“The Portrait”

I recently had the pleasure of finishing a portrait for a friend, a picture of his partner. It wasn’t a commission, rather I forced the offer onto him over dinner. It was intended as a thank you for all the help I had been given when building my website, little did I imagine how long it would take and how it would be received. Here is the picture:


"Barbara" oil painting by Marc Summersgill


As you will see if you click on the link, I posted the portrait without realising that they were on holiday for a couple of weeks. Those two weeks became fraught as time went on. I was very happy with the portrait when I finished it, but as time crept on I became more unsure as to how it would be received. Just because I liked it and I thought it was a pretty good likeness, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps I had got the wrong end of the stick. Maybe the things that I had focused on were not the same as the things that he loved about her!

Portraits are funny things in that with a single stroke it is possible to completely change the expression and the emphasis of a face, sometimes even losing the likeness completely. I worked from a few photos I quickly took at the time. If I had attempted to make an exact copy of one the photos I am pretty sure the picture would not have gone down very well at all. Which is where the artistic license comes in, and the problems begin! What I am trying to say is that my choice of emphasis could easily have been the wrong ones and without being able to see into the beholders mind, it is largely guesswork and feeling. I wanted to to do a great job because they deserve it, and all I could imagine was receiving one of those polite thank you’s that people send after getting an unwanted present!

Luckily I needn’t have worried, I couldn’t have been more wrong and with a very large sigh of relief I received the following:


So all is well that ends well, and thanks to Blyth for such a wholehearted endorsement of my work.

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Aaaargh, Ive been hacked!

Aaaargh, I’ve been hacked!

A few days ago I opened my wordpress admin dashboard only to find a lovely animated picture instead.


I was surprised to say the least. At first I thought it was an internet error but I then went to my site and guess what! exactly the same thing appeared. I checked the facebook page in question and looked into making a complaint but it looks like Facebook only want to hear about complaints regarding stuff that appears on their site. I couldn't believe this miscreant would have the audacity to advertise themselves like this, they seemed pretty confident that they were untouchable! Since there didn't seem to be an option to complain, I thought I had better stop wasting my time and try to deal with the matter in hand.

I needed to know what to do next so I looked up some advice online and contacted my website host. It turns out that this is a common occurence with WordPress sites, due to their opensource nature and extreme popularity (apparently 17% of all websites are built on the platform). 5quidhost kindly secured access to my site and installed the last backup they had. I was worried that since it was two weeks old, that I would have lost some blog posts but as it turns out happily, that I had been a bit lax recently and everything was intact.

Not wanting this to happen again anytime soon, I did a bit of reading on how to keep it secure against future attack. My site had been compromised by an old plugin but I found a fantastic free security plugin called Wordfence which alerts me by email each time my site files change. I then found and blocked the IP address of the interloper (I found it on the stats page in CPanel) I also blocked a range of known dodgy IP addresses from Indonesia. I know its probably ever going to be 100% secure but now that I am aware of it I will be keeping a close eye on it from now on.

I think the biggest lesson I have learned from this is to make regular and complete backups of my site, especially after any updates. This means making a copy of the SQL database as well as the site files. Its a bit of a faff but at least I know that whatever happens I will always be able to get it back up and running.

Here are a few of the web pages I referred to after the catastrophe which are definitely worth a read if you use WordPress for your website:


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Great submission advice from a gallery

Now that the website is up and running, I have started that most difficult of tasks, self promotion. The first thing I began doing was to research galleries, art fairs and other outlets to sell my work. Its a laborious process and after many hours spent searching through hundreds of gallery websites I stumbled upon this gem of a document. I have read a lot of literature and advice for artists regarding how to approach galleries, but this gallery has put together all of the best bits of advice in an informative and easy to read style. It is not the first time I have seen a gallery provide submission information on their website, but it is the first time I have seen it done this way. I would like to note that I have no connection with this gallery, but thought that it was worthy of a post as I was so pleasantly surprised by the content.

So have a look at "Selling to a gallery" from the View Art Gallery in Bristol:


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Girl thinking!

I'd like to share my new painting. I love the lighting on this one and fortunately it turned out as well as I'd hoped!
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Why pay for expensive bureau scans for your large images?

Hi again

As promised this is my first 'How to' post and is something I needed to do do recently. I had a number of A3 and A2 drawings I wanted to scan and print. Only having an A4 scanner at home, I firstly tried to scan my A3 drawings in two goes and blend them by hand in Photoshop. Which turned out to be a bit of a disaster as my blending skills weren't quite good enough to make a seamless join. This is partly due to the darker edges i got on the scan which made it very difficult to blend the drawn parts of the page. I'm sure a Photoshop expert could manage this in no time but I had another idea! There is a function I had heard about in Photoshop which allows you to sew together panoramic views from separate photos. It is called 'Photomerge' and can be found under the File->Automate menus. I am using CS5 but I believe that earlier versions of Photoshop have this capability.

After a bit of playing about I got a perfect merged image, but only after a couple of false starts. The first realisation I had was that merging two scans together did not give the best result. Instead of using my first scans I re-did them this time using four overlapping scans. Doing this must give photoshop more information to cross reference and hence a much better result. the second thing I played with was the Photomerge setting themselves, to no avail. The best result came from using the default settings (see fig 2)

And voila! A seamless composite image. I was amazed that even blowing the image up, I couldn't detect the joins! I repeated the same process with another six drawings and they all worked equally well. Just a final note in case you are wondering, I scanned the images on the scanner on my Epson RX650 multi function printer and I scanned the images at 300dpi so they would be good enough to print.

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