Space art sketches and pencils
13 February 2016 permalink
I have been doing more space art sketching lately. I use graphite, colored pencils and black ink. At first I used Polychromos colored pencils by Faber Castell and although they are nice to draw with they are expensive for doing sketches so I started looking for a cheaper alternative.
First I tried the Norris Club 144 colored pencils by Staedtler. They have very good covering power on different papers, but unfortunately they are not pigment rich so the colors are on the weak side. Furthermore, only 12 of the total 36 colors are available as open stock. They are very inexpensive though.
Later I tried the Polycolor colored pencils by Koh-I-Noor. They seem to have just as much pigment as the expensive Polychromos and yet cost about 70% less. They don't break, and all colors are available as open stock. They are smooth to draw with and they don't smudge. So I draw with the Polycolor pencils at the moment and enjoy using them.
I have done so many sketches during the past year or so that I decided to put some of them online in a new space sketching gallery. Hopefully I'll have the time to further explore at least some of these sketching ideas as digital artwork.
Discos and working habits
20 May 2015 permalink
This abstract image took much longer to render than I expected. The first high resolution rendering did not take long, but there were problems with anti-aliasing. Some areas did not anti-alias well enough, so I set the anti-aliasing to the highest possible and started the rendering again. This increased the rendering time to several hours, and fortunately everything now looks completely smooth.
Last year I read Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. It is an interesting and enjoyable book which describes the working habits and many eccentricities of well known painters, writers, philosophers, scientists, musicians and other creative types. Recently I was re-reading the book, or the highlighted parts of it, and here are the most common habits that were of interest to me: drinking coffee and tea was popular among many and so was eating eggs; some liked sugary foods; many worked only few hours a day; most followed a daily routine; many liked to work in the morning.
Caffeine and sugar is bad for me so I don't consume it. Eggs I do eat as they are high in brain performance boosting nutrients like sulfur, selenium, choline and vitamin B12. But one food that works really well for me are sardines, which are mentioned once in the book if I remember right. Whenever I feel that my creativity is lacking I eat a small can of sardines in sunflower oil with bread. That helps the creative ideas start flowing again. I think it's a combination of the nutrients that sardines are high in: vitamin D, vitamin B12 and especially selenium. Unfortunately, I recently learned that now even plastic particles are found in the tissue of many fish. So I will have to stop eating sardines which are still considered relatively safe to eat by many health experts. Another food that helps improve my creativity is organic pork liver pate. But it's also bad for me in some ways, so I was thinking about trying organic beef and chicken liver instead.
My working habits changed over the years and I worked at different hours of the day. Some 15 years ago I was freelancing from home and for several months I worked during nights. I did this because I was curious how working during nights would be like for me. So I slept with earplugs during the day and enjoyed the calming silence of the night while working on Unreal 2 . Working nights helped me concentrate much better, which increased my productivity and the quality of my work. Unfortunately the nocturnal life was not good for my health. It's simply too unnatural for my body to be awake during nights, so I went back to a daily schedule. But I still use earplugs or earmuffs whenever I need to reduce noise and improve concentration.
I know that following a regular schedule is important for my creativity. Briefly planning what I will work on the next day is also important, as that makes the work flow with less effort. I think having a habit of doing the same type of activity at the same time of the day makes it easier for the mind to prepare for it, and bring forward the ideas which the subconscious has worked on.
Anyway, here are some abstract crayon sketches I did lately:
Starry isles 2
10 May 2015 permalink
A few years ago I made Starry isles, which I like a lot mainly due to its very pleasant fantasy mood that is so otherworldly and inviting. Recently, I was looking through the work-in-progress directory of that image and the idea came about to do a sequel. My goal was to make the sequel even more visually appealing. I started by doing a sketch, shown here at the bottom of the sketchbook page.
As is usually the case with my workflow, the initial idea evolves a lot as I work on it. So what I have initially imagined may be quite different from the actual sketch, and the final artwork may also be different from the sketch. This is partly because sketching is a brief process. Thus I can draw many sketches that explore the initial idea and produce different visual variations of it in a short amount of time. Furthermore, once I start working digitally, it's easy to experiment and make big changes quickly. Thus the initial idea may end up looking very different once it has gone through the whole creative process.
Tranquil shores, space art sketches
3 May 2015 permalink
I noticed that I rarely depict liquids that look like water in my space artwork. I'm not sure why I haven't used liquids more frequently, but I plan on including exotic liquids more often from now on.
Shown below are some space landscape sketches from my sketchbook. I may start by drawing at least several tiny sketches like the ones shown in the photo. The purpose of these is to create many different, rough ideas and then select the best one(s) for further work. These are approximately 4,5 x 3,5 cm (1.7" x 1.3") each and because they are so small they are often called thumbnail sketches. Each takes less than a minute to draw. I use a soft pencil, like 4B or 5B, as that makes the sketching flow nicely.
Once I have at least one thumbnail sketch that has good potential, I then draw a bigger version of it with more details and in color. The ones below are about 11 x 5 cm (4.3" x 2") each, and are drawn using wax based colored pencils and black ink pens. I begin by drawing the main features using a black pencil, then I ink over the black pencil drawing, and then start coloring. A sketch like that takes me between 10 to 30 minutes, or longer if I can't make up my mind about the colors. I may draw a few of such larger sketches or until I'm satisfied with at least one of them. If I like one of them enough to create a fully detailed high resolution rendering, I proceed to the digital tools.
So sketching is a brief process that leads to a rough representation of how the final image can look like. For me, sketching is also a gratifying drawing exercise because of its simplicity, visual appeal, and all the interesting ideas that sketches can lead to.
Interwoven, canvas prints and sketching
13 April 2015 permalink
Interwoven is a new funky addition to the abstract gallery. Another news is that most gallery images are now available as canvas prints and you can even customize each canvas print to have multiple panels. Pretty cool!
For the past couple of years I have been sketching much more. I use traditional drawing tools because they diversify the creative process and make it more fun. That way I don't have to sit in front of the computer to do the sketching and can enjoy the reliability and simplicity of traditional tools - all I need is something to draw with and paper. Such tools always work and are easy to get started with, so sketching is great for getting the ideas flowing. The unchanging nature of traditional tools encourages their use and makes it a safe investment of time and effort to learn how to use them. Thus traditional drawing tools quickly gained my trust, something which digital tools are lacking.
I find the digital tools less trustworthy because they change a lot. Any functionality can change with an update - ending up working in a different way or producing a somewhat different result. User interface changes and so does the location of buttons or their names. Sometimes useful functionality disappears. I'm not against change, but change happening too frequently gets tiresome and discouraging - especially after many years of using multiple art programs. Thus digital art tools lost some of the appeal they used to have for me. I continue to use them because of their many advantages, but their use is now done with some reservation.
I have been creating digital pictures for over 22 years, so for me traditional sketching is an interesting way of creative expression that is exciting and stimulating. I use pencils, inks, crayons, colored pencils and any paper that is not too thin, too smooth and dark. Here are two abstract crayon sketches I did recently.
New space art video
7 April 2015 permalink
This new video features most of my best space artwork and the music is from the latest Anosphere spacesynth album Flight to planet 5.
17 December 2014 permalink
I created this new sci-fi image using Blender and Gimp. Its been now about two years since I started using Blender and 11 months for Gimp. Overall I'm very satisfied with both tools. For my needs I can do the artwork just as well as I did with 3DSMax and Photoshop.
After years of using 3DSMax it took some time to get used to Blender, but Gimp is practically like Photoshop so there was minimal time spend on adjusting. Gimp is very stable, more stable than Photoshop and generally it feels just as fast with the exception of many filters, some of which can be quite slow. I have not done any typical 2D painting with it, just regular image editing and adding details at resolution of up to 6000 pixels wide. Although some of Gimp's functionality is a bit lacking, usually there are ways around it.
I should add that I use a 64bit Linux workstation where both tools (especially Blender) run faster compared to my 64bit Windows 7 laptop which actually has faster hardware. This goes for general use of the tools, not 3D rendering.
Finally, I have also added several new concepts to the air and spacecraft vehicles gallery. Hope you will enjoy these as well, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Concept gallery update
25 March 2014 permalink
For easier browsing I have split the concept gallery into the following sections: air and spacecraft, land vehicles, buildings, exteriors, interiors, robots, and weapons. Besides that, I've been busy doing concepts of buildings and spaceships, and have added five new concepts to the gallery: Recon vessel, Patrol vessel, Intel building, Apartment building, Military HQ. Concepts like that are great fun to make and I plan on using them in one of my future sci-fi images, but I still need to make more buildings. I try to keep the geometry of each building relatively simple, so once I put them all together, the scene won't be too heavy to work with.
21 February 2014 permalink
These concept buildings are part of my new project to create enough buildings for a scene that will show part of a future city. I want them to look like they could be built today or in the near future. I plan to have a good mix of skyscrapers and lower buildings of various type. I like solid looking buildings like those in this concept. The building on the left could be a government agency building and the other one a research institution.
12 February 2014 permalink
This is my first space landscape created using the Blender & GIMP combo. Overall all went well. The only thing that bothered me a bit was that in Blender (v2.69) I was unable to adjust the amount of horizon and zenith colors visible in the image in relation to each other. There is either no way to adjust this or I couldn't find where to do it. I have fixed the colors in GIMP, but things like that should be doable in Blender. Rendering time at 5760 x 3240 on a dual core 3GHz Intel E6850 CPU, 4min 3 seconds.
As for GIMP, I'm impressed how much faster it got. In the past, my main objection against using it has been that working with high resolution images is too slow. This is no longer the case. So far it seems as fast as Photoshop. I wonder if GIMP works faster under Linux?
Corridor segment 131209
22 January 2014 permalink
This Sci-Fi corridor segment shows tanks of fluorescent fuel located at the back of a spaceship. This concept ends my recent series of interior designs as I now plan on doing a few exteriors.
Another news is that I now use Linux on my graphic workstation. A few weeks ago I started thinking about buying a new workstation, mainly to speed up my 3D rendering, as the one I have now is well over 5 years old. I have a dual core 3GHz Intel E6850 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and nvidia GeForce 9600 GT gfx card with 512MB RAM.
While doing research about which CPU and gfx card to get I came across information that CPU Blender rendering is much faster under Linux. I decided to test this. I created a simple scene with various objects and applied different materials that take long to render. Additionally I set various rendering settings to further increase rendering time. After rendering that scene under 32bit Windows XP using 32bit Blender 2.69, I installed 64bit Slackware 14.1 (my favorite Linux distro) and rendered that scene again using 64bit Blender 2.69. To my amazement the Linux version of Blender rendered that scene 46% faster compared to Blender under Windows XP. This is a huge reduction in rendering time, especially if one works on images that take long to render.
Other programs also run faster under Linux and are more responsive, especially Firefox, and the desktop (I use Xfce). Because there is no Photoshop for Linux, I now use GIMP for all my 2D work and so far it works well for me. Thanks to Linux I will keep on using my current workstation for a year or two. I love efficient solutions like this one that saves time and money :)
[UPDATE: 9 Feb 2014] On the downside, the Blender GPU viewport performance is somewhat slower under Linux, even after I installed the latest nvidia drivers - which did not provide any improvements over the open source drivers.
Corridor wall segment 131202
6 December 2013 permalink
I plan on making this corridor wall segment part of my future whole corridor design, but I first have to create the opposite wall, a ceiling, and a floor. I already have some ideas about the other wall and the ceiling but the floor is still in the works. It's great fun to make concepts of interior sci-fi designs like these and I already look forward to make the other parts of the corridor.
Another news is that I'm about to set up a small rendering farm using my computers at home. I calculated that my rendering time will be reduced by 60-80% by using the two other computers I have.
Corridor wall segment 131120
29 November 2013 permalink
Making this Sci-fi corridor segment concept was a good way of exploring Blender's rendering options and materials. I think that materials in Blender are a bit easier to set up and work with compared to 3DS Max, but I yet have to find out how to create a material library. Rendering is pretty straightforward, just like in 3DS Max. Rendering time on my dual core 3GHz Intel E6850 CPU was little over 5 minutes at 1248x702. And I have to say, so far, Blender has been very stable and very responsive for me. The startup time is a couple of seconds and it shuts down even faster. Though to be fair, I should say that I run it under Windows XP - for speed :)
14 November 2013 permalink
This spaceship fighter is my third concept project done recently. I started by drawing several small outlines of one wing seen from top. Then I picked the one I liked best and have drawn a bigger version with some details in it. I did the same with the cockpit, except I did the cockpit from the side. Then I did the modeling and texture mapping in Blender and added some more details in Photoshop.
Doing concepts like these is a great way of learning a new 3D program, like Blender is for me, and at the same time getting some practice in doing concepts. And I even may use this spaceship in one of my future sci-fi images. My next project is either going to be an interior or exterior environment. Perhaps a corridor or a building.
Lightweight cannon 131022
23 October 2013 permalink
This remotely controlled lightweight cannon is my second concept project completed in Blender. I did a basic procedural texture with some green color variations and painted the yellow camo stripes and some more detail in Photoshop. I often add more detail in Photoshop because some things are easier or quicker done in 2D. At other times I get more ideas while in 2D and don't want to go back and add things in 3D.
I'm getting more used to Blender but I read the UI might get changed soon. I just hope the changes won't be too dramatic and the shortcuts will remain the same. Anyway, my next concept project will probably be a spaceship.
Reconnaissance vessel 131002
4 October 2013 permalink
I have been learning Blender (a free 3D program) on and off for some months now. I can now do enough modeling to do concepts, but I still need to experiment a lot with materials and rendering. So far I have not had any major problems with Blender and I enjoy using it, and it looks like it will satisfy my needs. Nevertheless, it does take some time to get used to and learn how to do things the blender way.
This reconnaissance vessel is my first concept done in Blender and it was a good way to learn the type of 3D modeling functionality that I use a lot. Initially I wanted to do all texturing in Blender, but unfortunately there is no way to draw a straight line on the surface of a model. Hopefully such functionality will be added soon, which is essential for a lot of texture work.
Anyway, I still have a lot of learning to do and my next project is going to be either another Sci-Fi vessel or a space cannon.
21 March 2013 permalink
A spaceship approaching a home base on a far away planet... This image is a little bit of an experiment. I wanted to do something relatively simple without sacrificing the overall visual impression.
I noticed that as I get older I tend to appreciate simpler images more often. I wonder if this is due to the aging process, or if it's due to my growing experience as an artist and human being. Perhaps it's both.
Simpler images are quicker and easier to process visually and they probably communicate the main idea more effectively due to their simplicity. They are not necessarily easier to make, but the creative process is somewhat different. Which makes me want to experiment some more with this in my future work.
Cyberian flight 2 - new sci-fi image
28 February 2013 permalink
In 2010 I did the first image in this series, and I decided to do a second one as I really like the idea of spaceships flying above a terrain. I actually plan on doing more sci-fi work in the near future. I'm also experimenting with various techniques as I want to change my style a bit. In the past I did some complex and time consuming work, but now I want to simplify certain aspects of my work and at the same time make better images.
Another news is that I'm in the process of lowering my costs of operation. Because of this I decided to learn Blender, a free 3D program. Last time I used Blender must have been at least a decade ago and the program has progressed tremendously since then. So far I have only been exploring modeling and texture mapping and a little bit of rendering. There are a couple of things I can't get to work quite right and I'm not sure if that is due to a bug or me not doing things the right way. Overall, however, I really like Blender. The new user interface is great and there are shortcuts for everything. Nevertheless, after years of using 3DS Max it does take some time to get used to a somewhat different way of doing things. I don't have anything to show yet, but hopefully will have something relatively soon.
11 February 2013 permalink
A new addition to the space gallery: One evening on a planet far away. The following text is just filler, there is no need to read it. Every time I post a news item it gets send to the subscribers of my newsletter aka. email updates. Unfortunately a newsletter email must not be too short or it may be considered spam and get automatically deleted. Therefore I have to write more text for this news post because spam evaluation mechanisms will not let me send a short email to the newsletter subscribers, so I'm writing some more text. Hopefully this is enough. But just in case let me write some more.
Fantasy Artist magazine
7 October 2012 permalink
Some of my artwork is featured in the current issue of the Fantasy Artist magazine (October 2012, issue 38) in the Sci-Fi section. There is also a five step display of how I create space images. The magazine is available at newsstands but can also be purchased online.
New abstract art
16 April 2012 permalink
I have just added a new piece to the abstract gallery - Reflections. I completed it early last week but first today had the time to put it online. Actually I made some minor tweaks to it today as well. I always let the artwork age for some time, and then look at it with fresh eyes days later. That way it's easy to spot things that need improvement.
Traditional vs. digital abstract art
18 March 2012 permalink
For the past couple of years or so I have been experimenting with acrylic painting. I'm mostly doing abstract work and eventually plan on doing space art and perhaps even sci-fi. Although I did some drawing and painting when I was a kid, for the past 19 years all my work has been digital. There are of course trade-offs to both approaches, and personally I prefer digital because I have been doing it for so long and find it far more practical.
One thing that became very apparent to me is the amount of experience I have as a digital artist. I take this for granted because I have been doing it for so long. This is especially true for techniques on how to do things. Nearly all of my digital techniques and methods of working are of no use in traditional painting. Of course the fundamental aspect of a picture are the same - composition, lighting, colors - but the actual process of getting things done is very different.
For me the process of creating digital abstract art offers many advantages over the traditional methods. There is no smell of the paint fumes and possible toxic side effects from inhalation; no paint build up on the canvas allows for endless modifications; no need to buy paint or canvases; much better and easier control of the composition and colors used; but perhaps the biggest advantage is the undo functionality that every digital art program has built in. I really missed that!
The biggest disadvantage to digital abstract art, or any digital art, is the lack of guarantee that a digitally made artwork is the only existing original. Countless and perfect copies can be made of the original artwork. Therefore there is no way to guarantee a potential buyer that he will receive the one and only original artwork. Perhaps in the future, new technologies will be developed that provide a guarantee of original.
For now I'll keep on experimenting with traditional painting methods and see where that will get me. But digital work is my primary choice and it's unlikely this will change. U3SJM5248T5E
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