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.
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.
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.
Believe it or not, until maybe the 1990’s, all I used for my art was a number 2 mechanical pencil. I never tried any type of graded pencil. I was slow to embrace the need for different grades of pencils to achieve more dynamic images through contrasts. My works after investing in a set of drawing pencils are substantially better, but the lessons I learned trying to create pictures with a simple mechanical pencil helped me take advantage of my new tools.
A lot of the techniques I had learned, using blending stumps and soft erasers, were just as important with the graded pencils. Only the degree of use changed. Now I have finally moved into the digital age by using my laptop and Gimp 2.8, yet, some of the same principles still hold true from my pencil work. I think that pencil drawing was a fundamental necessity for becoming the artist that I am and I will always have a soft spot for great pencil works.
I have always been fascinated by the play of light through a colored medium. Whether it is light going through a crystal or a pane of Stained Glass, the glowing color created is worth seeing. I have actually tried making a candle holder with a copy of my drawing “Barnacles and Butterflies” because I thought the colors would look great with light shining through them, like a Chinese lantern. Unfortunately, I did not find a viable solution to get the image placed on glass and the best I can offer for now is the above image.
As a kid I used to play with my light-brite, yeah I know many of you may not know what that is, to make colorful designs with light. I put a Tiffany style ceiling light in my computer room looking to get the soft glow of colors they project. Something about light sources contained within colored materials just makes me happy. I remember years when the colored Christmas lights around the outside of the house got buried by snow and all you could see were glowing spots of color. Candlelight flickering through a glass design is simply mesmerizing to me.
One of my future goals is to create a line of images on candles just so I and anyone who likes them can enjoy seeing light passing through them. Your support would be most appreciated in reaching this goal.
You will find that my stories and art just as easily touch on the holy as the scientific. I am one of those rare people whose faith is not shaken or threatened by science. My faith comes from the smallness of man within this vast universe and the fact that neither science nor faith can encompass all the possibilities or realities. In addition, I have an artistic nature that has been cultivated in Science Fiction and Fantasy stories along with a fascination in human history.
I have seen science fall prey to human foibles just as easily as religion. I am not saying that science is no better than religion at understanding the universe. What I am saying is that, although science demands proof through observation and predictability, it can still be made blind by human stubbornness and pride. History is full of treasured theories that had to be battered down by the forces of progress. A very sad tendency I have noticed in our modern world is the pride of understanding that science has with technology. There are times I hear of scientists so secure in science’s and technology’s ability to solve the problems they create. So many forget that they are human, subject to nature, human weakness, and delusions. Thus, while I will believe easier in science than religion because I can touch and feel it, I will always treat each with a healthy dose of doubt.
Some of my stories and posts are explorations of the confluence of science and religion, examinations of religion from a scientific point of view. Others are contemplations on the dangerous liaisons between science and business. Driven by profit, the pace of our technological growth in this century has long since outstripped our ability to deal with the ramifications of said technology. One area that has me concerned is video technology. As we become better and better at creating realistic portrayals of fictitious events, we risk losing our hold on reality. I know that conspiracy theories about the moon landings have been around for decades and have little basis in reality, but we are fast approaching a world where such a hoax could be carried out. Look at the effect fake news is having via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
So, do not be surprised to hear me taking about God and string theory in the same story.