Gratitude without Attitude

The Clothesline Festival, on the grounds of the Memorial Art Gallery here in Rochester, was this past weekend and it went so well – like scary smooth. You see, it’s never gone this easy.

Nancy Murty Art, Clothesline Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery

The Weather

September weather in Western New York is tricky to plan for - part Summer, part fall, and always a chance of surprise downpours. The weather for Clothesline festival is notoriously “variable” to put it nicely. Over the years it’s been steamy hot or so windy the tents lifted into the air like Dorothy’s house in Kansas. Last year (my first as an exhibitor) it was so cold I wore my winter coat and mittens, the coffee vendor ran out of coffee and hot chocolate by noon both days. Rain is so common at the event that no bookie in Vegas would bet against it.

This weekend’s weather however was just about perfect. Not to hot…or cold, nice comfortable temperatures to be outside. It did rain, but overnight and everything was safely bundled up in the tent.

No Attitude

Ok, I admit it…sometimes I can get a little snippy when stressed. I don’t like that I do it, so this year, Paul and I made a plan and agreed we were not going to be in a hurry. Guess what? It worked! We finished setting up and still liked each other. And, we had fun. Well, as much fun as you can have schlepping and setting up.

Take Down went basically the same way. We had a plan and didn’t allow ourselves to feel rushed even as those around us raced to get their artwork and tents packed up.

 

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude."

– Alfred North Whitehead

With Lots of Gratitude

I really appreciate those that stopped by the booth to say hi. As an artist, I spend most of the day working alone and it was nice to have the opportunity to speak with people one on one and hear their observations. Two comments that made me feel especially warm and fuzzy were “I could stand here and look at it all day, it just makes me happy.” and “She doesn’t just paint – she captures the spirit, the essence of it.

As I unpacked and settled back into the studio on Monday, I kept thinking about what a great weekend it was and how lucky I am! I’m so very thankful to have supportive friends and family, and so grateful to be an artist and able to share this journey with you.

 
 

Embracing the Little Things

© Nancy Murty • Apple.1 • oil on linen • 5x7 in

© Nancy Murty • Apple.1 • oil on linen • 5x7 in

When out for a walk, I often find myself collecting little things. Could be an interesting leaf, a handful of acorn caps, or pinecones. A bird’s nest that fell out of the tree, a nut, or seedpods. Sometimes I pick them up because I think they’re interesting, or it could be that I’ll use them to refer to for color or size while painting. Whatever it is, they usually end up somewhere in the studio and just like a relief pitcher, they sit on the shelf until called up to service.

oil painting, nancy murty

Right now, several apple leaves are scattered around my painting area for just this purpose. I like to paint from life as much as possible but it’s not always practical. I guess this is my way of bringing a little of nature into the studio.

From time to time, it’ll be for sentimental reasons. There’s almost always a tiny little pinecone from a Hemlock tree sitting on the edge of the easel. It’s there because it reminds me of my Dad and our walks through the woods. It’s also there as a tribute to my Grandpa and his beautifully shaped Hemlocks. I learned at a young age not to use one as “home” when playing hide and seek.

There’s no great reason for collecting these things, it’s just one of the little things that makes me…me. ⁠

Embrace the little things that make you…you! They are part of what makes you unique and wonderful!

 
 

What the Heck is Bird Banding?

Have you heard me mention volunteering at the banding station and wondered what the heck that is? Well I’m putting on my bird nerd persona and happily sharing it with you. Picture a huge grin on my face as you read on cause I can’t stop smiling when I talk about my days spent with the birds.

© Nancy Murty •  Seed Breaker  • oil on linen • 9x12 in •  available

© Nancy Murty • Seed Breaker • oil on linen • 9x12 in • available

The simple answer for “why band birds?” is that by placing a band on a bird, it now has a numeric code that identifies it from all other birds, in other words it now has an individual identity.

A great example of the importance of birds having an identity is as follows. Say you routinely see a male cardinal at the feeder – is it just one bird that visits or is it four? By giving each male cardinal and identity, it can be determined that it’s actually six different birds that visit the feeder. Now this is an overly simplistic explanation but it demonstrates why it’s important in scientific research why it’s important to be able to tell birds apart.

My Experience at the Station

For eight weeks in the spring and ten weeks in the fall, one day a week I drag myself out of bed one and a half hours before sunrise. The bad thing about spring is the time to get out of bed comes earlier and earlier every week. In the fall, the alarm clock rings later and later as the days grow shorter and shorter, so every week I get to stay in bed for five or ten more minutes.

It should be noted right here; I am not a morning person and I don’t like getting up. Therefore, volunteering with the birds must be pretty darn special for me to drag myself out of a perfectly warm bed, cuddled up with the cat an hour before sunrise every week.

Bird bags hanging by the banding table. The birds are very calm in the bags.

Bird bags hanging by the banding table. The birds are very calm in the bags.

The schedule each day revolves around what time sunrise is. I arrive at the station a half hour before sunrise, 15 minutes before sunrise we head out to open 32 mist nets. These nets are made of very fine threads that are hard to see and contain a series of horizontal pockets called trammels.

Every 30 minutes the nets are checked, birds collected, placed in draw string bags, and marked with a numbered clothespin indicating the net the bird was located in.

At the station, the bags are hung from hooks located in the areas where the banders work. Net picking is my job currently, lots of walking, often in the mud, but I love it.

Left photo    - Banding table with bands and tools all set for the day.    Right photo    - Bander with a bird, taking the band off the string.

Left photo - Banding table with bands and tools all set for the day. Right photo - Bander with a bird, taking the band off the string.

The bander gently removes the bird from the bag, reads the band number to the scribe and put the band on the bird’s right leg.

Left photo    - Bander measuring the tarsus.    Right photo    - Bander looking at the wing feathers for molt limits to age the bird.

Left photo - Bander measuring the tarsus. Right photo - Bander looking at the wing feathers for molt limits to age the bird.

The bander measures the wing chord, tarsus (lower leg), and amount of fat the bird has formed. During migration, birds store the energy they will need to fly long distances in the form of fat which is located in the wishbone area and along their sides.

One important aspect of the research is to identify stop over areas where the birds can forage and replenish their fat stores for the next leg of their migration.

Next the bander identifies the sex (male or female) and determines the age of the bird by looking at the feathers for molt pattern, coloration, and/or condition. In certain species, eye color can help tell if it is a younger or mature bird.

In the fall the bander looks at the top of the skull for complete closure of the bone.

The bander finishes by weighing the bird and then releases it. The whole process is done in a matter of minutes.

The scribe’s notebook and bird code cheat sheet.

The scribe’s notebook and bird code cheat sheet.

During the banding process, all the information is recorded by the scribe. I started volunteering as a scribe and learned so much about birds sitting across from the bander. For me, the biggest thing to get use to was the four-letter code system used to identify species, a Black Capped Chickadee = BCCH. Cardinal = NOCA (Northern Cardinal).

I really look forward to my days at the station (run by the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory) and it is so invaluable to my artwork. Watch for a future post on why that is.

Have a great day.

 
 

Authentic or Magic?

nancy murty art

“Be Authentic” is a phrase I’ve been encountering quite a lot these days in researching ways to market and promote my art to increase sales.

Wait, you spend time learning how to market and promote your art? Don’t you just paint all day? There it is, the part of being a professional artist…we almost all hate. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to muttering the words “But, I just want to paint!” on more than one occasion.

All joking aside, these days self-promotion, marketing, and social media are all part of the job of a professional artist. A necessary part. A wonderful part in some aspects, because being an artist is a rather solitary occupation. The ability to reach out beyond my incredibly small world and connect with you is terrific and something I am very deeply thankful for.

 

I recently heard the number of works considered to be masterpieces by Pablo Picasso is somewhere around 100. I’m sure the exact number is open to debate. He is estimated to have created around 50,000 pieces in his lifetime.

People are so interested in seeing his masterpieces, but what about the other work? The failures, the struggles? Are they interested in the authentic life and work of Pablo? Or, just the magic that is Picasso?

The passion and gratitude I feel for painting are much easier to share, to celebrate the successes and happy moments of my days with you. It’s considerably harder to be as open and let you in on the days where I’m muttering “This sucks, I know it sucks, I suck, art sucks, why am I doing this…because it sucks!!” Accompanied by a picture of the paper towels in the trash can with the remnants of the painting I just wiped off…again. Luckily, these days aren’t that frequent. And, honestly, who wants to, or needs to hear about that in today’s culture. I’d rather be a positive spot in your day.

Being an artist is a roller coaster ride of emotions, full of ups, downs, and thrilling turns. When I reach the end, I’m so euphoric I want to run back to the beginning and ride the roller coaster all over again. There might be a bit of happy dancing going on at the end as well. Shh, don’t tell anyone or they might think I’m a crazy artist.

 
 

Getting the Color Right

Nancy Murty 2018. Color Matching Original Artwork.

It goes without saying that achieving an accurate color representation of original artwork is the desire of most artists. Artists are inherently DIYers, and their efforts at color correction can lead to hours spent tweaking images, often resulting in frustration and disappointment in the printed results.

If only it were as simple as selecting the option “convert to CMYK” in a photo editing program such as Photoshop. Unfortunately, there is more to it than a mouse click. RGB images tend to darken and dull when converted to CMYK and some colors are more affected by the conversion than others.

 

Understanding the lingo.

Before we can get into understanding the challenges of color matching artwork, we first need to be sure we’re speaking the same language.

Nancy Murty 2018. Image Resolution for Artists.

DPI or PPI (dots per inch or pixels per inch) These terms are most often used in reference to the resolution of an image. Most pictures on the internet are displayed at 72 DPI while images used for color printing need to be at least 300 DPI.

 

Nancy Murty 2018. Converting images from RGB to CMYK.

RGB refers to the three primary colors (red, green, and blue) of light used to create color in TV’s, screens, monitors, digital displays, and so on. See how the combination of all three primaries of light results in white, opposite of what we are familiar with. This is why many find it difficult trying to adjust the colors of an RGB image.

Note the mixed hues cyan, magenta, and yellow are lighter in value.

 

Nancy Murty 2018. CMYK Printing.

CMYK is an abbreviation for the four primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) of ink used in combination to create hue in standard printing.

Notice how mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow together generates black. As artists, this is the color model most familiar to us.

See how the mixed blue, red, and green hues are darker in value.

Image curtesy of BenSimonds.com – Halftone Shader

Image curtesy of BenSimonds.com – Halftone Shader

Here you can see how printed dots of the CMKY inks visually merge creating a color image.

A trick of the trade – magenta or a combination of cyan and magenta dots are often printed along with dots of black (k) ink for a deep, rich looking color. Take a look again at the image above, specifically the upper left corner or each color plate. Dots of cyan, magenta, and black inks are included, resulting in a more dynamic black in the full-color composite image on the far right.

 

1. RGB is not CMYK.

Image curtesy of SmartLevels.com – Technical Help

Image curtesy of SmartLevels.com – Technical Help

For most artists, adjusting an image on the computer monitor (RGB) until the color looks perfect does not usually result in an accurate color print (CMYK) because the sources of the color primaries are different. The image is displayed in RGB and printed in CMYK.

Glance back at the RGB and CMYK graphics above. Note how the mixed hues in each differ in value from their source/primary colors' value, these are examples of additive and subtractive color properties. This is one of many contributing factors that adds to the difficulty of a straight conversion from RGB to CMYK or vice-versa.

A few other examples of variables to take into account when trying to color match original artwork are; having a working knowledge of the equipment, understanding the differences between screen displays and printed results, and the fact that some colors are harder to match in CMYK print, purples for instance.

Did you know that giclée fine art prints are actually printed on a high-end inkjet printer that contains 8–12 different archival inks? Photo Black, Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Vivid Light Magenta, Light Black, Matte Black, Light Light Black, Orange, Green, Violet. This helps explain why giclées are more accurate in color and also why they are more expensive.

 

2. Apples and Oranges

Screens (monitors) are not created equal and not all viewing platforms are equivalent. The same image will appear to have subtle color differences when viewed on various screens. Even the same screen will change the way it displays color over time and depending on the amount of use.

You may not be aware that professionals in the field use specialized equipment to calibrate their screen displays and output devices for accurate color every week.

 

3. Give Yourself a Hand – a Color Hand

Color callibration chart, front and back with color recipies listed.

Color callibration chart, front and back with color recipies listed.

If you really want to get serious about color accuracy – pick up a color calibration chart and include it with all high res photographs and scans of your art.

The squares of color on the chart give something for a printer to reference in adjusting an image for accuracy before printing.

In addition to including squares printed with 100% C, M, and Y ink, the chart also includes a value range from white to 100% black. In today’s digital photography age, this value range can help with corrections for white balance.

Color calibration charts vary widely in price, here is a link to an affordable option available on Amazon.

 

4. Pixels Matter

Start with the best, highest resolution photo or scan you can get. The resolution or DPI/PPI can always be reduced for various needs, such as for a website, but can NEVER be increased.

Think of each pixel as a square of color, with the color squares combining together to create a reproduction of your art. When you increase the numeric DPI/PPI of an image in Photoshop, you are basically increasing the number of times that 1 square of color is sliced up into smaller squares. However, the newly created slices will still look like the original square. You are not increasing the detail of an image by increasing the resolution. This will only result in a printed image that looks pixelated.

DO NOT CONVERT A 72 DPI IMAGE TO 300 DPI FOR PRINT!

As a general rule, images for the internet are 72 DPI and images used for print should be at least 300 DPI. That being said, I always provide the highest resolution file to a printer I can and let them change the resolution to meet their best output.

 

5. Don't Scale

I mentioned the importance of DPI or PPI in image resolution, scaling or enlarging an image also reduces the quality of the printed picture. Think about it for a minute, if you enlarge or scale up an image for print, you are only making the pixels or squares of color print larger. 

DO NOT ENLARGE AN IMAGE FOR PRINT!

The only time enlarging an image will work is if you start with a much higher resolution, 1600 dpi for example. This is one of the reasons to always have the photos of your artwork taken at the highest resolution possible. 

 

6. Make a Sacrifice

Quality, Time, or Cost, which one will you sacrifice? Well not really sacrifice, but you will need to decide which two of the three are most important to you.

The priorities will change depending on the needs of each printing situation. For instance, if you are printing 200 postcards, time and cost may be the priority. But, if it’s 50 giclée prints, quality will be the most crucial.

Going Forward:

Now that you know some of the factors that are involved in getting a good color representation of your artwork in print, let’s put the knowledge to use.

Quick and Inexpensive

  • Online printers such as Vista Print or Overnight Prints are great for quick, low-cost printing. Just keep in mind, the color may not be perfect in the final printed materials. There’s nothing wrong with using these printers. I’ve worked with them myself for printing business cards, postcards, and such – but I know that I am giving up a little bit of the color accuracy in trade for a low cost and quick turn around.

  • Looking at a digital proof online will not give an accurate representation of the color in the final printing. You should be checking for placement, spelling, and that all the information is included and correct in the layout.

High Quality

  • To get the best quality, work with a professional printer. They are worth their expertise and experience.

  • Professional printers have color experts on staff that know their systems and how to adjust an image to get the best color match in printing. Color professionals also work in a specialized environment with color balanced lighting.

  • In addition to the high-resolution photography or scan, also include the RAW digital photo file. A RAW digital photo file has minimally processed data from the camera or other sources.
    This may sound really strange, but several years ago I had trouble with professionally printed images consistently looking to warm. The TIFF photos from my DSLR camera were causing the magenta dot to print a hair larger. The printer was able to correct the issue with the RAW file I provided.   

  • Provide the original artwork for the printer to color match, I realize that this may not always be an option. Including the color calibration chart with your art in the original high res photograph or scan will also help a printer do their best color matching.

 

Whew! Who knew there were so many factors to consider.

Honestly though, this really just scratches the surface of what's involved in getting the best color reproduction of your original artwork, there is dot gain, files types, image compression, paper surfaces, and so on. 

No wonder you’ve ended up frustrated after spending all that time at the computer adjusting colors, and why it’s not as easy as selecting “convert to CMYK”.

 
 

Triggers and Memories

D•Lead Soap from Natural Pigments.

Have you ever been caught by surprise by a clear sensory memory? Or transported back in time? That’s what happened to me today while using D•Lead hand soap for the first time.

My Father was an Industrial Art's teacher at the same Jr. Sr. High School my sister and I attended. Yep, he knew everything that went on at school, couldn't get away with anything. :) We'd often hang out in his office after school and help with a project or prep for the next day of classes.

The soap in the machine shop was orange, gritty, and dispensed by a metal container centered over the trough style sink. The dispenser had a push button bottom that you pressed with the palm of your hand, it made a distinctive sound when bumped.

The minute I started rubbing my hands together and felt that gritty texture, the industrial smell of the soap – I was 12, washing my hands in my Dad’s classroom. It caught me by surprise with the clarity of the memory. Miss you Dad, you’re with me every day!

 

About the Soap

D•Lead Abrasive Hand Soap. I recently bought a tube of Stack Flake White, a lead white paint from Natural Pigments that is made the way the Dutch Masters did centuries ago. This soap removes lead, cadmium and many other heavy metals from the skin.

Natural Pigments has a wonderfully detailed article on the process used to make the Stack Flake White pigment.

 
 

Why Birds?

© Nancy Murty •  Meadow Blue  • oil on linen • 12x8 in • sold

© Nancy Murty • Meadow Blue • oil on linen • 12x8 in • sold

When guests are visiting the studio, I often hear that phrase. We usually both laugh because, after a quick glance around, it’s pretty obvious. :)

So where or why did my love of drawing and painting birds begin?

Where most things start...in childhood.

As a young girl, I often spent weekends with my paternal grandparents in the Southern Tier region of NYS. During the colder months, my sister and I would utter those all too familiar words, “I’m bored!” One day my grandma said, "Here, draw the birds at the feeder" as she set a stack of paper and a huge assortment of colored pencils down in front of us. And that was it; I've been drawing ever since.

Birds being what I first learned to draw and color, they continue to hold a special place in my heart. A lasting connection to the beautiful woman who started me on my life path of art.

So what got you started down the path of your passions and hobbies? Who introduced you to golf, turned you on to the road of music, ignited a love of knitting, quilting, reading, computers, or whatever brings you joy and peace? I’d love to hear about it.