Category Archives: Technology

A Little Help From Technology

When I started painting in the 1970s, the photograph was an invaluable technology for detailed realists. It made it possible to freeze a moment in time,  and allow for months of work on your image. As digital photography entered the market, this made the photo all the more accessible. Then along came 3D. I had used this professionally over the past 20 years, but it wasn’t until I was retired, that the idea occurred to me: why not work up my reference from the fantasy world of 3D digital?

The push I needed was a free (yes – FREE) downloadable program called DAZ 3D (Digital Art Zone). For absolutely nothing, you can start making magic; however, if it works for you, you may consider buying pre-made objects and scenery created by other artists. Keep in mind, you are not copying someones work, just building something from elements. This would be the equivalent, for instance, of renting a Ferrari, hiring a model, and taking photos for a work of art. The car and model, in this case, will be wireframe objects being directed by you, the photographer.

Working in 3D

Okay, this is very complicated, and sometimes way over my head. Everything is based on reality, so accurate terms and data are necessary. But when you manipulate a figure on screen and move the camera around, you don’t have to understand lens radial bias, luminous flex, spectral and diffuse strength… although you will eventually know this. What you need to do is look at the image, and decide if it’s working for you.

Time & Space are Elastic
Time & Space are Elastic

My first painting based on this technology was “Time and Space are Elastic”. My concept was to be a family who’s car had broken down, and ended up in a snow globe on a desk somewhere. Back in the day, I would have hobbled together reference photos – perhaps getting my friends to pose as the family – and used my knowledge of light, perspective and shadows. But with 3D, I built the whole scene in this digital world that doesn’t exist. The subtle shadow within shadow and refection/refraction of the glass were stunning. This was a whole new world where I controlled even the angle of the sun with a mere roll of the mouse! 

Rendering

As I write this, I am in the middle of my third painting in this series. It is currently untitled, but involves a cleaning staffer in a gallery at night. She is magically stepping into a large painting of a wave. I will post the final painting when it’s done, but I already have 2 or 3 more ideas lined up. Shown here, is the figure being “rendered out” in a resolution of 3000 x 4000. The higher the resolution, the more detail you have as a reference. One of the tricky parts for the computer is natural looking hair, but that doesn’t bother me. As an artist, I automatically paint the hair in my own style, correcting any inaccuracies as I go. In fact, the painting is only my interpretation of the digital image, anyway.

My Calendar for 2017

While I was busy adding dots to an ink drawing back in November of 2015, a colleague suggested I release my drawings in a calendar format. It seemed like a way to make money, but in an internet/Walmart world, mass production-cheap labour products tends to steal the thunder away from simple craftsmanship. Still, I figured this would be a little publicity, and a way for my friends to take home some of my art in a relatively inexpensive way.

I had the theme already in mind; what if today’s personal technology and social media were around in the past?  I was working on an image of an astronaut taking a selfie on the moon, and the title “iHistory” popped into my head. Well, I started in earnest, and soon realized what a lot of work this was going to be.

All 12 images
All 12 images

Flash forward to August of 2016, and I finally finished off image number 12, Marilyn Monroe. With some disappointing experimentation, I found that trying to spend less than $20 for a good quality print was going to be a problem. I settled on a robust, cardboard-like, glossy paged format, where the images would last far past 2017. At this point, the idea of profit seemed far fetched to me, so I decided to simply break even. I rounded up to the nearest dollar to arrive at a non-threatening $25 per calendar.

Calendar 2017
Calendar 2017

Not many of you follow me out there in the blog/webpage world, but if you are interested, the calendar will be available into December of 2016, at the price of $25 in Canadian funds. Shipping within Canada is a reasonable $5, and Europe is around $10. If interested, send me a message, and we can work out the details.

New: On the Treadmill

As mentioned in previous blogs, I am tackling the whole notion of technology, so-called “social media”, and what it all means to our daily lives. The pace of technological change in society is increasingly faster, as evidenced by fact that our personal computing devices need to be replaced every few years. That may not mean much to younger people, but let me put things into perspective:

For 50 years, telephones and TV sets were virtually the same. Sure, colour TV came around in the 1960’s, but the technicians merely piggy-backed red-green-blue on the NTSC signal from the original black and white, and used this make-shift technology until digital  was implemented a few years ago. The telephone? Let’s just say you didn’t need to upgrade for a better camera. Even the concept of photography was virtually untouched until the new millennium, and the introduction of reasonably priced digital cameras.

On the Treadmill
On the Treadmill

But I digress. The point is this: we, as human beings, adapt to new situations, but with the speed of changes, we rarely take the time to step back and look at what we’re doing. Personally, I think that people walking around, staring at tiny screens, and ignoring the real-life sights and sounds around them, is fascinating. Without passing judgment, I feel that this phase in mankind’s development is worth looking at. It’s worth preserving, since this may be just a passing footnote in our history.

How will the future look? It’s hard to tell. Google glasses were a hint, but one thing’s for certain – the demand for instant communication and information is only going to increase. I don’t think it’s science fiction to suggest that memory chips, CPUs and some form of Wi-Fi will be implanted into our very own brains.

But for now, most of us are tied into this technology treadmill, and are too busy to worry about the future. As for the painting itself, I have hinted at the darker side of instant information, and that’s the notion of privacy. Was anyone disturbed by the blinds parted, revealing a thin wedge of nighttime darkness? Could somebody be looking in? I wonder if the girl on the treadmill cares – most likely, since it’s rather creepy…however, she is using technology that allows the whole world to watch from afar!

But for better or worse, I intend to examine this part of our daily lives. One of the artist’s responsibilities is to act like a mirror, and give us all a chance to examine our existence.

 

On My Easel: On The Treadmill

The Whole World - airport close-up
The Whole World – airport close-up

On my last easel update, I had started the re-imagining of my earliest known drawing. I have since decided to work on this between major paintings, but for now, here is a peek at the almost finished airport. It’s still the oddest project I’ve ever done, and it will be quite awhile before completion. I look at it this way, though: I started it back in 1959, so another year won’t really matter.

Right now, I am back to my social commentary theme, looking at the phenomenon of “texting”. This first piece will be titled “On the Treadmill”, and there is an in-progress close-up preview above. (I don’t want to give away too much at this stage). The painting is 20″x30″, and  of course, oil on canvas.

Of the many places that people like to text, it’s at the gym. This wouldn’t be an issue, but for the fact that taking up an expensive piece of equipment to conduct business on your smart phone, is often done at the expense of others who are waiting.

The technology, and its addictive usage, is still relatively new to our society. In terms of manners, there seems to be a wide berth of latitude given, and indeed, taken. Having studied the subject, it is abundantly clear to me that people are not necessarily rude and selfish – just oblivious. Lost in their own little worlds, they just can’t seem to pay much attention to their surroundings. This leads to pedestrians walking on red lights, and drivers checking Facebook when the light turns green.

Laws aside, I think society needs time to establish new social rules and conventions. This does not happen overnight, but I have faith that sooner or later, the human race will settle down, and fully adapt to these tiny devices that do everything advertised in an entire 1986 Radio Shack catalog!

In the meantime, the young lady resting on a treadmill will have to be excused – she has seven text messages to answer.