Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Questions & Answers

Hope © 2009 Dianne Poinski

Over the last 10 years of showing my work, I have gotten used to people asking many questions about my photographs. Some people are not really sure what they are looking at when they first come into my studio or my booth. Since my coloring can be very delicate, some people’s first reaction is that they are looking at black and white photographs. Then there are the people that mutter under their breath that I am creating these images in Photoshop. (I use to find this statement offensive until I started working in Photoshop and discovered the challenges of this sophisticated art form.)

I have come to believe that one of my most important jobs as an artist is to educate. With that in mind, here a few of the most common questions I get.

Are you using film or a digital camera?

Until 2007, all of my images were shot with film and printed in a wet darkroom on a fiber based photo paper. As the supply of traditional photography materials began to decrease, it became very clear that it was time to start learning everything I could about digital photography. I bought my first digital camera in 2006. I went completely digital in 2008 and have not looked back.

My originals are not hand-colored in Photoshop. In addition, I don't do a lot of work on the images in the computer. I basically do the same thing I did in the darkroom – adjust contrast, and burning and dodging.

What do you use to color your photographs?

I used photo oil paints on all of my prints that were printed in the darkroom on photo paper.

Since these oil paints could not be used on inkjet prints, one of the challenges with going digital was finding a way to still “hand-color” and produce originals. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered that I liked working with pastels on the digital prints.

My black and white images start as archival prints made on Museo Portfolio Rag. This 100% cotton, acid-free paper is one of the finest digital art papers made.

After making the black and white print, I shave down my pastels to a fine powder using a razor blade or sand paper. I then apply the powder using various tools designed for pastel artists. I recently discovered Pan Pastels which has almost eliminated the need to shave my pastel sticks. I also use pastel pencils to add highlights and fill in small areas.

Why do I choose to hand-color?

I answered that question in an earlier post, but it’s worth repeating here. It’s simple – I love the way it looks and I have come to rely on the meditative quality of this hands-on process.

So these are the most common questions I get. If you have a different question, please leave it as a comment and I will answer it as soon as possible.


  1. How interesting to read about your process and also your transition from film to digital. I think the hands on element might be a key thing - that is also why I love doing the Polaroid manipulations. I haven't yet worked out how I will manage to find a similar digital compromise.

  2. Thanks - you are right. Still having the ability to create a one of kind piece by hand, made the digital transition so much easier and more fun!