Technical Difficulties: Aperture Down And Out

My studio work area

UPDATE!- 5pm- Aperture came up this morning and then the connection to the Library hard drive dropped again. This time David swapped out the power supply, which made no difference. Then, because the next step was drastic, re-building the entire Vault, and with no reason to believe it would make a difference, he put the original Library drive back on. And it worked. All day without a hiccup. At this point he thinks that somehow a read-write error got onto the hard drive, but somehow it’s not there now. Go figure. The good news is that I got a good afternoon’s work in at the easel. The Vault drive will be re-built over the weekend. Just in case.

We were almost certain that the problem was due to something in Lion since the problem showed up the first time I used Aperture after the upgrade and because of what happened when I installed it on my MacBook (see below). And it might be, but no idea what it would be. Thus once again demonstrating why correlation is not necessarily causation.

Original post from 10am this morning:

We’re still in the midst of dealing with this “situation”, but it’s ugly. The first morning I came into the studio to get to work after the holidays seemed to go fine. Until toward the end of the day I clicked on an image in Aperture to change the view mode and suddenly things went crazy. One image was half blues and magentas. Some had vanished. Uh oh. Call Tech Support, which happens to be my husband, who has been in IT (Information Technology) since 1964. Without Aperture, I literally cannot do my work. Did I say this was ugly?

That was two weeks ago. Despite changing out the external hard drive which has my Aperture Library on it (he had a third drive on hand just in case; four+ hours to copy the Library to it), multiple calls to the hard drive company (good support and helpful) and swapping out the Firewire cables for USB cables, just to hit the highlights, yesterday afternoon the Library simply vanished from the Desktop after successfully, we thought, addressing the problem. And work was done for the day and until we can get this fixed. Stay tuned.

Fortunately, all my images are backed up to a duplicate hard drive and also to an external Vault drive, which is kept in the detached garage. So I’m not hyperventilating with stress and terror that I’m going to somehow lose over 60,000 images that I absolutely depend on for my work. But this sucks, big time.

We did everything right. We thought. David recommended holding off on upgrading to Lion when it came out because there’s always something and he knows how mission-critical Aperture is for me. So we waited some months.

Finally, we agreed that I should go ahead and install Lion on my MacBook, which I did. And it was fine, except that the MacBook now could not see the Terastation server drives. Just. Great. And expensive. There were no workarounds, though he was given some to try by various colleagues. So we now have new server drives. And all was rainbows and unicorns.

We let another couple of months go by. I checked all the forums I could find and didn’t see anything that suggested people were running into problems with Aperture after upgrading to Lion. So David finally said to go ahead. It went fine, Aperture came up and functioned correctly. Right up until it didn’t.

So, having exhausted the other possibilities, we are left thinking that the problem is something that has happened because of Lion, but we don’t know what yet. The IMac seems much slower to come up now than before and it takes a long time for it to see the Wacom tablet and the mouse upon start-up.


Rainbow from last week's storm
Rainbow from last week's storm

A great old French word that I picked up many years ago when I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It means “a jumble or hodgepodge”. Which is kind of what today’s post is.

SOFTWARE THAT I USE to keep things moving and, with luck organized. FWIW.
I switched to Apple at the end of 2008 and have never looked back. I tease my husband, who still uses a PC, about when he’s going to come over from The Dark Side. He might, at some point, if his business requirements allow. In the meantime, other than house network stuff, which is still his balliwick, I can now handle my system with a minimum of whining at him for technical support.

1. MobileMe– keeps a bunch of data like my address book, email, notes, etc. in an online Apple “cloud”, which lets me effortlessly keep my iMac, MacBook and iPhone synced.

2. Quicken– checkbook balancing trauma is a thing of the past. At last. I also record my credit card transactions.

3. Flick!– just started to enter the records of my paintings. I used to have Working Artist, which I absolutely hated, but everything else available for the PC was worse. Flick! has a clean, attractive interface and responsive tech support. It’s built on Filemaker, the Mac-based database standard.

4. Aperture– Apple’s image management software; handles my closing in on 30,000 images effortlessly. Lets you open images in Photoshop with one click. Set up whatever categories (which it calls Projects and Albums) work best. The RAW files are resident on the iMac for speed, but are backed up to an external Time Machine hard drive,  so every image exists in duplicate. We hope to eventually keep an additional set on a Buffalo Terrastation that will be kept in the garage, which is a separate building. Am I paranoid? After experiencing a real, physical back up hard drive crash a couple of years ago with a machine that was supposedly designed to recover from something like that and having the vendor essentially shrug and say “Too bad”, and in which I lost forever a bunch of images of older work, you betcha. CDs are not archival. None of them. A high quality external hard drive is the only way to store images for the long haul.

5. Photoshop CS4– can’t imagine how I’d function without it. The relevant difference between it and Elements is that Elements doesn’t let you do CMYK conversions and other tasks necessary to prepare images for commercial reproduction. I use Photoshop for just about everything image-related.

6. iTunes– last year we converted over 700 CDs to digital. No more getting up to change discs and no more discs taking up valuable shelf space. All my music is right on my desk. Hey, it’s a big deal when you grew up with a record player and a stack of 45s and LPs.


Unless I’m writing, talking on the phone or doing concept work (thinking up ideas for paintings), the music’s on. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of the 1980s and there were still quite a few musicians from the 1960s around and working in various bands. Guitarist John Cippolina was one of them. He was best known as the lead guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service. I saw him in the mid-1980s in a band called Terry and the Pirates. It turns out there’s a two album set of recordings by the Pirates and, if you want to spend 99 cents on one of the hottest, driving SF-style rock songs out there, buy “Something to Lose”. Cippolina on the guitar and Nicky Hopkins, who was also in Quicksilver for while, on the piano. Crank. It. Up.

Species tulips, hellebores, flamingos
Species tulips, hellebore, flamingos


Frogs are at it around the clock now, crocus and early daffodils are blooming, tulips are up. Primroses going strong. In the neighborhood, the willows and Indian plum are starting to leaf out already. We’ve covered the front “lawn” (34’x19′) with black plastic and are going to turn it into a vegetable garden.

Pansies, Pickwick crocus, tulips
Pansies, Pickwick crocus, tulips


I’ve become increasingly concerned about what’s happening/happened to the food supply in this country. The pet food recall in 2007 definitely got my attention. Oh, and then there’s the Peanut Thing. Now I’m (finally) reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it is really crystalizing my thinking. One of the basic points is that industrial scale food production, in and of itself, is a major problem, both in the animal suffering it causes and the loss of nutrition and taste in fruits and vegetables. Plus the environmental cost of moving all that stuff an average of 1500 miles. And who would have thought that corn and the excessive amount of it grown is literally the root of the problem.

It’s time to, as Pollan says, “opt out” of the industrial food chain. His book is an exploration of how that food chain works, what the consequences are and how new alternative food chains are being formed. Anyone who wants to make conscious, sound and informed decisions about what they eat needs to read this book.

For us, we’re becoming much better label readers (citric acid is from corn!?). We’re going to concentrate even more on sourcing our food locally. We already do not eat factory-farmed animals or animal products. Period. I’ve mentioned the vegetable garden. We also plan to get chickens later this year to provide eggs.

The great thing is that the information and alternatives are out there, especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in California. Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address that subsidies would be cut for “agribusiness”, which is long, long overdue. In the meantime, what we can do is vote with our pocketbooks.

Bobcat and Bighorns

The bobcat painting is done. I’ve called it “Stepping Lightly”. It will make it’s debut at Wild Visions2, the group show with five other Humboldt County artists next month. The opening reception will be August 9 from 6-9pm. More later about the show and the other artists.

“Stepping Lightly”                   oil                               18″x24″

Now, a cautionary tale about reference and using captive animals as models.

I’m doing a painting that is a first for me, three panels. Here’s the reference I’m using. The animals were photographed at the Denver Zoo and the landscape is from up on Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.

Is that a great pose or what? It was morning, warm and sunny, and the ram was getting sleepier and sleepier and finally his head gently dropped onto the ewe’s back. She never even twitched. Click. Gotta paint it. But where to put them? I chose this rocky outcropping in Glacier because I liked the shapes and knew that bighorns were often seen in the area. I did a preliminary drawing of the animals with the idea of showing them on a shelf of rocks. I wanted to communicate how comfortable bighorns are in an environment that we would find “challenging”. Here’s an in-progress shot that shows my setup with my iMac.

It’s great because Aperture lets me zoom in and out as needed very easily.

Another in-progress shot with the side panels propped on either side. At this point, I sent a jpeg to wildlife artist Laney, who has said nice things about my work the couple of times I have met her. She specializes in bighorns and I wanted her to eyeball the animals for drawing or any other problems. She replied very promptly and said that overall it looked good, but that the ewe’s hoof was in the wrong position compared to the rest of the leg and that the ram’s muzzle was too thin.

I went back to my reference and compared what I had with an absolutely wonderful book, Mountain Royalty, by famous Alaska artist Doug Lindstrand. As you can see from my photo, the ram in particular is shedding out, so it was a little hard to see the structure. Doug’s photos solved that problem and there was even a picture of a ram in a similiar position.

What I ultimately found was that while I had accurately drawn what was in my reference, it wasn’t “right”. The ewe’s hoof was at that funny angle, but that didn’t mean I should paint it that way, so I fixed it. When I compared my reference ram’s head with the ones in the book, I found that his head was really quite odd. Longer, thinner and with a roman nose that was much more exaggerated than the wild sheep. So I fixed his muzzle and re-proportioned his head as needed.

The other question I had for Laney was whether or not this behavior might be observed in the wild. She replied that the rams were only with the ewes in winter, so maybe I’d like to add some snow. Ah, well. In the zoo, of course, the animals are pretty much together all year around. In the wild when I shot my reference at the beginning of May, it was unlikely. Cue the snow reference. And, what I found was that it was the frosting on the cake since it brought the cool of the sky into the rock area and helped pull the whole thing together. Thanks Laney!

The moral of this story is that you can’t have too much reference, don’t assume that zoo or captive animals look the same as wild ones, do your fieldwork and learn about your subjects and finally, it is tremendously helpful to have a knowledgeable eye like Laney’s to look over what you’ve done and to it keep on track.

I finish the painting today and it goes in for framing tomorrow. I’ll post an image of it once it’s on the wall at the show.


Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.

Franklin P. Jones

Aperture and a Few Favorite Photos

In between trying to get a number of paintings done, I’ve spent one full day of each of the last two weekends importing my images into Aperture, the digital photo manager that I had pre-installed on the iMac. I think I’m almost halfway there. All of Kenya 2004, Mongolia 2005 and 2006, two trips to Wyoming and one to Montana are in, plus some personal stuff and photos of paintings. The two trips to Mongolia come to 5,792 total. Kenya 2004, the art workshop safari with Simon Combes and nine other artists, totals 5,116. Wyoming, which includes Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the areas around Jackson and Dubois totals 3,824. Can you imagine how much paper and ink it would have needed if those had been prints? Or plastic, paper and ink if they were slides? And how much shelf space I’d need. So far, it’s all on the iMac’s hard drive, which will be backed up to our Buffalo Terastations.

Digital is by far the most environmentally friendly way to acquire and store images and music. I’m ready for movie downloads to our tv anytime now.

elephant-and-vehicle.jpg Samburu 2004

Aperture’s image organization system is based on projects, albums and folders. Half the battle was understanding how I would want to find things well enough to set up the essential system before I started importing. I finally went with projects based on location. Images can only be in one project, but can be in multiple albums. So, I’ve done the initial imports into country projects that have specific location albums in them. Therefore, the Mongolia project has albums for Hustai National Park 2005, Hustai National Park, 2006, Khomiin Tal 2006 and so on. I had realized when I was still working with IMatch on the PC that I needed to be able to not only go to a specific location, but also when I’d been there, so this time every location name also includes the year. The next step will be to copy all the animals into specific species albums, along with various landscape features like rocks and trees, time of day like sunsets, and weather features like clouds. Everything will be batch keyworded and have appropriate metadata added. Maybe by the end of baseball season.


Marmot at National Museum of Wildlife Art (He’s real.)

I bought an after-market book on Aperture with a DVD tutorial that I’m working my way through. I got a handle on importing and dove in because my images look so completely stunning on the glossy 24″ iMac monitor that I needed to start working from it immediately. I’ve been cruising through a bunch of my photos this afternoon, especially all my argali reference from Mongolia, and I can honestly say that for the first time I can really see what my 6mb Nikon D70’s can do. Wow.


Local herder and I at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve, Mongolia

My paintings are going to take a big step forward. John Banovich, who I was fortunate enough to have a workshop with, told us that “you are only as good as your reference”. That is so, so true. I can’t even believe that I ever thought that 4×6 or even 5×7 prints would give me a good result. I now have the equivalent of huge transparencies that I can work from in daylight.

Hope to post some new paintings by late next week. Heading down to San Francisco for the weekend and taking along a blue heeler from the shelter who needs to go to rescue. Next entry I’ll tell the story of my first transport two weeks ago. Super short version-four dogs, ten hours driving.