Art QandA: Miscellany
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Question & answer resource for artists.
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General Art Issues Page

Titling Artwork
Collage Technique
Making Frames
Folk Art
Photographing Paintings
Taking Pictures in Museum
Appropriation and Copyright
Homemade Cameras
Glicee and Iris Prints
Handmade Paper
Early Computer Art
Computer Photo-silkscreen
Archival Computer Prints
Computer art w/out Printer
Computer in the Studio
Computer Art Cheap



Can I take pictures in a Museum?

At the Whitney Museum we used to say that taking pictures was strictly prohibited but that people were free to make photographs of them. Generally museums have no objection to photographs taken for personal use so long as no flash and no tripod are used and the photographs are only of works actually owned by the institution. This means deactivating the automatic flash on point-and-shoot cameras, using a 1600ASA film unless the works are in natural light settings, and learning to brace the camera against your body for long exposures and to place the camera as parallel as possible to paintings. Don't forget to adjust for "reciprosity falure" if the exposures are longer than say a 1/15 of a second... the proper adjustment is given on a chart on the film package insert. Also, in taking study pictures I found a zoom lens very helpfull. You should probably go on such an expidition at an unpopular time like say early Wednsday morning... and some sort of bogus credentials might help if you run into a cranky guard. Some museums have idiocyncratic rules though... the museum on the Acropolis in Athens prohibits the inclussion of live people in photographs of the art (this being consider irreverent) and the Hyde Collection will not release color images of thier paintings even to other museums or to scholars due to the terms of the charter and bequest.


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How do I photograph my paintings for slides?

Film: Use the slowest you can without having to shoot with your aperture all the way open. Slower film = finer grain. I use "daylight" slide film even indoors, I find a blue 80B Tungsten filter more economical and flexible than using indoor Tungsten film which is less available, more expensive, and I think only comes in 160 ASA.

Distortion: The camera must be on a tripod and oriented with the film plain absolutely parallel to the surface of the work. It is all but impossible to avoid parallax framing problems unless an SLR is used, although twin reflex will work for 6cm transparencies if the work is large enough to minimize parallax. I use a spirit level to make sure that my tripod platform is level to the ground but I just eye the camera back parallel to the picture.

Cropping: Even if you intend to mask your slides with silver mylar slide masking film it is still strongly advisable to hang the work on a large black velvet background for neatness... I find that for the eighteen dollar investment in 3 yards of synthetic velvet from the fabric store I can skip masking altogether. The velvet is also a good seamless for sculptures. Try not to frame the picture too tight in the view finder, although they usually only cover 97% of the true image captured you still risk losing edges do to inaccuracies in the camera assembly. Also, always center the image... Some people try to save work masking by putting the picture in the corner of the frame but this increases the risk of lens distortion and looks unprofessional when the slides are viewed.

Color Temperature: Really the best way to deal with this is to shoot on daylight slide out of doors in diffuse light. I used to use the wall of the stairwell roof exit up at the top of the apartment buildings I lived in Boston and New York. For when I have to shoot indoors I use two AC flash units (Rokunar Studio Pro 100s) that screw into clip-on light fixtures and cost $30 Bucks each as of a few years ago... they are hooked up to my camera with sinc-cords and carefully (!) placed at exactly 45 degree angles from the picture surface to avoid glare. I use a string and a square piece of paper folded over into a triangle to station the lights and then sometimes check for glare by shining conventional lights from that spot and looking through the camera viewer. I haven't had glare problems even from works behind glass. Before I started using these flash units I used to use blue photo flood lights in the clip lights but it is veery difficult to get even light over a large area with those and they burn out quickly so there is really no savings even over the short term over buying the AC flash units. With the photo floods you have to shoot with any regular incandescent lights turned off so as not to throw the color or cause glare and the exposures are long and wide open so that focus and film reciprocity become critical issues, on the other hand, the AC flash units I have deliver so much light that I often end up having to *stop* all the way down.

Exposure: With my flash units I don't need to meter because I shoot based on the light output (exposure index) rating of the flash units which is a fixed value, in my case 100 per unit. I guessed at the proper exposure by looking at the guide on my regular camera flash and doing the numbers but confirmed it with a test roll the first time around, f16 at 1/125 at 12.5 feet, f22 at 1/125 at 8 feet etc. At these exposures I don't worry much about the room lighting. Since I leave the flashes at a set distance I don't find I have to adjust my exposure when I move my camera to frame larger or smaller pictures. When I used photofloods I metered from a gray card or this old flannel shirt I had which was a perfect 18% gray. When forced to shoot indoors on location without my lights I us a 80B blue filter rather than switching to indoor slide film... Don't forget "reciprocity failure" if the exposure meters at longer than say a 1/15 of a second.

Focusing: Since I'm usually shooting my own work I have no reservations sticking a post-it on the center of the picture to use as a focus guide for my prism. With other people's work I hang a ribbon from just above the picture and use that as a focus guide and tuck it out of the way for the actual exposure. If you have a helper just have them hold the graycard up close in front of the picture so you can use its edge as a focus aid.

Duplicates: It might be better sense to shoot a roll or half a roll of each image if finance allows but usually I keep a set of masters to dupe from. I use a mail order company in Chicago that charges less for ektachrome dupes than the unexposed film would cost retail but to get dupes made locally is usually outrageous. I have a "dupe tube" for duping my own in a hurry but I haven't used it in a long time so I'm shaky on the following (best you test it out on your own)...

Dupes will be too contrasty unless special dupe film is used or the film is "flashed" before use. Flashing the film pushes the exposure curve for the film up so as too flatten contrast... this is accomplished by determining the intended image exposure and then exposing the whole roll to a white wall or piece of frosted plastic with the same light conditions but with the aperture stopped down three stops (I think it was three stops)... this blank "flash" is intended to give a none image exposure just below what would cause "fogging" so that the image exposure falls more on the curve of the films response than it would starting at the "shoulder" as it does with un-flashed film... This flashing was a standard practice in the old style printshops and I know of a book out about using it for 35mm photography to bring out rich tones in portraits of dark complexioned people --I can't remember the title of this book but it is in most university libraries I should think.


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Can you give information about hand made paper? I want to paint on this kind of paper.

I'm sure you can find suppliers with sites on the web. Handmade paper can be very beautiful but it is generally very expensive.

Making your own paper is really not that hard.


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Is it important to title artworks?

I've never titled a work myself accept as a concession to dealers although my wife and I have nicknames for the pieces (e.g. the mouse/chair or tommy/wallpaper or green molly, etc.) for the sake of convenience. Much of the famous work we know by title was titled by a dealer or scholar rather than the artist. I feel like my paintings and other artworks are-what-they-are and don't need titles but dealers want something to talk about, they want to be able to say the thing is about something... maybe I would be more successful if I gave them pretentious or topical titles but just can't... I feel like words are words and visual art is something all together separate... I've never been able to really pull-off using words in my pictures either. I would advise making titles up if your trying to get things into a show or sold.


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How does copyright apply to appropriation?

-- How could Jeff Koons lose his case regarding the Puppy Dog postcard he had reinterpreted into life-sized ceramic? The courts seem to be determining copyright violation using the strict standard used for original research whereas my freemarket mentality makes me think that the onus on a producer is to get his or her product to market in the most effective and profitable manner possible and that protection against piracy should be built into the product.

-- Here are my own guiding principals... Nearly any use of an image by an artist constitutes Fair Use as either parody or pursuant scholarly, educational, or critical discussion... violation of copyright would seem to me to require that the usage result in one of the following:

-- Furthermore, I feel the onus in the case of the Koons piece was on the plaintive to established that the Koons' sculpture was NOT a Fair Use of the original being neither a parody of the postcard rather than a sincere attempt to counterfeit it, nor a critical work meant to communicate something regarding the aesthetics etc. of the original work, nor reportage/educational in showing the type of mass culture represented by the postcard to an audience that might not otherwise been aware of it.

-- I would say that the mere transformation of the work via change in scale and media was an act that constituted critical "discussion" of the original postcard. I believe that photographers are generally permitted to reproduce building facades in there work despite the fact that these facades are original creations of the architect because the courts hold that the transformation intrinsic to the photographic process render mute any claim of Product Substitution although this might be harder to affirm in the case of primarily ornamental architecture such as the CN Tower which might be conceived as a very large commercial logo.

-- That all being said... Koons should ethically have credited the source of the original image in the display and reproduction of his work.

See Links to Copyright Issues Sites on my Links for Artists Page.


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Where can I find information/tips on collaging?

I kind of think of collage as something you just do rather than read about... there are books out but I wouldn't spend any money on them... but you may want to look at them in the bookstore, art store, or library. Here are my tips:


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Can I make my own frames?

-- Hardware stores sell wood molding that can be cut to fit around the canvas/print. some is embossed or cut with fancy "profiles". The art work can be held in the frame by the thin molding strips used to hold panes of window glass in their frames. The print or canvas is held in place by wire brads driven into the frame flat along the backing board. Tape the edge between the backing an frame with gummed tape to keep out dust. The construction can be painted, buffed with a gold wax on the projecting relief or even gilded...start by buying a goldleafing kit that comes with instructions. Remember: frames that angle to or from the wall will need to be cut with compound mitered edges.

-- Prints should be mounted in a "pass-par-touts" prior to framing... sandwich the glass, a matte, the artwork, and a backing board and bind the edges with a cloth tape. This package keeps out dust, keeps the image from touching the glass, and can easily be set into a frame.


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Can I make my own camera?

Yes, pinhole cameras are as simple as blacking out the inside and top of one of those baking soda cans and punching a pinhole in the front of it. The negative can be cut from enlarging paper, sheet film, or two-and-a-quarter roll film. I have used a 35mm developing tank for exposing 4x5 film... this let me tape over the pinhole and develop the film in-camera.

There are people out there making field cameras but I lost the web links... look at Oslo Pinhole on my links page, that guy makes his own field cameras.

Most of the earliest photographers used simple and sometimes home made camera obscuras modified for photo plates to take their pictures. There are children's' books with instructions for simple lens cameras, maybe I can post plans for asimple camera when I get a chance to draw one up. The problem with cameras made with magnifying lens lenses is that the correct focal point for the film plane for any given image must be determined by focusing on a groundglass or velum screen. Given that stopping these lenses down with a simple aperture can really improve the depth of focus maybe someone can tell us how to determine the hyperfocal focal point for a given diopter/aperture combination. I have heard of homemade large format "point-and-shoot" cameras based on this principal. Please contact me if you can help on this.


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What makes something Folk Art?

The person who made it doesn't have an MFA degree.


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What was the first computer art?

The earliest published catalog that I could find is for Cybernetic Serendipity an exhibition held at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts in the Fall of 1968 although Cynthia Goodman in her book Digital Visions: Computers and Art (Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987) describes an exhibitions of computer generated art in 1965 at Technische Hochschule and Howard Wise Gallery in New York. It is supposed that prior to these exhibitions computer art consisted mainly of ascii compositions created recreationally by computer scientists without artistic pretensions.
Here is a chronology extracted from the text of Goodman's book.

1957 -- Computer with CRT display developed at MIT in 1949 demonstrated with simple bouncing ball and rocket trajectory graphics on Edward R. Murrow television show in U.S.
1957 -- First scanner and plotter setup by Russell Kirsch et al. National Bureau of Standards.
1962 -- Sketchpad interactive computer graphics system for commercial/military application by Ivan Sutherland at MIT.
1963 -- The trade periodical Computers and Automation has first annual computer art contest participated in exclusively by computer scientists.
1965 -- Mathematicians, Frieder Nake, A. Michael Noll, and George Nees organize exhibition of computer generated art at Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart.
1965 -- Exhibition at Howard Wise Gallery in New York City of microfilm plotter outputs by A. Michael Noll and Bela Julesz of Bell Telephone Laboratories. This exhibition garnered coverage, albeit dismissive, in the mainstream media.
1968 -- Thomas Hulten curates Some More Beginnings: Experiments in Art and Technology featuring some computer generated works at the Brooklyn Museum.
1986 -- Quantel has David Hockney, Jenifer Bartlett, Larry Rivers, and other mainstream artist demonstrate digital tablet drawn work in color using Quantel Paintbox, a computer animation system designed for logo and special effects work in television broadcasting industry.
After 1986 -- From this time access to computer equipment for artists dramatically expands and personal computers are introduced to the consumer market.


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What is Glicee and how is it accomplished? Can it be done on a home based ink jet printer?

--"Glicee" means "spurt" in French? My understanding is that Glicee and Iris printing are simply rotary drum high resolution inkjet printer... can't remember if they cost 15 or is it 30 grand? what makes them different from regular ink jet printers is that rather than the having the jets fire on and off to control ink application, very fine jets are sprayed continuously past a set of magnetic heads that pull ink from the spray stream with an electrical charge when ink is not to be applied and lets it continue past where it is to print. I believe that print areas may cycle past the spray heads repeatedly before printing is completed. The inks used are dye rather than pigment based and are thus not considered archival (I don't think) unless a layer of UV blocking PVA is screened over the image.

-- The best you can do with a home ink jet is to print color separations to make silkscreens from or get color laser copies done at a reduced size to punch up the apparent resolution... these copies can be transferred to other surfaces with washable fabric glue as detailed in the painting and drawing pages of this site.


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Is there a short course available on the photo-silkscreen process using computer generated transparencies?

-- I don't know of anything written on the photo-silkscreen from computer printout process. I had never seen it mentioned by anyone but my self until the Computer Screenprinting by David Kaye in Printworks Magazine.

-- However, once you generate the printouts for each color the process continues in the conventional manner of making photo-silkscreens from photocopies on acetate... A simple enough procedure that it can be figured out from the product package instructions.

-- I recommend using the direct photo-emulsion rather than the transfer stencil and using the diazo as a less toxic alternative to the traditional dichromate solution. Speedball has a giveaway instructional pamphlet available from most retailers of their product.

-- By the way, in a Children's Art Education magazine called Arts&Activities;I recently saw a case-study by a middle school teacher who used computer printouts of manipulated scans as the masters for cutting conventional reductive linocuts.


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What possibilities are there of getting archival output on large format prints?

-- Search for the terms Iris Prints or Glicee Prints on the Web to find service bureaus that produce archival output from digital images. These are terms for a sophisticated drum inkjet process which can be done up on acrylic primed canvas as well as artists' paper... some providers claim to use archival inks.

-- An other alternative I prefer is to get the images outputted to a so-called film recorder or even just take a slide transparency off the biggest and best monitor you can get access to and have archival Cibachromes produced from the transparency by a professional photo-finishing service.


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I want to do art on my computer but I can't afford a good printer...What do I do?

Using a service bureau is really expensive. Try photographing your monitor with the room lights off and the camera set to 1/60 of a second. I think Kodak has an instructional pamphlet. You must use an SLR camera and will need a macro-lens or the cheaper alternative, a close-up filter. It is possible to go just soft enough with the focus to keep the image sharp while fuzzing out the individual pixels.


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How can I integrate computer work into my other studio art work?

Printouts can be photocopied on to transparency film and used as stencils for photo-silkscreening (a simple process... just read the package instructions). The screens can then be printed on canvas and painted over. You can work over regular computer printouts by hand and also try scanning handwork onto the machine for digital manipulation.


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I can't afford good software or hardware but I want to get into computer art... what can I do?

Well there is great graphics shareware out there such as Image for Mac and Matise for PC and good work can be made with the most rustic equipment and applications. I did the linked still life painting on a $40 Mac application . And careful use of simple shareware B&W-only;MacPaint-like programs can result in work like the Portrait done on MacPaint at the IMoCa site.

MicroFrontier sells an excellent counterpart to Adobe Photoshop for $98 list but I picked up direct from the company as a promotional for $8.95.


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©Daniel Wasserman



L.C.D. (Least Common Denominator)
"Make it simple and push the content..."