D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

Collage, without the mess.

For decades, Photoshop has been this persistent little icon on my desktop – first a cracked version from my college days, now a “paid” subscription – that gets used every so often. I know just enough to be dangerous with it, most of my photo editing typically happens in Lightroom when I need the touchups.

There are some pictures that will never be touched up. They will always be some degree of messy – overexposed, out of focus, or just bad timing – and they would get relegated to the slush pile. Lately, I’ve backtracked through those files to see what I can make of them.

an abstract image of a woman wearing a dark top in a pool
Janessa in the pool

I’m terrible at keeping up with my archives. I can’t tell you how many hard drives have been lost over the years from corruption, destruction, or just swapping formats before we had the tools to swap formats (oh, how silly I was to wander into the walled iGarden!).

In recent years I managed to “mature” and pay for expanded cloud backups and double down on my hard drive backups. I still find it baffling that a single person can create a *terabyte’s* worth of data every year or so – and I still don’t think I create all that much!

I spend a ton of time over at Archive.org, flipping through the endless uploads from all corners of the world and all decades of known media. This, with the open licenses that come with sites like Unsplash, I have ton of stuff to work with. Frankly, I’m sure my wife appreciates that I don’t keep a mess of magazines around to persistently clip from and scan through.

Say what you will about digital collage – it’s far more tidy than the cut-and-pasting of paper.

To say the least, Photoshop has been getting a little more use. I liked my cracked version better – it was far less punishing on my computer processors. After switching from Premier Pro to Davinci Resolve, I am on the hunt to find a license-free Photoshop replacement.

Call me old-fashioned, but maybe tools shouldn’t have persistent licensing.

I’ve been using the HP printer I bought in the days when I was regularly needing full-color printouts to run trivia nights. The thing prints fine and has a great scanner (which I use far more often than I do the printer), but HP still has me on their monthly per-page printing plan which feels like all kinds of scamming.

The collage has been a practice in noticing. Texture is key, and texture is everywhere if you pay attention. Old brick walls, odd wood patterns in tables, and – my favorite – graffiti-laden dive bar bathrooms. When a collage is approaching “done” I export it as a high res image and import it into a digital drawing app. On my tablet I’m starting to get comfortable working in blends and brushes, scratching, and all manner of other things to extend the uniqueness of the print.

Drawing is still “out there” for me – even six months in I am still getting comfortable with the tools. Then again, we’re always getting comfortable with the tools we’re given.