LEARNING TO USE THE ARTSTUDIO APP

The CBC was running an on-line contest requiring entrants to produce ‘mash-ups’ (images that combined different pictures) that incorporated the logo commemorating the 75th anniversary of the CBC. This logo, consisting of a red, stylized, sphere (the CBC’s basic logo) plus a stylized ’75’, copied and pasted from the CBC contest webpage, is below. As you will see, the image provided on the webpage also incorporated two short captions under the ’75’, one in English and the other its French translation (or visa-versa, depending on your perspective)–although it wasn’t clear from the rules if the captions had to be included in the mash-ups.

The prize was something I could use, a printer that would work with my new iPad; but, more importantly, entering this contest would provide me with an incentive to figure out how to use the iPad app, ArtStudio, that I had just downloaded and that seemed to have so much potential. Also, it wasn’t difficult for me to come up with an initial basic theme for my submissions (one could enter as many times as one wanted), so I could get right to work, and have at least something ready by the deadline of September 25th, only about two weeks away.

With the stylized red sphere as one of the logo’s central components, I doubt very much that I was the only entrant who submitted pictures involving tomatoes. Looking at that tomato-red object, with all the sliced-up pieces radiating outward, like a display that could be the topping of a fancy salad, or part of a plate of crudités, one can’t help but think of tomatoes. Or maybe not. At any rate, my basic theme, at least for my initial submissions, was tomatoes.

My first effort that I felt was anywhere good enough to warrant submitting didn’t make a strong enough visual connection between the ‘tomatoishness’ of the CBC sphere and actual tomatoes. A part of the problem was that the picture of tomatoes upon which I superimposed the CBC ‘image’ (the whole works, including the original captions), was a picture of tomatoes growing in my garden, that were then, even in early September, still completely green. (My yellow tomatoes, from the low-lying rambler plants, were much further along; but a picture of bright yellow tomatoes just wouldn’t have fit.) I added some red to the green tomatoes using the spray-paint tool in ArtStudio, eventually getting a somewhat natural, ripening, if not yet entirely ripe, colouration for the tomatoes, and was proud enough of that little success to use the following image, with colour-enhanced tomatoes, as my first entry for the contest.

Still, the only way viewers of this image were likely to connect the red CBC sphere and the actual tomatoes, if they connected them at all, was conceptually–not visually. It wouldn’t have helped much if the tomatoes had been fully ripe.

My next submission incorporated the same background picture, but I used the colourize tool in ArtStudio to boost the red in the entire picture (tomatoes, leaves and even dirt). The result was weird, and perhaps even somewhat frightening; but there also was something captivating to me about all that ‘ripeness’, achieved instantaneously. In considering whether I would submit the image, I realized that, if I were to do so, new captions would be required. (Mutant bright red tomato plants wasn’t really something to be ‘celebrated’.) The overall impression the picture gave me of ‘ripeness’ was a notion that could be associated with the 75th anniversary of the CBC, since 75 is an age commonly regarded as “a ripe old age.” (In Canada, a young country, this seems to be true not only for human beings but also for our national institutions, like the CBC.) My new caption, in English, was “Ripe for the Picking” and, in French, “Mûr Pour Être Exploité.” (There was nothing in the rules of the contest about not changing the captions.)

Wanting to use a new caption for my second mash-up meant having to learn how to insert type in an image using ArtStudio. The basic insertion of type is very intuitive in ArtStudio, and I figured that out quite readily. (It was wonderful to have all those type faces from which to choose.) My problem was the French accents. I should have given the designers of ArtStudio, and the designers of the iPad in general, more credit for their awareness of the needs of users of languages other than English, and done more research at the outset. (Several weeks later, after I had purchased a blue-tooth keyboard and was doing quite a bit of typing that included some French words, again with accents, I did a Google search and learned that there is a very elegant solution for creating French accents with the iPad, that works across all the different apps–including ArtStudio–that doesn’t even require an external keyboard. This solution is based on the special functions of certain keys on the iPad’s ‘pop-up’ keyboard.) When I was creating my mash-ups, I did it the hard way, hand-drawing the accents with my stylus. It got a little easier when I figured out that, when using ArtStudio, one can enlarge the image upon which one is working to such an extent that any irregularities in hand-drawn accents, or whatever, seem less irregular when one returns the image to its normal size. But I never did get those accents entirely right.

Soon after I submitted that second entry, it struck me that I needed to use just ripe, red, tomatoes (no colourized dirt and so on), as the background picture of my mash-up. As proud as I was of my own crop, if I waited for those tomatoes to fully ripen–and even if they did eventually turn red and not some other colour–it would be too late. I made a special trip to a local fruit and vegetable store, carrying my iPad in my tote, just to take some pictures of red tomatoes, one of which I hoped I would be able to use as a background picture.

Luckily for me, one of the display boxes containing tomatoes, otherwise full of very suitable, ripe, red, locally-grown, tomatoes contained one anomalous, green, tomato. The idea of incorporating in my picture a tomato of a contrasting colour hadn’t even occurred to me until I saw that one green tomato, and realized, in a Eureka moment of insight, its graphic usefulness for the image. The CBC sphere could be superimposed over that green tomato and not be lost amongst all the red tomatoes. Also, having that one green tomato in the batch, contrasting with all the red tomatoes, reinforced the idea of the ripening process. I composed my photograph accordingly, with the green tomato where I figured the CBC sphere would fall. Fortunately, there were very few customers in the store that afternoon, and the tomatoes were far removed from the front counter where the clerk was stationed. The process of taking out my iPad and actually snapping the photograph took less than a minute.

My next submission for the contest consisted simply of the elements I’d used in the top layer of my last submission, superimposed on this new background picture–with those French accents in the French caption cleaned up a bit, using the enlargement trick. It was an improvement over the last submission, but there was yet one more step involved in creating an image, based on the tomato theme, with which I was satisfied.

I was getting comfortable with the type tool in ArtStudio, and decided to use it to give ‘labels’ to the tomatoes, reminiscent of the little white labels that are often on tomatoes one buys in stores. For these ‘labels’, I used just words, in English and French, in various type faces, indicating various offerings of the CBC–with the notable exception of any French offerings that included any accents. Even without French accents, it was quite a chore labelling all of those tomatoes, especially since I still didn’t have a keyboard to use with my iPad on which I could actually type. I did, however, quite like the result.

Besides liking the result, I liked having gone through the process of starting with a crude idea and going through various revisions, and even a Eureka moment, to produce something that gave me aesthetic and intellectual satisfaction. It wasn’t a wonderful image (the actual tomatoes lost too much of their original colour when I merged the two layers, and I still didn’t know how that could be fixed); but I was basically content.

The image seemed good enough to consider the possibility that I might win that printer so, after submitting my fourth entry, I read over the rules for the contest. I should have more carefully read the rules earlier because, as it turned out, the winner was to be selected based on a random draw and not based on the quality of submissions. I wasn’t terribly disappointed, though, because my mistaken belief that quality did matter in this contest pushed me to acquire some skill in using ArtStudio, and to carry that creative process to a satisfying conclusion.

Since there were still a few days left to submit entries for the contest and since, as I now realized, quantity counted more than quality if one wanted to win that printer, departing from the tomato theme, I quickly threw together a few more images.

One of these images, that I quite liked, I titled, “Mansbridge in the Moon.” It incorporated three basic elements; the CBC stylized sphere, the colour of which I adjusted so it would look more like a moon; a photograph of the downtown Vancouver skyline taken from a hill near where I live overlooking the downtown area; and a head shot of Peter Mansbridge, the anchor on the CBC national evening TV news show, copied and pasted from the CBC website. For this image, I completely abandoned the captions and the number 75.  Mansbridge isn’t that old–although, as my mother observed when I showed her this image, he is getting on.

Another image in this group that I found interesting, although not entirely satisfying, incorporated the same background photograph I used for “Mansbridge in the Moon,” but used a sunrise motif instead of a moon motif. This time, I kept the ’75’, at least my version of it, but again didn’t use any captions. Something I did like very much about this image, that I titled “CBC Sunrise in Vancouver,” was the colour, including the interplay of the three primary colours of magenta, yellow and blue, and the tomato-red borders around the magenta bits. (It just happened when I selected a merge option I hadn’t previously tried.) I could have taken this image further, but it was already the 24th of September, so I just submitted it as is, and left it at that.

It turns out I didn’t win the printer, but I did learn some of the basics of using ArtStudio–and started to feel some creative juices flowing in me that I hadn’t felt for some time.

 

THE CURIOUS CASE OF MY RED, RIPE, TOMATOES

In the latter part of September, around the time that I was working on my final entries for the CBC contest, I lost hope in the green tomatoes from the taller plants ever turning red (or any colour other than green) before we had an early cold snap and the tomatoes froze.  (This happened last year with the two little tomatoes that grew on the single tomato plant that Mum kept on the back deck last year.)  I plucked from the plants a couple of tomatoes that seemed to me to be the ripest (they were not only large but also were starting to develop translucent skin, even though that skin was still completely green) to see if sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen might bring out some red in them, just as sitting there for a few days had brought out the yellow in my first ripe rambler.

I was operating under the assumption that, because tomato plants growing in the garden need lots of sunshine, an extra-strong dose of sunshine–stronger at least than the plants growing in the garden generally received since, for most of the day, they were in the shadow of that cedar hedge–would hasten the ripening process of the tomatoes.  Also, the process had worked for that little yellow tomato.

Within a few days, these tomatoes did indeed start to look a little flushed and, within a week or so, they were bright red–almost as red as the tomatoes in the picture on the labels for my “Early Girls.”  After this method proved successful, I brought a few more green tomatoes indoors each couple of days, selecting tomatoes that seemed most ready for this final stage of ripening, that seemed impossible to achieve outdoors.  (I continued with this process through to late October.)

Strangely, according to what I subsequently read on the Internet about the ripening process of tomatoes, this should never have happened–or, should I say, probably should never have happened.  I was curious about why my not-so-early “Early Girls” had turned red much more readily off the vine than on the vine, so I did a Google search, which led me to general information about the ripening process of tomatoes.  According to various, seemingly reputable, sources, red tomatoes turn red (and yellow tomatoes turn yellow, and so on) not because of sunshine but, rather, because, as the final stage of their ripening process, tomatoes produce the gaseous substance, ethylene, that turns their skins red (or yellow, or whatever). Following–sort of–from this basic idea, the most commonly recommended method for hastening the ripening process is not to give tomatoes lots of light but, quite the contrary, to cover them up (some sources recommend putting them in brown paper bags) and then to leave them in the dark for a few days.  This is said to increase the production of ethylene which, in turn, turns the skins of the tomatoes the colours they were intended to be at the ripe stage.  (Oddly, some sources even recommend stuffing a banana in a brown paper bag along with the tomatoes, since bananas apparently produce a great deal of ethylene.)

So why did my green “Early Girls” turn bright red sitting on the windowsill for a few days in, at least during the daytime, bright sunlight?  The yellow tomato was already somewhat yellow before I put it on the windowsill, and perhaps just needed a little ‘aging’, that could just as easily have happened on the vine, but the “Early Girls” were still completely green when I brought them indoors. 

Maybe the answer–or at least part of the answer–is that the tomatoes were placed between the windowpane and curtains, which together created a relatively enclosed space.  During the day, those curtains were just net curtains–although relatively densely-woven net curtains. But, at night, heavy drapes were drawn over the net curtains, creating an even more closed-off shroud, in which ethylene may have reached a relatively high concentration, bringing out the colour of the tomatoes.  

But what about all the light that those tomatoes on the windowsill received during the day?  I wonder now if, despite the advice provided by many Internet sources that plucked green tomatoes should be left in the dark to complete their ripening process, this advice is wrong.  While it may be true that, once tomatoes have been removed from the plants, extra light isn’t going to hasten their ripening process, placing them in darkness also may not hasten their ripening process, unless that darkness is associated with an enclosed space (as, for example, inside a brown paper bag).  Leaving them out in the sunshine may actually work just as well, as long as they are in the sunshine but also in an enclosed space–as they would be between curtains and a windowpane, facing out towards the sun. 

And I still suspect that sunshine may actually help, at least to some degree.  There seems to be an experiment here for someone who is scientifically inclined.  Or can someone out there already provide me with evidence that I’m wrong?

And no, I did not use ArtStudio on the above two pictures–one taken from the windowpane side and the other taken from the curtain side.

 

A KEYBOARD FOR MY IPAD

On September 27th, I purchased a bluetooth keyboard to use with my iPad, and started to turn my attention to learning how to use Pages, the wordprocessing app for the iPad that I had installed earlier but still hadn’t used much.

I started to write about my experiences over the past few months growing tomatoes, initially thinking I would spend just a couple of days on the project, while I was figuring out Pages.

Although most of my iPad time was now spent writing, I didn’t stop taking photographs of my tomatoes, and creating images using ArtStudio, that incorporated my photographs of tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

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