Monday 18 May 2009

Art Monday: Migrations - final workflow

This is Part 2, Final Workflow.
Go to Part 1, Concepts.
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Recently, I noted to a colleague that it is virtually impossible to become an illustrator today and not have some phase of digital interpretation in your workflow. At the least, it passes through a jpeg phase on the way to publication.

It can go far beyond that. Although I may not be up to a fully-digital painting yet, I'm practicing and finding new ways to make use of my Wacom Intuos 3.

The Migrations blog banner for biologist-conservationist blo
gger Dan Rhoads came together thanks to oil and digital techniques. Here's how I arrived at the final based on this sketch, below.Dan had a couple of requests for this one, including making the branches olive branches, native to Cyprus where he resides. He had also sent me some gorgeous photos from the coast of Cyrus, so I tried to capture that brilliant blue light. Totally cool - these are the types of detail sharing sketches with someone bring out.

Began with the sketch of the Red Knot plover. Luckily,my grandmother-in-law recently gave me some birdwatching books, so I found additional resources at hand beyond Google image search and Wikipedia. If not for that, it would have been a trip to the library. Restricted myself to 8.5x11, the size of my scanner so I can easily bring things togetherBegan with the hand and arm sketch, using my own outstretched as a model. The fingers are exaggerated slightly to give a more dynamic feel.Printed the bird and hand out on canvas paper. In particular, I worried about getting the ruddy colour of the plover's neck and breast right. I don't know why I fret so much, most people's computer screens are calibrated slightly differently anyway. In the end, four different colour were used, for that orange-y red, including Naples Yellow Red & Cadmium Orange Hue.

Then the traveller's hand and arm. Added some scratches and pinky patches as though healed from a scrape. That's really what Flesh coloured paint is good for. It's far too pink for any human being.Painted the background in oil, which then eventually stuck to scanner and created a weird shadow effect in the middle. So I re-painted some areas of the water digitally in Photoshop. I also used Photoshop to punch up the greenish patch of water, the scan was too dark. Used a size of about 4"x12" to mimic the proportions of the final banner.Another trick for aspiring artists moving from to digital from traditional, is before scanning, take your darkest black paint (I use Lamp Black or Iron Oxide Black) and put an opaque stroke of it in one corner below the scan. Do the same with Titanium White. Then, in your imaging program, use the droppers found in Levels and click on those black and white blobs. This is the fastest way to colour-correct a piece. It will snap all the other colours to the right contract between those black and white blobs, making everything look much closer to your eye.

Even with Micron series brushes (love the one bent like a dental tool!) I had trouble rendering 4" high bushes of olive branches. I tried for a while, and then decided to paint a single branch to lay over top to give it recognizable leaves and olives. That branch took about 90 minutes from pencil to oil to give you an idea of my speed much of the time.
I still find it fascinating to note there is no final physical painting: it exists in my studio as four separate elements. This is a type of painting that a few years ago would not have occurred to me to do. However, it minimizes mistakes, and allows for some flexibility. If the client wishes for a particular element to be nudged to the left, or slightly larger, I have that ability on the major elements.Assembled in Photoshop, and overlayed the olive branch numerous times. I performed different effects to each one: flipping it horizontally, changing the scale, erasing parts of it, and adding slight drop shadows to a couple of them to give variation. I think in the end there are about five or six of them overlaying the green oil base.

Added the v-formation of birds at the approximate middle, nudged to the right a little because of how the eye sees the center with the olive branches dominating the left.

This banner was great fun, and thanks to Dan, I felt the visualization of the Mediterranean came through clearly. While painting this, I was mainly listening to the new Prodigy album, The Cranes, and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks.

Visit Dan's blog banner ensconced in its proper home!

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite: Art in Awe of Science
Copyright to Glendon Mellow under Creative Commons Licence.

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Sean Craven said...

I'm gonna have to try that black and white paint trick.

Here's a trick for you in exchange. You mention being limited by the size of your scanner. Photoshop now has a nifty way around that limitation.

Scan your large image in sections, each section having about a 20% overlap with another. Give your images similar titles distinguished by number -- migrations.001.psd, migrations.002.psd, etc.

Then go to File on the menu bar, then to Automate, then to Photomerge. Click on Photomerge and you'll get a window that will let you select your partial scans by clicking the Browse button. Once they're selected, click OK.

At that point Photoshop will tile your scans together perfectly.

Each partial scan is on a different layer in the finished composition, so if you find visible edges caused by different gray tones on the scans you can re-arrange the layers or use an airbrushed eraser or mask to perfect the final image.

Since I found out about this feature I've been using it a lot. I've even scanned in a couple of my old life drawings. It's really nifty.

Glendon Mellow said...

That sounds pretty awesome. I will have to try that, Sean. Enlarging the possible work would be great.

I'm looking forward to a new(er) computer over the next couple of months, and then Photoshop CS4. I checked, and I don't seem to have Photomerge on this old clunker.

This is something I look forward to. I plan on rubbing my hands together maniacally when I'm able to do this.

Thanks man!

traumador said...

i have a panarama piece of software (moderately small... might be transferrable via google) that might cover you in the meantime for merging multiple scans (though they have to be the same size... for some reason the program won't touch even slightly cropped pictures)

when you mentioned getting the bird's colour right i held my breath waiting for it... and wasn't disappointed... naples yellow LOL

Glendon Mellow said...

Of course naples yellow, Traumador! But naples yellow red is a bit different.

Thanks for the offer of the program, too. So far I think I'm okay. I am getting used to Gimp right now, and hope to get CS4 Photoshop in the next couple of months. It'll be nice to have something from this century.

Peter Bond said...

The banner looks great, Glendon! Love the colour of the Med... Reminds me of lying the days away in southern France and Greece.

This new way of creating art - digitally... Is it a shame there isn't a final piece you can touch and put up on the wall? I guess the touch of a button prints it out, but as an oil painter, don't you miss the texture and true colours?

What would Da Vinci have done with a scanner?

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Peter! Y'know, I have never been to Europe. *sigh*

I've read that some artists, like the excellent Jon Foster, paint in oil and manipulate digitally and print and paint can add a bit of extra paint to the "final" printout and be assured you have one true "original" fit for selling. So it is possible.

Da Vinci would have likely taken the whole scanner apart to see how it worked and then drawn all the pieces and worked on hypothesis for their mechanisms.

When that's completed, I believe he would have added it to a portrait of a noble couple to denote fertility and reproduction. ;-)

Smoothoperator said...

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Smoothoperator said...
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Posts over 14 days old have their comments held in moderation - I've been getting an unusual amount of spam for a guy who paints trilobites. I'll release it lickety-split though.

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