Friday, January 4, 2019

Working with texture, color and light

Displacement map, bump map, reflection, refraction and gloss
values all set on ... well, everything.
Displacement, bump mapping and reflection are striking in this one...
DOF is turned off to make to make textures visible. 

In the last few days, I find myself fascinated by the textures of things, by the quality of light, the way distance -- actually, the density of particles in the atmosphere, but that strips the romance right out of it, doesn't it? -- strips detail, resolution and color from a vista.

So, working in CG, I find myself playing endlessly with the balance between displacement map values, bump mapping, reflection, refraction, the strength, color and direction of lights, the "drop off" of light over distance. (I learned the theory of all this via the 3D Studio Max Bible, incidentally, years and years ago. No, I never used "Max." It was out of my price bracket,  not to mention that my hardware wouldn't run it! But you could get the third-party manual for a song on eBay or something, and although 90% of the book was devoted to hand-holding exercises, teaching students how to drive the interface, the last 10% of the 700pp large-format book was invested in the theory of texture, light and ... all. So you had 70pp of in-depth, high-density information, the whole theory of the CG art form. This was all I needed. Actually, I always considered it a bit of a waste, printing a massive book teaching students how to drive an interface, because in a year's time the company will bring out the next version of the software ... they'll change the interface so radically, little you learned from a by-the-numbers book will do you a shred of good. On the other hand, master the theory ...! So, uh, I did. And it's infinitely applicable to DAZ, Poser, Bryce, whatever you can afford.)

Fascinated by light, texture and what have you, I couldn't resist painting in Photoshop too:

Digital watercolor: summer hills

Color gradients: none of this is in the source photo.
In fact the photo is a waste of storage space...

Digital watercolor: Near Yankalilla

Color and texture: again, none of this is in the source photo.
Lighting conditions on the day were ghastly. So ... painting!
As often happens, the very day that you're in the right place to get a perfectly framed photo, the sky is dull, but not dull enough to be dramatic. Just enough to make a digital camera record a picture that's so drab, it's just about black and white, so flat and boring, your mouse is hovering over the DELETE button. I tend to delete loads of pictures, and in the past the source photos for digital paintings like these would have been ditched... 

But I always loved the vibrancy and texture of watercolors, and lately -- bored out of my gourd (being disabled for a couple of years has impacted heavily on me) -- I've begun to play with things I never had time to consider before. Now, if I had to work on art board, with brushes and paint, this would never happen ... have you seen the price of art materials these days?! The boards are about $30 each. And since I haven't done this in around thirty years, I'll make a dozen messes before I get back to paintings I'm proud of. Uh -- not this year. Maybe later, if/when I ever find my way back to the cash, AND the pain in my hands and spine subsides to a level where I can actually do the work. In the meantime --

Yes, I work digitally. Everything happens in the computer. These paintings frequently start life as truly garbage snapshots ... full of foreground litter and background microwave relay towers! They're reduced to line sketches, then worked up to digital paintings in a process taking several hours each, and involving loads of, uh, painting, as well as many, many digital processes. But the whole job takes a fraction the time of a real, physical painting, and of course it costs nothing... 

Both those things are important when you don't have a lot of cash, and you're carrying a bundle of physical problems as well as the major disability that'll keep you comprehensively crippled for another year. It's all about the pleasure of being creative and winding up with a lovely picture; not this daft, ongoing game of "My materials are the best in the world, what are you using?" Dang, I hate that. It's like the "My car's faster than your car" game. Ack.

More soon.  
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