Issue 12    



Barroom Brawl update: Only about five weeks since the last update, and yet here we are. The barroom brawl piece has been finished and is in the middle of all the messy "stuff" that comes afterward. Read on to find out what that includes.

In getting to that finished point, the mirror was installed, the chandelier hung and some candles lit, the chairs and other minor objects were thrown and the two main characters joined the fray.


The way things were.


The way things are now.

Now that it's finished, you may want a closer view. Here are links to a couple main character detail shots.
Detail #1
Detail #2
After everything was colored, a white Caran d'Ache Neocolor II colored pencil was used to bring out whites. Caran d'Ache's Neocolor II pencils are softer than Prismacolors, allowing the white to get laid even on top of the smooth, burnished Prismacolor surface. The Neocolor II pencils are also water soluble; among other benefits, this allowed me to wet the tip when I needed an extra thick dab. This white was especially helpful on the mirror but also brought out various highlights over the entire piece.

Wax Bloom: Now that the entire piece is finished, I'll need to worry about "wax bloom". The binding agent for colored pencils is wax. As a result, a thick layer of colored pencil will "bloom" its wax content; this means that the wax rises to the surface and forms a milky deposit that dulls and whitens the piece. A warm environment increases the amount of bloom, but the wax will bloom even in a cool environment.

There are two methods for dealing with wax bloom. The first method, and the one I prefer, is to take care of the bloom after it happens. Wait a week after creating the piece and then rub a cotton ball or cotton swab over the surface. This will lift up the excess wax and return the surface to a lustrous shine. The surface is not overly delicate, so you shouldn't be too careful when rubbing. Don't be too aggressive, either, because smearing is possible. By experimenting, you'll learn fairly quickly how much pressure is most effective.

After this first rubbing, there is still wax trapped in the piece waiting for its turn to surface. Wait another week and, if more wax has bloomed, rub the surface again. After this second removal, the surface should stay nice and glossy.

The second method is to prevent the wax bloom before it happens. Immediately after finishing the piece, spray the surface with a fixative (such as artist's Workable Fixative). This will seal the surface as-is and prevent wax from raising to the top. I don't use this method as much, not because it isn't as effectve, but simply because I'm more used to the previous method. I have read that some fixatives can cause certain pigments to discolor, another reason I avoid this method. There are times when you can't wait two weeks before sending the piece on, however. In these cases, spray away! But remember, if you finish the piece a few days after laying a heavy layer of colored pencil on part of the artwork, sections may already have developed wax bloom. Simply rub those areas (or the entire surface) to remove the bloom and then spray the surface with fixative.

Archiving and website preparation: Of course, after the piece is finished you'll want to show it off! I don't mean just the original- no, you may want to make prints or put the piece up on a website. This means archiving the artwork. You may want to photograph the piece so that you can make slides and prints. This isn't a bad idea for serious artists, but it can be expensive and time consuming. It is also too complicated for me to go into in this newsletter.

Even if you photograph the piece, you'll have to scan it if you want it on your website. For a piece larger than 8"x14" this means either scanning a high-quality print made from the photography session or scanning the artwork in pieces and stitching those pieces back together. In the case of the barroom brawl, I did the second (I haven't photographed the piece yet). Stitching the pieces together is a careful process of matching the edges and tweaking the color and contrast of the different pieces.

When I scan a piece, I keep several different files for future use.
1) The original, high-resolution scan (at least 600 dpi [dots per inch] for artwork under a couple feet across). This file is saved as-is, without any color or contrast changes, as a compressed .TIF. If the piece has to be scanned in pieces, I save each piece separately.
2) A file used to make prints from. This file is saved with the image set to the desired dimensions of a print- in my case, usually around 8"x10" or 5"x7"- at 300 dpi, a high enough dpi to make quality prints. Do any adjustments to color and contrast now! Try printing the piece a few times in order to get the adjustments set for printing (not for looking nice on the screen). This file is also saved as a compressed .TIF. Saving as a .TIF is important for this file because the .TIF file format is universal enough that any printing house or computer you take the file to should be able to open it.
3) A .JPG of the image for website display. Re-adjust the color and contrast, if necessary, to look good on a computer screen and rescale the image to a proper size for displaying in a web browser. The rule of thumb people like to quote is 72 dpi. This rule of thumb is wrong; don't listen to it. For a simple reason of why this rule does not work, take the barroom brawl. The original is 11"x19". At 72 dpi, the file would be 792 pixels by 1368 pixels. A file that size would not fit on the average home user's screen, much less inside a browser window. In addition, this file could be printed at 150 dpi at just over 5.25"x9". 150 dpi is not an optimum printing dpi, but on a good printer it is good enough to be sellable by pirates. Resolution only improves from there if they pirate the image as a postcard or greeting card.
Instead, set the .JPG's largest dimension to approximately 600 pixels. This will provide an image that fits inside an average viewer's browser window but is still large enough show off the artwork. And it won't be high enough quality for printable products.
As you will see next month, I saved the website .JPG of the barroom brawl at 700 x 400, only 36 dpi! Save the .JPG at whichever compression level you feel most comfortable with, remembering that the compression level will affect file size.
4) A .PNG of the image at the same resolution as the .JPG. A .PNG is another web-supported format, but the format is not as widely supported yet as .JPGs and .GIFs. The files also tend to be larger than .JPGs, but loss-less. That is, because of the compression algorithms used to save .JPGs, the quality degrades each time you save the image. PNG files do not. By saving a .PNG now, I will already have it in case .PNGs become more popular later.
5) A .GIF of the image for use as a thumbnail on the website. I usually reduce the size to get the largest dimension to about 100 pixels across, but everyone has their own preference on thumbnail size depending on file size, website layout, etc.

After I have all of these files, I burn them to a CD or two so that I have an archived backup. A computer failure will not cause all of my images to disappear.

Naming Your Baby: Naturally, before you can post the piece or save it, you have to give it a title. This seemingly simple step, naming your artwork, often turns out to be one of the toughest parts of the entire process.

For example, it was not until I had finished the barroom brawl and walked away for over 24 hours that its title came to me. Years have gone by since the concept was developed. Since work began on the piece. Since I brainstormed possible titles with my wife. It was not until last night, sitting in a friend's house discussing life, the universe and everything, that a comfortable name popped into my head.

"Happy Hour".



    Issue 12    


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This document last updated Mon Oct 2 11:00:31 2006.