hold, she is temporarily at risk for opportunistic infections. Great care is taken to minimize introduction of infection by isolating the patient during this period.

Once the new immune system matures, the patient recovers and resumes life. There can be residual effects associated with a bone marrow transplant. Pam will always be more susceptible to infection. She will have to avoid overexposure to the sun. But the specter of leukemia will largely be removed. While Pam's journey is still ongoing, a major hurdle has been overcome. In a year, Pam will have the opportunity to communicate with her donor. Until then, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your donation.

You can take part in the gift of life by becoming a bone marrow donor. By being in the registry, you join a pool of over 11 million individuals worldwide that stand ready to give someone a future. You can find out more at the website of the National Marrow Donor Program. If you are not located in the U.S., you can find other countries' marrow donor registries here.

Miracles never cease.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Painter X Essential Training with John Derry

I'm pleased to announce the availability of my new lynda.com Painter X Training title. Here is the promotional blurb from lynda:

Painter X Essential Training with John Derry

"Expressive brushes." This is instructor John Derry's two-word answer as to why Painter is such an effective tool. When used with a Wacom tablet, Painter can elevate digital mark-making to a form of creative self-expression. Combining the aesthetics of traditional media with the freedom to experiment, Painter X Essential Training not only delves into each tool, palette, material, and brush, it also speaks to the artistic concepts of simplicity, stroke, proportion, and perspective. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:

Understanding and customizing a Wacom table

Creating brushes

Painting with compositional aids

Working with layers

Cloning and using effects

Using Painter and Photoshop effectively

This is the first of multiple Painter titles I'll be doing in conjunction with lynda.com.

On the "Life Happens" front—Pam is now in remission after 2 rounds of chemo and is scheduled for her bone marrow transplant in June. We are currently in the process of moving to Omaha. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Life Happens

John Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens when your busy making other plans". That sentiment recently hit my family right between the eyes. My wife, Pam, found out during a regular doctor visit that she had come out of remission from leukemia she was diagnosed with 2 years ago. We were just getting used to living somewhat normally again and even planning on a two-year anniversary trip to celebrate her remission. Instead, we are now in the midst of preparing for a bone marrow transplant. Life happens.

We all experience sudden jolts and direction changes in life-they come with the territory. These unexpected events become a part of the fabric of our lives and can become the source of inner expression and creative growth. I didn't ask for this situation, but I accept it as another pattern in my life's quilt.

We have in each of us a unique pattern of experiences. This quilt, if you will, is the source of our individual expressive voice. Whether intended or not, this unique expression appears in our creative efforts. It is especially apparent when you look at work you did in another period of your life. Sometimes, you'll look at the work and think, "That came out of me?". Other times, the piece will cause you to spontaneously recall your state of mind and emotional situation at the time.

In both cases, it is that unique quilt of experience that is expressing itself through the work. You may have subconsciously intertwined it into the expressive power of the art, or you may have intentionally responded to an emotional event and utilized it in your creative expression. So what does this have to do with Corel Painter, anyway?

Painter is an instrument of expression. We each have our own life quilt to inspire us and draw creative power from. There is nothing more human than expressing our uniqueness through artistic media. In doing so, we share our human condition with the world. It is a cathartic means of dealing with otherwise untenable situations we find ourselves in. Furthermore-and this is the point of this column's subject-it enriches those who observe and absorb our expressive message.

You can certainly use Painter's expressive capabilities to simply create visually interesting eye candy-or you can use it to sing in your own expressive voice based upon the unique pattern of your life quilt. Both approaches will have their audience, but which one do you suppose will resonate and touch others over time?

The next time you sit down with Painter and pick up your stylus, make a choice.

Life Happens.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why I've Been AWOL

I haven't posted here recently and I feel I owe an explanation. Unfortunately, it is an explanation I wish I didn't have to use.

My wife, Pam, was diagnosed with leukemia (AML) two years ago. She went through chemotherapy and quickly went into remission. We recently found out that she has relapsed. We are now in the process of preparing for a bone marrow transplant. We will be temporarily relocating from Overland Park, KS to Omaha, NE. Pam will be receiving her transplant at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Over the past 2 years, I've necessarily had to learn more about hematology and AML than I ever wanted to know. A bone marrow transplant—actually, a peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT} these days—is a pretty amazing process. Bone marrow is the "factory" that generates our red and white cells, as well as platelets. Red cells are responsible for supplying oxygen. White cells fight infection, and platelets coagulate blood to prevent bleeding. This triumvirate is our immune system. A PBSCT effectively replaces the donor's malfunctioning immune system with a new replacement.

The most perfectly matched transplant is between siblings. In Pam's case, this is not an option (Her only sister was tested and was not a match—there is only a 25% chance that they would match). The alternative is an matched unrelated donor (MUD) transplant. Through genetic testing, several markers (HLA) can be identified that both the donor and patient share in common. Currently, a "10 out of 10" match is considered optimal. We were fortunate to learn that there are currently two of this level of potential donors for Pam (The donor base is administered by the National Bone Marrow Program).

A bone marrow transplant is not without potential complications. Following the transplant, the patient has no immune system and is at risk for a variety of infections. Post-transplant care has improved over the years and a variety of immuno-suppressive drugs are available to fight and counteract infection. A bone marrow transplant is the only form of transplant procedure in which the donor immune system can potentially view the patient as a foreign entity. As a result, Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) is a potential long-term complication. A small amount of GVHD is desirable—any residual leukemic cells are veiwed by the donor immune system as foreign and are eradicated. Severe GVHD can be life-threatening or even fatal. Again, a variety of immuno-suppressive drugs have been developed to counteract GVHD. Chronic GVHD can impact long-term patient quality of life by impacting various organs, skin, etc.

This is a photo I took of Pam and I for our 25th anniversary. I shot it just a few days before we found out Pam had relapsed. We drove up from Overland Park to Omaha today. Pam enters the Med Center tomorrow to begin the process of induction chemotherapy to destroy her leukemic marrow in preparation for the transplant. When we left, we realized that a chapter of our lives was ending and a new one beginning. We don't know what the future holds for us, but we are both positive thinkers and believe that we will come through this to eventually arrive at a "new normal".

Life Happens.