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.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Lost World V: Protector

I thought I should try something new, like a 360 panorama digital painting.

The painting turned out pretty good for a first try. The main problem is displaying it.

Facebook has 360 panorama support built in. No problem there.

Google, however, relies on 3rd party providers, and that makes publishing 360 panoramas more complicated, and less reliable.

Here, I am trying out a panorama viewer from orb.photo.

Lost World IV: Aftermath (a.k.a. Blood on Her Hands)

This is the fourth and final (unless I get more ideas) picture of Kyla.

Yes, I named the character. I thought it appropriate, since she appears in an entire series of pictures, and may appear again.

As you can see, it is immediately after the battle against the T-Rex.

I have written about my sources of ideas for this series in my earlier posts. What I wrote then, goes for this picture too. However, there is one influence worth a particular mention:

Joe Jusko! (Check out his pictures on DeviantArt. It is a treat.)

I have learned a lot just by looking at Joe Jusko's pictures. They are strong, dynamic, the colors are vibrant, the compositions lead the eye to a point-of-interest, but it is more than that. Jusko has something special, Jusko has angles.

No, not angels! Angles! In some of his pictures, he is careful not to overdo it, he uses unusual angles to create drama, and heighten emotion.

I'll link to a couple of his images on DeviantArt. Check them out and you'll see what I mean:

Here are two more. They do not use viewing angle in the same way. I am including them because I like them, and because they have female protagonists that don't take crap from anyone:
  • First oil painting in 1977 (Wow! I didn't know about this one until I researched this blog post. Except for the hair color, the woman could be my character, Kyla.)
  • Stand Off! (If you think the woman looks a lot like La of Opar, it is because she is La of Opar.)
It is very important to know...oh, screw that! I got a new idea for a picture with Kyla. Got to go.

I'll be back!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Lost World III: T-Rex Battle

For the third picture in the series, I wanted to do something a bit more dynamic. This is an area where I have a lot to learn, but I am working on it.

I am still not convinced that what I am doing is art. All I am doing is that I am putting pieces together, pieces created by other people. On the other hand, as a photographer, I am doing exactly the same thing, and that is considered art.

When in doubt, check definitions. It does not always help, but then again, quite often it does:

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. - The Oxford dictionary
 Well, at least I am trying. I am recombining all sorts of different stuff, drawing on ideas from paintings, comics, movies, and books from several different genres. On top of that, I kit bash like crazy, using commercial 3D models, my own photos, and a suite of different software apps, to create these images. The purpose is to create works of beauty and emotional power, though, I admit, not always at the same time.

It doesn't have to be good to be art. It is making the effort that counts.

Here is the most important bit: If I can do it, so can you!

When I was seven years old, I loved to draw, like almost all children at that age. Then, something happened. When I was thirteen, I was utterly convinced I could not draw, and worse, I could not learn.

Through most of my life, I did not draw anything. Then, I started using simple diagrams, drawn on paper with squares, because I knew I could not draw a straight line, to make notes at work. I discovered I could use simple sketches to explain things.

That was a breakthrough for me. My sketches and diagrams looked awful, but that was okay, because they communicated what I needed to communicate. Mostly software design, at the time.

Later, I got into Systems Thinking, and management, and it became even more important to be able to express myself visually. I did a lot of presentations, paid presentations, so I needed visual aids, both to explain difficult concepts, and to keep the audience awake.

About six years ago, I decided to learn photography. The first year, I took more than 8,000 really, really boring pictures. Mostly of flowers. The second year, I took more than 13,000 pictures. I began varying my subjects more, and learned some basic rules of composition.

Despite this, the one thing almost all of my pictures had in common, was that they sucked. There were a couple of exceptions though, and I think that is what kept me going.

The third year, my skills took off. I learned to take fewer, but much better, photos. I began doing digital effects, and various kinds of trick photography. At first, I was back to sucking again, but I kept at it, and began to improve.

Now, I am still struggling. I am at a different level, but I am struggling more than ever. I used to think that only the results mattered. How I got there was unimportant. I still believe that, as a general principle, but I am starting to have doubts when it comes to my personal work.

I am not to worried though. That nagging doubt is part of the drive to explore, to learn, and to improve.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Lost World II: The Hunters

As I mentioned in my previous post, I went for extreme, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell style body proportions. I think I overdid it a little, and ended up with a She-Hulk version of Cavewoman.

So, I can go back to the drawing board, so to speak, or I can go with it, and see whether I can come up with ideas for a series of pictures about her.

I guess it's back to the drawing board either way.

Lost World I: Dangerous Shadow

I have had the idea for this one in my head a couple of days. The idea is that sometimes, you have to knowingly walk into danger, and take on something that may be too big for you to handle.

This is one picture that I'd like to make a photographic version of. We'll see how that works out.

Where do you get inspiration for a picture like this? Well, I got it from several different sources. The Lost World theme is from books like Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World, and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. Edgar R. Burrough's Tarzan and John Carter books are also strong influences.

In case you are wondering about the nudity: It's the norm on Barsoom, where John Carter had his adventures. Also, I budget my 3D projects carefully, and appropriate clothes weren't in the 3D budget for this month, and because I am still trying to figure out how to do nude art.

There are of course artists that have inspired too. The somewhat exaggerated proportions of the woman is inspired by the art of Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, and Frank Frazetta. The situation, with impending danger, owes more to Joe Jusko, and perhaps FrankCho. (Frank Cho would probably have turned the idea into slapstick comedy.)

Technically, I am a photographer, not a painter, so I take a photographer's approach to creating pictures. That is, I do not create stuff. I take existing stuff, and arrange it on a scene in front of a camera, and take a picture. It just so happens, this time I used 3D objects. and the scene was created in Daz Studio.

Oh, I did a bit of post processing in Affinity Studio and Dynamic Auto-Painter. Dynamic Auto-Painter is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

I do have a couple of more ideas on the same theme, so this may well turn into a short series of pictures.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Fine Art Nude: Self-Constraints

It is amazing how we limit our own growth and success by self-imposed constraints: 
  • I can't do this. 
  • I don't dare do that. 
  • I'll never be able to learn. 
  • I don't want to learn.
There are ways around it though: 
  • Learn and experiment in small steps. 
  • Find others who want to learn, and learn with them. 
All the small steps you take will add up. Look back after a year, or two years, and you will see that all the small steps add up to giant strides.

I've had the idea for this picture for a long time. Making it was technically easy. 

I built the scene in DAZ 3D Studio.

I used a Genesis 8 Female 3D model as a base. I positioned the arms and hands, and then duplicated the model. Then I repositioned the arms and hands over the copy.

I bent the neck and tilted the head of the original model. When I did that, the models did not quite match up. Instead of matching the necks and heads precisely, I simply turned the head of the second model invisible.

I created a virtual studio consisting of two planes, a floor, and a back wall. Then I created a rather large third plane, made it a light emitter, and placed it high above, in front of the model, and angled at 45 degrees. This provided ambient lighting for the scene.

Finally, I added a spotlight to put a bit of extra light on the model. I made the spotlight a 2x2 metre square, to soften the shadows.

I rendered the scene with Daz built-in Iray renderer.

I did some post work in Affinity Photo, mostly to hide the intersections between the two 3D models at the shoulders. I used a combination of inpainting and patching.

I increased the contrast a little bit, and turned the picture black and white.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Monolith I and II

Monolith II

The Monolith series is very loosely inspired by the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If you have seen my other Fine Art Nude work, you know that they are often rooted in some aspect of the human condition. The monolith series is more about form, that is, shape, and light.

I put Monolith II at the top of this blog post, mostly because it is social media safe. (Yes, I occasionally chicken out. Depends more on my current mood, than the pictures.) Reduces the risk of getting banned on Facebook.

Monolith I
Monolith I is more about the light than anything else. I wanted to see what happened when I put a very large light source directly behind the model. If that had been the only light source, you would see little more than a silhouette.

I added another light source in front of the model, angled 45 degrees, and high enoug to illuminate the entire monolith. Because of the distance between the light and the model, the model is evenly lit from head to toe.
I did add a bit of shadow in the genital area for modesty's sake. Not the model's modesty (she is a 3D model), or yours, but mine. I am still a bit shy about doing nude art.

Here are links to some of my earlier Fine Art Nude pictures:

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Social Media Bubbles

If you think you do not live inside the Matrix, it is because you are asleep inside your bubble.

We all live inside information bubbles shaped by the algorithms that choose what information to give us on social media.

Facebook, Youtube, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Linkedin...They all use algorithms designed to provide us information we like, and filter out whatever we do not like.

The information we get, shape our perception of the world. Due to the design of the algorithms, the information keeps narrowing down.

The more it narrows down, the more difficult it becomes to understand other viewpoints than our own. Our points of view are whatever the masters of the algorithms design them to be.

If you think you do not live in the Matrix, it is because you are asleep in your bubble.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Disciples and the Light

I was thinking about how we tend to follow leaders blindly, a lot likes moth drawn to a flame that burns them. Happens in politics, in wars, and in our daily lives, at work, and at home.

This series of pictures is supposed to be relatively tranquil though. The drama is in the light, not in the action. Doing it this way is an important exercise for me, because I usually tend towards making dramatic, action filled pictures. I want these ones to be different. I want to use them to develop a different part of me.

I use a lot of digital composition, so when taking photographs, I often light with that in mind. In this series, I simplify: naked bodies, a naked environment, and very simple light setups.

Last night I wrote down a list of ideas for this series. We'll see how many of them will get done. There are some other projects I am also working on...

Friday, 26 January 2018

Perpendicular I

Have you ever had the feeling that you live on a plane perpendicular to everyone else, even the ones you love?

You can touch, but no matter what you do, you can never share.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Triangles IV: Shape and Story

Triangle IV is a variation on the picture I published a couple of days ago. I have added one element, the man walking towards the woman. I also changed from portrait to horizontal format, I changed the lighten a little bit, and I lowered the viewing angle.

The previous picture was all about form, the triangular composition, the symmetries, and curves. Note how adding the man walking towards the woman changes the picture completely. Now, there is a story there:

The man is walking, so obviously something is happening, but there is more. Why is he walking towards her? Why is he so small? Or, is he normal sized, and she is gigantic? We can't tell. All we can say is that their relative sizes are very different in relation to each other. Without a reference outside the system, we know nothing about the size of either of them.

That's Einstein and relativity, right there.

Actually, there is a reference point outside the system: You, the viewer. When you saw the picture, did you think she was normal sized, or that he was? Or, did you conclude that without a fixed reference point, you can't conclude anything about their sizes in absolute terms?

So, in a way, while the picture itself just is a starting point for your imagination, your reactions to it, and the assumptions you make, can tell you a lot about you.

Because of that, while I have serious doubts about me being anything resembling an artist, I suspect that this picture, may actually be art. It is not because of what it tells you, it is because of the questions it makes you ask.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Triangles and Thelephobia

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
― Cesar A. Cruz 

How many triangles do you see?

I am fascinated by triangle composition. Fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta often used triangle composition to create striking images for book covers. In photography, it is much less common. In 3d art, I may have seen it once or twice, but no more.

Personally, I am striving to use triangle composition more, because I like the way the eye is drawn to the image. I am still not quite used to it though, so it takes some thought to design pictures that work.

The picture above is a 3D render done with Daz 3D Studio. For this one, I used a Genesis 8 Female 3D model, with some slight modifications.

I built a virtual studio consisting of nothing more than two planes, and added a single light.

The light is a bit interesting. I used a 2x2 m plane, added a light emitting shader, and placed it 3m above the floor the model is sitting on. It was my first try with this kind of lighting, and I am very pleased with it. With a bit of practice, this may well become my preferred method to create studio lighting, and indoor lighting.

It is interesting that you can create professional level studio lighting, with a perfect model, at zero cost.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the picture above is what you do not see: Nipples.

I cloned them out because of the thelephobic social media rules. (Thelephobia = Fear of nipples.)

If you are thelephobic, please don't look below this line of text, because the uncensored version of this picture is coming up.


Here they are. Why anyone would find them offensive, I do not understand. Especially considering that male nipples are considered okay to show.

There is a big nipple-related problem though: Social media services, for fear of offending anyone, and thus lose customers, are imposing very strict rules against nudity, and other controversial topics. (Though violence is considered less dangerous, for some unfathomable reason.)

At the same times, they use algorithms designed to feed us more of what we were interested in the last few times we looked at something.

The result is that we get locked into very narrowly defined information bubbles. We are fed only what the algorithms decide we should be fed. We lose diversity, we lose other people's viewpoints.

This inevitably leads to evermore rigid thought control. We are trapped inside rapidly shrinking bubbles. At the end of the process is...nothing. No original thought. No room to be different.

Without variation, no progress is possible.
― Frank Zappa

What follows, eventually, is collapse. The world changes, but we won't, and then we go extinct. Even if our bodies continue to move for awhile, there will be no one there to have an interesting conversation with.

Thelephobia is not the cause, but it is a symptom.

Note about the art quote: The "art should comfort the disturbed..." quote is a variation on a quote by Finley Peter Dunne, and was originally about newspapers. The version about art has been attributed to a number of people, including Banksy. However, as far as I know, Cesar A. Cruz came up with it.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Dark Pyramid (a.k.a. Pyramid of Evil)

 I got the idea for Pyramid of Evil from a fake news story about a tweet made by Buzz Aldrin. According to the story, Aldrin was on an expedition in Antarctica, when he tweeted:
We are all in danger. It is evil itself.
The tweet included a picture of a massive pyramid in a snow covered landscape. According to the story, Aldrin deleted the tweet after a few hours.

The story was fake. Aldrin made no such tweet. The original picture was of Pyramid Peak, an oddly shaped, but otherwise normal mountain. (Thanks to Petri Olderhvit, for sending me the Pyramid Peak link.)

Making a picture like this is fairly easy. I used Bryce, a landscape generator, to create the landscape. I took care to use several terrain objects at varying distances from the camera, in order to give the picture a bit of depth. I did not add any mist, because the environment is a bit cold for that.

I added two people to the landscape for a couple of reasons. One was to indicate scale. Another was to give viewers someone in the picture to empathize with, to feel a sense of wonder, slightly tinged with fear of the unknown.

There is nothing overtly scary in the picture of course. I did not want it to be. The fear and horror comes later, when the people are trapped inside the pyramid with...something. Perhaps one of the beings that built the pyramid, perhaps something else. Something that killed them, and has been laying dormant in the frozen waste since then.

Aaah, back to technique: I didn't have cold weather clothing for the characters, but because they are seen from a great distance, all I needed was bulky clothing, or, as I just happened to have...a spacesuit. If you enlarge the image, you may be able to see that the characters are wearing spacesuits.

I composited the pictures in Affinity Photo. I wasn't happy with the texture I used for the pyramid - there was no snow, so I painted the snow on. I used a paint brush to give the snow a little bit of structure, and sampled the color from the snow on the ground.

One noteworthy point: I painted the snow on a separate snow layer, and I used Affinity Photo's Blend Range function to ensure that the snow would stick only to the brighter parts of the pyramid. This made it look as if snow and frost had stuck to some parts, and been blown away by the wind in other parts.

The snow looked a bit dark, so I flipped the blend mode to Screen.

More Dark Pyramid pictures? I don't know. For now, it's just this one. I have another project I am working on with a few friends, and I want to focus on that.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Vulnerability, Danger, and Courage

 More storyboards. This time about vulnerability and courage in the face of danger.

This time, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Digital Painting: In the Asylum

In the Asylum is a prestudy for Demogorgon, a piece I haven't done yet. I got the idea while working on the Dinosaur Rider series of pictures, and just had to break off and do something different.

Being a photographer is very different from being a cartoonist or painter. Cartoonists and painters usually create their work from scratch. A photographer finds things that already exist, modify them if necessary, and put them together in interesting ways.

This is a simplification, of course. Painters and cartoonists often work using photo references, or like a photographer, with live models. I sometimes create 3D environments as backdrops for my photographic images. The lines are blurred.

Me, I am interested in the results. If I can find a simple way of accomplishing what I want, then that way is the way I go. I constantly strive to learn more, but as a means to an end.

I created In the Asylum by setting up a scene in Daz 3D Studio. I used a stock model, the Genesis 8 Female as a base, and changed skin color, the shape of the ears, and the proportions of the body. Some of the modifications are easy tweaks using pre-built controls, for others, I changed the mesh directly, using scaling transformations. I experimented with a D-Former, but found that, for what I wanted to do, the scaling transformations gave me better results.

The backdrop is a room from the Daz Asylum package. I threw out the pre-packaged lighting, and replaced it with my own lights.

Notice the shadow on the floor to the left of the woman? That is from the window. I placed a light outside the window to get the shadow, and also to control where the light would fall on the floor.

I also added a point light, for ambience, and gave it volume to soften the shadows.

When I had a render, I opened it into Affinity Photo, and used a paint brush with the Paint Mixer tool.

I also tweaked the contrast, and changed the white balance to give the light in the room a greenish cast. I wanted the light in the scene to match the green skin of the woman.

Storyboard or finished picture? I don't know. I could shoot this using a live model, and even a real environment, but I am actually quite happy with the picture as is.

I'll probably move on to Demogorgon instead, unless something else just pops into my head.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Dinosaur Rider V - Context is King!

Chomping down, or just carrying? Without context, it is impossible to know.

Because it is a human figure in the jaws of a T-Rex, we could make a good case for chomping. On the other hand, there is a woman riding the T-Rex, which implies she is in control, which makes what will happen next more ambiguous.

Two things that may be of interest:

This started out as an indoor scene. You'll find out what that scene is if you have a look at the next picture in this series. While I worked on it, it struck me that if I changed the camera angle, and removed all walls and the ceiling, I'd get an interesting outdoor shot that would fit into the overall story told in whole series of pictures.

The other thing is that I have composited two renders of the same scene, but with different brightness. In the original render, the spacesuit and the T-Rex skin where about equally bright, which made the suit difficult to see. So, I used a render 3 f-stops brighter for the suit, and mixed in with the base render of the suit to make it show more visually distinct.

Here are the two original renders I combined.


Here is a link to the previous picture in this series.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Dinosaur Rider IV - An Unexpected Encounter

Who do you think is more surprised?

As I get more comfortable with Daz 3D Studio, I can focus more on story elements. What is the story I want to tell? How are the pictures in the Dinosaur Rider series connected? What will happen next? What will the conclusion be?

If I was working on a story, I'd have all this worked out already. Because my main objective is learning, I am creating new ideas and connecting them to old ones as I go along.

In other words, I am following the Conceptual Spiral, that I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

Here is a link to the previous picture in the Dinosaur Rider series.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Dinosaur Rider III

One more Dinosaur Rider storyboard. The idea is to create storyboards that are as close to the final result as possible. I'll create the final pictures by shooting live models, rerender the base images without the human 3D model, and then add the real live model by compositing.

I can get camera angles and lens properties directly from the 3D scene. This means I should be able to duplicate them fairly closely during the real shoot.

I am writing this while I am rendering another base image. It'll be fun to see how it turns out.

Here is my previous  Dinosaur Rider post.

Dinosaur Rider - And some reflections on Fine Art Nude

Dinosaur Rider II - A storyboard for a picture I plan to shoot in 2018.

I have wanted to make Fine Art Nude pictures for a couple of years now. I have done it only once or twice, because it is a difficult genre, both technically, and emotionally.

Fine Art Nude is not quite what you expect if you just look at some Fine Art Nude pictures, even very good ones. If you look at FAN pictures at 1x.com, for example, you will see almost exclusively women, in aesthetically pleasing poses. Quite often, light and shadows are used used to accentuate shapes.

Creating FAN art this way works very well, and that is why that style is so popular. However, if we look at a definition of Fine Art Nude, as a genre, it becomes obvious that there are many other ways of creating FAN art, without breaking the genre boundaries:
Fine art nude photography is a genre of fine-art photography which depicts the nude human body with an emphasis on form, composition, emotional content, and other aesthetic qualities.
- Nude Photography Art, Wikipedia
Note the complete absence of anything in the definition that prevents dinosaurs from being in the picture. As with many other things, what is not there, may be at least as important as what is there.

Emphasis on form and composition? Well, if you look at the composition of the picture above, you will notice two things: The picture does use triangle composition, and there is room for improvement. That is okay. I'll let this picture rest for a bit, work on some other stuff, and then go back to it, to see what I can improve. That's okay. I am focusing on learning new tools at the moment. Integrating the new things I learn with everything I already know, comes later.

Emotional content? Well, we interpret what we see differently. I see a woman strong and skilled enough to control the (at least symbolically) strongest and fiercest predator that has ever walked the Earth. And, she does it naked, with no tools, no constraints on the T-Rex, other than the bond she has created by training it, and her will.

To me, that carries a lot of emotional content.

BTW, here is an earlier version of the same picture.

Brighter, and toned to give an afternoon, rather than evening feeling. I prefer the darker version, but that is a matter of taste and context.

I am working on more Dinosaur Rider pictures. I have four planned so far, and there might be more. The second one is already done, and the third is rendering as I write this.