Recap of 1st Arboretum event

RITG-AIR live 1
Karen Hochman Brown (r), Artist-In-Residence @LA Arboretum

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of sharing my art-making process at The Gallery at the Arboretum Library, (Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden). I started at 11:00 in the morning by setting up my computer station. I am using a MacBook Pro with an external monitor. This enables me to mirror my screen and be able to talk face-to-face with people; they can see what I am doing without standing behind me.

Peacock Art with foundlings
Pumped-up Peacock with components. Click the image to see enlargement.

The next step was to take photographs to use for base images. I found some lovely bird of paradise and some gorgeous cacti. But I honed in on a peacock strutting his stuff. Many peacocks live at the Arboretum in Arcadia, CA, and in fact, peacocks are the official “city bird.”

Once I decided on the image, I began creating layers of kaleidoscopic reflections. The program I use for this is ArtMatic Designer. It gives me some very powerful tools to change the shape of the mirrors. In a normal session, I will render out at least a dozen layers to select from. Click on the image of Pumped-Up Peacock for an enlarged version to see the layers and base images that were used to make the artwork.

For the remainder of the work I use Photoshop. The layers are cut apart, stacked and shaded until I decide the piece is done. This is the first time that I have created an entire artwork outside of my studio at home. I wasn’t sure I could do it considering the time constraints. I did it! I was able to finish the piece in five hours.

Next Artitist-In-Residence event:
April 16, from 11:00 am – 4:30 pm.

The gallery show continues through June 30, 2016.
Check the Arboretum website for hours.


Arboretum Artist-in-Residence

The Forecast Is Fern

My kaleidoscopic artworks are still on display at the Gallery at The Los Angeles County Arboretum. The show, Reflections In The Garden runs through the end of June, and is housed in the Arboretum’s newly renovated Library.

I’m happy to announce that I will be demonstrating my creation process on four separate occasions, onsite at the gallery. I’m taking my camera and computer and will create a new piece, from start to finish over a five hour period. In each session, I will begin by taking photographs around the Arboretum grounds. I will select an image to work with and then make several layers of the image, reflected in many ways. I will continue with my process until I (hopefully) finish an artwork. Come watch me work.

Join me at the Arboretum!

To get to the Gallery at The Los Angeles County Arboretum, go to the main entrance and the Library is immediately to the left, through the double doors. Admission or membership are required to tour the grounds, however it is not required to visit the Library.

301 North Baldwin Avenue • Arcadia, CA  91007

11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Valentine gift

Base "doodle"
Base “doodle”

I have been trying to turn my artworks into coloring book pages. I think the kaleidoscopic mandalas that I create lend themselves to this. However, with so much texture in my artworks, I have been unable to translate them into stark black and white. So I have been working with line doodles that I created in Adobe Illustrator and spinning them into fanciful creations that are suitable for coloring. My plan is to make enough of them to create a book, or at least an ebook.

Valentine Coloring Page
Click on image to download full size

For Valentines Day, I am presenting a page that you can download for free! Print at home and color with your favorite crayons, colored pencils or markers. Feel free to distribute this page to your friends. Have fun.

Happy Valentines Day!

My process

Artwork Bird OParadise
Bird Paradise base image
Artmatic demo BOP
Artmatic graphic synthesizer

Every one of my kaleidoscopic artworks starts with a photograph. I’m going to use as an example the piece Bird OParadise. As you might have guessed, the subject is the bird of paradise flower. The sturdy purple and orange blossom shows up against a muted green background. They come together for a natural display of secondary colors. Pay special attention to the blue-violet flower petal speckled in dewdrops emerging from the structural flower’s beak-like sheath or spathe.

I import the base image into a graphic synthesizer program (ArtMatic) for manipulation. The photograph is filtered through a variety of mathematical transformations—stretched, bent and reflected through fractals, polar space and fun-house mirrors. Interesting results are saved as key-frames that can be rendered into large-scale graphic files.

Twelve foundlings for Bird OParadise

The key-framing process allows an image to be animated over time (videos) however, for this series, I only capture the still frames, instructing the software to render the kaleidoscopic reflections. I call the resulting images “foundlings.” I collect the foundlings and tuck them away in a folder, preparing for a digital collage.

Masked foundling

After creating several foundlings, I examine them in large scale—sorting, selecting and sometimes creating more, as the artwork requires. I prepare the selected foundlings in Adobe Photoshop using a technique called masking (think of a digital X-acto with a lot more control). I  gather the masked foundling into layers and manipulate the light and shadow to enhance the illusion of depth in the finished artwork.


Where did it all begin? Part 2 – My first piece in the series

I was working on Judaic Art but had hit a roadblock. I wanted to have my designs custom printed on silk to make into prayer shawls (tallit). The results were beautiful, but the cost was too high to make them profitable. I was frustrated and needed another artistic outlet.

In January of 2011, I attended an inspirational seminar, Matrix Energetics. And while I did not become a practitioner like my brother, it did lead me to begin my series of photography-based kaleidoscopic artwork. When I got home, I created the first piece, Magnolia Pod-me Hum. The base image is a magnolia pod from a tree in my garden. It was placed there by my landscape designer as his gift to me and as a reminder of his business, Mother Magnolia.

Base image for Magnolia Pod-me Hum

I was looking though the various experimentations I had done with U&I Software’s Artmatic, a modular graphics synthesizer that I enjoyed fiddling with. I found an example I made from a piece of beach rock marked with holes. It was a simple reflection without any further manipulation. But it gave me the spark to play around with the idea of incorporating photographs into the six-pointed stars I had been creating in Artmatic and manipulating in Photoshop.

Holey Beach Rock
Holey Beach Rock

An idea was born. I used the Artmatic parameter tree (see blog post, Where did it all begin? Part 1) from Holey Beach Rock as my starter point. I made many variations on the theme with the photograph of my magnolia pod as the source. I took the resulting renders and imported them into Photoshop to be masked, shaded and layered. I decided the result needed a little something extra so I put in little versions of the magnolia pod and some dots. I can’t remember why I decided to try dots, but they seemed to work and added an extra something. The result was Magnolia Pod-me Hum–the first of what would become a series in excess of eighty pieces and still growing.

In the beginning, I set myself up with some rules, kind of like an assignment. I alway said that I work best under assignment. This time it didn’t come from the outside. My pieces would be made from a single photograph. They would be six-sided symmetry. They would have dots. I made eleven pieces like that until I created Rose Frills In Four which is titled such because I used a four-sided symmetry. Then with twelve pieces in the series, I made my second calendar.

Next time, I’ll talk about the process a bit.




Where did it all begin? Part 1 – The Software

Many people ask me how I started this series of kaleidoscopic artworks. There is no short answer, but I’ll try to address it here. As to my background, you can read about it in my About Page. But briefly, I love kaleidoscopes, geometry and unusual plant forms. My background in graphic design got me well versed in image based software. For example, I was using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator from their inception.

My curiosity led me to some pretty amazing programs that modify images by applying advanced mathematics to alter their original structure or to generate images from scratch. These programs go way beyond fractals. The ones I rely on most are Synthetik Studio Artist and U&I Software’s Artmatic Designer, with the latter being the one mainly used in my kaleidoscopes. I have another, completely different body of work that was created using Studio Artist, but I not going to talk about that at this time.

When I purchased Artmatic in 1999, I spent a lot of time working with fractals. The program has a randomize button that is useful when learning the software. There are hundreds of parameters (tiles) that can be strung together in different structures, or trees. There is no limit on the number of tiles that can be placed in the tree. Each tile has one to four sliders that can be adjusted. So using the random button and pre-designed trees are good jumping-off points.

Magen David – Jewel Tones

It wasn’t until 2005 that I came across the small corner of the program that worked with center-based mirrors. I was working with Judaic themes at the time and I experimented a lot with six-pointed symmetry to relate to the Magen David star that has been adopted as a symbol of the faith. These artworks were created entirely inside the computer. I wasn’t yet using photographs for the source. In 2010, I had enough of these images that I decided to put together my first calendar. This means that in six years, I had created only 12 pieces like this, or enough for me to consider them a series.

It was in early 2011 that I began using my photographs to create the stars. I had already been using Photoshop to alter what Artmatic generated–cutting up several images, layering and weaving them together to make new artworks. As an example, the piece shown here, Magen David – Jewel Tones, is made from four variations of the same Artmatic tree, each with different surface decoration. When I discovered what using photographs did for my art, I ran forward with the idea and never looked back.

At the moment, my series of photographic based, kaleidoscopic artwork numbers in excess of eighty. Next, I’ll discuss the very first one.

Reflections In The Garden at the LA County Arboretum

I am very happy to announce that I am to be the inaugural artist of the newly renovated Library at the Arboretum. The interior space has been designed with the intent to show local artists whose work complements its surrounding botanical collection. I am installing my kaleidoscopic artwork in early January with the show running through the end of June.
Reflections In The Garden notice

Digital Painting on Aluminum

I use “Digital Painting on Aluminum” to loosely describe my artworks. They are not strictly paintings and I certainly don’t paint them on aluminum. I manipulate images using sophisticated computer software to the point where the image is no longer literal. I feel my pieces fall outside the bounds of traditional photography. I use the image as “paint” that I squeeze and tease through fantastical mirrors. Composition and shading are essential elements—and are completely within my control.

My pieces are created on a computer and must be printed for you to be able to hang them on your wall. But when I print out my work on paper, even on super glossy paper, I lose the vibrancy that I see on my computer monitor. I choose to print my work on aluminum because it offers the closest thing I have seen to the back-lit glow of a screen. The results are a vivid print, almost glowing with color. Details are crisp and there is a depth in the surface that accentuates the modeling I do with my artwork.

I do not create aluminum prints myself; I must have them printed through a service. The process involves coating a sheet of ridged aluminum with a special ground. Then, my image is printed and embedded in this base coating. They are lightweight and easy to hang. As a bonus, the print doesn’t require a frame or glass, instead, mounting hardware allows the image to “float” above the wall.