Concept Art Junkie (from my Patreon page)

I admit it whole heartily, I am a concept art junkie.  Movies, video games, and book covers, I love seeing the images that were part of the process in creating them.  Any major science fiction or fantasy movie is loaded with renderings of ideas considered for locations, creatures, and clothing.  “Lord of the Rings” directed by Peter Jackson is a great example of the amount of quality artwork produced to help visualize the story for other artists to create the sets, costumes, and digital creatures.  I love watching all of this on my extended edition extras.

One of my favorite games from my Xbox was “PowerDrome” released by Electronic Arts.  Besides being the best alternative on Xbox for Wipeout, one of the rewards for winning races was the opening of concept art files.  The art for the race track designs turned out to be some very nice science fiction art, in my opinion.  It was full of atmospheric renderings of alien worlds and futuristic race tracks, which were distinct for each world.  Not only were areas of the world worked out but the varying racetrack equipment and vehicles too.

Finally, being a fan of Michael Whelan, I have seen much of his work, including alternate versions of covers he created as part of the process of submitting book covers for approval.  One of my favorites was “Dragon on Board”, which was an alternate cover for Anne McCaffrey’s novel “All the Weyrs of Pern”.  Interestingly enough, this became the cover for another book I believe.  In addition, my collectible card sets art book for Michael Whelan contain several pencil sketches and color studies he did while pondering different projects.  I love looking at them all.  I highly recommend searching out concept artwork from your favorite sources of entertainment.  You might be surprised by what you find.

Color Pencil Study (New $5 reward on my Patreon Page)

This is the explanation of the image I attached for my $5 patrons.

Here is a drawing I did some time ago when I was trying to figure out color pencils over large areas.  This is one of the few color pencil drawings I worked on until completion.  Considering how long ago I made this piece, some parts actually hold up pretty well to what I am doing now, while others fall flat.

The image is from a magazine photo, don’t remember which, of a small bird grasping a branch.  The bird was the focal point with the background being out of focus.  I believe that the bird and branch turned out well, but trying to create the rest of the background over the remaining paper proved to be too challenging for me.

Working on this particular drawing, using the techniques I had learned with lead pencils, was not happening and is the reason so many of my color pencil drawings are left unfinished.  On small detail areas I am good but large areas stump me.  I have since seen many artists use color pencils to great results, but I am not one of them.  However, all in all, this is not a bad picture.  Unfortunately, it is also not a great picture.

Lighting the Scene (from my Patreon page)

I will admit that I am jealous of artists who can depict sources of light credibly in their artwork.  I am not talking about the sun, although this is challenging too, but mechanical forms of light.  Light strips, dial illumination, or screens are examples of what I am talking about.  Strong sources of light in situations where there are lots of reflections and/or atmospheric effects.  I remember many Michael Whelan paintings where the light source had a well-defined shape and yet still depicted the softness associated with the glow most light sources have.

I still work hard to achieve such effects in my paintings.  The easiest way of creating a bright light source is to take a light color and surround it with a very dark source.  But what do you do when you have a strong enough artificial light source to still be seen in a daylight situation?  I haven’t tried that yet, but I have been amazed by artists that can pull off such complex lighting.

I will share one trick that I have learned from using Gimp 2.8.  In my painting “Juliette and Josephus” the diffuse halo of light around the sun was achieved by painting the light color of the sun on a transparent layer above all the layers and then using the smudge tool to thin the color.  If you looked at the layer with a white background, you would hardly see anything.  However, if you put it against a very dark background like I did, you see a soft wash of bright color or a halo around the more solid image of the sun.  The contrast brings out the light color.  I hope to further explore using light washes on layers over different backgrounds after seeing how well this worked.

Got a Second?

Well, I think it is time for me to take a look at this issue.  No, this is not a post about the current American government, at least not in a direct way.  I promise to do my best to keep such commentary out of this post.  The issue I wish to breach is authors and politics.  Yep, I went there and so do many writers in the field excluding those that actually write about politics.  The reason this is on my mind tonight is because of a reply I saw to a post by one of my favorite authors where the commentator said “Just lost bunch of sales for your books”.

My first reaction is what a jerk, But I had to stop and think about the way I have been looking at the world lately.  I will admit that I am not very friendly right now toward people who are unwilling to respect my point of view.  If you are strongly advocating views that run the polar opposite to mine I dismiss you as you dismiss me.  Because of that I have become somewhat reclusive.  In addition, I have struggled with reading certain authors that I have become aware of their politics.  Luckily, I don’t know the views of many.

For example, I will not read one popular author who I believe I have heard has politics that run opposite of mine; however, in this case I learned this after reading one of his books.  Basically, after reading his book and not liking it, I found out about his politics, which did not surprise me.  Another author that I love was born into a Religion that I have come to find extremely questionable and at times questioned whether I should continue reading his books.  But they are very good, which brings me to another point.

By closing my mind off to writers because of their politics, what great stories might I be missing out on.  It is a fact of the human condition that people can act, think, and create in ways completely different from the persona they show the world.  For example, while acting as the chubby, lovable half of the comedic duo Abbott and Costello, Lou Costello was actually known as the un-nice person, while Bud Abbott who always played the conman was actually the friendlier of the two.  What I am trying to say here is that people are an odd mixture of hate and love, which may be something far more surprising than politics alone can illuminate.

Will I continue to struggle with authors with sharply opposing politics?  Yes, I am only human.  Will I be aware that it could be me as much as them?  Certainly.  Will I miss out on good stories?  Quite possibly.  What do I want you to take away from this post?  The sense that maybe giving other points of view a chance by at least being willing to read an author’s work even though you are aware of their politics.  I liken it to your parents telling you to at least try food before you don’t like it.  Most authors have multiple series out there, try one book and if you still don’t like them then okay.  There are numerous authors I had not read and quite half way through the book, while others became favorites that I search out now.   If you start limiting you diet, you may find yourself without new material or becoming bored and unsatisfied.

Finally, some food for thought.  Should you read an author vigorously champions political views opposite of yours and thoroughly like their writing, stop and think about it.  The fact that someone can write a book you really enjoyed believes differently then you.  In other words, something that you love came from someone you would despise.  The source is the same.  It is your viewpoint that is being challenged.  Open your mind to the possibility that their may be common ground.

As for me, guess what, I am an author.  If you have been coming to this site for some time, then you know where I am coming from.  With the launch of my Patreon page I have been struggling to find a balance between what up to that point had been my place to voice my feelings on the world as well as my creative endeavors.  One thing you would find from talking to people who know me is that I don’t sugar coat things.  What you see is pretty much what you get.  Unfortunately, I can not deny that I haven’t seen the drop in viewership in recent days.  Will I stop being who I am?  No.  I have lived to long trying to fit into other people’s worlds for that anymore.  What I can promise is that this site will be a mix of post from my Patreon page (mostly) and my feelings on what happens around me (not always about politics).  If you want to only see things about my creativity, then go to my Patreon or Deviantart pages.

To close, I would like to ask those that do not agree with my views to at least try one of my stories and if you don’t like it, unsubscribe.  It will only cost you a dollar to try and you can quit any time after the first month.  I won’t be offended or rail about you.  You may find that there are some you like and others you totally hate.  There are creators that have left me feeling that way over the years, yet I am still willing to give them a chance now and again.  Thanks for listening.

The Magic in Your Eyes (from my Patreon page)

So, let us talk about magic systems.  I am fairly well read, so I have encountered many magic systems in numerous universes.  In addition, I have played many fantasy video games that can take these kinds of magic systems and make them usable through button pressing combinations.  They range from the simple expressions of inner power to complex rituals requiring particular materials and symbolic gestures.  Over the years I have seen great examples of magic systems and poor examples.

For a poor example, I give you Terry Goodkind who has no rigorously vetted system of magic; thus, leaving himself open for inconsistency in applying the rules his characters follow.  He makes the rules up as he goes so that you feel that what ever magic rules he has are just created to get the results he wants for the scene.  Consistency is left for the reader to rationalize out.

For good examples, I give you Brandon Sanderson who creates some of the most interesting complex magic systems with unique and consistent rules.  Instead of making the rues fit the situation, he writes situations that fit his story based upon the rules of his magic system.  The use of metals to fuel three different types of magic in the Mistborn series is a joy to read.  Each system is well-defined as is how they interact with each other.  So far, I have not noted Mr. Sanderson writing scenes that are not consistent with the restraints he created in the magic system.

So, where do I sit on the issue.  Well, to be truthful, I am a bit lazy and impatient.  While I love the stuff that Brandon Sanderson is doing, I don’t have the patience to work out such detailed magic systems.  In addition, all my work to date has been short fiction with little room to spend detailing the magic rules.  The closest I have gotten is in next months story “Lepidoptera” where each young Sindain that enters the Woods of Calling are marked with a tattoo by their God Sky Father depicting the need they will fill in the Sindain tribe.  Mostly I tend to represent magic as an aspect of the person or the person’s intelligence and imagination.  This way they can create almost anything with reasonable consistency.  In some cases I source power from the land, which in some ways is how we work in our technological society.

Which ever way you chose to go, magic is almost always an essential part of fantasy fiction, maybe the best part.  So feel free to explore the magic in my stories.

Y Wing Update (from my Patreon page)

y-wing-painting-b

 

Here is where I am with the Y Wing part of my Carrie Fisher tribute.  I have had to back track a few times and undo parts I was not happy with.  I finally decided to work from the cockpit backwards, which seems to be working better for me; however, this will never be an honest reproduction.  My goal is to create a strong enough image that at a smaller size will not be off so far that it is jarring.  I am glad I was able to finally add the R2 unit and I think the cockpit module looks good although I have to place the forward guns yet.

Speaking of Star Wars vehicles, I tried to make my own Imperial Walker out of cardboard from a picture in my vinyl soundtrack slip cover.  I never got further than the head but it wasn’t too bad for the time, given I was in junior high.  They are the coolest vehicles in the series.

Building a Painting (from my Patreon page)

There are certain processes I have come to follow when creating a digital painting.  First and foremost for me is to draw the individual elements.  At one time I would have tried to set them on the same piece of paper and worked with them where they were, not allowing myself the freedom to rethink the layout of the final image.  Because I struggled so much to find time to draw or paint, I had a bad habit of giving up on ideas if they did not work out right away.  I am now thankful for Gimp allowing me to correct parts of an image without affecting the larger painting, much as word-processor allows a two finger typist to complete a large number of short stories.  Another thought on drawing the initial images is that mine are always drawn freehand.  Even if I struggle to get the image right, I still use my drawing.  It is an integrity issue for me.

Once I have the drawings done, I scan them into the computer as a jpegs.  As I have gotten more comfortable using Gimp, I have learned to keep the elements separate until I am ready to place them into the final picture.  I take each image and make the drawings sit on a transparent background.  Then I create a transparent layer above or below the drawing layer, depending on where I think I will have trouble working on the image.  This is where I will paint the actual artwork.  In addition, I will add another layer below these, which will become a temporary background that can be changed as needed to better see the painting I am working on.

Next comes the under painting.  This is where I just put the basic colors on the image such as skin tone, hair color, or fabric color.  I don’t work on details at this point; I just want to completely fill in the areas I intend to work on with their basic colors.  After the under painting is done, I will begin the true creation of the individual pieces.  The detail work is the longest part of any painting for me.

When I have the parts done as much as I can or want, I will copy them into a larger final image as different layers.  I like to keep them in layers until the very end in case I need to adjust their position without affecting anything I have done on the background piece I placed them on.  However, there comes a point in most images where I have to combine the layers into one to help with connecting them into one coherent picture.  My current habit is to hold off as long as I can.  At this point it is all about making adjustments around the parts to make them fit the larger image.  Then I tinker with the painting until I am done.