Saturday, February 28, 2009

Digital Fantasy Painting part 7: Finished!

The lighting on his left leg was bothering me. With the sun at that angle, his right leg would be casting a shadow on his left so I painted it in. I added a curves and hue/saturation adjustment layer to make him pop just a little more. I moved to the background layer and adjusted the levels to a cool violet. Then I painted in the colors and clouds into the sunset.

I started in with the boulders, as the subject of this illustration is the idea of some kind of destroyer angel/demon being unleashed from a stone prison or cocoon in an explosive manner. Lots of loose brushing at various opacity, with some scatter brush texturing. I wanted to avoid using any photographic textures for this and keep it 100% Photoshop painting.

I took the layer with the smallest stones and ran a radial zoom blur filter at a value of 10, then took the medium-sized rocks and ran the same filter at 5. I really like the energy this motion blur gives to the painting.

I painted the shading and wrinkles on the (tunic, I guess?) and gave him a waistband with a kind of wizard-language gibberish written across it. I added some blue flames to his sword by painting a jagged shape of blue, burning and dodging it, then using Filter > Distort > Wave, and then Edit > Fade Wave at 50%. I did this several times, airbrush erased here and there, then set the layer blending mode to Linear Dodge (Add). After minor tweaks here and there, shuffling stones around and some color and level adjustments, I think I’ll call this one finished.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Digital Fantasy Painting part 6: Details and Effects

After some more futzing around with the deltoids and general torso area I started adding some detail. I realized I didn’t quite allow room for the sternum, so I separated the pectoral muscles and added the serrations. It is quite amazing to me how I can walk away from this for a while, come back and find something so obviously wrong.

I worked a little with texture brushes just to break up the smoothness and apply a more painterly style. I think I FINALLY have the anatomy in a pretty solid place. If not, screw it; I’ll get it right on the next painting; it’s time to move on and finish this thing.

I detailed the hair and more of the anatomy, refined the left foot (thanks Teresa), then I started adding some special effects; I wanted some sort of glowing rune etched into his chest, and gave him glowing eyes. I repainted the sword at an angle that works better than the old one.

I desaturated the background because it was bothering me a little and I wanted to make sure the values were good above all else.

Monday, February 23, 2009

3D Stereoscopic Test

I've been tasked with creating some marketing animations at work. We're trying out a 3D stereoscopic rendering technique for a particular client. I've been producing some test images and movies using a 3D anaglyph process of rendering a scene with 2 cameras and color processing each image in Photoshop. Here's a little test image I made today of a disintegrating teapot (Note: You will need a pair of red/blue 3D glasses to see it properly).

Friday, February 20, 2009

Exposure doesn't pay the bills.

I've been spending a lot of time on freelance websites lately, in particular, and I am baffled by the number of potential clients who want artwork but don't want to pay for it. I've seen several project postings asking for full-color, detailed illustrations and budgeting $250 for artwork for which any decent artist would charge at least $1000.

Here's a typical example of this sort of posting:

Hi, I’m creating a series of kids books for ages 3-7 and need a very talented artist...each book will have roughly 16 illustrations per book, and I’m talking about full spread large illustrations... [etc. blah blah] As you can see... I would certainly keep you busy full time job, so please give me your best pricing you can do. The pricing is extremely important for me as this is a high volume venture and I can’t afford a lot per illustration but on the other hand I need excellent quality. I need 50 books illustrators over next 2 months alone and then 1-2 per week which will eventually grow to 3 books per week. I look forward hearing from you.
In your response, let me know if it’s just you or if you have a team of artist and if so how many. Also how long will it take to do per illustration on the level I’ve given above and are there any styles you can’t do?

Estimated Budget: Not sure/Determined by bids

"I can't afford a lot per illustration but on the other hand I need excellent quality" seems to be the mantra among most of these clients. I realize the economy is in the toilet, but that doesn't change the fact that professionals ought to be paid appropriately for their services.

Another common phrase I encounter is "this will be great exposure for you". As far as I know, exposure doesn't keep the lights on. One of the first freelance jobs I got was designing a website for a local startup company: a secure off-site data storage facility. They bought an old underground Cold War-era government command bunker and converted it into huge rack space. Their concepts are security, isolation, and protection. The owner asked me if I'd be interested in creating some paintings for their facility; corporate art stuff. He told me that he couldn't pay me but it would be great exposure for me.

Great exposure?! You're an underground, impregnable fortress designed to keep people out! What the fuck is it going to be exposed to?! Fortunately I handled it more delicately than that. Footnote: for a complete 5-page html site, with layout and links, I got paid $150. This was long before I knew what I was doing.

Imagine this pitch: "I'm an entrepeneur with a small start-up company. We need a lawyer to help us draft an agreement with investors, one that would be specifically tailored to our needs. Unfortunately we can only afford to pay what amounts to $20/hour for attorney's fees, but we have a great product and it's going to be really popular and we're going to blow up and be the next and we promise to tell everyone we meet who our attorney is and you're going to get a ton of work from this." Any self-respecting attorney would laugh them out of the room. Why should artists be any different? We have a skill, and we've worked hard to develop it.

That's not to say I've never worked for free. Three years ago I submitted artwork for a contest held by Random House to have an illustration published in the paperback edition of the New York Times bestseller World War Z. The contest terms also stated $800 prize money. I won the contest, and was published, but they somehow forgot to send the $800. I contacted the publisher about this, and never got a response. At the time I didn't care much; I was just happy to be published in such a popular book. I figured the jobs would start rolling in, and they would more than make up for getting fucked out of $800.

Well, that didn't really happen. I did have a few people give me props on deviantart, but otherwise I haven't gotten any work as a direct result of that "exposure".

So from now on, when somebody offers to pay me with exposure, I literally start laughing. Especially now that I've become familiar with the notion of speculative, or "spec" work, which is the completion of a body of work with no guarantee of payment for said work, or even that the work itself will be used. Before I entered the World War Z contest I had never heard of spec work. Now that I've done some more reading on the subject, I'm almost ashamed of myself for entering the contest in the first place.

At any rate, spec work itself deserves another post, and perhaps I'll write more about it later (especially how it relates to my day job more each day). For now I'll just say that if you want art, bite the freaking bullet and pay for it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Digital Fantasy Painting part 5: Almost ready for detail

I decided I didn’t like the position of his right arm, so I bent it back a little and rotated the forearm up a notch so that the arm is in a more relaxed position, but still powerful. I thought his left upper arm looked a bit squat so I extended it some. More refinement of the shoulders and left elbow and started adding details and blending the open hand and face.

I haven’t had much of a chance to hit this painting all week since I’ve been tasked with busywork at my day job. Work is still slow so they’ve got me on marketing stuff, which is always hard or me to get motivated on, especially since I know we’re not getting paid for it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Digital Fantasy Painting part 4: Refining again and again

More work on the arms and neck; I just couldn’t nail down those deltoid muscles. I paused, took a step back and thought about anatomy basics; where does the muscle insert, and where does it wrap around? After some more re-evaluation I think the neck and shoulders are at a good point.

I’m really noodling on this guy’s anatomy (that’s what she said). I repositioned the left arm by extending the humerus and tilting it down a bit. I lengthened the torso a little, re-sculpted the abs and repainted the neck again. I’m doing a LOT of repainting to get this right. I’m pretty happy with the face at this point (see inset).

I’m discovering that painting skin tones at sunset is quite difficult. There’s a lot of subtlety in tonal variations, and it’s easy to go too far with shadows and highlights. Dropping the opacity of my paintbrush has given me more control. I also deepened the red hues in the skin.