Saturday, 23 May 2015

Mural Installation ...Problems!


You are probably wondering why I haven't posted to tell you about how it all went at Castleford Library, since I said back at the beginning of the month that the installation was imminent. Well, there was some major problem with the person who was booked to do the installation (remember, the mural has been printed onto a wallpaper, which needs sticking up around the room). He just disappeared off the radar for a while, so it was all a bit concerning.


Anyway, whatever it was all about, the library has told me that things are now back on track and we have a new installation slot of June 3rd - 5th. Phew. 


We also now have a date booked for the Grand Opening Ceremony: June 26th (incorporating a comfortable buffer-time from installation, just in case!). We will be inviting all the children who worked on the mural drawings to come back to the library and see the result. There will be local dignitaries, funding bodies, the press and, of course, Yours Truly. I am going to be running a couple of short workshops for the children too, to help to really make the day memorable for them, like we did last time:


Can't wait to see it!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

High-Res Scanning - Grappling a Monster


Yes, it's definitely a bit of a monster, scanning all the artwork which I have selected from my archive of sketchbooks. I haven't counted how many individual sketches I have picked out to go into my urban sketching people book, but it's quite enough to keep John and I busy.

Originally, we had thought that John would do all the scanning for me, but I am working on the computer so much at the moment that he's having trouble getting sufficient time on the scanner. 



So we tried a bit of teamwork this week, which really speeded things up. I found the low res version of each of the images on the computer, which was tagged with a reference number to remind me which sketchbook it was in, then John ferreted through the sketchbook piles to find the right book...



...then he flicked through the book to find the sketch. We had marked the possibles with post-its right back at the beginning of the project, so that helped too:



John held the sketchbook down flat on the scanner bed for me, while I set the scan parameters, then saved and filed the final file, while he was trying to find the next one in the sketchbook piles. All very dull, but it's got to be done (and over 400 times...).

Then of course, I still had to spend a while on each of the images later, correcting the tonal balance and touching up anomalies, like unwanted marks which had transferred from the opposite page or other sketches showing through from the reverse. I also have to get rid of unwanted text  - my publisher is keen to remove any text that is not essential, so it doesn't create problems with co-editions.



We've made a fair old hole in the job now and I feel much better for it. I was originally going to wait until all the layouts were back, so I would know for certain that all the sketches I have chosen are in fact going into the book. It's possible that, by doing the scanning early, we have scanned some artwork unnecessarily, but I was getting a bit concerned, as time is passing and the deadline is looming. It's one of those tasks - very hard to know if you've allowed enough time for it, because it's impossible to judge how long you'll need. At least this way, hopefully I won't get caught out!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Recreating Digitally Tinted Sketches


I have now officially finished the text of the new book. Hurrah! 

Judging on the response to what I have been submitting over the last 6 months, we probably won't be changing the text that much - more tweaks that re-writes I should think - but that doesn't mean I'm done. There will still be a little jiggery-pokery with my image choices, once the layouts have all been designed, and there's also some new artwork to create specifically for the book (like the 'colour before line' step-by-step I did for the original presentation for the US co-edition).


The other big job that's left to do is the scanning. So far, we have been working with low-res images: either the photos I took of my tagged sketchbooks, or low-res scans lifted from the website. All those images now have to be located in the original sketchbooks and scanned at 300ppi, ready for print. John is helping with that, but I still have to go through all the scans individually, tweaking things, as my scanner picks up a lot of 'background noise' like paper texture and sketches coming through from the other side, much worse than you see with the eye.

Unfortunately there's another issue too. In 2010 I was rather into digitally tinting my pencil sketches, like this one of my new shoes (a reward after the first op I had on my poor feet). This means that there is another job for some of the scans from that period: because I was only playing, not consciously creating 'artwork', I only tinted the low-res scans I'd made for my website. Now that I want to feature some of those images in the book, I am having to create the coloured versions all over again.



This image is going into the 'drawing feet' section, because of the way the shoes are sculpted through shadow and highlights. Above is the new high-res scan of the original sketch, with a not very white background.

Once I had played with it in 'Levels' in Photoshop, it looked better. I moved the date across to the right a bit while I was at it, so it would better balance against the text (even though I suspect that the publisher will crop the text off this one):


Better. But the line-work in the old, tinted version was beefed up a bit and given a slightly blue tint, to help it to hold its own better against the colour, so I altered my new scan the same way (Photoshop is wonderful - how on earth would we have done something like that before?):


Then I painted the colours on a layer beneath the line work. The result was the sketch at the top. It was quite therapeutic actually - a nice bit of colouring in, with guaranteed success, so no brain power needed.

Sadly, those lovely red shoes have now bitten the dust. I did very recently buy myself another pair of bright red shoes though, so all is well.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A New Invention: Improving My Sketchbook


I have come up with a new idea that I thought I'd share with you...

At the back of my mind, I am preparing for my up-coming residency with The Morgan Centre in Manchester, thinking about the art materials I will need and how to make things run as smoothly as possible. I have tried out my new concertina sketchbook design and am satisfied that will work well. There is one drawback to concertinas though - in order to make one page flow into another, you often need to open 3 pages at once, which means the paper is wider than the book and you have nothing to rest on. It can all get a bit cack-handed! 

While I was thinking about this, I got a tip from another sketcher about water pots, which I thought might improve upon my hairspray-lid system (which does impinge upon my palette's mixing space). My friend suggested using the little, metal clip-on container that oil painters use for their linseed oil and white spirit. Sounded good, so I bought one. Trouble was, when I tried it out, there was no excess on my sketchbook to clip them to.

As it happens, these two problems have a common solution. I cut up one of those plastic folders you buy in stationers and created a sheet of plastic just over an inch taller than my concertina book and about half as wide again. This provides somewhere to clip the water-containers, while also providing an extended back-board to rest on: 


The plastic is really light and flexible, so won't be a nuisance to carry around, but with the aid of the sketchbook cover, it is still stiff enough to support the water. I'll be able to tuck the plastic into my bag with my sketchbook and clip it on when I am working:


I've yet to give it a test-run, but it feels really comfortable. As you can see, the plastic doesn't extend quite as wide as 3 sections of paper, but doesn't really need to - that width is enough, because the 140lb watercolour paper is sufficiently stiff to support itself for the little bit of overhang. I didn't want to create something that would be too big and awkward to fit in my bag.