Desert Time

First some shameless self promotion, for my three self-published books:

‘California Beach Trip’:

On Amazon:

(CBT is all B&W, the other two are about 40% hand-colored images)

‘Desert Trip’

On Amazon:

‘Seeking the Vibe’

On Blurb:

Previews of all at:


Now on to this month’s image, ‘Desert Time’

Whenever i do a montage print, i ask myself the same question, paraphrasing Shakespeare: ‘To hand-color or not to hand-color, that is the question.’ Sometimes the answer is a clear ‘leave it TF alone’, sometimes it’s ‘definitely!’ and sometimes it’s ‘well, it might be interesting, let’s give it a try’. I’ve always scanned the B&W, so even if i have only one print (and i usually have more than that) by coloring, i have nothing to lose.

Here’s a B&W montage print, ‘Desert time’.


It definitely got the ‘well, it might be interesting, let’s give it a try’ opinion.


Here’s the hand-colored version (above), some watercolor for details, the roman numerals on the sundial, and on the spindly pine tree. Then on to oils for larger areas. I wondered whether the hand-coloring was a bit over the top, so i scanned it (I always do, i have access to a nice ( but rather old – does it make a difference?) Epson flatbed, 12×17 image area) and then did a desat layer, just for the hell of it, for comparison’s sake.


Glad i did, i think the HC w/ no desat. is just fine – the more vivid colors make the whole image ‘rock’, everything pulses in juxtaposition to another color, the green of the pine and the prickly pear underneath the sundial against the yellow of the numbers, against the warm rich raw sienna of the desert rocks. As John Lovett used to say “that’s the ticket!”.

Never be afraid to walk out on a limb – back yourself up w/ scans. add’l prints/ etc. … but walk out on that limb! you will be glad you did. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

That’s the larger advice from this post – ‘walk out on a limb’ … and ‘what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger’.


Easy to go too far!

Driftwood face

Let’s go digital again – I mentioned previously how incredibly easy it is to get lost in Photoshop, here’s an example. Here’s this driftwood face, washed ashore – a darkroom print, just 3 negs – the driftwood on the sandy beach, the face ( a totem pole found somewhere in Oregon), & the clouds/sky. Sooo…. i thought ‘what about color for this one?’

I tried a number of coloring layers, what’s below is the final, all the layers turned off is what it looks like below the layers pallette. = gone too far!




…but i came back around to the very simple solution: These eyes are staring at you, very hard, and that’s what the image should say.


I think it was Robert Rauschenberg (correct me, someone/anyone, if my attribution is wrong) who said it best – “It starts by YOU telling the picture what it will be — in the end, THE PICTURE tells you what IT will be…”. Have i quoted that before? Probably i have!

My ad design teacher at No. Va. Community college circa 1975 used to pound this one into our heads:

“Simplify, simplify, SIMPLIFY!”

Yes, those eyes tell me everything i need to know about this picture. They are piercing, penetrating, unblinking.


hand coloring black and white photos