Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's your favourite software for editing digital images? (MAM Poll Results)

Well there's not a lot to say about the result of the Making A Mark Poll for March about What's your favourite software for editing digital images?

Right click the image to open a larger version of the chart.

Photoshop romped home by a mile and had its feet up and was enjoying a cup of tea with its junior siblings PS Elements for PC and MAC long before we got to the 31st March

There were 137 responses over the course of the month. Of these
  • 72 (53%) use the full blown version of Photoshop - albeit I gather there are maybe a few versions involved in that response.
  • 23 (17%) use PS Elements for PCs
  • 8 (6%) use PS Elements for Macs
  • 9 (7%) are using free software not otherwise identified in the poll.
The free software which did best in terms of named software was Picasa. however I suspect I should have included gimp (for windows) in the listing judging by comments.

Some questions which remain unanswered:

I do wonder
  • how many of the people who are using Photoshop have tried the latest version of PS Elements?
  • why does the UK version of Photoshop costs £100 more than the American version (after allowing for the currency conversion?)
  • how many current Photoshop users will happily justify the extra money to pay (from their own funds) for a new edition of the full version of Photoshop (rather than Elements) if their computer will no longer support the edition of Photoshop they are currently using? Putting it another way what exactly are the functions which are worth £520 / $600+ ?
  • How Corel manages to stay in business!  It appears to have about 7% of the total market which looks very marginal to me for a commercial priced product.
For the record, the current prices of the different Photoshop offerings on Amazon are as follows.  The price differential between the USA and the UK virtually disappears on the Elements offerings.

(links are to Amazon products/pricesPrice UK  £ 31.3.10. Price USA $ 31.3.10.
PhotoshopAdobe Photoshop CS4 (PC) £569.99
Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Mac) £568.99
Adobe Photoshop CS4 $681.33
Adobe Photoshop CS4 [Mac] $666.99
Elements 8
Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 (PC DVD) £48.97
Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 (Mac)
Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 $76.99
Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 [Mac] $76.99

Comment Highlights

There were lots of really great and very helpful comments on this poll - for which many thanks.  It's sharing like this which helps people avoid expensive mistakes and your assistance is much appreciated by me and all the other people who were (and are)  pondering software!

Here is a small selection of some of the comments received - you can read the rest by clicking on the link to the post announcing the poll at the top of this post.
If I had the money it would be Photoshop, but since I don't, my favourite is Photoshop Elements.

For slightly more advanced editing of photos and scanning/adjusting my traditional works I use the ancient Photoshop Elements that came with my tablet. It knows most of the tricks that the big bro knows and it doesn't need as much disk space as the later versions

Photoshop every time. At various colleges I've used Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Elements and I've helped a friend download Artweaver (freeware). Photoshop, full version, not Elements, expensive-though-it-is, is by far the best IMO

I use Photoshop. Though it is way more software than I need for getting images ready to post online. So I don't think I would go out and buy it for just that.

I learnt to use Photoshop at an Adult Education class over 5 years ago so when I became a student of the OU on a Digital photography course I took the opportunity to upgrade to Photoshop CS3 at student price as long as I don't use it for profit.

I’ve used a lot of different software in the office, at home (desktop) and on the road (laptop). For what I usually need them to do – editing photos and graphics, doing some layout – I don’t mind which software to use. Photoshop, PaintShop, Gimp, Photoplus, Artweaver… they all do their job. Switching between those programs can be a bit confusing since they don’t apply the same logic regarding the placement of tasks, and they do have different strength and weaknesses, but I get along with all of them. If it wasn’t for the money aspect I’d definitely go with Adobe Photoshop, full version. Everything you’ll ever need and more, and easy to use. I love it. My other recommendation has to be Gimp – it is a free software that offers a lot! Layers, raster graphics, extensive file support, plugins… and did I mention that it’s free?

i voted for photoshop, but thats because i do a lot of things there, including painting :) however, for doing basic work on photos, etc...and not needing all the hoops and get photoshop elements. It has everything you are going to need and more...and the cost is WAYYYYY more appropriate for what you are looking for

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What are fugitive colours?

Fugitive colours in art media are colours which are based on pigments or dyes which have a short life. They are not lightfast which means they are not permanent.

What this means in practice is that if you use fugitive colours in your work they will look absolutely fine when you create the work. However if the work is continuously exposed to light, the colour saturation will reduce and the work will dullen and then eventually the hue will completely disappear. This is as a result of chemical change rather than any bleaching effect of the light.

I've even known some colours fade despite being in a stack of work because they were not put away in an environment which excluded light. That was the experience which first got me interested in fugitive colours. The medium concerned had no claims to be lightfast however it did make me realise just how fast colour can fade when it is fugitive.

I was reminded of fugitive colours last night while reading Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour.

The book is the catalogue of the Girtin exhibition at Tate Britain Thomas Girtin And The Art Of Watercolour: 4th July - 29th September 2002 and is absolutely fabulous in terms of an insight into his work. It also clearly highlights how some of Thomas Girtin's paintings cannot now be seen the way they were when painted due to the pigments having completely disappeared from the paper.

It's only because of his technique of painting (of which more in another post) that we can make out what some of his paintings are about.

I was prompted to find out more about Girtin having seen his painting of The White House at Chelsea (1820) at the Turner and the Masters exhibition at Tate Britain and read Turner's comment. Turner is quoted as having said
if Tom Girtin has lived, I would have starved
JMW Turner
The White House at Chelsea 1800
Thomas Girtin 1775-1802

Pencil and watercolour on laid paper

Girtin mainly used transparent colours with occasional use of bodycolour. It's suggested that he was maybe not too fussed about whether or not the pigments he used were permanent. There's a fair bit of information about how Girtin painted from William Henry Pyne. He used 15 pigments in all. However the names were not standardised at the time and it's unclear where Girtin sourced his pigments.
As Richard Hearn has argued, the specialist colour shops grew up to satisfy the amateur market, and thei high costs, and often dubious reputation as opurveyors of adulterated stock, meant that many artists bought their own pigments or the raw materials from which they were prepared from a wide range of outlets including pharmacists dry salters and apothecaries.
Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour page 96
However the list of pigments provided by Pyne explains in part why some of Girtin's work has faded.
Indigo, lake, gamboge, yellow lake and brown pink are all highly fugitive when exposed to light, and their use in mixing of blue tints for the sky, greys for clouds and greens for the foliage partially explains the distorted appearance of (some of his works)
The exhibition catalogue suggests that in using some pigments which were known to be fugitive that Girtin was 'at best negligent and at worst irresponsible'. However it also higlights the notion that the majority of his works may not have been designed for public display - that they were sketches rather than paintings for sale.

Another recent example of an artwork on display which has faded very badly is the painting of Roses by Van Gogh which is owned by The National Gallery of Art in Washington as is currently on display at the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Van Gogh tells his brother in a letter that he has just finished a painting of pink roses against a yellow green background in a green vase. The pink roses are now almost white which has affected the intended contrast with the green.

Very oddly, the NGA website now titles the work 'White Roses' and fails to highlight the fact that the pink in the roses has faded to white.

Which just goes to show you can never be sure that you can really see what was originally painted even when it is on the website of a reputable museum (which does highlight the fading problem in teaching material about Van Gogh)!

Fugitive Colours

Examples of fugitive colours include:
  • all the colours which have only one star on their label.
  • all the colours which have the letter C to denote their permanence level on their label
Any really good manufacturer will make the lightfastness ratings / permanence of their art media absolutely clear on the labelling they use for their product. However not all those that do use clear labelling also adhere to the ASTM standards for testing for lightfastness

These are the ASTM latest standard specifications artists media for:
(Note: There is still no standard as yet for pastels and I can't see any evidence of the ASTM working on one. Does anybody know different?)

My post about Colour - naming dyes, pigments and paints tells you a lot about how colours are named and labelled and also about the standards which are in place to help make such labelling reliable.

My recommendation is to always look to see how upfront the manufacturer of the brand you favour is about telling you about the different pigments and dyes which are used in the product you want to use.

Can they for example match Winsor and Newton's very clear information about their Artists' Water Colour?

This is Winsor & Newton's very helpful definition of permanence
The permanence of an artists' colour is defined as ‘its durability when laid with a brush on paper or canvas, graded appropriately and displayed under a glass frame in a dry room freely exposed to ordinary daylight and an ordinary town atmosphere'. This definition reflects the manner in which we expect to find paintings displayed. However, for testing purposes we are also able to utilise accelerated tests for lightfastness and binder stability, in addition to the information issued by our pigment suppliers.

Winsor & Newton ratings are therefore a combination of the natural passage of time, accelerated tests and pigment manufacturers' testing and development and are the most stringent in the industry.

AA - Extremely Permanent

A - Permanent

B - Moderately Durable

C - Fugitive

For further information on some colours, the rating may include one or more of the following additions:

(i) ‘A' rated in full strength may fade in thin washes

(ii) Cannot be relied upon to withstand damp

(iii) Bleached by acids, acidic atmospheres

(iv) Fluctuating colour; fades in light, recovers in dark

(v) Should not be prepared in pale tints with Flake White, as these will fade

Winsor & Newton Resource Centre: Composition & Permanence Tables

In a follow up to this post I'm going to try and identify the pigments which create fugitive colours. In the meantime why not check out Handprint's Guide to watercolour pigments

If you have any personal experience of fugitive colours do please leave a comment.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Drawing London 2010

When I'm sketching I draw people all the time - and I particularly like drawing people in interiors or while they're eating or drinking. (I like drawing artists too - but that's another story!)

However I've not created drawings for exhibitions before which have included people.

Early Evening, Brokers Wine Bar (SOLD)
9" x 5" Coloured Pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The exhibition which opened today at the Brokers Wine Bar in Leadenhall Market includes two drawings by me of figures
  • Early Evening, Brokers Wine bar (see right) is of the place where the exhibition is being held
  • Just a Quick One (see below) is of the 'after work' drinkers outside the pub opposite. One sees so many more people standing around outside pubs since the ban on smoking started - and they're a captive audience for an artist! :)
It also struck me walking around the City of London recently how many former banks are now wine bars or restaurants.

I started taking photos of their entrances - and before I knew it, the germ of an idea for a new series had seeded itself in my brain.

However on the whole I'm more minded to stay with drawing people. So often when we draw urban areas we draw the buildings and leave out the people. In a city as large as London, when we draw London I think we need to draw the people too.

The Drawing London 2010 exhibition is on at the Brokers Wine Bar until June 2010.

Just a Quick One (£95)
5" x 9", coloured pencils on Studland mount board
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

(PS I've now finished doing my written submissions for the Planning Hearing and I now get a short break before the Hearing proper gets underway. So this blog will start to get back to normal!)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Not waving but ever so slightly drowning...

Leadenhall Market (£150) sold
10" x 7", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

For those wondering where my posts have got to, I'm afraid I'm still completely submerged in local government planning strategies, policies and planning documents relating to where I live. The Formal Hearing in front of the Planning Inspector is in April and tomorrow is the deadline for written submissions.

Drawing London 2010 - exhibition opens tomorrow

That and the fact that I've got work in an exhibition opening tomorrow which still need their mats cut! Which is where the pen and ink drawing of Leadenhall market comes in.

The Drawing London 2010 exhibition is in the Brokers Wine Bar in Leadenhall Market in the City of London (see the drawing above!). The exhibition opens tomorrow and continues until June.

The Best Books about Watercolour Painting

In the meantime - continuing the slightly watery theme of the title for this post - can I recommend to you the comments which have been coming in on Which are the best art books about watercolour painting?

I've been absolutely fascinated to find out about the books you recommend which I didn't even know existed. As a result I couldn't wait(!) and have started to create my new 'resources for artists' information site in my 'breaks' to provide some light relief from spatial planning strategies for town centres!

This is The Best Books about Watercolour Painting. Descriptions relate to product descriptions. I'm adding in my personal notes and the names of the people who recommend each book and their comments as the recommendations come in. I'm also linking to their blogs or websites as appropriate as I really do appreciate the thought that has gone into these recommendations.

What I've done is split out the books into categories on a 'like by like' basis. I'd be interested to know whether you think I've got it right.

In starting to construct the listing, I've also been very struck by how some categories of instructions books about watercolour painting (on Amazon) are swamped by lots of very basic/mediocre books (which are not being listed on my site!) but actually have very few books of a good calibre.

Can you guess which ones I mean?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Which are the best art books about watercolour painting?

If you're a watercolour artist - or aspire to become one - then this post is just for you! It focuses on art instruction books which cover watercolour with a view to identifying which are the best.

When I took up art again - after many moons learning how to do other things - I wanted to develop my skills as a watercolour artist. I loved watercolours and wanted to be able to be able to reproduce the same results - ideally looking like Turner!

As a result, I went on workshops with watercolour artists and bought a lot of books. A lot of books. In fact my bookshelves are weighed down with books about watercolour.

One of my favourites - The Art of Watercolor by Charles Le Clair

Despite the fact that I susbsequently decided that I love drawing best and opted to develop most of my art in dry media I still remember which books influenced me the most and which ones I thought were the best.

I'm also thinking about working more in mixed media and incorporating watercolour into my work and am back reviewing my watercolour books again.

As ever when I'm doing research I always think about how best to make this accessible to other people - and then I create a website of resource links!

Working out which are the best books about watercolour painting

As ever I'm a huge believer in the wisdom of crowds. I've developed a couple of listings of books previously based on book reviews and input from art bloggers and people who read this blog. You can see them here:
Plus I like the way that people who are interested in a topic can identify which are the really popular 'forever' art books even if these are not featured by the publishers

Here's what I'm aiming to do - with your help:
  • develop a listing of 'The Best Books' of instruction in watercolour painting
  • develop a listing of 'The Best Books' about watercolour artists - past and present
FIRST (and what this post is about) I'm going to start with a couple of posts inviting suggestions. From these suggestions I'm then going to run a Making A Mark Poll and let people decide the overall order of the books listed in terms of popularity

Now 'popular' is not always the same as 'best', so in order to construct a listing of the top books (top 10 or top 20?) I'm going take the results of recommendations, reviews and the vote on popularity and from that construct the list of the best book and incorporate that into an information site.

The best watercolour art instruction books

This is how I'd like to 'surface' YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS to create a list for a Making A Mark Poll next month. It looks a bit complicated but it's actually quite simple.
  1. YOU IDENTIFY your own personal top watercolour art instruction books - the ones you'd be happy to recommend to other people. (Identify as many or as few as you like; come back later with more recommendations if you like)
  2. YOU RANK each of the books in order of preference. Identify which is your personal #1 etc, then #2 etc
  3. YOU SCORE each book out of 10 - consistent with your rankings (eg #1 = 9 points; #2 = 8 points)
  4. YOU COMMENT on this blog with your recommendations and points awarded
  5. YOU WRITE (optional) about what you've concluded on your blog - explaining in more detail the reasons behind your scoring and why each book is good
  6. YOU LEAVE A LINK asa comment on this blog post if you've written a review of the books you recommend (this might be an old review which is still relevant today)
What happens then is I will:
  • construct a spreadsheet to record the book and the points awarded and work out which ones make it into the top 10.
  • use your comments to highlight the reasons why the top books are recommended
  • try and work out which are the most popular authors in terms of number of mentions
  • work out which books to include in the Making A Mark opinion poll for April
Later on, I'll repeat this exercise again for books about watercolour artists.

So over to you - tell me which are the best books about watercolour painting - and why.

[Note: This blog post is going to be up all week as I am now going to go and submerge myself in local government strategies, policies and planning documents relating to where I live - we've got Hearings coming up in April and my submission needs to be in next Monday!]

Monday, March 22, 2010

21st March 2010 - who's made a mark this week?

Morning Light (£2000)
by Francis Bowyer P.P.R.W.S., N.E.A.C.

Royal Watercolour Society - Spring Exhibition 2010 at the Bankside Gallery
copyright the artist

I was out sketching with the RWS Friends by the Thames yesterday which is why this post is a day late. While down at the Bankside I visited the Bankside Gallery to have a quick look at the paintings in the members Royal Watercolour Society Spring Exhibition.I'll be writing about this again once I go back to have a proper look. There was a workshop in the gallery yesterday and consequently it was difficult to see the paintings properly. However Francis Bowyer's paintings stood out as very effective in their use of watercolour and body colour and you can see one of them - a painting of the sink in the corner of his studio ina shaft of light - above.

Art Blogs

Drawing and sketching

  • Last week my good friend Nicole Caulfield (Nicole Caulfield) and her two daughters were at a workshop with James Gurney (Gurney Journey) - and you can read all about it at James Gurney
From left clockwise:
James Gurney, Nicole Caulfield and her two daughters
Painters and Painting
Street Art

Art Business and the Economy

Art Criticism

Art criticism starts with love and hate says Jonathan Jones in the Guardian. Overanalysing art, as opposed to intuitively rating it, is fraught with peril

Some of you ask why reviewers (or this reviewer) are always just saying what's good and what's bad, what we like or don't like. According to critics of the critic, this is typical of, well – typical of me. But I beg to differ. It is actually typical of artists.
Art Museums, Exhibitions and Fairs
  • I previewed(without seeing) Henry Moore at Tate Britain and have received an invite to go to the launch of the 2010 season at Perry Green - so there will be more about Henry Moore at the beginning of April.
  • In a first, the Prado is to display John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit" from Tuesday beside the painting which inspired it -- Diego Velazquez's "Las Meninas". This is the Prado museum website link. Singer's painting, one of the top draws at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, has been loaned abroad only twice before, to museums in Britain (when I saw it at the National gallery) and Japan.
  • Crime et Châtiment (Crime and Punishment) is at the Musée d'Orsay every day except Monday until 27 June
  • The Printmaker's Art at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh until 23 May presents around 30 works selected from the National Gallery of Scotland's outstanding collection of artists' prints.
This display comprises some of the most beautiful and accomplished prints made during the last 500 years, and includes iconic images by Durer, Blake, Rembrandt, Goya, Piranesi, Hogarth, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, and D Y Cameron. These works are counted amongst some of the artists' most important artistic achievements.
Artists' exhibitions
On exhibition through 27 March 2010
Paul McPherson Gallery, 77 Lassell Street, London SE10 9PJ
"Taking Down" day tea and biscuits: Saturday 27th March, 12-2pm
  • I do love the music with Karin Jurick's videos of her paintings - the work's pretty good too! Currently showing at the Morris & Whiteside Gallery on Hilton Head Island
  • Olha Pryymak had work in a group show Go Figurative on March 19-21 in Chelsea's Heathery's 75 Lots rd, SW10 ORN, London.

Art Education / workshops / Tips and techniques

Art Education


I love it when people do decent posts about the workshops they've been on. It's so helpful to those trying to choose workshops and workshop tutors to spend their money on - and it also helps the tutors too.

Fellow Sketcherciser Cathy Gatland (A sketch in time) has recently taken a workshop with Hazel Soan (nice website!) and has written up two posts so far.
Tips and techniques

This week I focused on different sorts of picture files in
while over on Empty Easel there was a very useful little article about How to Hang Your Artwork Like a Pro! by Lori McNee

Art History

Art Supplies

Cathy Gatland has a post about Make your own scraperboard


  • Last week James Gurney was Charting Pigments on the colour wheel.
  • This is a Guardian photo composition about using colour - and has some interesting compositions - it also has the judges' comments on why something worked or how it could have been improved


Opinion Poll

  • Don't forget to respond to the Opinion Poll for March (see side column) - even though it's a very one-sided response.

The Web: networking, blogging, webware and websites

  • I can't make up my mind about The Arts Map - that's an awful lot of people in North America and nobody anywhere else - which just seems very odd tp me
  • Facebook has overtaken google in the uSA in terms of the no of site visits
  • How I Became (Mostly) Google-free in About a Day on Zen Habits - This one is interesting given the almost insidious way in which Google tries to take over everything. What's also interesting are all the other sites which get a mention which I didn't know even existed! In entirely subscribe to the aims which are
Remember that my main reasons for doing this are that 1) I don’t want all my data in one corporation and 2) I don’t want everything I do to be pervaded by advertising.

and finally........

I've just changed my ISP and now get a nice newsletter with lots of links to helpful articles about the internet and matters relevant to broadband users. One of which highlighted this article about passwords. A a data security firm looked at millions of passwords recently exposed in a security breach. The company analysed the data and compiled the results for a 'Consumer Password Worst Practices' report. Of the 32 million passwords involved, the four most common were: 123456, 12345, 123456789 and Password.

So - if your computer were stolen how easy would it to hack into your accounts? How many are you using really common passwords? Plus how often do you change your critical passwords?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sitekreator template updates

I use SiteKreator to run my two websites - Making A Mark and Pastels and Pencils. It's had a lot of recent updates which I knew nothing about because I'm not signed up their development blog - although I am now!

So for all of you out there who are also have websites with SiteKreator here's a summary of the recent updates. After the list come the headlines of what you need to know - and do read the bit about statistics. First there's the good news and then there's the bad news.........

January 2010

This majored on editing and style improvements plus signalled the change re site statistics
February 2010
Built-in Site Statistics are Now Optional
Two weeks ago we announced that we were making some changes to the built-in "Site Statistics". Even though the majority of you do not use them, it was always turned on before. In order to improve the loading speed and performance of your website, we have disabled this feature unless you manually choose to use
The built-in site statistics are now switched off as default unless you have chosen to keep them. Presumably that means they aren't collecting any stats now using the inhouse system which I guess means the little page counters are now redudant

I switched to Google Analytics some time ago - but keep the inhouse to get the totals for the site since inception. It seems a pity to lose this but I guess speedier loading is better

Now the real 'oh no!' moment about all this is that in order to switch to Google Analytics
  1. you congratulate yourself for already having created an account in the days before SiteKreator thought it was a good idea to have them on the site (and gosh did that take a lot of sorting in terms of site maps etc!) and got the html on to the site
  2. then you realise you now have to go to every last bit of Google Analytics html and REMOVE IT
  3. only then you can switch over to Google Analytics (under site properties) without corrupting the Google Analytics stats.
So helpful!

What I'm doing is opting to keep the in-built stats (ie make them default) until I have time to get all the pages sorted as this isn't going to be a short job for me. I've got the Google Analytics code on the site anyway so I still get both - but I'm not going to be rushed into making the change.

Memo to SiteKreator - PLEASE give people proper notice if you are making a significant change to the site! Plus in my view it's not too much that you maintain a mailing list of all the emails people used to register their accounts and use these to provide critical technical updates. You can't expect everybody to subscribe to a blog which most won't know even exists! (This is a classic case of the internal perspective forgetting how the rest of the world works!)

March 2010

I should add that despite occasional hiccups, I'm still very happy with SiteKreator. I ought to declare I've now got an official VIP account having been a very early adopter (back in 2005) who used to provide them with masses of feedback about how things worked (or not). I was always recommending them as website hosts and lots of artists seemed to sign up after I did. One of the effects of this was that it got a lot of artists on board at an early stage and some of the subsequent developments took account of that.

Being a VIP basically means I don't pay for the sites. It's always worth signing up early for sites at a beta stage as you sometimes get perks like this.

Memo to other would-be website design creators/hosts: giving perks to early adopters can mean you get a lot of benefits in terms of feedback and custom - so long as you respond to comments and address issues which are important to customers!

Maybe I ought to do a review of website options for artists?

Note: I've been very happy to recommend SiteKreator as a host for artists' websites since I first got my first account back in June 2005. A couple of years ago I finally got round to becoming an affiliate - which means if you sign up for their free trial now and then continue that I get another small perk!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Understanding image file formats

What are the different image file formats? Following on from post on Wednesday (Image file formats for artist bloggers) I've created a table for the different file formats used by artist bloggers

I knew some of this - but not all of it before I started - but I do understand it all an awful lot better for having written it all out!

BMP (bmp)

This is probably the very first image file format I ever came across. I now regard it as an old format for old Windows programs.

  • simple
  • uncompressed
  • good image quality
  • produces large files
  • accepted by Windows programs

JPEG (jpg, jpeg)best used to achieve good quality small files

JPEGstands for "Joint Photographic Experts Group" and was developed to deal with photographs. Nearly every digital camera can save images as jpeg files.

It's the format of choice for nearly all photographs on the web. Frequently used by artists / photographers / bloggers to reduce the size of digital image files for use on the Internet

Use of lossycompression enables a sliding scale of compression which in turn permits choice over the level of compression. However, it also means that frequent editing of the same file will make it degrade over time. Data is lost every time the file is opened and closed using this file format

  • optimised for photographs and other images having complex images with large numbers of colours
  • digital cameras can create jpeg files
  • support full colour images (16.8 million colours)
  • lossy format compression - enables choice over level of compression
  • can create small files
  • file extensions vary according to operating system used
  • files degrade every time they are opened and closed. NOT the best format to store images you want to keep over time
  • unsuitable for line art


GIF format (gif)

compatible with simple web graphics using flat colours

gif (pronounced “jiff”) stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It was introduced by CompuServe (I was an early CompuServe user!) and was then subsequently adopted for widespread use on the web

Its use of the lossless data compressiontechnique enables a reduction in file size without any degradation in visual quality

Its main constraint is its limited use of colours. It's suitable for use in graphics which have few colours and use simple shapes (eg diagrams, shapes, logos and cartoon style images). Also good for simple web animations.

It's unsuitable for detailed images and/or those using complex colours and gradients.

  • very limited colours (8 bit palette = 256 colours)
  • frequently used for web graphics
  • uses lossless compression format (ie no degradation in visual quality)
  • creates small files
  • suitable for simple graphics using large areas with simple colours
  • suitable for simple web animation
  • unsuitable for colour complexity and detailed images
  • unsuitable for use with photographs

PNG (png)excellent for image editing; good for web
The PNG (Portable Network Graphics) pronounced 'ping' file format was created as the free, open-source successor to the GIF. (Some say that png stands for "PNGs Not GIFs")

It is a raster format and was designed specifically for image editing and use on the web.

PNG has advantages over GIF:
  • alpha channels (variable transparency),
  • gamma correction (cross-platform control of image brightness), and
  • two-dimensional interlacing (a method of progressive display).
  • PNG also compresses better than GIF in almost every case.

Adoption of the png format said to be slow due to inconsistent treatment by web browsers.
  • designed specifically for image editing and the web
  • supports up to 48-bit truecolor / 16-bit grayscale (16 million colours)
  • offers a variety of transparency options
  • uses two stage compression (DEFLATE)
  • large files - because uses lossless compression
  • files can be shared on web
  • can hold short description of content for use on web
  • useful format for intermediate edit stages due to lossless format
  • suitable for photographs and other complex colour images
  • works well with large areas of homogeneous colour
  • unsuitable for animation

TIFF (tif, tiff)

high quality file - excellent for printing and photography

The TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) format is used for storing images. Control over the format is now owned by Adobe

Originally created with a view to having a standard format for scanners. TIFF became the standard storage format for facsimiles.

Lossless compression is an option. How it saves files depends on the Photoshop version used.

TIFF is more complex than PNG.

The format has not had a major update since 1992.

  • popular format for high colour-depth images (ie giving a broader range of distinct colours)
  • usually uses lossless compression
  • flexible format allows for wide range of options re. compression and colour spaces
  • retains info in layers depending on how it is saved
  • flexibility can create compatibility problems
  • creates very large files
  • unsuitable for web images
  • useful archive file format

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BOOKS: how to draw animals, plants, flowers and nature

The Best Books about Drawing and Sketching now includes some new modules which identify some of the best instruction books for drawing animals, birds, plants, flowers and nature in general.

These subjects are popular and seem to generate an awful lot of very basic 'how to draw' books. However many fail to connect the 'start with a basic oval' to more sophisticated drawings which reflect reality even when sketchy rather than hyper-realistic. I've seen more than a few which seem to be written by people who seem to lack basic drawing skills! Others may be helpful to the complete beginner however an awful lot of them which I look at in book shops are to my mind a complete waste of time and money.

As such there's a lot of scope to sort through what's available and to identify recommendations of books which do support the development of good drawing skills and an understanding of the subject matter.

There tends to be a more limited choice of books appropriate for those at an intermediate or advanced stage (ie those serious about drawing). This is one of the main reasons why I started my information site in the first place. I wanted to identify - and share - the really good books about drawing and sketching which do exist and which people are enthusiastic about.

How to draw animals, birds, plants, flowers and nature

In relation to drawing animals, birds, plants, flowers and nature in general, I decided to take a look at those which were very much about drawing and sketching (as opposed to painting) and then try and identify those which were worth highlighting.

I do want to emphasise that I don't think I've got the best of the best as yet - and that there are bound to be more which are worth recommending - which is where you come in (see the end for how you can help)

How did I choose the recommended books?

I used three key criteria
  • recommendations by those who had bought the book and had written reviews - especially if these were people who could draw themselves and/or 'sort the wheat from the chaff'. This included consulting the bibliographies of books written by artist/authors I trusted to provide sound recommendations. It's always really nice to see authors who are unselfish about recommending books that they didn't write and which are published by other publishing companies.
  • the reputation of the individual author in terms of their own competence and ability to draw, teach and/or write books. For some this included my own personal knowledge of them as authors and teachers using the written word.
  • the popularity of the book - if supported by numerous recommendations from people I didn't know. I took a look at those which were the best sellers on Amazon and researched the titles which I didn't own.

I was certainly helped if I knew individuals personally - either in terms of those making recommendations or those writing the books!

Besides looking at the books which sell well I also tried to look at both ends of the spectrum - at the older books which might get neglected by book stores and books recently published or updated or being published this year.

One of my goals was to identify those books which sell steadily year after year - because they're good and they get perennial word of mouth recommendations from those who buy them. A particularly good example of this is a book listed below which is only in print because a number of artists/illustrators and animators lobbied hard for it to be reprinted when it went out of print.

In relation to the newer books, I wanted people to be aware of where are good new books which are worthy of their attention. Plus I've got review copies of some new books listed but not yet published and am in the process of drafting book reviews - and I know I'll be recommending them!

Which are the recommended books about drawing plants and flowers?

A number of the botanical art books include good sections devoted to drawing. However some books are heavily biased towards drawings and the ones recommended fall into this category.

I've very fortunate to be able to say that I know or have corresponded with four of the authors highlighted - and know the very very high standards which they set for their drawing - and how keen they are to share what they know with others.

Two NEW books for 2010 which get highlighted are:

Botany for the Artist: An  Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants
Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants by: Sarah Simblet (Published in February 2010 - 256 pages (hardback) published by Dorling Kindersley.)

Author Dr Sarah Simblet teaches at the University of Oxford, has drawings in national and private collections, including the Royal Academy of Art, London and Ashmolean, Oxford and is the author of two excellent drawing books.

I have a copy and it is simply splendid. Book review coming soon.

Botanical Sketchbook

Botanical Sketchbook by: Mary Ann Scott (Due to publish in April 2010)

This book has been developed from the sketchbook kept by Diploma student Mary Ann Scott. She was awarded a Distinction with her Diploma in Botanical Art by the Society of Botanical Artists.

Written with Margaret Stevens, the President of the Society of Botanical Artists in the UK. I've got a review copy and my book review is coming soon.

Which are the recommended books about drawing nature?

There are fewer books about drawing nature and how to keep a nature journal - and yet this is an increasingly popular subject, particularly as well beocme more environmentally aware.

Two books which get highlighted are by two bloggers I know personally who are both artists, authors and teachers - Irene Brady (Nature Drawing with Irene Brady) and Cathy Johnson (The Quicksilver Workaholic). Both enjoy a popular following.

Illustrating Nature: Right-Brain Art in a Left-Brain World by: Irene Brady

This book is for ages 13 and up, from college students and art-loving teens, to adults looking for a new career or simply wanting to develop their creative skills.

Written by an award-winning nature book author and college-level instructor in scientific illustration, the text is superbly crafted to make sense to the creative person of any age.
The Sierra Club Guide to  Sketching in Nature, Revised EditionThe Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature, Revised Edition by: Cathy Johnson

Revised and updated with 280 sketches and paintings, this new edition will appeal to the large market of nature lovers, aspiring artists, botanists, birdwatchers, teachers, hikers and naturalists

To see the rest go to BOOKS: Drawing Nature

Which are the recommended books about drawing animals and birds?

This was a subject area where recommendations tend to come from both fine artists and people who are illustrators and animators - with the latter being very picky as to which books they think are best!
It was interesting to find that the books which people recommend the most tend to be fairly old. At the moment, I've limited the recommendations to books which cover a variety of animals although I may develop modules which focus in particular on wildlife and domestic pets.

Two books which get a lot of mentions are

The Art of Animal Drawing: Construction, Action Analysis, Caricature by: Ken Hultgren

Originally published in the 1950s, this former Disney animator offers expert advice on drawing animals both realistically and as caricatures. Over 700 illustrations. A number of animators lobbied Dover to re-release this book when it went out of print - and they did! This books gets top recommendations from a number of artists and illustrators.
The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals by: Joe Weatherly

This book focuses on learning how to draw animals using solid drawing principles. An approach to drawing animals from life (a challenging and somewhat frustrating exercise) can be learned from the principles layed out in this book. The importance of drawing from imagination and methods to go about it are also a key topic. Anyone interested in learning how to draw animals or who take their current animal drawing to the next level are likely to find benefit from this book.

To see the rest go to BOOKS: How to draw animals and birds

Which books do you recommend?

In researching references and recommendations on the internet, I found lots and lots of very brief reviews. I'd really love to see people using their blogs more to share their 'favourites' and to provide more in-depth reviews of the books they recommend. I also have modules which lists book reviews - and I'd love to be able to add in blog posts providing good quality reviews to these.

I'd be very interested to know which books you would recommend in any of the above categories - and why.

Also if you've written a book review of a favourite book, do please let me know.