Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.28.08 AM

Somehow, over the years of hammering away at programs like Photoshop, I’ve had sort of a mental block trying to learn even the most rudimentary CAD software.  Not too long ago Sketchup was a free program offered by Google, and I gave it a try…  and failed miserably.  Lately though, I decided it was something I really needed at the very least a basic understanding of.  So I tried again.

I fetched around the internet and found the official Sketchup training videos – here’s the first basic intro, here:

The next thing I decided after messing around with dumb objects that had no real purpose was that I should work on an actual part.  The dolly shown above was one that I’ve been wanting to draw, so, after chunking around with some not-so-actual parts, I decided to take a shot at an real design I’d been thinking about.  This is the universal-fit wheel assembly for the X-Y Easel.  That was the first step that made a real difference it learning this stuff.  Do something real.

As it turns out, it’s not such a steep learning curve after all.  It’s just, well, different.

Here’s the cool thing about a 3D modeling program.  You get to look all around it.  Here’s the bottom view:

Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.28.48 AM

Once I got around the toolbar a bit I realized it’s a lot like building a real thing.  You need parts.  You can get parts from the online source, or you can make them yourself. Here’s the basic wheel mount, with the brake assembly:

Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.29.54 AMThis is made up of a few “Components”, which are distinct parts that you can move in and out, much like a real assembly.  Unlike when you draw additional things on a model, components stay intact. The blue frame shows you the outline of the component, in this case the wheel brake idea I had:

Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.30.10 AM


This is a spring that I found in the “Component Warehouse”, after trying in vain to draw one myself:Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.30.20 AM


After making some pretty rudimentary parts, with no curved edges or anything, I decided to try to figure out how to make curved edges and refine the shapes a bit.  The tutorials were OK, but when I just started Googling what I was trying to do I found some pretty helpful amateur tutorials.  Unlike the official videos, these are much more specific to one subject.

Here’s the wheel I made, using the actual dimensions from a Rollerblade wheel:

Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.32.13 AM

And here’s how it fits into the assembly as a component:


Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 9.30.31 AMSo using that, I now have real-life dimensions I know will work.  I can also see conflicts and problems before I start cutting stock – for instance, this slot for the brake spring mount is a problem if I don’t pay attention:

Screen shot 2015-03-14 at 10.02.14 AM

…and yes, of course you can move the light around and get a good look at things, just like real life.

Conclusions?  Well, first, it’s not such a big deal.  My biggest hurdle is to accept the fact that the tools aren’t the same as Photoshop.  I found it frustrating that my instincts and habits were so, well, just wrong, and I had to get over it.

Second, I’m coming to the realization that the program probably isn’t all that great.  It feels like one of those packages that tries to be simple, but in doing so is kludgy and does stuff you don’t expect or want.  It’s useful, but I suspect messing around with a more professional program like Solidworks or Autocad is ultimately going to be more satisfying – though a much steeper learning curve.

Probably the biggest hurdle is learning “the rules” – or, in other words, figuring out the behavior of the program.  What you can do, what it won’t let you do, especially since you’re moving things around in three dimensions.  I still haven’t figured out how to draw certain things on certain planes without having to rotate them after.  Really, that’s just a matter of practice and, as usual, digital hygiene.  Nothing new here, folks.

But, at the end of the day, is this a 3D model that I can use?  Most definitely yes. Index

January 11, 2015

The common thread throughout all of my interests is the melding of technology and personal expression.  This is an index of the work I have online, both past and present.  For detailed samples, please visit my CV, Resume page: Case Studies, Sample Pieces and Portfolio
Contact me here.
Current work:



Power in Flux: The History of Electric Motorcycles (Kickstarter Project and book)

InsideEVs contributing author: Motorcycles and other EV-related subjects

Electric Motorcycle Primer “InsideEVs Style”: 5-Part Series on EV tech

The Electric Chronicles: A builder’s reference site for Electric Motorcycles



Fine Art Reproduction

The Atelier Print: Redefining Fine Art Reproduction


Screen shot 2015-01-11 at 6.09.47 AM

Photography: “des flous de ted dillard”

Projects, Builds, Inventions and Solutions

The x-y Easel: A tool to redefine digital Fine Art Reproduction

Websites: is a website that redefines on-line art collecting.  Learn more here.

 oh,  and this.

  Drag Racing Belt Sander: World Record Attempt

wait.  wuuut?

The Archives:

Digital Photography Help Videos: Youtube page (Raw Pipeline, ColorV2)

Ted Dillard personal videos: Youtube page (TedDillard)

CV, Resume: Case Studies, Sample Pieces and Portfolio

View Ted Dillard's profile on LinkedIn

And now, may we present, the rest of the blog!  Thanks for your interest.

A while ago I posted a photo from a series I did a long time ago – started in the early ’80s and finished up by ’87, documenting many of the buildings in the Town of Harvard that we felt were soon to disappear.  Here is the complete set:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I want to make this as simple as possible, and it’s a subject that invites you to dive in to all manner of techno-vortices of Color Science.  It’s really a simple question, though.  Does it matter which light source I use to illuminate artwork for reproduction?

I’ve argued that the color and quality of the light source is crucial in reproducing the vision of the artist.  I think I’ve demonstrated pretty well how the light quality affects the texture and surface of the canvas, but I’ve been struggling with a good way to demonstrate how the light color affects the perception of the various tones and values in a painting.  I’ve been tempted to go into a deep, technical discussion of it, but then realized it’s really a very simple thing.  Show how the colors are different with three basic light sources – tungsten, strobe and “full spectrum” fluorescent.  The simplest way to show that is with a Colorchecker.

Basically, think of it in terms of throwing something at an object, and getting what bounces back.  You can’t get back what you didn’t toss in the first place.  If you’re not throwing red, for example (in the case of a fluorescent, specifically), you’re not going to get red bouncing back to the camera.

First, the video:

Now, the details.

The “Tungsten” version was shot using halogen gallery-type floods, the camera set to 3700K, and shooting RAW with the Nikon D800.

The “Strobe” version was simply changed to 5000K, and the “Fluorescent” version was 5000K as well.  The fluorescent bulbs are so-called “continuous spectrum” 5000K bulbs, which is really a misnomer, a fact you can see by simply looking at a spectral response graph of any good bulb of this type, including those used on the Cruse Scanner and other similar devices.

The files were processed using Adobe Camera RAW, and a click-gray balance was made on the lighter of the two center gray patches.  The shadows and highlights were adjusted slightly so the shadow and highlight points on the histograms would match up well.  The files were cropped to the target, and processed with the default Adobe camera profile.  The Working Color Space is Adobe1998.

Remember.  The primary objective of the entire science and technology of CCD development and Color Management is to replicate the human visual experience of color.  Color management tools’ job is to take these colors we see above and try to correct them to match the known colorimetric values of the target.  They can do that a lot better and bring the colors closer to what we perceive if they have a starting point closer to where they’re trying to end up.  If they don’t have the colors, they have to make them up, or stretch the colors they do have into the space they need to be.

The conclusions are pretty obvious to the eye, but even more so when you look at the histograms.  Each light source is indeed different.  The intensity of each of the color patches on the Colorchecker is rendered in a slightly different way in some cases, in others, the differences are pronounced.

So, yes, each is different.  That begs a few questions.

Which one is more “accurate”?  That question will send you down another vortex of Color Theory.

Which one is more faithful to what the artist saw?  That question is simple.  The light source that the artist used when creating the work can only be the most faithful to the artist’s vision and intent.

A painter’s view of light, color, and their importance in reproduction of paintings:

Warren worked closely with me in developing the technique I use for Fine Art Reproduction…  inspiring me to develop and refine the process and the tools – the X-Y Easel.

We’ve seen some samples of the difference between standard copy-board lighting and what is pretty typical for an artist’s studio. Let’s take it a step further and look at what we can do using basic lighting techniques.  If you’ve been the victim of one of my lighting classes, this is going to look familiar.


Painting by Nellie Ashford:  “Best Friends”

This is an example of what you’d typically see in an artist’s studio or a gallery.  It’s lit with a “Main” that’s a halogen spot from above, and has all the characteristics of that type of lighting – lots of texture, rich colors, deep shadows, bright highlights.  There’s a very slight amount of cooler fill, spilling from the surrounding walls.  This is “hard-edged closed shadows”, that is, the shadows have a hard edge, but are closed up, or dark.


This is the same light, but simply adding fill.  “Hard-edged open shadows”.  Take a good look, the shadows themselves still have a hard edge, but they’re now brighter, and show color and detail.  This is pretty typical of what you’ll see from a modern artist’s studio, often a combination of North light and halogen spots.  The fill in a studio like this is often far more cool that what we’re seeing here, though.


These last two examples are lit with a very soft, very diffuse light source.  Typically a “North Light Studio” without any additional spots would look like this, but the first one has no fill in the shadows.  Thus, it’s called “soft edged, closed shadows”.  We still get a fair amount of texture and the appearance of relief, but the effect is less dramatic, more flat, with the overall contrast lower and less saturated colors.  It’s more forgiving, but has far less impact.


Finally, we take soft, diffuse lighting and add fill.  This almost completely flattens out the work, showing very little texture, very diffuse colors, and very low contrast.  You’d use this if, for example, you had an original that had major surface flaws that you didn’t want to call attention to.  This is how an artist’s studio would look if they had North light, and very bright walls, floors and even ceilings.  It would be a fairly rare thing to see an artist working under these conditions.

Go ahead and click on each image to take a good close enlarged look.

These are what I consider to be the four basic building blocks of lighting.  What gets interesting is where you start working with degrees of these techniques – starting with hard-edged closed lighting and adding just a little fill…  controlling the degree of softness in soft-edged closed shadows – or any combination of types.   Not only do I get 4 basic flavors, but I can mix and match and hit somewhere in between.

This is true photographic lighting, and why it’s so powerful in redering artwork in a way that’s faithful to the artist’s vision.  It’s possible through no other process – no scan system or copyboard lighting can achieve these kinds of basic results, and certainly not in any combination.


Here’s a look at some work that’s a little different that what I’ve shown here in the past.  Yet, it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to show.  This mixed-media work by Shannon McDonald is a rich example of dimension.  Look closely at the edges and wrinkles, but look particularly at the gold leaf at the top of the painting.  Light that material with traditional copyboard lighting, and it will turn to brownish gray.  Light it as you would any three-dimensional object, like jewelry?  You’ll see all the sparkle and shine, as well as the true color, of the gold leaf. Click on the image to see it full size.

Here’s another example.



This remarkable piece has a rich texture of found objects making up the subjects headpiece.  Again, we approached the lighting duplicating the artist’s studio.  The relief and modeling on the work is precisely as she created and intended the piece to feel.  Look closely at the grain and relief of the wood, especially in the light areas at the top.  Also important is how the blue translucent panel reads in the image.  Copyboard lighting would have made it a confusing mixup of overlapping shadows from unnatural directions.  The shadow here is simple, clean, and is identical to how the piece is intended to be seen.

See more of Shannon’s work at her site: Shannon McDonald Fine Art.