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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Okay Let's Be Honest

With Photoshop we can make any painting we do look a hell-of-a-lot better than it is in real life. For instance, look at Three Women untouched--not auto fixed, no adjusted color, no exposure correction, no added vividness, no sharpness. Just cropped.

My Konica Minolta Dimage X1 tends to overexpose--but I did not correct that as yet. What you see above is what I got out of the camera; it's pretty dull.

Then in Photoshop I gave it a "quick fix.": The picture gets whiter/brighter. This is the one that looks most like the painting lying on my bar downstairs.

Through Photoshop adjustments of Color (stretch or balanced); Exposure (more or less); Vividness (more or less) and Sharpness (more or less) I got from there to here:

And I could have run through the adjustments again, playing around till I got the photograph to be published just as I would want folks to see it. Through Photoshop, (and mine is the oldest and least sophisticated of those programs), you can make any painting look good--even great.

Why talk about this? On on hand, this information is a reason to only buy art that is hanging right in front of you--not out of catalogs or off the net.The printed color plates of art in catalogs and books are photographs,albeit translations. The camera, the color of the film, the development of the film has had an effect. Art seen via your computer, is a photograph of a photograph.You're not seeing the true picture, but a reproduction of a reproduction.

On the other hand, photographing your art and putting it into your Photoshop program is a terrific tool.Via manipulations of lightness, darkness, color balance, strength and sharpness, we can learn where our work is lacking or not, how we want to push it or not. The program helps us see the painting's flaws and it's potential. I photograph a work in progress and pop it into my picture program often just to take a look at how it's going. My conclusions give me guidance: correct this, correct that, quit while you're ahead.

Three Women definitely needs enhancing. I saw that it did the other day when I published it. I saw that it did while it sat in front of me yesterday while I was doing those watercolor tests. So today I'll act-- take what I learned from my observations and explorations and push the painting till I get somewhere near what you saw. Pushing is risky, but much more fun than systematically painting in rectangles.

Now the question arises: is this cheating? I don't think so. Artists use projectors, and grid systems and have used perspective glasses since Van Dyke and Davinci. What do you think?


  1. Cheating? I don't think so either. You can take a painting from one room to another and it can change radically. Everything I put on the blog runs through photoshop first. I generally prop the piece up near the computer and try to match the contrast, saturation and light levels. Once in a while a color correction is needed. But then this is what I do for a living. All my illustrations are delivered digitally. Client never sees the original art. And there's not a blessed thing wrong with computer generated art either. It's just another tool in the kit.

  2. I don't either, but I ran in into a woman in a watercolor class I was sitting in on a couple years back who saw me working on one of my pencil portraits using the grid system. She said I was cheating; using drawing aids wasn't fair. I said tell it to Leonardo. Grids are a wonderful tool/technique. As is Photoshop/computer photography. It's a wonderful aid for both making art and also for selling it.
    But selling and buying fine art over the net is a touchy subject that cost me a follower this morning. I don't have that many so losing one hurt. I wish they would have commented instead of going away mad.