Saturday, April 19, 2014

Photoshop Brushes

My personal brush library, of which I really only use 3.

If you ask any digital artist, what is the single most annoying question they hear all the time? Most of them will probably tell you the same... "What brushes do you use?"

It's inevitable. Students are always looking for that 'secret ingredient' that is going to suddenly make their art great. And although the right tools DO make a massive difference, the truth is, the real secret ingredient is simply hard work.

Still, no matter your medium, the same old questions always come up... What brushes do you use? What surface do you paint on? What kind of pencil do you use?

Now, this is not to say that a student shouldn't ask these questions. They should! You should always be inquisitive! But that inquisitiveness should encompass an interest in ALL your potential mediums. Rather than ask an artist what type of paint they use, and then simply use that paint for no good reason other than imitation, why not try every brand of paint you can get your hands on and then decide for yourself which one YOU like best?

These issues seems to be particularly prevalent amongst digital artists. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that everyone is working with the same tools, so finding a brush that makes your work look unique is all the more important. Whatever it is, the question (no matter how annoying) is an incredibly valid one.

Fortunately, there is a website that answers that question for you!

Digital Brushes is a Tumblr that has collected all the digital brush packs they can find in one place. It's a incredibly wonderful resource for digital artists, and I've downloaded a LOT of them myself.

For those of you that work digitally, I encourage you to really scour these brush packs. Try them all out, find which ones work best for you, and then modify them to suit your own personal needs. Or better yet, figure out how they work, and then make your own!

Perhaps the next time you hear the question 'What brushes do you use?', it will be some student asking YOU.

For loads of brush packs, visit: http://digitalbrushes.tumblr.com/ 






Friday, April 18, 2014

Process to the People: Part 2



My post today is the second half of my entry from two weeks ago.  If you didn't read that post, or would like to refer back to it, here is the link - Process to the People: Part 1.  My goal in the first half was the show how the predominant artistic tradition over the last several centuries and through the Golden Age of Illustration followed a specific process.  Also, I hoped to show how changing your process can potentially improve your final results.

For this half of the post, I am going to show my steps for a recent painting, applying some of the traditional steps but also using some modern tech to possibly add efficiency.  I want to reiterate that this is just one approach.  I find it intriguing because it was used by nearly every artist of the past that I admire.  It is where I want to go with my work.  That may change, but for the last 7 years or so it has been my focus.  It doesn't mean it is the only way to get the results you are after.  There are some incredible artists today that start right on the canvas, designing as they go.  So, with that in mind, take from this post what you think might help your process and not as an indictment against any other approach.

As a quick recap, the process used to go from idea to final was this:

1: Thumbnail sketches
2: Detailed sketch
3: Studies from life (or photography)
4: Value/color sketch
5: Study of head/hands/feet/fabric/difficult passages
6: Full sized cartoon
7: Final painting

A few years ago, I was approached to do a series of religious paintings.  The commission was enough that I could really focus on the images, take my time and develop the work.  I decided that I was going to proceed with the above steps, but also use what I had learned using the computer as a tool.  So, as you will see I adjusted the process, changing some of the steps.  I am still in the middle of my experiment so I can't say if it is an advancement, just different, or step back from tradition.  We will see!

1.  I started with thumbnails as usual.  I did 20-30, but here are a few to give you an idea.  Just a minute or so on each one.  Investing a half an hour at this stage is small, but with a huge return.  I went through a lot of ideas.  Most of you probably do many thumbnails, but if you don't, force yourself to do more than you think is necessary.  The purpose of this step is to possibly find new ideas and refine your vision.



2. Detailed sketch - Still from imagination, really just a more developed thumbnail.  The purpose of this step is to direct you when posing your model, gathering reference and determining other details for the final.  Still a rough drawing, but enough information to get you moving forward with some confidence.



3. Life/Photography and 3D model if needed - At this point I had to decide, do I paint from life, or work from photography?  If possible, I would paint from life, but often it is not an option for the model or budget.  I would rather have the right model for a specific piece and use photography than find someone who isn't quite right who could pose and have to compromise.

I have invested a fair bit of time into learning better photography skills (though these photos do not show it particularly well).  Not from an artistic standpoint, but from a technical standpoint.  If you are going to use photography and take the images yourself, learn how to really use your camera.  Decide that you are going to become and expert and invest the time or hire someone who has.  I fuzzed out the face of the model, because in the model agreement (always good to have one signed) I didn't have the rights to publish her likeness from the photo.  I don't think she would mind, but good to follow the agreement.


When I do a photo shoot, I usually proceed with this mindset:

1 - Try to capture the whole figure at once
2 - Focus just on the facial expression, don't worry about the whole
3 - Focus just on the hands
4 - Feet
5 - Fabric

By the time I was done with this shoot, I had 200 or so shots that I was able to choose the best elements from.


I have also used 3D models to help establish some forms.  My preference is Blender.  It is free and plenty powerful enough to do all that I need it for.  It is a great tool.

Photo reference for textures and scenes is important too.  When I go on vacation, I become *that* guy with my camera.  Camera always up to my eye, snapping pictures of the most mundane things.  In France, I took 4500 pictures, only 20 or so had me or my wife in them...  the rest were of trees, rocks, walls, doors, buildings, plants....  Same with Italy, though I was sure to get a few more with family in them!


Ground reference


Plant reference


Texture reference for the well


4. Value/color sketch/studies/full-sized cartoon - If you are comparing my process to the one listed at the first of the article, you will see that I am combining several steps into one here.  Here is where my digital background is coming into play.  I painted a finished version of my piece on the computer.  This let me work out all the values, colors and detail that I wanted in the final.  It also provided me with the chance to do studies of the hands, head, feet and fabric.  It also provides me with a full sized cartoon.  All in one piece.

When the file was done, I sent it off to a blueprinter and had it printed at the final size.  The prints are rough, black and white, but only cost $2 for a 34" x 50" print.  Very cheap.  I used this print to transfer the drawing to the canvas and then inked the drawing with india ink and a brush.  It is a very fast method to get your image onto the canvas.  There are other great ways too.  I will comment on that later in the post.


Once I have this image, I take advantage of the tech at my fingertips and try some different color ideas.  Even if I am pretty certain, I always shift the temperatures around, or change colors completely.  Why not?  It is fast and I learn a lot about color relationships, even if I don't go with the changes.  I actually do this every time I finish a piece.  I spend a few minutes trying out different color schemes.  It is a great way to explore color!


Maybe some different costume colors too


I think I know what I want, so on to the oil painting!

5. Final painting steps


Early progress shot.  You can see the transfer lines, inked over with india ink.


A little more progress.  Color wash on the whole lower piece, face is nearing completion.

Upper two thirds are done, just the feet and ground to do.  Almost there!


Living Water - 34" x 50" oil on linen

I also decided to build the frame for the painting. :)



Conclusion - I definitely feel that all the work before starting the final was worth it.  I have more years under my belt working digitally than traditionally, so there are aspects of the digital version that I probably pulled off better, but overall, I feel that the final oil painting is the strongest, especially in person.  I am still finding out if substituting the digital study for traditional is an improvement.  My mind tells me it is, but there is a nostalgic, even romantic side of me that wants to do those steps with just like the old masters did.

For my most recent paintings, I haven't printed out the large print to transfer the drawing (like I mentioned in step 4), but have done a grid and scaled up my digital painting by hand.  I find that I like the direct interface with my drawing at this stage.  I add in little touches that are interesting that I miss when transferring the drawing like I did with this piece.  I might make a conscious effort on my my next painting to combine the two, transferring big shapes and free handing the details.  We will see.

I don't think I will give up tubed paint or my digital camera as a tool, but look for a future post where I work without my digital toolset and create everything with a traditional approach.

Experience will tell.  I am sure that I will refine my process along the way, and will post results when I think they are informative.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Last step - onto the next painting.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Artists' Favorite Quotes on Art, The Universe, and Everything


-By Lauren Panepinto


I've been having kind of a rough week. Feeling overwhelmed, defeated, incapable, and just all-around un-awesome. It happens to everyone—and we all have our own personal ways of shaking it off and inspiring ourselves again. If you've had a chance to see one of my sketchbooks, you know I always copy a few pages of my favorite quotes in the front. It's not only good to copy them by hand every time and really etch them into my brain, it's also a great reference for days I need a quick injection of inspiration. I'm going to include some pics of pages out of various sketchbooks...don't judge, I do a lot of doodling in meetings...
Since this is Muddy Colors, I wanted to focus the list on quotes about Art...and then I realized there's a hell of a lot of quotes about Art that are really just about Life, and vice versa. I knew I wasn't the only quote-a-phile out there, so I reached out to some other artists to see what quotes they keep close to their heart. I think it tells you a lot about a person. And now I've got a whole new treasure trove of inspiration for the next time I land in the dumps. Enjoy!  Thank you to everyone who contributed to this list. And feel free to add your favorites in the comments!
Some of my favorites: "The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, 
but on building the new." — Socrates

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." — Mark Twain
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are stronger in the broken places." 
— Ernest Hemingway "Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else." 
— Judy Garland "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." 
— Anaïs Nin "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." 
— Friedrich Nietzsche

"If you're going through hell, keep going." —Winston Churchill

"Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation." — Aristotle

"You become who you pretend to be." — Kurt Vonngegut

"I don't know where I'm going from here but I promise it won't be boring." — David Bowie

"I'd rather be someone's shot of whisky than everyone's cup of tea" — ?

"A ship in the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for." — William G. T. Shedd

"We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy." — Joseph Campbell Julie Bell: Here are some of my favorites.  While they might not seem like they are "about art", they are exactly about art to me: "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an 
obligation to be one." — Eleanor Roosevelt "The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, 
But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night." 
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The problems of this world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose 
horizons are limited by the obvious realities.  We need men who can dream of things 
that never were." — JFK "All the knowledge I possess everyone can acquire, but my heart is all my own." — Goethe "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart...Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." — Carl Jung "Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."
— Oscar Wilde "We'll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not." 
— Old Farmer's Almanac Dave Palumbo: "What is to give light must endure burning" — Viktor E. Frankl


Travis Lewis:
"I'm never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination." 
— Walt Disney "Do whatever you do so well that they'll want to see it again, and bring their friends."  
— Walt Disney "The way to get started is to quit talking, and start doing." — Walt Disney "I don't make pictures just to make money. I make money so I can make more pictures." 
— Walt Disney Arnie Fenner already did a great Muddy Colors post a few years back on this, so check it out. And he added a few more: "If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." – Edward Hopper "Knowing what to take out and what to leave in is what separates the men from the boys." 
– Frank Frazetta "Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing – then a work of art might happen." – Andrew Wyeth And, to preserve his reputation, he added: "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!" – John McClaine Lars Grant-West: Here are some of my favorites - all from Robert Henri, who wrote The Art Spirit. Someone made me read it at SVA, and it's been one of those things I have to open and read a few pages out of whenever my eye hits it. “The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”  “We must realize that artists are not in competition with each other. Help the young artists—find for them means to make their financial ways easier, that they may develop and fruit their fullest—but let us not ask them to please us in doing it.” “An artist must have imagination. An artist who does not use his imagination is a mechanic.”


This Huxley quote always goes on the very first page of my sketchbooks...
  Donato: "Do or do not, there is no try." —Yoda* "I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will." 
— Eugene Delacroix Randy Gallegos: This first one is notable because my first business card out of college was a folding card, with an extended quote screened back behind the relevant info: "To speak of these things and to try to understand their nature, and having understood it, to try slowly and humbly and constantly to express, to press out again, from the gross earth or what it brings forth, from sound and shape and color which are the prison gates of our soul, an image of beauty we have come to understand--that is art." 
— James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (And then I went on to paint goblins and the undead in the greatest example of aesthetic incongruity) More recent (in my life anyway), is this one:
"A scream may attract attention, but then passes on. A whisper, if it attracts, retains." 
— Herbert Draper  Rebecca Guay (copied this from a recent Facebook post): "He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is 
a craftsman. He who works with his head and his head and his heart is an artist." 
— St. Francis of Assissi


I know this is from Steve Jobs, but not sure if he was the first to say it



"I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine 
o'clock sharp." — Somerset Maugham Scott Brundage: "The most important drawing is the next one"  
— heard it from Steve Brodner, not sure if it is originally his. Eric Fortune: "I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living."
— Robert Henri Gregory Titus: "If I'd have asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." 
— Henry Ford Kristina Carroll sent a whole word document full! (Woman after my own heart): “There are no bad ideas, only good ideas that go horribly wrong.” – Jack Donoughy “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” ― Robert Hughes "I don't think there's any artist of any value who doesn't doubt what they're doing." — Francis Ford Coppola It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. — Lena Horne “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” 
― Pablo Picasso "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." — Wayne Gretzky “When things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman “Parameters are the things you bounce off to create art.”
― Neil Gaiman You won’t find your style. If you are authentic to who you are, your style finds you. 
– Greg Manchess “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short;  
but in setting our aim too low, and achieving  our mark.” – Michelangelo “If people knew how hard I had to work to  gain my mastery, it would not seem so  
wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo "You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." — Jack London


Toni Foti: "Don't let mistakes leave the kitchen" — Gordon Ramsey "Don't try to develop style. Ignore style. Just concentrate on drawing and style will just occur." — Richard Williams “Don't wish for "secrets" of the masters, either. There are none worth fooling with. 
They had no special mediums or paints, nor special brushes that made their work great." — Richard Schmid
Kari Christensen: Hearing Greg Manchess saying "take a risk" probably a hundred times has been such good advice. It has helped me go from being stuck and wishing I could go in a certain direction with my work to taking jumps (or sometimes careful steps) into the unknown and making that path happen. The second is "Kill your darlings". It's so easy to get attached to a certain element of a piece, but it is not what the whole composition needs. It's been attributed to everyone from Faulkner to lesser known author named Arthur Quiller-Couch. Noah Bradley: "Work always as if you were a master, expect from yourself a masterpiece." — Robert Henri "A success is one who decided to succeed and worked. A failure is one who decided to succeed and wished." — Wm. A. Ward


Sara K. Diesel: “Do not fear mistakes — there are none.” — Miles David “The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
— Robert Henri  “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything 
self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” 
— Ray Bradbury 
"If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." — Thomas A. Edison
"I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit – I try to put the shit in the wastebasket." — Ernest Hemingway
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." — Joseph Chilton Pearce
"If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. 
And guess what they have planned for you? Not much." — Jim Rohn
"Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere."
— Carl Sagan
"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will" — Karim Seddik Lauren K. Cannon: "Talent is for sissies!" — Greg Manchess So, in summation, we've learned we should probably all get a copy of Robert Henri's The Art Spirit if we don't already have one. And Greg Manchess has to be careful what he says late nights at IMC, because everyone is taking notes, ha.

And again, thanks to all the artists and friends who respond so quickly to my "Eep need help with a Muddy Colors post" emails. Love you guys. * Extra credit for geek quotes. And if you want more geeky quotes that relate to art, check out my post on procrastination, illustrated with Dune quotes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Outer Limits

The avian alien of "Second Chance"

Greg Manchess

The original, fabulous old TV show, The Outer Limits is 50 years old. My favorite of all those productions, it was shot in black and white, and didn’t affect any of my fascination with a show that was primarily science fiction stories every week.

Lately, Creature Features in Los Angeles celebrated those years with an exhibition and invited artists to participate. I caught word at the last minute, and had to paint something. The attraction was too strong.

The only difficult decision was deciding whether to paint in black and white or color. Since I had no idea what the color of some of the characters were in the show, I just made it up, thinking of these as a series of 12"x12" paintings.

The man of super intelligence from"The Sixth Finger"

One of my favorite episodes was “The Sixth Finger,” starring David McCallum of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. fame. A man of average intelligence is advanced into the future, his brain developing at an alarming rate, and uses the power of his superior mind to manipulate the now primitive world he sees around him.

“Second Chance,” starring Simon Oakland, is about an amusement park ride pretending a trip into outer space. Oakland plays an avian-like alien that has turned the ride into a real one. First time I realized the vacuum of space will kill you instantly.

“The Bellero Shield” starring Martin Landau, featured the most gentle, and wise, alien. I was affected by the creature’s benevolence in a violent situation. And everyone could use a Bellero Shield.

The alien of "The Bellero Shield"

These were so much fun to re-watch and then paint. If you’ve never seen the show, forgive it for it’s limited budget FX, but praise it for the stories and serious make-believe.

Other favorite shows include: two Martians that come to Earth to study a murder by slowing it down with a time-dilator; a down-and-out human is changed into an alien to spy on crash landed aliens; a pilot is thrown forward into time by only a couple minutes and must get back; two soldiers of the future cross time to fight it out in our present time (the story was the basis for Terminator, and written by Harlan Ellison).

The Outer Limits exhibit has just closed. But check out the other shows that Creature Features has coming up this year. Contact them and see if you can submit. This year they’ll celebrate with shows on Godzilla, and the Planet of the Apes series, from books to movies. Can’t wait!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tales from the Wilder Forest Kickstarter

By Justin Gerard




Friend and fellow MuddyColors contributor Cory Godbey is running a wonderful little Kickstarter for a project that I am very jealous of.  It is called Tales from the Wilder Forest. A Collection of fantastic little bonfire short stories by Cael Jacobs which Cory is currently illustrating.









The Kickstarter has already hit (and more than doubled) its original goal and is now taking the last of the orders for the project. You should check it out.  It may be the only way to get a hold of the books. And it ends April 15.  THAT IS TODAY. TODAY IS LITERALLY THE LAST DAY.  Leave now and check it out on the Kickstarter page.