Thursday, December 18, 2008

Letting Go...


2000 - 12-17-08

You brought such joy yet suffered so much.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bravo! Horse Prints Again!

To my great delight and profound relief, a two year ordeal of sorts has now come to an end. I'm now able to offer all of my horse prints again and two new ones as well!

As reported in earlier posts, my computer hard drive turned up its toes two years ago without so much as a warning gasp. Since I’d been using an outdated operating system (Mac OS 9.5) it seemed like a prudent time to upgrade and have the latest version (OS X) installed on the new hard drive. That meant that almost all of my old software also needed to be upgraded, including Photoshop, which I use for working with images. I bit the bullet and ordered Adobe Creative Suite CS2 which includes Photoshop along with several other software programs for designers, artists and photographers.

I immediately ran into a big printing problem that has left me dead in the water for the past two years. It seems that the new Photoshop is far more complex than the old, and there are now many more choices of settings than there had been in the old version in order to print something - like my home made reproductions of artwork. The odd thing has been that new images taken with my digital camera print just fine, but the older images, like my reproductions and business cards, came out very dark with over saturated colors. Since I’d only been printing a few of each image at a time, it wasn’t very long before I sold out of the more popular images which ultimately decreased sales since there were fewer images to choose from.

I asked for printing advice online and got a little but never had the time, until this past week, to really crack open the Photoshop books and just try different settings. To make a long story short, I made what turned out to be one key change in a setting and was gratified to find that the old images now printed much better. After many experiments with different settings, adjustments to the image files and many test prints, I was finally able to match my old print images and have now printed some out to replenish inventory. The wind is back in my sails, and although it may be too late for Christmas sales this year, there is at least the increased possibility of future sales in the new year.

I owe it all mostly to the rush to produce a reproduction of “In My Dreams” which I talked about last time. I’ve now added it to my inventory along with the image you see above. Now offered as a limited edition reproduction, “Khatrina”, is an older oil painting that has always gotten a lot of attention on the website and in note card and mini print sales. Arabian images are always popular, and I hope that will prove true for “Khatrina” as well.

The final step to get the ship moving at clipper ship speeds was to revamp the “Prints” page on my website, which I completed last night. It now matches the new design, and all of the prints, minus a few poor sellers, are now available for purchase online once again. Perhaps in these desperate economic times, people will be tempted to spend a little for a lovely horse print to brighten their walls and their moods in place of new saddles or riding boots.

Having spent quite a bit of time reading my Photoshop books over the weekend, it turns out that my solutions weren’t necessarily the “correct” ones, but they work for now and I’m very happy with that. I can learn about calibration and working spaces and profiling later. The big thing is that I can now offer some of my most popular images for sale as reproductions again.

I call that an early Christmas present.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It Happens Every Time

Just when I think I'm caught up with all the urgent projects, jobs and obligations, something new and urgent pops up to send me back to Square One. So it was this week.

I had left for Thanksgiving vacation with all the bills paid, laundry done, financial matters under control and Bard just a whisker away from being finished. I had been concerned about the winter weather and all the driving we had to do, but the weather cooperated, even for our whirlwind one day trip from northern Michigan to southern Michigan to have Thanksgiving dinner with my mother in the nursing home (where meal portions are designed for Lilliputians).

Finally, I thought, Life was under control again.

But that was not to be. The week went something like this....

A planned trip to the barn was aborted when my car developed a squealing noise and the Check Engine light came on. I carefully did my errands in town and limped back home and called the garage to arrange an appointment.

I received a call from my mother's nursing home wanting me to sign some papers which were then faxed to me. She had recently been in the hospital for 2 and a half days, and they required her to sign new admission papers to the nursing home! What followed was several phone calls, some of them heated, requesting to know why this was required and questioning various parts of the papers. I didn't get satisfactory answers, so I called some local nursing homes to see what their policies were and found they were different. To make a long story short, it was frustrating, took a bunch of time out of my days and ended with me passing the buck to my brother-in-law who has power of attorney for my mother. It seems that I couldn't sign the papers for her after all! Sigh.

The biggest new urgent matter arrived in the form of an email on Monday morning requesting a print of a painting that I hadn't made into a print yet. The man wanted it for his daughter for Christmas. Trouble was, I didn't have a good photo of the painting and wasn't sure I could create a print that would print properly. But I was game to try since it was an image that I'd thought about turning into a print anyway, and What the Heck! It's Christmas season, and I sure could use some sales and a new print to take to the gallery.

I got right to work and was able to take a really good photo of the small painting and set about adjusting the colors and cleaning up all the boo boos that always show up in photos but aren't visible on the real artwork; things like dust spots on the lens and little smudges in the pastel that the camera always magnifies. By zooming way in and using the clone stamp tool with a small brush size in Photoshop, I went all around the outside edges of the horse and rider and tidied them up. The original is a small pastel that was done as a color study for a larger painting, so I hadn't been really careful about keeping edges sharp.

While I was at it, I better defined the mare and foal in the background and made some adjustments to the girl's clothing. All of that took me one whole day.

Then the real challenge came; getting the thing to print properly. After consulting my Photoshop book and another book on digital printing, I changed a color space setting and made a test print in a small version. It was amazingly close to the screen image! Hooray!!

Many test prints later, after trying various differences in settings in Photoshop and the printer driver and different sizes for the print, I finally had an image that I was happy with. That took me another whole day, with interruptions. The final step was to print out the image on the expensive fine art stock and then to make a few extras for the gallery and to sell online.

In the end, what started out to mess up my week of finishing Bard ended up to be a positive thing. I now have a new print to add to my collection; the first in several years! The above print will very shortly be available from my website. The title is "In My Dreams" and it was created for all the little girls who dream of galloping across wide fields on beautiful horses.

And in addition I got a big approval from my client for Bard's portrait which is always a major "Whew!!" moment. It just needs some final touches and it will be done.

On the other hand, we won't talk about how, in all the hubbub of the week, I forgot the farrier was coming today when I made the car appointment and consequently failed to meet her at the barn at the appointed time. But all's well that ends well. She couldn't make it anyway, and we connected later and arranged for another time.

You would think that after all these years of living I would have figured out that there's no such thing as being "all caught up". Something always comes along that demands your immediate attention just when you think you can finally concentrate on some pet activity that you have difficulty fitting into the schedule. It happens every time. And sometimes that's a good thing!