This, as you can tell, started off life as a greetings card. I bought it as part of a set of three cards but this was the one that particularly drew me. However – the stamp on it foxed me for quite a while. I knew I’d have to restore the tree trunk that was hidden beneath the postage stamp so I had to do a lot of sampling from other parts of the tree to make it look like bark. Hopefully it’s fairly convincing. But you might be amused to know that I hunted high and low online to find reference pics and then realised that as I live in a place surrounded by trees, I only had to look out of the window to the ones across the road from our house!
This card was originally hand-tinted (not by me). This makes restoration and later colouring more difficult than normal as the strong colours tend to distort some of the detail of the original. Red and pink often show up as black or dark grey when a photos is brought back to monochrome for the digital colour layer to be applied, so it takes a careful eye to see what is really there.
I didn’t want to colour it in the same way as the original hand-tinting. If you click the photo a few times to open it up to its full size (it’ll open in a new window or tab), you’ll see that the colour that originally was applied by hand is not accurate. Many of these hand-coloured images are actually done by tricking the eye with general daubs of ink or paint. I’ve also changed the colour of her dress from pink to yellow and have added some green to her hat band. I retained the pink shade in her hair ribbon (I’m not sure if that’s actually in her hair or just beneath her hat).
There’s quite a bit of time-travel involved in a restoration and re-colouring like this. If you think of the time-line of the card’s stages, from the photographer or assistant setting the scene, then someone taking their small child to a photographic studio and getting them calmed down, dressed and ready to pose, to the person who has to put a stamp on the image itself as there is nowhere to put it on the back (early postcards didn’t have a space on the back for a stamp, and many didn’t have space on the back for a message, either) and after writing a message, has then sent it to a loved one, friend or other person. Then the card sits in a box or a drawer for the life of its owner and… ends up in a shop or website – and then someone buys it. That’s a long journey through time (and space!)
I could have returned the image to nearly any part of that journey. If I’d cut out all the text, got rid of the curved part at the bottom and put in the missing elements (more of the tree trunk plus the space to the left and right at the bottom), and cropped it to a simple rectangle, then filled in all the colour, it would have looked more like the scene the photographer would have seen in front of him. Of course, the colours may have been different, but it would look like a more natural scene. If I’d left the stamp on it and just generally cleaned it up, it would have looked like the postcard it became.
Normally, I crop out any greetings and outdated copyright, to make the image look like a real scene, rather than a photo. Likewise, unless asked to preserve it, I usually crop out the white surround, frame or matte. In this one, I wanted to show you the original with its greeting and its fade-out curve, so I have pretty much left the outer part intact in both the original and the restored and re-coloured version.
You may remember that I mentioned, in my previous post, that my computer was poorly and needed replacing. I have now done that and am using a new pc. I had to recalibrate the (also new) monitor and am not entirely sure if the colour is quite accurate yet, so please tell me if the colour in this image – most particularly the skin tone – looks too saturated or too pink to you. I looked at it on my tablet and on that it’s rather washed out and yellowish. Most monitors distort colours a bit and need calibrating to show them better, but hopefully it’s fairly natural.
One bit of information about my colouring choices for skin colour and tone: unlike many other photocolourists, I try to avoid an excess of different tonalities in skin as I find it can look like make-up has been applied. I’ve seen other artists’ colourings of soldiers who look like they are wearing rouge on their cheeks, wizened elderly men with similarly pink cheeks, and women with bright yellow hair that looks like a doll’s hair! The ones done on an Apple Mac and then viewed on a Windows pc are even worse as the colour palette of a Mac is much paler than its Windows counterpart. I like a bit of oversaturation from time to time, just for fun, but I try to keep it out of my more normal colourings. So – if it looks overdone in this photo, please tell me so that I can further adjust it.