Award-winning Western artist Dr. Kenneth Wyatt makes his work more accessible and drives 'print-on-demand' strategy using Colortrac 24" x 36" high-resolution flatbed scanner

Sees paintings in his soul

Dr. Kenneth Wyatt, according to the cowboys who know their trade, is possibly the best painter of the horse in Western art. Based in Tulia, in the Texas Panhandle and just 50 miles south of Amarillo, Dr. Wyatt has been 'pushing paint' as he puts it, for the past thirty years. In this time, he has painted 9,000 paintings. Beyond lonesome cowboys and biblical figures, Dr. Wyatt painted a larger-than-life portrait of the New York Yankee's Mickey Mantle, which was commissioned for the Oklahoma State Capitol Building. Recently he was chosen to paint the official portrait of Texas Supreme Justice Jack Hightower. This portrait hangs in the Supreme Court Collection at the Tom C. Clark building in Austin, Texas. Former Presidents, the Queen, celebrities and major corporations and the public at large, own his art. Awards and honours have followed Kenneth Wyatt. He is the founder and first president of Texas Cowboy Artist Association; recipient of the West Texas Chamber of Commerce Cultural achievements Award; Cultural Representative of Texas to the Bicentennial Celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Wyatt's own explanation for his talent with brush and paint is, "It's this way - some people hear music in their souls and, in inspiration, they write it down. As for me, I see paintings in my soul, and I just push the paint round until it looks like what I see inside." There are 16 people at Kenneth Wyatt Galleries, printing, framing and shipping paintings, and organising and running exhibitions of his art. To help make this art more widely available, Kenneth Wyatt Galleries has recently installed a Colortrac Flatbed 24120 large format flatbed scanner.

Eliminate cost and delay

Dr. Wyatt takes up the story, "I thought I should have prints of my paintings. We looked at using commercial fine-art printing companies but found we had to order 4,000 or 5,000 prints at a time when we might only sell 100." Dr. Wyatt continued his search for a better way of producing prints from his originals, one that would minimise stock levels yet would still allow fast order turn-round. He continues, "In the end, we photographed the paintings, scanned the transparencies and output them on one of the new high quality large format inkjet printers." Turn-round times could be up to a week, since it took several days to get a painting photographed, processed and scanned on a film scanner. Because of the potentially large number of canvasses involved, Dr. Wyatt needed to find a way of eliminating the cost and delay of the photographic stage. He continues, "We looked at conventional scanners but we could not use them effectively. We would have had to take the canvases off their stretchers to get them through the scanner, and then put them on their stretchers again afterwards, which is not fun!" The alternative of studio quality digital photography was considered but rejected since a dedicated studio would have been needed to house a track mounted camera together with the associated permanent lighting. Costs would have been close to $100,000.

Exactly what was wanted

Then in his continuing search for a scanner-based solution, Dr. Wyatt visited the Action Imaging Solutions US facility in Denver, Colorado. During his visit, he saw a prototype of the Colortrac Flatbed 24120 that was large enough to scan 24" by 36" canvasses whilst still on their stretchers. He recalls, "I asked for, and was given, a demonstration there and then. It was exactly what I wanted. Although it was a prototype version, they guaranteed the production versions would work just as well. Colortrac have really stood by their word." Wyatt adds, "There was one more thing. Some of my paintings are larger than 24" by 36" so I wanted to scan different areas and then use the software to sew the scans together. They said they can do that, and they have."

Superior quality

Now that the scanner has been in use for three months, what benefits have been realised? According to Dr. Wyatt, "Quality. The prints are superior because they don't have a 'photographic' look to them. They are much sharper, less blurred at the edges and the color and lighting are more consistent across the print. They look remarkably like the originals with all the brush strokes. Some people could easily mistake them for the real thing." In addition, he says, "We can now keep our inventory low, and print on-demand. We generally scan the originals at 600 dpi and store the files on CD. This resolution produces exactly the fine-art quality we need. When we have an order, we just load the CD and print at the size requested by the customer. We have several HP 5000 printers which we keep pretty busy." Most prints are giclees, high-resolution digital printing with archival quality inks onto a non-reflective, canvas-textured surface for clear viewing of image under all lighting conditions. The relatively small size of the scanner is a benefit, too. Dr. Wyatt says, "With the digital photography approach we would have needed a large room, whereas the scanner is right next to the computer and printers."

Just a few minutes

Since the scanner was installed in April 2003, over 100 of Kenneth Wyatt's 9000 paintings have been scanned in. Thirty of these are oversize, which means that, at 30" by 40", they are bigger than the scanner area and so are scanned in several overlapping sections, then seamlessly stitched together by software. The whole process is quite straightforward. Dr. Wyatt says, "It takes just a few minutes to scan a single canvas, although if we are scanning an oversize painting, we might spend half an hour stitching the overlapping scans together." It is not possible to scan every painting, since many are originals that have been acquired over the years by collectors and are therefore not available. However, all new paintings are scanned. Kenneth Wyatt's daughter, Jill Wyatt Marshall, who is developing a growing reputation as a watercolorist, has painted over 500 works in the last five years. All of Jill's new works have been scanned in, with results that can only be described as stunning.

Scanner works exceptionally well

The scanning of Dr. Wyatt's originals is continuing and an increasing number of his works can be viewed and ordered via his web site. He has just completed a book that includes reproductions of a number of his paintings. For quality reasons, the book printer used images of the originals scanned on the Colortrac. Despite the printer's big investment in their own image-capture equipment, they could not match the quality of the Colortrac scans. Dr. Wyatt adds, "I am working on several more books and we will be using the Colortrac on a large project with the Amarillo Leadership Association, Amarillo, Texas. Dr. Wyatt concludes, "The scanner is working exceptionally well. It really fits my business better than anything else I could have imagined."