My digital painting class is fantastic! Lesson #4 was painting eyes. And after an hour or two of work, I managed to turn out a pretty good one!
This astonished me because I’ve never thought of myself as having any talent for art. I’m a scientist by training, my parents are scientists, and pretty much all of my relatives are scientists or engineers. Fine arts skills, particularly, aren’t part of my repertoire and (as you can see in my prior blog post) my drawing skills, while improving with practice, are still pretty primitive.
And yet I managed to turn out a pretty darn realistic eye. Dang! That’s amazing.
Now, obviously, a lot of my success stems from having had good guidance. I wish I could post the class handout here, because it is just perfect. It provides enough detail to guide you to success, while giving enough leeway to allow you to experiment a bit. I wish I had more time to explore the exercise – it would have been fun to do it with darker skin tones and different colored eyes, just to see what happens. (And to get some more practice!) But this pesky full-time job gets in the way, and there are more exercises ahead…
Speaking of which, I’ve made progress on the fantasy-animal project. Since my drawing and rendering skills are still pretty shaky, I created two models of the “sonic salamander” and posed them for photos. Here’s one of the photos I decided to use:
I figured that would enable me to get the overall composition, and the lighting/shadows, correct. All I’d have to do was trace the photo, then copy the shading.
After some fiddling, I realized that I really wanted the back salamander a little more distant. Easy to do in Photoshop!
Then all I had to do was trace it for my composition sketch:
Now I had to add the background. I had no idea how to even get started, but the instructor suggested that I add a new Photoshop layer and just play around. So I chose a simple brush style and just started drawing. To my complete astonishment, it worked! The screen didn’t explode (always a danger if you’re a beginner 😉 ), and, after about two hours, I had a fairly passable composition:
It’s not bad for a rough sketch. I need to remove the gratuitous log at the top left, which doesn’t work at all, and I will probably remove the grass at lower left, which distracts from the big salamander. I still need to do two more compositional sketches and add in some shading, but this one isn’t bad to work with.
One thing I’ve learned along the way is that digital painting is much more forgiving than physical media. The “Undo” button has become my fast friend, and I’m making liberal use of layers. “Undo,” of course, eliminates all your mistakes and false starts with a single click, and layers allow you to isolate sets of changes. If you don’t like what’s happened, you can blow away that layer and start over – the rest of the image is totally intact. In the compositional sketch above, the salamanders each have their own layer, the ground, the grass is another layer, and so forth. So if I’m not sure I like the grass, I can make that layer invisible and try something else, without affecting anything else in the image. Then I can switch the grass layer on/off to see which look I prefer. This gives me much more freedom than in drawing with physical media. I am in pig heaven. No fear! 🙂
In fiber-land, I finished spinning the singles for my socks. I haven’t set them up for plying yet – too busy with painting homework – but will try to do that this week. I also dyed the fiber for my next spinning project, which is the skein of yarn I’m trading for having someone else knit up my socks. It’s another color gradient:
I’m spinning it up considerably finer than the sock yarn, so it will take longer. Because of this, I’ve decided to alternate spinning this yarn with spinning the Lincoln fleece – I want to get started! So I am making progress on that as well.
I am now out of time (need to get out of the house for a busy day ahead), so no videos of Tigress on heavy drugs (catnip), but here is a photo of our intrepid adventurer, trying to figure out how to get onto a shelf just a little higher than she can reach. She didn’t manage it this time, but she’s a very clever kitty, so I imagine she’ll figure it out soon. Go Tigress!