Bellubrunnus Work in Progress Animation.

Apologies for the lack of updates, I’ve been really busy in the background on various projects. Here’s a work in progress animation of the Bellubrunnus painting.

In retrospect I should have spent more time on the composition, it really could have used another animal in there for example.

Anyway, enjoy another peek at my scattalogical process!

Listen to the Impartial…

A while back I pointed out the importance of listening to the scientist when making scientific illustration, they know their stuff, it’s their job. It’s also important to listen to a trusted friend or two, someone who brings a fresh pair of eyes, preferably they haven’t had contact with the artwork before.. You may not always like what they have to say, but if you’re making visual communication like art or illustration then having a small sample audience can give you an idea if your message is getting across. It’ll become clear very quickly when something doesn’t ‘read right’.

One of the benefits of marriage is you get a convenient audience/viewer/victim to show artwork to. I’m lucky in that Sanja, though now the best book keeper in Tasmania, used to do a fair bit of art herself. I’m also lucky that when it comes to saying stuff about my work, Sanja will just come out with something that strikes her as wrong, usually starting tactfully with “Is that supposed to be…”.

At that point I’ll usually roll my eyes in exasperation, knowing that Sanja has pointed out a critical aspect of the work that I’ve overlooked, knew I could have done better or just plain fluffed.

So with Sanja’s comment on my last post in mind I’ve adjusted the sail on the Spinosaur, which I knew wasn’t right but needed that impartial eye to sort drive it home. Here’s a little update to show the new angle, with the ‘undercoat’ exposed to see just how much the thing has shifted!

For those without a trusted feedback person, you can go far doing a few tricks that allow you to see your work in a different light.

Horizontal Flipping of the image often fools the brain into thinking it’s seeing something new. In software this is pretty easy, in the real world use a mirror to view your artwork(an old trick). It’s pretty amazing how composition issues suddenly appear!

Desaturation really helps sort out your values. I use an adjustment layer in Photoshop which I can just turn on and off to see a black and white version of my painting so I can make sure I’m using a full range of values.

The Old Squint Test, yup, narrow your eyes and look through your lashes. This obscures detail and makes the values and composition much more important to reading the image.

Take a step back. Yep, you can literally and figuratively get too close to what you’re doing. Getting stuck into the rewarding stuff like detail too early can lead to overlooking your main masses, values and composition. In software zoom out and make the image a thumbnail. Does it still ‘read’ well? Zooming out of the image allows you to assess perspective more effectively too.

Even better, take a step away from your monitor/canvas/paper, walk around the room, have a 30 minute break and come back. Does the image still work?

Experienced visual communicators will be pretty familiar with these techniques, and likely have even more to draw upon. Check out David Maas’ blog for a look at how a real pro dismembers an artwork in truly analytical fashion.

Now I just need a palaeontologist to come along and tell me the spine didn’t have that much flexibility…..

Lazy Afternoon

Having a lazy afternoon here as the temperature scales the dizzy heights(for Hobart) of 30C degrees. Nice excuse to stay indoors until the sun drops low enough to get out the sprinkler and go berserk with the kids in the back yard.

Also a nice excuse to get the sketch book out and do a thumbnail of a Spinosaurus having a lazy afternoon lunch!

Based on the new skeletal reconstruction by Scott Hartman who took advice from Andre Cau and Jamie Headden. Most notable is the length of the sail, which now goes well down the tail.

I’m pretty sure there are some proportions out of whack, and the posture surely brings into question the flexibility of the spine and hips, as well as the volumes going through the torso.

I’d like to do more with this initial image, though it’ll have to join the queue forming of ‘stuff I want to do’ and paid work!

Sketchbook: Muttaburrasaurus, is it cold in here?… and what the?

One of the benefits of rendering in 3D/AE is it gives you a little time to scrawl on your notepad while the computer makes a pretty picture. So I scrawled a Muttaburrasaurus.

I’ve been gestating this idea for a very long time and hope it’ll be an updated version of this physical painting… uh, eventually. Why is he fluffy? The highly scientific and evidence based reason that “it’s cold”.

And what the heck is this? Not a dinosaur…….?

..and what has it got to do with steampunk monkeys?

Chinese Dragon spotted in the Mountains of Tasmania

Hi, just a quick post with a couple of frames from a test animation of the Chinese Dragon flying over Mt. Cameron in the North of Tasmania. The original photo was taken by Julie Martin who’s also running the project.

I was hoping to add some camera movement to the shot but time restrictions and tight framing of the original photo conspired to make it static except for a bit of camera shake as the dragon flies over. Instead I made sure the Dragon cast shadows on the mountain, a bit more important selling the shot.

I did have time to cut out and paint in some extra sky so I could make the clouds move, which for some reason I found really fun.. go figure. All the preparation work paid off as I turned the shot around in a day, nice.

So, animated in PMG Messiah, rendered in Lightwave and final processing in After Effects. Matte work in Photoshop.

Stay tuned, soon another episode of the adventures of Prehistoric TV Reconstruction Kitteh.

Chinese Dragon #5: How to Train(Rig) Your Dragon

After the absolute mayhem of last week when the prehistoric kitteh picture went viral and I got more hits on the blog in a single day than I usually get in a month, it’s back to semi mundane topics like the ongoing Chinese Dragon.

As I’m in animation with it at the moment with a tight deadline it’s just a quick post with the basics of the Chinese Dragon rig in Messiah.

The spine runs along a spline IK path, which I can add points to as needed.

I’m a bit of a ‘meat and potatoes’ rigger, so I’m happy for any advice Messiah rigging experts might have to make giant wiggly things move around conveniently.

Messiah seems to struggle a little with this guy as he’s pretty big, 35 meters long.

Chinese Dragon #3: ZBrush UV Mapping, do as I say not as I do…Msp

I looked at a couple of different ways to UV map the Chinese Dragon, though I was pretty keen to use ZBrush’s native mapper as I’d heard good things about it and I was keen to just get on with it.

The up side is it produces virtually distortion free UV maps at the push of a button, letting you get on with the artistic stuff.

The down side of this is that it produces maps that are difficult to work out if you want to edit them in Photoshop, with very few contiguous bits for easy painting. They look a little something like this:

Yup, blocky blockness! It’s great for use in ZBrush, where you don’t work directly with it at all really, not so hot if you want to tweak somewhere else.

The other thing you might notice is there’s a fair bit of empty space. ZBrush does its best to optimize, but when you’re making a very large map(4096 pixels square) every pixel counts. Especially if your dragon is 35m long and will have close ups!

ZBrush Tip: It’s worthwhile exporting your model with it’s new UV Map to see if you can make better use of the map real estate in your destination software before starting to sculpt in ZBrush.(even if I didn’t, *you* should!)

ZBrush also has a plugin UV mapper called UV Master which offers some very nice features, the standout being the ability to paint directly onto you model to define map regions and areas of higher detail. It’s also artist friendly in that the maps it produces are more recognisable. I gave it a spin for the mapping of my Dragon’s horns and even with the default settings gave quite nice results.