Friday, June 29, 2012

The gypsy boy, as promised



click to see all images at large size...

Sorry to disappear on you again ... what did I say a couple of posts ago about the invisible artist? Real Life got in the way of art. Didn't matter what I might have wanted, "stuff" kept happening, right up to and including Dave and myself buying a van which we will shortly be tricking out as a camper! Not all the events that got between me and art uploads were bad things, but they were all time guzzlers, and no mistake.

Today's images are expansions of the "gypsy wagon" theme I was on the last time I had a chance to post. I mentioned that I was going to drive the camera in closer, see how close to the wagon you can get and maintain integrity on the model -- and also get a closer look at the gypsy boy...

So here he is! Here's a bit of trivia for you. The proper name for a gypsy wagon is a vardo. And, how do I know that? Well, back in the days when my mother was a kid -- loooong before my time -- there was a show on radio (tells you how long ago this was) called Out With Romany. Follow that link -- I'm not making this up! The show was so successful, there were Out With Romany books. Mom still has one ... a lovely old hardcover printed in 1944, the year after the author passed away. Me being me, I read it. Like a window into history ... and he refers to his gypsy wagon as the vardo.

So there you are: Romany boy and his vardo, and we know from the previous image his horse is just out of the picture. (Speaking of gypsies and horses, have you see the Johnny Depp movie, The Man Who Cried ...? Does anyone know what happened to Johnny's character at the end of the film? It's very unclear what happens -- you just see a mad panic, people running in all directions, and then the central character, played by Christina Ricci, moves on, and the characters you've come to care about are abandoned, never to be revisited. That irked me at the end of the movie...)

I have to admit, I'm spending some time thinking about (ta da!) writing. In fact, yesterday I took the first major step in pursuing writing seriously. 

There's a software system called Scrivener -- you might have heard of it. It's been out for years and years, but it was only ever for Mac. That was such a shame, because I never actually owned a Mac, and don't expect to. They're expensive, and they also have limited compatibility with software -- nothing I currently own would work on a Mac, and I own ... a lot. So, last year (the year before??) when the company behind Scrivener announced that they were working on a Windows version, I was interested, and I did keep an eye on their webpage for months. Then, they overran their projected date for the release of Scrivener for Windows by so far, I thought, "They must have run into insurmountable problems ad scratched it." I confess, I did actually stop watching the website. The other day, some instinct made me take a quick look, and -- aha! 

Yes, the Windows version is out right now, and at the same great price. So I just paid forty bucks for it; it installed perfectly and it's so simple. The interface couldn't be any easier. I mean, seriously ... people need tutorials for this? You're kidding me, right? There's a PDF manual that ships with the program, but all you have to do is open your eyes and LOOK at the interface, and the whole thing is self-evident.

So when I get into Abraxas, and some new Very Major Projects that have been buzzing around in my brain, I have the perfect medium to work in. Also, because of the way Scrivener functions, I can grasshopper around from idea to idea, scene to scene, and work in multiple bits and pieces. 

Back soon with more!

Jade, June 29

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Render BIG, then crop to your heart's content


click to see all images at large size...

Till very recently, I was "rendering in a keyhole," because if I tried to render a larger picture I would just get a crash to the desktop long before I even got a picture. And you know, I'm still in the habit of rendering at modest sizes, even though now I could actually render the side of a barn, so long as I do it in DAZ Studio rather than in Bryce or LuxRender. Admittedly, Bryce and LuxRender take one heck of a lot longer, but ...

Here's a neat piece I call "The Gypsy." I've uploaded the top version of it at 1600 pixels wide, so you can see the details, but I actually rendered it at 2000 wide, and it took about 90mins, because it's loaded with vegetation. As soon as you add in the vegetation, the render times go into orbit. But here's the beauty of rendering at humongous size:


The Gypsy Vanner ... and click on this, see him at full size ... you can actually crop a full-size, finished picture out of a small part of the whole image. The luxury of this is soooo neat. And then:


Indulge yourself in a super-wide, panoramic version! This one is reduced to 1600 pixels wide, because at 2000 it won't even fit on most monitors. And every time you crop the image, the "character" of it changes. In this one, you don't get such a strong impression of a young guy and his horse totally overwhelmed by the mountain wilderness; and in this version...


...it's very much a story about the vehicle first, and then the young man -- your eye is commanded by the gypsy wagon itself, and the young guy, tasty though it is, is secondary. But... 


...crop it closer, and it's a picture of a young man standing in front of a gypsy wagon, with just a hint of mountains in the background. Even the top picture was cropped down from the original, full-sized render:


I couldn't decide what aspect ratio I had, so I said words along the lines of "never mind, I'll render it as if it were a shot off the digital camera and worry about it later. So this one, here, is the original aspect ratio, which I've resized to 1000 pixels wide for this upload.

Cropping images was an art all in itself, back in the days of (ye gods!) darkroom photography. You actually decided what part of the negative you wanted to print. You ran the projection head way up to the top of the pole, and moved the "easel" around under it till you saw the exact framing you wanted of just a bit of the negative. Then you had to calculate your exposure time, to get the right contrast and darkness on the image before you put it through the developing "baths." Ahhhh, those were the days! I used to walk out of the darkroom with my fingernails bleached white, and a case of "vampire eyes," because the fumes off the chemistry were a little bit harsh. Digital photography changed everything. In so many ways it's far better, because you can take 100 pictures, where you used to take one, and you can do literally anything with the images, in Photoshop, after the fact. But I still think back with some nostalgia on those darkroom days.

This image involves Michael 4 wearing Sickle Yield's Skinny Jeans, the Garry Hair, and the Jackson skinmap. He's standing in front of the model called "Gypsy Caravan" -- can't tell you the vendor, but you can find it at, I think, Content Paradise. The horse is the Millennium Horse (from DAZ), and he's wearing the CWRW gypsy horse skinmap, and the Millennium Horse bridle, with the reins turned off. The hillside was created in Bryce and exported as an .OBJ -- the mountain in the background was done the same way. I re-textured both hillside and mountain with my own textures ... and the way you get the mountains to go silver-blue with distance is to make a plane (primitive), stand it on its edge, make it silver-gray and put a ~50% transparency on it. The sky isn't a backdrop -- it's one of the Vue skyscapes that fit the Light Dome Pro prop (just what it sounds like: a huge hemisphere, inside which you park all your props, and then you can spin the camera around because it's, uh, a dome!). The trees were from the Content Paradise store (Smith Micro's model store), and are the Rhodi Design Baby Fir Trees. The ground cover is one of the PNature shrubs (Renderosity again), cloned over and over and over and buried in the ground model so that only a small part of the top shows ... instant ground cover. The lights: I turned OFF all the Light Dome Pro lights because (sorry dudes ... I know what your advertising says, but...) they were somewhat worse than useless for getting a good result. I lit this myself with one distant light to simulate the sun, and five assorted spotlights, all with shadows. If this were done in LuxRender, with the "unbiased " form of lighting, you'd just use the one distant light -- the sun ... and it would be rendering for about a week! I wanted the picture fast, so I just did it in DAZ Studio. 

There is some post work on it, which was done in Photoshop, with .abr brushes: the clouds in front of the mountain were painted with Mystikel's Clouds (Renderosity), and the birds are Ron's Birds (DAZ); and there are some grasses painted here and there, but for the life of me, I can't remember which brush set I used. Other than this, some of the shadows were hand-painted, and the reflection in the van's window was also hand painted.

Next project: I'm going to fly the camera in close to the gypsy boy, and do more of a portrait shoot than a "figure in a landscape."

Jade, June 21 (the solstice of winter!)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The young man and the birdbath. No, seriously!


click to see all images at large size...

Now that I'm starting to think about writing, story ideas are assaulting me fro every angle ... images always make storylines pop into my head. Tell me honestly that your imagination doesn't try to spin the plot behind this picture, above! Mine sure does. 

Just one picture today ... not because it was difficult or complex, or took an eon to render ... just because I'm still hauling myself back from the 'Flu From Hell, and I have limited numbers of braincells to play with! They're rattling around in there somewhere; I just need to get a net over them and staple them back in their proper places.

The face and body morphs are by me ... a new character I like so much, I think you'll be seeing more of him.  He doesn't have a name yet, but he's probably going to get one! The skinmap is Jackson -- but the texturing on it (bump mapping) was actually sourced from JM Falcon and hand-painted here and there to get just the right effect. The lustre on the skin was done by adjusting the specular values ... and the hairy chest was painted in post, in Photoshop, using an .abr brush called Channing Body Hair, which you can get from Renderosity. It's what they call a "dynamic brush," which means that you don't have to zap on ever little hair; you zap once, and about 50 appear, all in ever-changing, random patterns. The hair on his head is the Gerry Hair, with the specularity changed and the bump mapping cranked waaaay up. 

The picture is well worth a look at large size -- I uploaded it at 1600 pixels wide, with enough JPG compression on it to get it down to 700kb. Check this out...


...and if that doesn't whet your appetite to download the full-size one, nothing will! Enjoy.

So I'm really beginning to think in terms of writing -- plots, characters, stories. I need to start jotting them down before they escape. You know how it works ... for every fantastic idea you remember in a week's time, there's nine others that race through your brain and vanish, never to be heard of again.

Jade, June 18 (winter solstice coming up at a gallop!)


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Return of the Invisible Artist


click to see all images at large size...

You might have wondered what happened to me about three weeks ago ...did Jade get hit by a truck? Did an alien spaceship land on the house? Did some industry tycoon decide she was the only person to manage his company's space program, and offer her an annual salary in seven figures, if only she'd relocate to the secret rocket complex and play a vital role in putting Man on Mars ...?

Nothing so mundane. 

Swine 'flu. I kid you not. Near death experience. Two weeks of wondering if I was going to shuffle off this mortal coil altogether, and then another week of tottering around, trying to get back up on my feet. You have no idea. You don't want  to have any idea! Suffice to say, I didn't actually die ... and I'm posting a couple of pieces as I try to remember, "What's my name? Who am I? What was I doing?!"

The top piece is a new render of an old idea: Martin, in trouble, at the very beginning of the Abraxas story. I actually did this before I got sick -- it's been sitting in Photoshop, waiting to have about ten minutes' worth of  post work done to finish it! So today, for the first time in a loooong time, I was able to find enough brain cells to do the work, get them into harness, crack a whip over them, yell "Mush!!" ... and have them all pull in the same direction for long enough to get this done. Last week, it would have been like a scene from a Chuck Jones cartoon. 

The second piece -- the boy in the garden -- is all new. Twice, while I've been sick, Renderosity has had sales, and some pieces were just too delicious not to be bought. Almost everything in this picture is new...

The set is brand new today, from DM: Sweet Serenity. It's a very nice "corner of a courtyard" set ... you get a wall with ivy geranium climbers, a birdbath, a couple of potted plants. I switched out the grassy ground prop for a hard floor ... basically, it's just a flat plane with a nice tile texture added; then, add gloss and reflection, and a bump map to ruck it all up, rather than having it be like a mirror. That's Michael 4, of course ... but he has a new hairdo. This one is the Garry Hair by a designer called SWAM Art. I never played with toys from this designer before ... nice. The jeans are new too -- if you think you haven't seen them before, you're right. This is the Skinny Jeans from Sickle Yield. The only things you've seen, in this picture, are the vest, which is the M4 Veranil vest with everything changed to my own textures and transparencies and so on, and the skinmap ... and the bad news is, I've totally forgotten which it is. One of the deep suntan maps. 

The lights are at a low angle to simulate evening ... there's only two spotlights on this scene. Have a look at it at full size ... I'm quite pleased with the way the shadows fall. This is "only" a raytrace ... I've been way too sick to even think about trying to control LuxRender, but this would be quite a nice little piece to render up in Lux. In fact, it's a very simple shot -- about my speed, today! Hey, I'm here, and I'm doing something at last, instead of sitting on the couch with a blankie, a cup of tea and a vacant expression, with the cough drops and nasal spray, tissues and ibuprofen within reach!

More soon -- my head is full of ideas, not just for artwork, but for stories also. I'm sloooowly but surely making the decision to write. I've been an editor for many years, and an illustrator for almost as long. Maybe it's time I got the finger out and started writing all those stories that go scooting through my mind as I do the artwork!

Jade, June 16

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