Category Archives: Old vs. New

*You* Should Appreciate This

Close your eyes. Now open them. How many pictures do you see around you?

Like many other things, photographic technology has become so consumer friendly we’re constantly flooded with imagery. It’s in the camera manufacturer’s best interest to put their product in as many hands as possible. Everyone wins… except appreciation.

Not that long ago achieving an image took at the very least three hours, but usually much longer (I’m speaking from experience, so within the last thirty years).

8:00AM, pick up film. This should be the easiest task, but you have to consider available light which determines film speed, the type of light which determines the film’s white balance and the brand as different brands yield different textures.

Film also had an expiration, which was an incentive to shoot.

Try to use your film before 1937.

Try to use your film before 1937.

8:37AM, run to the studio and grab the light meter and some Polaroid. This is where it gets dicey as you have to know your camera and math because you’re preparing to shoot 12, 24 or 36 frames without instant gratification (and if you’re shooting large format, wear your lucky socks). When I assisted I’d hear “I want the back at 16 and 8 up front, diffused, with 11 only on the models face” and have ten minutes to accommodate while the clients and talent looked on. Below are some Polaroids from my time assisting Jeff Sciortino (note the light meter with me in every shot).

On the left I was standing in for Stacy Keach, who's on the right (ask your parents).

On the left I was standing in for Stacy Keach, who’s on the right (ask your parents).

Polaroids were our window into the future and we’d often record the exposure settings on the winners.

9:14AM, begin shooting the Polaroids. Once you’re satisfied with the lighting you’ve got the green light to go to film, however, if it’s a commercial shoot you need the client to sign off on the Polaroid too, so add an hour.

9:37AM, begin shooting film. With every shutter release you might wonder if the lights all fired or if the film advanced okay. When you only have 12, 24 or even 36 exposures, each frame is valuable real estate.

10:07AM, one of the rented lights in the back continues to misfire. The rental house should be able to help, but it pauses the shoot for 15 to 20 minutes. This happened to me maybe one out of every ten shoots. I’d have to call Helix rental on Jackson Street in downtown Chicago and talk with those guys, which I imagine is like calling NASA if NASA consisted of sarcastic, incompetent morons.

11:27AM, the film’s all exposed. Time to head to the lab and if it’s a commercial client DO NOT forget the purchase order.

11:45AM, the film is at the lab. The film takes three hours to develop unless you rush order it, but that comes at a premium. However, you may want the film pushed to add some brightness so you order a snip test. The process time doubled.

If you choose to develop your own, prepare to enjoy an extended period of peace and quiet. So long as you know what you’re doing this can be a very therapeutic exercise. All you have to do is follow the simple instructions shown below.

The people at the labs were great people and good at what they did. I either used Precision Imaging on Grand Boulevard or Gamma Imaging downtown on Superior (both have since changed names or moved). If my order was entirely black and white I went to Print Lab on Homan in Humboldt Park. Some of those folks were genuine chemists. In fact, the TV show Braking Bad was originally going to be about dark room labs, but critics thought that too controversial so they chose crystal meth instead.

3:00PM, receive the film from the snip test. As you suspected it could be pushed 1/3 so you call it in. Keep in mind, starting a film process now will finish up around 6PM or later. Some labs close at 5 or 5:30PM. Your choices are asking the lab to accommodate or to begin the process first thing the next morning. The latter would be no problem unless it was Friday. “They change the soup out over the weekend, so the snip test would be unreliable. Ask them to stay late.” Which meant I had to stay late and wait for the lab to finish so we could send the film to the client on Saturday. Not cool.

This film was pushed 1/3 on April 1.

This film was pushed 1/3 on April 1.

6:01PM, the lab drops off the film. Now you can review the contact sheets and make selects and, of course, have a drink. After that you’re home bound.

8:31AM, at the lab because they couldn’t possibly open at 8AM. You hand back the film and a list of selects for printing.

9:45AM, the first run of prints arrive. Not satisfied with two of them. Call the lab and reprint them brighter, with more cyan.

10:52AM, the two new images are in your hands. Satisfaction rushes over you.

So, exactly two hours and 52 minutes later you have images. One day, and two hours and 52 minutes later.

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Fortress of Solitude

Ansel Adams’ photographic career began when his father gave him a Kodak Brownie box camera to take pictures while at Yosemite National Park in 1916. From there his curiosity never dwindled. Everyone has a story.

Below are composite pictures of the living room in the house I grew up in. The collection has grown since I left home and continues still. My father loves both taking and printing pictures. This is why I’m so comfortable on either side of the lens.

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A Life of Decadence | Fabergé: The Rise and Fall, The Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

I had the chance to see the Fabergé exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts over the weekend and it was quite a stunning collection of objects from the early 20th century creator of luxury goods. Karl Fabergé took over his family’s business as a jeweler but soon learned how to cater to the Russian aristocracy with exclusive, miniature objects. Specializing in eggs, animals and other keepsakes, he was able to build an empire with hundreds of workers and fabricators working under him until the workshop’s abrupt ending in 1918.

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While it may not seem wholly relevant during a time that trinkets and candy dishes the size of a couple inches are unnecessary (above), it was a welcome reminder that craftsmanship of this kind existed at one time. I recommend this show if you have a chance to see it now through January 21st, 2013.

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Images: CBS Detroit

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A Must-Do: Our Upcoming Class on Collecting Art

I’m really excited about the course I’m teaching at Washtenaw Community College this Fall. “Collecting Art: Deciphering What It Is and What’s It’s Worth” is going to be an engaging and interactive look at what the differences are between a giclee versus a painting versus an etching.* We’ll also look at the primary, secondary markets and auction house culture. Students will have the opportunity to bring in examples as we decide which ones might be worth money, why they are and what to do if you strike the jackpot on a great find.

Lithograph or etching? What’s the difference?

How do you tell the difference between an oil or acrylic painting? Or if it’s a painting at all…

Ask all the questions you want and learn about how to insure, maintain and start your own collection. Sign up is now open and only $39 for the two-day course. See you this October!

*If you want to find out the answers, come take the class!

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Jim Henson, Muppetry and An Unyielding Obsession

This past weekend N surprised me by hooking up a Detroit errand with an event at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Heather Henson, daughter of the late, great Jim Henson was putting on a performance with her troupe Ibex Puppetry called Celebration of Flight. Not only was I completely floored that he found out about this fantastic opportunity before I did, I was elated to see some artistry and performance at work.

I don’t remember a time in my life that The Muppets were not around. Prior to their “comeback” in last year’s The Muppets, I was still clamoring for Animal and singing the theme song. (Some say there’s even a Halloween photo where I wear a pig snout and N’s face is painted green…) Something as genius as what Jim Henson started in the ’60s would always have a place in my heart, even if it wasn’t reaching further than Grover watchers out there via Sesame Street.

We saw Jim Henson’s Fantastic World, a retrospective exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in 2009 which included early sketches for animations, silkscreen posters he did in college and even key design elements from The Dark Crystal. This was, of course, all dwarfed in comparison to the Kermit which we were introduced to within the first ten feet of the exhibit. It was magical.

Needless to say, I was enamored by the motion, fluidity and realness of the birds and forms created by the puppet group. It was a hot day but the strong breeze made for a beautiful back drop as we watched the performers manipulate kites, bird forms and weave among one another with ease.

My path in art has meandered but never strayed far from appreciation of great artistry and concepts. Jim Henson’s legacy and its ability to make us believe is what continues to inspire me.

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Digital Retouching: A Baseball Legend

It’s not often I get to work with history. The below picture came to me in rough shape in need of digital retouching. When you have a fragile situation like this, you can have the photo professionally replicated so that you can enjoy the copy while the original is preserved in a safe and acid-free environment. The second option, is to have the photo looked at by a conservator and framed under museum quality glass which allows little to no UV rays to harm the image. Each case is different and we can assist you in the making the best decision for your situation.

This photo is particularly significant as it’s of a minor league team coached by baseball legend Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner, circa 1922.

One of the first steps was to remove the tape. To do so, I matched the yellowed color left by the tape to the rest of the image. Then it was a matter of hiding the lines left behind.

Then I had to borrow, cheat and steal… from existing areas in the image. This can be tedious as it not only requires a firm grasp of Photoshop, but painting skills as well. I had to create image where it had been worn away and then make it believable.

Something that should be applied throughout is to PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL! Below I added the column to match the one on the right side of the picture. With a big tear and tape covering most of the original, this was a matter of artistic license. A few things to keep in mind are symmetry, perspective and light direction.

Once I had the photo section satisfactory I was ready for the text. Again, removing the tape was first, followed by some blending. Next was adjusting the overall tone and then it was a matter of cleaning up the text.

Here is the final product. The client was happy, what do you think?

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Top 5 Art Maintenance Tips for Summer

This summer’s been no joke. With 100 degree days and intense humidity levels, we’re all suffering. If you haven’t looked at your art collection in a while, take them off the wall and inspect them. Here are some key tips to making sure that your wall pieces stay healthy and intact in the summer heat.

1. Check all works on paper for foxing, light brown or reddish dots on the outer edges. This is actually mold attacking your paper and needs attention immediatley. With intense sunlight and high humidity this is a common cause of longterm damage. Call your local conservator (we recommend one if you’re in the Ann Arbor area – The Art Conservation Laboratory). They’ll be able to stabilize the mold and stop it from continuing. Never try to tackle this delicate task on your own!

2. Is your oil, watercolor, etching in direct sunlight? If so, consider having it framed under museum glass which protects it from the sun’s rays. Long term effects of UV damage include fading, cracking in paint and deterioration of the paint itself. If you’d rather not spend the money to do so, consider hanging the piece in a different spot…

3. But not in a spot under the air conditioning vent. Just as humidity and sunlight can hurt your art, as can intense cold temperature which could cause paint to crack or photo paper to become needlessly brittle and fragile.

4. Does your oil painting seem a bit duller than you remembered when you bought it? Summer’s a great time to take your paintings in for a good cleaning. Only conservationists know how to clean a painting so leave it to the pros. Even what you believe to be a “light dusting” can hurt the integrity of the paint.

5. Check the backs of all your art work. If the lining on the back of the frame seems rippled or has unsealed itself from the edges due to humidity, take it in to the framer to make sure no condensation is forming on the interior of the piece.

These simple steps will ensure your art work can be enjoyed for years (and many sweltering summers) to come! And if you have further questions, feel free to shoot me an email.

-Y-

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Edward: A Working Man

Our great friend Ed is full of personality. When he asked to have a new professional head shot taken, we jumped at the chance to shoot him in his element: jacket, button up and a whole lot of panache.

Pretty dapper, wouldn’t you say? So we veered a bit from the typical corporate shots but we got those too. If you need professional photos and aren’t afraid to laugh and kick back, give us a holler.

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Digital Drawing: A Modern Alphabet

A lot of people have asked me how I create my drawings digitally so today I’m going to give you a quick tour of how it’s done. I have to preface this by saying that I love drawing with pencil and paper (nothing compares to it) especially when you’re doing life drawings of nudes and still life. That said, the mouse has become a great tool for illustrating the concepts I have in my mind in a hyper-realist way that prints in rich, saturated colors, lending a quality of manufactured perfection that I adore in fashion magazines. But it’s a process like everything else and while changes are a “click of a mouse” away, sometimes it’s more laborious than traditional drawing. For most projects I use Adobe Illustrator and sometimes Adobe Photoshop. Both are integral to our company’s success and everyday function.

My latest project sparked from our obsession with mid-century furniture and objects. We’re heavily into everyday objects of that era and earlier. I couldn’t get over my need to illustrate the shapes and lines of some of my favorite pieces so I started drawing the Diamond chair by Harry Bertoia (1915-1978), an icon of Modern era pieces. With its curved chrome rods contouring to the body and guiding the eyes back and forth, it’s the perfect marriage of form and function. The idea of illustrating struck immediately as I saw the finished chair (second from the top left, in place of the “B”).

Here you see the process in picking colors and infinite possibilities, even digitally-speaking.

Once a piece or designer comes to mind that I want to recreate, I bring in a digital photo to help me shape the outline.

I literally use the mouse and “draw” with it on the mousepad.

With a computer, instead of using an eraser (although there’s one of those too), I click to straighten, curve or reposition each line segment individually. Above, I’m fixing the angle of a line that I drew previously. (I think this takes longer than drawing with a pencil)!

I’m making final adjustments so that all letters and furniture pieces are balanced using the graph and ruler tools. I think this project took me about twenty hours to create.

The final poster is printed on heavyweight archival photographic paper with professional grade inks. It’s 18 x 12 inches and I’m incredibly  proud of this limited edition run of 50. I can’t wait to get one framed and hang it in our home too! If you’re in the area, we’ll be offering the poster (A Modern Alphabet, $65) along with other custom works at our opening at June Moon Furniture on May 3rd. I’ll be on hand signing prints and giving advice on framing, hanging, collecting and more!

-Y-

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Our Latest Project: Objet D’art | One-of-a-kind art objects

We met with Sava’s Restaurant in Ann Arbor last week and we’re happy to announce that we’ll be taking over the upstairs lounge area with our art. We’ve never curated a non-gallery setting like this and we’re really excited to collaborate and match the ultra contemporary and comfy look. We got on it immediately. After a quick brainstorming session, the series Objet D’art was born. This also gave us a chance to print and frame our new series of school desk prints.

Each item is a print illustrated or photo taken by us and carefully hand matted with coordinating accessories. Whether you see one or in a grouping, we’re making an experience that we, and hopefully you, have never seen before.

We’ll be hanging things salon-style but adapted to the space to get the most beautiful effect. Since we have long spaces to cover, our groupings will be spaced out with most pieces centered at 60 inches from the ground, the professional standard for installing art.

What do you think of these? We’re looking for some feedback before the big installation takes place. Right now we’re just enjoying having “piles” of art around the studio. Soon we’ll have them in our store too. Have a great weekend!

-Y-

OBJECT D’ART – (dimensions denote frame size, shipping is extra)  5 x 7 inch : $25 and up  |  8 x 10 inch: $45 and up  |  Pairs of 8 x 10 inch: $80 and up

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