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…..

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?

Too long without a Dinosaur

Ok, so this looks nothing like the chicken picture(or whatever the heck that thing was) that I said I was working on in that post below.
I decided to do a little side project with one of my favourite animals, Styracosaurus.
Previously king of the bizarre head gear, now ousted by such freaks as Diabloceratops and that emo fringe bearing Kosomoceratops. Someone had to give the old favourite some love.

So I thought I’d better give Styracosaurus some attention before returning to polar dinosaurs(oops, did I let that slip?). Ok, so it’s a bit of a cliche, the charging horned dinosaur, but I really do need to get it out of my system.

Work in progress. Working in the values. Colour to come later.

PS: if there are any passing palaeontologists let me know what you think of the anatomy!

Dead on Time WIP#3 (I am an Eeeeeeeeediot!)

EEDIOT! Of course I launched into this image in a typical gung-ho fashion and now I’m paying for it!

I decided the perspective would be easier if I actually had an idea what a super duper futuristic jet was supposed to look like! I know, basic stuff huh!?

So I did some rough sketching to at least get a silhouette  of a top down view based loosely on the game itself and some reference images of fighter planes I found on the net. Well Duh!

Here’s the result, it’s all pretty loose still and I want to keep it that way.

There was the other little matter of the final aspect ratio of the image needing to match the cover of the case! Ahem.

I’ve had fun erasing parts of the plane back to expose the ground colour too.

Still not totally happy, the fighter is looking like a static brick. Things might change!

The landscape is coming a bit easier, really just chucking in rock formations from some reference material. Nice to play with some blues in amongst all that orange rock too.

I’m a little concerned with output from Photoshop. Images that look fine in PS come out with more contrast when displayed in browsers etc. Gamma correction settings or something perhaps?

Hopefully I’ll get another update done before I go on holiday.

‘Dead on Time’ WIP #1

My friend Paul Kooistra has asked me to produce a cover for his new Retro Game ‘Dead on Time’.
I did a cover for his earlier release ‘Star Sabre’ which can be seen in the ‘recent artwork’ post below.
For those not in the know there’s a small but passionate bunch who produce new games for old computer systems like the Commodore 64 and in this case the Amstrad CPC. The games can be played on the old systems or on a modern PC using an emulator. They get a release online and sometimes on disk or even cassette tape! Here’s a screen shot from ‘Star Sabre’:

So for my first WIP post I thought I’d put up my initial concept, there’s a few things wrong, perspective is a bit out of whack on the fighter etc.
I’m trying to integrate my pictures better working holistically rather than working on isolated elements and not giving some parts of the composition the attention they need.
Where this goes will entirely depend on whether Paul likes the direction I’m going in, so this could be as far as this concept gets.

Feel free to comment on my composition, colours, perpective and all the rest!