Friday, July 4, 2014

Custom cards are ongoing learning process

My 1955-style Bob Hazle card after recent rehabilitation efforts.

I have been making my custom baseball and football cards for about a dozen years. It has been a self-taught process every step of the way.

It began when I purchased Photoshop Elements Version 2.0 upon its release in 2002. With the help of a ". . . for Dummies" manual I began the hobby that eventually superseded actual card collecting.

I'd be embarrassed to let you in on how green I was in those early days and how clumsy my early attempts were at creating "cards that never were."

Over the years I have gone back and reworked (I call it rehabilitating) many of my earliest cards as my skills improved or better photographs came along. 

I recently had occasion to rehabilitate the first baseball card I made in the 1955 Topps format. It was a card for Bob Hazle with the Cincinnati Redlegs in the days before he was acquired by the Milwaukee Braves and became famous as "Hurricane Hazle" late in the 1957 season, making a major contribution to Milwaukee winning the pennant.

Back when I had a column in Sports Collector's Digest I penned the story of why Bob Hazle was an important player in my childhood world. Someday, when I create another Hazle custom card, I'll reprint that column here on the blog.

I was impelled to rehabilitate my '55 Hazle when a collector who follows my creations ordered a copy of the card. As I prepared it for mailing it struck me that I would actually feel guilty sending out the card.

Back when I originally made the '55 Hazle, I was so happy to have actually found a portrait photograph of him in a Cincinnati cap that I plunged ahead without realizing the picture wasn't really suitable for colorizing -- or at least my poor attempts at colorizing 

The original version. Lack of contrast in the portrait photo
and my rather undeveloped skills 6-8 years ago resulted
in an unsatisfactory colorization.
A J.D. McCarthy postcard of Hazle
offered a much better portrait photo.
Reflecting on it now, I realize that the picture lacked contrast, especially when I lightened the area of his face that was in shadow from his cap. I tried a couple of times over the years to improve the picture, but never accomplished that to my satisfaction. 

Faced with the order for an example of my card, I decided to go back to square one with the portrait photo. I decided to work with the picture from a J.D. McCarthy postcard of Hazle in a Braves uniform. 

Because of the tight cropping of the portrait photos on 1955 Topps cards, I didn't have to do to much colorizing; basically just the face. I replaced the Braves cap with a Reds cap from another Cincinnati player from the 1955 set. The result was much for satisfying and I was proud to send the new version on its way to a collector.

By the way, the full-length picture of Hazle on my '55-style card also originally showed him with Milwaukee. I converted the uniform to a reasonable facsimile of the Redlegs togs.

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