Tag Archives: digital paint

Long Hair Kitties for the Fluff!

Soft kitty, crazy kitty, tangled ball of fur...

Soft kitty, crazy kitty, tangled ball of fur…

The problem with painting from live models when you want to paint a cat is that cats make terrible models. They have no trouble posing themselves; effortlessly, they assume all manner of provocative positions, seemingly begging to be capture for posterity. And then, just as you start to get the outline of a decent sketch, basically the moment they notice that you are looking at them, they move.

So I don’t know about this little painting. I did it about a month or so ago and of course it’s not quite right because the cat was done long before I was. You can sort of tell what it’s supposed to be…but it’s not great. Can’t recall my original motivation in using so much red in this painting. The cat in question, my current cat Lupin, is a real Halloween cat, almost completely black except for a few white hairs and a little charm on her throat. She does spend a lot of time lying splayed out in the sun, so her belly is bleached brown, but she’s generally hard to capture visually because she basically sucks light into herself like a black hole.

While I was working on my original painting and trying to make it into the one I published (and also covering up a lot of the red and some of the silver) the cat just randomly sat down in front of me in almost this exact post, but I decided to just ignore her, knowing that if I tried to make any serious study, she would immediately move.

Suna was a princess, or possibly a queen.

Suna was a princess, or possibly a queen.

Even though they look similar, this is a totally different cat, Suna, who passed away a couple years back. She was actually a tortoiseshell, even though here she looks entirely black. I knew Suna as a kitten, when the Bear and I went to school in Ohio, and then many years later as a mature cat when I came out to the Sonoran Desert. I can’t remember which moment in time this sketch is from, but it’s either 1997 or 2005. I suspect the former.

I was looking everywhere for this picture when I first started the blog; I wanted it for another post on cats last year, but it was just nowhere to be found. Friday night I ditched all my friends who wanted to go to a bar and randomly started cleaning some of the clutter in my office. This sketch was stuck in a transparent plastic report cover along with the design for my second tattoo and a bunch of Winsor McCay reproductions. Makes perfect sense.


Everyone needs a little hand once in a while.

Everyone needs a little hand once in a while.

There seems to be a consensus among a certain group of artists that the measure of your ability can be found in the ease with which you draw realistic looking human hands. Drawing the comic has smoothed this skill over for me. (Yeah, I know the characters in the comic only have 4 fingers. But still.) Hands never seemed that great of a challenge to me–it’s face that give me trouble–and now my brain knows how to visualize the reproduce a variety of hand positions. If I can look at my own hand, or someone else’s hand, or a photo of a hand, then it always comes out right.

This is my left hand, which I did in digital paint as a tiny image a few weeks back. It took only a few minutes. Then I blew it up and smoothed it out just now, which only took another few minutes. Of course, I could have messed with it for 4 hours and made it look even more realistic. I probably could have messed with it for 18 hours and made it look like a some kind of uncanny volar valley, something that looked almost, but not quite, like a photograph. Wherein lies my problem: given enough time, I can draw anything. But then time becomes an issue. In 4 hours I could draw one perfect hand. Or one imperfect comic.

Lately life has been overwhelming and my brain doesn’t seem interested in drawing, or anything at all. It’ll probably pass. But producing new stuff seems just out of reach right now. I do have an article about censorship coming out today on Panels, but the link won’t be up for a few more hours, so I’ll post it later. There’s half a comics script on my desk, and with a little effort it could be a real comic by tomorrow.

The Perfect Passion Flower

This is Cthulhu's favorite flower.

This is Cthulhu’s favorite flower.

Wow! This design took forever! And it’s complete at last. In retrospect, maybe it didn’t need to be quite so complex; a lot of the detail gets lost at the resolution at which it will be viewed. It’s weirdly, uncomfortably humid here, which made it hard to focus on work. Maybe I could have finished this yesterday if it hadn’t been so sticky.  But here it is: the perfect passion flower.

You can acquire the perfect passion flower in my shop on T-shirts, tank tops, and more. There are even some totally new product types, including a pencil skirt, and a drawstring bag.

Working on this digital painting made me consider the 5 day a week publishing schedule. Obviously, I had nothing to post on Tuesday. I was so focused on trying to get through this piece that I didn’t even have a chance to scan and write about an old piece. And while I do enjoy doing the comic, I miss the opportunity to throw myself into larger projects. Is 3 a week the best option? Would 2 be better, or even 1? Still pondering. But this is what has occupied my attention for the last week or so.



Color Correction in Photoshop

I am not going to tell you how to color correct images in Photoshop, because my knowledge is insufficient for instruction purposes. Just starting out: I’m just feeling my way and going about it in a rather haphazard manner. A couple weeks back, my friend the Vampire Bat saw a picture I took of a hummingbird and color corrected it, and the difference is sort of amazing, so we talked for 30 seconds about it and I was inspired. I took a slightly less awesome hummingbird picture last week and decided to give it a shot. After I finished, I did a more subtle correction on a picture of an Arizona cardinal.

Brightening Birds in Adobe Photoshop

Brightening Birds in Adobe Photoshop; originals on left, color corrections on right.

To my eye, the hummingbird might be a bit too bright and the cardinal could be brighter, but they both definitely look better than the originals. I shifted everything blue-green in the first picture, but I only changed the color of the bird in the second.

I also enjoyed practicing that tiny bit of digital calligraphy, which I tried one time when I first got the tablet and then forgot all about as I struggled to figure out how Photoshop worked. Since most people use that program more for the color correction and less for drawing horrible webcomics, I was really feeling my way and probably not learning things in the same order as other people.

The Man also required some brightening.

The Man also required some brightening.

Here you can see some sort of over-the-top work I did for The Man, who wanted some professional head shots. I made a few mistakes, including causing the tree to look sort of unrealistic, but he liked it well enough to use it. It’s interesting to see what details pop out; I definitely have many sky photos that could use this treatment. Not sure what to do about his skin, though. For this image, I selected the sky first, played with that, then selected the inverse and worked with that section.

Anyway, like I said, I couldn’t exactly tell you what I did to achieve these results. It was sort of random button pushing, but I think I’m learning.

Basically What It Looks Like in My Brain

Walking Eye: So I'm a walking eye Green Vegetal Forest Spirit: Forest spirit. And my friend's a forest spirit too.  Wee Glowing Forest Spirit: Hey

Walking Eye: So I’m a walking eye
Green Vegetal Forest Spirit: Forest spirit. And my friend’s a forest spirit too.
Wee Glowing Forest Spirit: Hey

For a while now I’ve been doing a lot of the same thing, and I’ve learned a lot doing it, but ordinarily, when I’m just drawing to draw, I don’t draw the same thing over and over. There are definite themes, and there are topics that I mine again and again, but when I draw, for instance, Little Red Riding Hood, today’s Little Red is a different Little Red than yesterday’s Little Red.

I can tell already we're going to be the best of friends!

Little Red Riding Hood: I can tell already we’re going to be the best of friends!
Wolf: ::slavers::

Although, there does tend to be a lot of sexual tension between the girl and wolf.

There are lots of birds and fish and flowers and stars. Animals and fruit come up as often as fairy tales, and the style tends to be fluid. My friend the Vampire Bat once remarked that my art doesn’t have a recognizable style–this changes from image to image, I guess because I’m still searching for my style, or rather, I’ve never been satisfied with the way I draw.

This is basically the way I draw when I’m not trying to draw like someone else.

Turtle: I could absolutely *murder* a strawberry right now. Strawberry: Oh, god, please, no! I'm too ripe to die

Turtle: I could absolutely *murder* a strawberry right now.
Strawberry: Oh, god, please, no! I’m too ripe to die

Dragon Comics are fun, but these are the kind of comics that I draw constantly, without thinking about it. They don’t take hours. They don’t always make sense, although usually that’s part of the humor. They sort of make sense to me. And they always amuse me, which is the standard, right?

A snail licking the rim of a margarita glass for some reason

A snail licking the rim of a margarita glass for some reason

Usually I scratch stuff like this out on the backs of junk mail envelopes, keep them around for a couple months, perhaps thinking that the designs could aspire to be something greater, and then, eventually throw them in recycling when I find them jammed under the leg of my desk covered in cat hair. I’ve got dozens of notebooks from high school and college, the margins filled with these little guys. I’ve been thinking I should do something with my favorite parts and recycle the rest of those notebooks, too.

When I first started with the tablet, little cartoons like these would come out very rough and basic. I sort of advance in fits and starts: learn a few things, get comfortable with them, get dependent on them, then suddenly realize that there’s more to learn. Then I pick up a couple more techniques. Probably it would be more efficient to read a book about Photoshop and the manual for the Wacom Tablet, but that’s just now how my mind works. I’ve got to figure it out myself.

A Digilicious Mandala

My soul isn't perfect; why should my mandalas be?

My soul isn’t perfect; why should my mandalas be?

One of the reasons that crayon mandalas became less prevalent in my day-to-day life is that I felt I was reaching the limits of the abstract form and beginning to repeat myself. The representative ones were still original, but those take a lot more forethought and don’t spill out in the same organic way as the purely geometric ones.

When I did last week’s mandala on the tablet, I had to start over again with the form in some ways. I had to let go, again, of the idea of perfection. Now I start to see more possibilities.

With crayon, what’s done is done. You can stack a little bit of color with Crayolas but not with great detail. You can’t really go past a certain level of detail in crayon, whereas the tablet lets you get down to the pixels, and, of course, to add layers, so that you can always get something on top of whatever you’ve done. So that’s what I’ve been exploring here, and I’m actually much happier with the result than I was with last week’s circles. Something about the dots and lines reminds me of various types of indigenous folk art. I think I can really start to get even more impressive results, and hopefully come up with something T-shirt worthy.

In the real world, I still have a few more days in the cold place, although it has been warming up. Crocuses and snowdrops and narcissus–the first flowers of spring–are just poking their heads through the soil, and everywhere you go, landscapers are trying to untangle the mess of this unreasonable winter. It’s increasingly difficult to function; sleep is elusive here, in a narrow bed, without The Man, without some of the comforts of home that help me sleep. It becomes debilitating very fast. Maybe tonight will be the night that I sleep for 8 hours without interruption.

My First Digital Mandala

If you squint, it's practically perfect.

If you squint, it’s practically perfect.

Here’s my confession: it was time to upload Thursday’s mandala, except the crayon series is, of course, hard copy, and we’re caught up with the scans. I would have had to get up off the couch, turn on the scanner, plug it into the computer, open the scanning software, find the next mandala in the series, pull out the scanner from the shelf and then get the paper into it without hurting the scanner or the paper, scan it, refile the original, uncouple and turn off the scanner, close the software, and then upload the file. And this all seemed like an unconscionable amount of work. So I drew this one instead, because the tablet was already plugged in; the stylus was already in my hand.

I have not gotten off the couch in nearly 4 hours.

This is really not something to be proud of.

Up close this design looks pretty amateur hour, especially compared to some digital work you see, but if you shrink it down or look at it from far away it’s not bad. I still did it freehand so it feels like mine but I think I can get more impressive results with better technique and more knowledge.

Today I have to go to Chicago, so I’ve uploaded this mandala in advance. It’s uncertain how regularly I’ll be able to update while I’m away; I’ve got a bunch of other commitments and work on which I’ve fallen behind, and I’m not likely to sleep well on this trip, or have much free time. There will be something, but I’m not sure what.

Peacock Design at Long Last

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 11.58.27 PM

Vanity Has a Thousand Eyes

This work was a long time in coming, something I tinkered with sporadically for probably about 6 months. For a while I figured it would never be done, but tonight I just went at the last bits and got something I could live with. This design looks pretty boss on this smartphone case, and does its job just fine on a T-shirt. It also makes a particularly stunning throw pillow.

I actually don’t care too much for peacocks as living, breathing creatures. The summer before 7th grade, I went to camp at the Philadelphia Zoo. We had a lot of special privileges, including getting into the zoo 15 minutes before it opened and being allowed to go behind the scenes in a lot of exhibits. There were peacocks, everywhere, taunting me. Every kid there found a peacock feather that summer. Every kid but me.

Well, you say, that’s no reason to hate peacocks. OK. My second year in college I did an internship at an elementary school that kept peacocks on the grounds. For atmosphere, I guess. Peacocks were sort of their mascot. Part of my compensation was the use of a trailer on the school grounds. The compensation wasn’t all that great: besides the trailer I got $25 a week and leftover pizza on Fridays. And not only did I have to share the trailer with the principal’s 12-year-old son (apparently he was so obnoxious that the principal and his wife didn’t want him in the house either) but I had to share the roof of the trailer with a flock of peacocks.

I had a rough time getting to the school; there was an utter lack of communication on the school’s part concerning my arrival, compounded by the fact that I had sprained my ankle earlier in the week. When I finally got to my destintaion, many hours later than anticipated, and with my leg swollen to twice its normal size, I just wanted to sleep. The principal casually mentioned that I might hear some strange sounds in the night, as it was the birds’ mating season. He did not mention that the birds’ preferred mating ground was the roof of my trailer. At 4 o’clock in the morning. He further did not mention that the mating call of a peacock sounds eerily like a small child screaming for help while suffering excruciating pain and abject terror.

Ha ha. Peacocks. They’re terrible birds. The elementary school also kept a potbellied pig, a flock of chickens, and a sheep on the grounds, all of which would have made better mascots. When the peacocks laid their eggs and hatched their babies, the rat snakes ate all the chicks. Rat snakes would have made a better mascot.

Like many creatures, peacocks are successful in the modern world because they are nice to look at. Because if they weren’t, they would have gone the way of the passenger pigeon. Peacocks take irritating to the next level. I understand they were considered quite tasty in the medieval world.

I photographed this proud gent at the local zoo. The Girl and I had lingered after closing time and security had not yet found us to throw us out. I could tell the peacock thought we should leave, but I don’t like to be kicked around by birds, no matter how magnificent their tail feathers may be. If you, like me, enjoy looking at peacocks but would prefer not to experience them in person, consider purchasing “Vanity Has a Thousand Eyes,” now available on a variety of garments and household goods in my RedBubble store.

My Nephew Goes Wading, Take 2

My brother emailed me asking if I could send him a high-res version of “My Nephew Goes Wading,” the little doodle I scrawled out a while back when I was working on “My Sister and Brother-in-Law Look to the Future.” I sent him the files but really, it was just a scribble. I always meant to paint it. He wanted an art print or something! It was just a few lines. So, the last few days have been dedicated to fleshing it out.

It's hard to capture the joy on her face.

It’s hard to  accurately capture the joy on his face.

It’s not quite 100% satisfactory yet. In small format it looks good but for a blown up version it’s not quite there. Maybe in the next day or so.

Digital paint has a lot of advantages over real paint; it’s less messy, and it’s easier to take back, paint over, or adjust mistakes. It’s cheaper. It smells better. But…it’s still nice to have real materials (which I can’t afford right now so whatever). Painting is for the wealthy, or for people with patrons.

Anyway, “My Nephew Goes Wading, Redux.” I can get better with practice. I know I can.

Quoth the Raven, “Shop My Store”

I overheard Fox telling Otter, “Dragon draws these T-shirt designs but they’re all for girls so we can’t get any.” Gah! Gendered much? OK, fine. I drew this freaking raven, based on a photograph I took at the Grand Canyon. There is nothing girly about this raven with his weird punk rock mohawk head feathers, all right?

This raven is not interested in your problems.

This raven is not interested in your problems.

He’s all dark and brooding and mysterious and whatnot, sitting high above you, looking imperiously down like a king on his throne or something equally majestic.  Ravens are bigger than crows, and somehow more dignified, and they’re so dark that they seem to almost swallow the light into them.

Of all the designs I’ve done so far, this is the first one that really seems to look good on a cell phone case.

Mythologically speaking, Raven is the bringer of knowledge (in the form of light) to mankind; he literally steals what belongs to the gods in order to make it public domain. Raven is a friend to people, and a force to be reckoned with. If you’ve never gotten close up to one of these birds, you’ll be surprised at how large and sturdy they are, almost like raptors in their muscularity. They’re also, when they feel like it, extremely vocal. I believe they can be taught to mimic human speech, but even in their own tongue, you can get a conversation going. I’ve had long back and forth exchanges with chatty ravens, some of them rather far away. If you hear a raven, call back and pretty often it will answer you, even if you can’t see it.