I’ve been practicing my digital painting in Photoshop. Usually my art is made with bits and pieces of digital images but for this one I did the girl’s face, hair and body from scratch with painting. Afterwards I added some digital pieces to complete the background. But I’ve been wanting to spend more time mastering the brushes, especially all the new brushes in CS5. This one took about the same amount of time as the other method. I didn’t use any model or reference material so had to spend a lot of time really thinking about where the shadows, highlights and contours should be put down. But considering I haven’t spent a lot of time painting from scratch, I’m satisfied with this effort.
I created the hair by using a brush set to scatter and painted it using a Wacom tablet and the Art Pen that allows rotation, tilt and pen pressure. It would have been a lot more difficult or impossible to do it with a mouse. But I’m having a few problems with the stylus. When I set the brush to soft, it sometimes continues to lay down very sharp edged strokes. And with the mouse I can click and then shift / click to create a straight line, but when using the art pen the shift doesn’t respond the same way. A bit frustrating.
The reason I’m putting in the time is that I’m working on another children’s book that features a dragon. I’m used to doing single spreads of an animal / creature, but this is the first time that it will be repeated throughout all the pages, in different perspectives and poses. For some reason I ran into some difficulty creating one that I’d be able to recreate in all the varioius poses. I have to resort to a lot of painting from scratch, so I’ve been spending time practicing, trying to improve my skill level and get over the initial hurdle …
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 !!!
I just finished this digital art. It took about 4 days. I really enjoyed piecing together the character, who is comprised of so many bits and pieces of digital photos that in the end she becomes a purely fictional character. I really enjoy the challenge of creating someone who is entirely different from all of the components that go into making it. The eyes alone are comprised of 4 images, the hair from 3, the nose from 2 images (the bridge is from one photo and the bottom portion with nostrils from another). The mouth is from 2 separate images, then further changed wtih the Liquify Filter. The forehead is made from 2 images, the ears from another 2, the chin from another. The neck, shoulders and arms are from more than 8 separate images. The dress is made in Photoshop from tiny bits and pieces then molded into a new shape.
Close Up Details
Another Crash? — You Think I’d Learn By Now
I had worked on the dress for hours and lost track of the time. I was distorting (Edit / Transform / Distort) and rotating layers wtih Masks attached. Suddenly I got the dreaded message that there was insufficient RAM and Photoshop went down like the Titanic. I felt numb and exhausted. I couldn’t remember what stage I had last saved the PSB document, so I had to wait in suspense until the file reopened, to discover that the entire dress was lost and I had to rebuild it all over again. It was already late, so I decided to go to bed and redo it the next day. I’m not sure whether I prefer the earlier version or this final version … the first version had some very intricate details of lace. But I try to see the bright side, each time I redo something I get more practice in Photoshop.
I’m still using CS3. I bought CS4 but in order to install it, I have to do some major hard drive housekeeping and clear out a bunch of files because I’ve used almost the entire hard drive. I purchased the Creative Suite, Master Edition that has all Adobe programs including the video and sound applications. These will take up a lot of hard drive space to install.
2 Versions – I can’t decide which version I prefer
Wings or No Wings, That Is The Question
If you wait 9 seconds, the image above will alternate between 2 versions, one with wings and one without. I usually have no trouble choosing between various versions of art that I create, but this time I like both versions equally and can’t decide which one to choose. I’m hoping that viewers might let me know which they prefer. I look forward to hearing from you.
I made this digital art piece for my friend Martine of her daughter Danielle. I began wtih this face:
and added this image for the shoulders and general position of the body:
I afterwards added different arms from other photos. I created the dress in Photoshop, overlaying it over her blouse, then changing it using the Liquify Filter. To make the dress I combined bits and pieces of lace and ruffle samples and bits white folded fabric. I overlayed some images of flowers and random texture to create the patterns on the dress, using various Blending Modes such as Multiply and Screen. I cropped this bits and continued to overlap and rotate them until they formed an interesting pattern. The background and surrounding elements are created with numerous bits and pieces of leaves, trees, ground, water, lily pads, etc. I love creating backgrounds and clothing, and look forward to the challenge of trying to fit each intricate piece together. I also enjoy piecing together the main character and watching the scene develop before my eyes, taking on a life of its own.
Final Unflattened PSB File 3.5 Gigs!
While working on the unflattened Photoshop file, it ballooned up to 7 gigs before saving. I learned awhile back that Photoshop’s PSD format only allows a maximum of 2 gigs to be saved, so I have gotten into the habit of saving in the large PSB format. The final unflattened file of this digital art piece is 3.5 gigs.
At one point I went to save the document and got a message that there was insufficient space on my drive. I have a terabyte of space on this D drive of my computer, so I was very surprised. When I checked, there was only 3 gigs remaining! This was due to the other project I recently finished, of the children’s book. The project consisted of 35 large PSB files and an equal number of smaller PSD files of each image spread. This took up a whopping 38 gigs just for that one project. So in order to be able to save this new art piece I had to shuffle a bunch of files over to my C drive that still had some space.
This image took about 4 days in total, not certain the total number of hours, somewhere around 45 hours. The little alternating gif animation is low res. Once I figure out which version is preferred, I will upload a good quality jpeg.
I made this animation from the Toad I created for the book
I’ve been living like a hermit for the past month, working day and night on a new series of digital art images for another children’s book for the same company as The Tuesday Mushroom King, commissioned by www.flattenme.com I am averaging an image every 3 days plus an additional day to complete the alternate boy/girl version. Normally I need to take some time between digital art pieces to replenish my creative energy and let new ideas formulate and marinate. But timelines for this project are much tighter and in order to meet the final deadline I have to work on images back to back. This has been both challenging and at the same time enlightening because it has taught me a lot about my own creative processes. Now I know for future projects how to best stimulate my creative juices and to work most effectively.
This story is about children who live under the ocean and frolic with fishes and seahorses. Their bodies are half human, half fish. Very sweet concept. Like the previous book, people will be able to send images of their own child which is inserted onto the main character’s throughout the book, and the child’s name is also inserted throughout the book as the main character, to make it a very personalized gift for a child. There is also a page at the beginning of the book with a personalized dedication from the person giving the book to the child. A really delightful idea from the people at Flattenme, who have a whole series of children’s books available.
It took me some time to design the toad, who plays a main role in the book. I created him combining realistic images combined with fantasy art that I conjure using Photoshop. Many of the other characters like the seahorses, octopus, etc., are melded with reality overlapped with fantasy.
I have just three more images to complete, and the book be available shortly after August.
I worked on this image for 4 days. It took more than 50 hours in total, longer than most because I had to build the dragon piece by piece. I composited digital images of iguanas, a monitor lizard, crocodile, and even some giraffe fur samples for the dappled effect on the wings. The fox is also comprised of many different pieces. I built several different backgrounds and foregrounds until I was finally satisfied with this version. I love building backgrounds and spend hours adusting and tweaking even the smallest bits of foliage. This one is made of at least 40 or more images.
People have asked me how I extract the tree leaves against the sky. The method I often use is a combination of contast and Blending Modes. For the dark leaves I first adusted the image’s Levels and Curves, maximizing contrast. Then I overlayed the image using the Multiply Blending Mode.
This piece is made for my friend Martine, of her daughter, Danielle.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Ah … The World Is But A Dream
I’ve had 10 days off from school, a vacation … but have spent most of my time pouring over Actionscript 3 tutorials. I was maybe a bit overly optimistic, thinking that with leisure time to concentrate I would easily grasp the concepts and syntax … wrong! I’m not sure why it just isn’t sticking to my brain. All those variables, functions, event handlers, curly brackets, square brackets for arrays, quotation marks around strings, trace statements … all rolling around in my brain from morning to night, but somehow all the bits and pieces just don’t seem to coalesce into a whole. It’s a bit of a nightmare because I absolutely love Flash, as much as I love Photoshop and I’m determined to learn it.
In fact, it is my New Year’s resolution for 2008.
I WILL LEARN Flash Actionscript 3, do or die …. 🙂
The past few days and nights I’ve spent working on this latest digital art piece. I worked during the day, then stayed up all night until, can you believe, 12 noon the following day before dropping into bed. Then the following day I did the same thing, working many hours during the day then again all night long, until finally finishing it at 5:30 a.m the following morning. I mustn’t have realized how tired I was because I somehow managed to save a flattened version overtop of my layered PSD file, which I always like to keep for future reference or touch ups. I don’t know how my fingers managed to slip on the keys, pressing CMD/S instead of Save As , but I only realized what I’d done after I closed Photoshop, so I was unable to recover the layered PSD. I just shrugged my shoulders and went to bed.
At Least it’s Better Than Losing the Entire File by Neglecting to Save
This actually happened when I was making Farewell to Summer (ok, I admit, it also happened in the early stages of this one too, but I hadn’t yet fully formed the character, so it was no major catastrophe). When I’m in ‘the zone’, I’m in such a state of concentration that such little niggling details are the farthest thing from my mind. Especially when my file balloons to over 2 gigs, and I have to sit and twiddle my thumbs while the progress bar crawls for several minutes and my creative mood dwindles. But after the first little scare I meticulously saved every 20 minutes.
Well it’s back to the Actionscript tutorials for me. It’s 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. While others are raising their glasses to toast the New Year, I’ll be muddling through stacks of code.
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.
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.
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.