Monday, August 25, 2014

Poser and different forms of Digital Art

My apologies for the hiatus on Energy and Waterjetting for another week, but as the sidebar notes I do, on occasion, write about Digital Art. This is a hobby that is taking on a life of its own.

This Spring four pieces made it into an Art Exhibit (or is the right word Show?) on Digital Imaging and resulted in an invitation to submit a dozen images for a Fall Exhibit on Digital Art that will soon open at the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Castleman Hall. That is the background to this piece, which discusses the work produced for the show and, to a limited extent, why those images were chosen.

The campus is not that familiar with Digital Art, despite being at the leading edge of many technical fields, somehow art has fallen a bit behind, and so one of the objectives was to display some of the variety of the art that can be produced using software, which in this case was largely Poser, with a little help from Photoshop and Alien Skin. I should hasten to clarify that I am much the junior exhibitor, Paula Sanders, a local resident, is way more experienced and talented, and has the major part of the show. Much of my expertise over the last year has come through taking and then trying to repeat the very useful Webinars on the technology from 3DArtlive, after starting out not that long ago with "Poser for Dummies".

To make life more interesting, of the needed twelve there were seven pieces that were available (with family and friends from whom they could be borrowed back) and that meant that, starting Sunday morning (Aug 17) and with a deadline of 4 pm Friday (August 22nd) five more pieces were needed, covering a bit of the waterfront on what Digital Art could do. Nine of the pieces were to be sized at 8.5 x 11 inches, and three would be 12.5 x 18.5 inches.

The first image that was printed on my “professional quality” printer could be borrowed back. Based on Alexsander Kokular’s “Drawing Room in the Artist’s Home,” it was an interesting challenge, since one had also to produce all the smaller paintings in the picture. So “Artist’s Drawing Room” became the first.

Figure 1. "The Artist's Drawing Room.

Along the way it became clear that the paintings on the wall had to be moved around, and since this is done on a 3-D modeling program they had to come off the wall first. Showing this helps with the concept of this being a partial reality, so an image taken during the move was included (it is now owned by the show’s curator, and named after her.)

Figure 2. Luce’s Dilemma.

Over the past three years I spent a fair bit of time researching what America’s inhabitants pre-1491 looked like. Paula has pointed out that most pictures were made up or colored by folk with no knowledge, but it is amusing to try, particularly since Blackthorn has produced physiognomies of the men and women of the different tribes. George Catlin has produced some paintings that are as close as one may get to some of the tribal customs, and his work provided a start.

Two of the images previously created were still available, and the first was one of a woman of the Commanche, and so in went Carrier Crow. The series was trying to put the tribal members into hair, paint, clothing and settings of the time, but getting the skin texture accurate , which is sometimes hard to get right for Native Americans, just seemed to work this time.

Figure 3. Carrier Crow

When it came to creating an image of a male member of the Commanche, the original render that was created wasn’t that striking, but in playing around with the variations that can be achieved to an original piece of digital art by using Alien Skin’s Snap Art, the way the image changed when selected as an oil painting made it a favorite, and so "Horse Talker" was included.

Figure 4. Horse Talker.

This was framed without glass, in a frame that thus suggested that the work was an oil, it should be interesting to see the comments.

Being able to change the format of an image is one of the great advantages of doing Digital Art, and there was another example of this available on loan-back, again using Snap Art, with the inspiration coming from a painting on the wall of a Pizza restaurant in Silicon Valley.

Figure 5. Dancing Chez Marcel.

This did not end up the way expected, mainly because working with large sets of buildings was a bit of a challenge until it was realized that, after getting the couple in the right poses, that if the male were then parented to the female then they could be moved around together (to get them against the blank wall) a lot more easily than by adjusting them as individuals in the scene.

A friend plays the flute, and after going through back issues of Spectrum seeking inspiration, there were two illustrations that led to the piece, that again could be borrowed back for the show.

Figure 6. If Music be the Food.

The next choice had been created for a talk on Digital Art for the local Rotary Club, and small 3 x 5 inch versions were given out at the talk. Folk seemed to like it, so printing this at 12.5 inch x 18.5 inch seemed only fitting for it to be the first large piece for the show. (And although it was an electric lamp, rather than a candle, I have been in this sort of situation once).

Figure 7. By the Guttering Light.

These were available pieces that could be used toward the target twelve needed for the exhibit. And that in turn, brought me to last Sunday morning and the need to create 5 pieces in six days. Two ideas came to mind to illustrate the capabilities of Digital Art and the first was to expand on the tribal theme and to have six different tribal heads, showing their different hair, physiognomy and paint. (Note that all of the people in the images started out either as the same original male, Michael 4 , or the female equivalent, Victoria 4, and were then morphed to give the final versions.)

Unfortunately, after creating this image, a mishap with the mat size sent to fit the larger frame meant that it could not be printed on paper that would match the hole size. So.o.o , as a hasty fix (at 2 pm on Friday) the background was turned into a leather texture and Photoshop engaged to transfer the images to the master page, and then they were merged and the paper edge torn (physically) to suggest home-made stock.

The heads were first shaped and aged, using the Blackthorn males on Mike, and then moved into Blacksmith3D for projection painting. Working with a tablet made this a lot easier, and the bear tattoo on the Algonquian warrior is from a record of the time.

Figure 8. Hair and Paint.

Another friend is interested in Ballet, and so, starting from an intent for a piece that might be in the style of Degas led, through learning how to make and move curtains with the Fun with Flat Things tutorials, and failure to find a good model of a theater, to making first a curtain, then a drawn curtain, and then the first of the “Ballet Maine” series. This became the second new creation of the week.

Figure 9. Ballet Maine Suite 1.

The member of the Corps de Ballet holding the curtain is supposed to look envious, but it is too dark to show her expression, though Gamma Correction helped to lighten her up a bit.

Which brought up some thought for including historical mischief as part of the show. Sitting in church a couple of weeks ago during the sermon, a chorister was seen to be nodding off. Put with the Pope’s recent comment on the high life of some in the church led to the start of the third piece.

But the only Cathedral interior of any use, from either a vendor or in the library of material that had been collected over a decade, was the Cathedral Construction Kit which DAZ sold many years ago and the textures no longer rendered well. To get around a somewhat garish render, the fix was to use Photoshop to convert the image into a half-tone piece, and overlay this over the initial render, so that by erasing the overlay over the Cardinal and the Hospitaller, only they would appear in color. This drew attention to them, in an otherwise very busy scene.

Figure 10. Plus ça Change

The fourth piece was inspired by a picture of a mermaid smoking in one of the Spectrum volumes (Leuyen Pham’s Shino). It raised the question as to why a mermaid might smoke? And when? The answer came that when the Vikings arrived around 928 C.E. mermaids could be smoking, and that in turn raised the question as to which was the “Filthy Savage.” (Native American opinion of early European arrivals were that they were indeed filthy, wearing clothes for days, not bathing enough, etc)

Figure 11. Filthy Savage.

The image has a number of faults, which could be hidden by post work and a change in format through Alien Skin, but chose not to because of the puff of smoke from the cigar. With more post work, for which there was no time it could have been a lot less amateurish.

The final work was to show the ability of Poser to age folk, and since in an earlier life my group had carved the Millennium Arch for Edwina Sandys I skipped over there on Thursday night, took the shot, and then used Lucy Zepp by jamminwolf to give the basics. The T-shirt had to be textured for the logo of the Center where the Millennium Arch was cut by high-pressure water, and where I spent my career, and ta-da at 4 pm on Friday it was printed, framed and turned in – phew!

The age of the senior version was reduced from the original version, since too many wrinkles and age spots looked out of place and character. With more time the pose of the central character, which looks forced, would have been changed, but there was no time.

Figure 12. The Transition Years.

From September 5th, the complete set should be on view in the lobby of Castleman Hall, in Rolla.

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