Thursday 28 December 2017

The Pit IV

This is a better lit version of The Pit. I added two strip lights in Daz Studio to light the contours of the woman's body a bit better. I also increased the strength of the spotlight lighting the wall in the back. Then I rerendered, and repainted from scratch in Affinity Photo.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

The Pit - Digital Painting Horror

The Pit - Digital Painting Version

I had the idea for The Pit some time ago. The original idea was for a photo composite, but I wanted to try it out as a 3D digital storyboard first. It ended up being a digital painting. There might, or might not, be a photo version in the future.

I'll walk you through the process I followed to create the image, and show you a few of my intermediate versions of the picture.

Be warned: There is some full frontal, albeit digital, nudity ahead. The first versions I created in Daz Studio used default lighting. My intent was to get an overall idea of the picture before I added lighting for mood and modesty.

I began building the scene in Daz 3D using stock 3D models. My first image used the 3Delight renderer, and default lighting.

In hindsight, this was a mistake. I should have used the Iray renderer, that also comes standard with Daz 3D, from the start, because the lights created with 3Delight and Iray are completely different. The 3Delight lighting setups I created became completely useless when I switched to Iray, so I had to relight the whole scene.

Originally, I wanted the whole picture to be done in shades of green. The idea was to associate with the deep, dark sea, deep ones, and Cthulhoid monsters in the depths.

That did not quite work out. The picture above is my 5th render. As you can see, I have changed the lights. There are two spotlights from above, one from below, and one behind the woman, lighting the wall behind her. Originally, I wanted to light the wall with the spotlight from above, but that did not work out very well.

I did briefly experiment with using a sktetch filter in Comic Life on my original base image, but I abandoned the idea. Still, there are things about the image that I do like.

Instead, I blended two of my base images together using Affinity Photo. It looked failry good, but I decided to relight everything so I could use the Iray renderer instead of 3Delight.

Above is a base image rendered using the Iray renderer.

After a few more renders, and a bit of tweaking in Affinity Photo, I had the image above. I thought it did look a bit too stiff and artificial, so I decided to experiment with the painting tools in Affinity Photo.

Here is the final result again. I used a brush from the Paint brush set, and the Paint Mixer tool to paint over the image. I was careful to follow lines in the original image with my brush strokes. That way, I kept as much detail and shadowing as possible.

I used the default 70 pixel brush for most of the picture, but reduced the brush size to 20 pixels to paint the woman, and other parts of the picture that needed to retain small details.

That is it! A small rendering and digital painting experiment, but I learned a lot. Also, I have a storyboard that might be the basis for a composite photo.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Jungle Moon IV - Can't stop tweaking

I discussed an earlier version of this picture with +Margaret Wong over at Google+. She had some very good comments. I decided to follow up on them with a final tweak of the picture.

I wrote about the first four versions in a blog post yesterday. Today, I made two more versions with small changes.

  • Version 5 (No name): I added some brighter shades to the jungle in the background. I also brightened the jungle a little bit overall.
  • Version 6 (Published as Jungle Moon IV): I added just a little bit of reflected light from the moon to the edges of the woman's body. I also brightened the entire picture almost imperceptibly.
That's it! Now, I'm going to work on other stuff. No more tweaking!!! Well, maybe another day.

Monday 18 December 2017

Jungle Moon - The Conceptual Spiral, and Cynefin

From the left: 1. Learning from Frank Frazetta, 2. Solving a lighting problem by deviating from the original idea, 3. Making the picture my own by connecting to my other work, 4. Refining the new purpose. Click to see a larger version of the image!
There are two other blog posts connected to this one. You might want to read them:

When I work with a picture, I rarely get it right the first time. I do several iterations, and the picture evolves. Not only that, the purpose of the picture also evolves.

In military strategy (yes, really), evolving ideas like this is called The Conceptual Spiral. The idea is part of the Maneuver Conflict framework, developed by Colonel John Boyd.

In the first picture, to the left, I set out to do a version of one of my favorite paintings by Frank Frazetta. It is not a copy, but there is not much originality either.

In the second picture, I added rather heavy toning. The reason is that in the first version, I had problems with light sources. If the Moon is in front of the woman, what is the light source lighting her back? Frazetta was of course aware of where the light came from, but in a painting, you do not have to use realistic lighting. The closer you get to a realistic picture, the more you need to adhere to the laws of physics, including optics. Photonic curveballs are not allowed!

My solution was to tone the picture heavily, to reduce the realism of the picture as a whole. that makes deviations from the real less jarring. At this point, I am beginning to diverge from Frazetta's painting, and get my own ideas.

In the third picture, I have added context. The two flying quetzalcoatlus (large pterosauruses), tell us that this is a scene from at least 65 million years ago. Suddenly this picture connects, not with Frazetta, but with my other dinosaur pictures, and more importantly, with A Rift in Time, a time travel adventure comic some of my friends and I made a couple of years ago.

At this point, the Conceptual Spiral has twirled so much the context of the picture is entirely different. It is still clearly inspired by Frazetta's picture, but it is no longer an attempt to learn from Frazetta, the connections to my own body of work are stronger.

The fourth picture is refinement. I removed branches and leaves to make room for a larger version of the quetzalcoatlus. It no longer gets lost among the leaves of the tree. The woman is probably looking at it, as much as she is looking at the moon.

I can keep following the Conceptual Spiral, refining this picture, or, by using it as context for a new picture, with conceptual roots in this one.

Because the goal shifted as I traversed the spiral, there was no way to predict the results without actually going through the process. This puts creating this piece of art, no matter what you think about the quality, in the realm of complexity thinking, and the complexity thinking framework Cynefin.

As it happens, one of my projects is to write an article connecting Cynefin and a decision model called OODA, and I intend to do that by connecting both Cynefin and OODA to the Conceptual Spiral.

It'll go something like this:

At least that is what I believe right now, but of course, as I traverse the Conceptual Spiral developing the ideas, this too may change.

So, there is an obvious connection between nude art (and any other art), military strategic frameworks, and complexity thinking. Who would have thought that?

Jungle Moon II - Adding a Story

Yesterday I uploaded the first version of Jungle Moon. Then, of course, I had to go back and tweak it.

I had shown the picture to a friend of mine, Petra Brewitz, and we talked about some of the finer details, like tilting the hips a little bit to bring out more curvature, and changing the color of the hair.

We also talked about context: What is the story? Why is the Moon so large? When we talked, I said that the Moon is large, not because it is close in reality, but because the woman in the picture studies it. It is large in her mind. We also talked about putting a pterosaur, an airplane, or a spaceship in the picture to provide contextual clues to her story.

The idea is to raise questions. Rather than showing "nude woman standing on branch in tall tree looking at the moon", and viewers just accepting what they see, I want viewers to ask questions and create possible answers, like:
  • When is this? There are two quetzalcoatlus in the picture. These are from the late Cretaceous era, which would put the scene at 100.5 - 66 million years old.
  • Why is the Moon so large? Well, the Moon was closer 100 million years back, but only about 3,000 km or so. The Moon is 384,000 km away today, so it would have been about 381,000 km away in the late Cretaceous era. The difference in perceived size from Earth would have been very small. Perhaps my original explanation is correct after all. Perhaps we are peering into another dimension, where the Moon was much closer to Earth. (What about gravitational effects? You go figure that one out. Basic physics, but I am too lazy to do the math today.)
  • How did the woman travel back in time? Well, two years ago, Petra, a couple of other friends, and I, created and published a time travel comic book adventure, A Rift in Time. Maybe that has something to do with it.
  • How high is the tree? There were redwoods in the cretaceous period, but still... The most likely explanation is that the tree she is in, is a tall tree on a the edge of a very high cliff.
  • Why is she nude in a tree top? The answer to the second part is probably that she is enjoying the view. The answer to the first part, well, I'll leave that to you. For now.
  • Why isn't she afraid, considering the dangerous environment she is in? Perhaps she knows how to survive in it. Perhaps, she is more dangerous than the environment. Perhaps she is done being afraid, no matter what. Perhaps she enjoys the mix of fear and beauty in the environment.
There is no single right answer to any of these questions. It is possible to construct an infinite variety of stories that lead to this moment, with a nude woman looking at the Moon while standing on a branch in a tall tree.

What happens after, depends on what has lead up to this moment, but the story can take a radical turn. She may slip and fall, or the quetzalcoatlus flying towards her may attack. Or, less dramatic, but maybe leading to even greater impact on the story, she is there to think things over, to make a decision, something of importance to her, and perhaps to others.

So, by adding a quetzalcoatlusflying towards her, and another in the lower part of the picture to show that the first one is not alone, it is part of an ecosystem, not some random monster, I have hinted at a story, and maybe even a connection with a previous story. If there are connections with previous stories, then there are possible trajectories, and thus possible future stories. I can tell the stories, or provide glimpses of them, or be silent.

Sunday 17 December 2017

Jungle Moon

Jungle Moon is a bit different from my usual pictures. First of all, it's all 3D. No live model in front of my camera. Actually, no camera involved. Second, it is not a finished picture. It is a storyboard.

The idea is to finish a picture as much as I can, before shooting live models and actors. That has several advantages:
  • Better communication with models and crew: I can show models, and other people involved, the storyboards before they agree to do the shoots. My pictures tend to be...a bit different. I often have themes from Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Horror, thrillers. I usually focus on story, and not everyone wants to do that. I want to work with people who share my love of imagination and adventure. The more I can show about what I want to do, the more likely I am to find people who will contribute to the process, and be delighted by the results.
  • Faster delivery: By creating the environment before the photo session, I can cut the amount of work after the photo session. This means I can reduce the time from photo shoot to having a finished picture. Thus, models will get their pictures faster.
  • Less risk: I often try to do things I have never done before. This means I push my boundaries, and learn fast. The downside is risk. I may fail to create a picture, because some part of the process does not work out as expected. It is better to fail before a photo session, than in postproduction after. If I fail before, I'll simply not shoot the photos. That saves models, crew, and myself, unnecessary work and disappointment.
  • Easier to build a library of scenes and props: So far, I have done all my storyboarding, by sketching on paper, in conjunction with photo sessions. Now, I am restructuring, so I keep ideas and storyboarding separate from the shoots. That means I can work a lot more efficiently. I can keep track of ideas, scene, and props easier, and can easily reshoot variations of scenes with different models, different lighting, and different props.

All the picture elements, the landscape in the background, the moon, the tree, and the woman, are all created and rendered in 3D programs.

I created the background landscape from scratch in Bryce. The moon is from an earlier version of the background scene. I created the sky, starfield, and glow from the moon in Affinity photo.

The tree is from a ready to render jungle construction kit from DAZ. I built the foreground scene using bits and pieces from the construction kit, and rendered it in DAZ 3D. I rendered the vine the woman is holding separately, because I knew I wanted to be free to reposition it easily.

The woman is a Genesis 2 Female 3D model, bought from DAZ, and only slightly modified by me. I positioned her in the jungle scene, but rendered her separately. The most difficult part of the work, was getting her fingers to grasp the vine, and positioning her legs, feet, and toes. I should have done more work on positioning her hips naturally, but I decided to save that for a future version. I am still a newbie at working with DAZ 3D, and I did not want to take on too much at once.

When I had rendered the elements, I composited, relit, and added shadows in Affinity Photo. I also darkened the woman's skin a bit, to give her a tan.

I plan to do variations of this picture, where I change some elements. Because I have rendered most elements separately, I can easily and quickly remove, replace, or add elements in Affinity Photo. This is a lot faster than rerendering in DAZ 3D or Bryce.

One final thing: The image I made is not original in concept. It is based on a painting by Frank Frazetta. I am studying the work of Frazetta, and other Fantasy artists, in order to improve my own work. When I am studying, and learning something new, I am not concerned with being original. That comes later, when I understand all the elements, and how they work together.

Original work, is not created from scratch. You need to feed your brain with lots of different things, and practice until you know how to recreate them. Only when you know the technique well enough, so that you no longer have to focus on it, will you be free to be creative. So, I never worry about creativity. I know that new things, and the parts that are uniquely me, will emerge if I keep my interest up, and if I learn and practice enough.

Friday 15 December 2017

Farewell to Earth

I tried out several different formats while working on this picture. In the end, I used anamorphic widescreen, a movie format used for big screens. Try clicking on the picture to see a larger version. It makes a big difference.

Noor Model Noor stood model for the piece. She is always very easy and fun to work with. I do recommend her as a model.

I drew the comet from scratch in Affinity photo. I won't go into details on how to do that here. I plan to do a larger writeup on how to create various kinds of celestial objects. Perhaps even as part of a book.

I used an Earth photo from NASA, and composited the background separately from the foreground. That way, I keep each part of the picture relatively simple, which makes it easier and faster to work in Affinity Photo.

The starship is from a 3D model of a starship lounge I bought from DAZ, and rendered in DAZ 3D.

After quite a bit of testing with various compositions, I ended up using only a small part of the lounge. I needed a close-up of the window in order to show off the asteroid about to smash into Earth.

This is the original shot of Noor Model Noor. Out of frame, to the left of her, there is a shoot-through umbrella, to light her back. As you can see, the original photo is quite different from the finished picture.

That is it for now. Just a quick run-through of how I have built up the picture, layer by layer.