Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Another Unplanned Tutorial.. this time not in quotes

This time, I think it's fair to say that I actually did create a tutorial. I created a series of images from start to finish, with the goal of showing another artist how to take a 2D map and, using a few tools in Photoshop, transforming it into a 3D map.

Here is the final product of my work:

I might come back and do a step-by-step tutorial on here, but for now, here is the link to the photo album I posted on my 365 Create Facebook page. This goes from start to finish, with images and explanations for each step in the process.


An Unplanned "Tutorial"

I hesitate to call this a tutorial, since it really just illustrates the process I used to achieve the end result. It also doesn't show the very start of my work, where I just drew in the basic shapes and colors.

Anyhow, I am a fan of the Website, and I've been interacting a lot more on their Facebook page recently. I saw a guy the other night ask a question, something along the lines of, "Can anyone give me tips on how to paint the types of LED helmets worn by Daft Punk?"

I started to try and figure out exactly what he meant... did he want to learn to draw LEDs etc? Or was he trying to just draw cool, scifi sort of helmets? Or both?

He posted a link to a picture of one of the Daft Punk guys, and so I decided to take an hour or so to paint up a quick "demo" to show him how I started with big blocks of color, and then kept working smaller with details until I finished.

Now, I could have definitely spent many more hours on this, obsessively tweaking the details and studying the reference, but for the sake of my sanity and the sake of this guy's question, I accomplished my goal.

A bit of a speedpainting gone awry

I say that this went awry because I first started it as a speedpainting... that is, with the full intention of just capturing the basic values, gestures, and composition of the reference material. However, I liked the dynamic poses of the fencers so much, and I liked the composition so much, that I kept tweaking and editing and adding detail. Therefore, since it took a decent chunk of time to get to this point, it wouldn't be accurate to call it a speedpainting anymore. I now plan to make this a "finished" work, taking more time to really touch it up.

Sketching Figures and Fashion

This was somewhat new for me... the first time I tried to do quick, full-color sketches of people and clothing. With the exception of the girl in the purple dress, I based pretty much all of the clothing directly off reference photos.

Overall, I wanted to capture the mood of each model, as well as the overall look of their outfit. I plan to do more of these... they take me about 10-20 minutes each, but I want to draw both males and females, as well as people of different ages, ethnicities, and body shapes.

Ah, yes... landscape thumbnails!

I felt the urge to do some quick landscape thumbnail sketches, inspired by some pictures of ice formations called "ice fumaroles". They're pretty cool... they form in arctic environments where volcanic heat melts ice and snow, and then it starts letting off steam into the air. However, because it's so cold, most of the steam freezes as it hits the outside air, and then over time, these big towers form, like huge snow and ice chimneys.

Some Random Cartoony Doodles

For this, I started off the day envisioning a young, lanky man with a baseball bat slung across his shoulder, showing a defiant smirk or something. I got home, doodled a bit, and found a pose and a visual style I liked, and painted it very simply. Then I wanted to give him a friend... and so the lady in red was born.

The next night, I started envisioning a cast of bizarre characters to fit the same style, and I just doodled up some more stuff, and started coloring in the robot guy.

It was a fun exercise in trying to utilize a non-realistic style. I plan to try more of this sort of thing in the future...

Boy, it sure is easy to forget to post here, huh? More new stuff

Well, as you can see, it's been a little while since I posted here... still going strong on Facebook, so I was surprised to check here and see that's it's been about 3 weeks since my last post :O

Anyhow, here are some things to get up to speed... first, I did a bit of doodling, trying to imagine a bizarre fictional creature. Sort of a plant/insect/fungus hybrid.

I first sketched out some rough concept sketches, and then painted some tiny thumbnail sketches. The color sketches on the left are the sort of "seed" or "spore" phase of this creature. It's released from it's "mother" and then gets carried by the wind, where it will fertilize others of its species, or land on the ground and burrow in, shown on the right.

I then took that tiny thumbnail, enlarged it, and started to add more detail to it... I eventually got distracted by wanting to draw and paint other things, but this is something that still interests me, and I plan to play with it some more.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lost in the Desert: A Few Steps Along the Way

Well, since I've been doing this painting for awhile now, I figured that I would post a series of pictures giving a rough idea of how I got from start to finish.

After refining the form and doing tweaks here and there, I've finally gotten to a point where I'm okay with where it's at. As with most paintings, I could probably keep going back and tweaking over and over again, but I think there's also a value in saying, "Okay! Okay! It's done now... move on!"

In this piece, my goal was to create a 100% imaginary scene, especially the character, which in this case is a little robot. I looked at a few pictures to get a feel for what colors I wanted, and a few pics to get an idea of how small sand drifts might look. By looking at those pictures for a few minutes, I was able to internalize my ideal color palette. I've found that doing these fully imaginary creations is definitely a lot harder than working from reference, but it's a good challenge, and I think it will help me grow.

Anyhow, let's start with...

1.) Rough Concepts

In this beginning phase, my goal was to figure out the basic mass and volume of the robot. I had some ideas in my head about how I wanted the body/head (cephalothorax?) to look, as well as how the limbs were oriented; I also had some ideas floating around in a sketchbook as well. Like most thumbnail sketches, I started from the left and worked right, doing small little drawings.

Now, in a professional setting, one would probably do dozens and dozens of these conceptual sketches, but I had a pretty clear vision (and I'm not getting paid), so I stuck with the third and fourth thumbnails on the top row. Then I started sketching in a 3/4 (or isometric) view of the robot, to get an idea of how the limbs might look as viewed from an angle. After that, I blew up that last thumbnail and cleaned up the lines, ending up with what you see on the lower right of the picture.

2.) Defining Linework

At first glance, this doesn't appear to be a big change from the previous version, but trying to get nice clean linework is definitely time-consuming, at least for me. With a pencil, it's a lot quicker, but I'm trying to get better at doing clean lines in Photoshop, and so I'm forcing myself not to do this stuff in pencil. Part of the difficulty is achieving a consistent line weight, which for me involves drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing, and so on. I also refined some details, most noticeably the camera/eye, the antenna, the little rivets on top, and the arms. At this point, I still wasn't sure where I was headed... I was just focusing on getting the robot done, and waiting till later to decide if I would make it a finished picture, or just a concept illustration.

 3.) Color Fills and Real-Life Maquettes

I've always thought it would be fun to make little models of the characters/creatures/machines that I dream up, but in this case, I found that it was going to be almost necessary for envisioning the way that my robot would cast shadows and receive bounced light. These little models are called maquettes by most artists, and they can be incredibly helpful in the creation process. I want to give a shout-out to James Gurney and his awesome book "Imaginative Realism", which sort of gave me the inspiration to try my hand at building a small model.

Before embarking on that task, I did a careful color fill of the robot, being as careful as possible not to stray out of the linework. It's rather like using crayons and a coloring book, and in my case, it's just about as hard as it was when I was 4 years-old. Luckily, unlike crayons, I simply went back and erased any color that strayed outside the lines.

For the maquette, I simply looked around my bedroom, err, I mean, my "studio", and found random materials. To make the head, I cut up the cover of some old manual, which gave me a nice, rigid, cardboard-like paper. After forming the top and bottom half of the head/body, I connected them together with masking tape. The legs were a bit more time-consuming... I took paperclips and, through trial and error, bent them every which way until they loosely resembled the leg structure I wanted. After that, I used them as skewers, sliding cigarette butts along them to simulate the general placement of each leg segment. After finishing that pain-in-the-ass of a step, I poked holes in the head/body, stuck the legs through, and then glued the top of the filters to the underside. I let it dry for awhile before messing with it anymore.

After that, I played around with lighting arrangements and decided I wanted the light to come in from the upper left of the painting. I snapped a photo, pasted it into the corner of the canvas, and set to work building up shadows.

4.) Building the Scene

After spending all that time doing tedious linework, coloring, and shading, I decided that I wanted make this into a full painting, rather than just an illustrated robot on a white canvas. I had a finished image in mind, but had to figure out how to get to that point.

First things first, I did a basic coloring of a background... I wanted this little robot to be on a trek across the desert, and so that informed my choice for the background color. I was also toying with the idea of the robot being a military tool, and having it stumble across an IED, but recent events made me feel like that wouldn't be an appropriate choice.

You'll notice that I've defined some of the form in the robot, but it's still incredibly rough and unpolished. The first thing I did when doing the shading was to color in the leg joints, to give the impression of a sort of rubbery, accordion-like substance that would protect the inner mechanical parts, but would also be flexible and bendy.

It was around this point that I wanted to throw in the towel, because, well . . . this is the really difficult part for me. As previously mentioned, it can be time-consuming enough to paint something that exists from mere observation, but to try and bring something imaginary to life can be veeeeeery difficult. At this stage, I had already been working on this piece on-and-off for a week or so, but I sucked it up and kept working.

The robot is starting to show some depth and volume at this point, and so now it's basically more refinement.

5.) More Detail Refinement

In a way, polishing up a painting and rendering a crisp, clean product is almost like reverse sculpting:  instead of starting with a chunk of granite or wood and whittling away at it, you start with a flat, 2D block of color, and you continue building it up with shadows, highlights, and details.

At this stage, I hit a turning point where I went from, "Holy hell, shoot me now," to, "Heyyyy... I think this is starting to come together!" Something clicked, and I suddenly was reinvigorated with energy. I could see what I need to paint next, and I started off . . .

First, while randomly browsing the Internet, I came across a photo of  Humvee roaring across the desert, and I noticed the nice, wavy texture of the sand. I thought it would add some variety to the background, and so I painted in some basic lines to suggest small, wind-blown waves. I also tried to create the impression that the robot's lower legs sort of sunk into the sand with each step, and so I tried to cover some of the limbs with little sand piles. The robot's front, left leg is moving up and forward, and so it isn't covered in sand.

I also studied some pictures of small cameras to get a basic idea of how my robot's "eye" should look. After adding detail to the lens area, I refined the shapes of the little rivets on top of the bot, and also painted the antenna back in. At this stage, I was starting to feel the image coming to life, and so I stopped for the night and dozed off while thinking up finishing touches.

I had gone from inspired, to overwhelmed and frustrated, to inspired once again.

6.) Finishing Touches

And now the moment of truth . . . after all the ups and downs of the creation process, I had some clear goals that would get me past the finish line.

First, from looking at my previous version, I still found some unpleasant, rough, choppy edges. I fixed this by carefully looking around the object and using a soft-edged eraser to make the outer edges consistent.

Second, I decided that I needed to give more volume to the parts of the robot that were in the shade. In some lighting, shadows obscure detail pretty well, and you don't have to play with them too much. However, in a brightly lit environment like a desert, even the shadows aren't really dark. In addition to direct sunlight, there is also reflected light that bounces off the sand and brightens anything in the shade. So, I went in with a reddish brown color and added painted along the edges of the robot that were in the shadows, trying to enhance the illusion of depth and form. I also added some darker shadows on various places, so the form didn't melt together and look muddy and confusing. I refined the beveled edges under the robot's eye some more as well, to make the lines a lot more crisp. I also added two little specular highlights to the lens itself, to give it more volume and to emphasize the brightness and direction of the sunlight.

After refining our robotic friend, I wanted to add more contrast to the background, and so I brightened up the crests of the sand waves a bit, and also added some random speckles of brightness here and there to suggest a bit of texture. Many professional artists use actual photos as texture overlays in their digital paintings, but I am personally still working on improving my technique, so I shy away from photo textures. Part of the reason to use them is that it looks cool and stylish at times, but more importantly, it saves time. If your art director wants you to kick out 20 concepts, you can save time with texture overlays, while still communicating your ideas. Since I've got all the time in the world, I decided against using them.

Next, I went over the upper left area of the canvas with a bright, almost white color... I wanted to give the image a lot of saturation, which I felt would help establish the hot, bright environment of a desert. Since I imagined the Sun to be high in the sky, off to the upper left, I exaggerated that by having the background exhibit that sort of bright-to-less-bright gradation of value. In real life, the shift in value would probably not be as evident in such a small area, but I felt that it would cement the robot into the environment more.

After sharing it on Facebook, I felt that the upper left planes on the robot weren't popping enough, and so I deleted the picture from my page, loaded Photoshop again, and went to work. This robot exhibits a flat paint job, otherwise known as a matte finish. Therefore, there are no very bright, eye-catching specular highlights; the light spread across a matte surface much more evenly. Even still, in order to make the robot pop out more, I chose a very bright yellow color--nearly white--and I subtly painted along the top edges of the form.

I stood back, did some squinting and assessing, and then I painted in my initials, and voila!

It's aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.

Thanks for reading :) I hope this post has been enlightening in one way or another.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What Color Is An Astronaut's Spacesuit?

It's white, right?

Well, not so fast.

In an evenly lit environment like, say, a white room with a couple bright lights that effectively cancel out shadows, something like a spacesuit might look totally white . . .

. . . but then again, like this painting I did last night, our world is full of all sorts of lighting conditions. Even in the vacuum of space with nothing filtering the sun's rays, you can see a wide range of values and colors just in the spacesuit alone.

The white color shows only where direct sunlight is hitting the surface, and then in the rest of the suit you can see oranges, reds, and browns in the shadows, and on some of the parts of his body that are facing the Earth below, you can see the color of the planet bouncing a bluish tint back onto the suit. The strange little whatchamacallit that he is holding looks mostly grey and white, but there are some parts of it that are actually a light brown color. However, when all these colors are put together, they end up looking natural in relation to each other.

The overall color that the eye perceives an object to be is the local color, and it is something that any artist must train themselves to avoid focusing on too much. For example, an apple is red, a banana is yellow, the sky is blue, clouds are white, right?... Overall, that is the way we all understand them to be. Certainly nobody would ever say a banana is blue or a basketball is green, except in extremely unusual and artificial lighting conditions.

If we take a step back and really look, though, one can see that a given object can exhibit an almost infinite variety of colors, all at the same time, but a lot depends on the lighting. As you can see below, the colors on the apple and banana aren't all that shockingly different from the blocks of color I painted below them, and that's because they're photographed in a very sterile, white environment. But then take a look at the colors near the right for the sky scene... none of those are the colors of the sky; those are the colors in the clouds themselves. It's also important to note that none of those colors is pure white. Only in the areas of the clouds most directly illuminated by the sun do we find colors that are close to white, but few things in nature are ever 100% white. Conversely, few things in nature are ever pure black. This is one reason that beginning painters often have a hard time with painting realistic shadows.

A painter needs to really observe these variations in order to make their work look authentic, and it is absolutely crucial--whether in traditional or digital painting--when observing your subject and trying to decide which colors to paint with. An apple might have a local color of red, but there will undoubtedly be regions of these things that exhibit many other colors. If, for example, an apple is sitting on a blue tablecloth on your kitchen table, the bottom of the apple will exhibit bluish and purplish colors due to the light reflecting off the tablecloth.

In the astronaut painting above, although I used a reference photo, it was still necessary to try and separate the variety of colors on the spacesuit, especially in the shadow areas. You'll notice that many of the shadows are "warm" colors like browns, reds, and oranges. If I had just made them all various shades of grey and black, the painting wouldn't have looked convincing at all. Similarly, if I had just made the whole suit white, it would have looked flat, boring, and most of all, unrealistic.

For me personally, I started off by painting the black of space first, then I painted the planet below. A good general rule is to paint from the background to the foreground, and that's what I tried to do. With all things like this, you usually do a block of one color, and then fill in the details. When it came to the astronaut, I was very tempted to draw his silhouette with a whitish color, but really, the bright parts of his suit are the minority... most of it is not brightly illuminated. To sketch in a whitish color for his body would have been a bit strange looking, and perhaps even disorienting. Instead, I blocked in his silhouette using a dark, reddish-brown color... I started with the darker colors, and from then on, I worked into adding the brighter colors to the piece

Anyhow, I've also been working on another piece for the past week or so, and unlike this painting, it is completely imaginary... not surprisingly, creating a fully imaginary piece is a lot more difficult than painting something from observation. I'll be sure to post some pictures of my progress soon.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Forever Fields

On Friday, April 4th, at around 1 PM, my family and I said farewell to a very good friend... this is my artistic tribute to her. I'm a pretty rational, atheistic sort of person, but in this case, I sort of like to believe Sierra is in a place like this now... towering flowers, hills and fields that go on forever, where she can run and run and run and play with other animals and people.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I'm baaaaaack!

Well, I have been hard at work on a new piece, and I also have done some other random things here and there. From now on, I plan to occasionally take my time to work on some "finished" pieces, which will take longer than a day... however, I will try to post regular updates about my progress. Since it's just easier for me to do, you can also keep your eye out for my daily posts on Facebook, and I also try to spread the love to Google+ as well.

Before I get to the big boy, let me just post this quick little environmental study again... I should have posted these the day I did them (sometime last week), but I forgot. Once again, these are primarily exercises in choosing colors from observation...

And now, ladies and gentlemen... boy and girls... the fruits of the past several days labor... a mash-up of Game of Thrones and Adventure Time!

The original file was 6000 pixels by 3200 pixels, but I don't want the Blogger server to explode by uploading it here. I plan to make this available at a variety of sizes for desktop wallpapers... and I'm also looking into options for making and selling prints. The original size of 6000x3200 equates to 30 inches by 18 inches in print.

Anyhow, back to the grind! I'll be posting more as I work!

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Landscape Color Picking Exercises: Part 2 - My How You've Grown

March 2013

Similar to the previous posts, here are some more landscape thumbnails, this time focusing on a desert biome. I ended up spending more time on these than I planned, and so I only managed to kick out three before bed last night.

In doing the Google search for "desert landscapes", one of the first ones to show up was the photo that I referenced for the left-most painting... and it was familiar to me, because I realized that I tried painting it before!

Here is (gasp!) a piece I did from last September that uses the same image as inspiration... the original reference image is on the top left, my attempt is right next to it, and then the remaining four are invented. My goal with this was to look at the general color palette of a scene, and then try to invent geology with the same sort of mood. As you can see, color picking was not very good back then...

September 2012

As much as I hate to talk about this sort of thing, one can see a bit of improvement since last September. I still didn't pick the colors perfectly right last night, but I did way better, and all without the Eyedropper.

One of the major differences is that my current painting is less "muddy"... the sketches from September of 2012 show this perfectly, and coincidentally, the color palette suits that "muddy" description. What I mean by that is that the range of values isn't broad enough, and so all the colors sort of float around the midtones, which isn't very good for the illusion of depth. If you look at my painting from the other night, you can see how much I've used value to my advantage, from using near blacks in the shadows, and some very bright highlights elsewhere.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy!

Now that I'm caught up on the blog, it's back to the digital canvas... some more landscape thumbs tonight!

Ah, More Landscape Thumbnail Paintings... Biomes!

Landscape thumbnails, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I reignited my interest in these fun but sometimes tedious thumbnail sketches recently, by deciding to do little sets of paintings, all based off a certain biome.

In these two sets, I first focused on capturing the colors, lighting, mood, and composition of an African savannah-type landscape. In the second set, I think it's pretty obvious that I was focusing on an arctic biome...

Some of these I'm very pleased with, others I can see where I need some work. Overall, these colors were all chosen just my observing the source photos. Compared to my first landscape thumbs, I feel as though I'm slowly improving.

How YOU Doin'?

Taking a break from the landscape pieces, as well as the observational studies, I took this opportunity to do a wholly imaginary concept piece. Admittedly, it's not wildly alien in its form, but it's definitely not a species that exists in reality.

I started out with a quick line sketch, and then began coloring in passes, using layers for different parts of the anatomy.

It still looks a bit muddy to me, and the colors still don't pop enough for me, nor is the composition very exciting. Anyhow, it was a fun departure from real life studies!

A Quick Pre-Work Landscape Sketch

This is from last Saturday afternoon, before heading off to work... I had been considering this painting for a bit, and Saturday I was in a bit of a rush and knew I'd be exhausted after work, and so I did this quick paint in about 10-15 minutes.

Very fast and loose with this... as with many of my landscapes these days, the goal is trying to choose my colors strictly from observation. For the first two or so months of my 365 Create project, I used the color picker, and it began to feel like a crutch. I saw a post on Facebook of some quick landscape thumbnails by Ron Lemen, talking about how it was a color picking exercise he liked to do. I tried it myself, loved it, and have been doing them off an on every since.

This particular piece isn't a one-to-one copy of the source material... in my rush to get done, I focused on the colors and mood more than accurately copying the landforms. The original picture is much cooler looking I think... even still, I like to get imaginative with the landscapes I do, at least in my head. I can picture some sort of cool stronghold or lighthouse carved into these rock outcroppings, with wood and rope bridges connecting them. Maybe I ought to start throwing in those little imaginative flourishes to my landscape studies?

Some Quick Insects/Arachnids and Fish

For practicing gesture sketches, there are two great sites out there that have libraries of photos to use as references. They even have some animals to practice drawing... unfortunately, the libraries of insects/arachnids and fish is preeeeeetty small, and so after I completed these, I just stopped, rather than scouring Google for more similar images.

Lagging Behind On Here! And Now, An Imaginary Landscape

I've been lagging in my posts on here, but I'm still posting them regularly to my Facebook page 365 Create. Anyhow, time to get up to speed, folks...

This was just a quick little practice piece I was doing... I'm very compelled by the idea of a vast "ocean" of clouds, with islands of lands poking up here and there. In this quick little piece, I tried playing around with that concept, with limited success.

I'm still at a point where I can't quite fully express the ideas in my head, but I do feel I'm getting better at other things, namely choosing my colors without any aids like the Eyedropper tool.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Glimpse Into Workflow - Today's Creation In 10 Steps

This is my piece from last night, although I am counting it as several days... it took me awhile to do because I had to often stop, save a copy of the painting as I was working, and then go back and work some more.

My goal is to give an idea of the workflow that goes into some of my paintings. By no means is this a tutorial... there are a lot of steps left out, and I want to emphasize that everybody works in their own way. Even for me, I don't always do a sketch of my subject before painting it. However, with humans and animals, I usually do a rough sketch first. In this exercise, my reference image was that of a tiny African mammal called a dik dik, which is loosely related to the many antelope-creatures on the continent.

1.) Basic Form - Spinal Curve/Gesture

When it comes to drawing figures, there is a practice exercise known as gesture drawing. In it, you limit yourself to 1-2 minutes (or less, once you get better), and you try to capture the overall shape, movement, and energy of the subject; detail is not necessarily the goal of gesture sketches, especially for beginners. Before adding the torso, head, and limbs, you would usually start with a single gesture line that represents the overall position of the figure in space.

Normally, it's good to keep that defining line as straight and simple as possible. However, I've found that when drawing animals--particularly quadrupeds--it's a different game. I often find myself using a curved gesture line to start off, and I base that curve off the curve of the animal's spine. Human spines also have a noticeable curve to them, but it's not always as pronounced as those of four-legged creatures.

In step one, which literally takes two seconds, I simply draw a curve to represent the general curvature of the dik dik's spine...

2.) Basic Form - Large Body Masses

In this phase, I move onto the building blocks of basic anatomy... the body. Before the limbs are even a consideration, one has to get a general idea of the main body mass:  the torso, the pelvis and the skull. The idea is to sort of see through the reference image and imagine where the ribcage, pelvis and skull would be, and then from there, to move onto sketching in the limbs. At this point, it's still a very rough sketch, with the goal of focusing on proportions... how do the pelvis, ribcage, and head relate to the curve of the spine?

3.) Basic Form - Limb Configuration

Now that I've got the basic proportions of the body and head sketched out, it's time to go about filling in the proper location of the limbs. It's important to realize that this sort of thing is not intuitive; anyone who works as an artist has spent time studying anatomy. I am a novice compared to a great many artists, but I have taken the time to understand the way that, say, a quadrupedal mammal like the dik dik is built. In this part, my goal was to sketch in the general shape and location of the forelimbs and hind limbs. I started by drawing a rough approximation of the shoulder blades, and then from there, I finished the fore limbs, and then went and sketched in the hind limbs as well.

I don't always take this much time with my paintings (that is, spending time sketching out the underlying structure of the subject), but when it comes to drawing humans/animals, it's helpful for me to break down some of the anatomy.

4.) Basic Anatomy - Quadruped Limbs VS Biped Limbs

This is somewhat of an extraneous step meant to illustrate the structure of a quadruped's limbs. There are, of course, many variations in body structures across the animal kingdom, but I think it's interesting to compare four-legged animals to humans.

In this picture, I've colored in the various segments of the limbs to illustrate just how similar our bone structures really are. At first glance, not at all, but upon further inspection, very similar. Notice the way that the thighs and calves of the dik dik bend, an imagine that they are your limbs. Although they have evolved for a different form of movement, you can see that the joints and bones line up in almost the exact same way as they do in humans; the primary difference in the limbs begins at the ankles/wrists.

Humans, for example, stand with their whole foot planted on the ground, both the balls and the heels. When we walk, we alternate between the balls of the feet and the heels. Quadrupeds, in contrast, almost always walk on their toes and the balls of their feet. Their feet, in fact, are often quite long, and as with the dik dik, appear to be longer than any other bones in the legs. At first glance, their feet also seem to be the calves. However, as you can see with this comparison, it's actually not the case. It's just that much of their upper limb structure is hidden beneath folds of skin and fur.

Take a moment to look at the limb configuration and compare it to the way your arms and legs are built and how they move. Bonus points if you get on all fours and try to observe the way your limbs change orientation... you'll then see why it is that the dik dik's "hands" and "fingers" are positioned the way that they are (down and forward, respectively).

5.) Basic Silhouette/Linework

This is pretty straightforward, and it's a step that I wouldn't usually include when drawing an animal. I basically erased away some of the lines that defined the body masses and limbs, and ended up with a very loose bit of linework. The goal of this is to create a lines to paint inside of, much like the way you were encouraged to "draw within the lines" when using crayons and a coloring book. This gives a sort of template for where to fill in by first pass of color. Once again, this isn't always a step that I include in my sketching/painting, but I show it here to illustrate how I might see things in my mind before moving onto actual painting.

6.) Basic H/V/C

Now, I don't want to get too deep into the concept of H/V/C, which stand for hue, value, and chroma/saturation, respectively. However, they are the three components that make up the way an artist observes and uses color. Indeed, they are the way that our eyes interpret the world around us.

This step of painting is where I paint in a basic, universal color to get the ball rolling, simple to complex. You'll see that at first, I use a light brown-grey color, and then move onto darker brown-grey, with a bit of variation to subtly indicate the physical structure of the body. The idea is to look at the subject and see the overall, underlying colors, and to use that as a sort of backdrop. All the colors that show detail will be painted "on top" of that.

Hue, simply put, is the color of something: ROYGBIV essentially. Think of the color wheel.

Value, on the other hand, is a measure of brightness. It's a scale of light and dark, highlight and shadow... something with high value is bright, and something with low value is dark. Pure white is the highest value, and pure black is the lowest value possible.

Chroma/saturation is a bit more tricky to the novice. Chroma is a measure of the strength of a hue, or rather, how much hue there is. The lower the saturation, the less colorful something is... zero saturation is the same as a greyscale image. The less saturation, the less vivid the hue.

In the first picture of the dik dik above, the hue is somewhat orange, the value is high, and the chroma is low. In other words, because the value is high/bright, and the chroma is low/less colorful, it's basically impossible to see that the hue is orange. If I made the value higher and the chroma lower, it wouldn't show any hue at all, and it would simply become greyish.

The second image illustrates a more accurate first pass for the overall colors of the dik dik, and it is ultimately the start of my painting.

7.) Defining Volume Through H/V/C Variation

Basically, this part of the painting is where I start to refine the colors more, and when I finally get rid of the original linework. Unless you're doing an illustration, then you ought to get rid of your basic linework, or else you might end up with sloppy edges, sloppy colors, or both. By removing the linework, I can start to focus on depicting the subject's volume in a more "painterly" style.

One major difference you'll see is that I've begun adding highlights to the edges of the body that face the right... that is the direction of the light source, and so those parts of the body that face that direction are brighter. However, you'll also notice parts of the body that are bright, and yet they aren't facing the light source... why is that? Well, there are two reasons...

First, regardless of the light source, some colors are just brighter than others. Even shadows have varying levels of brightness, and it's something you can easily notice by looking at the world around you. You can take a black plastic bag and lay it next to a white plastic bag, and then cast a shadow across both... you'll notice that the shadows and highlights appear quite different on each bag because of their base colors, and the same applies to any other surface.

Second, light isn't just one-dimensional and static. It bounces around and reflects back at objects, even in the shade. Mirrors aren't the only things that reflect light... they just reflect light more than other surfaces. This is the reason why, say, during the day time you will never ever really see a shadow that is 100% dark and black... because light is everywhere, but just to varying degrees.

You'll also notice that in addition to these very basic H/V/C variations, I added in some shadows that are cast by the dik dik's legs. Now the painting is starting to take on more shape, starting to pop more, but alas, there is much left...

8.) More Definition and the Randomness of Creation

Now I'm getting closer to my goal... I've decided to change the background a bit to give it more variation/contrast, so that some of the colors on the dik dik pop out more. It's not enough to show H/V/C differences in the dik dik, but also in the surrounding environment. By darkening the background, it makes the highlights and the shadows of the dik dik more pronounced. Using contrast in your art is essential to giving a sense of three dimensions for the viewer.

I've gone in and added additional details and variations in color, to indicate the randomness of the fur color. At this point, I've also done some minor changes to the overall shape of the body, refining the edges of the form and thinning out or thickening certain areas.

By the way, the little "white" splotch floating in the air (it's actually yellowish-white) is simply there for my convenience. Once I figured out the color of the highlights on the dik dik's body, I made a small splotch of that color so I could go back and sample it. However, this ended up inspiring the next phase of the painting in quite a random way... I kept looking at that whitish splotch and the surrounding colors, and decided it looked a lot like a snowflake.

9.) More Detail and A More Defined Environment

Now that I've gotten closer to capturing the dik dik in all its tiny glory, I decided to go with the concept of the snowflake as mentioned above, and to give the sense that this is a wintery scene. Forget the fact that the dik dik is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and has probably never encountered snow in its life... that's the magic of painting. If I want a dik dik to be caught in a snowstorm, well, goddamnit, I'll make it so!

However, this isn't the end... no, not at all. There are just a few finishing touches left before I decide to put this one aside. Besides making a snowy environment for our fuzzy little friend, I also added a lot more highlights to the figure, to make it stand out more against the rest of the scene.

10.) The Dik Dik In All Its Glory

Although I would still like to refine this painting a bit more, this was the point where I decided to say, "Okay, okay... it's done. Go to bed, Adam".

For this last part, I first cropped the image down, so there was less useless canvas. I also brightened some of the "snow" on the right side of the painting, to emphasize the direction of the light. This was to make the dik dik more of a focal point, and to make him pop out more.

I also defined some of the colors on the head some more, brightening some parts while darkening others. I also added a bit more highlight to the fur around the butt/behind the hind limbs, and I tried to give the eyes more volume by adding some specular highlights.

And voila!

That is my relatively long and drawn-out explanation of how I paint.. hopefully it gives you a better idea of what goes into some of these creations.



A Bit of a Departure

I spent last weekend in Chicago, visiting friends and having some drinks, traveling around town. During my time there, I didn't get much of a chance to create. However, one of my favorite bars in the Wrigleyville area, Nisei Lounge, has two huge chalkboards near their dartboards. Granted, I don't have a lot of experience with chalk, and I was also limited to one color, but this was my St. Patrick's Day-themed chalk drawing for the weekend... a leprechaun vomiting gold coins into a pot, with the Chicago skyline in the background.

If you're ever in the Wrigleyville area, make your way from the stadium down, south down Sheffield Street, and have a drink at Nisei Lounge. It's a nice, relaxed atmosphere, and they have board games to play, as well as an awesome photo booth... and you can't forget about the awesome chalkboards either!

Quick Robot Sketch

One fun practice exercise is to take a real-life object--in this case something mechanical--and try to make it into something way different.

In this case, I was inspired by all the goddamn road construction around my workplace. Amongst all the heavy machinery, there were also several pieces of surveying equipment on tripods in and around the area, and I thought that, with their lenses, they looked vaguely robotic. Soooo... naturally I decided to try and invent a robot based off a piece of said equipment.

I Googled some images of surveying tools, and found one that I thought looked properly robotic. Then, I tweaked it a bit in this quick sketch, changed the colors around, and then added a "body" and some legs. As it is just a quick sketch, it is of course fairly quick and loose, and definitely not very detailed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do...

... Okay, so technically this is an ape and not a monkey (yes, they are different!). In this piece, I took a break from digital and went back to analog, so I could do a little sketch of an ape with a cheesy grin.

A Bit of a Bacchanalia

Number two in the getting-things-up-to-date series... this is a "still life" of sorts, although the subject was a picture instead of an actual scene I set up in reality. However, in this picture, I still chose colors strictly from observation, rather than using the Eyedropper tool. In fact, all of the pieces since my landscape thumbnails are done this way.

I have forgone the Eyedropper tool in Photoshop, because it is definitely a crutch. If I had the financial resources and the time to paint with canvas, brush, and oils, I would have to choose my colors and mix them just using my eyes and my brain... and so that is my goal from now on. If it takes longer, so be it... it's a useful skill to develop for any artist.

Enjoy! And have a glass while you're at it! ;)

Back again!

Well, my friends, I admit that I've been slacking in posting here, but I've been posting on my Facebook page. Even still, I have been a bit behind, but I've had a lot going on. Here is the first of four posts just to get the blog up-to-date...

This is the last of the landscape thumbnail series (for now, that is)... I can't do this all the time or I'll go nuts with boredom.

More to come!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daylight Losings Time

Well, tonight I did some more of the color picking exercises that I did the other day... it's a skill I have yet to hone, considering how long it takes me to paint these little thumbnail sketches. However, with time and practice, I am confident that I can get better at choosing colors, and thus producing many more of these little practice thumbnails than I can at the moment.

Gotta start somewhere right?

Anyhow, here are the four thumbnail landscapes I did today... as with the last exercise, I Googled "landscapes" and loaded up all the Image results, and then chose the ones that appealed to me the most. Then I opened Photoshop, closely observed each image, and tried to replicate the colors just by looking. The aim is accuracy in color, and composition falls a bit to the wayside. I still tried to replicate the images as closely as possible, but for the sake of speed and my sanity, my primary goal was just colors.

Friday, March 8, 2013

What Color Is It, Really?

Tonight's exercise was something that I've never really done before... picking colors just from observation.

Now, if that doesn't make sense or doesn't conjure up an image, let me put it this way... Photoshop has a lot of convenient shortcuts for creation, but it still doesn't take anything away from actual talent or desire. The thing is, when it comes to colors, Photoshop offers a very convenient tool called the Color Picker/Eyedropper.

This tool lets you hover the cursor over a particular area of an image, and Photoshop immediately recognizes and samples the color. The problems with this are many, but the main issue is that by using that tool too much, you never actually train your eye to see real color. Therefore, you can't pick those colors from observation, and you become a slave to the Eyedropper.

Earlier Thursday, I saw a post on Facebook from the fantastic Ron Lemen, where he showed off some of his beautiful, tiny landscape paintings. He did them as an exercise in color picking, and he picked the colors wonderfully... it inspired me to do the same later that night.

So, even though Ron's wonderful sketches only took him a couple minutes, and mine easily took me 10-20 minutes each, here is the result of my first ever free color picking exercise... no shortcuts used.

The goal was to capture the overall mood of the images, especially the color palette, and to convey the same mood and/or time of day.

Hopefully these convey what I was trying to convey...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quick Gestures from the Imagination

For Wednesday, I didn't have a whole lot of time, and so I decided to work on some human gesture/stick sketches for a sort of child-sized character... in the end, I took one pose, enlarged it, and embellished it a bit with some rough colors.

When it comes to doing gestures from the imagination, I find that it's still a lot more tedious than sketching from reference. I suppose that ought to be obvious, but it can be frustrating when a single gesture takes several, several minutes, whereas when I practice drawing from photo reference, I can crank out a gesture once per minute.

One thing I want to start doing to help improve my ability to imagine the body in different poses is to load up my favorite gesture sketching Website (it's like a slideshow of photos of the human figure) and then instead of repeatedly looking at a pose, I'll look at it for 5-10 seconds, and try to commit it to memory. Then I'll sketch it quickly and compare to the reference.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Feeling healthy again

Well, after several days of feeling sick in random ways and being likewise exhausted, here are some of my most recent creations. First up, we have a somewhat loose rendition of a screenshot from a TV show. In this case, it's from the very dry British comedy Look Around You, and this is from the episode about... calcium.


And also a quick 20 minute sketch of an iconic scene from Pulp Fiction...

In the Pulp Fiction sketch, my goal was to try and capture the energy and the essence of the scene, while not focusing on details. I also wanted to try and capture the values and tones of the composition, that is to say, the darks and lights, the sense of brightness in some areas, and shadow in others. Other than capturing the energy, values, and the overall composition, my goal was just to paint and fast and loose as possible.

The Look Around You painting ended up a lot different...

I planned to do the same thing--a quick sketch--but then it stretched out into an extended study. I may go back and polish it up, but I'm fairly happy with how far I got in the hour or two that I worked on it. I also aim to not spend as much time on these things as I sometimes do... it can really mess with my sleep, and well, that's probably part of the reason I was sick over the weekend and the start of the week. Since I'm feeling a lot better and much more rested now, I should be back to my regularly scheduled creation... stay tuned!

Friday, March 1, 2013

2 Months Down... 10 More To Go!

Well, it's been two months now since I started my 365 Create project, and I can't believe how the time is flying. I'm also looking forward to how far I've come at the end of the year, but in order to improve, well, you've got to practice. You have to branch out and try new things... hence this exercise. I am a big fan of Matt Kohr and his Website Ctrl+Paint. He would post a video every Tuesday and Thursday about art-related topics, and he explained the concepts very well, but in recent weeks I noticed there weren't any updates coming through on my phone's Google Reader app. Did he die? Did he get sick?

Nope, he just changed the format of the site. From now on, he's doing one blog post per week, and it seems he's trying to focus on engaging his fanbase with creation prompts.

This week, the goal was to take 1 object and render it in 3 different styles. After a bit of thinking, I chose a 2x2 Lego brick as my subject matter.

From left to right:

1.) Realistic style
2.) Cel-shaded style
3.) 8-Bit/pixelated style

Anyhow, this is what I created tonight... the realistic one took the most time, of course, but the pixelated version is a close second. It's my first time doing pixel art in Photoshop, and I actually painted that version first, before all the others. It's actually sort of fun, although a bit tedious at times. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Many days of creation, all in one! Super Special Deal! Get yours now!

Okay, okay... well, now that I've got your attention, here is all the stuff I've been working on since my last post. There's just something about this blog that grabs my attention less than painting, drawing, my Facebook creation page, and other various places.

Anyhow, I wanted to share some of my most recent creations. In no particular order, here they are, my friends...

First, let's get on with another thumbnail sketch of a 365 Create fan from my Facebook page, Jessica...

And then, of course, this silly Photoshop of Tupac Shakur as a ballet dancer... it may seem absurd, but did you know that Tupac actually studied ballet in high school. Not only did he go to high school and graduate, but he went to the best performing arts high school in Baltimore, where he met Jada Pinket-Smith and became lifelong friends with her. I should also emphasize that Tupac Shakur studied ballet...

Then, of course, we have some gesture sketches I did... the first is just human figure sketches.

The next features human figure sketches, then animal figure sketches, and finally some human facial sketches...

A quick, random landscape painting, you say? Of course! Here it is...

And finally, my most recent progress on my mashup digital painting of Super Mario Bros. with Edward Hopper's famous painting "Nighthawks"...

So, it's back to the grind with the Mario Bros./Nighthawks painting now... :) More tomorrow, of course, at least on 365 Create