Monthly Archives: September 2014

Landscape Studies : )

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Top image is a color study of a gorgeous photo of a diver. Totally loved the feeling of adventure it gives me! I painted the study to practice some techniques I’m trying to get into my work, and to study how colors and light behave under water.

This is roughly how I did my studies (and how I find myself doing a lot of studies at the moment): I use the pen tool to create masks, and to maintain a sharp edge on my forms. Each big shape gets its own layer, which I then CTRL click in the layer palette so I can work inside the selection/shape only, not worrying that the color bleeds all over the image. This allows me to use big brushes. I hid the irritating clip markings by CTRL H so I don’t see them flashing in my face all the time.

After identifying the overall light sources and composition, I try to set the basics hues at first, often using the gradient tool. I’m color picking a lot since I’m not that good at seeing and choosing colors yet. I’ve noticed that using the gradient tool often gives the big patches of color a certain dynamic to start with. It makes it easier to build other stuff into the areas if color later on. It seems like that especially under water there are a lot of natural gradients going on.

After this I just paint, working my way around the image. I switch between 4-5 brushes. After using regular brushes I tend to work with the mixer brush tool on top of this. Right now I use the color mixer tool quite a lot. I totally love it, it let’s me “sculpt” hard edges into the painting, and mix color in a way the feels very manual. It’s like the smudge tool, but waaaaaay better!

The tool is quite new (included in PS 6/ Photoshop CC and onwards I think), but it really fits with how my mind wants to create and work with color : D All details and special effects are added at the end, like the pebbles in the foreground, the rays of light and the diver. I happened to find the perfect brushes for the rays of light yesterday when I updated my brush library. Accidentally deleted all my brushes a few weeks ago when I re-installed Photoshop, heh. If someone is interested I could share my brushes.

When I’m done with the paintings I try to do a small analysis of the image a few days later, in my sketch book, just to rehearse what I’ve learned and see how much I remember.

As you can tell I revisited the landscape study of the Chinese lake and tried to paint it without a reference image, just to see how much I remembered and if I could apply all the stuff I learned. Other than that I have realized I have no idea how the basic anatomy of four legged creatures actually work, so I’ve been doing some studies of cats, dogs and apes.

Man, these past 30 days have been extremely hard on a personal level, dealing with a lot of sickness, a broken computer and some other stuff. I really try to stay positive and do as much work as I can, but I’m just so extremely exhausted. Don’t wanna get too personal, but yeah, things are tough on a personal level at the moment : [ I try my best to stay positive and look ahead, planning fun things with my friends to keep my mind on nice things.

Where Did All The Original Content on Facebook Go?

Now I’m going to do something ironic. I’m going to complain about social media on my blog, and then maybe tweet or Facebook about it! It’s something I do every now and then, haha. But really, I think you can complain about society and still be a part of society. And Facebook is very much its own digital society. I’m a fan of picking apart and understanding why you feel the way you do, and then perhaps implement some kind of change to improve the state of things. I’m not really a big believer of complaining silently or just nagging and never do anything about the problem itself. I don’t have much time and energy, so I’m gonna just burp it out. The stuff I’ve been thinking about. Here it goes!

I’m very passionate about social media, marketing and PR. I just feel like I’m having some problems with the tools and the direction they are going in. One such tool is Facebook.

I feel like Facebook has become a really bad version of Reddit. And it has happened slowly and over 1-2 years. Every time I log into Facebook I’m greeted by the same kind of content. The content is roughly:

  • “Funny” or “fantastic” videos someone liked or reposted.
  • Photoshoped images with some words of wisdom written all over them. You know the Carpe Diem-stuff.
  • Reposted political articles from the biggest newspapers in Sweden.
  • Reposted comics from some video game site.
  • Reposted photos of things I don’t care about.
  • Click-bate articles or videos.
  • A bunch of people engaging in a never ending argument in someone’s update.
  • Something about a friends’ friend (which I don’t even know) has commented on an update written months ago (WTF Facebook?).

Simply put I feel that I find less and less reasons to keep using Facebook. I’ve adjusted my friends settings and been trying to shape my feed into only displaying happy, positive, interesting and original content. This involves removing people I don’t actually know, and muting people who post things I don’t want to see, but I don’t want to lose touch with them since I enjoy hanging out with them IRL. But it feels like true, original content posted by the people I care about is becoming increasingly rare. It’s more like Facebook has grown into a badly curated flood of stuff I don’t really care about or find interesting.

I can’t just stop using Facebook. There’s still a few things left the service provides that it’s hard to come by on other platforms, but it starts to feel like these reasons might not be enough to keep me coming back in the long run. The advantages of Facebook is:

  • Being able to stay in touch with people I don’t meet on a daily or weekly (or yearly) basis, but that I still care about a lot.
  • Invite people to parties and get invited to events and parties I want to attend.
  • Get feedback and keep track of my art progress.
  • Getting updates from my closest friends and family.

Not to mention I need Facebook to do my business. I mean, almost everyone is on Facebook, and I need it to do my job, but I just feel like I’m crawling trough this flood of bad content. Of course I’m sure some people think that the stuff I post is annoying crap as well.

I feel that the things that once made Facebook fun in the early days, are kind of lost now, somewhere in that muddy flood of spam. In the beginning it was a way of keeping in touch with people and get genuine updates and photos from their lives. Today fewer and fewer have the time (and perhaps the energy) to craft original content. It’s way easier to share an article about a political topic that you find online, than to write your own text.

I don’t mean to offend anyone of my friends who are posting things like Carpe Diem-photos, funny videos from Vine or links to cool blogs. It’s not you, its me. I just feel like Facebook is a waste of time and energy, but sure, it has it’s small nuggets of gold every now and then. My problem is that it’s a very long time since I enjoyed Facebook. I feel like I want to achieve a way of monitoring things on Facebook for my job, but other than that I pretty much want to keep away from there : )

 

Scary Mermaids

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A new update on my art project! The top image is a landscape study, using this image. As it happens, two of my friends actually visited that place in real life a few days ago, and were able to recognize the place from my painting when I posted it to Facebook! How crazy! The place is called Yangshuo and considered to be one of China’s most beautiful natural landscapes. Really wish I could go there at some point and experience it live : )

The other sketches are just random stuff from my sketch book. The bottom image shows a mermaid concept I made for my sister. She asked for a mermaid, thinking about the classic mermaids with long, beautiful hair and fish tail. So of course I started drawing an alternative mermaid, haha! I was thinking they live in dark underwater caves, catching fish and dead animals with their big hands. They are blind (just like many cave dwellers), but have sensitive barbels to help them navigate in the cold, dark waters. I got inspired by Lamprey fish for the tail. Mmm…lovely!

Still feeling a bit slow and low due to that nasty flu I caught in Finland almost three weeks ago. I had to travel back home from Finland while still really sick, and that seems to have made the flu stay for much longer. The past three weeks I have really felt totally drained of energy, some days just laying in the bed and sneezing, coughing and sleeping. Just going to the store to get some food has been exhausting. It’s SUPER stressing to be really sick and run your own show, since you can’t let your clients down just because you have a flu. You need to make sure they are not affected, that you still can deliver. It’s hard, but you need to be able to do it. This week I have felt how my energy is slowly returning however! Next week I hope I can finally start going to the gym again. I look forward to work our and lifting heavy SO much < 3

 

A Decision

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This summer I think that I finally understood a conversation I had with a previous co-worker. We were talking about what to do the following summer, and I said I would probably travel a lot since I got my friends and family are scattered all across the Nordic countries. I have four (!) summer houses within the family that needs to be attended if not every year, but at least every second year. Stuff like checking that the roof is still there and that no tree as fallen over the sauna. It’s like going on a tour every summer to be able to visit all my relatives and perhaps if I’m lucky get some relaxing time by the sea. I’ve grown up with this, so I don’t find this traveling that exhausting, but to other people it may seem stressing, but for me it’s natural.

So anyways, I was talking about summer plans with my co-worker, and he said “damn, that sounds like my worst nightmare”. He told me that he used to lock himself into his room for days and work on his small projects, both as a boy and now as an adult. He hated when he had to get out of his bubble and go visit some old aunt or something. This guy is also one of those people who are kickass at almost every aspect of crating video games and have been playing in a semi-famous band AND started two companies etc.

This summer I had a very nice experience when I sat in the garden, in the orangery of boyfriend’s parents. I spent all my nights there, when visiting. I sat there all by myself, just reading, writing, sketching and listening to the sound of the nature. The little greenhouse got both reading lamps and a heather, and when the darkness fell you could see all the starts above you, and the forest surrounding you. It was very, very nice. And it sparked my creativity!

It’s very important to be left alone sometimes if you want to use your creativity. Actually it’s one of the most important parts of creativity. You need to have some space and time when you know no one will come and bother you. I think that this summer I finally understood why writers are notorious for locking themselves up in cottages by the sea and houses in the mountains. You need a place to create and concentrate on your own inner world. If you are constantly distracted by the outside world it’s hard to stay creative. What has become clear to me is that you only have so much cognitive stamina each 24 hours. You can spend it on different things, but once you reached the limit you need to wait and re-charge by sleeping. Unless you cheat a little bit and drink some coffee or take drugs (coffee OK – drugs not OK, bee cool stay in school kidz!). But eventually you need to re-charge.

Maybe next summer I will take a trip to one of the family summer houses and just stay there for three weeks and write, or paint or draw. I actually really appreciate when life is very simple and just about eating, sleeping, creating and perhaps doing some work around the house.

This is one of the reasons I yesterday decided I will no longer participate in endless discussions about “troll-topics*” online. I just get too angry and it eats away all my energy to read and article where 600 people applaud the online haters that drove Sarkeesian out of her home last week. I get all angry and distracted from what’s really important in life when I read a FB-post about if it’s OK to vote on a racist party or not. I feel like I don’t gain ANYTHING at all in the end. And have you ever seen someone say “hey, I think you are right, I must be wrong, you have convinced me” in the comments on YouTube? I surely haven’t. I just feel like I want to spend all that time and energy on what’s important to me. And that is creating stuff, family, friends and my job. It feels a bit like giving up, like if I don’t participate in these heated discussions I may wake up one day and Sweden will be a fascist country run by a Nazi-party just because I didn’t have the time and energy to engage in important online discussions. I feel like that is a risk I’m taking, and I need to do it.

 

* Certain topics seem to attract the lowlife on the Interwebz, like articles about feminism, anti-racism, alternative medicine etc.

What I’ve Learned From Two Years Of Painting!

So here’s to another year of drawing and painting! The end of August marks two years since I sat down and decided to start painting and drawing on a regular basis to level up my artistic skills. It has been a bumpy road so far, and I’m very happy and thankful to be able to add yet another year to my project (and life, hehe)!

Last year I wrote a post titled “What Painting For 365 Days Taught Me (So Far)“. I tried to summarize what I’ve learned (so far), and include some of the images I had made that meant a lot to me or symbolized some kind of epiphany. Many of the things I listed last year still holds true one year later. I still subscribe to the idea that you essentially are the sum of your habits. Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% about how you deal with it!

Inspiration come and go (and it’s super awesome when you have it), but you can’t trust inspiration to be there all the time (or at least I can’t). Some creators run on a mix of coffee and inspiration, but I need some nice habits in place to keep on creating. I then try to use those skills I’ve honored by practicing whenever inspiration strikes and I feel like painting and drawing something cool! That’s how I work, whatever floats the boat, right?

So first, let’s see where we left of last year. Here’s a comparison of what one year of practice did to my skills between August 2012 and August 2013:

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Left: a study of a girl done in 2012 (I cringe so much when watching this, but hey, everybody start somewhere). Right; a study of a frame from the movie “Pacific Rim” done one year later.

I’m now going to list some areas where I feel like I learned a lot this past year, between August of 2013 and August of 2014. If you got any comments or feedback I encourage you to share it by making a comment at the end of this post. Please consider all of this work in progress. I don’t claim to know the answers to how one becomes a great artist, and some things I say in this post is probably wrong by some standards : ) Coming up: an extremely long blog post featuring a bunch of images and some rambling text. I put this together to summarize my own learning process and keep track of the important things!

 

Masks And Selections

This year I feel like I’ve started to understand the technical side of painting in Photoshop so much better! I’ve finally started to feel comfortable including masks, selections and brush settings into my workflow. The first year was a lot about how to even get brush settings and pressure sensibility on my Wacom to work, to make sure I had the right tools and understood the very basics behind image making.

The above three images were created with a lot of masks and selections. I finally started to understand how to use these tools to my advantage. Before I used to paint everything directly onto the canvas, which made it all look too smooth and smudgy. I really recommend this 10$ video on Dynamic Brushflow from CTRL Paint to learn about masks and selections! Below are a comparison of working with and without masks:

masks_comp

As you can tell the image to the left is very flat and all the edges are just too soft, everything floating into each other. On the right I have used some masks to make sure I’m only working on a specific detail at a time, so I don’t have to worry about paint bleeding out on other stuff in the image.

So getting the hang of masks and selection in my workflow was a very nice thing I did this painting year!

Standing Characters

Another area where I feel like I made some progress is the standing pose of humans and humanoids! Below is an example of standing characters, the left one’s drawn in December 2013 and the right ones are from June 2014. It was such a big revelation to me when I understood that legs are almost never on the same plane, one foot is almost always further down than the other due to the fact of perspective. I know how simple this sounds, but to me it was just mind-blowing, haha!

standing

 

Time 

Moving forward I’ve done a lot of studies these past 365 days. Something that’s changed is the amount of time I’ve dedicated to my studies. Over all I have been able to push more time into the drawing, not rushing things trough. I’ve notice that great looking images are not made in a hurry. Rome is not build on a day, and your image is not perfected in 20 minutes. Investing some time in the image usually pays off greatly. So no rushing, take your time!

Here’s some color studies. I’ve invested a lot more time in them than I usually do, and  think I learned a lot both about color and the way I paint by doing them. I practiced a lot of different tools when making these; both the color picker, the mixer brush and masks, which is great!
 

Not Too Much Special Effects

Something else I used to do previously but I’ve tried to correct is when it comes to using waaaay to much special effects and contrast in my images. I used to throw a lot of fancy layers on top of my images, looking for some cool effects. Lately I’ve come to learn that if I’m trying to add a lot of effects to an image it’s usually a sign that something basic in the image is not working. Instead of adding fancy glaceing to my images I need the foundation to be rock solid. If the basics are great, then it’s OK to add cool layers, but using them wisely, just to add one extra touch or some small details. Here’s an example to show what I mean:

contrast

Some artists are able to use a lot of special effects in their images, but they are able to do so because have super solid foundations in their images. To break or bend the rules you need to know the rules. The image to the left has way too much “cool” effects while the newer one to the right is more careful (and looks better imo).

Use The Right Brushes

Something that you are told over and over when learning to paint in Photoshop is that the brushes are not that important, that you need to know the basics of image making before you can actually use a nice brush to bring a nice painting to the next level. In other words, if you can’t paint it won’t matter how awesome brushes you are using, it simply won’t look nice. Most digital artists seem to use between 3-7 regular brushes. The standard brushes included in Photoshop are not that good in my opinion, but I continued to use them for a very long time before downloading some other artist’s brushes. The thing is, it does matter what brushes you are using! Here’s a comparison of when I was using the totally wrong brushes vs when I had collected some very nice brushes from other artists:

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Left: some studies made without elections and using waaaaay to soft brushes. Everything just blend together and looks too soft. Right: cloud study using the right brushes and the mixer brush tool!

As you can tell the difference is quite big. Of course I had improved my overall painting skills as well, so it’s not ALL about what brushes I was using, but I’ve learned how much the right brushes affect your work and limitations. If you are looking for some nice brushes to try I recommend Algenpfleger’s or Zedig’s. I’ve gone trough a lot of brush packs and throwing away 90% of it. Find the stuff that works for you and use it to your advantage!

 

Rendering Images To Make Them Look More Finished

The last thing I want to show you is that I kinda feel like I’m starting to understand what It takes to make a piece look more “finished”. I used to be able to paint in the very basics, but then I had no clue to how to make the image look “done”. It was like I knew how to cook the potatoes but had no idea on how to fry the meat, if you get what I’m saying. It’s still a great mystery, but I think I’m on the right path. It seems to be a lot about time. If you invest more time in an image it will look more finished, but it’s also about something as basic as image size. finish

I used to paint on a very small canvas in Photoshop. Small canvases are nice if you want to be able to work fast since big canvases, big brushes and many layers slow my computer down. But on the other hand, if you canvas is too small you can’t zoom in on the image and work with the details and add more visual information to the image. To size up my canvases and be able to actually add details has helped me a lot. Such a simple thing but something i didn’t think of previously! Haha!

 

Summary

Overall I have not invested the same amount of time into painting and drawing this year as compared to the last. I have been quite busy with getting my own company up and running, and I simply haven’t felt like I wanna spend too much time in front of the computer (partly due to medical reasons). If I sit 8 hours in front of the computer at my office I just feel it becomes too much to spend the rest of the night sitting on my butt and painting as well. I’m that kind of annoying person who values physical exercise in my free time ; ) I think that my next big challenge will be to find out what I want to do with my skills, to find out where I’m going. As of now I feel like I don’t really have a clear goal anymore. We’ll see!

 

I want to close this extremely long blog post with a comparison between a study I did in July 2013, and one done in August 2014. The bottom study kinda includes all the things I’ve learned the bast year; using selections, planning my images, invest plenty of time and use the proper brushes.

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Painted in the summer of 2013. Unfortunately I can’t find the original photo on my laptop.

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Study of Alxendria’s amazing illustration! Follow her artwork over at: http://alexneonakis.tumblr.com/

Cheers,

Sara

P.S If you want something more to read, feel free to check out the “What Painting For 365 Days Taught Me“, written a year ago!