Body of Work, Digital Art Images–Printing

In 1995 I did an oil painting on paper called “Erin’s Airport.” It is one of my favorite paintings. The painting is  small, and what I call a “between the window” size painting, it is 9″ x 12″ unframed. When I finally decided, late in 2014, to create a body of work that I would print, I ended up deciding to use “Erin’s Airport” as my starting point.

Erin's Airport, painting © Mary Baker
Erin’s Airport, painting, Mary Baker © 1995

The printing of the images almost the terminated the digital art project.

I found someplace in Newburyport that would do a giclee, pigment print for not too much money, so that I could see what I had.  I had them print two images, fairly large, 18″ x 20.” The first printing was a disaster, the images were dark, muddy and a horrible yellow.  They had another giclee printer, so we tried that.  The digital images were just as bad–this time they were dark, muddy and had a horrible red hue.

I thought after 2 years of work that the digital project had come to a screeching halt, and I was beside myself.

What I found out to my dismay was that the printed image did not resemble what was on my computer in any way. And also, to my distress, I found that every printer was a little different, or very, very different.  This was not like painting, where what you created was what you got. It was a very big “Yikes!”

I called and talked to all sorts of photographers in Newburyport and elsewhere, because I figured they must have the same problem. And I got referred to Barry Kaplan at The Finer Image down in Danvers.  And Barry saved the digital project.

Pig and Apple Tree, digital image © Mary Baker
Pig and Apple Tree, digital image, © Mary Baker (DRAFT)

Barry spent a long time with me, and we printed off images and they were dark and muddy, and I was not happy.  And on a fluke, Barry printed one of the images much lighter, and I had another “eureka” moment.

The images are printed on beautiful, acid free, thick watercolor paper, and when they were printed lighter, I realized I could draw on them with Prismacolor (which is a waxed based colored pencil that I have used as a professional artist for decades), make the color exactly the way I wanted it, which is much brighter than the printed version.  And they would look very similar to the way the images looked on my computer.

The Prismacolor also gives the images depth, which they did not have just with just pigment prints (this is coming from a painter’s perspective) . The process feels more like creating a painting or a drawing than just a printed image.

And using the Prismacolor pencils on the skies also helps soften the banding, an issue that I had been working on, that was much improved, but that hadn’t yet been totally perfected.

Boston Road, digital image © Mary Baker
Boston Road, digital image, © Mary Baker (DRAFT)

I also changed the proportions and the size to be the same size and proposition as “Erin’s Airport” painted in 1995, 9″x 12″.  So, on this page there are two of the images.  THEY ARE NOT FINISHED, this is a work/project still very much in progress. These two images are just to give an idea of what the new images in this digital project look like.   I haven’t decided on the price, or how big a run (at this point I can’t imagine doing more than one, because they take such a long time). All of this is still to be determined.

And at the bottom of the post, is a photograph of 7 of the images that have been printed, that are lined up along my studio floor, so that I can get a sense of how they work together, and what images to create next. This is the process that I would use if I was creating a new body of work that were paintings.

And as of July 2015, that is the state that this new digital art project, that was started in December 2012. And I think I know where I’m going next, I hope that I can create 13 more images, and to try and have a cohesive body of 20 digital-prismscolor works of art.  But, after two and a half years, who knows–however, I am expectant.

Digital images along my studio floor © Mary Baker
Digital images along my studio floor © Mary Baker

Digital Art Images, New Work and First Technical Problem, a Possible Roadblock

By 2014 I had experimented with the new digital art images a lot. I was well into my second year on this project, the process was taking a lot longer than I had ever anticipated.  It was time to think about creating a cohesive body of work.

I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed, so I just started. I always love the big skies over the Newburyport marsh, so I thought I would start exploring images with big skies.

Joppa 2 © Mary Baker, digital image
Joppa 2 © Mary Baker, digital image

“Joppa” is what is referred to an area in Newburyport’s historic district, that is in Newburyport’s South End on Water Street along the Merrimac River. It is where the clam shacks were once located, and it is where small boats and kayaks are launched; you can see Plum Island and Salisbury across the water, and at low tide, people have for centuries, gone out and dug clams.

“Joppa 2” is one of several digital images that I have done of that particular area, and I was intrigued by the color of the sky in this particular image, it wasn’t a color that I had ever thought of creating. It was another progression it this digital art project that was now well into its second year, and again another “eureka” moment.

Stack Yard Road 3 © Mary Baker, digital image
Stack Yard Road 3 © Mary Baker, digital image

“Stack Yard Road 3” soon followed. Stack Yard Road is in Newbury, it is a dirt road that goes through the Newbury Marsh and ends at the entrance to Nelson Island which is now part of the Plum Island Refuge. I had painted this particular place many times, and had gone back to it when trying to figure out the new digital artwork.

Tree and Pasture 2 © Mary Baker, digital image
Tree and Pasture 2 © Mary Baker, digital image

This is a second digital version of the tree and pasture,  This particular tree of “Tree and Pasture 2” is along Scotland Road in Newbury, MA, and is surrounded by a large, rural piece of land called the “Common Pasture.”  I have done many, paintings of this particular tree and that beautiful area (as have a lot of other painters and photographers).

But as I created these new images I started to notice something. When I paint a sky with oil paint, I  smug the layers of paint together so that the sky would gradually go from dark to light, from the top of the sky to the horizon line.  What was happening in these new images is that I was getting what is called “banding.”

Banding in sky © Mary Baker
Banding in the sky

Banding is when a transition is not smooth and you can see horizontal lines between the colors.  It was particularly noticeable to me when the skies became darker at the top, which was something new in these particular images (it didn’t happen as much in the early seascapes skies that were lighter in color).  And there are many techniques to work with this problem, but as a painter, none of them met my expectations. I thought I might have hit a major road block, and I was stumped.

For the first time I wondered if this new digital project had any hope of going forward.