Thursday, April 30, 2009

Alternate Viewing Realities: Variable Gamma Values

Okay, first off: I'm not about to get into a who's better Mac-Or-PC tiff with Anybody (I've had both and used both). Frankly I'd rather argue religion, politics, AND sex before getting into that. There's no rights or wrongs here, just differences. So if you care to comment, leave your platform outside the box.

While researching separate issues for the Photoshop Tips blog, though, I happened to run across an answer for a question I had not yet fully formulated. Which is: Why is there such a range of contrast among Internet images? While each blog tends to have a consistent range of picture quality, some blogs images may appear to some of us as overly light or overly dark (and, like Goldilocks, some are 'just right').

Apparently we can thank something called GAMMA VALUES. From the Photoshop 'Help' files: "The gamma value of a computer monitor affects how light or dark an image looks in a web browser. Because Windows systems use a gamma of 2.2, images look darker on Windows than on Mac OS systems, which are normally set to a gamma of 1.8."

Sample of what an image might look like created on a PC (but viewed on a Mac)...

...vs. how it might appear created on a Mac (but viewed on a PC).

(image: Golden Wings Deaux, oil, 36" x 36")

Depending on whether you are viewing form a Mac or a PC, one of these images will likely appear 'more correct' than another.

For an easy tutorial on how to 'average out' your photos for the masses, see today's Photoshop Tip on Adjusting Gamma.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The coolest friend ever.

Photoshop tips for Artists: CMYK vs. RGB which color mode to use and when

Have you ever had a friend that just 'gets' you'? Yesterday I got this great package in the mail. I know most people would have opened it and said, 'hey, there's nothing in here but plastic bags folded in triangles...what's up with that?'

But here's the friend Joel travels the world for his work, and now and then he sends me really cool odd trinkets from faraway places. I love getting packages from him. There have been pottery topped boxes from Chinatown in San Fran (the shards taken from vases destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the Fifties in China). Freaky alien stickers from Malaysia, offbeat magazines and newspapers from around the world. (Just so you don't think it's a one way street: In return, I try to send the occasional dark chocolate bar (once with a $20 bill stashed inside, because I knew he was broke), a bag of pistachios, bottle of hot sauce, music CD... although lately I've been bad and it is really my turn.)

The folded triangles of plastic are fancy shopping bags from around the globe: Scandanavia, Budapest, Greece, Asia, Europe; covered in languages I've never seen. Which reminds me: there was an article in the paper recently about
How to Make Reusable Shopping Totes from store plastic bags.... hmmm... might have to try this out!
But the best treat of all was this tiny pair of scissors from Andorra....! (Seriously, how many of you out there have heard of this country, much less visited it?) Joel has previously sent me other scissors from Hangzhou, the Chinese capitol of scissor making since the 14th Century. And I don't think he even realized what day they arrived on... THANKS JOEL!!! ¡Besos y abrazos!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Red Leaf / Blue Bottle"

"Red Leaf / Blue Bottle" ........... oil .......... 11" x 14"

Overcoming fear of glass, part two (or maybe parts 2 & 3).


Photoshop tips for artists: Lossy vs. Lossless files



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Marilyn"

"Marilyn" ..... oil ..... 10"x10" ..... SOLD

White flowers are always a treat to paint. This lily-shaped variety, Marilyn (one of my favorites), has the faintest pink stripe here and there.

File Types: What's the difference between JPG, PSD,
TIFF, and which do I use when?


An interesting post on the small works movement:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Coffee/Oranges"

"Coffee/Oranges" ....... oil ....... 9"x12"

Sometimes a painting comes out rather differently than the image in my head... I'm not sure what I think of this one, yet.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Orange Emperor"

"Orange Emperor" ... oil ... 10"x10" ... SOLD

Finally (!!!) a beautiful spring-like day. Lurking under the weirdly dense and heavy snow/slush of last week, tulips continued to push their delicate stems up through their frigid blanket. Dozens of them are suddenly springing into full color today.I know tulips are tough, but that always amazes me.

I've lived half my life in this state (Colorado), so you'd think I'd get used to vagaries of weather (the foot-deep slush was definitely a new one). April in Colorado always has the power to turn me into a crazy person. If you live in this state you know that an average April day is between 20 and 80 degrees and will be sunny, cloudy, snowy, rainy, windy, sleety, or any other '-y' you can think of, sometimes all within 24 hours.)

By now I am so ready for full blown summer, that a cold snowy day sends me burrowing under the covers, almost unwilling to face the day (thanks, I'll hibernate until June). A gorgeous day like today and I'm tempted to close the studio and go walking downtown. Although sure enough a beautiful day like this won't suit some people: I heard a woman earlier emphatically state that '...this OPPRESSIVE!!" (for the record, it is about 60 degrees and sunny. I am quite sure I share absolutely no genetics with that woman, as I'm still in my fleece vest. Also for the record, our last snow date last year was May 14, so still about a month more of this manic-depressive weather to go).

Which brings me to this: I learned a new state-related weather saying from artist Gary Keimig of Dubois, Wyoming (thanks, Gary!). It goes like this, more or less: "Wyoming has just 3 seasons: Last winter, This winter, and Next winter."

The other two I know are for Colorado:
"If you don't like the weather, then just wait ten minutes";
and from my native state of New Mexico,
(of which is said about the weather EVERY year):
"It's been a most unusual year".

Oh wait, I do know one more, from a summer spent there:
"Minnesota has two seasons: Shovel and Swat."

Today's silly challenge is: What's the weather saying for Your state?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Mystic Tangerines"

Thank you to everyone for the well wishes on the shoulder, which is improving... and a lot of good tips for what to do next time it hurts. You are all too good to me!

"Mystic Tangerines" ....... oil ........11" x 14" ...... SOLD

A nice surprise in the mail today... a check for this painting, which sold to a couple in Boulder. I had a feeling this title would fly well in that locale.

Another nice surprise... I've hit the 100 mark in followers! That is SO cool and Thank You to all those mysterious fans out there. I hope I can continue to entertain you.

SIDE NOTE: I'm rerunning the series of Photoshop Tips under a new blog.
Today's post is : "Basic Tips for Photographing Art for the Technically Challenged"
Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions.
I'd love to see this be a community resource for any artist who needs it.


Tip for the day, another one from the paint miser:
If you haven't seen one before, this is a Tube Wringer.It flattens your paint tubes as you use up paint, and gets the maximum amount of paint out of the tube. It also helps to remove air pockets that might otherwise cause drying in parts of your paint. I find it too be an essential tool in keeping your paint.

You can buy these online or in art supply stores for about $6-9 for an all plastic version (shown here), although I highly recommend spending extra for the one with metal wringers, they handle stiff paint better and they last longer. The 'deluxe version' (plastic handles, metal wringers) run about $15-20.

At the time I bought the one shown (all plastic, and my second one, as I wore the first one out) the metal ones had been discontinued; it's good to see them back on the market.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In progress: detail of a blue bottle

(A quick note: I'm moving the Photoshop Tips series to it's own blog at; over time I'll rerun all previous tips, and add some new ones. Thanks to followers of those tips and anyone who has new questions for me).

Bad shoulder and all, I have been trying to get a few hours of painting in each day. I moved my palette down a few inches, and the bar on my easel too, so physically, I'm painting from a lower vantage point. I got through the day without screaming, so that's a good start, right?

Here's a recent effort, and yet another attempt to be looser (you masters of elegant brushwork out there: you do know I envy you!). Also an attempt to master my fear of glass (a current goal). It's about 5" tall, and a detail from a 14" square still life with 6 objects in it that I hope to finish this week.

Of course, you know me all too well, I did smooth it out after this.


Another thing I'm trying; I've been mixing paint with my non-painting hand (surprisingly tricky!)-- this save a lot of pressure on the shoulder.

I'm also relying a lot more on my "paint misers": a small tupperware type container with a strip of wax paper that holds extra pre-mixed paint at the end of the day. (I use the kind that lunchmeat comes in at the grocery store.)

Secure the lid and store in the freezer; next day the paint is fresh and ready to use (in a humid climate you could probably leave it out, but Colorado is fairly dry and the paint will dry overnight even if in a plastic container).

In addition to saving money on paint that would otherwise get thrown away (and at $20 and up per tube for some of my favorites, who can afford that?), a lot of mixing time is saved and I can get right to work the next day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Painting for the Day: "White Lilies"

"White Lilies" .................oil ................. 40" x 60"

Barbara Muir's Sunday April 12 post inspired me to pull this painting out for the blog... and her non-art post today makes me a feel a bit better for not having painted for a few days (my lame excuse: I did something weird and painful to my shoulder... possibly a repetitive stress thingie).

This painting is one of the few in our permanent home collection. (At one time a fellow artist suggested I should lug it around to some mortuaries to find a buyer (really, she did say that... and really, I did not).

The painting was damaged while on display, rendering it unsaleable; someone apparently took it off the wall and leaned it against a door knob or something sharp, causing a spider web of irreparable cracks. Live and learn! To this day I prefer to hang my own work whenever possible.

I think I might have saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd just painted the detail at right; that's the part everyone zoomed in on anyway. Go figure.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Science Concludes: A Rose is a Rose"

Science Concludes: A Rose is a Rose ... Oil ... 18" x 18"

You'd think there'd be an easy way to suspend a test tube in mid air. I checked; there's not.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Pentium Man Adapts"

"Pentium Man Adapts" .............. oil ............ 10"x10"

When you're working alone it's good to have a few companionable characters hanging out in your studio. This painting could probably use a quippier title, so fire away. My first thought was to call it, "Oh, I'm Adapting..." but that seems too vague. Do you think most people would know the black plug-in boxes are called adapters? Or are they even called that? Maybe power packs is the technical term? Obviously Pentium Man and I are in way over our heads. As he was saying to me earlier...

On another note, Christine's Arts has a fun idea: She's thinking of setting up a kid's art blog to display the work of talented kids. I don't have any kids myself, but if you do, go check out Christine's post at: How about a kids art blog.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Painting for the Day: Office Suite in Blue

"Office Suite in Blue" ............ oil ............ 10" x 10"

Inspiration can come from unexpected sources. I was lucky enough to see a lecture last year by Jeanette Pasin Sloan, who spoke about her early ventures into art. (Her work is quite amazing and I hope you'll take a minute or two to look through her website.) As I recall, it went something like this... she had a degree in art history, but was unable to find work in that field. At home with young children she realized there was more she wanted to do with her life, and so decided she would teach herself to draw and paint by recreating every object in her kitchen. This took two years, if I remember correctly... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sloan's life is as different from mine as anything I can imagine, and yet the idea of painting what was around me, as simple as that sounds, stayed in my head. At the time I'd built a small but workable clientele for my botanical work over a dozen and half years. I was feeling a bit restless with it, however, and wanted to venture elsewhere for awhile. Somewhere in between then and later, I started making painting familiar objects in my office and studio. The series is still quite small, and nothing at all like the fine work of Sloan, but I think I owe this jump to her (and to Big Lots, who was selling 4 tape dispensers in a pack for $2 in blue, green, pink, and yellow. The crappiest tape ever, but the I saw those transparent colored dispensers and had to have it).

Where does your inspiration come from?


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Since you asked: Brushes

Four days of out-of-town family; four days without painting. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Today, exhausted but back to usual, was able to squeeze in 4 hours of painting (plus 3 loads of laundry, an hour of design work, a business meeting, and a few errands). It felt so good! (Well, the painting at least.) But, nothing to show today. So in lieu of that...

I've had a couple bloggers ask what brushes I use for oils. I have to admit, I was always (and am) kind of a rebel when it came to brushes; always using some kind other than the 'right kind'. Here's a short list:

Rounds: An early job out of high school was at an art supply store where I had ample time to touch the brushes while stocking them; in an era where stiff hog bristle brights and flats were on every college art supply list, I gravitated towards the (then fairly new) round brushes in white nylon. These are still my mainstay and what 90% of my painting is done with. And yes, the white nylon will stain with strong colors in your palette; all brushes shown here are currently in use. For a good balance of price and quality, I prefer 'Pro Whites' available through Jerry's Artarama. Winsor Newton University is another brand. My favorite sizes are 2, 3, 4, & 6.

One Stroke: For backgrounds, or areas with square edges I use One Stroke brushes; these are a holdover from my days as a signpainter (when I used thick shiny sign enamel); sizes 1/4", 1/2", and 1". These are quite soft and lay paint down smoothly and not thickly. Technically these are lettering brushes, although I never knew another sign painter that used these besides me. Brands include Winsor Newton, Daler-Rowney, and Polar Flo.

Mop brushes: I'm pretty new to these but fell in love quickly. For the smoothy-smoother painters out there, these brushes knock down brush strokes and blend like nothing I've seen short of an airbush. They look, more than anything, like cosmetic blush brushes and work the same way; light repeated strokes (many ladies will know what I mean; men, ask your wife or girlfriend). These are about the only natural hair brushes I use and they do need extra care. Technically, these are watercolor brushes. Langnickel 1/2", 3/4", 1".

Detail brushes: Technically, some these are also watercolor brushes. I prefer the white nylon for cost and they keep a fairly tight point. Round water color brushes: Polar Flo, Winsor Newton, Princeton; in sizes 4 &2; and 1 (for signing paintings only).
For detail mops: Loew-Cornell natural hair 'mini-Mop' in 3/16" and 1/4".

And lastly, a brush I've carried around for 30 years and may have figured out how to use: The Super Cat's Tongue (and yes, I did buy it just for the name).

What's YOUR favorite brush??


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Which Came First?"

"Which Came First?" .............. oil .............. 10"x10"

A set up from items in my kitchen...
egg 'whisky', rubber ducky, posed in a classical style.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Painting for the Day: "Your Fortune is On the Line"

"Your Fortune is On the Line" ... oil ... 14"x18" ... SOLD

Painting in the red background was kind of phosphene-inducing; I had to keep looking away every few minutes and readjust my eyes. It was worth it to get to the dessert, though! Painting the ribbon, the wire and the fortune cookie was a real treat.

I feel very fortunate. I love my life and I love that I am able to paint and make a living. I do wonder sometimes why it is so hard to get to the easel some days, to do what I love!

So this is what's on my mind today: Time Management.
I don't have anything really clever or insightful to say; but I'm hoping you do.

  • How do you manage your painting time?
  • How do you juggle creating with all the other must-do's?
Every now and then I read an article about one well known successful artist or another, and this phrase will be in there: "...the artist paints 12-14 hours a day...". Hmmmm. Forgive me for going all Seth Meyers (SNL), but REALLY? Painting 12-14 hours a day, every day. Hmmmm. Well, it's true I spend a lot of time in the studio, everyday but Saturday, from about 7 am to 7 pm, with a couple 15 minute breaks for a snack, and sometimes (like last night) I'll come back to the studio after dinner and be in here from 9 to midnight or more. But actually painting for 12-14 hours? REALLY? I wish! I really do. Painting can be invigorating, but also exhausting. (If (I said IF!!!) I can get 6 really good hours in at the easel, that's a pretty good day. The tally for this week (for ACTUAL painting hours): 18. That an average of 2.5 hours per each of 7 day. Pretty sad. Well, okay then. I'll shoot for 30 next week.)

And for the other 6-8 hours? Well, you know: you've got a long list of must do's, too. Some art related: prep canvas, get framing, package, deliver, post; contact your galleries, buyers; enter shows; photograph art work, update your blog, your website, your mailing list. And the day to day must do's: bills, errands, house keeping, shopping, cleaning. And I know many of you also have one or more jobs to go to, and family to be with. How do you do it all?

The one single thing that seems to work for me is this: First thing in the morning, plant myself in front of the easel, and pick up a brush. What works for you?

Good wishes to all this week, especially
Steven Walker (whom I admire immensely) who is shipping a big parcel of paintings this week... and who undoubtedly paints 20 hours a day plus teaching his classes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Painting for the day: "Got Milk?"

Thanks for all the nice comments in March! I appreciate every one!

"Got Milk?" ................... oil ................... 9"x12"

I found this wooden toy at a thrift store years ago; this is the first time I've painted it. For the most part it was quite enjoyable and I like the simple color structure. I've got to say the hardest part was the milk canisters-- they were a bit like painting eggs. Something about the symmetricality and cylindrical nature. At one point I found myself wishing I'd done this on a hard smooth panel with acrylics, as the slightest bump in the canvas played havoc with the ellipses. but I haven't painted that way in years, so I carried on as best as I could.

Now that I see it small there's couple small details that pop out to me as in need of fixing...maybe tomorrow.

I also looked up the Sifo Milk Truck (ala Antiques Road Show) and found out it was manufactured in 1954 by the The Sifo Novelty Company, located in Norway, Michigan and St.Paul, Minnesota. It's going for $45-60, although mine's missing one milk bottle, and has no pull string. It's fun though; I think I'll keep it around for a model.

Click here for a photo with the funny face and logo.