Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Books and Tuesday Activities

I received these books from Amazon this morning.

Imaginative Realism by James Gurney

I saw a recommendation on Nicole Caulfield’s blog and since I'm pretty interested in how other artists can create detailed and realistic portraits of fantastic subjects, I ordered it right away.

And Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

This book captured my attention immediately because I am such a fan of Norman Rockwell, but even more so because it documents his use of photographs to capture the exact poses and content he wanted in his paintings. It’s another look at the behind the scenes procedures that help an artist create his masterpieces, very informative for a would-be realistic artist.

I decided that today I would concentrate on my artwork instead of trying to multi-task and do other stuff around the house. I spent about 5 hours on the Circle piece.

I’m pretty happy with my progress. Looking at it you wouldn’t think that much has changed. Mostly because I spent about half the time removing strokes of white color that I thoughtlessly laid down early in the process. I had originally wanted to depict rays of sun streaming down from the heavens on the right side of the portrait. This is all good and well, except that I went about it the wrong way, laying down lines heavily with a white pencil to indicate the rays. I’ve come to realized that laying down any strokes heavily is not a good idea in preliminary layers. I think the idea is to build up colors with successive light layers and then if need be finish off by applying the last layers with the heaviest pressure.

Of course as soon as I decided that I didn’t like the rays, I then discovered I couldn’t cover them up. They showed up right through other layers of color. This morning was spent removing as much as I could of the ground-in color with a sticky eraser. Originally I tried removing the color with a stiff brush and with a very fine needle, which did work somewhat, but would have taken a long, long time.

Fortunately I realized that using an extra sticky kneaded type eraser I was able to lift most of the color out of the paper. Hallelujah!

Here you can see a before and after removing the rays comparison, plus the cloud work I’ve done since the last progress shot. The colors are over saturated and they don't match from photo to photo, but it gives an idea of the difference.



I then spent some time carefully evening out the color again in the sky. It still needs a lot of work but it looks much better now and I feel like the roadblock has been removed. I’ll continue to work on the background now hopefully moving more quickly so I can start working on the figures again soon too.

I’m learning a lot working on this piece which was the intention. I wanted to gain some experience working on a sanded surface. But now I need to move ahead to my next planned piece which is an even larger size sheet of uart 800, 24 x 36 inches. I have plans to enter this one in next year’s CPSA main competition. The deadline for entries is in February so if I hope to make it I better make a start soon. I’m not sure at all how long a piece this large will take me to complete.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sam and Dean Portrait

I got back to work on this portrait today. It was kind of hard to remember which colors I had been using for Sam's face, but I think I found the correct ones. Now I'm trying to be more organized in keeping track of which colors and pencils I use for different pieces. I've been jotting down the pencil brand and color in a little notebook as I go. Surely this will be helpful since I have more than one portrait project going at the same time.

Before starting back on this one I decided to make a change I've been thinking about. Namely Dean's shirt, I never did like the shirt in the reference photo. It was too detailed. I wanted a plainer look, so I had my husband pose for a few reference pictures for me in one of his dark shirts. With this in hand I was able to sketch in a new look for the shirt and have it on hand later to render the shirt realistically.

The paper is a 20x28 inch sheet of Fisher 400. This is the first time I've worked on a real sanded paper surface with colored pencils and it has been a different enough experience to put me off for a while. But now that I'm back with a fresh eye and renewed enthusiasm, I think I will ultimately end up loving this paper. My problem I think has always been my timidity in laying down color. I tend to get too focused in small areas. With a work surface this size and this texture you have to step back and lay color down in bolder strokes than I'm normally used to.

This is what I mostly worked on, Sam's face.

With more color on the paper, I was able to get better results using a brush to smooth the colors together. I'll have to really try to remember to be bolder in applying my colors.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Catch up Post for Circle (formerly known as Together)

I originally called this Sam and Dean portrait "Follow Me", then I decided it should be called "Together". Now I've been thinking of it as "Circle". I know, I guess I shouldn't name a piece until I finish it.

This post is about the work I did on it back in June, but since I have just started working on it again, I thought I should do a catch-up post before writing about the new stuff.

I had been working on the guys faces all the while knowing I should be doing more work on the background. But I was worried about doing the left background area and had been avoiding it. There is supposed to be a smoking mountain top back there and I don't have a good reference for this. I did start trying to block in some billowy smoke rising up and combining with the clouds and it set my mind at ease a bit.

I did a lot more on the background after I got past the artist's block with the smoky mountain. There's a lot of work to be done yet, but I think I'm headed in the right direction.

Even while working on the background, I kept jumping back to work Sam's face and hair and to Dean's face too. I just couldn't keep away. Once I had put some base color on Sam's face, it made thnk that Dean's skin tone looked too red, so I had to tone it down. I'm still working on trying to get both their faces to the same basic skin tone and intensity of color.

I varied a few details from the original sketch. I thought it would be nice to have the boy's hair being ruffled by the wind. I decided this after I had already done a lot of work on Dean's hair so I had to do some careful erasing. Even though his hair is really short, now it looks like it's being blown around a bit. For Sam, I sketched in some flyaway strands and fluffed it up a bit. Hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew by straying from my reference photos!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More on the Mom Portrait

I've been working on Mom's portrait this last week, though it's been slow going. I had been working mostly on the face layering in more color and also filling in more color in the rest of the hair. But at some point I started to become dissatisfied with the likeness. Even though the drawing looked like my Mom, it didn't seem to me that it captured the look of freshness and youth so evident in the photo.

I thought that maybe something was off with the eyes and so I started working very closely on them, making small adjustments, tweaking a line here, extending a shadow there, trying to match exactly what I saw in the reference image. It turns out I had to change more that just the eyes. The next series of progress pictures shows the process I followed to get the portrait back on the right track.

Picking up from my last post, I added color to all the rest of her hair. I also filled in part of the collar with a dark color to get a better feel for the way her face will be framed.

This step is where I really concentrated on getting more layers of color on her face, especially on the lower portion. There had been too much of the background peeking through in the right side jaw area. It was easy to forget to cover this area more because the dark background color already had it looking as shadowed as it was supposed to look. Still I wanted to have more control of the shadowing and a smoother look to the skin, so I covered it up completely with my own midtones.

I also felt that I had left too much background showing through the eyebrows. With very sharp pencils I carefully filled in all the nooks and crannies of the surface with a light skin tone, so much so that the previously drawn eyebrows were almost lost. Not a problems since later I just drew them back in over a much more evenly skin toned background.

On the hair I brushed the color again, distributing and diffusing the highlights and shadows once more.

Here I added some highlights and midtones back in after having obscured them somewhat with the previous layers of color. Every so often I would pick up my brush to lightly blend the colors on the face. This is especially helpful in dialing the colors back when they get too stark or intense. At this step you can tell that the highlights are looking a little harsh and need to be smoothed over a bit.

Between the last step and this one is where I did a lot tweaking on the face. The changes are subtle but I think they make all the difference between an acceptable portrait and one that really jumps out at you as the person you want to portray.

I made the most changes to the left side eye, bringing the inner corner further in and straightening out the line of the lid a bit over it. I made the iris a bit larger and brought the eyebrow down a tad.

On the right eye I widened the iris a bit too and straightened out the downward tilt of the inner corner. I also lowered this eyebrow just a little.

Moving down, I slimmed down the width of the nose and refined the lines of the tip to reduce it just slightly. I widened the mouth on both sides and lifted the line of the top lip slightly. I also realized that the bottom lip needed filling out on the left side.

I think the most important change of all was that I redefined the cheek and chin line on the left side of her face. Right above the apple of the cheek I brought the line in a bit while underneath it I curved the cheek out more to give the face a more rounded youthful look.

The last change finally made the face look right to me and I went back to work on the hair.

There is still work to be done on both the face and hair, but its mostly finishing and polishing, maybe adding a bit more color. But now finally I'll be able to go to work on the clothes and background. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here on. [famous last words :-)]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm Back!

I'm finally back and ready to get on with my art. I have a few excuses for not updating the blog. Mostly it's because I've been neglecting my artwork big time. Real life just seems to impose its demands at the most inconvenient times.

Let's see, a few things have happened since I wrote here last, first, work got crazy. They started switching me around on odd shifts. Third shift was the worst, it messes with your body rhythms, so even when you are home and awake, you don't feel like doing a thing. I also hosted my sister's wedding reception in my back yard, went on an Alaskan cruise and then last but not least, I got my pink slip at work. Yeah I got the axe along with about a hundred other folks at the satellite factory. Or you could say that I was caught up in the RIF (reduction in force), in the downsizing,or how about, in the involuntary attrition. My personal favorite euphemism to date is, real-time market-responsive human resource shaping. Uhmm....yeah, so anyway, all this kind of explains why my mind has not been on art lately.

So what now? Well now, I have more time for art!

I started working on the Mom picture again. It felt great to pick up my pencils again. I have a series of new scans with a few small updates and you will notice that the color is a bit different from the previous scans. That's because I bought a new scanner!

I'm very pleased with my new Epson Perfection V300 Photo Color Scanner. For the very reasonable price of $90, it does a great job of no-hassle picture scanning. I think it does a better job than our older more expensive Epson 4490 Photo Scanner. I bought it with the intention of scanning all my old family photos and I was looking for an inexpensive, reliable scanner. True to the reviews, the V300 has some great built in color correction software that make restoring great color to your old photos a snap.

Now since I have my very own scanner sitting next to my own computer, it comes in very handy to make quick scans of my artwork. I was happily surprised to see that these scans were actually truer in color than the previous artwork scan, an unexpected bonus, considering that I don't need the color restoration feature for scanning artwork.

Here are the updates:

I did some work on the teeth and lips and then decided to continue on with the hair. Since dark hair will surround the face, it's probably a good idea to put this in next to judge how much darker or lighter the skin tone should get.
Here is a closer look at the work I did on the hair. I decided to adapt a technique I've seen used for drawing hair in digital paintings.

The idea is to place your lines of lights and shadow colors and then blur them. You repeat the process time and time again, building up to your last layer which retains the sharpest lines, highlights and shadows.

I lay down color, generally trying to place the areas of light and dark masses as dictated by my reference photo.Once I had some color down I used my small bristle brush to spread the color around. This intensifies the color and softens it at the same time, mostly removing the evidence of individual pencil strokes. With careful brushing you can retain your areas of light and dark, spreading the edges to where you want and making a good backdrop for more layers of color.

Here is what it looks like after a few iterations of this process.
On this step I've added strokes of color again on top of the previous layers. It's not done yet, but I imagine that the last layer will retain some stroke marks made with very sharp pencils. Hopefully, as with digital painting, this will enhance the illusion of depth. Sharper lines of color, even drawing of individual strands of hair, light and dark sitting on top of layers of indistinct masses of hair of varying detail. We shall see how this comes out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mom Artwork

I started another new project. It makes me happy to have a lot of different pieces going at the same time. This one is something I tried before, a colored pencil rendition of a small photograph of my mom when she was about 22 years old. It must have been taken right around the time she got married to my dad.

I started with my contour line drawing directly from my image as usual.

And here is my progress so far. My support is an 11 x 14 Pastelbord panel. The color is sand.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sam in Shadows - Catch Up Post for Yet Another WIP

I began this project way back in February, before I had finished my Dean colored pencil portrait. I had been working only on the Dean portrait for many months and even though I was pretty close to finishing it, I needed a break. Sam in Shadows was the result of that desire to work on something different.

I was thinking that it would be nice to try something on plain old Canson Mi-Tientes paper and so started looking through my Sam reference photos for something to spark my imagination. I found a great close up shot of his face, very dark and moody and thought it would be great to try it on a darker toned paper. I lined up some other reference shots and came up with digital collage of body parts and Sam's face that allowed me to create this sketch.

You will quickly notice he does not have a right eye. I broke one of my own rules by embarking on this project without having a good reference image for a face. The picture that captured my imagination is great, but unfortunately rather low res and missing some vital information like where exactly his right eye is situated and where the top of his head ends. But being forever optimistic I figured my own version could just extrapolate (i.e., make a wild guess) about the missing parts.

This is the picture I used for Sam's face.

My powers of extrapolation failed me. I was able to complete the head contour but every attempt to draw in a guideline for the right eye were pretty ghastly. I resolved to put in a big old dark shadow there.

This is what came of my initial burst of work.

The funny thing was that when I started putting in the colors on the paper and working the shadows I was able to get a much better feel for where the eye should be. I took my Sam reference and adjusted the levels down in Photoshop until I was at least able to discern an eye shaped blob down deep in the larger shadowy blob. This helped me feel my way to drawing in a more believable eye shape there. Who knows, if I am able to get the whole drawing as dark as I would like to, I may end up darkening the left eye out just like in the reference. But at least I now have the option to have a semi believable shadowy eye there in case I don't.

A few things I forgot to mention, the paper is an 18 x 12 brownish grey toned Canson paper. Since it is 12 inches wide I was able to print my sketch directly onto the paper with my large format Epson 2200 printer. I printed the line drawing in draft mode, and with the opacity down to 30% in Photoshop. It gave me a line I could clearly see but that won't be too difficult to cover up with the colored pencils.

Follow Me - Catch Up Post

When I came back to work on this piece, I began to layer colors on Dean's face. I was going at it very slowly and probably being way too tentative, but I wasn't sure how to work the layers yet. I did know that there has to be enough colors deposited on the paper before you can blend them with added layers, with brushes or with your fingers.

The part of Dean's face I started on was not really a good place to test this out because I wanted it to remain as one of the lightest spots in the whole piece. I really couldn't add too many other colors into the mix apart from the pale pinks, yellows and creams here.

As a side note, I found a great new color to use in the highlights for skin tones. The color is Buff Titanium from a trial batch of Caran d'ache Luminance pencils I bought recently. Before this I had almost exclusively been using Prismacolors. It finally clicked with me that maybe I should try out some other brands, especially the ones praised highly on other people's blogs.

I had been using white to try to blend into the pinks and yellows to get highlights and brighter skin tones, but the white just made the color look too cold. That's fine if the effect you want is silvery or cool light, but for a warmer bright like the one I want for this piece, it just wasn't working.

I want the colors in this portrait to be as if the figures were in bright daylight, the skin tones tan and maybe a bit golden. Titanium buff is an off white ivory color, warmer than stark white, but not as yellow as the Prismacolor cream color.

I have a whole lot of Buff Titanium on the right side of Dean's face now, which did blend nicely with the underlying colors. Of course from a distance, it looks just like the color of the paper. :-)

In the close-up you can appreciate the blended color a little better. Of course now it is probably too white.

In the next shot, I have layered a little more color into the shadow areas of Dean's face, added darker colors in the bit of background on the right and also put some color in his hair. I probably should have done this before and not got so caught up working the brights on his face.

Applying colors to the surrounding areas gives you a better idea of how everything is going to work together eventually. I realized I needed to see some of the dark areas to judge the lights better. Now that I think of it, I'm sure I stumbled to this conclusion previously, but it must not have impressed itself sufficiently on my brain. Hopefully it will take better now.

It was hard to tear myself away from working on Deans features, especially his nose and lips. I would be trying to work on the shadows when before I knew it I would be back to tweaking his top lip or eyelid. I indulged myself a bit more by seeing if I could put a few freckles on his nose before firmly turning my attention to other areas.

And this is about as far as I got on an April weekend some weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another Project - Colored Pencil - Follow Me

I started this other project some weeks ago and have made some progress which I will now log here. I also used the Fisher 400 paper on this one but I chose to use colored pencil instead of pastel as the medium. I wanted to test the paper with both the pastel and colored pencil mediums.

I ordered two 20 x 28 and two 14x 20 sheets of the Fisher400 paper about a month and a half ago. I was eager to try it out, having heard some pretty good things about it. Having now dabbled a bit on this paper I have to agree that so far it seems quite wonderful.

The Fisher 400 paper looks just like a fine gauge sandpaper, though it is manufactured solely as art paper. I had to order it from England, since the artist who created it does not have any US distributors yet. I sure hope that it becomes available more locally soon.

I made a collage from reference photos in Photoshop and traced out this sketch.

It's a composition of my favorite subjects Sam and Dean from the TV show Supernatural. I'm calling this piece Follow Me.

I was able to use my lightbox to transfer my sketch to the paper. Fortunately I discovered that this paper is translucent enough to use with the lightbox. This is good news because I had the dubious pleasure of copying the sketch for the pastel piece using transfer paper and it was a pain. Here I am working away at it.

It took me a few hours to finish transferring all the little lines, but I've learned patience. The more details you capture the easier it is to draw later.

Here is a bad picture of the transferred drawing. I have to get a better set up next time. My daylight source was off to one side and when I tried to add light with my fluorescent drawing table lamp, it just added another color cast, which I was unable to remove.

Still it gives a good idea of how it looked. I used a couple of different colored pencil to transfer the lines, blue ones for the clouds, some grey for part of Deans shirt, white for the circle around the figures and a brownish ochre for all the rest. Mostly it was just experimenting. I also varied the pressure. I think the right side is probably a little too faint, though I finished off at a pretty good line thickness on the left.

I almost forgot to take a picture at this stage.That is why Dean's face actually shows some shadowing which I had started to block in. Fortunately I still captured the mostly un-worked line drawing.

All the brainstorming for the composition, drawing the sketch and getting it transferred took most of a weekend. I finally got it to the point of starting to draw and was able to get this far.

I got a better picture this time, though it is still shadowed on the right.

I think this paper is going to hook me completely. It takes color incredibly well. I have barely gotten started but I can tell I will be able to layer lots and lots of color on it.

I'm also going to get hooked on working at this large size paper. The 20x28 inch size gives me such control over the drawing of details on the face. One thing though, this paper is going to eat my pencils by the bushel.

Here is a close up of my start.

The layering has just begun, but I couldn't resist working his eye more, to catch a glimpse of what this paper might yield.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pastel Progress

I finally was able to start the fun part, applying the pastels. The Fisher400 paper surface grabs the pastels like a magnet. I can see that it will chew up the pastels like crazy.

I started pretty tentatively, since it's been so long since I tried the pastels. I began with her face laying skin tone colors from my different sets of pastels. I was careful to reinforce my reference lines with the pastels because I noticed that they could get covered up very easily.

I had fun blending creams, pinks and yellows to get some nice tones for her face. I also marked out some of the highlights and put in some light shadows. But as usual with my portraits, I soon realized that I had better block in the background early on, since it was going to be so dark. It is the only way to get a good feel for how intense the colors should get on her face so as not to be washed out by the dark background.

I switched over to filling in the background with a dark navy blue with splashes of purple and terracotta colors in there too. I'm trying to figure out the best way to blend the pastels. My pastel brushes seemed to lift out the pastel dust instead of blending it down into the paper. I used a chamois cloth, but that disintegrated pretty quickly. Paper stumps worked okay in small spaces. But my bare fingers seemed to do the best job in large and small areas. Unfortunately the paper is basically sandpaper and they would not hold up too long without getting rubbed raw. I can't remember where I read some tips on working with sanded surfaces. But that artist used rubber gloves to protect his fingers. I shall have to try that.

One thing I have to say for pastels, it sure was easier and faster to get this intensity in color and cover this much area than if I had been using colored pencils.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New Project - Girl in a Red Coat

I've had the idea to do colored pencil or pastel drawings based on old family photos for a long time. One photo that I finally settled on was taken by my father-in-law over sixty years ago. He was a camera enthusiast and worked in a camera repair shop for many years. In his youth he took many interesting and engaging portraits of friends and family. In particular was this portrait of a young niece of his standing in a window.

Much of the appeal of the photo lies in the innocent charm of the young subject. The photo is obviously posed considering that she is dressed for the cold in coat, hat and muffler though she seems to be indoors gazing out.

Though the original photo is very small, through the magic of a good scan and Photoshop I was able to get a a good close look. It also allowed me to trace out a detailed line contour directly from the image.

I made only a few changes to the composition. In general the original composition is lovely, I just cropped out a little on the bottom for a tighter focus on the girl. I also thought that it would make more sense if the young girl, dressed for traveling, were gazing out of a train window, perhaps saying sad goodbyes to loved ones being left behind.

The result was the following line drawing.

I tried to capture as many reference lines as possible especially for the transitioning shadows and highlights on her face. It was harder to do than I imagined since the transitions of light and dark here are so subtle.

My medium and paper of choice for this piece will be pastels on Fisher400 paper. It all is kind of ambitious for me since pastel is the medium I have the least experience with and I had never used the Fisher400 sanded surface before. My main reason for using the pastels were that I want this piece to have a soft dreamy quality to it and pastels are much better suited to give this effect than colored pencils. Well, at least I thought it would be easier anyway. As for the paper, I've heard all sorts of good stuff about it, especially for pastels.

Eager to get to the fun stuff I hurried onto the next step which was to transfer my line drawing to the Fisher400.

I sized the sketch in Photoshop to about 27 x 19 inches and printed it out in parts to two long sheets of layout paper. Once I taped the parts together I placed it on my paper with a sheet of red Saral transfer paper in between and started the long tedious process of tracing the lines.

I made a good start on the prep work, but it's time to call it a night!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tips on Photographing your Artwork and Making Prints

I thought I would write a little about how I take pictures of my artwork for use in making my own prints. None of this is very profound, just some practical tips gathered from my own experiences and experiments. If this is of interest to you please read on.

It has been a long and interesting journey to get to the point where I actually produced a print I liked. Some of the important factors in getting a good result have been; lighting and set up, a good camera, a good printer, a bit of knowledge about using ICC profiles with Photoshop (or any graphics software) and having proper art paper for printing.

Lighting and Set Up

My first tries taking photos were with digital cameras many years ago, so the resolutions were low, but still I was able to get some decent pictures, if only for posting on the web.

I had no special equipment except for a newfangled digital camera. I would prop up the artwork somewhere and take hand held shots. I realized pretty soon that I needed a tripod, no way around it. So we bought a tripod.

I also started taping the artwork up on my art easel and paying more attention to lining up the camera as perpendicularly as possible to the surface of the artwork. I learned to zoom the lens in to avoid distortions caused by wide angle shots.

I experimented with using natural light and/or the flash. When I used the flash indoors, I could get a clear enough picture, but I didn't like the cold washed-out look it gave to the artwork. If I turned on overhead fluorescent lights I'd get weird color casts that I couldn't get rid of entirely. If I tried using natural light from a window, I had to wait for bright days in the early afternoon, and even then, depending on how I placed the easel and camera in regards to the window, I might get a shot too bright on one side and shadowy on the other. My best results were achieved when I took the whole shebang outside to the yard on a clear day. I could get fairly sharp, color correct pictures. Windy days were annoying because then I had to hurry and take shots before the wind knocked things down.

My back patio was another good option because on sunny days I could get some bright diffused daylight back there without having to worry about the wind or curious pets. Also helpful was learning a little about the white balance settings on my camera and making sure to choose the best one for the type of light I was attempting to shoot in; fluorescent, incandescent, daylight, etc. When I didn't have the ideal shooting conditions, using the correct white balance setting really helped to tone down unwanted color casts.

Over the years, my lighting set up has gotten more sophisticated. Thanks to my supportive and ever more knowledgeable hubby, we have accumulated some great equipment.

Our current set up includes:

* Canon 5D Mark II camera with a 24-70mm F2.8 L lens
* Canon Timer Remote Controller
* Bogen / Manfrotto Tripod with 3-Way Head
* Gossen Digipro F - Digital Incident, Reflected and Flash Light Meter
* Photogenic StudioMax III 2-Light Basic Studio Kit

Now I can take pictures anytime, and indoors too. Thank goodness.


We have migrated through 5 generations of digital cameras. First was a 1 megapixel Kodak, then there were two Nikons ( 5 and 8 megapixels respectively) and lastly, the Canons; the 8 megapixel 20D and most recently the 5D Mark II (21.1 megapixels!!)

What I learned was that the more megapixels , the better, though honestly, I don't think I'll be needing any more than 21.1megapixels. Up until this last camera, I never felt that I could get images sharp enough to print well at large sizes. I got nice enough pictures to post to my websites, but not to print. The 21 megapixels have made the difference. The 13 x 19 inch prints that I have been able to produce with the files from this camera are faithful reproductions of my artwork.

Printer, Profiles and Photoshop

We have had an Epson 2200 printer for many years, but only recently have been able to take advantage of it's excellent photo (and art) printing capability. Previously when I tried to print a photo I would get a hideous off-color version of my beautiful shot. I sporadically read books about color management and searched the web for information. Over time,I did learn a lot, like what ICC profiles were and how to use them. I learned about work flows and monitor calibrations and color spaces. But somehow I always managed to fall short of producing a nice color print of anything.

The new camera spurred me on to try again to get a great image on to paper faithfully. I had the right lighting set up to capture good color, I had the camera that took great high resolution photos. I had a large-format printer that was supposedly capable of producing high quality prints. All I needed was to work the kinks out of my work flow.

It helped that I had a nice new 24 inch LCD monitor to view my raw camera image. I opened the file in Digital Photo Professional, a graphics utility program that came with the 5D camera. I was able to do some extra sharpening and white balance corrections using the raw format file before transferring it directly to Photoshop as a tif file. In Photoshop I tweaked the color some more with the original sitting next to the monitor as a reference. I loved the image I saw on my monitor but I knew that getting it on to the paper would be the hard part.

My next step was to start printing proofs. I cut down pieces of regular watercolor paper to 13 inch widths, which is the largest paper width that the Epson 2200 can accept. I sized my image in Photoshop to 12 x 18 inches so as to leave a half inch border all around.

For the sake of not using up too much paper and ink, I would temporarily crop a slice out of my picture that represented the most critical color areas. In the Photoshop print dialogue box I chose what I thought would be the closest Epson profile match to the paper I was using. It was called "SP2200 Watercolor - RW_PK". The RW stands for radiant white and the P for the photo black ink cartridge in my printer, as opposed to a matte black cartridge.

There is a good tutorial available on the Epson website called "Color Management Workbook" . It shows you how to set up the print dialogues in Photoshop to use Epson profiles in your color managed prints. You can also find all the latest and greatest paper ICC profiles and instructions on how to install them to your computer.

Printer Art Paper

To tell the truth, the proofs I did with the watercolor RW_PK profile turned out pretty crappy. This was probably because the profile was not created for the watercolor paper I was using. My paper certainly was not radiant white and it was real watercolor paper, not specially designed Epson watercolor art paper. Switching to other profiles, I achieved the best results using the generic "Stylus Photo 2200" profile, and also one called "Adobe RGB (1998)"

After getting these wacky colors on my proofs, I realized that I was going to have to buy some real honest-to-goodness Epson art paper. The knowledge finally consolidated in my head, I needed the correct ink jet art paper, I needed the correct Epson paper profile. I put away my proofs and ordered some Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper.

It arrived about a week later and I tried again. This time I made sure to get the Velvet Fine Art Paper profile from the Epson web site before even starting. A few more slices of Dean's face later and I was thrilled to see some true resemblance of the colors on the paper to the ones on the screen.

I bounced around my house like an idiot for a little while. After all, this was a watershed moment, the culmination of many years of trying. I deserved my happy time. :-)

When I calmed down I continued my proofing process, with suitably small tweaks, until I had it, a print I could be proud of. Here is a picture of my first proofs on top and then the second truer batch on the Velvet Fine paper below.

My reward for persisting in my quest for producing a "print to be proud of", was being able to take copies of my colored pencil Dean portrait to the LA Supernatural convention in March to get autographed and to give away to friends. Just in time too! :-)

There it is folks. My adventures in making prints, with a happy ending, no less. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Art Blog

All my public art postings until now have been pretty well devoted to one or another fandom. I thought it was time to have a non-fandom related art blog. My involvement with art is becoming a very important part of my life and my projects are beginning to broaden out beyond the fandom subject matter. My fan based works will still appear here as work in progress posts, but I will feel more free to post all my other art related projects and musings here as well.

I have so much to learn, maybe my journey to improve will be interesting and be of help to others in the same boat. Hope so!