Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hand-coloring binge, December 2013

Like i mentioned before/previous post...
Recently my Mac mini got very, very ill, and i was computer-less at home for 10 days.
For some this might be torture... But it was not hard for me to dial back the clock a few years to time spent at a marvelous apt. in SF, before i got involved w/ computer work ('93-'97), and found plenty to do. Going to Ocean Beach, staying past sunset, shooting film, processing it, taking it all into the darkroom for montage, playing tapes of 'Hearts of Space' radio shows, feeling the building sway in the wind ( i was on the 4th floor, wood frame building) and open east and west facing windows to a breeze that i could fly a kite in if i was so inclined.
I also spent time tending a cannabis garden that turned out excellent buds. :-)
In response to the 10 days of no computer, I pulled out a dozen or so prints from recent years, spent many, many hours working w/ watercolors, then adding oil color, i really honed my skills, it was excellent.

(If your computer croaks, surely you can find something else to do, can't you?

Life before all this stuff proceeded just fine, as best i remember.)

I had never tried using watercolors much before, but it is an excellent way to do small details that can't be done w/ a Q-tip. And i had never tried doing much w/ pearl/luster surface prints, they didn't seem to 'take' oil colors very well, at least not Marshall oil colors. Well, my Marshall set dried up a long time a go, and I don't like the ones they sell now - they seem to have dropped alot of the classic colors - I am used to the traditional stuff - sienna, raw sienna, umber, paynes grey, cerulean - they have added some other colors I just don't get, or want. So I bought a six tube set of very basic artist's oils.

I pushed myself much more w/ the watercolors first. Again, I have a basic set, 8 little bottles in all. One of the keys to adding watercolor is to wet the area you want to color first, w/ plain water. If you try and add color to a dry print, it will sink in, leave brush marks, and there's no "Command+undo" for that one. You need to soak it a bit first, just water w/ a Q-tip, or cotton ball.
The prints I pulled to work on were all 'duplicates/seconds', so if i fucked it up, oh well, c'est la vie, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
It worked out really well, two things i learned: #1 - can't add much color to a very dark areas (duh!) & #2 - Don't try to add much color to very light areas/hilites, it'll just deaden them. You need to keep some hi-lites, close to white.

Here's some befoe and afters, on the left, with just watercolors. On the right, the final w/ oil colors:

When i dove into 'part 2' - the oil coloring - i discovered that the Ilford 'pearl' managed to take it in better than i had thought it would. First of course, i hit the print with linseed oil, let it sink in for a few minutes, then wiped the excess off w/ kleenex. The oils i had seemed to sink in just fine.
So I did about a dozen more the same way, always adjusting, refining, tweaking techniques.

You've pretty much got to it all in one pass, one session - I have tried returning a few days later to a few things, and the fresh oil color dissolves what's already there, and you just a very hard to fix mess.

The scans needed some tweaking, especially the fiber based paper - i could see too much surface texture, mostly due to the fact that once i did some watercolors, the paper never dried flat, even after i put it under a heavy weight.
As long as i was tweaking them, i did a few retouching things, and extra color adjustments.

So here's the full batch, at a page on my website. Hope you enjoy :-)
(you can skip the 'notes' page, it's pretty much the same as this post.)

And here's a few good 'info' links

I always quote the Terminator, 'Ahnold S.' - "I'll be back".