Monday, January 3, 2011

Slappy Cakes: A Post In Two Parts

Slappy cakes

PART ONE: THE NARRATIVE

Our recent visit to Slappy Cakes was special for a number of reasons.

For a start there's the sheer gimmicky pleasure. How often in a restaurant can you cook pancakes right on top of your table? We ordered one batch of regular batter and one batch of weird batter, and had both savory and sweet drop-ins. These arrive in little boats that can be combined and swapped around to your heart's content. Pure culinary freedom.

Of course, (if you are insufferable like me,) this may mean you find yourself sauteing apples in butter and sugar on the bare griddle before pouring the batter over them, not doing the conventional batter-then-fillings route, because the first batch was oddly crunchy and needed something else. If you are not insufferable, it just means you have a magical breakfast adventure.

For us it was also magical because it's been so long that we could go out for breakfast like this. The weird pattern of a housecleaner's Christmas bonuses (see previous entry) means I end up with some cash well after the main event, so unless you truly celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas you have a nice little cushion for the last week of December. And while most of it goes to bills, and repaying the little Christmas dent, shouldn't some of it be spent out with someone you love? Especially when you can visit a novelty restaurant nearby?

One thing I should say: don't make the mistake we did. Do not forget that squeeze-bottle-based pancake cooking should naturally lead to fantastic pancake art. We were far too full to indulge this realization by the time we had it. Our subsequent creations were wonderful but had to be left uneaten, and it was a crying shame.

PART TWO: THE TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

slinker

This was a very satisfying picture to whip out. I started it a few days ago (the last time I had time to sit and paint), and then finished it tonight in one sitting. Excellent. I am very pleased with how it turned out -- not always true for us artists and madmen. I think the blocking is strong and the lines are crispy and where they need to be. I think I want to do more with the lamp, but I worried that going there tonight would "over finish" it somehow so the jury's still out on that until morning. It's in a perfectly shareable state, and feels very real and completed, which was my only goal this evening apart from eating dinner.

It has been incredibly unsatisfying to try to get this scanned image to look like the real picture.

The first problem is just my method. I like to paint with bright colors. Colors that bounce around well in real light and have astonishing vibrancy and life. Lately, without expressly setting out to do so, I have also been doing a lot of limited color combinations, that are often two or three colors very close to one another on the color wheel and then one wild card from the other side (think peachy red, orange, orangey yellow then light teal.)

Teal (cyan) in particular is very hard for computers to see for some reason, at least in the way that I see it and the way it plays with other colors for me. For just about every picture I post I spend a lot of time trying to coax the monitor into seeing things my way -- changing the contrast a little, tweaking the colors in an attempt to get closer to how it really looks.

At this point I actually have my stand-by Photoshop tricks narrowed down to a few routine changes, and that's usually all things need. Occasionally though a painting is challenging and this was one of them. I had this greenish-teal that needed to come through, and a buttery-bright table, and a vermilion, plus the dark purple which to me mostly needs to be deep mauvey purple but which the computer wants to see as almost fuchsia.

Nothing I did really looked right, and in the end I mostly just gave up and settled for something serviceable but not really accurate.

In addition I have this weird problem with visible light in general. You'll notice above my desk there are two lamps. The one on the left is a squiggly long-life bulb. The one of the right is one of those "happy" bulbs that they sell at natural food stores. I have two different bulbs because both give off a slightly different colored light.

Here is an unedited digital photo of the painting I just finished, laid under the squiggly bulb to my left.

blinker

The same, under the other bulb.

pinker

See that?! No?

Let me make it a bit easier for you.

stinker

See? REALLY different treatments from my lamps. Pictures aren't always that crazy different under the different lights, but this one was incredible. And of course the problem is I am seeing a mixture of both lights and perceiving my color that way, rather than just with one light like the computer does. So I'd rescue the teal and lose the yellow. Then I'd bring back the yellow and lose the blues in the teal and everything went green. And I could either have fuchsia with vermilions or weird pinky reds with darker purple. To say nothing of the lavenders. Those really didn't work at all.

Of course ideally you'd be here in my apartment and I could be showing this to you live, without the worry of monitor calibration or any other nonsense. Very possibly you don't notice the difference, or if you do you think, "oh darling what does it matter." It maybe doesn't matter, but it does bother me that one light thinks that color is blueish, the other light thinks its tealish, and neither light picks up the subtlety of the purple that I keep talking about.

This is not a problem that is going away. If anything it will get worse as I begin to sally forth into the world of Making Prints. I will have to make a much bigger effort to mind my RGBs and CYMKs, and really learn about shadows and highlights in Photoshop, not just the mid-tones. I suspect I will need to jigger with my scanner as well. I suspect I will have to do real research on this stuff. As a person who firmly believes in painting by hand, it is a skill I will absolutely have to develop. Good thing I don't mind doing things the hard way.

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