The Sixth Seal on Inkitt…

In case I forgot to mention it here, The Sixth Seal and the first few chapters of the sequel are available to read for free on Inkitt right now. I’ll probably take them down when I’m completely finished with the sequel. I’m working on new covers, yet again, now that I’m getting a little more confident with my digital painting.

Anyway, read them while you can for free, I’ll be adding more chapters to the sequel and keep adding them until it’s finished.

A play of light and shadow…

Here are a couple more portraits I completed this weekend. Both are from photographic reference, but I approached each quite differently. In the first, the one I call Bubble Gum Girl, I did a sketch and then a revised sketch before painting the entire thing in grayscale in order to get the shadows just right. Then I applied the color in several passes using blending layers. Finally, I roughed in the background with an oil brush with thick swift strokes. For the second portrait, the one I call the Bride, I painted everything on one layer using only a Photoshop oil brush. It was a fun challenge that made me think about my brushstrokes more carefully than I normally would because I couldn’t erase. If I wanted to change anything I either had to undo or just paint over the area.

I like them both because of the way light and dark play together. The first is more subtle, but the second actually uses fewer colors to achieve the balance. It’s always nice to try different methods when painting digitally. You never know what you might end up with, and if it’s a complete failure you can just hit delete and never let it see the light of day.

In loving memory…

Here’s a portrait I did of my grandparents from photographic reference. The photo was in pretty bad shape, so I had to make some assumptions and take a little artistic license, but overall I’m pleased with how it turned out.

My grandfather passed away in 2011 at the age of 82, but my grandmother just passed away last Friday. She lived a long and happy life, she was 93.

I’m pretty sure the picture was taken when my grandfather returned home from the war. They look so happy together. It was always one of my favorite photos of them.

I did some research on the patch that looks like an A on his shoulder, and it turns out it was a patch given to soldiers who fought in Germany under General Patton in the push to Berlin. It’s called the seven steps to hell. Like my maternal Grandfather, my Grandpa Bill didn’t talk much about the war. I can’t even imagine what he went through over there and the things he must have seen, but it was obvious from the photograph that he was excited to be back home with his best girl, Betty. Aren’t they just the bee’s knees?

Betty_and_Bill_Finished

 

One more portrait for the weekend…

Just finished this piece. I really like the way it turned out. I had to use some overlay layers to get the neon in the background to look like it was glowing, and there are about 20 different colors in the guy’s face. It definitely took a lot of time to get them all blended properly.

I took a few artistic liberties and it’s definitely not an exact likeness, but you can judge for yourself how well it compares to the original photo…

My latest portrait

I’ve been learning a lot in my online digital painting class over at Paintable. Here’s my latest portrait that I created from photographic reference. I’ve always had difficulty painting hair in portraits and making it look believable, but I’m getting better at it after having gone through the hair exercises in my online classes.

Here’s the progression of this piece from sketch to first grayscale rendering, and then on to coloring and final details.

 

I’ve signed up for a week long portrait painting course over at Paintable, so I should be posting more portraits here in the future. Mt goal is to get good enough at painting digital portraits that I can paint all of my book covers myself and capture the true essence of the characters.

Another round of art classes

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve gotten back into art recently and have started taking classes online. I want to improve enough so that I can make paintings of scenes from my books to use as covers. I’d also like to start painting more portraits. Luckily I found a great new online art class called the Digital Art Academy at paintable.cc.

The particular track I’m following now is called foundations, and it takes you from absolute beginner all the way to painting detailed portraits and landscapes like the pros. The main instructor there, David Belliveau, is a fantastic artist and one of the best digital art instructors I’ve found. You can see some of his work here…

https://davidbelliveau.com

I’ve been having a lot of fun going through all of the lessons and exercises, so I thought I’d post a few here. I’ll make new posts periodically to keep track of my progress.

…and, yes, I’m still writing and posting chapters of The Eyes of Arcadia on Inkitt. I’ll most likely be posting three more chapters by the end of the week. You can read them here.

 

The sketch of the cat was done from this reference photo. It’s my daughter’s cat. She’s a cute little kritten, but she’s pure concentrated evil. I think in this picture she was either contemplating doing something bad or looking disapprovingly at our beagle, Gabby…or possibly both.

Pepper_Cat_Again

Still Life Paintings

I’ve been getting back into digital art lately, and I even enrolled in an online class on Udemy. I’ve been learning some great techniques and doing a lot of practice pieces. It’s definitely easier to go through the trial and error stage in Photoshop where you can delete or undo or erase as often as you like. I suppose that’s why I never really got that into painting on canvas. I was always too afraid I’d mess something up and waste a perfectly good canvas or expensive paints…plus I’m really too lazy to mix paint and clean my brushes.

Anywho, here are a few of my practice pieces. I’ve included the original reference photo followed by my digital painting, with the exception of the tea kettle painting. The original photo was a low resolution download for that one.

A complete set

I’ve finished updating all of the covers for the Protectors series with the Keriann model from DAZ Studio 3D. In each case I prefer the new version. The ability to control the pose, lighting, and best of all the wardrobe, allow me to add more depth. I think the 3D model also blends in with the scene better than the originals. I also think they look more like retro pulp sci-fi covers, which I really like.

Here are the new versions side by side with the originals.

I know it’s hard to believe with all of the covers I’ve posted lately, but I’ve actually been writing too. Plus, I’m out of books I’m working on to make new covers for, so it looks like I’ll have even more time for writing 🙂

More cover experimenting

I’ve been learning a lot of really great photo editing techniques in Photoshop lately, but no matter how adept I get with the software there are still factors out of my control. For all of the fine control I have over lighting and color and image blending, I am still reliant on finding the perfect stock image of the model I want to use for any given cover. While I really like Mandy from Neo-Stock, she has the wrong hair color for Ana Eloise, and there aren’t really any sets of her with exactly the right clothing. While I was able to make her outfit from her vampire hunter photo shoot look somewhat sci-fi for the second book, I had to switch to a different model entirely for the third book cover.

I’ve been contemplating a solution to this dilemma for quite some time. I’ve tried my hand at painting her myself, which has come up short of my expectations, and I’ve also considered asking one of my daughters if she wanted to stand in for Ana on the covers. Even if she agreed, I’d still have to find a suitable wardrobe, and then there would be the issue of finding a place with the right lighting. There’s also the sticky point about me not being a very good photographer.

A third option has resurfaced recently. I say resurfaced because I’ve attempted it before, but the technology just wasn’t quite there yet, at least not within my budget. Then I saw the latest version of DAZ 3D and the Genesis 8 models (male and female). Basically the software is free, but you pay for the 3D models and any clothing sets or props you need (it’s still cheaper than buying high quality stock photos of professional models, especially ones that allow you to use them on book covers). It’s kind of like a high tech version of playing with dolls. The nice thing about it though is that you get complete control over everything: hair color, eye color, clothing style and color, camera angle, lighting, and even props like weapons or furniture. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination…and your expertise with the software. I have to say it’s a bit of a learning curve, but the software is fairly intuitive considering how advanced it is.

So my plan is to use a version of the Genesis 8 female from DAZ Studio as Ana Eloise on all of the Protectors book covers. You can see my first stab at re-working the cover for The Sixth Seal below. I’ve included the recently remastered version of the original for comparison.

I’ll probably still do a few more adjustments as I become more competent with the software, but so far I’m really liking the results. I’m especially pleased with the hair on the 3D model. One of the most difficult parts about cutting out a model and pasting her over a background is cutting around the hair without making it look fake or badly superimposed. With the 3D model, I can export a rendered image in PNG format and maintain complete transparency around the hair so that every bit of detail carries over and pastes seamlessly over the background. In fact, I could have left off the added white aura around Ana, but I rather like the effect.

I’m going to start working on the setup for the second cover. The hardest part is posing the model in 3D space, but I’ve already got a great sci-fi jumpsuit for her and a super cool laser gun. I’m just a big stupid kid at heart 🙂

Cover progression

I thought I’d show the progression of Trapper’s Glen covers from the initial concept through a couple of revisions and some final detailing.

Here’s the initial concept. I liked the overall aesthetic and the idea, but it was a little lacking and the sign was flat and awkward and didn’t sit in the scene properly.

Trappers_Glen_Simple

Original

 

The next version I got the sign fit into a better orientation by merging the text with the sign and using some of Photoshop’s transformation tools. While the lights on the sign were fun to make and kind of cool, they just didn’t go with the sign. The background is also too dark in this one which obscures many of the details.

Trappers_Glen_Simple_Updated

Updated Cover

 

Almost everything fell into place with this version. I used some rendered Photoshop lights to create a twilight glow in the setting, I brightened the moon, and even added the telephone pole for a little more detail. The only problem was that the sign looked flat and a little fake.

 

Trappers_Glen_Simple_Revised

For the next version, I added a couple of texture layers over the sign using the soft light blending mode. The first texture image was actually old parchment paper. It adds that mottled, grungy look. To add a bit of realism to the sign I added an image of an actual sheet of brushed metal. And finally I added a bit of blood splatter over the population to hint at the tone of the book.

Trappers_Glen_Simple_Newest

For the final version I replaced the original boulder with something that faded into the scene a bit better. I also added a shadow across the bottom right hand corner of the sign and replaced the blood with bullet holes. And I finally had to admit that even though I thought the topo map overlay was cool, no-one else did and it didn’t really add anything either. I guess Stephen King was right…kill your darlings 🙂

 

Trappers_Glen_Simple_Final

This was a fun and challenging cover, and while I’m sure I could make further improvements, I’m pretty pleased with the end result. Now I just need to finish revising and editing the book, so I can put this cover on it and call it done 🙂