(The cropped version is at the full working size for this picture, if you click through. I personally like that level, where you can see the brush strokes. YMMV.)
Why go through the effort of rendering a photo as a painting? (Especially a digital painting? Let's not go there today.) Well, aside from the pleasure of finding out that, yes, I can still do that, there are choices made by the hand and eye that are not made by a camera. I think the appeal of realistic art at least partially lies in the fact that each aspect of a painting, each reflection, highlight and shadow, had to be noticed. The artist has to go through the picture and sort out, at least subconsciously, how to place blobs of pigment to regenerate the picture. The picture is (if you're lucky) brought to some sense of the essence of how it is seen. Not simply reproduction, but concentration.
Or maybe I'm just making excuses to draw pictures of pretty ladies. I'm probably not the first one.
I thought, hey, maybe I should try a practice painting to do something different. Oh but first I need a sketch. An over-rendered sketch that I will have to check and correct over and over again because I'm really not that good at judging proportions correctly. Yeah, that's a great idea.
Today I read (again) Tim Akers' story "The Algorithm" in Interzone issue 213 (I think it was 213... maybe 212). I like the story, but I have to be honest, I didn't like the artwork. It was passable art (although really it looked a bit rushed, I thought). What I really didn't like, though, was that it seemed to give away too much of the story.
I suppose it could be argued that people won't know what the picture depicts until they get to that point in the story (I had read the story before I saw the artwork, so my opinion is suspect). But anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could quickly work up my image of a illustration for the story.
This is the result. I actually wanted to have the girl kissing or licking the cog, somehow making a more physical connection to it, but I couldn't get those images to work out. I also wanted her expression to be more... enigmatic... or threatening... or something. So, I'm not entirely happy with this image, but it's kinda OK, the day is over, and I've spent about four hours on this.
Sigh. Those colors looked better on the panel than they do on the CRT.
There are some pictures, a few, not that many really, that I scribble while working towards a concept, and never see the light of day. For good reason, really, as they generally have major problems. Still, it might be interesting, if you find that kind of thing interesting, which probably only I do, to try and connect this picture with later, more developed and hopefully better pictures that I might do. It won't be that hard, I bet.
OK, the lighting solution here is sub-optimal. I may need to add another light source or otherwise change things to make sure her face is clearer. Also, it's a bit muted. All those blues and grays. Comes from being restricted to night scenes, but I think I could mix it up a little.
Still, I take back everything bad I ever said about color. Light and shadow do wonders for the sense of depth in a picture. Maybe I won't be so impressed tomorrow, but it really seems to have added some pop. If only it will also work for the glass...
OK, the glass is driving me slowly mad. That's another hour of "inking" there. I've turned down the opacity of that layer in this image to simulate the color choice I expect to make. I also fooled around with some color before posting this, but, as usual, my first color experiments were not pretty.
Yeah, I think fooling with the color of the lines will do it. In fact, I may not need to reduce the contrast much at all. (I've gone a little too far in this test image, I think. And the line color is all purpley, too, at least on the CRT.)
So, what's happening here is that all those insane little pieces of glass are overwhelming everything and muddying up the picture. Now, I'm thinking it might be possible to deal with that in color. For example, the glass lines could be colored something low-contrast, to bring the figure back into focus. The other possibility I'm thinking about is cutting down on the size and number of fragments, maybe even restricting most of them to the right side of the picture. We'll see, which is one of the nice things about working in Photoshop.
Let me just say a couple of things. Stupid perspective. Stupid showers of fragmented glass.
The glass is roughed in here. I'll be going back over it with my OCD and trying to give the scene a nice frozen motion feel with lots of detail. Maybe I'll add some billowing curtains or something, with lots of complicated folds and stuff. Stupid ambition.
First, a warm up, drawn from photo reference fairly quickly.
Second, a rough for the "work" picture, which took much, much longer to get to this state. Part of it is there was no reference, of course, and the other part is, I didn't really know exactly what I wanted the picture to look like, so I ended up flailing about a lot.
120 minute drawing from a reference photo. As usual with an exercise, some things I like, and some things I wish I could fix. I'm getting better with values, I think, so this practice is doing what it was supposed to do.
I was worried, probably rightly so, that I haven't done much drawing from imagination lately. So I started doodling, and, after many, many false starts, drew this. I like it, actually. It's not perfect or overwhelming or anything, but it is a nice little picture.
Why yes, I do draw pictures of Asian women to the near exclusion of everything else. Why do you ask?
My internet connection at home is broken. Do not like.
Another picture drawn as an exercise last night. Some bits I like, but I've made her right arm too long from shoulder to elbow, I think. Makes it look a little wonky. Maybe I'll try and fix it later. Otherwise, though, a nice way to waste a couple of hours.
Today's educational moment: Humans don't have straight lines. They can be useful approximations, sometimes, but you'd be hard pressed to find a really straight line on a human body. The subtle curves can really make a difference, and they can be really hard to get right.
On the other hand, straightness can be visually useful, and it can show up in strange places.
I'd been staring at this in-progress picture for a while, and finally decided that I needed to go back and tighten up the sketch. The faces involved weren't right. I couldn't trust myself to fix them after the fact. So, here I am back with the sketch I thought I had left behind.
Right now, I'm very happy I went back. This is feeling a lot better now. The people shown might even slightly resemble the people they're supposed to. But that would be crazy, wouldn't it.
Another one of those strange pictures that I like better from a distance.
Obviously I should stop this "warmup" thing, or I'll never get the actual painting done.
Today's educational point: This was the first save, after (again) roughly 90 minutes, if I recall correctly. I continued to work on the picture for at least an hour after that, and, upon looking at the results, decided this was better. After a certain point, it's better to just stop (even though I'm not terribly happy about the picture either way).
The flat panel display on the laptop I'm using gives things a blue cast, while the large CRT I have at work gives things a yellow-green cast (that changes as it warms up-- yipee). End result is, the background colors that I laid down last night using the panel look pretty horrible on the CRT. I'll be doing some correcting there.
I'd be fooling around with them anyway, no doubt, but just a note about the risks of painting for monitor display.
Finally, maybe, hopefully, a sketch which I can get behind and get this picture done. I was going for a sort of western movie poster composition, centered on the lady. The easy way to make something look important: make it bigger than anything else!
The cowboy needs work, since he doesn't quite fit right (a bit pressed up against the side), but overall I quite like this. Here's hoping I can carry this one through, and it doesn't take a month like the last one.