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Software unleashes Armstrong’s art

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff
In the World But Not of the World is one of many of Alison armstrongs creations.
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Alison Armstrong receives her ideas from stories. Stories she creates in her head from looking at an image. Art for the Heber artist means telling that story.

I see a face or an image and it makes a story or I play with it for my amusement. It’s all about storytelling," Armstrong said. "I don’t do anything that doesn’t have people. If there isn’t a human story in my piece, it doesn’t feel like mine.

"That’s what I relate to in other people’s artwork," she continued. "If there’s a piece without a human element, it feels lonely to me."

Armstrong has recently been named as one of 10 artists to watch by Salt Lake Magazine. Her work can be found at Two Sisters Gallery in Heber. She was at this year’s Park City Arts Festival and she had a show at the Kimball Art Center in 2003. Currently she’s a member of the Park City Professional Art Association.

As the eye passes over her work, one has a hard time deciding what type of medium it is based on. The uniqueness of her style baffles the untrained eye, and the creativity is captivating.

One wouldn’t guess Photoshop was her tool.

"When I discovered Photoshop, the lights went off and angels were singing," Armstrong said. "This is what I needed to get these images out of my mind."

Armstrong said it was a relief to finally have some vehicle whereby she could express herself that to her is gratification.

"I really feel like I had these images but didn’t really find a way to produce them until Photoshop," Armstrong said. "It’s really absorbing. It’s the most fun sort of play that I can think of to do. It’s relaxing and challenging at the same time. There are still things that surprise me; it’s an incredible piece of software."

Soon she mastered the software and the images flooded her monitor. She started scanning old family photos and the stories seemed to speak from the faces.

She combines photos, text and other objects she thinks will add to the piece then, when she is finished, she prints it out on canvas. Some of her newer pieces combine digital and physical objects. She also will mix paint using an encaustic technique. "It uses pigmented wax, it’s a real ancient technique using found objects," Armstrong said.

At times, stories would transform in her mind after she placed the images on screen. She feels as if the characters on screen are in a sense acting as a team with her in making the piece.

"In the course of creating the piece, the elements will change the story on me. It’s a collaboration process, either it’s God or me or the character," Armstrong said.

Whatever it is, it works. Armstrong says her art is "not everybody’s cup of tea," but some are impressed.

In 2004 she was shocked by an award. The Museum of Computer Art in New York had an international competition.

"There were people from 35 different countries invited," Armstrong said.

They chose 3 pieces for awards and Armstrong won the Grand Prize. She however, didn’t expect to receive an award and wasn’t in town to personally receive it.

"It was a thrill," Armstrong said. "It was the top of the show."

The creativity, which she showcases on canvas, is what captures many viewers.

"People will come and just stand there and say, ‘Wow, she has quite an imagination,’" said her husband Tom Taylor.

She once again credits the software for her ability to let her creative side show.

"There’s something really interesting about Photoshop that allows me to do some things I can’t do any other way, there’s no other way, it’s really, truly a unique process," Armstrong said.

Armstrong likens it to playing with paper dolls. She credits her sense of humor to placing objects and people in odd positions and places they wouldn’t normally be in.

At times, she has a hard time convincing some critics that what she brings to the table is art.

"They don’t believe its art because they think it’s: ‘push a button, make art,’" Armstrong said. "I’ve worked really hard because there’s a lot of Photoshop out there. It’s hard to get it realistic."

Armstrong says the hours she’s spent mastering the software are comparable to an artist spending time practicing with a paintbrush. She also puts in effort, using texture and different surfaces to make sure her work does not resemble a fake computerized image.

"It’s simply a tool she uses as an artist, it’s how you use that as a tool," Taylor said. "Some people can do things with a paintbrush that others can’t. Some people like Alison can do things with Photoshop that others can’t."

Armstrong’s work can currently be seen at Two Sisters Gallery in Heber, located at 650 West and 100 South and at http://www.alisonarmstrongart.com . For more information on the gallery call 654-6250.


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