06 January 2021

My work from 2020

As I look back on my posts for the year, I see it has been a bit slim. I don't know that this worldwide plague we've been enduring has given me much extra time. I certainly haven't done as much freelance work this year as usual, but not as much personal work, either. For one thing, I didn't get to teach a Life Drawing class this summer, so I didn't get any nice drawings like that done. Even though classroom teaching was different and there was less face-to-face time in class, that doesn't mean it's easier for instructors. I think I spent more time trying to create online content for distance learning and figure out how to do things differently. But we all just keep going, right? So gathering it all together, here is what I was able to accomplish during the year.

Here's the first freelance illustration from early in the year. Yes, I know, it looks like so many other things I've done, but if you can do something, you just keep with it if the work comes. This is somewhat conceptual, as the drilling rig is shown in a cross section. Why, I don't recall; I just do what's required of me. If you've followed my recent work, you may recognize this design or color scheme on this rig. The view and all the details on this one were a bit complex and took me some time to do. Just to entertain myself, I added the cool sun reflection and lens flare from the window, but the client didn't like it, so I had to take it out. It's the usual story. But here is the version that I prefer.

The next image is actually a still from a 3D animation I worked on. Another artist built some of the models, but I had to do a lot to refine them and make them match the real equipment we were showcasing. As I work on projects like these, I like to try new techniques or learn something each time. This one is part 3D animation and part compositing. In an attempt to take my animations to the next level and try to make them more realistic, I'm adding effects like light wrap, motion blur, depth of field, and more immersive environments. There was a lot to make come together on this one, but I do like the final result.

Now this is something different. This painting has a bit of a backstory, and not a very pleasant one, I'm afraid. This digital painting was based on a photo my daughter took of her cat. He couldn't live in the house and when we moved, he decided to stay most of the time in the storm drain across the street. The neighborhood kids called him 'sewer cat.' Unfortunately, he didn't choose the drain on the corner of our yard. Maybe he liked living here so he could look out and see his house. 

One rainy day, we were informed that a dead cat was in the street in front of our house. I went out to check and at first I didn't think it was him, but when I opened his eyes to look at him, I knew it was Mighty. That was his name. Picking his body up to move him out of the road and telling my daughter was one of the worst days of the entire stinking year. Anyway, when I saw her Facebook post about him, it included some interesting photos she had taken. I like this one and had never seen it before, so I decide to to a painting of it. I did change the eyes to have more open pupils than the little slits from the picture as this reminded me more of him. I also had to come up with a lot of detail that was only barely there of his black fur in the shadows. I made a canvas print of it and gave it to my daughter as a gift to try and cheer her up.

Here's something I had been working on for a long time and intending to do it for even longer. It's from a photo I took during my time in Vancouver for SIGGRAPH. For some reason, I was fascinated by the streetcar wires criss-crossing each other in the intersection, so I stood out in the middle of the street, trying to get a good set of photos to work from. I guess I was putting it off for a while because I had been busy, but also because it looked so complex. 

But I finally started on it and worked on it bit by bit during downtime in my classes. I started with the wires, cables, and all that hardware just to get it out of the way first. After a while, I got into a groove and began enjoying it. But I actually stopped work on it to work on the previous image, which I cruised through in a few days and then I returned to this one. By the time I finished it, I was quite pleased and glad I finally made myself get it done.

For a long time, I wasn't creating any new art. Then this project came along. It's a still from a 3D animation. This one isn't that exciting, but it's what the client needed. the final animation included some motion graphics and titles added in After Effects. I had to do a pretty much final image as a comp for approval. It was done as a Photoshop illustration, but then I had to recreate it as 3D geometry in Cinema 4D. I'm still waiting for approval to get the final rendering done.

Yes, it's another still from an animation. If it looks somewhat similar to the previous image, that's because they are part of a series that I'm in the middle of. This one was a bit challenging, as I had to build some more complex geometry and also render glass and the lit LEDs. It took a lot of test rendering, but I think I finally like the result I got. This project is still in progress and it's moving along at a slow pace. But that happens sometimes. I think when it's all done and fully animated, it will look pretty cool.

And the last one. I was really struggling to get this done so I could add it to this year's group of artwork. It's from something I saw a few years ago when I was working in Utah for the summer. As I was driving along the highway, I saw the sun going down over the mountains in the west. I think there might have been some fires somewhere, adding a lot of particulates in the sky. This building being lit by the setting some appealed to me for some reason, so I found an exit, parked somewhere, and took a bunch of photos, trying to find a good vantage point. I wasn't really satisfied with them, but they worked well enough to serve as reference for a painting. I finally started during the fall semester, but again, it took me a while to really get involved in this one. But I just pushed through it and finally enjoyed working on parts of it. Is the final painting great? Not really, I I guess it's okay. It's actually a Harley-Davidson dealership, I believe.

So that's it for 2020. Not a great year for my artistic output, but like all of us I just pushed through and tried to accomplish something. I actually did more than this. I worked on creating animations based on some of my past work and tried to gain more VFX skills in After Effects. I'm also involved in projects where I'm creating imagery for products and technologies that are currently in development and there's a lot I can't share. I'm also putting up more tutorials on my VFX playlist on YouTube. So there's always something going on. Still, it's nice to be able to have something nice to show when the year's over. Let's all look forward to something better in 2021.

06 December 2020

Creative Quarterly competition

Now this is something cool. I've been sending out entries to various contests and art shows. Creative Quarterly journal of art and design is a professional publication showcasing working and student artists. They do a competition each quarter and I decided to see if I could get some notice. My experience has been that the kind of work I do professionally doesn't tend to win awards. I think some of it is good, but it's just not artistic, symbolic, or arty enough, even for professional art and design competitions. But I guess this time, something worked. 

For Issue 59, I got submissions chosen in the professional illustration and fine art categories. No money or anything like that, but it does help me in my research work going toward my tenure application. I also had entries chosen in Issue 61 in the professional illustration category. 

It takes a while to get the winners up and online. I'm still waiting for the printed copies to arrive and they are now accepting entries for Issue 63, but the gallery for Issue 59's winners is up and you can see it here. I'll try and see if I can come up with more work that they might like.

Click here to see my fine art winning entry.
Click here to see my illustration winning entry.

04 June 2020

More places to see my work

I finally have stuff up on ArtStation. For a long time now, I've been hearing that it's the place to be if you are serious about your artwork. So I have a few albums up, showing professional, personal, and demo work.

Click here to see my work on ArtStation.

03 January 2020

My work from 2019

Back again. Sorry it's been a while. I'm not sure if my work shows it, but it seems like it's been a busy year. As usual, I try to do more new artwork. This year I've been keeping up with my usual teaching schedule, including a class over the summer. There wasn't that much freelance work in 2019, at least not that got finished. I'm still involved in some long-term ongoing projects, so not everything I've been working on is ready to be shown, but this should be it.

Oddly enough, I almost forgot about this one. I did it early in the year as a little exercise in speed painting and then had my class do something similar. The brushes are all taken from photos of various objects and then almost stamped down. It's a quick way of putting in detail quickly. I started on monochromatically, then tinted the image on higher layers in Photoshop. I also did some painting with my standard brush to put in highlights and tie things together. It's not great, but it is interesting.

Here's one I had been planning to do for a few years now: the lovely Jennifer Connelly. This was mainly done as an in-class demo during my spring digital illustration class to show how I go about painting a portrait in Photoshop. I like the end result, but it was a bit more challenging than I had supposed. First, my source material was very small, so I had to interpolate, or basically make up, most of the detail. Second, the lighting was difficult because most of the photo was so dark, making for unusual skin tones. But I eventually pulled it off. I do like the bright highlights on the hair to contrast with the overall shadow everywhere else.

It's my first completed freelance project of the year. You can probably guess that it's mainly a 3D render. Most of the models were derived from either an earlier scene I built or 3D files from other sources, so it turned into more of a rendering and compositing project. I built the foreground geometry for it and as usual, did a lot of painting in Photoshop to finish it off. Multi-pass renders really help out, especially for depth, which I'm really trying to work on. I painted the water by hand. It's supposed to be a sewage treatment plant, so originally, the color was a bit different, but the client didn't like that much realism, so I redid it with blue to look more pleasing. I do like the end result. Hopefully, I'll get paid for it someday.

Another demo I started for my illustration class, just to show my process of using layers, clipping masks, blending modes, and so on. Like most digital artists, I keep a collection of lots of photos to serve as source material and inspiration. I had been meaning to do this for a few years now and finally got around to it. I do like the way it turned out, but painting all those architectural details was tough. If you look closely enough, you might see that I'm just winging it, especially as the image goes farther back. Some of the more geometric parts still look a bit rough, as I did it all by hand, instead of using shape tools or another more precise method. So if you focus on discreet areas, it might not look so good, but I hope that the overall effect works. It was fun to work with a limited color palette and some extreme atmospheric perspective. The photo had people and other details that I left out for more of a somber mood.

There's always a job you just have to slog your way through and just get it done. The client wanted something conceptual for an ad illustration, but provided practically no source material. This can be a common problem for illustrators. I spent a lot of time looking for imagery to work from and did the best I could. Some parts are okay, but some are pretty weak, especially where I'm making stuff up without really knowing what it should look like. In the end, there was concern over parts of the image looking too much like the source images, so I had to remove details that I felt made it more interesting. As a result, the final is more bland than I would like, but the client is always right. Anyway, I hope it works.

As you can probably tell, these are from my summer life drawing class. While I do love digital painting, there really is no substitute for using traditional media to create something tangible. Drawing, especially from life, is a must for all artists. The best digital artists I have known have also been able to draw really well.
While teaching the class, I always use the opportunity to do a lot of drawing along with the students and I got quite a few from this class and drew some models I hadn't worked with before, along with some old favorites. I actually ended up with a lot that I liked. Some were quick sketches and some were more finished. These are some of my favorites that I feel were more successful. I keep thinking about uploading more.

This is the last drawing we did for that class. It's a bit unusual, but it was for a specific exercise. The model was our class skeleton. I had named it Dr. Bones, but later I was told that a previous class had already given it a name: Saul. The two names are not mutually exclusive, I suppose. But we used this opportunity as a practice doing drapery, a skill just as important as drawing the figure. I liked how it was going, so kept on it, even after the class was over. I entered some in drawing competitions during the year,  including Saul here, but sadly, none were accepted. Maybe someday.

Here's yet another little in-class demo. I had found this photo years ago and thought it could be turned into a cool digital painting. Textures like this are always fun. I changed it significantly from the original and did my own thing with the color scheme. There may be a hint of photo brick texture in there, but other than that, it's all painted by hand. I am quite pleased with this one.

Nothing new here. It's just a Pettibone and pipe on a train. I've done a zillion of these over the years, in all sorts of combinations. This one is not necessarily for any one particular client; it could be for any of quite a multitude of them, or none at all. It looks a lot like past work. Maybe it is. There's nothing here unique to any one end job. In fact, I like pipe and Pettibones and trains so much, I paint them just for fun. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


I'm quite sure everyone recognizes this guy. It's another image I had been wanting to paint for a while now. I started it during my fall digital illustration class as my portrait demo. It was harder than I expected at first, due to the complex mix of warm and cool lighting on the face. If you know anything about how I start out digital paintings, you may know I try to use PMS colors, at least initially. That was harder here, but I kept going and eventually as the colors mix, new colors appear that work.

At first, I wasn't sure I would paint Andúril, but metallic objects like this are fun. I did change its orientation and position from the original photo, as I felt it made more sense outside of the context of this scene in the film.

My last freelance project of the year. I can't say I'm too proud of this one. It is what it is. I had to do it quickly and without much accurate source material, as usual. It went through a few iterations until it got approved by the end client, but as you can tell, it's mainly 3D, so that makes for easy changes. There's really not that much to it. The geometry is simple to build and for multiples like this, I use instances, so when I change the master version, all the copies of the object update. After the render, it's painted up a bit in Photoshop it give it my signature look. I hear it was well received.

And the last one, just completed a few days ago. This one was inspired by a painting one of my students did in my last digital illustration class. An avid comics fan, he did a portrait of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I thought his image was pretty cool and thought about doing one myself. I chose this one because of the cool pose, lighting, and textures. One element I wanted to add was a strong light wrap from the window behind her. It's just my little touch. The costume elements are successful, I think. Metallic or shiny surfaces are fun and easy to paint, once you have a system down for it. I simplified the background a lot to focus on the subject. I think it actually came out with more detail than I had originally intended. I like it, but I hope I did Gal justice. She was a great choice for Wonder Woman and made her a serious character. I like that her costume became more Greek armor than a bathing suit, which seems to be what a lot of female superheroes wear. I tried to capture her beauty and strength, but I'm not sure I did. When really studied for detail in the face, the source image was not as good as I had thought at first. I really worked on it and kept coming back to fix problems, but what can I say? Female faces are hard.

I guess that is a lot. There is actually more. I did a lot of production work, web images, brochure layout, photo editing, and some animations that I'm still involved in. When it's all put together, I guess it's a good bit of work for the year. Out of all this work here, there are a few that I really like. I hope you like them as well.

08 August 2019

My work in the D-ART gallery

The International Conference Computer Graphics Imaging and Visualization (CGIV) is being held again, this year in Paris, France and Adelaide, Australia. I wrote a paper on the history of computer art and submitted it, but it was not accepted. However, they did put my work on D-ART, their online gallery, and published my paper there. I thought it was pretty good. I based a lot of the information in my paper on the research I did for my History of Computer Art class I did last year. There's some really interesting stuff in there. A lot of the steps that have been taken in the development of art and modern technology are fascinating, and some are quite funny. 

19 February 2019

New video tutorial

There are many techniques that I teach in my classes and I've done so many times. The end result is a combination of tools and approaches that I've refined over the years. For some reason, my students can't find similar tutorials out there, so I decided to start making videos of them to share. This first one is how to cover a textured wall with some sort of painted or applied image. The hope is to end up with a fully photo-realistic image. Many important and sometimes little-used tools are demonstrated, with the goal of working as non-destructively as possible, something I stress all the time. Enjoy!

14 January 2019

My work from 2018

It's that time again, the time to share a year's worth of work. I don't get to do as much as I might like to, with a full teaching schedule and all. I even had a class over the summer; it brought in a bit more income and gave the the chance to dive back into good, old-fashioned drawing. 

My first official freelance illustration of the year was actually a 4-part series. It took a good bit of work and was challenging to put the scene together correctly, as I didn't really have good photos of the worksite. That makes things much harder and it takes longer, too. Of course, with Photoshop, some parts only have to get done once. That's one of the benefits of working digitally, especially with layers. 

Here is another version that shows a previous step in the building process. The dirt gets built up in various levels, getting closer and closer to the roadway. This image shows a lower dirt terrace, along with some interior structure of the retaining wall being built. I did quite a few images for this series, but these two will suffice for here.

This is a render from a 3D model I had to build for an animation. As usual with something like this, I work with another artist who builds most of the models. My job is usually to fine-tune and organize the geometry, texture it, light it, and render the final frames. Often, I edit the final video and motion graphics for the deliverable video. Only a little of this model was in the animation, and then again, not for very long. But I was pleased with my work here, so I'm including it.

The final video looked something like this. I had to do a lot of test rendering to get it to look good. Some background elements were purchased as stock models. That can be good, but quality can vary quite a bit. I had to go back in and rebuild some pieces because the geometry was so low-poly. This scene came out nicely. I was pleased with the tracks I was able to cut out of the dirt, which was oddly much harder than I thought it should be.

Now here's something different. This is basically a personal project, done mainly as an in-class demo for my first ever digital illustration class. This was for a portrait assignment and I was showing some basic ways of how to craft the illustration. I chose this image of Brian Cranston that I found randomly. The purpose was to show that a portrait could be impactful and interesting without being what we might consider as classically beautiful. The many lines and wrinkles here add so much character to the face and are fun to paint. And no, I really didn't exaggerate anything here.

Now here's something you probably didn't expect: a drawing on actual paper. This came from my summer figure drawing class I taught. I was able to schedule some good models for the class and had a good time as the instructor instead of as the student. This was one of my favorites. After she was done and the class was over, I stayed working on it for another hour or two, mainly finishing up the chair. Unlike people, chairs don't care how long they pose for you. I have other good drawings from these sessions, but this is the most finished. I did submit this to a drawing competition later in the year, but unfortunately, it wasn't chosen. I still like it, though.

What we have next is probably one of the most complex and challenging 3D animations I have done so far. I had to build outdoor environments, create an expansive and realistic landscape backdrop, and deal with scenes that became increasingly more and more difficult to work with as the poly count rose higher. I blame these darn trees. I'm just including this frame from this very long animation. It looks pretty good, but there was a lot more to show. I try to learn and do something new each time I have to work in 3D.

Back to a simple illustration for this one. Well, it's not so simple, I guess. The source images I had were pretty good. It's somewhat conceptual and I guess it's okay, but I don't love this image as much as I would like to. The inner scene of the overall pipe plant looks good, but somehow, the whole composition didn't come together as strongly. If the upper left corner looks a bit rough, that's because it is. In the ad layout, the entire left side was covered with a translucent block for text and other ad content, so it wouldn't really show. These things take so long that I don't want to spend any more time on them than I have to.
Another still from another animation. Except this wasn't really an animated video. I just rendered out various stills and then used them as source images for a video created in After Effects. The idea was to simulate a 3D rendered video without having to pay for the usual render farm that we use. For the most part, the geometry I used was free or stock models. My job was to texture and light various scenes. For this project, I was really trying hard to get some realistic lighting and textures. It did take a lot of test renders, but as I was only doing single frames, I was able to do it all with my hardware.

I ended up rendering several still images for this animation, mainly indoor settings which are sometimes hard to light and make look good. For this interior shot looking out a window, I used Photoshop to composite the pieces and do some final adjustments. For me, it was easier to solve these problems in 2D, rather than in 3D.

My last illustration of the year. This one was tough. Some of the equipment was done from pretty good source material, but the overall scene was pretty complex and I had to make much of that up. The problem is that with all the levels and the four different rigs I had to include, the photos I was given weren't all at the right angles. I did what I could, but didn't have much time. Actually, I was up against a tight deadline. I made it (with a bit of an extension), but then of all things, the magazine kicked the ad back because it wasn't the right kind of equipment for their publication. Great. It did eventually get used in another magazine and I made a poster out of it, but I ruined my fall break trying to finish it on time.

And there's finally this one. For some reason, I thought I didn't have much to post for last year, so I did a quick little painting based on photos I took while biking around Vancouver over the summer. I was there for Siggraph and found a little time one evening to get out and do something. It was a hazy, smoky day, which made for an impressive effect as the sun went down. I tried to capture it and I think it came out well. But, it didn't take too much time to do.