Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lights and Shadow

I added a new post on The Art Center blog.  What I left out there was how to apply light sources to get the effects you want.  This is just an overview, but I'll probably go more into depth on it if I ever write that blasted book.

Diffuse light sources are the most common and useful lights in painting. They make great fill lights, rim lights, and key lights, they always make subjects look appealing.  They tend to soften features and are good for creating a pensive emotional response when used as key lights.  Light reflected from "lambert surfaces" always fits into this category.

I didn't have time to paint examples and the great masters are better at it, so instead here's Edmund Blair Leighton above, using a bright overcast sky to support the gentleness of the scene.  William Bouguereau's painting below that uses the common "north light" from a window to soften the girl's features and emphasize her beauty.

Direct or spot lights have a strong visual impact and are useful for creating drama or tension.  You can mix the effects of direct light sources with the effect of diffuse light sources by using light sources that are somewhere in between.  Here's a great example from Paul Delaroche of the drama created by a direct light source.  Below that, Edmund Blair Leighton shows how a diffuse light can have some of the dramatic effect of a direct light, in this case by using a large window but positioning it some distance behind the subject.
Remember that spot lights are really just direct sources with something "off camera" casting a shadow, so the light beam has a specific shape to it.  This shape doesn't always have a hard edge, a great example being sunlight blocked by soft-edged clouds (see Albert Bierstadt example below, on the rocks).  So you can also mix the softening effects and gradients you'd get from a diffuse source with the hard shadows of a direct source.

Finally, nearby light sources are the most dramatic of all, but they can also be distracting if too strong or used too often, because of the visual tension they create.  I also forgot to explain another thing about them on the other site, so I'll post it here instead.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The other day I was upset when I found a blog that stated that my art was a blend of 3d renders and painting.  I felt like Ned Nederlander when he was accused of using camera tricks to make his fast draw appear faster.  I guess I've occasionally used 3d to cheat my way out of having to work out the perspective on a spaceship, so does that make the accusing blogger correct?

Speaking of using 3d to cheat, I've been invited to contribute to a new sister blog to Randall Sly's excellent Character Design blog (link in my sidebar), The Art Center.
Here's a preview from my first post there (the aforementioned cheating used to render the spheres.  I'm not going to waste an hour or two breaking a sphere down into planes):
And don't worry, I'll continue my art thinking/learning posts here---I'll probably focus on digital painting stuff there and spew all my other thoughts here.  Or maybe I'll post the same in both places.  I guess we'll see how it works out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More line art for characters

There's something odd about the policeman I don't like yet, so I might need to bring in Jason again for help.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Kim

I'm thankful that I get to work with people who are awesome.

One of my coworkers, Jason Kim, has a great eye for appeal and design, and he spent about 20 minutes helping me out by drawing over my design.  He always notices seemingly insignificant things that in the end make a drawing much stronger.  Click the image below for an animation showing the transition from my original drawing (blue) to his fixes (red) to see what I'm talking about.
Just for the record, Jason suggested that I put some feet poking out of the end of the dress, a suggestion I ignored for reasons I'll explain later.  So if it looks funny without them, that's my fault.

Speaking of which, do you ever wish that people gave more critiques on art blogs instead of just digital high-fives?  I used to go to some art forums and I liked the positive criticism and exchange of ideas there.  But I understand why it's not the same with blogger---it's missing is the constancy of conversation threads, where it's easy to keep track of dialogue you're interested in (and interesting comments don't quickly get swept away by new posts).  Maybe someday someone will come up with a hybrid solution that can satisfy both needs.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Form Changes Preview

Something I'm working on, but I'm not going to make a post about here (I have to save something for the book or nobody's going to buy it!).  Done 100% in Painter 10.

Monday, February 08, 2010


I like the result from last Friday enough that I won't wait to post it with a slew of others.  About 90 minutes.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Creativity, Expression, Education, and "The Dip"

Based on things I've read and seen (ie. just a hyphothesis), I believe there's a big dip in creativity as artists increase in learning.  I think this is one source of the common (but mistaken) idea that education inhibits creativity---because most people and artists stop actively learning about their craft before they reach their creative and expressive potential.

This graph illustrates my hypothesis that after the big dip, if an artist continues learning, comes a leap in creativity and expressive ability.  The key to reaching that point is pressing through the dip and not assuming that you already know enough.
Image Credits: Some kids, a Disney Artist I couldn't track down, Frank Lloyd Wright, Luc Desmarchelier
I separated expression and creativity because I think expressive ability never takes a dip, but it is accelerated as creative ability is unlocked.

Also keep in mind that this is all learning, not just learning construction---although construction is still the foundation for expressive learning.  This graph doesn't represent any particular period of time, and can actually happen multiple times over an artist's development (ever experience art depression?  You're probably at the bottom of the curve and just need to press forward and try to learn more.)  An artist can also simultaneously be in different stages of the graph for different abilities---e.g. very creative architecturally but not as creative in designing creatures. 

Also, I put in the red graph for anyone who happens to be amazing and never experienced a dip.  You are awesome, and you really shouldn't waste time reading my blog.  Unless you are part of that elite group of people who are still in the dip but don't realize it (we all know one or two).