One of the first digital paintings I ever completed was Eilat, Coral Reef Nature Reserve, August 1999, which has its merits, all things considered, but looking back it’s almost funny. I was working off a photograph for that one, but I had not yet learned how to use layers, or basically any tool other than the brush and the color picker. I didn’t even know how to change brushes at that point, or opacity, or begun experimenting with brush modes. I never did feel 100% satisfied with that picture. I don’t mind things being deliberately rough, but in that case, I simply lacked the knowledge to take it where it needed to go.
That was 11 months ago.
This image does help me see how far I’ve come; it’s not even based on a photo. I didn’t use any reference images at all. The fish are all just bits of color that I played with until they took shape. The entire painting is basically bits of color smeared around. It’s one of my favorite things in Photoshop right now; the blur took can take the roughest image and make it look more real.
(Or, as in yesterday’s comic, it can take a more realistic image and make it look more fake.)
Some of it was probably also inspired by David Attenborough’s The Blue Planet, which is a really lovely thing to watch before bed as long as creatures eating other creatures doesn’t upset you.
The red fish is my absolute favorite. It looks perfect and I would look at it carefully before I drew another fish to see what made it work.
Another thing that’s happened since I got the Wacom tablet is that my brain has begun to dissect light everywhere. Understanding how light works when it falls on objects inspired a big leap for me in taking my work out of the purely flat realm and giving it greater dimensionality. I only tried to use realistic light and darkness in small doses here, but it really changes the character of the image.