Saturday, November 29, 2008

A great way to experiment with design and color

Before the computer, designs like those below would have been very time consuming to create with traditional painting mediums. Doing simple designs can be fun and a good way to familiarize yourself with a program like Photoshop Elements 2.0, which is what I used here.

DigiArt 1a

You can easily create a black and white design on the computer by using the Line Tool and the Rectangular Marquee Tool. For this experiment, just about any simple design will suffice.

DigiArt 1b

I add colors with the Paint Bucket Tool, if I don't like the result I can easily change the color. On the second version I create a white design by reversing the original. This is done by pressing Control and the letter i at the same time.

DigiArt 2a

Another unique black and white design, these are fun to create, just let yourself go wild.

DigiArt 3a

This is a very complex design that takes a bit longer to do, when you add color it's even more interesting. As a final touch I added the white rectangle in the center.

DigiArt 5a

A fairly complex but pleasing design.

With the addition of color the whole design takes on a new character. Studies like these will help to develop your design and color skills. The image on the right is a negative of the first image.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How my cats help my productivity.... in their own words

Hi Everyone,
First, Gloria, Laura, Jpeg, Tiff and I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving Day !

People are always curious as to how I accomplish the amount of work that I do, basically, I can sum it up in one word: CATS.
Read below, you'll see what I mean.

Catz 1 copy

Catz 2

Catz 3

Catz 4

Catz 5

I DO thank you guys !!!! Sorry about being grumpy sometimes.
Well, now you know my secret. For a more productive day get a cat or two, the more the merrier !
It also pays to have more than one project going on, if you hit an impasse on one, you can get away from it for a while and work on another project. Having worked for many years in the crazy ad business probably helps, as I had to produce whether I felt like it or not.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More digital book illustrations


I think that visually, the combination of line art and photography, gives the illustrations a very contemporary look. It's something that just couldn't have easily been done before the computer became available to artists.


I'm very pleased with the way these experiments turned out, the computer has opened up a whole new world for me.


Another drawing of Ben's beautiful cat, Puss'N Boots. I used to call him Irving.

Ben's BVk 16

When working you may reach a certain point on your illustration where you are unsure about what to do next, you can duplicate and save your art and then keep working on the copy. If things go awry you can always make another duplicate and try again. This is one of the real benefits of working with the computer.

Ben's Bk 18

You can easily do two or three versions of an illustration and then pick out the one that works the best. To accomplish this using traditional mediums would take a great deal of time and effort.

Jeanne & Ben

Jeanne and Ben in Venice. Another photo and art combination that works very well.

Ben's Bk 13

The ability to easily duplicate your art and try various versions will enhance your skills, it can be a great learning process. When you apply this advantage to creating color art it even gets more exciting. The computer begs you to experiment !

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Black & white digital book illustrations


Illustrations done for Ben Leibson's book "Drifting Sands". I did a total of 36, it was my first attempt at black and white digital illustration. Ben supplied me with some photos that he had taken during various trips which I used as a basis for the art.


I had a great time experimenting with this fascinating new medium, it opened up a whole new world for me.


Here is a portrait of Ben with his cat, Puss 'N Boots. When starting this piece I first scanned in the photos and combined them, then converted the image with the Photoshop Sketch/Graphic pen filter which created the fine linear effect. Then I defined the cat's body and added a few tones to Ben's face with the Brush Tool.


These illustrations are essentially a combination of photography and line art, with flat gray tones added.
I was very pleased with the way this illustration turned out. I added the gray border areas to create a more interesting design. The same technique was used here as on the above illustrations.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A portrait painting demo

A friend of mine, Ben Leibson, wrote a book and asked me to do some illustrations for it, including a portrait of himself. He knew that I was just starting to experiment with doing art on the computer and thought it might be an interesting challenge for me to use the digital medium for this project. I had recently purchased a Mac G 4 and was doing a lot of experimenting with digital art.
For his portrait I began by taking a few photos and decided on using the one below as a basis for his portrait.

Ben Photo

The portrait was painted directly over this photograph using the Painter Classic program and I saved the image at two stages for demonstration purposes. This is a fairly easy process for me as I have years of experience painting with traditional painting mediums. But, even if you have never painted with oils, acrylics or watercolors, the method shown here is a good way for beginners to practice and develop their skills.
If I had used the more conventional method of painting a portrait by starting out with a drawing, I would have begun by first filling in all of the areas with a flat color, the rest of the process would have been pretty much the same as shown below.


Using Painter Classic, I begin by painting in a flat, neutral background, then roughly paint in his hair.


I then paint in a highlight area in the background and work on the hair a little more. Next I pretty much work over the whole painting, the shirt, his hand and parts of the face.


I clean up a few details such as the edge of the glasses, add a few highlights on the face and define the mouth more and I'm finished.


Here is the cover of Ben's book. The scene is the Lake Michigan beach near Bridgman where Ben had a summer Home. That's his wife Jeanne strolling on the beach. In the oval inset is a Paris scene, one of Ben's favorite places.


At first Ben thought that the illustrations would be in color and I finished a couple of paintings before we found out that the interior art for the book would only be in black and white. The above painting is based on a photo that Ben had taken while traveling in France. I painted directly over the photo using the Painter Classic program as I did on the above portrait.


To create a stronger image for the black and white illustrations I decided to employ flat gray tones with line work, rather than the painterly approach used on the color version. This art was done in Photoshop Elements, most of the line work was drawn using the mouse. A Wacom tablet and pen probably would have been a lot easier.
In my next post you will see more of the illustrations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The computer begs you to experiment

The computer can be a liberator. It's a totally new medium that can send an artist off on a whole new course. You can still employ more normal painting techniques, although I see the computer as a launching point for exploring new directions and ideas. A great deal of the digital work being done today would fall into the classification of hyper-realism. While I do appreciate the technical aspects of hyper-realist rendering, I feel that much of that type of work is cold and lacks emotion. I personally prefer a more expressive, painterly approach.

Dig 8

It's fun to just let loose and try something new. The computer is the perfect medium for experimentation. Of course, as I've said before, it can help if you are fairly well versed in the traditional painting mediums. If nothing else, the experience of formal training can give you the confidence to just dive in and forge ahead with this new tool.

Dig 10

Above all, don't get discouraged and be aware, while it may look easy, it does take some skill as well as imagination to experiment. The skill can be acquired, the imagination is another thing. When experimenting it pays to be a little free and reckless as I was with the above rendition of a family group.

Dig 11

I strove to move away from the normal self portrait and this is the result. The object in the center is made up of several photos of a piece of wooden sculpture that I had constructed. While it is a strange painting, it's a very interesting approach.

Dig 13

Another interesting self portrait created with loosely drawn color lines over masses of color. All these examples were created using Photoshop 5.0.

Dig 12

Another portrait of Jeanne using a more normal painterly approach. I especially like the way the pattern of the dark and light values works as a strong design element.

Dig 14

A portrait of Martha Olsen. She and her husband Fritz are neighbors of mine, Martha is an opera singer and Fritz is a sculptor that works with stone. They have beautiful grounds displaying Fritz's work and a wonderful studio/gallery at 6914 Holloway Drive, Sawyer, Michigan 49125. It's well worth the visit if you are ever in this area.
The Harbor Country area around Sawyer can be great fun as we are fortunate to have the Lake Michigan beach, Warren Dunes State Park, galleries, antique shops, wineries and some wonderful restaurants in the area. Located at Holloway Drive and the Red Arrow Highway is the Soe Cafe, one of my favorite restaurants. In downtown Sawyer you can dine at Fitzgerald's before visiting the Scarlet Macaw Art Center, Elizabeth Coyne's gallery as well as the fabulous Sawyer Garden Center.
Located in the next town, Harbert, is the spacious Craig Smith Gallery as well as the Cafe Gulistan. Craig also has another gallery in the Gordon Beach Inn at Union Pier, which also is the home of Timothy's, another fine restaurant. There is also a gallery in Lakeside, the Burnison Gallery.
Other restaurants worth dining at in Union Pier are Frankie's Place, Cafe Tuscany and the Red Arrow Roadhouse. I should mention one of Gloria's favorite places as well, the Grand Mere Inn in Stevensville.
There's also lots to do in New Buffalo, only seven miles from Sawyer, there you'll find the Bentwood Tavern, Casey's Bar and Grill, Hannah's, Brewsters Deli and Cafe and the Happy Buddha.
Harbor Country is what I call Chicago's playground as many Chicagoans have second homes in this area. Harbor Country residents are also lucky as we are only about ninety miles from Chicago, it's fun to take the train there to enjoy the city.
So, you're not only getting info on digital art, you're getting some good travel info as well.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My first attempts at painting on the computer

I had never even given a thought to buying a computer. My good friend, Gordon McGowan, who recently passed away, was always after me to get into computer art. Gordon and I go back many years, we even were in business together in 1955, as partners in MDM Studios in Detroit. Gordon was an excellent illustrator and storyboard artist and for the last fifteen years he had been teaching courses in computer art at the Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Anyway, the thought of creating art on the computer seemed like an absurd idea, I was soon to be enlightened, however.
My advertising clients in New York insisted that I get a computer so that I could deliver my assignments by e-mail because two of my packages had arrived late and another was actually lost. I had to redo the assignment fast, and my client was furious. If I wanted more business I had to buy a computer. I complied and had no more delivery problems. It was a good move, if you miss a deadline in the ad business you can kiss that client goodbye.
During some down time I began to experiment with digital art and I was astounded at the possibilities that this medium opened up and have been hooked ever since.

Dig 1

This is my very first attempt at digital art, an abstract design.

Dig 3
Here is the ninth piece I did, I painted directly over a photograph of my wife, Jeanne, using the Adobe Photoshop 5.0 program.

Dig 4

An abstract rendition of a Chicago street scene which turned out quite interesting.

Dig 5

This is an abstract study of my son Kurt, I painted directly over an old black and white Polaroid photo.

Dig 6

Here is another Chicago scene, I sure had fun with this one.

Dig 7a

Another portrait of my wife done in a sketchy, loose technique. I was really beginning to see that the computer medium would open new vistas for me as an experimental art medium.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More variations on realism

Real 12

A painting of granddaughter Shea doing a drawing with markers. This was painted directly over a photograph. I kept the background simple and used strong color for a dramatic result. When doing studies like these you can do two or three different color versions and pick out the best one. The computer enables artists to experiment with relative ease, compared to the traditional painting mediums.

Real 11

A portrait of Ryan, also painted directly over a photo. Both of these were done using Painter Classic. I used a mouse for all of these renderings, I do have a Wacom pad but haven't set it up yet.
Incidentally, I am left handed through a accident. When I was very young I stuck the index finger of my right hand into a vacuum cleaner motor. This was about the time when you would start drawing and writing and I refused to use my right hand while my finger was healing and drew and wrote only with my left hand and have done so ever since. When I began working with the computer I found that no matter how hard I tried, I could not use the mouse with my left hand. Everything seemed natural when I used the mouse with my right hand, so I must actually be right handed. Very confusing ! When I start working on the Wacom pad, should I be able to simultaneously use the mouse with my right hand and the pen with my left ? Probably not.

Real 18

A CD album cover done for Centerpiece Jazz using the same technique as on the previous pieces.

Real 15

A sinister, loosely rendered self portrait for fun. You can create all kinds of wild art on the computer, have fun and experiment.

Real 16

A self portrait done in a woodcut style, it's still realistic, but quite an interesting technique to explore. I first did a drawing using a Pentel pen which was scanned and then colored on the computer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Realistic digital portraits and figures

Portraits and figure studies can be fun to paint on the computer. For the beginner it may seem like a daunting experience, but if you start by first painting many smaller sketches you will gradually gain the confidence to tackle larger, more complex works. It would also be advantageous, as I have stressed before, to do some painting and sketching with traditional mediums as well. It's also important to spend some time studying other artist's paintings in books, museums and galleries, there's a goldmine of information and inspiration out there.

Real 8

A painting of my granddaughter, Liz, at the piano. A loose rendition using Photoshop 5.0

Real 9jpg

Another granddaughter, Ryan, rendered over a scanned drawing. By having her shirt and background the same color and drawing in dark lines to define her body, I made the painting much more interesting. It was done in Photoshop 5.0. I prefer more of a painterly quality in my realistic renditions rather than hyper realism, which seems so hard and cold, without feeling.

Real 10jpg

The violinist was painted directly over a photograph using the Painter Classic program. I deliberately kept the rendering very loose and sketchy.

Real 13

Liz with Charlie. This was painted over a photo using the Photoshop program and has a nice painterly quality.

Real 17

A client of mine commissioned me to do a portrait of his grandson. On this painting I first did a pencil drawing and painted over the scanned image with Photoshop 5.0 and Painter Classic, using a photo as reference. With Painter Classic you can create nice juicy brushstrokes that have the look of an oil painting. The finished image was printed on 13 x 19" archival paper using pigmented inks which resist fading. Dye based inks will eventually fade, manufacturers claim that pigmented inks will not show signs of fading for over two hundred years. We'll never know if they are correct, but if the prints are framed properly and not hung in direct sunlight, they should not fade.
On my next post I will show you a few variations on painting portraits.