Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Alternative to Digitally Photographing Your Painting

As I have mentioned several times before, for years I have been photographing my paintings as they are completed. The goal is to have good documentation, particularly of sold paintings. Also, I need to have something to submit to shows, or maybe, reproduce as a print for sale.

At first I tried to photograph the paintings myself. Sometimes it went well. Other times the results were marginal. So soon I started to send them to a local photographer who specializes in photographing paintings.

Typically I asked him to produce half a dozen 35 mm slides from each painting. If I thought a specific painting was particularly good, in addition I would order a 3 x 5 inch transparency. The downside was a week or more delay in being able to show my newest paintings.

A few years ago, many shows began accepting digital images as well as slides. Even before then I needed digital images for submitting to online galleries, as well as for my own website.

At first, I started shooting the paintings myself with my digital camera, with the usual spotty results. But in most cases I was able to post process in my computer to improve the digital image. This was in addition to having the usual slides made.

Then my photographer began to offer shooting digital images with his 10 megapixel camera. My camera was only 5 megapixels. Plus I was still having my image quality troubles. Very soon I decided to give up having the 35 mm slides all together.

Over the years, I have accumulated a large library of 35 mm slides, and quite a few 3 x 5 transparancies. A year or so ago I invested in a quality scanner with high scan resolution to turn my slides and transparencies into great digital images. But scanning slides is a lot of work. So far I have scanned only a few slides of my older paintings.

With the recent rapid development and rea
dy availability of inexpensive high qality online print making services, such as, the need for me to have available very high resolution digital images of my paintings has increased. My photographer is able to scan my paintings with a very high resolution scanning camera, but only at a high price, as well as an extended waiting time while he doctors the scanning process and the finished image.

For paintings smaller than 8-1/2 x 14 inch I can scan them directly on my own scanner. I have done this successfully for several 8 x 10 portraits.

But there is a simple way to do the same thing for larger paintings.

For several years I have been using Adobe's Photoshop Elements computer program to adjust my digital images. This software has a Panorama feature which allows several digital images to be stitched together to creat a larger image. I have used this several times to join photographs taken with my digital camera. But until recently, the process was a little clumsy and the results were often not perfect.

The larger, much more expensive Adobe Photoshop program has the same feature, works in a different way, and produces much better results. Fortunately, recently Adobe upgraded Photoshop Elements to version 6 and includes what appears to be the same software for the Panorama process as in their more expensive Photoshop.

Having recently upgraded my Photoshop Elements, I have used this improved software to process on several of my larger paintings with great success. Here are two examples:

The first painting "Sharing Memories" 20 x 16 inches, required six scans. The second painting "Mariachi" 12 x 24 inches, required four scans. It is necessary to overlap each scan by at least 30 percent to get a good knit.

I set the scans at 400 dpi – quite enough for good print reproduction at more than full size. The resulting files are large 400 Kb. or larger. But on my 1.6 Ghz iMac with 2 Gbt of RAM the knitting together step only takes about five minuets. After the Panorama process has knitted the individual scan files into a composite image, it has to be cropped to get rid of the edges. This slightly reduces the archive file.

The resulting file forms the starting point for a "Collection" folder for each painting. As I generate smaller specialized files (for website images, or publicity purposes, etc.) they end up in this folder. The folder of all my collections (about 350 folders, each for an individual painting) is backed up automatically each night.

If you want to try it yourself and do not have the newest Photoshop Elements, you may download for 30 days free
the full Photoshop CS3, and tryout the same Panorama feature. I did this myself before buying the latest Photoshop Elements upgrade. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another Musician Painting

We were painting in an area near an old church, when suddenly a funeral procession came by. I was attending a painting workshop near the mountain colonial town of Patzcuaro in western Mexico.

The coffin, born by six burly men, apparently contained someone of some local stature. For the procession was large and accompanied by a band of some fourteen Mariachi musicians.

As the crowd started into the church, the musicians arranged themselves along the path beside the entrance, and played to the gathering morners.

Each player was probably a local shopkeeper or worker in the small town. Each had probably taken time off to honor the dead person.

I have always enjoyed developing paintings with a musical theme. This painting, named Mariachi, is loosely based upon several photographs I took years ago while at that workshop.

Another Portrait Finished

We were eating at the café at the Getty Villa Museum, Malibu California. There was a noisy crowd at a table across the patio.

I took a series of photographs of the group, because they were interesting and animated. Upon examining the images later, I liked particularly this woman's face.

The painting I developed is quite a bit different. Her coloring and clothing has been changed.

I named her Jan. But once again, I never knew her real name.

As you may see, I made a layout change here from my usual portraits. I placed the face to the right of the canvas, instead of in the center. She gives me a soft feeling with her glance, and I felt the space in this layout conveys that softness to the viewer.

She has this "tooth" smile. In real life the teeth were not quite aligned at the bottom. When submitting the nearly finished painting to my critique group, they felt the irregularity attracted too much attention. So I "filed" down her teeth and painted them neatly in a row.

Painting teeth are difficult. Getting just the right color is hard. Again, too white brings the viewer's eye to them too quickly. Too much of any other color may make the face dour.

One of my critique group is a retired dentist. His feedback has taught me a lot.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Visit to France March 2008

I have not been Blogging for a while, because we took a vacation trip to France. Our first leg was to fly to Paris for three nights.

While in Paris we were able to visit the Louvre, d'Orsay, and the Rodin Museums. Our visit to the Louvre was assisted by a lovely young personal guide, made available to just us through the generosity of our daughter and son-in law.

We spent over 4-1/2 hours in the Louvre with her exploring the Flemish and French painting collections. We were particularly lucky that she has specialized in this area of art history. She told us she was training
at the Louvre's own school to become a curator.

It was wonderful to see so many famous paintings "in-the-flesh" as it were. I was astonished by the Louvre's size. Also, of the great condition of the paintings and the care in their presentation. The galleries (which seem to go on for ever) are so bright and airy. It was a memorable visit.

Both the d'Orsay and the Rodin museums were very enjoyable. The d'Orsay is within a renovated railway terminal. But here I was surprised by the poor condition of so many of the well known impressionist paintings. Many I had seen as slides where apparently the colors had been enhanced. In the original the colors of the paintings were often dull.

The Rodin is an old house set in a sizable garden. Sculptures are scattered though the building and garden. It gives one a feeling of the productivity his workshop and school. My wife (who sculpts herself) was particularly enthralled. Unfortunately the garden was closed due to the bad weather.

The second part of our trip began by being bussed to Chalon-sur-Saone in central France (with a few hours stop and tour at Dijon) to meet a river boat – our home for the next week.

The plan was to cruise
down the Saone to join the Rhone river at Lyon and then on to Provence. On the way we would pass through the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions, finally stopping at Arles and then back-trackeing to Avignon.

Once on board the boat, we were given many side trips to places of interest along the way. One trouble that we soon uncovered was that the various local guides tended to offer a lot of discussion about the various Roman ruins and other "old" structures.

With both my wife and I growing up in Great Britain, ancient ruins are very common.
All around where we lived there were many examples of such remains, often a lot older than the Roman period. But of course, the many other American tourists travelling with us found them all of great interest. We solved the problem by wandering off from the crowd, and looking at what we found interesting - often the local scene and particularly the people.

But on these trips we saw several great museums. At Beaune we visited Hotel Dieu, a former hospice dating from the 15th. century. Apart from the building itself which is beautiful and well preserved, it contains some very nice paintings. The facility was set up centuries ago with vineyards, salt mines, and productive land that still today provides a considerable private endowment.

Lyon there were some interesting buildings with trompe l'oeil mural paintings of balconies, shop fronts, and people, both famous and unknown. Here, as in many towns across France, were numerous public art sculptures.

Arles is famous for the time spent there by painter Vincent Van Gogh. Apart from walking past (and photographing) some of the landmarks memorialized in his paintings, there is a small museum of the Vincent Van Gogh D'Arles Foundation. Here many contemporary artists such as: Arman, Bacon, Rotero, César, Combas, Debré, Fromaner, Rauschenberg, Lichstein, Saura, and many more, have provided paintings, sculpture, music, photography, and writings to express how Van Gogh has influenced their personal development as an artist. It is small, but very interesting.

Avignon there is the magnificent Papal Palace. This enormous building with its many rooms, is adorned with frescos, murals, sculptures, tapestries, and paintings, developed and collected over many years. The artwork is astounding and from many periods.

We left our boat at Avignon, and were bussed to Marseille airport, to catch a series of planes back to Los Angeles, and on to home. The westward journey was long – over 30 hours. It took us over a week to recover from the jet lag and to resume normal life.

The weather, starting in Paris, was terrible with rain, sleet, snow, and driving wind. Living for so long in Southern California, I and forgotten how cold it can get. But we had anticipated the bad weather and had all the right clothes. Inside the Museums we were well protected. By the time we reach the south of France, the weather improved with occasional periods of sunshine, and even warmth.

I took over 1,500 digital photographs, mostly of people, store fronts, window shutters, and narrow passage ways. People walking, sitting, battling the rain, and occasionally sitting outside cafes enjoying a glass of wine or a beer during a break in the weather. I have enough source material to last me over several years.

A wonderful productive trip.