Where you been? or death to the glare bugbear

I know, I know! A month has gone by and no painting posts.

What have I been doing with my life anyway?

Well contrary to popular belief I haven't been stewing in an existential vacuum or even given up painting for the highly lucrative science of phrenology. I've actually got a bunch of new paintings to post, it just that I've been trying to get over some new technical hurdles before posting.

In short, I've been obsessing about technology for a month. Basically I'm trying to develop an improved system of image capture, color correction and printing. Previously I have been oil painting on a single layer of thirsty gesso that sucks out all the linseed oil producing a matte surface which I scan at high res and then color corrected.

Why does that system suck?
Well, actually it's got some great advantages. I love the clarity of the scans but if the painting isn't completely and uniformly matte, I get nailed with glare, which you really just can't fix (happens too often!). Besides the bugbear of glare, I can't seem to get a decent profile for color correcting scans and the scanner seems to do weird things to different pigments (like thalo), In summary, It's taking waaaay too frickin long in color correction.

So, after much R&D obsession, I'm going to a new system. I'm using a decent DSLR and a cross-polarized light setup for image capture. Cross what? Isn't that what they try as a last resort in a star trek space battle? Nope, that's reversing the polarity. Duh! While that star trek battle tactic may be questionable, cross-polarizing actually works and eliminates glare.

Here's a good explanation of how cross polarization works:

It's some fun geeky goodness, but the best part is to actually see it work before your eyes.

Here's the exact same shot (of old painting #120), first without cross-polarizing (glare.jpg) and then with cross-polarizing (noglare.jpg):

It makes me totally geek out to see it work. It's weird to see the glare/highlights just disappear right before your eyes as you rotate the polarizing filter. It's like seeing a photoshop trick in real life. Please note, yes it saturates the colors more and increases contrast, but this can all be color corrected when you process the image. The images above are straight from the camera (no processing, besides resize). I have to color correct the image anyway, might as well start with a no glare image (I'll also add a shot of a ColorChecker to create a camera profile).

The glare problem was relatively easy compared to the issue of a color management. Last time I gave a shot at color management it hurt my tiny brain too much and I had to stop. I've regrouped, so I'm now I'm going back into the breach. Currently I am calibrating monitors, adjusting studio ambient light conditions, profiling equipment, researching spectral distributions and comparing color rendering indexes. Sounds like fun huh?

I promise to post this week. I think I've got a good enough system and will just tweak it as time goes on. Once I've got everything feeling solid and consistent, I'll post some info about the process I end up with.

Last night I painted my whole office a very neutral medium grey (funny that the color is named "Anonymous"). It looks like limbo and leaves me feeling...well...spectrally neutral.

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Kelly Lish said...

your work just amazes me everytime I see it!

carol morgan carmichael said...

Man, I feel bad. I just post bad paintings all the time. I am just too d---med (doomed?) impatient to worry about all that. Would just rather paint.
I had started looking in the obits for your name. Glad you are working your way back to us.

Unknown said...

You may also want to run a level 3 system diagnostic on the warp core and depolarize the flux capacitor.

Sheila Vaughan said...

what a difference it makes Jeff - that bottom image is so "settled" - there are no distractions and it lets you really look at the painting. I wish you lived in Stalybridge then you could show me how your cross polarize light beams!

Dana Cooper said...

Ah Jeff...please share with all the non-techies what we can do to learn this process...you will be hailed as a guru...at least by me!

SarahBowie said...

You are not the first science-geek painter! Leonardo was not the first either but maybe one of the best. Keep going strong!

Stephen Washburn said...

Great piece of writing too Jeff, Thanks

Anonymous said...

ah ha!

Joan Breckwoldt said...

I just found your blog, your paintings are wonderful. I like your strong brush strokes.
I know how trying to figure out something can eat up a lot of time, I'm glad your search was fruitful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Brenda York said...

Thanks for sharing this great info, Jeff! No matter how the technology shakes out--your paintings are wonderful!

Carrie Venezia said...

I'm so happy your back, I missed your posts!

Anonymous said...

that is a favorite painting up there.

can not wait to see your new stuff.

thanks for the tips... photographing fiber accurately is a bit of a task too.

now, please hurry!

Mary Douglas said...

Hi, I am glad to read there are other artists out there who are also driven crazy by poor photos of thier paintings. I bought a polarizing lens for my digital camera and it really helps. I'm still having lots of other tech problems though. I love your work and your blog.

Jeff Mahorney said...

Good to see you guys! Thanks much for the comments and kind words. Thanks especially to the usual suspects for coming back around even though I've been incommunicado for awhile. :)

Carol-Yeah I'd rather just paint too, but I was starting to feel bad about selling a painting that I liked without any kind of decent color reproduction of it (monitor colors are practically arbitrary). Glad to be back! Thanks for checking to see if I was dead! heh heh.

Sheila- ha! it's not as fancy as it sounds and I'll post some shots sometime soon.

Dana- sounds like the blind leading the blind, eh? I swear I'll relay anything useful I learn as soon as I've got consistent results coming out. I don't want to relay bad advice if I'm doing it all wrong.

Kris-I'm hurrying! it's just hard sometimes to fit all these big problems in my small mind. Sometimes I feel like a dog trying to learn algebra. So good to see you! :)

Randall said...

Wow Jeff I thought you dropped off for a while due to paint fumes getting to you lol. Sounds like your understanding a lot, way over my head. Maybe I should send you my paintings to photograph. I'm suffering bad over here :). Sometimes I get lucky on a shot.


jackie simmonds said...

wow, so that's how you photograph without glare. I am blown away. I do not use an SLR camera; I have a digital Nikon Coolpix P90 and would not know where to begin with all this techno stuff. Sob. Does this mean I can never take decent pics of my work? Am about to switch from pastels to oils, but do want to take fairly decent pics.........oh dear. What to do....by the way, love your works, and your blog. Just learning about blogs too. Love the simplicity of yours, I have been scared witless by some of the content-heavy blogs I have tried to read....