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Bytesmiths

The Bytesmiths Editions Newsletter October 2000

Topics


And The Winner Is...

(drum roll, please) Mark Mahan, of Vancouver, Washington has won the free print drawing this month!

We met Mark and his family at the Rockaway Beach Autum Festival, on the Oregon coast, where we chatted about the Vancouver School of Arts, which Mark's daughter is attending, and their "artist in residence" program.

Remember, YOU may be the winner next month! Each month, I'm giving away a FREE signed, open-edition print in an acid-free mat, ready for framing, to a random email newsletter subscriber. The winner selects from any print currently in stock. (Winners are ineligible to win again for a year.) Relatives and Bytesmiths employees, er, I mean "volunteer helpers," ARE eligible to win -- heck, without them, I wouldn't have much of a mailing list!


Portland Open Studios a Success!

After months of preparation (well, okay -- we made some signs, cleaned house and set out some munchies), Carol and I opened our home and studio to the public as part of Portland Open Studios, a self-guided tour of 70 Portland area artists.

It poured rain all weekend, and turnout was light, but enthusiastic. I had 31 large prints on display (341k) in the entry and living room windows, and most visitors spent at least a half hour looking at them and reading the story that goes with each.

The first thing you saw when you came in the split-floor entry was a sign that said "Up to Gallery, Down to Studio." Most people went up first, but the "nerds and technoids" all went downstairs first to see the demonstrations and to talk geek-speak. I demonstrated the big printer printing on translucent backlit film, and had my new drum scanner creating moster 1.2 GB files from 4"x5" transparencies.

On the second weekend, we were not officially open according to the calendar, but had sent out many notices to the contrary. We had a very different crowd show up -- smaller, but even more enthusiastic -- of mostly gallery owners, customers, and neighbors. These visitors tended to sit down, have some coffee, and chat for a while, with the average stay of over an hour.

Overall, this has been a tremendously positive experience, and very different from the arts and crafts shows we've been staging. I look forward to participating in Portland Open Studios next year, and I hope more of you can make it then!


Feature: Fine Art Tool Arsenel

While it's "a poor artist who blames his tools," they are necessary, and I've been having fun -- except for the part about watching my bank account go down -- outfitting myself with the necessary tools for making and producing fine art.

Many of you couldn't care less about how an image is made, but many others have asked a lot of questions about my art creation environment.

Computing

Having Apple Macintosh computers isn't terribly useful for a computer consultant in a Microsoft-dominated business computing world, but it turns out to be an asset in fine art. In fact, some of the high-end drum scanners I evaluated work ONLY with Macs!

So I'll continue to upgrade and expand my Mac network. I've added a PowerMacintosh G4 and 22" Mitsubishi monitor for Photoshop use, and another G4 as a dedicated printer driver, or Raster Image Processor (RIP). A Power Mackintosh 9500 is a dedicated scanning/CDR-burning station, and an aging 7600 still finds general business use for word processing, surfing, and email.

Of course, the most powerful computer is useless without software. I'm planning a future article explaining the basic functions of the software upon which I depend most.

I'm STILL waiting on a business-grade high-speed Internet connection, after three years! This is a necessary step before I can self-host my web site. I want to do lots of interesting Internet things that are cumbersome or impossible using an ISP-based website. I'm looking at some hybrid ISDN-cable-satellite solutions, but it looks like a real mess (or $800 a month for a T1 line) if you want to run your own web server, but can't get DSL.

Fine-Art Printing

After more than a year of evaluation and angst, I selected and purchased a Roland Hi-Fi Jet FJ-50 printer.

This printer has been winning awards like crazy since its introduction a couple years ago. Some of you were involved in helping me evaluate other printers, and you know that we were largely disappointed in the results.

This printer is now the central tool, making my dream of a limited-edition fine-art photography business possible. The Roland is penetrating the fine-art print market as the second-most-often used printer for fine-art use, after Scitex Iris printers, which have had that market to themselves for nearly a decade.

Unlike home or office ink-jet printers, the Roland ink set features true archival properties, with more than 120 years under museum lighting conditions without noticeable fading or color shifts, according to Wilhelm Research, an independent print longevity assessment laboratory.

According to Kodak, home lighting is about 1/4 as damaging as museum lighting, so my prints may well last half a millennium or more under typical purchaser lighting. These are heirloom prints, that generations to come will remember you by.

Other manufacturers have long print lifetimes, but what sets Roland apart is their six-color Hexachrome(R) ink set. It uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, just like home or office ink-jet printers, but adds orange and green inks for a vastly expanded color range, especially in the greens and reds typically found in nature and landscape photography.

General Business Printing

Unfortunately, the Roland output is expensive. This is not a problem for large fine-art prints, but it is a problem for marketing material. I need to do short-run "on demand" printing, rather than order thousands of offset-printed brochures that are out-of-date before they are received.

So I've added an HP 8500DN for cost-effective short-run color printing. Those who were in on the printer evaluations consistently picked the 8500's output as the best among the five color laser printers tested. Although this is a discontinued product, the new 8550 is not much different, and I got a good price.

Wood Shop

I've added a dust collector, belt sander, and several custom jigs to the wood shop to ease the production of custom hardwood frames for Translesce() backlit prints, designed to be hung in windows. I'll be adding a second router, which will be dedicated to table use for shaping frame molding.

At first, I made frames simply because nothing existed for what I wanted to do with back-lit media, but I really enjoy the tactile process of working with wood, and will offer hand made frames as an extra-cost option for reflective media as well. With a hand made frame, each print becomes a unique work on its own right, not just because of some serial number.

Photography

My Olympus 35mm camera system has expanded considerably in the past two years. I'm looking forward to exploring extreme macro photography as well as architectural and wildlife photography with the specialized lenses and accessories I've acquired, but ultimately, there just isn't enough quality information in even the slowest, finest-grained 35mm film to do justice to the size of prints that the Roland can produce.

Thanks to a loan from Alex Contreras of the Yale University Art Gallery, I'm now shooting 4"x5" film with a Linhof Super Technika III field camera, in six different focal lengths. I'm excited to be working with the versatile movements of large format, but more importantly, a 4"x5" negative or slide will blow up to 50"x63" with the same quality one would see in an 8"x10" print from a 35mm camera!

Scanning

Unfortunately, my Nikon LS-2000 film scanner is limited to 35mm film. It's a great scanner for its price range, but to do justice to 4"x5" film requires a "drum scanner," which spins a slide, negative, or print at high speed while scanning it with a highly sensitive photo multiplier tube to produce a superior, high-resolution scan.

Drum scanners excel in both resolution and dynamic range. "Resolution" is the number of individual points that are produced from scanning, and "dynamic range" is the extent to which both dark shadows and highlight detail can be preserved. Drum scanners typically capture ten times more information than do "prosumer" scanners based on charge-coupled device (CCD) sensors. Unfortunately, even a used drum scanner will cost ten times as much as new, high-end CCD film scanner.

I've recently acquired a used Optronics Colorgetter Falcon drum scanner. It allows scanning of up to 5,400 pixels per inch, for prints up to 24"x36" from high-quality 35mm images without any computerized "up-sampling," and it also has 2.5 times the density range of the Nikon scanner. Now I can make superb photo-quality prints up to 50"x63" from 4"x5" source material from the Linhof large-format camera.

With the drum scanner, I'm in control of every aspect of the process except film processing, thus ensuring consistent high quality while providing rapid response to custom orders and commissioned works.


Upcoming Events

Carol and I are taking a breather from events this month. We're hoping to do at least one pre-Christmas exhibit -- watch this space next month -- but more importantly, due to requests from customers, we've completed plans for a new facet of events: class instruction.

Together with the West Linn -- Wilsonville Community Education program, we've planned an interesting selection of classes to be offered in the winter term beginning January 2001. If you live in this area, you'll receive a Community Education catalog in the mail. If you live in Clackamas County, you can find us in the Community Education section of the Clackamas County Community College catalog, which is sent to all Clackamas County residents.

If you aren't in Clackamas County, but are willing to go to West Linn for an evening class, you can contact Diane Lam at 503.673.7192 or for logistics information or to sign up over the phone using Visa or MasterCard. Contact Carol or I if you have a question about the actual classes.

I'll put a more detailed description of these classes in the November and December newsletters.

  • Craft:
    • Making Simple Books, Carol Wagner. Tuesday, February 20, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • Paper Bags and Boxes, Carol Wagner. Tuesday, February 27, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • Decorating Your Paper Crafts, Carol Wagner. Tuesday, March 6, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
  • Gardening:
    • Composting, Carol Wagner. Tuesday, January 30, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • Landscaping With Native Plants, Carol Wagner. Tuesday, February 6, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • Organic Gardening, Carol Wagner. Tuesday, February 13, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
  • Photography:
    • Beginning 35mm Photography, Jan Steinman. Four Tuesday evenings, January 30 through February 20, 6:30pm to 9pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • Nature Photography, Jan Steinman. Four Tuesday evenings, February 27 through March 20, 6:30pm to 9pm, and one Saturday field trip on February 17, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.
    • Digital Photography Overview, Jan Steinman. Monday, Februrary 12, 6:30pm to 8:30pm, Rosemont Middle School, West Linn, Oregon.

Top Ten Titles

Here is a list of our most popular images, based on sales of all media combined, from 75 cent postcards to huge, custom-sized framed prints of over $500.

and the most popular image this month is:

Congratulations to Carol for snagging the top two spots this month! Her "My New Violet" is also #1 in laser-printed note cards, and I will probably soon produce it as a limited-edition giclee note card.

Without detracting from the beauty of Carol's "Winter Bigleaf Maple," I should note that it was our feature image in the Portland Open Studios calendar, and sold six copies during the Portland Open Studios weekend alone. Many people came just to see the incredible 24"x36" translucent print (164k) featured in the calendar, and subsequently went home with smaller versions.

Do you have a favorite image from my Top Ten Titles? Let me know what you like!


Links

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Works In Print
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