Sunday, December 14, 2014

WIP "The Archer" Color Variant 02 - 1920x1080 - Sketchbook (2014)

Second version of the character. Still a work in process with a different color scheme and rendered with a different brush set. 

Royal Guard - 1920x1080 - Sketchbook (2014)

First version of an idea for a member of the royal guard in the ongoing fantasy story mentioned in this blog. It was a really loose sketch that I took further to get an idea of where to make changes later. I tried a more anime style with this version but I may try something different in the next version. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

WIP Step 02 - 1920x1200 - Sketchbook 2014

WIP - Step 02 - Sketchbook 2014

Update to an earlier piece. I'm taking my time with this one, working on it when I take a break from other ideas. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Archer WIP - 1920x1080 - Sketchbook (2014)

The Archer - Variant 01 - Sketchbook 2014 - Nexus 7 2013

The Archer - Variant 02 WIP - Sketchbook 2014 - Nexus 7 2013

This is another character idea that I'm working out. I've sketched a few versions of him but this is the best version thus far. I'll do a few more once I get the colors down. There are aspects of the first variant I really like but I felt I could do more with the color scheme so I started working on the second variant yesterday. I have no idea where this is going but I'm enjoying the journey.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Love of Creation - 1280x720 - Auto Awesome (old version)

At the end of each year I like to create some sort of compilation piece that shows my progression throughout the prior 12 months. Last year I created a series of collages. This year, it's a short video presentation. Earlier this year I found a lot to like with Google's Auto Awesome image and video tools built into the Google+ Android app. I created a few presentations with Auto Awesome with good results, completed using my Nexus 7. Some of those results can be found in the January 19th post of this blog.

Unfortunately, Google updated Google+ and Auto Awesome but the new tools feel like a definite downgrade. Google removed the themes, transitions and musicial selections from the new Auto Awesome. Also, we can't create projects using stills and video in the new toolset. A good friend of mine made the point that Google will probably use the old version of the toolset to build a new video editing app for Android to be released at a later date. That would be awesome as I'd like to have something a bit more robust that's native to stock Android. But in the meantime, I would rather not lose the better version of Auto Awesome we already had. Of course this is speculation on our part but the fact remains, iOS has iMovie which is a capable video editing app for one of the best video/photo capturing smartphones available, the iPhone. Google...well...Google and Android aren't quite there yet although the old Auto Awesome used in this blog entry is a far better start than Movie Studio (from the Xoom, Android 3.0 days) and the new Auto Awesome. We have 3rd party options, but nothing that ships with Android by default that's as good. 

With that being said, the video above was created within an hour or so. I had to uninstall all updates to Google+ on my Nexus 7 to get back to the old (read: better) version of Auto Awesome. It didn't take long to build with most of the work coming from timing the video and selecting the right images. My plan is to capture more images at an event or an outing to put together a Auto Awesome video that tells more of a narrative to truly test the capabilities of the tools.

 Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Out and About with the Nexus 5 and a HTC M8. 11/14

The Path - LG/Google Nexus 5

Fall Sunset - LG/Google Nexus 5

Fall Sunset - HTC M8

TreeHouse - LG/Google Nexus 5

Fall Overcast 11/14 - LG/Google Nexus 5

Ramp to Heaven - LG/Google Nexus 5

Next on Gotham...LG/Google Nexus 5

Thursday, November 20, 2014

WIP sketch - 1920x1200 - Sketchbook 2014

Current Work in Progress

Another pencil sketch test in Sketchbook. I'm just screwing around with the pencil set and customizing my tool bar to better suit the changes from the old app. This piece is a bit more relaxing because I'm letting it take me where it wants to go after trying to steer the piece initially. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

"DevilMadeMe..." 1089x800 - Sketchbook Pro/Sketchbook - Motorola Xoom

"Devil Made Me..." Completed using Sketchbook Pro/Sketchbook for Android

This is another piece I completed using Sketchbook Pro on a Motorola Xoom but updated it using the new Sketchbook app for Android. I stayed with the Xoom too to see how well the new app would run on old hardware with an older version of Android. The Xoom performed well. Unfortunately, since it only has 1GB of RAM, my layer count is limited even running a native, non-HD resolution. But the good performance is appreciated since the Nexus 9 doesn't seem to be high on Google's list of priorities in terms of carrier support. As such, I can't get it yet. It's times like these I consider making the switch to an iPad and iOS but then I think about what I'll lose if I did that and quickly put the kibosh on that idea. 

"My Bestest" 1920x1080 - ArtFlow

"My Bestest" - created using ArtFlow for Android. 

I completed this earlier in the year and just realized I didn't have an entry in the blog for it. "My bestest" is my best friend going on 20 years as mentioned in the other portrait I completed of her also in this blog. Ironically, in some ways her artwork is better than mine but she still can't seem to understand that. If she ever stops being a stubborn mule and gives me the go ahead, I'll post more of her work here. 

 This is the second pencil rendering I attempted using ArtFlow completed February of this year, the 14th to be exact. I'm torn at the moment because the pencils between ArtFlow and Sketchbook are both excellent but they're not the same. Once I finish my current project, I'll go into detail as to the differences since Sketchbook's pencil set has been updated as the app has been completely revamped. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Sketchbook experimentation - 1920x1080

"Judges" Created using Sketchbook Pro. 

I've found two other older pieces I completed using Sketchbook Pro. I've updated them using the new Sketchbook app for Android similar to the pieces in the previous post. The smudge brushes and textured brushes are impressive and easy to use. 

Face study - unfinished version created using Sketchbook Pro. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

"It's Halloween! Who you gonna call?" Speed Sketch and Render 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

Reassurances. "Who you gonna call?" - ArtFlow

I finished the Kinky Halloween piece for a fetish art community and had some time left before work. So I did a really quick sketch and render of a Ghostbuster ghost trap. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day time photography with the Nexus 5. HDR/Macro/No Post Edits.

City Hall from the Parkway

Bike Path on the River

Harold T. Lash - Philadelphia based Painter.

Mr. Mosquito

What happened?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iron Man update - 1280 x 800 upscaled to 1920 x1080 - Sketchbook Pro/ArtFlow

Iron Man - created using Sketchbook Pro for Android. Edited using Sketchbook Pro and ArtFlow. 

I completed this version of Iron Man some time ago but the original background was a placeholder. I never got around to creating the background I had in mind for the piece. After looking at the original file on my Motorola Xoom today, I decided to kill the background entirely, change the colors a bit and darken the shadows. I used ArtFlow to tweak the palette and upscale the image from 1280x800 to 1920x1080. 

This was one of the first pieces I completed using the Xoom shortly after Sketchbook Pro released for Android. Those were some exciting times as the potential of tablets beyond media consumption devices started to become apparent. Especially with the original Asus Transformer with the keyboard dock. 

At some point I'll revisit Iron Man using some of the new rendering techniques I've learned but at a higher resolution.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bijumaru Hayasa 2014 - ArtFlow - 1920x1080.

Bijumaru Hayasa - ArtFlow - Final

Bijumaru Hayasa 2014 - ArtFlow - Early portrait version

This is one of my favorite characters that I created for the fantasy story I mentioned in previous blog entries. I tried many different color schemes with him but for some reason orange is the only color that seems to fit. It's very weird. 

For this piece I jumped back to the Motorola Xoom for the extra screen real estate. It's also one of the last hurrahs for the device as I'm looking to buy a 32GB Nexus 9 soon. The Nexus 7 2013 has been a true workhorse. It's handled many creative tasks so well that it truly is one of the best purchases I ever made in my life. But the only down side is the actual screen size. Sometimes, pieces require very broad strokes but 7 inches doesn't really allow for that. Enter the Nexus 9. That doesn't mean I'll stop using the Nexus 7 though. The Nexus 7 is still excellent when larger, broader strokes aren't necessary.

 For this piece I decided to go back to using a larger variety of tools for greater range of techniques. I used the airbrush tool for base colors, shadows and some highlights. I used the a soft edged pen tool for additional highlights, the flock of birds in the distance and details in the moon. I used a textured paint brush for the trees and little touches here and there throughout the piece and I used various pencil tools for details and outlines. 

I struggled a bit with the lighting on this one. Originally, the moon was placed where you see it in the portrait version. But I changed the position and placed it more to the left so the left side of the landscape piece wouldn't be so empty. This change came later in the design process and unfortunately, the lighting on the character was already set which caused some consistency problems. I ran with it because the Xoom has limited RAM and working in 1080p meant less layers to work it. I had to merge down layers as I worked to free up RAM so I could add new layers when needed. The character was already merged, locking the lighting scheme in place (unless I started over from scratch). 

Overall, I'm happy with the final. I'd like to find better ways to render trees though and I'm always practicing with lighting and atmosphere. I'll explore these topics more in future blog entries. I may switch back to Sketchbook Pro too for a project or three because it has superior textured brushes than ArtFlow.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Descent - Final - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

"Phew" I reworked sections of this piece several times to try to find a best practice to get the multiple light source effect I wanted. I'm happy with the result overall although I'd like to get a bit more depth for the clouds in a future piece. I used a separate layer/layer effect to create the red variant because the character is being pulled into a realm very similar to hell. I wanted to try to make the piece a bit more ominous but the red is overpowering. I decided not to pursue that development path. I'll create other variants later, as the story behind this particular scene is one of my favorite in my  fantasy story. But for now, I'll call this piece "done" and move on to a couple of other ideas. 

ArtFlow - Nexus 7
The Descent - ArtFlow - Nexus 7 (2013)

The Descent - Red Devil Variant

The Descent - Line art

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Descent WIP - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

The Descent WIP - ArtFlow

There is a scene in fantasy story I wrote about a female mage being pulled into a realm that looks like a twisted combination of classic depictions of heaven and hell. She's caught by surprise and attacked my minions while this takes place. I had a lot of ideas for the scene but started with this concept in more of a comic book format. I wanted a blatant image of the character being pulled down. I'm working more with the pencil tool in this piece for the shadows instead of relying solely on colors too for more of a comic book feel. I may have to increase the canvas width at some point because of a few details I'm considering for the background. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Various Photos Captured with a Nexus 5.

This may be the final round of photos for my Nexus 5 (N5) as I'm considering picking up the Nexus 6. These images were taken testing the usual features discussed in blog entries of the past, Lowlight Performance, Lens Blur, low F-stop+Flash and Depth of Field without the Lens Blur feature. The Nexus 5 camera comes better than advertised thanks to LG. The N5 even today is still offers a great value vs performance ratio as it's a flagship phone with a flagship spec but can be had for $350 brand new off contract. It will receive Android L/Android 5.0 and solely on the strength of that fact I may not buy the Nexus 6. The camera can perform as these shots were pretty easy to capture except for the chess pieces. Lowlight performance is no where near top-of-class with the N5, but the camera can still capture decent shots with even only a bit of night time or ambient lighting.

I may get lucky and find time to capture more images before the Nexus 6 debuts. If I buy a Nexus 6, I'll do a test run with it and see how the camera performs, posting the results here.

Long Walk Home - Captured with a Nexus 5. No post edits. 10/11/14

Long Walk Home 02 - Captured with a Nexus 5 - No post edits. 10/11/14

No place to go - Captured with a Nexus 5 - No post edits. 

Midday reload - Captured with a Nexus 5 - No post edits. 10/12/14

"It's chess, not checkers." - Captured with a Nexus 5. No post edits. 10/14/14

"It's chess, not checkers 02." - Captured with a Nexus 5. No post edits.  10/14/14

"It's chess, not checkers 03." - Captured with a Nexus 5. No post edits. 10/14/14

"It's chess, not checkers 04." - Captured with a Nexus 5. No post edits. 10/14/14

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wong Fei WIP Update 02. 1920x1080 - ArtFlow

In this update, I've changed the colors to the background/underpainting to control the palette in the rendering of the character. I used the airbrush tool for smoother transitions between colors in Wong's face but I kept with the pen tool for the sharp angles of his hair and some shadows. The highlights and other shadows of his skin were created with the airbrush tool with the more intense highlights created using the pen tool. I'm being indecisive about Wong's hair. Traditional anime design generally uses flat shades of color. In that case, Wong's hair is fine the way it is. But in trying to push the design boundaries of anime character creation, I'm considering adding some type of texture to it. I have no idea if that will work but that's the beauty of art in general. Many times, we're making it up as we go with no idea of the outcome. 

At this point in the piece I've run into a technical problem as well. I'm using my old Motorola Xoom for this piece for the extra screen real estate over my Nexus 7 tablets. But the Xoom has half the RAM of my Nexus 7 (2013), 1 GB as opposed to 2GBs on the N7. The higher the resolution used in rendering the piece, in this case, a 1920x1080 ArtFlow canvas, whereas the Xoom's maximum resolution is 1280x800, with only 1GB of RAM is limiting the amount of layers I can create. So I have to use some mental gymnastics in figuring out which layers can be merged so that new layers can be created to finish the background. Technically, I could leave the background as is. I like the brush strokes and the texture it creates. But when I created the background it was with the intention of being the foundation for a more developed scene. I'll play with it later today and see what sticks. 

Wong Fei - Current version

Wong Fei - earlier version

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wong Fei - WIP - 1920x1080 ArtFlow...On a Motorola Xoom

Not much to describe yet. The original Wong Fei character was completed a couple of years ago on a Asus Transformer but the quality isn't the best. So I'm re-rendering the character and cleaning up the lines while adding some elements. Just to see if the tablet can still function, this project is being completed on a Motorola Xoom. Yes, I still have one and it got updated earlier this year to Android 4.1. It still runs pretty good too all things considered. 

Wong Fei - WIP

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Captain Marvel/Captain America" 2560x1600 - ArtFlow

This is the final of a sketch I posted a little over a week ago. With the Avengers finding new popularity from the film release, my thoughts went to one of my favorite graphic novels from the 90s, X-Men vs The Avengers. Marc Silvestri created the artwork, Chris Claremont wrote the story. Captain America didn't lead the team then, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau aka Photon) did and she was powerful. Maybe too powerful. I've always liked her character and wondered why Marvel didn't do more with her. The chances of seeing Monica in an Avengers film are close to zero I think. But I'll probably revisit her again using the latest design as the design presented here is Monica's original look. Thank goodness for fan art. 

Captain America needs no introduction. I sketched him simply because I never have before. I didn't like Captain America until the Serpent Society was introduced in his series many years ago. I believe that was around the time of the death of Modok (at the hands of the Serpent Society). Those were great times to read comics, an inspiration that I haven't found in today's comic books. 

The Captains - Captain Marvel/Captain America from Marvel's Avengers. 

Original sketch created using ArtFlow for Android on a Nexus 7 (2013). 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Wanna Fight?" Pencil Test Animation in 1280x720 - Flip-A-Clip for Android

This project came to be because of fellow G+ member Zee Bee. She's in my Artists' Circle under my alter ego account. Zee Bee posted a short animation test of a character with hair blowing in the wind. I liked the test and we started talking a bit about animation and animation techniques. I decided to do a pencil test of hair blowing in the wind to give an example of what I mentioned in the conversation. The main purpose of this test was to show how animation created on "ones" looks. What "ones" means is one drawing is used for each step of a recorded movement. If the frame rate for a project is 24 frames (or drawings) for 1 second of animation, then animating on "ones" would require all 24 frames to be drawn. But if an animator decided to animate on "twos" then only 12 drawings are needed because each frame would be recorded or repeated twice cutting the workload in half. In extreme cases, some projects will animate on "threes" but this is not recommended because the quality of movement will be subpar more often than not. Animating digitally allows us to simply change the frame rate from 24 frames per second (or 30 frames which is the standard for video) to 12 frames per second which would give the exact same affect of animating on "twos" at 24 frames. I, personally, animate at 24 frames by default.

Animating on "ones" is a lot of work, but the benefit is very smooth motion. Animating on "twos" can still generate good motion but it won't be of the same quality as "ones" usually. In today's computer driven era, the different between animating between "ones" and "twos" would be like playing the same video game at 30 frames per second and then 60 frames per second. 60 is better in nearly every case although 30 isn't bad. No one would ever run their game at 15 frames a second, the equivalent of animating on "threes." 15 frames per second is pathetically bad generating motion that is closer to a slide show than animation

For this project, I returned to the Flip-A-Clip 2D animation app for Android and used my 2013 Nexus 7 which has turned out to be one of the best purchases I've ever made in my life. I gained a better understanding of how the app works and was able to produce this pencil test pretty quickly, over the course of three days, maybe 5 or 6 hours total. One of my mottos in learning new apps or gear is to jump in and screw it up really badly. Then figure out how to recover from your screw up and complete your task. This forces the user to learn, in order to work. It also gives a thorough understanding of a number of functions and a good foundation for building a working process. Nothing is impossible if there's a good process in place. That was the case with the walk cycle animation I posted a couple of months ago and the "Wanna Fight?" piece is no different.  I used the layers feature in Flip-A-Clip to separate the main character, her locks blowing in the wind and the incoming second character. It made it very easy to pace and coordinate different movements. I also changed the way the "light table" function worked. Instead of showing the last frame and the next frame of a movement, I set it to show the last 3 frames and the next frame instead. This made it easier to smoothen out the motion of some parts without screwing up the overall sequence. The lasso tool is a godsend and I wish it were available in ArtFlow as it allowed me to select aspects of the animation and reposition, rotate and scale them when needed. Exporting the animation was very easy, generating a 720p .MP4 file with the option to make an animated .gif. Ironically, I have yet to see any other Android 2D animation app that can actually output a working file. Animation Desk, Animation Studio and a couple of other apps I've tried have all failed to perform that function usually causing a crash, making Flip-A-Clip the best animation app on Android by default. 

I'm going to take this project further as time goes on. I want to really push the Nexus 7 and the app to see how much it will allow me to get away with before running out of RAM. I'll post the new pencil test scenes as soon as they're ready.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"BubbleGum Crisis - Remember" Final - 2560x1600 - ArtFlow/Photoshop Touch for Android

Another piece I had a really fun time creating. "BGC - Remember" was created using ArtFlow for Priss in her hardsuit but the background is a photo I captured many years ago using a HTC Nexus One. I applied a blur effect to the background in Photoshop Touch, and edited the image further in ArtFlow, changing the saturation, hue and adding a "Screen" layer effect. With this piece, again the aim was to get a really clean, sharp look to the character similar to a HD cell animation frame. I used a combination of the hard edged and soft edged pen tool for the entire project. I also used the eraser tool with a lower opacity to control some of the shadows allowing the color of the hardsuit to show more easily. As a result, the quality looks very similar to a frame from a Bubblegum Crisis episode. Working in 2560x1600 pays dividends toward that goal because the image can be displayed on numerous HD screens of various sizes and not lose quality due to the high resolution. 1920x1080 HD is still the standard. I blurred the background because it's only a 5MP (megapixel) image so it won't display that well on any HD display at full sharpness. Especially not compared to the foreground character. 

At some point I may create illustrations for the other Knight Sabers considering the fun I had with this project. 

"Diesel" character edits using Pixlr Express for Android instead of Photoshop Touch.

 Diesel is a character design I created a very long time ago. I created a new sketch of him using Sketchbook Pro on a Motorola Xoom when the Xoom was shiny and new. I never did anything with the sketch so after digging it up earlier this year, I transferred it to my Nexus 7 and rendered it. I inked it similar to how I would on paper with the Pen tool which can be seen below. 

Diesel 01 - Outline completed in ArtFlow using the pen tool.

To test the capabilities of ArtFlow, I used the pen tool further at various opacity settings to color render the piece, which can be seen in "Diesel 02" below. I like the way the pen strokes overlap and create texture when the opacity is less than 100%. But I'd like to try it again with the soft edged pen tool instead of the hard edged pen tool. The hard edged pen tool is great for when you want your images to look almost like vectors instead of bitmaps but the soft edged pen tool allows more flexibility. 

Diesel 02 - Original render using ArtFlow's pen tool.

In Diesel 03, I processed the image in Pixlr Express with various filters. Some of my favorites are "Antonio", "Karen", "Amy", "Chloe" and "Danie", just to name a few. For Diesel 03 I used a combination of two filters and then "Stylize" listed under adjustments and then "Poster - Retro Poster" 

Diesel 03 - Variant created using Pixlr Express for Android

For Diesel 04, I simply took the 03 version and added a "Adjustment - Stylize - Pencil" filter. Generally, I don't recommend using this particular filter or any filter that tries to simulate pencil strokes. It almost always comes off as cheesy because the strokes are universal throughout the piece with no variations which is a dead give-away that it's a filter. Too many people on G+ use these types of filters on photographs and pimp the results as if they actual illustrated the piece. Total fail. Diesel 04 just happened to actually work using the "Pencil" filter and I don't feel like a loser because I actually created the original. Keep in mind that the filter effects can be rotated, flipped and adjusted for strength. Pixlr Express also supports frames, additional overlays and traditional adjustment tools (brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, blur etc). 

Diesel 04 - Variant created using Pixlr Express for Android

Although I still recommend having Photoshop Touch installed on your device for image processing, there are alternatives. Pixlr Express and Pixlr Editor are excellent alternatives that give great results. Also, if you happen to be one of the increasing number of people finding a lot of love with Chromebooks, Pixlr is free for Chrome OS as well so you can start your project on your tablet but finish on the Chromebook. It's even more convenient if you backup your work using Google Drive. Chromebooks use Google Drive as if its local storage as long as you have a data connection. Save your work from your tablet to Drive, then transfer it from Drive to Pixlr on Chrome OS. Now you have proper mouse and keyboard support. Have at it.