Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's All in Your Perspective...

In theory you can make a picture more interesting by capturing a dramatic perspective.  But after I get my perspective I like to exaggerate it.  After all, I draw cartoons.

Using the perspective tool in SketchBook Pro 7 - and then tweaking it - I drew this...
... and was about to paint it when my wife mentioned she preferred a brick chimney to the art deco design here.  I didn't design it; this picture is based on a house located a few blocks from mine.  That's the chimney that came with it.

Anyway, after changing out chimneys I created this:
Nice picture book home but if I wasn't so damn literal I also would have changed out the front door bars for a period door... such as the one to my own 1920's era home.  A solidly built wooden door with loads of glass panels.  Ah well.

In my neighborhood security bars are the rule, not the exception.  And incidentally, the actual house on which this was modeled also has security bars over the windows.

I like the colors and I especially like how physically painting elements on paper rather than coloring them digitally imparts a somewhat cartoon look to the whole enterprise.  Which is what I was shooting for...

The paintings themselves are unimpressive because I do no shading with paint.  If you shade each element independently, I figured, you'll wind up with cross-signals as to where is the light source.  So I wait until I "composite" my elements before applying digital shading.  In spite of that there are still a few glaring cross-signals.  Mwah mwah.

Peace on the home front.  Imagine a retired couple sitting in their living room watching the T.V. or, better yet, reading their books as the sun goes down on yet another gorgeous, unclouded, dry California day. 

Finish a chapter.  Then dinner with a glass of Merlot.  Then to bed, up by 5:00 a.m.

SketchBook Pro 7... a mini review.

Got it a couple weeks ago.  Similar to Adobe, Autodesk (the software house that produces SBP 7) encourages the "subscription" purchase option.  A small amount per year and you get all upgrades and new versions as part of the deal.

The price to subscribe to SBP is more than reasonable... $25.00 per year.  At that price they're essentially giving it away.  If you prefer you can purchase the license outright: $65.00 for SBP 7.  Based on the new functionality being offered... and the promise of yet even more functionality... I highly recommend subscribing.

I won't belabor all the new features.  Their website does a much better job of explaining them than I ever could. 

I haven't even started to experiment with Flipbook.

Probably due to all the new features this version of SBP tends to be buggier than previous versions.  I've had several crashes... and SBP never used to crash before.  And I still can't use the dang canvas rotation feature.  I don't know what it is... I'm running Windows 7 on a fairly new machine.  In truth I have never been able to get that feature to work and I've been using SBP since 2009.

What's infuriating is the ulta-inexpensive ArtRage rotates the canvas effortlessly.  I think you can spin it round and round if you're so inclined.  Corel Painter rotates with no problem as does Photoshop.  So c'mon, Autodesk, what exactly is the problem?

My latest project (next post) was done with no importing to Photoshop.  All the transformation, selection, and gradient tools I needed are now in SBP.  I couldn't be happier. 

Eliminating the unused paper on scans is also pretty easy.   This is part of the work flow if you import paintings and place them into your digital compositions because you'll have to isolate the painted object from the surrounding paper.  Up to now I've used some form of selection tool in Photoshop, refined the selection, and then set a mask to eliminate the paper.

In SBP 7 the process is similar.  Be sure to (1) set your background layer to transparent - another new feature of SBP 7 - and (2) copy the scan layer so you don't inadvertently destroy it and have to scan all over again.
  • Start with an overlarge selection using either the lasso or polygonal selection tool.  
  • Hit "edit/cut" and the bulk of your unused paper is now gone.
  • Now hit the remaining unwanted areas with the "magic wand" selection tool which does a very accurate job.  Again hit "edit/cut."  
  • It will probably take a few passes but the painted surface will be completely isolated on a transparent background.
Extremely useful.

The one critical tool you won't find in SBP is Photoshop's Level Control.  With the level control you can optimize each layer relatively easily and quickly.  The adjustment tools that come with SBP are a pretty abbreviated set: adjust Hue/Tone, Brightness/Contrast, Gray Scale, and Invert.  I suppose clever use of the hue adjustment in conjunction with the brightness adjustment can get you close... but it's nowhere near as convenient.

Overall Autodesk has hit another home run with SBP 7.   The new tools are - as we've come to expect - intuitive, easy to learn, and tutorials are available if you need them.  I was using the perspective tool almost immediately, just as if I'd been using it all my life, without any sort of tutorial reference.  It's virtually self-explanatory.

I can't recommend SBP7 highly enough.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Touche Turtle and Dumm Dumm

Much has happened over the past month... all of it "un-art related" ... but I'm back having just completed another piece.

This is based on the Mel Crawford illustration for the Touche Turtle Golden Book:
The large white area to the lower right, of course, is to allow for typeface.  I changed a few things.  The sharp foreground defining Touche and Dumm Dumm's area always looked like a quick cover up of a mistake.  I used a french curve to draw a more sedate forground eye path.

Also, that sickly yellow shading of the cement walkway always looked like the local bums urinate at that bush by the bus and it flows downhill.  Sick, yes.  So no yellow highlighting. 

I think the spaces remaining form a good composition leaving plenty of room for the text of the story.

All elements were painted on paper, then scanned and "composited" to a digital layout.  The pidgeons were the very last thing I painted and I have to say, I really enjoyed painting them.  Quick little paintings but they hold up.

Final shading and touch up was done in SketchBook Pro.  That took about 5 minutes.  Really, Crawford's painted object themselves form a pretty complete composition and there is very little need for finishing.  In fact, it would be easy to overdo it and destroy the quaint quality of the picture.

Now here's an interesting thing about combining physical and digital art in general... and about Photoshop in particular.  Please take a look at that "cloudy" sky.  In fact, the blue sky peeking through the clouds is what was painted; I painted the positive space and let the negative space imply clouds... or maybe it's the other way around, maybe the positive space is clouds.  I dunno.  I can't keep stuff like that straight.

But here's the point.  Rather than commit to a particular shade of blue and then find I have to paint it all over again, I painted that pointillist sky BLACK!  ... not blue, black!  Photoshop then allows you to go back and colorize that black area, and that's how I arrived on that particular shade of blue.  Slick, huh?

Here's another collision between the physical and digital realms.  In some areas such as the leaves of the tree to the left and the foliage adjacent to the building on the right, I superimposed leaves over the sky.  You feel you can see individual leaves.  Now how do you do that when those leaves have been painted... sponged, actually... on a piece of paper?  How do we make the paper "invisible" so we can see the sky through it?

We can do that by setting the blend mode of that leaf layer to multiply.  The multiply blend mode essentially melds to darker colors and absorbs them while the lighter areas are rendered invisible.  This way, the painted area is visible but the white paper on which it is painted disappears. 

But be aware that the multiply mode can create problems, particularly if you set a leafy area over a very colorful background.  For instance, if I set my leaves over a red building the white paper would disappear but the leaves themselves would adopt a red hue.  The "multiplied" layer will absorb the darker colors underneath it.

So in those areas where you want to superimpose leafy or fluffy or wispy textures over a background it can get tricky.  Proceed with caution.  Choose your background colors wisely.