OpenGL A Total Joy

April 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

just_one_wish_revised_wordpress

Just One Wish

Loving New Features in CS4

Now that I have sorted out my video card driver, the OpenGL is working wonderfully. I could never go back to CS3, after experiencing the ease and time saving features. The new features in CS4 aren’t merely bells and whistles. I am using them all the time. I love the new brush shortcut that allows me to simply press Alt (Opt on the Mac) and drag the mouse to resize brushes on the fly. I use brushes constantly in my digital art so saves me a lot of time and I can see a rubylith mask outline of the brush shape, including the amount of feathering. Because my NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285 is an older video card, there are still a few glitches with brush outlines displaying with larger size brushes. But I’m becoming used to it and it’s a fair trade off for all the other features.

The new tabbed interface is a real time saver because I usually have many files open simultaneously. It’s a snap to switch between the old window set up and the new tabbed one, with just a click of a button.

Dodge and burn have been completely revamped. I loved them before and use them constantly to create , shadows and highlights in my art, but the newer method preserves color tones and is far less destructive. But what’s even better is that by clicking a checkbox dodge and burn will revert to the previous algorithym, which is great because for some uses, the older method seems to do the trick. It’s so nice to have a wider range of choices. There is now a new Masking Panel that makes it possible to refine the mask’s edges after creating it. Edges can be feathered, even shape layers. The upgrade is so worth it.

Just One Wish

The art above is an old one that I made a few years ago, but last night I was working on a new version of my website and was sizing images for the gallery. I came across this piece and at first thought that I’d leave it out because I hadn’t really mastered digital art techniques back then. But I still liked the mood so I thought I’d try reworking it. Usually I never go back to old art to fix them, even if I find problems with them. I usually just resolve to better in the new art I create. But I broke my own rule and decided to revise this one. Still not perfect because I’d have to start again from scratch to get it right, but I think it was worth salvaging.

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Lucille – A Modern Day FairyTale

February 22, 2009 at 1:50 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , )

lucille

Lucille

Enjoying Photoshop CS4

This art piece began as an experiment, just playing around in newly installed CS4. I wasn’t sure if it would shape into anything substantial, so when it got late, around 3 a.m., I saved the file and abandoned it for several days, thinking that it was probably just junk.

A week or two later, I was cleaning my desktop and saw this PSB file that I had completely forgotten about. I opened it up to decide whether or not to delete it. It was still very much in the rough phase and looked quite terrible. I wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged, but I luckily happened to be in ‘the zone’ for working, so I began playing with it.

Originally I had shaped the girl into a sort of ‘elf’, with pointed ears and was going to take it into a more extreme fantasy direction. But I wasn’t satisfied with the ears, kept adding new ones, from exotic monkeys and other animals. I was going to give her a half-human, half-animal appearance. But none seemed believable (or as believable as pointed ears can be, ha ha! … actually, this brings up an important point. Even within fantasy, a measure of believability has to be maintained, otherwise the effect just looks tacky).

I began adding a halo of hair instead, until the girl took on a very soft ethereal quality which changed the entire direction of the piece.

Allow The Art To Shape Itself

When I’m creating art for myself, unlike when I’m working for a client, I allow the art to morph into any direction it wants. This is the most enjoyable part. I love the suspense of not knowing how it will turn out, what story it will tell. For example, when the elf ears weren’t working and the halo of soft hair added a different personality to the girl, I abandoned the elf idea and began adding elements that enhanced the soft, intense features. Every new element has to match the aspects that are working.

Be Prepared to Abandon Elements That Aren’t Working

Even if I spend an hour or more extracting an element or animal, color matching it, adding lights and shadows, if the element isn’t working within the scene I don’t hesitate for a moment to delete it. I never get attached to something just because I’ve spent hours working on it. I chalk it up to ‘practice time’. For example, I tried many different backgrounds and tree trunks beneath the owl. I spent hours, tweaking, recoloring, dodging, burning, distorting, but afterwards deleted many of them … until I found one that seemed to enhance the main character’s mood and personality.

Tip – Beware of CS4’s New Layer Delete

Beware, if you have a layer selected in the Layer Palette (now renamed Panel by Adobe), if you click Delete, you won’t get a message “Are you sure you want to delete this layer?” … it will automatically delete without asking you. Advanced users of Photoshop will like this time-saving feature, but Newbies have to be careful. Several times when I was working on this piece, I accidentally hit “delete” when I was actually reaching for another shortcut key. Luckily I noticed and hit “Ctrl / Z ” (Cmd / Z on the Mac) to bring back the layer.

I also still have to sort out the issue of the OpenGL features not working, whether it’s my video card, or my operating system. Also in Photoshop’s 3D, the 3D axis is not displaying, even when I’ve selected it from the view menu. The 3D axis control is faster and simpler than using the indivual 3D tools from the Toolbox. I’m not sure if this issue is connected to the Open GL issue or whether it is a separate problem. If anybody knows the answer, please let me know. My operating system is Window XP Professional and my video card on this computer is NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285, 128 MB, version 5.44.02.63.04

Postscript — Happy Update

Miraculously, The OpenGL features have begun working, along with the 3D Axis tool. I’m not certain what caused this because I did a number of different things while trying to troubleshoot the problem. I went to the NVIDIA website to update my Video card driver. You can choose an option to have the website automatically detect your video card and download the appropriate driver. However, after I installed the new driver, I noticed that the version number was lower than my prior version. This worried me, so I then went to my PC’s Windows Update by right clicking my Desktop, choosing Properties / Settings / Advanced / Adaptor / Properties / Driver / Update Driver. Although I had done this before and received a message that my driver was up to date, this time it actually updated the driver. I think this is what corrected the problem.

I can now do neat functions like Rotate Canvas which comes in handy for painting with a Wacom tablet. And Image Toss, which might sound like some mere gimmick, but believe me, when you have an enormuos document and are zoomed in to some detail and you need to pan to another area of the image, the pan glides as effortlessly as an Olympic skater and there is no blocky redraw lag time, Yipeeeeee !!!

There is also a new handy shortcut in CS4, if you Hold down your mouse while pressing the “H” Key while you are on any other tool. While still holding down both, you can slide around to any area of the image, then when you release the mouse it zooms into that area of the image. Very quick and wonderful way to get around a large, zoomed in image.

I also finally see the 3D Axis Tool, which is the most efficient way to manipulate the X, Y, and Z movements and rotations. I was so happy and relieved when these features began working that I felt tears come to my eyes. I never realized how important they were to me until I saw my reaction when they magically appeared. I am one very happy Photoshopper today !!!

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My Unfulfilled Imagination

November 25, 2007 at 7:35 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , )


Blue Belle

Yesterday I woke up in a certain mood, one that comes so seldom. My imagination was just bursting with ideas. I could clearly see at least 5 fully developed ideas, as though they were already alive and complete on the ‘digital canvas’. But school began at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t finish until 5 p.m. Even while walking to the bus stop every thing around me seemed different. Colors appeared sharper, every tree distinct and alive with intense colors and personality. I saw one tree with twisted roots that looked like a human figure curled on the ground, contorted with dispair. Seeing this evoked even more ideas. I could clearly see each finished piece before my eyes and it was painful having to waste such a mood on mundane technical studies (I had an exam and had to finish a project building a database).

I arrived home late in the evening and began working on this image. The sparkle that I’ve placed in her hair and in the water was one of those happy accidents. I was reaching for one of the Blending Modes when my fingers slipped and I chose Dissolve instead of Screen. I liked the effect. The background / foreground is built from at least 25 or more bits pieces. The woman is made of 20 or more pieces. When I’m working, I add layer upon layer and continue blending, burning, dodging, coloring, liquifying, and adding, a continuous process until I create the exact scene that I have in mind. This one took about 14 hours to complete.

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Solitude

November 5, 2007 at 6:27 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , )


Solitude

I had been doing homework all day, and opened Photoshop, intending to do some color correction on some images for a website. I had been looking at some templates in InDesign and became inspired by a color combination, a muted turquoise and peach color. I began playing with color in Photoshop, and before I knew it, I was off in an entirely different direction and 9 hours later, at 6:30 a.m., this digital art piece was born. I worked all night on it and was practically hallucinating from fatigue by the time I finished.

This is the second one I’ve ever done on my Mac Powerbook. All the others, except Farewell to Summer have been made on my PC with my two large duo monitor set up. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d tackle a graphic on this tiny Mac Monitor. Although it is 17 inches wide, and has 1680 x 1050 resolution, the screen is wide but not tall and with the high res. screen, everything appears much smaller than on most monitors. Anyway, I guess this means that I’ve officially made peace with my Mac (although I still prefer my PC).

More Than Half Way Through

I’m now in Term 3 at school, and it is so encouraging to know that I’m more than half way through the course, which finishes next April. The last term was bloody murder as far as the workload was concerned. It was a true test of human endurance. So many nights I was up past 3 a.m. doing homework assignments, and on weekends was often up until 6 in the morning. I started drinking Red Bull and Sobe to keep awake during the day. These days I’m either wired on lack of sleep or Red Bull … or both.
🙂

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Photoshop Crashed – I Lost A Full Day’s Work

October 17, 2007 at 6:36 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


Farewell To Summer

I spent two days and nights making this digital art piece, approximately 35 hours or more. It is the first one I’ve done on my new computer, with its 6 gigs of RAM and high octane processor. But I still ran into problems because in the Preferences for Photoshop, the maximum RAM that I’m able to allocate is 2 gigs. I did this but Photoshop was still running slow on this file, which at times ran upwards of 7 gigs!! (the image you see here is only 5% of the original size).

Late last night, after I had almost finished, the PSD file with all its layers had expanded to more than 5 gigs. I hadn’t yet merged layers in order to bring it down to 2 gigs (which is the maximum that can be saved in Photoshop’s PSD format). The unthinkable happened. It was a Catch 22. I couldn’t save because I wasn’t ready to merge layers, and I had worked since early morning. I’ve never known Photoshop to freeze, but it did, and shut down. My entire day’s work was lost.

The error was actually my own. The crash happened when I was dragging an image from another file into this file. I did it very quickly and I think I might have closed the source image file before the other file had fully received the image. I won’t make that mistake again. Then I got that pop up window saying that Photoshop has encountered an error and has to shut down (the message apologizes if any unsaved work has been lost) … I didn’t want to close that little pop up window because as long as it stayed open, the frozen image still remained. I sat in shock looking at the image for about 15 minutes, thinking what I could do to save it, before I finally had no choice but to close the pop up. Everything shut down.

This image’s original size is 8640 x 11520. I think this is the largest size I’ve ever worked with, however there were far fewer layers than in many other files I’ve worked with in the past.

I was impressed when I was able to use the Liquify Filter on an image this size. On my old computer, Photoshop would have told me I didn’t have enough RAM. Although it took more than 4 minutes for the Liquify window to open, and another 7 to save the changes, it was well worth it, because I used to have to slice copies of portions of my images & open them in another file in order to use the Liquify on such large images.

For about half an hour I was in shock and wondered if I should just forget the project. Then I decided to start all over again from scratch. The other version was completely different. Emina was in water and the background was completely different. Her dress was also entirely different. Although it was a horrible experience, it turned out to be interesting seeing how the piece morphed into something so different from the first version. I think I like this one better, but I also really liked the mood of the other.

It’s now back to school (I had a week off). I’ve finished Term 2 and am beginning Term 3, taking New Media and Web Development, which includes design, Photoshop, Flash, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, Adobe Illustrator, etc. It’s a great course but the course load is so heavy that I rarely have a moment to immerse myself in digital art.

I’ve used the face of the beautiful Emina, but the body is comprised of so many bits and pieces. I made the dress entirely in Photoshop.

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The Book Is Launched

October 10, 2007 at 8:51 pm (computer art, Digital Art) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Detailed View Book Page – Sprite Fairy

Term 2 at the college has just finished. I have a few days off before Term 3 begins. It’s such a relief to be half way through the year. The course load is unbelievably heavy. So many nights have been spent at my computer, working until 4 in the morning or longer. I’m somehow surviving on a regular diet of energy drinks. Redbull and Sobe have become daily staples and have pulled me through many exams on less than 3 hours of sleep.

The first 3 days of my vacation were spent sleeping. Although it is being called a one-week vacation, students are still scrambling to finish the Javascript component, so it really isn’t time off, just time where we can focus on one one course without having the intrusion of so many conflicting software, techniques, coding rules, protocols, etc.

Children’s Book Launched

Earlier this year, before school started, I was working on a series of digital illustrations for a children’s book that has just been launched by http://www.flattenme.com The website belongs to the company who commissioned me to do the images for one of the books in their series (The Tuesday Mushroom King). Other books in their collection were done by various artists.

Books are available in both girl and boy versions. Customers can upload an image of their own child’s face, which is then swapped for the book’s main character’s face. In addition, the customer’s child’s name is placed throughout the book and becomes the main character of the book. A personalized dedication of the customer’s choice is put into the front of the book for the child. The book becomes fully personalized for a child. This is a wonderful concept.

To make sure there’s no confusion, please note that the book belongs to the company who commissioned me to do the art for one of the books in their series. I am not part of the company selling the books. I do not receive any commission from sales of their books.

Here are some sample portions of images from the book:

Tuesday Mushroom King Cover (Girl Version)

Detailed View Book Page – Mouse

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Mastering the Mac (aka taming the beast)

July 11, 2007 at 10:52 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The first Term of school is finished and I have one glorious week of vacation before I begin the second Term. Finally a little time to allow my mind roam free, no binding schedule, no urgent technical data to cram into my brain cells. Yet old habits die hard. I’ve spent my last three mornings reading a manual on Mac OS 10. But there’s no rush, it’s my own reading choice, so it feels leisurely and luxurious. I am determined to conquer the beast, my Macbook Pro laptop that I’ve been using for all my courses at school.

I’m Not Ashamed to Admit I’m a Loyal PC Lover

Windows is so logical, so user friendly, so intuitive. It has gorgeous thumbnail views of images that open immediately (unlike Photoshop’s Bridge). I can choose film strip view … whereas Mac on the other hand … well, let’s not get onto that topic, or I’ll go off on a tangent. No worries. I have a week to finish this manual and hopefully make peace with the beast.

My desktop home computer, a PC, is now completely full. Even with 3 external hard drives I’m still having troubles because I’m afraid to put my important images on the externals. One folder full of tifs and psd files already somehow became corrupt. Luckily, after several tense hours I was able to recover all the files from my other hard drives but had to painstakingly rename each file in the folder by hand. This worries me because I don’t know what caused the files to be renamed in all caps with a tilda ~ symbol, and all the extensions were capitalized instead of lower case. I’ve used the external drive on both my Mac and PC to load photos, and am wondering if this cross platform might have confused the external drive, but the LaCie is supposed to be cross-platform. If anyone knows what might have caused this, please let me know.

In the meantime, I’ve made the decision to get a new desktop computer … a PC of course !! My current desktop PC has 2 gigs of RAM. I’ll need much more to do the rendering I often perform in Photoshop when making a digital art piece such as the image below that I just finished moments ago. Hot off the press.

Once Upon A Summer Dawn

Finally Some Digital Art

It feels so wonderful to be able to fall back into my familiar routine of working all night, until the birds begin chirping as they’ve started doing right at this moment as if on queue at exactly 4 a.m. I worked for 3 days and nights on this piece. My creative juices seem to have become sluggish from lack of use. The school work load is so intense that there is no free time at all to do digital art. Most images take a minimum of 14 – 30 hours. With this one, because I’ve become rusty, I struggled with every detail. I finally finished an hour ago.

Detailed View

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All Night I Rose and Fell As If In Water

July 6, 2007 at 6:28 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better

– Mary Oliver

Sometimes all it takes is a beautiful poem like this one to inspire me. After hearing this poem I sat down in the evening and worked all night on this image, finishing at 6 a.m. the following morning without any breaks. When I feel inspired, the pieces just come together so easily, seamlessly. Whereas when I begin a piece without being in ‘the zone’, I can often spend hours struggling on the smallest details. This poem is by far one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. It’s as though it is able to reach into the deepest part of my being, that part where no words exist, only deep primal feelings and yearnings. This poem somehow gives voice to that submerged inner place.

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Butterflies for Freedom

July 2, 2007 at 12:16 am (computer art, Digital Art) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A War Story

Piet Scholten and his wartime friend, Rene La Fleur used to paint butterflies on the walls of the barracks in the work camp where they were held during WW2, an expression of their yearning for freedom. Piet doesn’t like to talk about the war and the terrible things that happened during his internment. Years have passed, yet a flood of memories remain fresh and ever painful. To be taken away from his family, not knowing the fate of his wife and child, whether they would be able to survive was an anguish too horrible for words.

The work camp was in Norway, at the time occupied by the Germans. More than 100 men lived and slept together in one large barrack. Food was provided once per day, a bowl of soup. The men were always hungry. His friend, Rene had no shoes so Piet gave him an extra pair that he had with him. A deep friendship and loyalty developed between them, and they shared an intense desire to be reunited with their familes. Over time, the butterfly paintings spread throughout the barracks and marked their deep longing for freedom.

Piet Still Hears His Friend’s Voice

Their desire was eventually fulfilled. When the war finally ended, the work camps were shut down and the men were allowed to return to their respective countries. Piet returned to Holland. Rene returned to Rouan, France where his family had previously owned a hotel. When they were departing, Rene kept waving and shouting, “Au revoir Monsieur Pierre!!!!” Piet told Martine he still hears his friend’s voice from the day they departed. Upon returning home, Piet didn’t recognize his own child.

Piet is now 87 years old. He has never since heard from his friend Rene La Fleur. After hearing this story from her grandfather, Martine asked me if I would make a graphic that she could give to her grandfather to hang on his wall, with a butterfly representing his freedom. She told me that everyone in the family has images of butterflies that are hung on the walls of their homes. I was profoundly inspired by the story, and was happy to make this image for Martine, featuring her daughter, Danielle. When the image was finished, Martine told me it made her grandfather very happy. It now hangs on his wall.

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Lighting is a Critical

June 21, 2007 at 5:00 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Early this morning the sun was casting the most amazing light through the leaves of a very old stand of trees. Some leaves were glossy with shimmering silver undersides that appeared to dance in the play of light and shadows. Others were lush and broad. The rays shone through them, creating translucence. I was overcome by the most indescribable feeling and was reminded of one of my favorite paintings by Michael Sowa, entitled Kohler’s Pig (Autumn), where the leaves of the trees are being blown by an autumn wind, reflecting silver light on the upturned leaves. I have a framed print of this above my stove. Each time I look at it, I discover some new detail that I somehow missed before. The painting epitomizes the perfect interplay of light and shadows in art.

Painting by Michael Sowa entitled Kohler’s Pig (Autumn)

This morning when I saw before me such a similar scene, I felt my stomach muscles constrict with intense emotion. I wanted to stop what I was doing and sit right down to compose some digital art. But I was on my way to school, and had no choice but to forego the moment.

I intend to go there again with my digital camera to try to recapture that scene. It will likely prove elusive, because it was a particular combination of light and summer breeze, and morning mist still present on the leaves. The intensity of that scene confirmed a recent revelation. I’ve come to realize that the single most important factor in creating digital art is the placement of light and shadows. Together they create a duality, a yin and yang of contrast, tension, and excitement. They simultaneously oppose yet compliment one another. Without them, color remains flat and lifeless.

A Photoshop Secret Revealed

The secret to creating a simulation of light and shadows in Photoshop is to combine Blending Modes along with the use of Dodge and Burn Tools. Use sparingly. Lightly dab the image rather than using strokes. Pixels quickly become degraded unless the tool is used very lightly. The tool’s effects vary, depending whether highlights, mid-tones, or shadows are chosen in the Options Palette. Most often I choose highlights when using the Dodge tool, and midtones for the Burn tool. The effect can make a scene appear to take on a three-dimensional quality and the colors leap off the page.


This is one I made of Danielle, Martine’s daughter

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