Painting and Noise

I was listening to an interesting radio show. The topic was noise in audio signals. It got me thinking about noise in video signals and in photography. In print almost every photo needs to be sharpened a little to make it look right. This is largely a result of print resolution. It’s a fairly complex subject but typical picture resolution for a printed page needs to be about 300 pixels per inch, at least that’s what printers want. A photo’s resolution needs to be about double the line screen of the printed piece. Don’t worry too much about this because as I said its complex. This is interesting because often an image needs to be both sharpened and have noise added to look right on a printed piece. When I’m working on a painting I often find that transitions appear too sharp and the painting has an unrealistic appearance. Sharpening transitions can also add to the reality illusion but it’s a balancing act. I’ve noticed that in many cases I’m compelled to add some noise to make the painting look realistic. This noise might be blurred lines and some small brush strokes of various colours.

Its worthwhile noting that sharpening that we talk about in an application like Photoshop is simply increasing contrast of adjacent areas. OK it’s a little more complex than that. This link gives you a much better explanation:

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/image-sharpening.htm

This is a technique that artists have used for several centuries. An artist often enhanced the contrast with fine light and dark lines in adjacent areas. Here is another link that documents this technique in paintings.

http://www.photokaboom.com/photography/learn/Photoshop_Elements/sharpening/1_sharpening_introduction.htm#Little

Noise is also fundamental to our view of reality. The reality we see is not perfect, there is a lot of fuzzy aspects to our perception. So to elicit the ‘reality illusion’ as I call it, the image needs to incorporate some of this fuzziness. I usually blur the lines a bit, sometimes they are just blurry to start with and sometimes I need to consciously blur them. I also try not to make colours too pure or smooth particularly when they are side by side with other solid colour blocks.

Blurring the lines is easy I just slightly overpaint them with similar colours. Noise is a little more tedious, I generally add some small areas of similar or reflected colour to areas around the blurred lines. I don’t have any hard and fast rules about this I simply do it until the image starts to look real.

Traditional Techniques

In a recent discussion I was admonished about not using traditional media. I use acrylics because they don’t smell; at least that is the prime reason. The individual in question wasn’t really being critical they just assumed that any real painter would use oils. In Da Vinci’s time oil paint was a new thing, as was painting on canvas. Many painters at that time painted on wood board. Those artists weren’t particularly worried about traditional methods so why should I be.

Acrylic is an interesting medium and the pigments used are beautiful. Actually acrylics can use all of the traditional old pigments as well as the latest ones. The pigments are simply ground up very fine and added to the acrylic base. Oils can use modern pigments too, but usually they don’t, probably because there is a prejudice towards traditional pigments. The advantage of traditional techniques is that they are time tested. It’s difficult to argue with a medium that’s been around for several hundred years. Acrylics have been well tested and testing today is much better than it was but it’s still new.

I like modern pigments. They are often more colourfast than traditional pigments and they are sometimes in a Nano-particle form. Nano scale particles are new and I’m anticipating some interesting new paints;

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/LEON_a_00114

I see advantages with new products. Substitute ‘new’ with ‘acrylic’ or some other new medium. So long as they are tested and come out better I have no problem with them. Artists have always experimented with new techniques or products and I don’t think we should stop.

 

Signs you sell paintings for a living

Your cat is eating your paint.

All your paint tubes are nearly empty.

One or more of your doors has been used as a painting surface.

There are a dozen paintings of your cat on your walls. It’s getting skinnier.

Your computer is filled with various unrelated photos that you intend to paint.

You can’t remember what’s in your computer trash. Most of them are pictures of unfinished paintings.

Your friends and familly stand rolling their eyes while you take inane pictures that you might like to paint. Actually this happens even if you don’t paint to eat.

Your studio isn’t warm enough to dry the paint.

 

The painting in progress you see here is a portrait of my daughter’s husband. I’ve taken some liberties with accoutrements. I think he will like it; particularly the sword. This is the sword I’ve decided to use. It’s a court sword so there is very little hilt but I’ll put some wear on the grip.

http://www.swordlinks.com/courtswords/plate_XXX.html

It’s been a very long time since I’ve done a portrait. I found that the better I know a person the more difficult the portrait is to paint or draw.

Signs you sell paintings for a living

Your cat is eating your paint.

All your paint tubes are nearly empty.

One or more of your doors has been used as a painting surface.

There are a dozen paintings of your cat on your walls. It’s getting skinnier.

Your computer is filled with various unrelated photos that you intend to paint.

You can’t remember what’s in your computer trash. Most of them are pictures of unfinished paintings.

Your friends and family stand rolling their eyes while you take inane pictures that you might like to paint. Actually this happens even if you don’t paint to eat.

Your studio isn’t warm enough to dry the paint.

 

The painting in progress you see here is a portrait of my daughter’s husband. I’ve taken some liberties with accoutrements. I think he will like it; particularly the sword. This is the sword I’ve decided to use. It’s a court sword so there is very little hilt but I’ll put a little wear on the grip.

http://www.swordlinks.com/courtswords/plate_XXX.html

It’s been a very long time since I’ve done a portrait. I found that the better I knew a person the more difficult the portrait was to paint or draw.

Varnish

I was in Quebec City last week and saw something interesting. I’ve been toying with using varnish for some time now. Although increasing the lifetime of a painting is certainly worthwhile I don’t want to use solvent based varnishes because of the smell. Acrylics are likely long lived just as they are so unless I want to equalise their reflectivity I don’t see the point. An artist in Quebec City is doing something different, he is applying varnish to highlight certain parts of the painting.

As a graphic artist I should have thought of this because printers use it quite a bit. I knew about it and used it a couple of times but it is expensive since you need two additional inks; one matte varnish and one gloss varnish. You need the matte varnish to ensure everything has a matte finish, then the gloss varnish prints on top. The two additional inks means a 6 colour press has to be used instead of a 4 colour press. Costly.

This particular artist used drips of gloss varnish on the background and painted some on areas he wanted to highlight. The effect of the gloss varnish is quite striking, it adds a great deal of life to a painting. I’m definitely going to start using this technique. Unfortunately it won’t photograph but a walk-by video might show it.