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Project ZELK - Watch me restore the picture.


I first painted this image in the early 1970s, because I had a passing fascination with abstract or illusory black and white images.  The painting is long since lost but I had the foresight to take a photograph of it at some time, probably about 1975 when I got my second SLR camera.  Unfortunately the original photograph is very poor quality due to inadequate lighting - nothing more sophisticated than a tungsten light bulb, as I recall - though the quality of the photographic medium has retained as much of the original detail as the poor technique and lighting would allow.  The photograph was taken on Agfa 50 ASA transparency film - my favourite then due to its speed and cost advantage over Kodachrome 25, the other main rival for my hard-earned cash.  Anyway, the lighting had the effect of yellowing the image and lighting it very unevenly, meaning that much of the detail in the black has been lost.  To make matters worse, the original painting was already damaged by the time I photographed it - some of the white had been knocked or rubbed off.


Fortunately, I can remember almost every detail of the picture as if I had painted it yesterday - partly because of the therapeutic effect creating it had on me at a particularly difficult time in my life and partly because it took me so long to do!  I know it's no masterpiece, in fact it's hardly art at all!  The base was plain hardboard, which I painted with white gloss paint (the sort you normally paint your skirting boards with) whilst the black was Humbrol enamel.  The transitions between the black and white were as sharp as I could make them by hand using a sable brush and given the consistency of enamel paint.  Unfortunately much of the sharpness has been lost in the transformation via slide film to scanned computer image 30 years later.


I suddenly got a notion to re-create the picture - no simple task, given the foregoing.  So far I've done the following jobs:

  • Scanned in the original image at 2880dpi
  • Transformed it back to a black and white image
  • Adjusted contrast, midtones, shadows and applied unsharp mask quite ruthlessly
  • Cleaned up most of the imperfections in the large flowing white areas
  • Begun to fill in some of the missing depth in the black areas

Much remains to be done to sharpen up all the black/ white transitions.  All this is being done by hand in the hope that it will achieve a similar result to the original image.  Over the next few months I'll post updates to the project on this site.

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