Janet and Tom Frost moved to SaddleBrooke in early 2019, excited to begin exploring all the community and surrounding areas had to offer. Janet, a former operating room nurse and hospital manager and travel blogger, was excited to begin exploring other activities and pastimes. She had always worked with fabric and yarn, quilting and knitting, but was cautious about doing too much hand work because she was suffering from carpal tunnel symptoms from overuse. Also, her former quilting group in Minnesota had moved on to art quilts, and Frost didn’t think she was up to that level of creativity.
She engaged with local photography enthusiasts here in Arizona and took a number of classes to improve her photography skills. She also took some photo editing classes to learn more about working with digital images. Along the way, she came across digital art and was immediately captivated.
“Before we moved here, I was mostly taking documentary photos to support my travel blog—landscapes, sights, and scenes of places I was writing about. After we got settled in, the pandemic hit, travel wasn’t much of an option, and the environment was so different from the Midwest,” she explained. “I was taking pictures of birds, animals, and mountains, but I couldn’t match the work of the excellent photographers in our community.”
“In learning about all the things you could do in Photoshop, I came across digital art, which is basically creating art from photographic elements,” Frost said. “That was it for me. I could take pieces of beautiful photos and weave them together to create something new and uniquely mine.”
This discovery made Frost start thinking about what is art. “Is art simply mastering the techniques and specific skill set used for a specific medium?” she asked. “That seems to me to be a technician or craftsperson. These are valuable skills, but are they art?” she queried.
To Frost, art involves the use and honing of those technical skills—something she’s working on—but it also involves making aesthetic decisions and choosing the elements that will be involved in a work. “That’s what defines art for me,” she explained, adding, “I got pretty good at quilting but was never able to come up with an idea for an original piece that didn’t follow a pattern created by someone else. With digital art, I’m able to start with an idea and layer in the various elements that make up the finished work.”
“For instance, we went to the Desert Museum to see the raptor show. I got some amazing shots of the Harris hawks hunting. This was my starting point. I added in a background and some saguaros from shots taken on the Sweetwater Trail,” she explained. “Then I played around with various filters to get the right feel of the piece. Finally, I had to decide on how the finished image should be printed—what kind of paper, etc. Those are all artistic decisions that result in creating art,” she summed up.
Frost has carried this approach over to yarn, where she’s now experimenting with weaving, creating tapestries. She’s also exploring using software to create brushstrokes that result in a digital painting that started with a photographic image.
“I’m not sure I’m an artist today, but I am on a journey,” she said.
For more information about the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild, its classes, and other activities, visit the website at saddlebrookefinearts.org, where Frost also serves as guild webmaster.