Albion Design

Custom Art

by Michigan Artist
Maggie LaNoue
Maggie LaNoue

Detroit Skyline

Commissioned by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

2005 holiday cards


Detroit skyline

Details of this custom art...

January 6, 2006
Notes on the creation of digital art for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

Michigan artist Maggie LaNoue created this digital art of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.  Ms. LaNoue, a resident of Albion Michigan, and graduate of Albion College, has been sketching Michigan landmarks, and involved in her art business Albion Design, since 1979.  She worked with India ink and technical pens until she discovered that she could create a hand-drawn look with art by working on the computer.  Interestingly the computer art still requires almost the same amount of time and creativity but uses different processes.

The work on this project began with a mockup, which was created using a composite of several photos to approximate the layout of the design.  This mockup was shown to the Conservancy so a decision could be made to commission the art.

The art was commissioned on November 14, 2005, for a fee of $____. The art is copyrighted in the name of Maggie LaNoue, although the artist agreed to grant the client certain rights to use the art, which are explained separately.  The fee was set to allow for some work time, but with the understanding that there would be holiday cards purchased of the design that would also compensate the artist for putting intensive time into the project during the holiday rush season.

The final design by Ms. LaNoue closely resembles the logo of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.  The logo shows three distinctive landmarks of Detroit:  the Renaissance Center on the right, the Ambassador bridge on the left in the distance, and the Belle Isle Bridge, with its distinctive lights, running across the middle of the design. For the art, we decided to include some of the foreground on Belle Isle, and to show the row of trees that is there, but to make these trees into pine trees to keep the holiday flavor.

The pine tree sketches were created by first taking photographs of trees at a Christmas tree farm in Albion.   Two teen-age girls held a large red sheet behind each tree that looked suitably photogenic, in order to separate the tree from the background.  The artist directed the girls to the proper locations, in spots with the proper lighting and attractive trees.  After reducing the photographs of individual trees to a high contrast line art with filters in Adobe Photoshop, the tree photos were placed in a row.   Detailed black lines were then “hand-drawn” in one layer, and white lines for contrast were placed on layer higher on the “stack.”

Work proceeded with the high-resolution art being created in Albion by Ms. LaNoue, working on a G5 Macintosh computer. For day-to-day reviews of the work,  “low-resolution” 72 dots–per-inch proofs were shown on-line.   The clients at the Conservancy in Detroit could see daily progress and offer suggestions.  Approximately 15 of these proofs were shown at various stages, with the client having the ability to direct some of the final outcomes in the style, and the tone of the work.  On one day, Nov. 23, there were three proofs shown.

Over forty photos were referred to or included in the final design.  All photos used in the art were altered with Adobe Photoshop, using various filters, levels and other adjustments.  Each photo had to be reduced to black and white line art through various techniques, then to have the background, or “white” areas removed to a transparent state, in order to show the work on layers further down on the stack.

At one point during the creation of the final design, there were over 90 layers in the file that contained the art.  The Photoshop images were imported into Adobe Illustrator to allow for additional layers “hand-drawn” vector lines to be added to the design.  The sky, the riverfront, the bridge, the trees, and the foreground all contain layers of “hand-drawn” lines in addition to the filtered photo art.  They can be seen most clearly in the clouds.  Several different skies were tested until the artist created one that looked pleasing to the client.

Eventually, about half of the layers were discarded, including several attempts at the sky with clouds.  The client and artist agreed upon the final “look” of the scene, by using proofs shown over the internet, in a web location known to only those involved in the creation.  The art as shown on the print and card was approved on Dec. 1, 2005.

The final high-resolution file was approximately 43MB in size, and was reduced to one master layer.  The art was created to have the ability to print crisply (600 dots per inch) at a scale of up to 24” across, although it was agreed to keep the print size smaller to allow for a series of prints to be displayed and kept in proportion to the space where the work is to be hung.

Ms. LaNoue submitted one digital file to an offset printer in Marshall.   Here, greeting cards were printed on Strathmore Pastelle cover stock and resold to the Conservancy for their 2005 holiday cards.  A separate file was brought to a large format printer for the creation of a 9” x 12” print to hang at the Conservancy.

This art was created on a Dual 2 GHz PowerPC G5 (Macintosh) with 1.5 GB of ram.  Software used included Adobe Photoshop CS2 (version 9), Adobe Illustrator CS2 (version 12.0.1).

Detroit 2007
Here is the card we designed for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy the following year in 2007.


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Albion Design specializes in custom art
including business portraits, city portraits,
greeting card designs 

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by Michigan artist
Maggie LaNoue

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All art work © 2007
Maggie LaNoue / Albion Design