Nicholas Baxter

Blog posts tagged “Photoshop”

My 20-Step Program for Perfect Art Reproductions

If you’re a painter or visual artist working in any traditional media, capturing digital images of your work is practically a requirement nowadays, and has been for a while. I don’t know any artist who could survive without getting images of their work onto the internet, submitted to publications, made into prints, or a variety of other applications that require a quality reproduction. And quality is the key word here: representing yourself with a poor version of your work will hurt your chances of success.


You wouldn’t think that capturing quality images of a completely still, flat object in a controlled indoor setting would be one of the most challenging photography jobs, but it is. I’ve actually paid pro photographers to shoot images of my paintings, and gotten a disc full of yellow-tinted garbage and flat-out unusable files, because those photographers weren’t well versed in the highly specific nuances of this photography application.

(untitled), oil on linen panel, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

The details matter here, and skipping any of the major or sometimes even minor steps will usually compromise the end result, to varying degrees. With so many factors that can go wrong, it’s wise when possible to devote an area of your studio to this, with dedicated lighting, equipment, and pre-measured distances and angles.


Depending on the level of compromise or imprecision in your studio setup, the more editing of your raw files you’ll need to do on your computer. But even the best photography results will still require basic cropping and picky stuff like smoothing over a blown pixel from your camera’s sensor, or eliminating a small cat hair that somehow floated and stuck to the painting (cats are thoughtful like that, always trying to help…).

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On The Road 9: Detroit

Detroit is a city where the environment itself takes center stage and needs no actors, a scene and setting so ghostly unnerving that one seemingly enters a land outside of time, a post-apocalyptic playground frozen in charred stillness, awaiting future inhabitants.

It is a beautiful and frightening place, and in the tension between curiosity and revulsion I found untold artistic inspiration. A part of me needs to experience places like this in order to feel alive, to feel the sinewy tautness of real human struggle against all odds, against seemingly crushing decay and despair. The people I met there and the others I learned about during my stay all love their home through the good and the bad, and that was enough to convince me of another form of unlikely beauty that exists in Detroit. Thank you to all of them and to the interesting, dynamic city that inspired these photos.
























Take Refuge: Fallout Shelter Designs

Here are some graphics I designed for a tattoo-related project last year, with accompanying text (see the final product here).

I made the following images around the same time as these, using the same original photographs (shot with a Canon EOS Rebel before I even owned a digital camera…I feel old) and Photoshop CS4.




The concept of the fallout shelter gained popularity in the 1960s, in response to the threat of nuclear annihilation posed by the Cold War.  These protected spaces offered survivors of a nuclear blast a life-saving refuge from the deadly radioactive energy and debris, which would rain down in the aftermath of a detonation.

As part of the nationwide fallout shelter program, the U.S. government unveiled a symbol depicting three inverted triangles within a circle, which would become prominent throughout the urban landscape for several decades. But in the 1980s, the threat of worldwide nuclear war was averted with the fall of communism. This new era completed the rise of powerful corporations, as Big Business brought their own version of peace and prosperity to the world. As a result, the fallout shelter and its symbol have largely faded from public consciousness.

Yet unbeknownst to many, a certain Cold War still rages on—not externally, but internally—as an all-out assault on our minds and spirits by the cultural influence of the aforementioned capitalist elites. Their fantasy of escape through mindless consumption is served to resigned, debt-ridden and overstimulated masses, who despite living in material abundance, often report increasing levels of angst, anxiety, depression, and a lack of fulfilment. It’s in this 21st century war zone that the fallout shelter concept can re-emerge with a new significance.

So I say to those in search of a meaningful and passionate life, the rebels and social misfits, the misunderstood and the cast aside, the spiritual seekers and restless explorers, creatives, visionaries and dreamers, and of course, all the artists striving to bring forth authentic and original works expressing beautiful truths:

Take refuge in yourselves. 

Build shelter in your minds and hearts. Cultivate in that place an inspiration that may overcome the corporate enforcers of the dull and dreary, the false idols of passivity and obedience. Strengthen your will for the cultural battle of our era, this New Cold War.  

On The Road 7

In honor of an upcoming journey back to the chaos and adventure that is South America, here are some medium format film shots from my last trip to Colombia and the Amazon River.

All images were shot with an old, rickety Yashica Mat-124G on Kodak Ektar 100 film, with the help of a light meter app on my iPhone 4s, and edited in Photoshop CS4 from high resolution film scans.







On The Road 6

In my last few On The Road installments, I posted lots of iPhone photos from a trip across the Pacific early this year. During my stops in Hawaii and New Zealand I also shot several rolls of medium format film, which I finally processed recently.

All of these images were shot with an old, rickety Yashica Mat-124G, with the help of a light meter app on my iPhone 4s, and edited in Photoshop CS4 from high resolution film scans.



solscape: sand

solscape: ocean

solscape: sky


solscape: wandering

waiheke: wading


paige 1

paige 2

paige 3

paige 4

Then, And Now 3

My recent post about medium format photography adventures reminded me of the last time I had some fun with it, in 2009 when my parents were in town for a visit.  My photographer friend got ahold of a loaner Hasselblad 6 x 6 medium format camera and a tilt-shift lens for the occasion, and I dug out some expired old film to see what would happen.  Here are my favorite images from that day.


(Hasselblad 6 x 6 medium format with tilt-shift lens on Fujicolor Reala 100. Negative scan to digital, Photoshop)

(Hasselblad 6 x 6 medium format with tilt-shift lens on Ilford Delta 3200 Pro. Negative scan to digital, Photoshop)



On The Road 4

 A few weeks ago I spent two quick but relaxing days in the Middle Of Nowhere, rediscovering my medium format camera with some long-expired film, then hoped and prayed for some advantageous developing defects (which can be unpredictable on old color film). Lacking traditional darkroom access and skill, I get high resolution scans of my negatives, and do all editing in the “digital darkroom” with Photoshop CS4. For the non-purist photographer, this mixed-media, mixed-era process creates a satisfying blend of traditional and modern aesthetics, while exponentially increasing one’s creative options.

Guadalupe Mountains, West Texas

(Mamiya 645E medium format with 80mm f/2.8 on Kodak Plus X-Pan Pro 125. Negative scan to digital, Photoshop)

Marfa, Texas

(Mamiya 645E medium format with 80mm f/2.8 on Kodak Portra 400UC. Negative scan to digital, Photoshop)

Photo/Digital Manipulation

I’ve always been just as in love with photography as I am with painting. Because I paint in a highly realistic style, they’re two disciplines that go hand in hand in supporting my overall aesthetic and conceptual goals.

Photography is arguably the most convincing lie of the visual arts.  It intersects with cultural conditioning and social norms in a way that I find intriguing and inspiring.  What I mean is, as 20th and 21st century human beings, we’ve been more or less culturally and socially trained to accept the photograph as a factual–even scientific–representation of physical reality, due to its ubiquitous use and massive omnipresence throughout our entire lives. This belief, which can approach the level of faith, presents an irresistable opportunity for manipulation of perception by illusionists and countercultural provocateurs such as myself.

Long having been an artistic obsession of mine–to subvert the audience’s assumptions and paradigms–the advent of Photoshop was a digital godsend.  I’ve spent years honing my craft of button-pushing and mouse-clicking in order to take my illusions one step further into disorienting believability. Whether the end result is a reference image for a painting, or a finished piece of art in its own right, the aesthetic I attempt to achieve is the same.  This is how the two mediums work in concert for my overall artistic advancement.

This practice of “wanting-to-be-believable” manipulation to the visual field is also quite important to my conceptual mission as an artist: to inspire the viewer to question everything, to dig deeply behind the limiting surface appearance of not only reality, but their own selves, to take nothing for granted. In this way, I hope to make my art the embodiment of one of my favorite quotes:

“Art is the lie that tells the truth.”
–Pablo Picasso

Here’s my latest experiment combining photography and digital manipulation:

Glass & Dust

"Glass & Dust", photo/digital, 2012

And a few other favorites from recent years:

Call It A Day

"Call It A Day", photo/digital, 2010


"Archetype", photo/digital, 2009



"Capsized", photo/digital, 2008