Making it Better

Making it Better

The little girls are my two first cousins, Tanya and Amy. The scene was drawn from a greatly underexposed and poorly developed photograph I took on Christmas Day, 1974. I used a borrowed 35mm Mamiya camera from my high school photography class to snap a quick picture that I subsequently developed in the school photo lab. This was my very first use of 35mm camera and the very first roll of 35mm film I exposed.

About a year later, I developed a pencil drawing from the underexposed photo for entry into the scholarship competition of the now defunct Art Institute of Pittsburgh. On the basis of this pencil drawing and a mixed media work of color ink, I was awarded a full tuition scholarship. At the request of the girls’ parents and grandparents, I made several additional versions of the drawing. This was the final version, created in 1983 for entry into Mitchell Tolle’s “Art in Berea” competition, for which it won the top prize.

All versions of the drawing were rendered with a wide range of hard and soft pencils, including my favorite, a black pencil from Sanford Design (now Prismacolor, a division of Newell Rubbermaid) called Ebony.

My efforts to get this drawing reproduced led me to work in the Digital Art medium.

Over the summer of 2003, I called printing companies and photographers in the Dayton, Ohio area to get a digital scanned image of the drawing. After many weeks, I found a company that I could afford and took the original drawing to them. The image I got back was a disappointment: all the white areas of the paper were gray in the digital image. This was my first encounter with the difficulties of color inaccuracies in reproducing traditional artwork. After many trial-and-error attempts to remove the gray, I settled on the only one that preserved the fine detail of my original pencil strokes: I used a graphics tablet to redraw all the white areas of the digital image and make them white again. It was a laborious effort, akin to redrawing the artwork in reverse, but I was able to restore the black and white pencil drawing to its correct colors. As I was redrawing with the graphics tablet, however, I kept wondering, "how do I avoid repeating this experience with every other artwork that I want to reproduce?" From checking with other artists, I discovered that my experience was not unique and that color inaccuracies were a normal occurance in the digital scanning of traditional artwork.

Both as a way of exploring a new artistic medium and to avoid the rework of color-correcting my traditional artwork, I embarked on a new adventure creating my artwork using some of the same tools I used to correct this drawing: a graphics tablet and sophisticated software.

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