Saturday, October 4, 2008

Can't Stop The Perspective

I had to go back and mess around with my table-and-chair in Illustrator assignment...

A Lazy Day, Then Back To Fiction

I have a distinct suspicion that I'm not gonna get much done today. I am burnt out from my recent bout of productivity and it's Saturday and I've been in this mood lately.

The missus is going away this afternoon and there's no band practice tonight. But my music buddy is going to a pinball expo with a mutual pal and I may tag along. I have the iPod that was left here on Thursday so I will be seeing him.

I'm anxious to get back to the fiction. I've got the start of one story for New Voices in Fiction. That one may or may not fly -- I'm conducting an experiment in writing something based on the virtues of olde school cyberpunk -- how dense? how fast? I'm getting a kick out of taking the exposition that I normally try and avoid and making it the core of the work. And in a weird way it's a Hunter S. Thompson tribute -- honestly, I read his stuff as heroic fantasy or adventure fiction anyway.

It may well wind up unreadable, though. In which case I've got other options, like the short story I need to edit.

The main job I've got ahead of me is restarting the novel. The last submission I made to the writer's group was received with great sorrow. The consensus was that the narrative flow which had been running from the start evaporated.

Of course I hadn't been in prime fettle when I wrote that material but it still bums me out to hit this bump. In previous drafts I had this happen all the time but this one was moving along just fine until now.

I have realized that the section in front of me needs a different kind of treatment than I'd given it. It's actually going to be a story inside the bigger story and it is more along the lines of traditional adventure stuff than I've had so far in the book. It's Western-flavored with a taste of post-apocolyptic mutant future novels like Heiro's Journey by Sterling Lanier. I need to take a breath and think it through before I start.

Also, there's a speculative component to it that I'm thinking of posting about. It's a fantasy but it's influenced by science fiction and because of that the element of speculative evolution has come into play...

Anyway. It's seven-thirty so the missus ought to be up. Y'all have as nice a day as possible under the circumstances.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cubes And Blocks Til You Could Plotz Part Three: A Day For Damnation!

Here we go... I'm caught up in school, maybe just a hair ahead of the game again. Now all I have to do is get my fiction in order...

Honestly, at this point I don't know if I want to really start wrestling with using Illustrator for perspective drawing or if I never want to see a fucking vanishing point again in my life. Probably the former, unfortunately.

Man, is it a relief to get this done. I tried not to crap out and just do something to get it done -- I tried to really work each assignment -- but the last two pieces are not what I would have done if I'd had more time. Maybe I'll have to do them over again... just for the satisfaction.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What The Hell Are You Looking At?

I want a T-shirt with this logo.

I figured I'd give myself a break from cubes for a while. This was a lot more work than I thought it would be -- automatic tracing is not the shortcut one might think. You've got to fiddle with the results endlessly.

Cubes and Blocks Til You Could Plotz Part Two: One Cube, Twelve Backgrounds

So for this exercise I was to take one cube, duplicate it twelve times, and give each iteration a different background. One thing that surprised me was how unimportant having a consistent horizon line was in terms of generating the illusion of space; the shadow seemed much more effective.

By the time I head off to class tomorrow I need to have finished twelve cubes, all different with all different backgrounds, a table and chair, a composition making use of repetition, and a composition based on perspective. I've only got work time until around ten today; time to go into panic mode.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cube and Blocks til You Could Plotz Part One: Perspective

Here's the first of today's homework posts. The assignment was to use Illustrator to create two sets of blocks, one in one-point perspective, the other in two. The use of anchor point is something I wish I'd had when I was taking Architectural Perspective these many years ago...

Now I'm going to take a break from Illustrator and take a look at the first batch of Swill submissions...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two More Views From The Bonelands

These were the two pieces I enlarged and colored this morning so as to have enough material to justify a trip to the print lab. This one is a bit of a challenge so far as balancing the richness of color needed with enough tonal variation to read properly. I had to print it twice -- it was too dark the first time.

For this one I used one of my favorite recent tricks -- use a banal but functional color combination, then use a hue and brightness adjustment level to manipulate the colors until they strike me.

Tomorrow? Cubes until you could plotz.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Deep In The River Part Five: The First Print

Once I had the creature roughed out I went back and used the Warp transformation to make the fins finnier, then used an airbrush in combination with layer masks to blend the separate parts into a solid object.

Then I scanned in a section of a large piece of watercolor paper over which I'd poured alternating layers of black and white watercolor washes over the course of a couple of days.

An enlarged section of this scan forms the background of the print. I used levels adjustment layers to get the contrast between the figure and the background to read properly.

Then, with the initial image at 300 ppi at 7.5 by 10 inches, I converted it to a 200 ppi bitmapped image. Then I changed the image size to 240 ppi at 15 by 20 inches. This generated a clear image that still had clearly visible bitmapping.

Then I selected the white sections of this image and erased them. I created a layer underneath the layer containing the bitmapped image and use the pencil tool to lay down a layer of solid color under it.

And then I use a brightness and contrast adjustment layer to make the colors what they ought to be and there we are. It's ready to print.

Deep In The River Part Four: The Creature Emerges From The Gloom

So the obvious thing to do is to get a new body, preferably something not very much like a sweet potato at all even a little bit. How about the skull of a horse? Admittedly comparable in intellect but the potato is much less skittish, if not as tasty.

And the horse skull rescued me. Here's the start of the deep water leviathan.

Deep In The River Part Three: Initial Selections And Sweet Potato-Related Failure -- I Am Publicly Disgraced

Because of the rough nature of the finished work I was fairly crude in my selections. I worked in Photoshop and used the quick select tool to start out and then refined that with the lasso.

The nice thing about doing everything on the scanner this way is tht the lighting is identical in all images and is neutral in respect to the direction of the light -- you can rotate these, duplicate them and switch them around and the lighting will always be consistent.

Of course you lose the mood and drama you can get with staged or natural lighting.

I'm going to have to look for some more suggestive bones for the body of the creature. There's a sense in many projects, especially when you're trying something that's new to you, when you realize that you aren't going to be able to pull it off.

That's where I'm at now.

You see, I had a shape in my mind for the body, something smooth and sleek and whale-shaped.

So I decided to scan in a sweet potato.

I am... I mean, there are times...

What I saw in my head was a skull-headed whale-shaped zombie with a slime-coated tadpole quality swimming along a cliff formed by a vast section of bone, both glowing blue-green...

And when I saw the result of what I had done, as I struggled to bring my vision to life by crafting the oh god please don't make me say it the sweet potato into the body of a skull-headed whale I truly understood how it feels to suck.

Lord, lord, lord, they should put me in box and push crackers through a hole in the side. I am as a child, wandering clueless.

So now I have absolutely no idea as to how I should proceed after this absolute failure of craft and vision. I should be made to work in a cannery and gut frogs until I drop in agony and they slide me into a rendering vat. Jesus Christ I am the lamest fucker ever to soil God's earth with my tainted shadow. Someone needs to chop into my skull with a mattock for thinking I was permitted to foul paper and bandwidth with the seepings of my half-rotted soul. Just wind up and give it to me and feed my body to the hogs.

A sweet potato.

A sweet potato... What was I thinking?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Deep In The River Part Two: The Scans

Before I began scanning and between each scan I dusted the bed of the scanner with a piece of paper towel and then wiped it with a silicon-impregnated lens-cleaning cloth.

I probably won't use all of these object but I want to have enough to be able to pick and choose as I work without having to go looking for the last piece of the puzzle.

Lisa, the TA in Digital Printmaking, told me that she scanned insect parts in at such a high resolution that she was able to see their mites: I scanned these in at as high a resolution as I had and didn't get those results.

These are grayscale images because I add color at the end of the process. Right now my task is to make these things come together into an identifiably animal form and it makes things easier for me if I don't have to mess with matching colors.

Deep In The River Part One: The Master Plan

So here's how it works today. As mentioned before I've got to catch up on my homework. I also need to have a number of prints ready to go by Tuesday.

I have also, alas, lost touch with the novel. My submission last week was produced while ill and read that way and now I'm not there... I also have a partially completed short story I'm writing for New Voices in Fiction. It might not work -- I'm trying something kind of experimental here in terms of density of story and information. It's a told story rather than a shown story and that's part of the point. I may rewrite it as a full-on shown story but then it would be at least a novella. Or maybe not...

Anyway, here's the plan. I have my first assignment in Digital Printmaking coming up. I want to show the piece to my teacher before showing it to the class; he's having some people do dissections of their piece for the class and I'm interested in finding out if I might do that.

So today I'm going to make the file for my digital print.

But here's the trick. I'm becoming compulsive about this site. I can't keep away from it. So I'm going to harness that compulsion to motivate me through the patch of hard work I've got ahead of me over the next few days.

Today I'm going to post every time I hit a significant step in the development of my image and give explanations as to what I'm doing and why.

When I first started working in this method I initially sketched the composition of the finished piece. Now I prefer to work freely, starting with a clear mental image and then allowing the material and the process to have precedence over my initial conception.

So today's composition is going to be a monster. We start off with the scans, then go on to the assembly of the basic monster, then blending the basic shapes so as to make it look like one body, posing against the background, adding effects such as blur to the finished composition, conversion to bitmap, enlarging the image, then coloring.

Next up: scans.