Good Things are Happening

Good Things are Happening

I just noticed that I hadn’t posted an update since January. It’s less of a reflection on my inattentive blogging and more an indicator of how much we’ve done since then…not much.

But now…
recording parts: done
editing: done
equalizing (EQ): done
mixing: working on it
mastering: there have been conversations
artwork: done!

Then, about 2 weeks ago something changed, maybe it was the weather, maybe it was all the new growth but for some reason this project got back underway.
In that time Sarah Schneemann had finished all the artwork for the album, Lucas had finished his semester at school, figured out the method by which we would EQ the kick drum, figured out how to tune the bass in the very few spots that had tuning issues and made a schedule to get this thing mixed, mastered and out the door in 5 weeks. Bevans and I worked on the website, the glory and majesty of which you are currently basking, and there have been many conversations about the CD release party. More to come on that as it develops.

The thing I want to focus on here is really the artwork though. Sarah had made many. many pieces in different styles that she felt reflected my music or that were grown from ideas in my lyrics. It was really hard to choose a style and direction from them because they were all so very good. In the end we chose the piece that had the most potential for use in a web environment. Sarah then went home with that direction and created all of the sketches, splats and things that you see here on the site.

When I asked her what her motivation was for creating these pieces she answered, “I have been listening to you play music since we were 15 at concerts, around bonfires, at parties and it always seemed to me that music just seemed to burst from you. I wanted to create artwork that showed all the music and energy flowing out from you and your guitar.” Wow. What a cool thing to hear from someone, and then see it depicted as she felt it…it was simply stunning. She graciously gave me the artwork and said that I could do with it what I wished and she was happy to help. It’s not often that you hear stories of generosity like this, but I seem to be encountering them over and over again over the course of this project. It really keeps my faith in humanity alive. I digress…

I got the artwork home and immediately set out to digitize it. This process involved setting up a small studio in the basement (I got to try out our brand new softbox!). I only used one of our external strobe flashes. I propped each piece up onto an easel on which I had draped a black velvet cloth. The reason for the cloth was that velvet absorbs almost all light, giving a flat background so that it would be easier to cut and crop the images later. Photographers use it all the time for product shots and portraits. Jenn and I love using it with baby photo sessions.

Anyways, I placed the light at a 30 degree angle to the artwork and turned the light up so it was really bright. Of course when I was testing this setup I forgot to remove the protective cap and the light melted it. I was made aware of this with the distinct smell of burning plastic and a small plume of toxic smoke, which I was now breathing. It ruined the cap and the bulb. Oh well…I’m sure I have done and will do stupider things.

I used our new Canon 7D body with the 70-200mm lens. It’s a beautiful lens with great glass, and in a setup like this a lens with a long focal length does a wonderful job of “flattening” the subject, capturing more even light and downplaying any warps in the surface of the artwork. It also avoids the phenomenon of lens distortion, which is essentially when light bends at the edge of a lens to produce a warped “fish-eye” look. It’s a cool effect sometimes, but not for this sort of thing. The idea here is to make the image as flat as possible. The trick is that I couldn’t shoot it straight on though….

The easel was at a 7 degree angle. If I was to shoot the artwork straight on, the angle would play itself out by making the rectangular paper seem like a trapezoid with a larger bottom and smaller top. It does this because the bottom of the page is slightly closer to the camera than the top is. The solution is to mimic that 7 degree angle on the tripod, tilting the camera down exactly that much, and to shoot from a position slightly above the artwork. You can figure out how much higher the camera needs to be with a little trigonometry…take the tangent of 7 degrees and multiply it by the distance of the camera from the art to get the height. Thanks Mr. Morris!(my 11th grade trig teacher) Then I just shot each piece of artwork one at a time.

I uploaded all the photos on to our computer and I used photoshop to edit each image: cropping the artwork, cleaning up the edges and “normalizing” the white. Normalizing is an important step because it means that the white on one photo is exactly the same as the white in a different photo, and that every instance of white is the same white that I’m using as the background of the website. I then exported them in a size and resolution befitting the web and started incorporating them into the design that I had created.

In the future I will use these images for making the CD artwork, which I’ll talk about at a different time. So thank you Sarah, you’re wonderful and I love the work you’ve done!