Eight Layer Painting Recipe (from my Patreon page)


I have been painting digitally for well over a year now and I have to say that I don’t know how I did it before.  Yes, I still have a long way to go but with each painting I gain in strength and skill.  The aspect I enjoy most is the ability to change plans on the fly, which is a benefit in painting by layer.  My current project consists of eight different layers that build the image from back to front.

Initially I started with just three layers, one for the drawing of the alien, one for the painting I planned to do, and one for the background.  At this time I had no idea what I would do for the background but began painting the alien anyway, trying different background colors to better highlight the image.  I turned the drawing on and off as I needed to check placement of features.  When I got fairly far along with the creature design, I began playing with images for the background just painting over it when I did not like the progress.  I was able to do this without worrying about damaging the alien image.  Of course, this meant that the alien would look disconnected from the background.  However, I figured that I could touch up the creature image to fit it with the background.

Experimenting with making a drawing for the background, I was able to scan in and piece together the background buildings I wanted and added two more layers (city drawing and city painting).  The city was very basic and meant to be seen at a distance.  Again, I used the drawing layer whenever I wanted to compare the painting to my original idea.  Working with the city painting layer, I knew I wanted some haze in the background to help push the city back a bit.  What I ended up doing was painting the background layer black (my initial thought was that the city was underground but I decided to just go with in darkness) and placed another layer between it and the city painting.  By doing it this way, I could paint on thin washes of dark colors and experiment with how they changed the image without having to fix the other painted layers if I changed my mind.  In addition, as I tried ideas on other layers, I could go back to any number of layers and work to make them fit together, so much flexibility.

After getting further with the buildings and haze layer, I decided I wanted to add light glow to the lighted buildings and lighted highways.  I made a new layer over the city adding washes of light colors that matched the lighting of the buildings, letting the other layers to be seen through a filter of glowing color.  Of course this effect is achieved best with dark layers behind.  Remember, I still had not completely built the full image.  Working on the city, I had filled the top half of the image but with large gaps that allowed the black background to show through.

Finally making a decision on the area immediately behind the alien, I created another layer above the glow layer but still behind the alien painting layer.  On this layer I painted grass until I partially covered the city background.  See how easy it is to build a digital painting without completely designing the image.  Yes, you can make changes with physical methods; however, it is not as easy and sometimes you try things that cannot be undone.  With the layers I can add or remove ideas without damaging other elements.  In addition, I can even play with where layers sit with respect to the overall painting.  Compare the above image to other updates and you will see that I have shifted the alien from the center to the left of the image.  If this had been a physical painting, I would have been stuck with my first choice or have had to start over from scratch.  That would have probably been the end of the painting for me because I usually cannot muster the enthusiasm to start over.

All in all, I am enjoying painting in Gimp for the same reasons that I like using a word processor.  I can change and adjust ideas without having to start all over, which frees me up to experiment with composition and tone more than with physical media.  I find that this suits my creative methods.  I always started with one element and built outward from that, making decisions as I went.  Unfortunately, with physical media, the results were nowhere as good as you see now.


New $3 Reward “Fast as a Cheetah with a Gimp Leg” (from my Patreon page)

Whooohoo, I finally finished the first tutorial that I uploaded to My Patreon Page .

The write-up:

“Here is the first tutorial I promised for the Cheetah painting I will be working on soon.  Whether I will continue with these depends on the response and my ability to improve the product I am giving you. One concern is that the quality of the images is not what I hoped for in the document.  I saved them as jpeg, which may have knocked the quality down so I will see if a tiff file will work better.  Another concern is that this is a cumbersome way of presenting the material.  Finally, as I delve deeper into the actual painting, the steps and results will be harder to document in this manner.

With that being said, I think this first tutorial is very good for anyone with a passing acquaintance of Gimp 2.8 that is thinking of playing around with it as a digital painting program.  I explain a lot about the use of layers (basically sheets of paper) and how they interact with each other.  I show how you can take the drawing you scan in and separate the pencil sketch from the white background, along with why you would want to.  I show in this tutorial all the steps I take in setting up everything I will use to make the final painting.  In addition, I give many of the reasons for my choices and some examples of what I did before learning to set up as I do now.”

Apologies (from my Patreon page)

I have to apologize, this week’s reward is going to be late.  I have had a very busy day and did not get as much done on the tutorial as I had planned.  Hopefully, I will be able to finish it tomorrow.  I am trying to write out not only the steps I use in my setup for a painting but also my reasons for the way I do these things.  The hard part is stopping to think about how to explain something I automatically do without thinking.  Basically, I have to slow down my thought processes.  I struggle with this at work too.  My boss wants me to take before and after images of displays I build or sections I organize, but stopping to remind myself to take a picture is not easy.  When I see a task to do, I dive in, getting halfway done before I remember I should have taken a picture.  So, I have to stop an organize my thoughts coherently on why I set up as I do and that is what is consuming my time.

A New Direction for Directing (from my Patreon page)

Sorry for venting yesterday, but I had such high hopes of doing this tutorial right, like the ones I see on youtube.  However, I just do not have the funds or knowledge to do so and I do not want to spent too much time finding everything I need to know instead of creating artwork.  I am also facing a situation that will take away about $177 from my monthly income, which has me worried.  But, be that as it may, I will work things out as best I can.  To start with, I have decided to take all the screen shots I made and place them into a word document for the tutorial.  I have already completed the first section detailing how to separate your drawing from the white background of your scanned file.  In all, I have five sections to cover for this first part that details the initial setup before you start to paint.  Hopefully, I will be able to post the file by this weekend.

On a good note, my blog is almost to the point of doubling the views I had from last year.  More important; however, is that Robert Garbin’s Devianart Page  has surpassed the 4,000th page view.  This is small compared to some of the more established artists but it is a significant increase in viewership over the last year.  Please take a look.

Sailing the Heavens Unto Dawn – Digital Painting (from my Patreon page)

Hi folks, I just wanted to give you an update on plans for my Patreon site for the near future.  After I finish the current two projects, the repaint of my old rodeo image (the cave scene) and the random planet, I plan to jump into the third in my “It’s All Connected” series featuring the cheetah, which is already drawn, the planet Mercury, and the planet Venus.  What I intend to do with this project; however, is not to just give you updates but also give patrons of my site (Robert Garbin’s Patreon page) a weekly written tutorial about the painting.

Basically, I will show my patrons every step from setting up the drawings and canvases, as well as, the reference materials to the choices I make in reaching the final product.  I will explain how I use Gimp 2.8 as a painting platform, which can be used for their own work or they can just enjoy the deeper insights into how my work comes together.  As you know at this point, I am not a professional artist or teacher, but I am not without talent and experience, much of which I taught myself.  Lessons that I would enjoy sharing with others.

This will be my first attempt at doing this, meaning another self-taught experience, so the lessons will be as much a work in progress as the painting itself.  I intend the lessons to be an introduction on both basic computer image manipulation and painting along with aesthetic choices in producing said images.   The reason I use Gimp 2.8 is because it is free and surprisingly powerful.  Professionals use more commercial programs that I can not address; however, much of the functionality will be the same so that you can transfer the lessons learned here to them.  I am only teaching the basics I use in my art.  My hope is to build an audience of artists like myself whom do not have the resources to dive deeply into computer artwork but would still like to try it.

Finally, the reason I say a written tutorial is because I do not know enough to do a professional video tutorial and not a comfortable enough person to be the focus of such a video.  As time goes on that may change but for now I will try this method.  Let me know what you think.


Well, What are Your Thoughts? (from my Patreon page)

I was talking to someone about art recently after I showing them my newer digital work and they mentioned they felt digital painting was to paraphrase “cheating”.  They felt it was too easy.  To be fair, I have felt this way myself at times and think a lot about it with the projects I am working on.  My main qualm I guess is with photo-manipulation and the use of skin textures over actual painting of the textures.

I have seen some very well done photo-manipulations but I still do not feel they are artwork.  They are more of a craft.  Yes, there are artistic skills and sensibilities required to make a good manipulation; however, they are not as in-depth as someone who creates the image from scratch not using other people’s work.  The skill level is not as high.  In my own work, I have used many of the skills of photo-manipulation to arrange and join various elements of my final images, but each of those elements was hand created by me from the initial drawing to the digital painting.  The digital paintings I do also do not use any kind of pre-made texture like fur or rock to fill in parts of the image.  Each element is handled like a physical painting.

Where I struggle a little with my own work is that there are some techniques I use that could not be done easily in the real world but are very simple in the digital domain.  For instance, keeping a foreground element separate from the background so that you can paint the background freely is not so easy in the real world and has damaged the quality of some of my physical artwork.  However, in the digital domain it is as simple as two separate layers.  Then there is the issue of brushes.  Some brushes are actually like stamps such as leaves or plants that can be used to fill in landscapes.  For the most part I avoid these brushes but I do make use of another ability of brushes, which is that they can be animated.  Yes, this is something you can’t do with a real brush, but I have found it necessary to achieve softer effects because the digital brushes are basically stamps and have no real world shape or characteristics.  A digital brush is nothing more than the tip of a real brush as a stamp, even the more complex ones.  There is no fulcrum between the fingers and the tip as with a real paint brush so they tend to be more rigid and need animation to add some randomness to their use at times.  I liken digital painting to working with color pencils where there is more control as opposed to a paint brush, which takes more technique to manipulate.  Not that pencil work does’t have its own challenges but the placement of pigment is much more direct and controlled with a pencil compared to a brush.

So, as you can see, I enjoy the work I have been able to produce using a digital format, but I do question some of my assumptions while creating them.  My take; however, is to create and paint as much as I can as if I was painting in the real world.  I use stamping style brushes as little as possible or not at all.  For the most part I use the round or soft round brush to paint with but lately have been using a pencil-shaded animated sponge brush to achieve some of the effects of a real airbrush since the brush alone would be a stamp.  Let me know your thoughts on the subject.

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.