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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Not whelmed, but overwhelmed

When I was working on my previous book, The New Creative Artist, several of the artists asked to submit their artwork digitally. The production department at North Light Books wasn't too happy about it, but they allowed it. Since that time, North Light has emerged into the digital world and now they provide authors with very helpful instructions for preparing their artwork both on film or digitally.

Now I understand why they were reluctant to go digital. Not only are the artists not up to speed on the requirements, many professional photographers don't have a clue how to shoot and finish digital submissions. About half of my artists for my new book (which, by the way, has finally been titled: Confident Color: An Artist's Guide to Harmony, Contrast and Unity) have submitted digital files. I provided an information sheet for each one and about half followed the directions. This is driving me nuts. I spent six hours yesterday sizing, fixing perspective, matching colors and working up a demo for an artist who used a professional photographer to shoot his work. I asked everyone who did a demo to use a gray card which North Light provided so we would have a good color control. So far, most of them "forgot to use the gray card." Today I worked with another demo artist who had her final work shot by a color lab. The color is so far off I couldn't believe my eyes. Yes, it has the color scale, but why should we have to use it? There's no excuse for such poor results.

I'm still trying to figure out why this is happening. The only thing I can figure out is that people are being way too casual about the benefits of digital photography. Sure, you can fix it in Photoshop. But if you use the correct settings, set up with a tripod and good lighting--and a gray card--you shouldn't have to Photoshop it to death. It may seem easy on your end if you're the artist or photographer, but please, pity the poor production artists who have to make everything look good in the book. Pity me, using the work of 45 artists and having to get everything in shape to send to the production editors.

Let's face it--slides and transparencies are on their way out. So-called "wet labs" are closing or transforming into digital labs. So if you're illustrating books or entering shows that allow or require digital entries, do yourself a favor (and everyone else) and either find a good (VERY GOOD) digital lab to shoot your images or buy a good (VERY GOOD) digital SLR and LEARN HOW TO USE IT PROPERLY. Oh, pardon me, am I shouting?

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Blogger Mike said...

Hey Nita . . .

I sympathize. In working with the photographer on my end, we found some confusion in NL's specs, namely the lighting. I know you have been caught in the middle of this and are getting brunt of the confusion, which stinks. In a year or two, standards will become common as more and more shows and publishers make the shift to digital. Let me know if I can help with my stuff.


P.S. . .You SHOULD be yelling . . .and directly at NL!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Gillian Mowbray said...

I feel your pain. A few months back I helped to judge a layout contest to choose a design team for an on-line scrapbooking store. A showcase for the products from the store.
About 2/3 of the submissions were out of focus, spoilt by the glare of flash, or were shot at an angle to show off the surrounding carpet very nicely.
When these faults were pointed out, people were furious that they hadn't been given a chance 'just because of little faults'! Go figure ...

5:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nita I feel for you and the publisher.
Good luck
As an artist I would have offered to it over if I did not get it right the first time.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

I suppose what it all boils down to is the degree of professionalism of both artist and photographer. For the most part, both have been cooperative about working out the problems with dthe artist he had followed instructions to the letter and it was our fault they didn't turn out. No way. They were all way underexposed, no gray card and he included the mat and frame in the image, a sure sign of an amateur.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you be so kind as to publish your guidelines? They would be helpful to many of us who are still trying to figure out digital photography of our work.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

It's way too complicated and I'm not an expert. Cameras and computers differ greatly and what works for me might not for someone else. About the best advice I can give is to get a good digital camera and read the directions. Then use a good program on your computer, like Photoshop Elements 5, and learn to edit without degrading your images. Make sure your monitor is calibrated, too. Try to take the guesswork out of the process and be consistent in your workflow for the best results.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

how frustrating for you! Robin

3:55 PM  
Blogger quirkyartist said...

Looking forward to your new book. I teach acrulics at evening college in Sydney and recommend your books to my students. In fact, your books and Mary Todd Beam;s Creative Self one are the ONLY books I recommend to them.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

Thanks, Wendy. I'm pleased to be linked with Mary Todd Beam, who is a friend of many years, also an Ohioan. I first met Mary in a one-day Edgar Whitney workshop in the 80s. She's an amazing artist.

10:52 AM  

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