It’s been ages since I’ve created a piece of art for my myself. The joy of being able to allow the creation process to go in whatever direction it wants to take, not knowing what the end result will be is a very pleasant process. It is one of the most enjoyable things to do.
Between teaching and working on art for another children’s book. Always so busy that I rarely get time to just immerse myself into free form digital art. This piece took about 100 hours to complete. It is a combination of compositing and painting in Photoshop.
Painted in Illustrator then imported into Photoshop
Experimenting with Smart Objects
I created the woven mesh with Illustrator CS4’s blob brush tool, then applied multiple gradients. I overlapped the layers of this weave repeatedly, moving their position so that it created more of a tangled appearance. I recolored some of the layers using Live Color, altering the color order and saturation of colors to add depth. Then I simply selected these layers and copied them via the clipboard into Photoshop as Smart Objects and continued to manipulate them. I used a Mask created from duplicating the blue Channel of an image of a man. I then clicked on this new Channel in the Channels Panel and increased its contrast using Brightness/Contrast and Levels in order to Mask away portions of the woven texture to make it appear as though the man was constructed of this substance. I also painted directly onto this Channel Mask layer with Dodge and Burn and a paintbrush set to Overlay Blending Mode. This helps to add more contrast to the edges of the mask.
Afterwards I continued adding gradients to these layers in Photoshop, and dodged and burned onto the layers themselves. I also used the Liquify filter to tweak the effect.
Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr
Dragons of Asgard book cover design
Finished the book cover
There’s a great satisfaction finishing and delivering a piece of art. After labouring a long time then finally reaching the finish line, it’s like a marathon completed. I’m usually exhausted afterwards, needing time to replenish my creative energy. This book is currently being published and should be available to the public within 2 months. The author is Scott Waring, a writer and teacher currently living in Taiwan.
Combined with teaching and putting together the course lessons for an advanced combined Photoshop / Illustrator class that I’ll be teaching in April, and now overseeing student practicum placements and teaching Illustrator, I’ve had my hands full. But with computers come technical disruptions, which can waste huge chunks of valuable time and add a lot of stress worrying about lost data.
Computer Wouldn’t Boot
Today was one of those dreadful days. I’m not a techy person. This afternoon my computer suddenly wouldn’t boot. It gave me an error message “Reboot or Select Boot Device”, and even after numerous tries it wouldn’t reboot. For those of you who are tech savy you might be smiling, but for me this presented a major time-wasting hurdle. I searched pages of Google forums but could only find a few cryptic nuggets that addressed the issue.
I exhausted the few tricks in my limited arsenal, pressing F8 didn’t help, pressing Ctrl 4 no luck, then I finally saw some small “Del” in the bottom right hand corner of my screen, so tried pressing Delete. This took me to a Menu deep inside the bowels of my computer where I could only use the up and down arrows to scroll through unfriendly-looking tabs until I came to one that said “Boot”. I managed to reset the main Boot drive to my main hard drive. But that in itself was no easy feat because the main hard drive is referred to as PM-WDC WD1200 JB-00 in this menu. Now tell me people, who would have guessed that this number refers to a main hard drive?!! This set me back to Google, where I entered this string of numbers and finally saw something referring to it as a main hard drive.
I decided to live dangerously and try altering the settings to choose this as the main boot drive.
Thought I’d Lost My Data
During those 2 stressful hours I was making a mental note of all the data I’d lose if I couldn’t get the computer to reboot. Although I’d done a recent back up, I hadn’t backed up my Outlook emails where I have all my client and student correspondence including email addresses, correspondence with clients outlining job specs and criteria, plus a lot of other little gems that I’d stored, such as bookmarks to other artists’ websites, etc..
It was a huge relief when my computer finally booted properly. I’m telling this woeful story so that if another unfortunate soul googles those fateful keywords, they might stumble across my blog entry and find the solution. During my google search I saw many others pleading for help with the same issue.
Note to self … first thing tomorrow … must back up email and other miscellaneous gems 🙂
Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr
Detail of some art from the book
The Latest Childrens Book
My Super Someone and Sir Perfect Book images are finished and flattenme has launched it on their website http://www.flattenme.com The images are fun and whimsical, it was a lot of fun creating the scenes. There are 2 different versions, one for both children and adults (where customers insert their own faces and names into the books and enter a dedication at the front of the book so that the story becomes completely personalized). Here is a link to one of the versions: Sir Perfect
I’ve been so busy teaching Photoshop, this term I teach two classess back to back and am preparing for January when I’ll be teaching Illustrator. I’ve come to love it almost as much as Photoshop. It does some very amazing things with mathematical precision.
Now I will begin working on a book cover with 3 little dragons. I’m looking forward to this project because it allows me to explore my own natural style of art. I have to do some experimentation, might even use some elements from Illustrator to create the scales and repeated patterns on the dragons skin and tail.
Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr
I’m still working on illustrations for another children’s book using Photoshop. In my spare time I’m trying to master Illustrator. After working with beautiful organic pixels in Photoshop for so long, that do anything I ask, easily adding illusions such lighting and 3-dimension with the Dodge and Burn Tools or the use of Blending Modes. Illustrator on the other hand has blending modes, but when vectors are blended there is not the same subtle realism, so a lot of extra time is spent adding fake shadows and highlights. I find this a bit cumbersome, especially when the file becomes large and Illustrator’s screen redraw begins to choke. Whereas Photoshop CS4’s instantaneous Open GL is beyond amazing, it is worth every penny of the upgrade.
At the moment I’m experimenting, trying to become comfortable with the tools and effects. I love the way you can reflect and rotate while copying which makes creating repetitive shapes a breeze, and selecting and coloring multiple objects at the same time. I was able to create this mandala in minutes using these techniques. I afterwards saved it as a Symbol so that I can use it over again. It can be recolored in seconds using Illustrator’s recolor feature.
Vectors are amazing. I’ve repeated the mandala inside the mandala several times. Illustrator allows you to zoom in to 6000% !! which means I can keep repeating the mandala perfectly inside its center over and over again until I can’t zoom any further. If you look closely into the center, you will see the pattern repeat again and again. I also placed some typed messages that are so tiny it can’t be viewed until you zoom into about 1200% And it is completely crisp with perfect edges.
It can be a full time job learning software, especially since there are so many that I want to conquer: Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, After Effects, and then there’s keeping up with multi-platforms, XP, Vista, Tiger, Leopard … oh for the days of my youth when I actually had weekends to relax and romp …
Learning to draw in Illustrator has taught me a lot about the way my brain functions. Although I have no trouble with the pen tool, I can use it with ease, but I’ve discovered that if I “carve” out the shape using a combo of the Blob Brush Tool and Eraser, I can draw with more accuracy … like a sculptor who thinks in terms of contours and the surface, rather than “outlines”. ie: in the image below I drew thick blobby lines for the head and limbs, then carved out the contours of the body using the Eraser tool. I then went back afterwards and removed unwanted points and tweaked the body shape using the white arrow tool and the Simplify Paths function. Surprisingly easy (blob brush is new to Illustrator CS4). This image is still a work in progress. I’m not finished adding shadows and highlights to the body. Gradient mesh will not work on complex shapes with too many vector points so I have to experiment with a work around.
If you look closely you’ll see that I’ve superimposed the mandala from the first image over the bodice of the dress in this image. I’ve masked away the exterior using a “Clipping Mask” and blended it into the dress using “Overlay Blending Mode” which works exactly the same as in Photoshop. The floor was created by drawing with Pen Tool over a checkerboard shape that I created in Photoshop … for me it was easier to use Photoshop’s perspective transform tool, then simply place the image into Illustrator and trace over it, then delete the original. The clouds and door background is an imported jpeg.
Here is some fruit I created using the pen tool and Gradient Mesh to color them, created from scratch in Illustrator:
When it comes down to paths or pixels, for me pixels and Photoshop win hands down. But I now find myself jumping over to Illustrator to create bits and pieces that I import back to Photoshop to create various effects. Together they are dynamite!
New Media Web Development Program at BCIT
I’ve been extremely busy over the past few months, juggling a number of new projects, the highlight is teaching Photoshop at BCIT. Students are dedicated, full of enthusiasm, quickly absorbing the techniques, even advanced concepts. The culmination was their final poster project where several students had leapt forward in their skill level, eons ahead of where they had begun at the beginning of the course.
The art above is one that I created one evening when I was putting together a class lesson. I took a slight detour along the way. My only regret is that I didn’t create it in print resolution, the dimensions are for web. But I was just playing with ideas when suddenly a picture began to emerge. It’s far from my usual style. Perhaps I’ve been looking at too much Manga on Deviantart and that style crept into this piece, but it was refreshing doing something different.
I’m also working on another children’s book for Flattenme. It is a lot of fun, this time not only can children’s faces be inserted into the main character, but also there will be an adult man and woman version of the story. Very exciting !
Detail of Hex
This one took 4 days to create
Photoshop Crashed Again
I took a breather durng the card project to work on one for myself. It is so relaxing to begin working without any idea of what the theme would be. I start by just playing with background, piecing bits and pieces, then blending, manipulating until a mood and idea begins to emerge. I had no idea in the beginning that I would make a woman with a bird. Whereas, when I’m working for a client, with a specific theme, it’s much different. When I do art for myself, I just let my hand lead me, instead of forcing the art to comply with a specific idea. It is very relaxing … until …
At 3 a.m. after working for about 6 hours without saving, Photoshop crashed when I tried to distort an object that had a Mask applied plus was linked to several other layers with Masks on them. The Photoshop file was already more than 6 gigs! with about 70 layers, so the calculations for this distortion exceeded the available RAM, so down she went. I remember emitting a loud “NO !” (I hope I didn’t wake my neighbors) 🙂 There was nothing to do but to redo all that work. I had to redo most of the dress that I had painstakingly worked on for hours, had to redo the bird, the flowers and the woman’s chest and collarbone, which you might think is easy, but the small portion just below her neck alone had taken me more than an hour to complete.
You think I would have learned my lesson by now. Once I lost an entire day’s work when Photoshop crashed and since then I’ve gotten into the habit of saving more frequently. But when the files are 6 gigs unflattened, (169 MB as a flattened Tif), it actually takes 17 minutes for the file to save (I timed it). That’s the reason why when I’m in the ‘zone’, I hate to have to sit and twiddle my thumbs while the file saves. But I sure paid for it, I had to redo 6 hours of work. I was up until 9 a.m. finishing it up (and had worked day and night for 3 days before). This image took me 4 days and nights to complete.
The woman is made from too many pieces to count, ie: the eyelashes from one, irises from another, eyebrows from another, nose from another, hair from several, shoulders from another, and so on. I love this kind of challenge, creating things from bits and pieces. I made the dress in Photoshop, using tiny bits and pieces. I tried so many hand poses, and different birds, eventually settling on this little sparrow, comprised of 3 different images.
Dinosaur Card – Girl Version
The card project is almost complete, just one more card in this series to finish. Creating the dinosaur took about 3 days. The background took a lot of experimentation before a prehistoric fantasy atmosphere began to emerge. It was a lot of fun making this one.
Although the dinosaur is purely fantasy, I still spent time researching dinosaurs to get some idea of how the various sub-species bodies, feet, necks varied. There were were so many varieties, meat eaters, docile vegetarians. Some were huge and others were smaller, about the size of a cow, some even smaller. Although many bones have been discovered, there aren’t many preserved samples of skin textures and colors. Many of the reconstructed drawings are mere guesses. I used this to my advantage and decided to use lizard like scales and feet and give it a docile personality. I combined several bits and pieces of digital lizard and snakes skin to create the skin.
This card, like the others will soon be available from http://www.flattenme.com and are persnoalized for customers, where their children’s faces will be inserted into the card. There will also be a boy version, that I am still working on.
Dragon Lays Its Head In The Lap Of Princess Child
Here’s another card in the series, commissioned by FlattenMe. It went through numerous changes before arriving at this final version in the forest with castle in the background.
I created the first version inside the castle, in the bedroom, but amendments were requested. Here is the earlier version:
Earlier Version With Different Background
This card will be used as a birthday invitation for girls. After finishing the exterior image I created the inside, which will be personalized.
Hanukkah Card Final Version
This Is The Version That Flattenme.com Has Chosen For Their Card Series Series
Several Different Versions
This card took four days to complete and went through a number of changes before arriving at the final version. I am very curious to hear which one you prefer, regarding visual elements, colors or any other aspect.
I wanted to keep true to traditions so I first did some research on the internet to find out how the menorah is lit and to learn other facts about Hanukkah. I searched Google to see what other Hanukkah cards were available. I was surprised to find very few, mostly clip art images of menorahs and the Star Of David. I wasn’t able to find many ideas so I chose to focus on the menorah.
I was reluctant to add whimsical elements as I had done with the Christmas cards, where I weave an assortment of mice, birds and animals into the scenes. Hanukkah seems more traditional and I thought it was unlikely that mice prancing through the scene would be appropriate, so the challenge was to find a way to sweeten the image in subtle ways.
This Version Was Too “Christmasy”?
This Version’s Colors Weren’t Meshing
And here is the boy version of the same card. People who order the card will send a photo of their own child’s face which will be inserted into the card to personalize it, so most cards include boy and girl versions.
Boy Version of Hanukkah Card