Thursday, 19 July 2018

Öland Nudes I: At the Beach

I needed a change of pace from the Gothenburg Nudes series of pictures, so I cunningly switched to a series of nudes from Öland.

Seriously, a few of my friends, Petra Brewitz, Julia Reinhart, Petri Olderhvit, and held exhibitions in Borgholm, in 2016, and 2017, at the Öland Harvest Festival.

Petra and I were discussing our trips the other day, in-between coffee breaks (Sw. fika.). Swedes normally work, and break for coffee. Petra and I have coffee and break for work, so we talk in-between the breaks, instead of during the breaks. Somewhat surprisingly, the system works, and we are more productive than you think. Even when we do not produce anything, we still get coffee, so, upsides only.
Julia Reinhart, Petra Brewitz, and Petri Olderhvit, looking like the photographers they are. I tend to look like the photographer I am, which is why I am not in the picture.
When we visit Öland, we make sure to have time to go on photo walks, and the occasional trip by car, to get some cool photos. The landscape is fantastic. Öland is a rather flat island, with the occasional windmill, or iron age fortress, sparsely and randomly distributed through the landscape. Well, not really randomly, but it feels that way when you are on foot.


While Petra and I were talking, it struck me that I just might have enough pictures from Öland to start doing something with them, like a series of pictures.

Because I am still in nude mode (that sounded better in my head than it reads from the screen), I am eschewing the vikings and monsters for a while, and create a few Öland Nudes in parallell with the Gothenburg Nudes series.

We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Author Portrait: Fred Brooks

Fred Brooks
I had the great honor to photograph Fred Brooks recently. Fred Brooks is the author of The Mythical Man-Month, one of the most famous project management books of all time. The book inspired what later became the agile movement in software development.

In addition to writing several very influential books, Fred Brooks is one of the great computing pioneers. He worked at IBM, on developing the IBM 360 series, and it was his idea to switch from using 6 bit to 8 bit bytes. This change made it possible to support lowercase characters, something computers had not done before.

Brooks founded the computer science department at  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is still active.

I read The Mythical Man-Month many years ago. I was interested in agile software development, and Fred Brooks was a favorite author of my favorite authors of books about agile. Meeting Fred Brooks was great, even though the meeting was very brief.

The photo shoot was a panicky thing. As sometimes happens, I had set everything up for the shoot in one location, and then had to shoot very quickly, in a completely different location, that was unsuitable for photography, to say the least.

This happens from time to time. When it does, you simply do your best.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Gothenburg Nudes XI: Reflections at the Pond

 Reflections at the Pond is the eleventh picture in the Gothenburg Nudes series.

I had planned a visit to the Gothenburg Botanical Garden to find a suitable environment for one of the pictures.

Two of my friends in Photo Meetup in Gothenburg, Kristina Johansson and Sina Farhat arranged a Short Depth-Of-Field themed meetup in the Botanical Garden. That was perfect for me. It was an opportunity to dust off my macro lens, which was long overdue. Even better, it was an opportunity to meet a few of my friends.

I do meet my friends more often than I bring out the macro. Still, meeting them was long overdue too.

And, I got to photograph two birds with a single click. (Killing them with a single stone sounds too harsh.) After practicing shooting with short Depth-Of-Field, we went exploring for a bit. I got separated from the others, stumbled on to a pond where the water was a still, perfect mirror, and...voila! I had exactly the environment I was looking for.

After shooting the pond, I discovered I was actually just a few meters from the rest of the gang. I joined them, and we left the garden together.

If you want to see how I created the picture, check out the project at ArtStation.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Gothenburg Nudes X: The Real Secret

What is the real secret? It depends on how you interpret this picture.

I am sure you have heard that there is no right or wrong way to interpret a work of art. That may be, but to create a piece of art, is to create with purpose.

If the artist manages to convey that purpose, there is communication. If the purpose cannot be discerned by the viewer, the viewer may still like, or dislike, the work, but as a means of communicating ideas, the thing is a bust.

Just for fun, have a look at The Real Secret. What do you see? What does it mean?

Write it down, just so you remember clearly what you saw, before I explained my intent when I created the picture.

Are you done?

Good! Here we go!

The Gothenburg Nudes series as a whole, is about separating nudity from objectification. In order to do this, I create pictures where the women have a purpose of their own. They are doing their own thing. They do not pose for an observer. This idea holds for The Real Secret too.

Note how the woman walks past the store without even looking at the lingerie. That is intentional. You have to accept her on her own terms, without adornments. She is not dependent of anyone else's approval.

She is walking nude in a city, so she either ignores or flaunts conventions. However, she just walks at a brisk pace, she seems intent on going somewhere. She is not showing off. So, no flaunting, which means she does not care much about conventions. Well, at least not nudity conventions, but they are themselves a symbol for other conventions and opinions that are based on habit, not thought.

Did you notice the dab of orange in her left armpit? That is hair. She does not shave her armpits, and that is another convention that she ignores.

I personally find her interesting because the way she thinks is way outside the box. The nudity is merely a symbol for the ability to think outside given parameters.

Have you looked at the man looking into the store? He checks out lingerie, none of it having a woman in it, but he completely misses the interesting woman outside the store, that is, outside the box.

So, he represents people oblivious to beauty outside the norm. He is trapped by the conventions and expectations he is used to.

So, what is the real secret?

What is it that makes her interesting, and worthy of appreciation?

It is obviously not lingerie, or willingness to please anyone else's expectations.

It is her ability to think outside the box, and the confidence and courage that allows her to follow through with it. That is her secret, and it is in plain sight, if one really looks.

So, what was your interpretation? Feel free to comment.

Oh, one more thing! Most of the women in the picture series are redheads. Why? Try to figure it out. The answer may surprise you. I'll write about it in another blog post. Maybe the next one. Maybe not.

I have put a breakdown of the picture into its elements on ArtStation.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Artistic Dilemma: To Pose or Not to Pose

A posed shot from 2013. Note the triangular composition. Models: Emma and Ida Stranne

When I started with photography I tried to learn as much as I could from other photographers. I read photography books by the masters, I took every opportunity I could to make friends with other photographers.

It worked! I did build basic skills. Because I built the same skill set that everyone else has, my pictures looked much the same as everyone elses.

This has advantages. My pictures were more popular back then than they are now. It was easier to discuss photography, because I had the same frame of reference as the photographers I met.

Superheroes Against Cancer, 2013
If my photos had a distinguishing feature, it was the subject matter more than the style.



As I learned more, I began experimenting with light, the way many photographers do. Here too, I ended up with the usual techniques for creating High Key and Low Key photos, and wide range in between the extremes.

As my skills grew, I wanted to incorporate my other interests into my photography.

For example, I am interested in Science-Fiction, and I read a lot of comics when I was younger, so the next logical step was...
From the graphic novel A Rift in Time

...to create one with some of my friends. There were eight of us, and we had a blast. It took more than 15 months, but we actually did get A Rift in Time published.

There is one crucial thing comic book artists do differently from photographers and painters: Posing!

Comic book characters are usually shown in real life poses, like when they are walking, and talking. In many comics there is also a lot of fighting. Thus, comic book artists are great at showing motion.

They tend to have a greater range of compositional tools at their disposal than photographers, but in my view, the real gamechanger is the idea that you can capture motion in a still frame. Closely related to that, is the idea that characters should look and behave naturally, instead of posing for an observer.

Elinor and the T-Rex, 2017 Model: Noor Model Noor
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with traditional model poses. It is just that there should be room for more than that.

If all model photos use a small range of poses, compositions, etc, then they will become boring. Each new photo will contribute to making both itself, and the photos taken before it, less interesting.

Add a little inspiration from a genre outside traditional photography, and suddenly you can make something fresh and different again.

Elinor and the T-Rex, with the model Noor Model Noor, was inspired by Fantasy and Science-Fiction Artist Joe Jusko's painting Inferno. (Take a look! It is worth it. Joe Jusko is a great artist.)

You may notice the presence of compositional devices, like leading lines, but there is nothing resembling a traditional model pose in the picture.


Jungle Moon, December 2017

When I got interested in creating Fine Art Nudes, at first, it was back to posing again. The reason was that I consciously imitated some of my favorite artists.

Jungle Moon above was based on one of my favorite paintings by Frank Frazetta. My lack of originality is intentional. When I start learning something new, I imitate. Adding something of my own comes later.

The Pit, December 2017
Creating the pictures I wanted to do photographically would have been very expensive, so I turned to a combination of 3D and digital painting. Well, digital smearing is more like it...I build pictures like a photographer would, because I can't draw or paint.

Dangerous Shadow, March 2018
I gradually refined my workflow, and incorporated ideas from fantasy art, and comics.

I also created a recurring character, Kyla. Her first appearance was in Dangerous Shadow, in March 2018. Kyla's appearance was based on Fantasy, especially the Cavewoman sub-genre of the Lost World genre. She owes a lot to Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, Budd Root, and similar artists.

However, I did change one thing, her behavior. Kyla is no damsel in distress. She rescues herself from whatever predicament she runs into, and she does it in an efficient manner, without overt posing, sexy or otherwise.

Aftermath/Blood on Her Hands, March 2018
Yep, i went to extremes in order to make a point.

I will almost certainly return to making more pictures with Kyla, but after the first half-dozen or so, I wanted to do something a bit brighter, softer, and easier to relate to for those unfortunate souls who haven't read tons of Fantasy and Science-Fiction books.

The Moon Maiden, May 2018

Back to the drawing board again. I like Gerald Brom's painting Moonlight very much, so I used it as inspiration for my own The Moon Maiden.

You may notice that while the Moon Maiden is action-free, it is back to posing again.

Gothenburg Nudes VII: Bathing Women
After fiddling around a bit with various ideas, I decided to do a series of nudes where women do their own thing, without posing, or even acknowledging, that there is an observer.

The idea was to separate nudity from objectification and sexualization, in the hope it would pave the way for appreciation.

That is pretty much where I am now. I have made nine pictures in the Gothenburg Nudes series. I have broken the rule about not acknowledging the existence of an observer once, but I have pretty much stuck to the not-posed constraint.

My main concern right now, is coming up with ideas for pictures that have stronger composition than the previous ones.

We'll see how it goes.

Gothenburg Nudes IX: Bike Ride

The picture above was inspired by a recent bike ride. My son and I went to a second hand market in the small village of Jonsered to hunt for Lego. I took the opportunity to take a few background and reference photos.

I had planned to include a picture with a bike in the Gothenburg nudes series. The one above is not what I imagined from the start, but I do think it works better.


Most of the time, I use very simple compositions based on the Rule of Thirds. It is not the only compositional rule I use, but for a photographer, who often has to compose a picture very quickly, and has limited control of what is in the frame, the Rule of Thirds can easily become the GoTo compositional tool.

In this picture, I still use the Rule of Thirds, but I have added a triangle. The sides are the woman's body, her shadow on the ground, and a part of the bicycle frame.

Triangular composition is very common in painting, but most painters use equilateral triangles. I used a right-angled triangle instead. It's less common, but it still works.

If you are interested in how I built the picture up using photos and 3D elements, check out my pictures on ArtStation.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Gothenburg Nudes VIII: At the City Library


The Gothenburg City Library is important to me. I love books. I like the café, where I sit and work from time to time. Did I mention I love books?

So, I had to include at least one picture from the City Library in the Gothenburg Nudes series. This is the one...except, maybe it isn't.

When I work on a picture I often get ideas for more pictures. That is what happened when I worked on this one. So, maybe I'll make another City Library picture. Maybe two...

I think I need to go back to the library real soon, and see if I can come up with a couple more ideas.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Gothenburg Nudes VII: Bathing Women

I am used to cloudy, windy, and rainy Gothenburg summers. This year, we are having a great summer. Thus...bright, sunny pictures to reflect my bright sunny mood.

I am getting more and more convinced I should recreate at least some of the pictures in this series with live models. It'll be interesting to study the differences.

I published a couple of these pictures in a Swedish art forum on Facebook recently. This sparked an interesting discussion on the importance of art that pushes boundaries. Depending on your point of view, a picture of nude people bathing, or engaged in other activities, is nothing especial, or it can make your brain explode. A picturecan be beautiful, unremarkable, or immoral, depending on who views it.

What art can do, is provide us with a new perspective on what is acceptable, and what is not. I see a lot of pictures, ostensibly art, that are objectifying, and that denigrate people, especially women. I want to help provide a counter-weight to that, by showing that nudity is not the same thing as objectification.

If you are interested in how this picture was created, check out ArtStation. There you will find a sequence of pictures that shows the process in a bit more detail.

Oh, if you are interested in how a painting helped change our view of sexuality, and made us a little bit more open-minded, check out this Wikipedia article about Le Sommeil, by Gustave Courbet.

Gothenburg Nudes VI: Stairway/At the end of the Tunnel


I shot the background picture for this one in a tunnel under a road in Partille. While Partille is outside Gothenburg, and technically not a part of the city, I'll let that pass.

Technically, these pictures are neither nude photos, nor nude paintings, but photo-3D-digital postprocessing-mixed-media things...language has not quite caught up to the digital techniques yet.


Moving back a bit, we can see that the stairs are at the end of a tunnel.

I haven't quite decided whether to use both versions in the final version of the series, or both.

Gothenburg Nudes V: At the Stone Pier


This picture is different from the previous pictures in the series. The woman in the picture looks straight at the observer.

When I first looked at the finished result, I thought this was a mistake. The reason is that I want to avoid the impression that she is there for the sake of anyone other than herself.

I haven't quite decided yet whether to keep this one or not. To some extent, it depends on how the rest of the series works out.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Gothenburg Nudes IV: Volleyball


As I gain confidence creating nude art (, well, I may be a bit generous to myself, calling my pictures "art", still, I try,) I want to integrate ideas from my other work into my new pictures.

One of those ideas, is to move away from static posing, and capture a moment in time when things move. Comic book artists do it extremely well, as do movie and game concept artists. Photographers and painters usually don't even try.

How do you create a picture like Volleyball?

I take walks with my camera, looking for interesting backgrounds. For the Gothenburg Nudes series, I am primarily interested in locations easily recognizable by people who live in Gothenburg. In a pinch, I'll use anything that looks like a good background for a photo though.

When I find a good background, it usually helps me figure out what the finished scene should look like. For example, I shot the background for Volleyball in a park owned by the Gothenburg Horticultural society. It's in central Gothenburg, and quite popular.

It was a sunny day, and there were lots of people sunbathing in the park. What do you do if you want to push sunbathing to the limit? You go nudist of course, so, there I had the idea for the first picture from the park, A Stroll in the Park.

The next step was to move away from a static scene. What do you do in a park, in the summer, when sunbathing gets boring? (That is, after about 10-15 seconds, if you are like me.)

You can always go for a run if you are alone, but if you want to do something with friends, why not go for volleyball?

The next step was to go to 500px.com, and search for photo references. I wanted to see how volleyball players move.

Next, I set the scene up in Daz Studio. I used my photo of the park as a background in order to get the angles right in the 3D scene. When everything looked the way I wanted it to, I rendered the foreground separately, and then composited in Affinity Photo.

Compositing in Affinity Photo allowed me to match brightness, saturation, and color in the picture. I also made some minor anatomical alterations, similar to those I made when I created The Moon Maiden.

Finally, I used DAP Auto-Painter to paint the picture.

When I worked on Volleyball I got a couple more picture ideas. Today, I took a stroll in the Gothenburg harbour, and got a couple more photos, and maybe an idea or two too.

Well see what happens next...

Gothenburg Nudes III: The Fountain


Have you walked through Bältespännarparken, a park in central Gothenburg, a hot summer day? Have you imagined running through the fountain in the center of the park, just to cool off?

Well, don't expect to see me doing that. I am way to shy to skinny dip in a public fountain. I might have a sip of water from the drinking fountain nearby, but that is as far as I'll go.

 This is the third picture in the Gothenburg Nudes series. If you want to see the previous pictures, and perhaps even read a bit about them, click these links:


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Gothenburg Nudes II: A Stroll in the Park


After publishing Walkabout, I decided to get out a bit more, and to bring my camera. I wanted to shoot reference photos at easily recognizable locations in Gothenburg. Maybe I could turn those quite ordinary locations into something more interesting.

I have done similar things before, but mostly for Fantasy and Science-Fiction themed photos. This time, I wanted to continue exploring nude art.

While I sometimes do model shoots with traditional model poses, I usually prefer pictures with people who do not look like they are posing. I want the camera, and me, to be as unobtrusive as possible.

The same thing goes for a 3D picture or digital painting. I like people who do their own thing, without the need for approval from me or anyone else, and that shows in my pictures.

Please do not get me wrong. We all need to be appreciated, for what we do, and for who we are. I believe it is far better to find people who do appreciate you for being you, and for pursuing your interests, rather than you trying to adapt what you do and who you are to someone elses notions of what is interesting, attractive, and otherwise worthy of notice.

If you deviate from the norm in a noticeable way, you probably won't find many people who really appreciate what you are, so try to be careful to appreciate them in return. It is worth the effort. I know, both because there are people in my life whom I appreciate very much. Sadly, I have sometimes let friendships, and other relationships slip, and I am the poorer for it.

With the Gothenburg Nudes series of pictures I want to capture the feeling of just appreciation beauty, seen and imagined. I want to spice up the ordinary a bit, which is why I have chosen various locations in Gothenburg as locations for the pictures.


Thursday, 24 May 2018

Walkabout (a.k.a. How to apply The Art of War to Photography)

Cheng/Chì (Ortodox/Unortodox) is an idea from Sun Tzu's book The Art of War, that says that to win a battle, you need two things: Ordinary military forces, doing the tried and true things, and unorthodox forces, creating an element of surprise. The principle can be applied to any other art, as well as the art of war.
I used to do a lot of street photography. It is an easy way to get started in photography, but it is also one of the most difficult photographic genres for the simple reason that most of the time, there is nothing noteworthy to shoot.

I followed the rules when shooting street photos, but I also started doing other kinds of photos. Still with a city environment as background, but with a dinosaur, or a spaceship, slipped in to make the picture more interesting.

I haven't done that in awhile, so maybe I should start doing it again.
Technically, this picture is mostly an exercise in tone mapping and saturation mapping. I started using the techniques recently, and I am not entirely happy with them yet. Next time, I intend to work in 32 bit mode all the way through the process, to see if that makes a difference.

Practice

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.
Anton Chekhov
You may wonder, "why so many nudes lately?" Good question. I wish I had a really good answer, but I don't. Here is the closest I can come at the moment:

When I started with photography, I shot a lot of flowers to learn the basics of composition, and how to handle my camera in various lighting situations. I mean a lot of flowers! I shot more than 8,000 the first year, and more than 13,000 the second year. I was out shooting three times a day, every day.

After that, I was kind of done with flowers, but I had learned a bit about photography. After that, I did street photography, model photography, macro photography, levitation photography, flesh manipulation photography, portrait photography, some art photography, even tried my hand at pin-up photography.

Now, with nudes, I have found something as interesting to me as horror, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy photography. I want to learn more, and I want to integrate the nudes with the kinds of photography I've done earlier.

I have always been that way. I used to be a programmer, so I learned programming languages, then techniques of Object-Oriented programming, then design patterns, then project methodology, then systems thinking, queueing theory, Theory Of Constraints, statistics, military strategy, Chinese and Japanese military strategy...

And, I integrate it. I synthesize.

While I do not intend to do 21,000 nude pictures, there will probably be quite a few more, before I have integrated them fully in my repertoire.

Cheng/Chì

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
If you read the picture caption, you already know that Cheng/Chì (Ortodox/Unortodox) is an idea from Sun Tzu's book The Art of War, that says that to win a battle, you need two things: Ordinary military forces, doing the tried and true things, and unorthodox forces, creating an element of surprise.

The principle can be applied to any other art, as well as the art of war. So, in the picture above, the street with all the ordinary people is the cheng, and the nude woman is the element of chì.

So, now you know how to apply the Cheng/Chí principle from Sun Tzu'z The Art of War.

Get out there and practice!

PS. The GDPR Thing!

You might wonder whether a picture like the one in this article breaks the new General Data Protection (GDPR) law. It does not. Journalistic images and art are exempt from the rules. That means it is okay to do street photography, it is okay to create digital paintings from street photographs, and it is okay to manipulate a photo taken in a street, if the purpose is to create a piece of art. You can read up on GDPR here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Moon Maiden II (with the Brom Twist)

Slightly brighter version of the original, and without the toning.
 I could not resist adding the Brom twist to the picture I made yesterday. If ypu compare the versions in this post with the original, I am sure you will figure ut the difference...and wgat it means.


This version is much closer to my original version in color tone and brightness.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Moon Maiden



As you can see, I am taking a somewhat passive-aggressive approach to the nude-art-is-bad ridiculoussness on social media sites.

If you have issues with nude art, or, in my case, attempts at creating nude art, please do not scroll any further.

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There is a fantastic painting by Gerald Brom called Moonlight. (Do click on the link. Brom's painting is incredible.) I wanted to see if I could recreate, in a small manner, some of the sensuality of Brom's painting. I am not even close. Still, for me, pretty good.

If you check out a large version of Moonlight, you will see that Brom added a horrific twist. I left that out, for once. Maybe another time.

A Hairy Problem


When I started using 3D elements in my photos, and making entire 3D scenes, there was one problem I did not anticipate: While the 3D models I use are very realistic, and created by incredibly skilled people, they do lack certain anatomical features.

This is normally not a problem, since, well, clothes. So far, when I have created nudes, I have positioned the characters so that their lack of anatomical detail in certain areas is not a problem.

This particular picture was a bit problematic though, because the picture it is based on, Moonlight, is a full frontal nude.

While I have deliberately (and also accidentally), made a lot of things different in my version, I did not want to change the basic posture of the model too much. The viewing angle is a little bit different from Brom's painting, but I did not want to change that too much either.

Lucky for me, I had a serendipitous solution: Grass!


Some time ago, I practiced making a simple landscape painting. The picture sucks, but it has one feature that turned out to be useful: Lots and lots of grass!

You may note that the grass in the picture has a certain resemblance to hair. It occurred to me that if I changed the color of the brush, shrank it down a bit, changed the brush dynamics to increase the variation in direction of the strands...I just might be able to paint the kind of hair you do not have on the top of your head.

First, I tried to brush up (bad pun, I know), on theory. that is, with blushing cheeks I searched for a tutorial on how to paint the kind of hair that covers Lady Parts.

It turns out there is no such tutorial. At least not on Youtube.



Instead, I turned to one of my favorite digital artists, Aaron Blaise, to get a few pointers on improving my hairbrushing technique. (If you want me to stop with the punning, you got to pay me, okay!)

After watching the video, still slightly blushing, I took the grass brush from my grassy plains project, tweaked it a bit, and practiced making a patch of hair in the right shape. When I was satisfied I could do it, I performed my delicate task.

I think it worked. Phew!

I don't know why my stupid brain gets embarrassed by things that should not be embarrassing at all, but it does. That, I think, is a good reason to keep embarrassing it, until it gets more sensible about it.

Help from a Friend


The picture shown above is not the first version. If you want to see some of the earlier attempts, check them out at ArtStation. The differences are minor, but they have great impact. I am sure you can spot what I changed.

I had very valuable help with the final version from my friend Petra Brewitz. I asked her if she would have a look at an early version of the picture, and help me compare it with Brom's picture. As it turns out, Petra has a book about Brom's art, and it contains a picture of Moonlight that is much better than anything I have seen on the Internet.

That picture, and Petra's insights helped a lot. We tried to mimic the position of the woman in Brom's painting, and we discovered a couple of things.

Long arms, Bloody Fingers


For example, the woman in Moonlight has very long arms. Her upper arms are almost a decimeter longer than normal, and that matters a lot. Replicating the exact position with a live model is not possible.

It can be done with a 3D model of course, by making the arms a bit longer, but I decided not to do it. For this one piece, I wanted to stick to reasonable human proportions.

Another thing, that Petra saw before me, is that Moonlight is not just chock full of sensuality. Under the surface lurks thinly veiled horror.

Look at the fingers on the left hand of the woman. Look at how pointy they are, and look at the thick, sticky, red fluid covering them. That is not strawberry jam.

Finally, here is Brom himself, talking about his art.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

Kyla: The Most Dangerous Game


I saw a simple sketch by the comic book artist Frank Cho recently, where he created an amazingly dynamic composition with a (for him) very simple sketch.

It got me thinking about composition, and circular composition in particular.

Frank Frazetta sometimes used circular composition, for example in his Winged Terror. More often, he used very strong triangular composition, as in his Conan picture Chained and in Luana from 1973.

Frazetta was a master at capturing movement. Look at his sketch Pellucidar. Note the similarities to Frank Cho's sketch. (You did click the link, didn't you?). Frazetta uses triangular composition in his sketch, and Cho used circular, but look at the way they have captured the movement!

Stunning!

So, why does my picture use triangle composition instead of circular composition? Because I realized that to make the composition circular, I would need to rotate the body of the guy in the space suit so that his body is more or less perpendicular to the viewer.

I goofed! I should have sketched everything out more carefully beforehand. Instead, I pushed on with the picture, and did not consider the whole until it was too late.

A contributing factor was that I wanted to use portrait format. The ideal format for a circular composition would be a square (I think...I am fully prepared to change my mind once I learn a bit more.)

In the end, I decided triangular composition is good enough for me, right now. Maybe I'll go circular next time...or not.

I used the DAZ Studio default HDRI image set at 0.3 strength for ambient lighting, one spotlight behind the characters to light contours, and a second spotlight straight above. I used spotlights with large surface areas, to get fairly soft shadows.

I brightened the green suit quite a bit in post. The trouble with camouflage spacesuits is that...well, they are camouflaged.

Finally, I painted the whole thing in Dynamic Auto-Painter.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Kyla: The Hunting of the Snake


The title of this piece, The Hunting of the Snake, is a horribly bad pun. I got the idea from Lewis Carrol's poem The hunting of the Snark.

There are many different interpretations of the poem. Lewis Carrol was once asked if it was an allegory for the search for happiness, and he wrote in a letter that it was.

I have always been fascinated by the last two verses:

 They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
   Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
   Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
   In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
   For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Happiness is a Snark. We hunt for it, but when we catch it, it may well turn out to be a Boojum.

Well, unlike the Baker, at least most of the time, we can survive the Boojum, and live to hunt another Snark. Some of us even find it.

In case you wonder, I made the picture first, and came up with the title, and thus also the interpretation, afterwards.

I suppose, it is a case of cause following effect.

Technically, I created the original picture in Daz Studio.


I used three lights for this picture:
  • The default DAZ HDRI environment, set at 0.3 strength. This gave me a basic low level ambient lighting. The level you can see in the background.
  • A spotlight with 10x10 m area, placed 10 m straight above Kyla and the Constrictor. This gave me a fair amount of light on the trees beyond the large fallen one, and brightened Kyla and the constrictor a bit.
  • A smaller spotlight, 5x5 m, 8 m up, with a more narrow beam of light, focused on Kyla and the constrictor.
The end result is that the further away you get from Kyla and the snake, the darker the picture becomes. Some of my recent pictures have had to flat lighting, and I wanted to fix that.

I painted the picture using Dynamic Auto-Painter.

Here is the first version. I wasn't quite happy with it. I think you can see why:


In this version, the background trees are almost obliterated by the muddy, brown underpaint. I had decided to leave reduce the detail in the background, but the DAP default was a bit too much.

Simple solution: I did a bit of post brushwork in DAP. The reason I mention it, is because if you do the same, do set the opacity of the brush down a bit. The postprocessing brushes have higher default opacity than the same brush used while DAP is autopainting. This can trick you into making postprocessing effects too strong.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

An Evening in R'Lyeh - Intermediate version

An Evening in R'Lyeh. I am experimenting with 360 panoramas again. This is an intermediate version. I am analyzing it, to figure out what to fix, and how.

More to come...

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Kyla: Interrupted Service


I noticed that I was slipping back into my old habit of showing a scene either before, or after, something happens, but not during. So, I decided to break the habit.

My previous Kyla blog post showed her facing off with a giant Deep One, built more like the Abomination than the creatures H.P. Lovecraft describes.

I wrote that I would trim the Deep Ones down a bit, and that is what I did. I kept the bodybuilding one, but all the others are a more normal size. As you can see, I also made sure that particular Deep One won't bother anyone again.

I do have a couple more ideas for a large Deep One though, so he just may reincarnate...eventually.

The title Interrupted Service is a joke. My son would tell me it is a very lame joke, if I asked him about it, so I won't.

If you look to the left, you'll notice a foot and a pair of legs. I won't tell you who it is, but it is the same guy who is in trouble over here. Click the link if you are curious. Some people just won't stay rescued.

I had quite another idea in mind when I started out with this picture, but I got into trouble, and decided to simplify a bit. I haven't given up on the original idea though, so I might do some more work on the same theme.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Kyla vs. Deep One (Cthulhu Mythos Meets Cavewoman)


One more Kyla picture. Kyla vs. a Deep One. A very, very muscle-bound Deep One. :-)

The interesting thing to me, is that if I can create a passable Deep One, it opens up a whole range of storytelling. The Cthulhu mythos provides rich, and partially copyright free (check very carefully what is free to use, and what is not, if you do anything commercial) material to base stories on, or to weave in as story elements.

I will hold a Photos Inspired by Books event on the 12th of May, in Gothenburg. This picture isn't a photo, of course, but the important thing is the sources of inspiration. In this case:
  • The Cthulhu Mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft, and developed by many different writers.
  • Marvel/DC Comics superhero comics. Yeah, there is a reason for those overdeveloped muscles. Check out Marvels Abomination.
  • The Cavewoman comic by Budd Root. Technically, Cavewoman belongs to the Lost World literary genre, which is a sub-genre of Science-Fiction. By the way, so does Jurassic Park and King Kong.
So, there are three major literary sources of inspiration for this picture. I believe that in order to create something new and interesting, whether it is a picture, or anything else, you need to stoke the fires of your imagination with many different kinds of fuel. Indeed, creativity is the ability to deconstruct those sources, in order to build something new.

There is more of course. I have written before, about how Kyla herself is a result of playing with genre conventions, and flipping gender roles. Kyla fights monsters, she is no damsel in distress. (She has been quite distressing to some people in Facebook art groups though, who prefer more demure, and more fully dressed, women.)

A little bit about the technical side of creating the picture:

The Deep One is a Michael 4 3D mesh with Creature Creator and The Freak morphs. I used the Daz Studio Leather shader for the skin, and changed the skin color.

I rendered with Iray in Daz Studio, tweaked the picture (strategically placed hair and a bit extra brightness and contrast) in Affinity Photo. I worked in 16 bit mode to get a little bit of extra punch in the colors.

Finally, I painted the whole picture in Dynamic Auto-Painter.

Just like there were three different sources of inspiration for the idea, there were three different tools that contributed to creating the actual picture.


Here is the original 3D scene, as I built it in Daz Studio. Whether you prefer the painted version or the original is a matter of taste really. (I doubt anyone who does not like either reads this far.)

While working on this picture, I was actually more concerned with the lighting than the scene itself. The reason? Because this picture is a warmup picture for a slightly more complex picture that I haven't done yet.

Be seeing you!

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

An Afternoon in Pal-Ul-Don (Aspect Ratios, Stephen Spielberg, and Facebook Click Optimization)


Pal-Ul-Don is a Lost World from Tarzan the Terrible a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This scene is not from the book, but loosely inspired by it.

My pictures are inspired by what I read, the movies I see, comics, conversations I have with other people, and of course my own experiences.

Technically, a picture like this is much easier to create than you think. I am a photographer (well, when I am not a systems thinker that help organizations improve their processes and their organizations). When I create a picture like this, I think like a photographer, and to a large extent, work like a photographer.

For example, you may have noticed that this picture has a slightly different aspect ratio from what you are used to. That is because it is 1.85:1, which happens to be the aspect ratio Steven Spielberg chose for Jurassic Park.

Why did he do that? Movies are usually shot in a 2.4:1 aspect ratio, making the pictures very wide. his is great for a lot of things, but it gets cramped for a dinosaur that is very high.

The picture above compares the 1:85 aspect ratio Stephen Spielberg chose for Jurassic Park with the 2:3 ratio common in photography, and the 2.4:1 ratio of most movies.

If you want a T-Rex to look good, go with 1:85!

...except, of course, when something else works better. The Jurassic Park movies have been shot in a variety of different aspect ratios. Jurassic World was shot in a non-standard aspect ratio, 2:1.

If you are working in 3D, don't forget that you may need to adjust the focal length of your camera to get good results. Daz Studio uses 65mm lenses by default. For An Afternoon in Pal-Ul-Don I used a 50mm lens. Jurassic World used mostly 30mm and 60mm.

A bit of trial and error works wonders here. I decided what I wanted in frame first, then set the aspect ratio, and adjusted focal length and camera position until I was happy.

Speaking of happy...


If you value likes on Facebook more than you value creating a good picture, you might want to use the photography portrait aspect ratio, 3:2.

Because Facebook uses a narrow column for posts, using portrait format maximizes screen space.

To really see and experience the impact of a landscape format picture on Facebook, it is necessary to enlarge it by clicking on on it. Most people won't do that, even if you have created a great picture.

Instead, to maximize likes, you will either have to butcher your image and crop it down to portrait format, or design your picture for portrait format from the start.

With 3D, you can create a set of cameras using different aspect ratios, and use them to create different versions of the same scene.

Me, I am bull-headed and tend to go with the aspect ratio I like best on a picture by picture basis, even if it means the pictures won't get as popular on Facebook.

An Evening with La in Opar


"Then the priestess, standing above him, began reciting what Tarzan took to be an invocation, the while she slowly raised her thin, sharp knife aloft. It seemed ages to the ape-man before her arm ceased its upward progress and the knife halted high above his unprotected breast."
-The Return of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1913.

La didn't kill Tarzan, of course. She fell in love with him, and tried to help him. Tarzan rejected her, so in the end, it was La who got her heart ripped out. Love is gruesome.

I loved the Tarzan books when I grew up, so I wanted to create one, perhaps a few more, Tarzan inspired scenes.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Hulking Out!


I just could not help myself! I had to create a picture with The Hulk. Well, a Hulk-like character.

I created the character in Daz Studio, using a Genesis 8 Male as a base. Then I morphed the body using Daz own set of morphs for G8 males. I also morphed the face, but I am saving that for another picture.

I changed the skin color of course. If you do something like this, it is worth remembering that there are plenty of different color settings, for the skin, for highlights, for translucency, etc.

The hair is the Toulouse hair for G8 females. It gave him the look I wanted. I gave the hair a dark hair texture, and then gave it green highlights. Worked pretty well.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Tunnel

I started working on The Tunnel about a year ago. The photo is a selfie I shot in a tunnel under a railroad a couple of kilometers from where I live.

I set my camera up on a tripod, took a remote triggered hotshoe flash in my hand, set the camera timer for 10 seconds, and ran like crazy to get into the right position in time.

It took several tries, but finally I had a shot that was good enough.

I wnt to a fish store and shot octopus tentacles. However, that did not work out as I had hoped. Dead octopi don't pose well.

After several tries, I finally put the picture aside. I realized I would have to try something else.

Awhile ago, I started using Daz Studio to compose 3D scenes. That got me thinking about using a 3D model of an octopus to create the picture you see. A couple of days ago I gave it a try.


With Daz, it was relatively easy to position the tentacles.


What you see here are the rendered tentacles, right out of Daz Studio.


I composited, added shadows, and relit the picture in Affinity Photo.

At this point, I had a so-so photo composite. It did not quite work as a photo, because the tentacles looked a bit artificial to start with. Also, the photo was a bit too clean. I wanted a dirtier tunnel.

Filters in Affinity Photo, Photoshop, and most other tools, do a mathematical transformation of the image. In many situations, that is exactly what you want.

However, I wanted a more painterly feel. At this point, I had two ways to go:
  • Use the Paint Mixer tool in Affinity Photo to paint the whole picture manually. That works very well, but it is also very time consuming.
  • Use Dynamic Auto-Painter to paint automatically, with manual input only where necessary. Much faster, nearly as fun, and arguably, better results. (Depending on how good an artist you are.)
I went with Dynamic Auto-Painter, and created the picture at the start of this blog post.


I also created a couple of variations. The very dark one you see here is actually closer to what I had in mind originally.

My son thinks this is the best version because "what you cannot see is scarier than what you can see."

He's got a very good point.

Because the picture is so dark, it can appear almost completely black on some monitors though.


I created an in-between version, darker than the first, but brighter than the second.

Which version you prefer, is of course up to you.

You can find these pictures, and a portfolio I am building, at ArtStation.