Blending Artsy and Abstract | A Scrapper’s Style Interview with Chris Asbury

Hello, Chris, and welcome to Simply Tiffany Studios! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi, my name is Chris Asbury, aka casbury in digi-world. I’m from Northern California and live in Livermore (California’s ‘other’ Wine Country), with my husband, son and two dogs. Since my son graduated from college just a few weeks ago, my husband and I will soon be official empty nesters with just two aging dogs to keep us company. We also have two married daughters living in SoCal and two adorable granddaughters.

How did you get started in digital scrapbooking?

I began scrapbooking in 2005 out of a need to organize my ever growing stash of photographs and memorabilia and to make some sense of order. I also believe that if you save something just to store it away it has no purpose. Why not see it, use it or share it? I was only familiar with paper scrapping at the time and became instantly obsessed with all things scrapbooking. I amassed a colorful array of supplies that would be left behind in two years when I discovered digital scrapping.In 2007, filled with an exciting sense of challenge and a large amount of uncertainty, I purchased PSE3. I was soon addicted to this new way of scrapping and the cool tools of digi-world. I am a member of Anna Aspnes’ Creative Team and am continually inspired by Anna’s Art and the creative work of my fellow team members. 

PinkStreet

Everyday Storyteller offers simple ideas for the practice of memory keeping. Why is digital scrapbooking your choice for memory keeping?

I was first attracted to digital scrapping as a new art form with its cool tools and variety of creative options available to the artist. And I soon learned that I loved the lack of mess with supplies and could incorporate this method into my memory keeping without the clutter of supplies involved with traditional scrapping. As much as I love the feel of paper and textures, traditional scrapping didn’t fit into my new lifestyle in search of simplicity.

What three words would you use to characterize your current style? How does each word define your style?

Color, Layer, Blend. These three elements form a recipe for the basis of my pages (if I could add a fourth word it would be light).

1. Color. I find most of my inspiration in the use of color to create mood, affect emotion and add punch to a page. I strive for a more painted look to my pages and use painterly brushes to add color. I also like to balance white space for contrast and a more minimalist feel which I’m finding myself more drawn to recently.

2. Layer. I layer for design flow, cohesiveness and interest and prefer the artsy elements of designers such as Anna Aspnes rather than realistic elements. My layers may include brushes, transfers, photos and elements, all of which can be manipulated to fit my design. Some of my pages contain so many layers that it’s easy to get lost in them. I carefully name each layer which is a big help. But, as we’ve all discovered, you have to know when to call it done.

3. Blend. My favorite PSE tools are the blending modes and this makes me a very slow scrapper. I will generally experiment by running a layer through all the blending modes, excited to see the results as the layer blends with the patterns and colors of the layer below. The process is easy. Simply select the layer you want to blend and press the ‘shift’ and ‘+’ keys (mac). What makes me a slow scrapper is deciding what blending mode best conveys the mood or message I’m trying to convey.

Wanderlust

You say you’re a slow scrapper. How long would you say it takes you to complete a page, on average?

There are so many wonderful options available in digital scrapbooking, and I love to experiment as often as I can. You never know when you’ll run across one of those happy accidents that make up one of your favorite pages. My average page can take up to three or four hours to complete…with a few breaks in between to give my eyes a rest. I also work on some pages sporadically over a matter of days, depending on how inspired I am or how easily the page is coming together.

Do you have a unique calling card or a technique that you apply to your pages every single time?

Since I could only choose three words in the question above, I’ll add the fourth, Light, as my calling card. I love the addition of light to a page and find that I actually rely on it. It can enhance color, add dimension, alter mood and increase interest. Glows and sparkles blended into page elements can alter a page dramatically to create softly blended images or high contrast results. Color burn and overlay modes are two of my go-to blending modes for Anna Aspnes’ FotoGlows.

SunsetOverSFBay

Has your style evolved over time?

Over the past few years I have made a conscious effort to simplify my life and find that trend extends into my scrapbooking style, as well.

A few years ago I was creating more traditional pages such as the “Alderbrook Resort” page below. I would love to recreate this page with an abstract feel and compare the two.

AlderbrookResort

While it does reflect my love of color and blending, my current style is less traditional, which is more conducive to the work I have been experimenting with lately: high contrast and abstract design.

I began working with these styles when I was introduced to smart phone apps. You can see most of these examples on my Instagram pages. I also use my Instagram pictures on my scrapbook pages by saving them to my camera roll’s photo stream. If you don’t have photo stream option you can email one of your Instagram photos to yourself and save it to your computer’s photo files.

Speaking of smart phone apps, the photos on your layouts were taken from an iPhone, yes? Did you rely heavily on another type of camera, like a DSLR, before switching?

Lately I have been using my iPhone for most photos. It’s easier and quicker and fits right into my need to simplify. I have a Canon Rebel DSLR and Canon PowerShot that I may still put to use for the zoom or higher resolution. But since I process a majority of my photos in a painterly style using photo apps, the iPhone’s resolution works just fine for me.

What are your favorite apps for smartphone photo-editing?

Just as I once collected scrapbooking supplies, I now collect phone apps! Those I use frequently are layer based and work much like PS/PSE with similar tools and most importantly all the blending modes. A few of the layer based apps I prefer are Filterstorm, Laminar (iPad only) and Art Studio. Effect based apps include Blur FX (adds soft blur to your photos), Decim 8 (abstract app), Glaze (adds paint strokes), Pic Grunger, Pixlromatic+ and Blender.

When I process with phone apps I usually use more than one app. Think of it as an extension of layering. For example, when I’m happy with my photo’s processing in Filterstorm, I save the image to my camera roll and open it in another app such as Blur to give it a soft focus. I can then save that image, open it in Laminar or Art Studio and add a FotoGlow or any other layered element, adjusting blending modes, color curves and contrast as needed.

I hate to admit it, but I don’t own a smart phone. You have just about talked me it buying one with all the fun photo editing apps available!

HonfleurHarbor

Do you ever attempt to step outside of your style comfort zone?

I admit that I usually work in my comfort zone, but like most things in life, change is good for the soul and helps to keep the creative process fresh. I would love to be able to scrap with a more free style and less structure. At times, I try to incorporate this style into my own work, but it’s still a work in progress.

I also try to scrap with multiple photos, but I’m never usually comfortable with the results. Templates are a big help, though, and I’m not closed to the possibility of continuing to work on this style.

What types of digital kits are you drawn to as a result of your style?

My go-to digital designer is Anna Aspnes. Her style is artsy and fluid and her kits include beautifully designed papers and wonderfully blended photo masks and transfers. Her products are easily adapted to the user’s style and can be manipulated to fit your specific page design.

When I’m looking for a vintage feel to my page I go to Paula Kesselring for some fun retro elements and very cool stuff. She also has some great grungy alphas.

Who inspires you as a page designer?

This is a tough one. I don’t think I can choose just one person, because I am continually inspired by all the members of Anna’s Creative Team as well as the talented scrappers who post to the Oscraps gallery. I tend to gravitate towards the minimalist artsy scrappers, studying their style and picking up ideas that I might be able to incorporate into my own work.

To whom or where do you look for inspiration outside of scrapbooking?

There is a wealth of inspiration all around. Advertising, such as Anthropologie, is an excellent source for artsy photos. When shopping, especially in a Target Store, look on the end caps and you might be surprised to find some cool ideas and fabulous color! Pier One and Cost Plus stores are also great sources for artfully arranged products to stimulate your imagination and color sense. Your local nursery is also full of eye candy and more so during the Spring and Summer months. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready!

Care to share your all-time favorite page and why you love it?

The “Sun Over Cape Town” page below defines the style I’m pursuing towards abstract art. I belong to an Instagram group called @applifam. We receive daily photos (copyright free) to edit in any way we choose and then post to the challenge board. It’s an excellent opportunity to practice photo app skills and receive comments from other Instagrammers. I also use many of these photos on my digital scrapbooking pages. Here is a tutorial I wrote for Sun over Cape Town, explaining the process in PS/PSE for people that may not have photo apps. In the tutorial you can see that the results vary just a bit between the edit created with photo apps and the edit created with PS/PSE.

SunOverCapeTown

You’ve already shared some great tips for digital scrapbooking. Is there anything else you would like to share with scrapbookers who want to design pages similar to your own?

For a more abstract look, practice photo processing in high contrast by adjusting color curves, brightness/hues, saturation. The curves tool is invaluable. With a lot of practice you will soon learn how to control the curves rather than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Multiple blending with multiple layers is also a favorite step of mine. Don’t be afraid to layer and blend…and layer and blend, adjusting modes and opacities along the way.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Chris and sharing your beautiful and unique style and process with our readers. It has been a real pleasure!

To see more of Chris’s work, check out her gallery, Instagram and blog.