Here’s some more art

  • On May 21, 2014 ·
  • By ·

As a follow up to my previous post I thought I’d share some more stuff I’ve been working on. I wouldn’t consider any of it finished.

Dancer

I’d been meaning to do more gesture studies of figures in motion so I freeze-framed a youtube video of a ballerina and scribbled 40 frames. I also tried out some paper textures underneath to see if I could make it feel more authentic.

Dancer

 Fennec Fox: Gunslinger

Fennec Fox Start Screen

This was a flash game I was working on for Stencyl Jam #14. The project grew too big and I didn’t finish it in time. I learned plenty from the experience, though.

His arm was handled separately to allow for switching out weapons

His arm was handled separately to allow for switching out weapons

I liked the idea of a punching mechanic but getting it to work proved problematic

I liked the idea of a punching mechanic but getting it to work proved problematic

The main game was built around a run and gun template for Stencyl. I also put together a rudimentary target practice stage where you’d have alternating good/bad guys.

Good guys

Good guys

Bad guys

Bad guys

Backgrounds

I experimented with different rendering styles for the backgrounds. First I tried drawing them in the same program as the characters but that looked too flat. Then I tried painting them with a soft airbrush. Eventually I settled on something somewhere between the two – solid shapes molded with shadow, texture, and gradients. This is also where trouble started as you can see I made the backgrounds many screens wide. I’d sketched them that big originally figuring I could just crop where needed. I think I was just afraid a smaller level would make it look like a spammy flash ad instead of a game. Click for full images.

Baddies and Other Character Animations

The funny thing is I’d originally decided to make the game a wild west shoot ’em up to scale back from my bigger idea where that was just a sub-section of the game. Anyway, Stencyl handles animations by designating milliseconds for each frame. I figured the sprites should use as few frames as possible to keep the motions snappy.

I liked the walk cycle I came up with for the monkey. I also had him holding guns with his feet

I liked the walk cycle I came up with for the monkey. I also had him holding guns with his feet

One of various characters that could shoot

One of various characters that could shoot

A punching enemy for variety. As with the player character, getting the attack to connect proved tricky

A punching enemy for variety. As with the player character, getting the attack to connect proved tricky

This guy would drop TNT if you got too close. A code thing you could endlessly tweak

This guy would drop TNT if you got too close. A code thing you could endlessly tweak

I wanted to populate the streets with civilians and such but I just didn't allot myself enough time

I wanted to populate the streets with civilians and such but I just didn’t allot myself enough time

I like the design of this little mouse Señorita

I like the design of this little mouse Señorita

Other

Once the jam ended I’ve been focusing more on animating. I’m trying to refine a finished look I can reproduce regularly and efficiently. Here’s a couple examples of the experimenting I’ve been doing.

Line Tests

Some line width and coloring tests. Click for a fuller view.

Stranger

Ink and color test

Here’s some art

  • On May 12, 2014 ·
  • By ·

Hi everybody 😀 I recently finished an online art history course and I thought I’d share some of the pieces I put together for it.

Pew! Pew Pew! – Self Portrait with Alien Invasion

Pew! Pew Pew! - Self Portrait with Alien Invasion

I cut out and propped up some of my drawings and dangled pieces of foil on strings in a bit of an homage to Ed Wood. It was fun but setting up a physical set was nerve-racking. The slightest little bump would send things into chaos.

Up, Up, and Away!

Up, Up, and Away!

We were asked to do a piece based on time so I figured an animated gif would do nicely. I thought about how best to depict the scene and decided a static shot of a wall with a cast shadow would be interesting.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hare

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hare

The assignment was to transform one thing into another and back again. I went with a spoof of Jekyll and Hyde. Most of the posters I looked up for reference turned Hyde green so I thought I’d use that to tie the piece together.

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

Diego Velázquez's original

Diego Velázquez’s original

My animated interpretation

My animated interpretation

My favorite assignment was to do a work based on Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez. I took the opportunity to recreate it in a drawn style and to animate the figures. I enjoy the little ticks in this loop, like Velázquez’s hand holding his brush or the figure who blink.

Art Rage

  • On July 27, 2012 ·
  • By ·

Artrage is a fun program designed to mimic traditional media. It’s similar to Corel Painter except where the full version of Painter will run you $360, Artrage Studio Pro will only cost $60. Also the interface on Artrage is similar to Autodesk SketchBook Pro, which is easier to navigate than Painter’s. (Fun fact: if you like Sketchbook check out Sketchbook Express on the Mac App Store, iOS, or Android. Sketchbook Copic Edition might be worth checking out.)

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Artrage is nice for giving digital art more of a loose and painterly feel and for easily blending colors. Here’s an example of inking clean lines in Illustrator and then painting the colors with Artrage.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

It’s really easy and fun to get some nice impasto effects when painting and to work from references within the program.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

The brushes are easily configured and customizable. It also comes with a selection of paper/canvas textures as well as letting you import your own.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Drawing Models

  • On July 26, 2012 ·
  • By ·

Lets talk a little bit about references. Obviously the best reference is life and actual models. The second best is photos. Below that are things like technical guides and other people’s drawings. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s useful to copy existing art for practice. Van Gogh did some gorgeous copies of Japanese prints, for example. The fact is, the further the artist is removed from the subject they’re rendering, the more is lost in the interpretation. There’s a line between drawing from your imagination and drawing cliche.

There’s an old adage that when you copy somebody’s art you’re not only copying their mistakes but throwing in a few of your own as well. Personally I think it all depends on what kind of person the copyist is and how they approach it. I mean you can draw from photos and make horrible drawings that are based on photographic distortions and an amateurish notion on how to render the human body. You could also draw from photos and only use them as a guide to the pose. I had a prof in college who considered using photos as cheating because the image was already 2 dimensional. If you’re seeking to recreate that exact image then yeah, I guess you could call it cheating, but what’s the point in that?

Here’s some collections online I’ve found to drawn from. I try to play loose when searching for reference and use it more for inspiration as opposed to relying desperately on an image to copy. You’ll see 2 things a lot while looking for dynamic and nude models. A) Pornography that basically says, “Here it is! This is what you want to look at, isn’t it?! LOOK AT IT!” Because we all know nudity is the only requirement for good porn, amirite? B) “Artsy” people that like to photograph themselves. I’d heard stories of the art student that would always photograph themselves nude in a bathtub whatever the assignment was but I never seriously witnessed it until I started looking online for models. I’ll try not to include any of that here.

PoseSpace.com (NWS) is my personal favorite I’ve found so far because they provide a good number of models with various builds in a multitude of poses and they rotate the views.

The Drawing Script (NWS) practice tool for figure drawing.

eyedrawthings expressions from various angles.

Reference! Reference! is a good resource for animators.

More High Speed and Photoinstrumentation Photography (NWS) is another good animation resource as it shows multiple exposures of figures in motion.

Eadweard Muybridge: Defining Modernities (NWS) Example of Muybridge’s famous figures in motion.

EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE on Artsy (NWS) More Muybridge.

Athletic Body Diversity Reference for Artists Good example of how different types of athletes can have various types of builds.

ArtsyPoses (NWS) various models.

SenshiStock Nice DeviantArt gallery of stock model poses.

CuriousPeaches Another nice DA gallery.

comicReference Another DA gallery.

josemanchado (NWS) DA gallery.

Falling-Pixie-Stock Even more DA.

Erieye-Stock (NWS) DA gallery.

homeymodel DA gallery.

idaniphotography (NWS) DA gallery.

Trimble Sketchup

  • On July 25, 2012 ·
  • By ·

Sketchup is a former Google product that has been bought by Trimble. It’s a 3D modeling app that comes in a free basic version and premium for professionals. There’s two main reasons for discussing it here – the openness that having a free version brings, particularly from Google because they fostered a community of modelers and developers under it, and the fact that it’s very easy to use.

Modeling can be as easy in Sketchup as pushing and pulling shapes into desired designs. It’s also easy to enter measurements to square things up into accurate models. There’s a 3D Warehouse online full of models already put together by the community if you’re looking to try things out and put a scene together. Not to mention there’s plenty of tutorial videos to be found, both official and unofficial.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

I’ve already mentioned Blender as a free 3D tool with a good community behind it. But what I really want to stress with Sketchup is the ease to which creators can mock up sets and props with it.  Not too long ago I checked out a copy of the DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics by Freddie E. Williams II. Did you know, if you make paths of buildings in Photoshop you can extrude those in Sketchup to make them into models? That sort of cross compatibility  is crazy. An artist could build up a library of building elements in 2D and then export them into 3D. There’s tons of plugins and styles out there to use, mix, and match. There are renderers for creating photo-realistic renders of models, for creating better models with more configurable shapes, to giving your models physics.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Manga Studio

  • On July 24, 2012 ·
  • By ·

Today I’d like to discuss Manga Studio. Known as ComicStudio in Japan, this app is actually pretty impressive in how it’s geared towards the creation of comics. Like Smith Micro’s Anime Studio, it comes in a cheaper version for beginners and a fuller priced version for professionals. (Manga Studio EX 5 and Manga Studio 5, respectably) When starting a new project you can select to either start a new page or a new story. You’re presented with some good preset templates or you can configure your own. The brushes are extremely configurable, the vector tools allowing you to adjust the correction and stroke in/out. You can make your own custom brushes or download some like these by Ray Frenden.

The brushes are probably my favorite thing about Manga Studio though there’s also the ability to import 3D models, all the various toning options, filters, and perspective rulers. It does take some time to get used to the interface but it’s pretty rewarding when you do get the hang of it. Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie was the first webcartoonist I saw making good use of it. Since then I’ve seen a number of folks trying it out.

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url

Photoshop Brushes

  • On July 23, 2012 ·
  • By ·

Here’s some sets of photoshop brushes you may find useful. I’ve done my best to point to the original sites of the creators where possible. I tend to use the stumpy pencil and the digital inking brush from Geekasaurus-Rex almost exclusively these days.

Pencil Brushes

Stumpy Pencil V2

 Pencil Box 1

Pencil Box 2

Awesome Photoshop Pencil Brush

Cloured Pencil Brushes

Pencil Brushes

PS Brushes – Coloured Pencil

PS Brushes – Pencil

PS Brushes – Pencil Brushes 2

Sketching Brushes and Pitt

Photoshop Pencil Brush

My Pencil Brush Set 1

Ink Brushes

Inking Brush by Geekasaurus-Rex

Simple Inking Brush for Photoshop

Painting and Inking Brushes

Ink Pen

Dave’s Camelhair Brushes

Dave’s Camelhair Brushes V2

Misc Brushes/Sets

Nagel Brush Series (This is a series made up of about 43 different sets. Sets 1-39 are collected here while you can grab 40, 41, 42, and 43 separately)

Graphic Brushes

The Sketch Arsenal

Sketchtastic Brush Pack

Brushes Pack

Brushes Pack .05 – Watercolor

Ink and Watercolor Brushes

Mateu7’s Watercolor Brushes

Custom Brushes from idrawdigital

Crack Brushes 1

Crack Brushes 2

Crack Brushes 3

Rising Sun Brushes

More Rising Sun Brushes

 

Commissions Open – Gallery Added

If you’ve ever been interested in getting some art from me I’ve put together a nice commissions page with a handy dandy form for requesting, complete with some rough price estimates. I also put up a gallery with some examples of my work.

Don’t let the prices scare ya – I’m flexible depending on the piece you have in mind. And if there’s something specific you’d like done that isn’t listed feel free to ask. 😀

How I Make 2071

Today I’d like to walk you through the process I use to create my comic 2071. Once I’ve written the script and done a thumbnail of the page to lay out the panels I move onto penciling.

Penciling

I settled on this size so I can use half a sheet of 11×14″ bristol board for the finished inks and regular printer paper for the pencils. Then I can redraw a page as many times as I need to to achieve the proper composition. I sketch with red and blue col-erase animation pencils and like to go over things with mechanical pencil if I have time so they’re easier to see on the lightbox. Also this constant going over evolves the details as I get more confident with the finished drawing. My pencils these days are pretty tight as I want to develop the page as much as possible. Lots of artists keep their sketches loose and save details for inking to keep them spontaneous. I feel more free to change things while penciling as ink feels more permanent, even though I could always touch the inks up digitally later. (I usually have to, anyway)

Penciled Page

The next step is to tape the pencils and some bristol board to my lightbox and go over it all with drawing pens.

Inking

Pens give a colder feel than brushes because their lines are more solid and mechanical. Brushes create more organic lines with varying width. Since the story is set in the future I wanted a fairly streamlined and technical feel. Plus I’m kind of heavy handed and split the tips of brushes pretty easily.

Raw Scan of Inks

At this point I was still trying to white out mistakes before scanning. I usually have to go back in and fix them even after the automated cleanup process so I might as well save corrections for that stage.

Cleanup

Scan After Automated Cleaning Process

I made an action that follows the steps laid out in How to Make Webcomics. I run it to convert everything to straight black or white in bitmap mode and save in .tiff format. Then I go back in and clean lines up.

Page of Inks After Fixing

The changes at this stage are mostly for the print version. When it’s shrunk down and in this jaggy format you don’t see a lot of the things you would once it’s printed. (Save the occasional redrawing of a line or something) I save this and then convert it to grayscale and copy the panels into a template with proper page margins.

Coloring

Initial Flood Fill of Colors

I duplicate the panels onto a multiply layer and remove all the white so only the inks show. Some folks just leave it a normal layer, which is fine. I’ve just had issues with non-black spots getting onto my ink layers in the past and setting it to multiply keeps that from becoming an issue. Flood fill with the paint bucket and pencil in any hard to reach spots on the lower layer.

Layer with Shadows

I then duplicate the colors layer, set it to multiply, create a layer mask and invert it, painting out areas for shadows. Lower this to about 50%.

Layer with Highlights

I duplicate the colors again, set it to screen, create a layer mask and invert it, and start drawing highlights. I keep this layer at 100%.

Layer with Benday Dots

The colorist for Evil, Inc. had an article on Webcomics.com (Before it became subscription based) about making a strip look like a newspaper comic. I came up with a variation on that I liked.

Layer with Aged Paper Texture

Next I add a layer with the aged paper texture. I lower the opacity of the colors layer so some of the splotches bleed through them.

Layer with Lighting Effects

Before I render the intense light of futuristic jet engines I focus on the effects of the falloff color on the rest of the objects in the panel.

Layer with More Lighting Effects

Some things would probably be easier to render if I didn’t draw them in the inking stage (Like shapes for flames, highlights) but I like having them there if I decide to color their lines or just paint over them entirely.

Layer with Even More Lighting Effects

Finally I paint in the white-hot areas of the flames. I like layering the effects to give them a more developed look rather than just dropping a simple effect in. I’ll play around with layer modes, opacity, and layer effects until I find something I like. It’s important to me that the overall page looks balanced. The drawings need to be developed and detailed enough while the rendering needs to be subtle enough to work. It’s very easy to make effects look too “Photoshop-y” and stand out glaringly on a page.

Layer with Panel Border Enhancement

I make a one-pixel stroke around the panels and add a stroke effect to the layer. It frames them better and differentiates the panels from each other. Some people use rules about how wide your borders should be based on your thickest line in a panel. I find a setting that works and leave it.

Layer with Text

After laboring over the art I hate to cover it up with text so I tend to wittle the script down to absolute necessities. Dialogue placement impacts how you read it and I like to think the shape of a sound effect changes how you hear it in your head. It’s also a visual element so I want to compliment the drawings underneath. The fonts add to the aesthetic I’m going for by being simple yet elegant.

Layer with Word Balloons

Keeping with the slightly mechanical and less organic idea I made the word balloons rounded squares rather than oval shapes. (Automated voices use sharp square balloons while voices being broadcast use another closed balloon shape) This harkens back to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland and other early 20th century strips as well as conserves space. Copper influenced me to make the panels rounded so making the word balloons match makes sense.

Page with Saturation Layer

This is the last step before flattening, resizing, and adding the URL for the web. I fill a layer with black, set it to saturation, and lower the opacity. This makes the colors a little less pronounced and adds to the aged feel. Movies today tend to desaturate their color palette, too. Compare the original Superman colors to the ones in Superman Returns. I was originally planning on rendering in color and then dropping it down to grey for print but the color version is just too superior.

Modern Art

Art is an interesting thing. There are many different kinds of art and many different opinions on what is or isn’t art. My goal is to find ways to create things and generate a livable income from that work. You’d imagine that would classify me as an artist. However there are plenty of people who wouldn’t call me that. There are plenty of people who make a living off their work but they identify themselves by different titles. I imagine part of it’s to avoid any stigma associated with the term or to specify their trade beyond the generic. Some folks make things like jewelry, furniture, plush dolls, all sorts of things, and consider themselves crafters. Some people like me draw talking animals or funny caricatures of people and call ourselves cartoonists.

The Myth of the Starving Artist

If you open a book on making a living creatively these days you’ll find some opening chapters dispelling the myth of the starving artist. This is the public perception of an artist. Somebody who toils away in obscurity, poverty, struggling to survive while laboring over their masterwork that will only bring them fame and fortune long after their death. Why is this myth so pervasive in our culture? There’s lots of reasons. It’s a romanticized vision based on misconceptions of what a living artist’s life is. Many folks who don’t know anything about the art world and many artists themselves fall for this stereotype. It seeks to make the artist altruistic and above monetary concerns or even concerns about surviving at all. If you’re an artist, all you should be thinking about is rendering some supreme, ultimate truth onto the canvas and nothing else. That’s how it’s done, right? No, that’s not how it’s done. If you paint for yourself and make a living through some other means, that’s fine. But working artists should concern themselves with finding work.

“Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime!” He was also seriously mentally ill. He was a great painter but I wouldn’t recommend anybody pattern their life after his. In fact I’d argue against patterning your life after anybody, successful or not, because everybody’s life and circumstances are different. Some things can’t be repeated by everybody and it’s best to find your own path to the mountain using others’ as a rough guide. Is it better for the artist to never sell their work and die penniless than to illustrate based on what their clients want? Is “selling out” really that big of a fear? Apparently it is for some people.

Another sub-section of this myth is that artists, being poor and destitute, should accept any offer that comes along from people willing to give them the time of day. Anybody with Photoshop can do what you do, why should I pay you an honest wage or at all? Shouldn’t you be satisfied with the exposure my project gives you? Isn’t seeing your work printed or used in some other means for my profit good enough? There are plenty of people looking for artists to work on speculation. They want the artist to donate their time to something on the promise that, should this thing make money, they’ll get a cut of it down the line. Imagine a plumber only getting paid that way. Picture a heart surgeon haggling with some guy who says he’s used knives before, how hard can it be?

Modern Art

Ok, title of the post, better make this good. Well first I want to address that people use this term wrong. Modern Art was art made roughly between 1860 and the 1970s. Modernism is a movement that some scholars argue is still going on even though we had Postmodernism emerging in the 1980s. When I hear people complaining about the pointlessness they see in art news today, they’re usually referring to contemporary art. Artist using elephant dung? Artist photographing a crucifix in a jar of his own urine? Lets just call it contemporary since it’s going on now. Movements should be named by historians. Ever listened to a bunch of people in bands sitting around trying to classify their sound? We’ll stick with contemporary.

Shock Art

Art can be controversial, that’s fine. However some people seem to only want to make art that’s geared towards offending somebody. These people exist outside of the art community. Look at the success of reality TV and shows like Jackass. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. (Lord knows I can’t look away when an episode of Jackass comes on) But we should look at the intention of a work. We should see what thought went into it, what the artist is trying to say with it, and why it can be seen as upsetting. I love how some people don’t consider editorial cartoons relevant today and yet some are still controversial enough for the cartoonists to get death threats. Cartoons say a religion is violent, people respond by threatening or committing acts of violence, I’d say somebody’s not getting the point. Entire discussions could be had around the opinions behind those cartoons before even mentioning the reaction to them.

Whenever people discuss performance art I like to bring up Chris Burden. He was the guy who had himself crucified to a Volkswagen and had himself shot in the arm by an assistant. It all sounds crazy out of context but if you read up on him, his history, and what he was trying to say, you understand him a little better. This isn’t to say you totally get the meaning and significance behind it or that you magically approve of his work. It just means you can see where he’s coming from and can make a better educated argument for or against his art.

Simple Art

Often people will criticize art for it’s simplicity. Jackson Pollock made art of splatters of paint dripped onto a canvas. Piet Mondrian made straight lines and blocks of color. Mark Rothko made streaks of color. Georgia O’Keeffe made abstractions of flowers. Andy Warhol made pictures of soup cans. Each of these artists has a story. Each of them has a history that explains why they started making art the way they did and why it’s important. A big part of being an artist is being able to explain your own relevance and convincing people to believe in it. If you’ve seen the film Art School Confidential, you’ll recall a scene where a professor is asked, “How long have you been doing the triangles?” and he replies, “I was one of the first…”

Conceptual Art

Some artists make pieces where the object itself isn’t the art but rather your perception of it is. I recall hearing about one piece where the display was a series of egg shells where the yolks had been blown out. Often during transport some of the shells broke. When that happened the curators got some more eggs, blew the yolks out, and the show continued. Another artist had bags of trash during a show and one of them got thrown out by a custodian who assumed it was trash. The artist simply gave them another bag of trash to replace it. There’s also the concept of Found Art where the artist literally finds an object and calls it art. Sometimes these displays are poignant. Sometimes something we see every day will take on a different look when you see it in a gallery. What is a portrait but another painting of a human face? It’s the perception of that face, the significance of who it is, how it’s rendered, all sorts of different factors. That is what separates the Mona Lisa from Elvis on black velvet. It’s also what separates a blown out egg shell from a Fabergé egg.