The Arrival of the 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II

As a painter, I find it crazy that I am so dependent on the camera.  I use the camera to document my work, to create quality images to submit to gallery shows, to display my work on the website, to create short digital films explaining my art practice and so on.

So, when my camera died a few weeks ago, I knew I had to get a replacement fast.

Cost was a significant issue, particularly because I had been planning to upgrade my camera for some time.  After about 10 years, I was really feeling the limitations of a crop sensor. Crop sensors distorts the field of view that the len produces.  Crop sensors are also less sensitive in low light conditions. There is a lot more technical stuff that camera nerds can say about this, but for me these were the two critical issues. So, I knew that my next camera had to be a full frame (i.e., full sensor) camera, but these cameras are very expensive.  It is not unreasonable to spend between $2,000 and $5,000 for decent model.

After scanning several YouTube videos on different Canon models, I quickly settled on two cameras: an used 5D Mark II for $800 or a new 6D for $1300.

While I prefer new, I also realized that $1300 was just the starting point.  I would also need to purchase a new kind of battery, a new kind of battery charger, and a new kind of memory card.  Together, these accessories would add another $400-$600 to get the camera operational.

When I arrived at Henry’s, I discovered that the used the used camera came with two batteries and a re-charger, thus adding hundred of dollars value to the camera. So, the decision became easy and I purchased the 5D Mark II.

I had talked to the store several times and they said that used cameras were all in good repair.  Their used camera come with ratings systems and I got a 7 which is on the low end. According to the store, these means the camera has marks on it, but is still good to operate.  However, the guy in the store looked gravely at me and said that the camera shutter count (158,000) was beyond the lifespan for this camera (150,000).

Now, I never really trust people that make a case for extended warranties, but I had just saved several hundred dollars with the inclusion of the batteries and recharger.  On the other hand, I was buying a 10 year old camera. So, I opted to spend the $150 for the 3 year warranty. This was still cheaper than buying a new Canon 6D camera.

Once I got home, I immediately started researching shutter life spans and discovered that the guy was right, shutters are the things that will most likely fail on a camera and that 150,000 shutter count is the promised life span for a 5D mark II.  However, many cameras will last until 200,000 with a few reaching 300,000. So, I am a light user and 40,000 photos will take some time to reach. In the meantime, I am covered for any shutter repairs for the next 3 years.

Hopefully, I will get another 10 years out of this camera.

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3 Reasons Why Cities Should Promote Street Art

Street art has been sweeping the world with festivals in almost every major cities, but why?

Wall murals is another name for street art and is usually done in acrylics or spray paint.

While murals may incorporate lettering like Graffiti writing, it is more geared to images that rooted realism. The popularity of this type of art is based on 3 essential values:

  1. Beauty. Beautification of our urban environments. Whether the piece is small or large, the beauty of these wall murals can be outstanding.  Like all art, the beauty of the work can be sole justification for its existence.
  2. Place. Creating an unique place in our often bland urban environments.  While many architects strive to create interesting and unique buildings, there are still many other buildings that have little to say about themselves.  Adding a mural to a blank wall makes an unremarkable place into a very remarkable place. Variety and diversity creates interest and attraction to a particular location.
  3. Pause. By drawing attention to a particular spot, you are encouraging people to pause and take notice; creating the opportunity to engage with the local geography of the place..  If the work is really successful, then people may Instagram photos of the wall and share them with friends, thereby making the place famous. In some cities like London (UK), groups have organized tours of the more important streets with outstanding murals.

As an artist, I feel strongly that street art should play a major role in our cities.  If handled properly, art councils and artist cooperatives can create a rich range of opportunities for community artists that will brighten our urban street-scapes.

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Rebel T3i Crashes

Who knew a Canon DSLR can fail on you?

Apparently, you can have a power failure on your DSLR camera.  The cause appears to be a broken sensor on either the battery door or the memory card door.

The cost of repairs out weighs the cost of getting a new camera.  It had been my plan to upgrade to a serious camera like the 7D, but now I will have to settle for a used 5D mark (8 years old) II or 5D Mark III (6 years old).

The one advantage of the 5D it is a full sensor camera, so there is no cropping of the image.  Essentially, a crop sensor acts like a magnifying glasses, giving you more of a zoom effect.  It can be a bit annoying when you are using 40 mm or smaller lens in order to get wide shots.

Fortunately, Henry’s has some used 5D’s in stock and I should be able to view them in a week or two.

I was also lucky to get the photographing of a piece for a submission to a local publication.  I literally got the final shot completed when the camera died.

I am looking forward to getting a better camera, but regret the unexpected cost.

camera T3i crashes
My Canon Rebel T3i crashes – who knew DSLRs can fail?

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Summer Project 2018

With the studio in chaos for most of the summer, I used my free time to research mural paintings and what approach I could take to the subject.

Most potential clients like cartoon or figure like compositions.  In commission work for the City, the compositions are usually rooted in the local community and historical themes.  So, the challenge I face is how to develop a style that works within these limitations.

The second challenge was technical, how to use spray on large walls.

To address both challenges, I decided to use a practice wall made of several large canvases.  By re-working the surface with different compositions, I could practice my technical skills while also trying out different images and compositional themes.

By the end of August, I had collected my supplies and prepared my canvases. The “Flying Pigs” composition (see below) is my first attempt.

Flying Pigs 2018
Practice Mural Using Spray Paint – Flying Pigs 2018 by Chris Erskine

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The Hockey Player

Despite the chaos of the studio, I still managed to complete a piece for a member of the extended family.  It was a birthday gift for an eleven year old hockey player.

Back when I first started painting, I used to use a loose form of pointillism in my portraits and landscapes. I found pointillism easy to do on locations and from life.  Within a few hours, I could quickly get the form and colour of the composition down and then return to the studio to complete the work.

In this case, I used to pointillism to deal with the challenge of a largely white uniform against a largely white background.  The use of dots also help to reintroduce some energy to the composition that was based on one reference photo (always a major challenge).

Given that I was still painting the studio, I really felt the time pressures on this one.  In the end, everyone seemed pleased with the results.

sports art
The Hockey Player (2018) by Artist Chris Erskine

 

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Studio – Putting Everything Back

The Studio is painted.  Now comes the hard part, putting everything back.

Part of my goal with the painting project was to free up space for larger works.  I need more wall space to paint and photograph my paintings.  I also need more storage space for future paintings that will be larger than my current body of work. As a result, putting the studio together will be a real challenge.

Yes (I know, I Know) you can throw some stuff out, but supplies take up a lot of room. I have considered off site locations for storing paintings, but I not confident about the climate conditions or the problems of rodents. I used warm and cold storage and the climate and dust still takes a toll.

I will work something out, but it may take some time. In the meantime, it is almost impossible to work on anything.

Chris Erskine's Art Studio
The state of my studio; as of Sept 9th, 2018.

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What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?

 

Answer, I painted my studio.

When I moved into my current studio, the most pressing issue was getting everything setup.  There was no time to paint, and so I had to live with the wonderful deep red wine walls, vintage 1980.

Not only was this color very dated, but it created real problems with photographing my art work. The dark walls provided very little reflected light and this meant that I had to pump up the lighting, which in turn, create a glare on the surface of the canvases.  Not the best results for documenting art that was leaving your studio forever.

The problem with painting your studio, however, is all those wonderful paint supplies have to be move out.  It is my version of the big bang – starting with a very compact ball of supplies, thousands of items expand out from the studio and occupy the surrounding region of space. It is not a pretty sight and nearly two months later, all those supplies are still expanding outwards.

Of course, everyone is very helpful with suggestions about what I should keep and what I should throw out. Thing one and Thing two will come down stairs and look gravely at the situation and then ask for some art supplies for their latest craft project.  They appreciate the white walls, but what they really want is their crafts shop to be restored to its proper order.

Hop to it dad!

Studio paint Job - WIP
The painting of my studio begins, as of July 31st, 2018.

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