Sunday, August 17, 2014

Studies

Another movie I enjoy is The Cooler from 2003, with William H. Macy, Maria Bello and Alec Baldwin. It's a warm and heart-felt story about the relationship of a "cooler", a person who is hired (by the casino) solely to spread bad luck for casino-patrons, and a struggling waitress. I don't think it's for everyone, but for me it really hit a sweetspot. I feel the story armature is something like "you make your own luck", and that sentiment appeals to me real strongly. I'm truly charmed by the characters as well. With these studies, I'm continually reminded how much subtlety is involved with painting faces.



So I've got about one more month before I start working in a studio again (Beenox/Activision). I'm really excited and thrilled, and I also feel that having taken a break from work and freelance since May has been really beneficial for me. I love doing studies, and working away at my weaknesses. Although my self-imposed art exile has taken a toll on my social-life, it's felt thoroughly meaningful and enjoyable nonetheless. Just sayin' :)

More practice of environments. Picture had some really nice shapes, and obvious atmospheric perspective.


Painty-strokey, trying to indicate and imply rather than spell it all out. Love the light, mood, and the story.


Today, chilled out hip-hop beats. This is mainly the kind of music I listen to while drawing and painting. Boom-Bap dope ya'll!!! ;)







Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Formula (Step-By-Step)

I'm occasionally asked how I paint from imagination, and I've sometimes given demos to friends. I figure I'd indulge and try to explain for everyone. Beware, text and pictures ahead!

This process is designed for a reasonably fast and predictable result. It's aimed at beginners who are familiar with photoshop primarily, but might be beneficial for more advanced users as well. It's meant for painting from one's own imagination, and I've reached this process through years of experiments and advice from more senior artists (Adam Ford and Sam Nielson have outlined similar approaches in the past). If I had a reference or model in front, my approach would be different, and I'd focus on getting the right shape, color and value of each stroke from the get-go. Here we're using photoshop as a tool to figure out colors and values. I would like to point out that my process is continually changing as I'm learning new stuff, and what I'm doing here might be obsolete in the near future. Please apply your critical thinking when approaching this, and know that I have merely attained a journeyman level of expertise. If you're serious about learning, check out masters such as Zorn, Sargent, J.C. Leyendecker, Rockwell, Velázquez and Sorolla.

I'm taking the liberty of giving you the PSD-file (reduced in size to 50%). When I fail to express myself in words, perhaps you can find clarity in the file.

Download Here

1. Lineart
I just drew some chicks doing stuff. Talking about drawing is a whole different chapter, and this tutorial is about painting. In short, I try to have some fairly clean lineart which I can use as a foundation. For more about drawing, look at Stan Prokopenko's Youtube Tutorials, check out RadHowto, read Glenn Vilppu's Drawing Manual and Walt Stanchfield's Drawn to Life Vol 1 & 2.



2. Masks and Shadow-Shapes.
I mask out the lineart using the polygonal lasso tool (hold down the command-key (mac) or ctrl (PC, I think) to activate it with the normal lasso-tool)). This creates really hard and crisp edges, and is very fast. I don't know of any faster more accurate way to do this. In marketing-art in particular, the client will often want the characters clearly separated from the background, to be used in different contexts, so we're being preemptive. I do this per default by now.

For the shadows I fill a layer with a solid black, which I then lock into the positive shapes. Now, painting in a layer mask, I use a 100% hard-edged opaque brush to separate between light and shadow. Mentally, I'm trying to imagine doing it roughly like in a Mignola-Painting. Depending on how much of the positve shape I want to be in shadow, I will either paint the shadows or the light, whichever requires the least amount of work. Finally, when I'm done, I change the color of the layer to a midtone purple. I think this looks good, and the purple hue, to the best of my knowledge, is a combination of the ambient color of the scene (which in this case is blue-ish), plus some warm light (from the key-light, the sun (which is actually white but I'm stylizing it warm orange/yellow)) mixing in from bouncing all over the environment. Am I wrong? However, let's say our subject is on Mars, or in Space, the color of the shadow would be different. In this case, Red and Black respectively.



3. Sculpt Shadowshapes
There's a difference between Form-Shadows and Cast-Shadows. Form-Shadows occur when the form is turning away from the light-source, creating a smooth transition from light to shadow. A Cast-Shadow on the other hand happens when and object is blocking the light, creating a hard-edged shadow. In this step I try to distinguish between the two, plus going into a little bit more detail that I was in the previous block-in step. A mistake I did in the past was to treat this step too casually and sloppy. Take your time, be patient here, it's going to be really helpful later on. It can be beneficial to look at some reference too, to make sure you're being consistent with the light. Wes Burt kicked my ass at the Made Workshop in Berlin around 2009-2010 (can't remember exactly) regarding my shadow-inconsitency.



4, Ambient Occlusion
Using the lasso-tool (not a single stroke without a selection, otherwise all the edges get too soft) and a big smooth airbrush I apply a dark shade to areas which receive little or no light. This is pretty good for separating forms of similar value and hue. I'm not Uber-detailed with this. I'm using a really dark dark reddish color for this. The reason for that is that I'm simulating a lil' bit of Sub-Surface-Scattering (more on that later) and because our eyes are very sensitive to warm hues (shorter wavelength light) and picks them up easier. Also, because the subjects I'm painting exist in a largely cool-colored scene (which I'm imagining), by contrast, the areas which don't receive blue cool light will appear warmer to our eyes. So the red is faking what our eyes are doing in real life.



5. Local Colors, Temperatures and Color Variety
I first fill in a reasonable fleshtone all over. Then I'm using a color-randomizer brush, and some textured brushes to add variety and to activate the fields of color. Then I start adding temperature variations, like the more reddish knees and elbows and cheeks, and the more cool breasts and pelvis. I'm essentially thinking about where the blood is closer to the skin and therefore more evident. Also natural tanning, from being outdoors plays a part in this, like a woman who wears a bikini at the beach will get a certain complexion and various local temperatures of hue. A mistake I did in the past was to make this layer completely flat, and with ONLY local colors. That looks dull, and sucks.


 

6. Ambient Light
I imagine these girls outdoors on a fairly clear and sunny day. Therefore the big blue dome (the sky) that surrounds us tints everything in shadow blue/cool. I add a subtle cool blue/purple to upwards-facing planes in shadow on a screen-layer.  To the best of my knowledge, a screen-layer works as light works in real life, additively. It's important to not go overboard here, and make the value of the blue light too bright, because then you can mess up the contrast between what's essentially in shadow and what's in light. I consider them as two families, which I want to keep fairly separate. (See image below, in step 7, where I combined this step and the next)

7. Bounce-Light

Downwards-facing planes in shadow receive a warm bounce-light. I imagine the ground-plane reflecting a warm main light (the sun). Also when that same light hits the skin, and is reflected upwards into the downwards-facing planes, we get a warmer and lighter hue. I'm tinting the planes warmer. A mental way to think about it is to imagine the girls standing on a floor of golden coins. I want to emphasize how important it is to think about everything in PLANES, and the angle of those planes to the lightsource. The more perpendicular a certain plane is to the lightsource affecting it, the more that lightsource will influence it. Also, the further away from the lightsource the plane receiving the light is, the less influenced it will become. So a downward-facing plane around the eyes will be less tinted by the reflected light from the groundplane than a planes around the knee, for instance.



8. Key-Light
Real simple, selecting the shadowshape-layer from before, I create a new layer with the shadows as a mask. Now, painting only in the light-areas, I go in with a big airbrush with a warm hue. I just want to capture the general direction of the light with a few simple and big strokes.



9. SSS - Sub Surface Scattering
In a new Overlay layer I'm painting with a really saturated red. I'm mainly focusing on painting in the core-shadow/terminator, and places such as fingers and ears. SSS happens when light enters the skin, picks up the red hue of the blood and then scatters out again, creating a more red-hue. It adds a lot of life to the colors, just remember not all materials act in the same way, and skin is particularly susceptible to SSS.



Flatten all, and adjust colors with adjustment-layers according to taste. I'm also letting the original lineart remain in some places, totally intuitively.



10. Paint! The Grand Unpredictable Adventure to Shangri La!

All the previous steps have been preparation for the grand adventure of painting. Consider everything up to this point, packing our bags, reading the maps and familiarizing ourselves with the language of some foreign, exotic and wondrous land. Now we're ready to set out on our journey :)

When I paint I have a few key goals. I aim to detail and render the focal-points. I want to define forms which aren't 3D enough. I want to reinforce the gestural and compositional flow of the subject using the direction of the brush-strokes (Claire Wendling does this beautifully in the direction of her pencil-strokes in the shadowshapes of her drawings). I want to explain materials by controlling the hardness of the edges (mainly painting with the smudge-tool). I want to add specular highlights and add a subtle atmospheric perspective. Finally I wish to enforce focal-points with Hue-intensity and Lens-focus. I also don't want it to look formulaic, although we've stuck to a formula to this point. I wish to highlight that I think it's very important that you allow yourself to deviate from the lineart at any point in the painting process. If you see something off or wrong, fix it. My painting from here on is chaotic, I jump all over the painting simultaneously, seemingly without a goal. But I have a clear vision in the aforementioned intentions. I can't and won't make this step mechanical, I need to be able to be intuitive and follow my feelings here. I need the uncertainty to find pleasure and joy in this craft.



I would like to point out that I feel having the right tools is essential. While you should be able to create a good-looking piece with rudimentary tools, it cannot be denied that the right brushes will have a massive impact on the end result. There are limitations to painting with charcoal on a cave-wall. I recommend finding the brushes that work for you on your own, but you'll get a very good start if you try out the brushes of Alexandre "Zedig" Diboine, and Shaddy Safadi. Use your google-skills to find them.

That's the best I've got for now, I've given you everything. The End. Lots of love ;)

Oh, here's a study of a piece by Auguste Rodin (kinda raunchy, no?).


And some music :)



Monday, August 11, 2014

Failures

In 2005 I joined the conceptart.org community, right about the time I started studying 3D-graphics at University. It is now but a shadow of its former self, but back then it was the best resource for artistic improvement I had ever come across. Not only did I, for the first time, get a notion of what level of art was expected of me to become a professional, but I was also introduced to the mentalities, paradigms and attitudes which it took to improve at a quicker pace. At the time, the community was built on the fundaments of helping each other grow through honest, straight forward critique. It wasn't about popularity, likes or kindness. It was brutal sometimes, completely ego-shattering, and absolutely glorious.

It was when I embraced failure that I started growing at a faster rate. When counter-intuitively I abandoned the idea that I had to make pretty pictures, I was free to step outside my comfort-zone and actually start improving. For me that's the best advice (besides being prolific), to start making ugly pictures. Obviously that's not desirable in a professional context, we need to be reliable and perform at a high level. But personally, at home, I still try to maintain that attitude, to not fear failure, but rather embrace it as a natural and positive part of growing. I just need to re-iterate that for myself occasionally. In addition, my sense of self-respect isn't closely linked with the quality of the pictures I make, but rather correlates closely with my self-perceived effort at practicing. Sometimes that means making ugly shit.



I'm writing this mainly as a reminder for myself, but also as a piece of advice for beginners (but I ain't no teacher, and I don't eagerly give advice, because of all the misconceptions I feel I still hold). It breaks my heart to see newbies sticking to what they think is good, and most often, the fear of failure overcomes them. I don't want to be like that. Make ugly pictures.

To follow up on these thoughts, I ought to post some really crappy things where I'm venturing far outside of my comfort-zone, but I'm afraid I've mainly done studies of some beautiful women. I'll try to do worse next time (although these are still far from anything resembling mastery).



Original


Randomness-doodles...


And true to form, here are some more unsolicited music-recommendations.







Cheers!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Weakspots

Interior design and architecture are some things I've neglected, and which leave me quivering in my pants. Figure I'd tackle 'em straight on, face my fear etc. Doing the lines and then clean shapes to be used for masks were really time-consuming. If I did this in 3D I would certainly make a render with the important planes color-coded. Can't say I enjoyed these all that much, a bit too technical for me, but maybe they'll get more fun as I improve.



Sooo muuuch tiiiime... Spent 2 days on this, mainly just putting in lines with the line-tool and flat shapes which I could use for masks. Note to self- Next time when doing the shape block-in, turn off Anti-Aliasing. Tried some new brushes which I love now.


Unwinding with some naked girls... Derwent Artist - Sepia and Indigo on A5 Moleskine (The best paper there is imo).


De La Soul!!! Hnnnnnngghhh, so good.


A bit more hard-hitting.. Wu Tang Clan in da house!


Have a nice weekend, lots of love ya'll!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cartoons

I was born in 86', and was fortunate to grow up with plenty of high-quality cartoon-shows. Transformers, Turtles, Gummi-Bears, Darkwing Duck, He-Man, Chip N' Dale - Rescue Rangers, Ducktales, The Jetsons and The Flintstones to name a few. The most influential for me however, was Batman Animated from 1992. I loved the visual style (especially in the fourth season), the mood and the stories. To this day I am deeply inspired and influenced by that show, and my dream is to work on something equally as impactful at some point in my career.  Some artists I've learned were involved were Bruce Timm (The GOD), Shane Glines (fourth season only as far as I know) and Glenn Murakami. I can think of few artists who are as skilled at shape-design, and as a study, I felt like painting a sketch from Mr. Glines. Check out his art if you haven't, he's a contemporary master :) Also Batman Beyond is really worth a watch, I think he was more involved with that show.

100%


I like this photo.


Need to practice environments...


Hot darn sweet baby Jesus it's been a while since I shared some classic sketchbookery.. Lines on paper, just foolin' around...


A song most magical...



I discovered Ahmad Jamal's music pretty late, it was like finding a long lost treasure. In my opinion one of the greatest :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Apartment

I dedicate today's post to Brian McDonald. His blog, invisibleink and his book Invisible Ink, have taught me what little I know about storytelling, and more importantly, highlighted my lack of knowledge.  I deeply respect the craft, and I feel it's a very important aspect of our work as illustrators. His book is easy to read, informative and cheap. I recommend it.

One of the movies I discovered thanks to Brian Mcdonald is "The Apartment" by Billy Wilder. In it, Jack Lemmon's character, C.C Baxter, chases a promotion by allowing his bosses to use his apartment for various nocturnal activities. Meanwhile Shirley MacLaine's character Fran, an elevator-lady, is having dead-end affair with the boss, who's married, at the same company. Suffice to say, both characters are faced with problems arising from their situations, and need to deal with them :) The movie is a call to integrity, a comment on the hazards of chasing money and promotions, and the down-sides to being an amiable people-pleaser.



I really should stylize and make the shapes sexier.. Damn.



Wise men once asked "What is best in life?". Well, I would be tempted to say spending time with friends and loved ones, making art, listening to good live-music and eating good food. But coffee, it's certainly up there.


Breathe..



Up-Tempo House!! Yeeeeaaaahhhhh!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Practice

 Practice-practice-practice. Starting to tackle environments too..


 
 Original Photo

And here's a work-test in three parts I did for a studio. T'was fun and challenging! I'm afraid I can't say anything more about it.



Some Hip-Hop to brighten your day ;P