Thursday, May 21, 2009

Captain Schnockered Hoists Anchor & The Tail-End Of A Peculiar Dream

So I had this weird dream...

Tuesday morning I got up early to finish my print; I started work around six and finished at around ten. Put up a post on the subject, then did a little housework and made lunch for the missus.

At that point I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, and I decided to be irresponsible and take the afternoon off, drink some beer and watch a movie from Netflix (Dust Devil, an incomprehensibly arty horror movie).

Partway through the film the missus suggested that we take a trip to the grocery store; I picked up another beer.

By the time I was done, she left for her Cactus and Succulent society meeting. I decided to go out and get some more booze.

Hoo, boy.

Here's my guess at what happened. I opened a can of chili and put it on the stove and then passed out, only to be awakened by firemen in the house. They came when a neighbor called about the streams of smoke pouring out of our windows. It also seems that I was talking to another neighbor out in the street. And I can't find my distance glasses. Guess I'll be wearing my bifocals a lot more in the near future.

The missus is pissed at me, of course. Right now she's got some things going on in her life that make it important for me to be able to give her support and I fucking well blew it. So I spent yesterday in a state of helpless guilt-ridden misery which ain't gonna dissipate any time soon.

Interestingly, when I was on the way hope from the print lab yesterday (they were out of glossy photo paper so I printed onto a art-quality matte stock -- it came out gorgeous) I ran across my sister and explained things to her.

"I've been working on a new concept," she said. "Not getting totally fucked up until my big old Irish face turns bright red. Just having a couple of drinks and then stopping when I hit the sweet spot. It's hard but it's the kind of thing you can train yourself to do."

"The thing is," I said, "when we were kids we learned that life is an unremitting hell that can only be transcended through intoxication. I have no idea how to drink but I'm pretty fucking good at getting drunk."


"Part of the problem is that when I feel like doing something nice for myself, booze is pretty much all I've got... I really need to work on that. And I should fucking well never drink by myself. If I'm around other people at least I can pace myself."

"Nah," she said. "You just need to stop drinking until you're plastered."

I dunno. It's been a while since I pulled a spectacular asshole move like that but frankly I can do without this kind of shit. I am just not the kind of person who can get away with not having control over his actions.

I hate having done that to the missus; I hate the idea that I'm only a bucket of booze away from destroying my life. I feel like a self-destructive chump right now. Oh well.

As regards the picture up top. I had a fairly involved dream last night and when I woke up the last part of it was wedged firmly in my noggin...

I'm in the back of a station wagon speeding down the highway, addressing a group that looks like it was assembled from casting calls for Watchmen, Pogo, and Toy Story. I am enraged, flecks of spittle flying from my mouth as I scream at them.

"Yeah, well, while you were off having your fucking science fiction adventure I've been elfed, ghosted, and funny-animaled up to my fucking ass. Jesus! You know Mr. Hoot, the wise old owl? Well, his fucking mother was staggering around on her wing knuckles -- she looked like a goddamned pterodactyl with rabies -- just non-stop mumbling all kinds of crazy shit and you know what Mr. fucking Hoot says to me? 'You should keep out of her way. Mom's been suing a lot of people lately.' So while you were taking your trip to the fucking moon I was dodging a senile owl so she couldn't fuck me over with some kind of trivial lawsuit."

I have no idea what to make of this. Every time I stick my hand into my subconscious I pull back a stump.

"And then I woke up."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Moonwatch 4

Getting the eyes right really helped. Before it seemed as if the creature was watching the viewer and is just seemed wrong. Now it's watching the moon and the helpless expression on its face works properly.

I also changed this from a RGB file to a LAB file, then used a Curves adjustment layer to mess with the color of the whole piece at the same time. In the initial version I worked hard to give a sense that the scene was being viewed in a particular light; the end result was a bit muddy. This made the colors brighter and helped define the shapes, which also increased the sense of depth. I need to spend more time messing with LAB and other modes...

I see a couple of cliff faces in this.

In a comment on the last Moonwatch post, Peter Bond asked how I created the images. Well, if I haven't gone into this before, here's the deal.

This print is part of a series called Rorschach Dreams. (Here's the first image in the series; here's the second.) Like the earlier Bonelands series, it's intended to provide me with images of creatures and landscapes for use in my novel-in-progress. But instead of starting with preconcieved images and then executing them by compositing photographs and scans of physical objects, which was my technique for the Bonelands, I'm using inkblots.

I start off by going through a stack of blots I've created over the years until I find an image that looks like some kind of concrete object to me. I first started using inkblots about twenty years ago when a design teacher suggested I do this as a source of visual inspiration. I used to trace blots in pen and ink or paint over them using whiteout and ink. Once I started in on Photoshop I realized that I could manipulate the blots seamlessly.

I kind of assume that if I ever have to take a real Rorschach test they'll lock my ass up but pronto. Maybe that should be my tattoo -- "Born To Scare Shrinks."

And in this image I saw a creature -- the eyes and mouth jumped out at me and then I saw the rest of its outline.

Then I scan the blots, cut out the images in Photoshop, and composite them in a seperate file. By using the blots I'm able to get all kinds of crazy detail that I'd never come up with on my own.

Once I've got a finished grayscale image, I color it by using a combination of Gradient Maps and overlays using a variety of blending modes. Gradient Maps take grayscale images and turn them into color images modeled after gradients -- white being one end of the gradient, black the other. The gradients I used here were pretty involved, using four or five different colors carefully modulated to produce the effects that I wanted. Finally, each element is treated using anywhere from one to five different adjustment layers to get the hues and tonalities just right.

As I mentioned above, in this particular image I finished off by converting it to a flattened image in LAB mode, a type of file used by photographers to achieve fine adjustments to the overall color relationships in an image. It's the first time I've used it on my own work; I suspect it's gonna be something I do a lot in the future.

Hmm. If this kind of thing is of interest to people maybe I should figure out how to do screen captures and so on so as to be able to do a real step-by-step tutorial.

Crit List Stardate 2009: It's Not 'To Boldly Go,' It's 'To Go Boldly,' You Semi-Literate Baboon

Every time I post without a picture of some kind my soul dies a little; I have no other excuse than compulsion.

I started writing this as a reply to comments from Rob, Peter, and Craig on my last post when I realized that what I was writing should be a post in itself. I do go on, do I not?

I have a confession to make. I never really enjoyed Star Trek until recently.

As a kid I watched reruns of Star Trek every weeknight and was vocal in my support of the show. But in my heart of hearts I found it insanely boring.

This tradition continued with The Next Generation. I watched the very first episode (as I recall it was titled Planet Of The Naked White People), and at one point in the show I found myself confronted with a conundrum.

There was one scene where the lead characters were walking through a vast warehouse-like space filled with gauze-clad blond couples humping and it was boooooooring.

(As an aside, when the missus and I were going through our rough years from time to time she'd tell me I needed to be more like Captain Picard. "I'm trying," I'd say. "I'm getting more emotionally distant and I'm balding as fast as I can. What the hell more do you want?")

That was when I began to formulate the Bikini Paradox -- there is nothing in the world more interesting than an attractive female body yet mere skin is not enough to redeem crappy entertainment. Even Raquel Welch needed dinosaurs to maintain interest through a whole movie.

Anyway, in the last couple of years I've seen a fistful of original Trek episodes and found myself loving them. First off, there's the other side of the Bikini Paradox -- when something is entertaining, a certain amount of cute girl (or whatever your preference is) really adds something.

The women used for display purposes back in the Trek days were of distinctly higher quality than the current crop, whose devotion to unfortunate diet and exercise programs, cosmetic surgery, and Photoshop qualifies them as cyborgs. Take a look at the Olsen twins and then let me commend to you the thighs of Yoeman Rand. Case fucking closed.

But that's just part of it. I also adore the crappy drywall on the Enterprise. I do (or, rather, did) better drywall than that. The Enterprise is a dump and I love it. The idea that the Federation is underfunded and shoddy really has some appeal for me.

Then there's the rocks. The same damned rocks in scene after scene after scene, all lit with weird gels. Old school Star Trek is all about the tacky.

And the best part of all is William Shatner's gut. When you start tracking it, it becomes a source of genuine fascination. Kirk makes a dramatic speech -- low tide. He thinks you're not watching -- high tide. I find myself vigilantly waiting for the moment of relaxation. Suckitinsuckitinsuckitin -- aaaaaaahhh. The relief.

There were a lot of things about the Trek movie that bugged me from a critical standpoint. It was one of those movies that's basically one long action scene with no room for the characters to breathe. The plot was entirely dependant on coincidence. (A good craftsman allows themselves one coincidence -- one 'gimme' -- per story, maximum.) The science was crap, of course -- but it was interesting to see them alternate scenes where there is no sound in a vacuum with scenes where there is sound in a vacuum. (Those simpering halfwits do dearly love to stay on the left side of the bell curve, do they not? I bet the Silent Space scenes were concieved of as salutes to Firefly rather than physics.)

The creators never allowed any touch of reality to stifle anything that looked cool, a modality that always leaves me emotionally disconnected. If you aren't going to try to be believable, why should I believe in you?

(See Peter Jackson's King Kong, a movie that kept popping into my mind while watching Trek.)

Ol' Kirk spend a fuck of a lot of time dangling over precipices, none of which existed for any other reason than Kirk-dangling. Star Trek was all flash and no guts.

But it was fun to look at and the idiot breakneck pace kept it from getting boring, as did the return of the Starfleet miniskirt. (I also liked the nod to Kirk's bad case of chartruese fever.) And there was a point of redemption, of true contact with the tacky, low-budget, half-assed Star Trek that I have learned to like, if not love.

Where once we had William Shatner's gut --

(Have I ever told you my theory of Actor Continuity? That every character an actor portrays is the same character? An example. Jeff Bridge's character in The Big Lebowski is addled and doofy as a post-traumatic stress reaction to what happened to him in Tron. Likewise, when James T. Kirk grows up, he turns into Denny Crane. The man was destined to be a sweaty drunken obese pervert -- may I be as lucky.)

-- where once we had Shatner's gut, now we have Leonard Nimoy's dentures. Interstellar travel they've got, teleportion they've got, time travel and interspecies sex they've got, but poor old Spock is still slurring because his Polydent isn't up to the task of keeping his choppers in place.

And they still don't have fucking seatbelts.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Moonwatch 3

Those eyes just aren't working. I was going to try to duplicate the layer with the creature and hollow out its eye sockets -- and I think I'll just stop there. Photoshop is gross, man.

Well, I'm closing in on it. All I need to do is to get the eyes right and then experiment with tweaking the overall color in a LAB file and I'll call it done.

I took a couple of hours off this afternoon at the behest of the missus. We went to see Star Trek. I thought it was a decent crappy movie, more Star Wars than Star Trek; the the missus and a pal of ours were a lot more enthusiastic. But then they're Star Trek fans. I'll admit my blood ran cold when the Live Long and Prosper sign got flashed and I glanced over and saw them both making the sign at the screen, but then I'm conflicted about my own geekitude.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Moonwatch 2

I am burnt -- been doing this since around six or so this morning. I think I'm gonna call it a day...

The look of this piece is taking me by surprise -- it's both kinda photographic and kinda Max-Ernsty. Getting the colors right is going to be a fun chore -- and as always the piece isn't really going to come to life before I go in and beef up the shadows and highlights by hand.

I'm also going to try some experiments with masked adjustment layers to add depth to the mountains. We'll see how that works...

Moonwatch 1

Next up is to create the masks and fix all the edges so everything inhabits the same space...

I'm deadlining it -- this print and (hopefully, fingers crossed) my Lycaenops need to be finished in time to print on Wednesday morning, so I'm gonna be pressed for time for the near future -- but I'll be posting the image as it develops.