Category Archives: New Painting

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.

Retirement

I have been gone for a long time, but there’s a reason for this. I had an opportunity to take early retirement, sell my condo in the city, and move out to a small town in the country. I took it without hesitation; my dream come true was to be able to paint full time. I knew I would have enough money to live on, and without a full time job, I would have a lot of time on my hands.

There is an awful lot of work involved in this, and some can attest to. Retiring is one thing, but add selling, buying and moving to another town, and you have a full time job with lawyers, real estate agents, staging, city taxes, licences, movers and even gym memberships!

Snow!
Snow!

To prepare my place for sale, I had to take apart studio – a laughingly small den – and put everything into storage. That meant putting painting away for almost three months. I finally got back to my art by the end of March, and believe me, it was so good to put paint to canvas again. My first project was my new puppy, Solo, who was born on February 14th. It wasn’t a major piece, but I did enjoy working with negative space: the almost full white field of snow behind the dog.

I have not moved to my new house yet, but I am loving living here in Collingwood, Ontario. The pace of life is slower for me, and I often start my day on one of the local trails, such as the Pretty River, shown above. I was warned that retirement is a shock, and needs time for readjustment, but I had no trouble moving on. I live in a small town, and I have time to paint.

New: Abbey Road Redux

Abbey Road Redux

I had a lot of fun on this project, and may just keep this one for myself. The idea was documented in my previous blog, but at that point, I didn’t realize the amount of mystique that surrounds this historic photo. Perhaps I shouldn’t say anything, but I just can’t keep a secret; hidden in this painting, are seven Beatle figures in action, a shadow portrait of Paul, and the Blue Meanies hand from Yellow Submarine. I’m sure you will notice now that I’ve brought them to your attention. The clues in this picture should get you started, but be aware some shapes are inverted or rotated.

Continue reading New: Abbey Road Redux

On My Easel: Abbey Road

I got this idea from a posting on Facebook by Toronto artist, David Clarkson. He uploaded his own version of the famous photo, notably missing all signs of life, including the Fab Four. His doctored photo instantly resonated with me, and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. This has to be the most iconic intersection in popular culture; at least for the past 50 years. Upon further discussion, I was send to a website displaying the outtakes for the original photo shoot. At this point, I was hooked.

While browsing through the other photos, I realized how familiar the badly parked white Volkswagen was. It seemed almost a part of my subconscious. I also noticed that Paul was actually wearing sandals, but took them off for the final barefoot shot. I just had to do something with this piece of information, so I added an abandoned sample of this footwear into my composition.

I don’t want to give away too much just yet, (hence the close-up in the graphic above), but all those darkly-shadowed trees cried out for some barely discernible shapes, suggestions…like maybe the Blue Meanies…but I won’t decide until I get to that part of the painting.

So, what am I trying to say here? I think my original fascination with a famous, but abandoned site, was the idea of time itself. Nothing stays the same. Although people still pose on this crossing every single day, the area is radically different. The world has moved on, and the Beatles are no more. I, myself, am some 45 years older.

And yet, there’s that car, in the exact same spot. It feels like it should always be there. But it’s not, and neither are George, Paul (shoes or no shoes), Ringo and John. For me, the passing of time can feel empty; memories fading. At what point in time, I wonder, will nobody know, much less care, about that bright, sunny summer afternoon, when the Abbey Road crossing was used to capture the imagination of so many people?

 

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.