September 9, 2019

Vector portrait of Emma Britten

Emma Hardinge Britten was a well known spiritualist who lived from May 2 1823 to October 2 1899. She was a writer, public speaker, musician and opera singer in her younger days to support her family after her father passed away when she was 11 years old. Her spiritual gifts brought her fame and she was frequently consulted by high ranking politicians and other important people of her day. It is an indication that elevated echelons of society value the spiritual reality that is intentionally kept hidden from common folk.

This portrait is a work in progress and is drawn in Affinity Designer. This program has all the functionality to create realistic vector portraits that can be edited afterwards relatively fast which is a pain to do with mesh-filled vector portraits. And since tinkering is almost a necessity for portrait artists Affinity Designer is their ideal tool to make 100% vector portraits that can be re-scaled to any size without loss of quality.

What makes vector portraits look realistic is that edges of shapes and lines can be blurred in a controlled way. In addition color fadings can be customized in any desired way (using different colours) as well as the transparency of objects (in a linear, radial, elliptical or conical fashion). The combination of these 3 functions allows artists to create works that are visually indistinguishable from pixel portraits, but - as stated before - can be produced in any desired dimension while retaining the original quality.


Ugly Adobe Illustrator attempt to
create a realistic vector portrait
no offence, b.t.w., this is caused
by Illustrator's limited functions


Outside of Affinity Designer only the magnificent free open source program Inkscape (which a difficult to learn UI) has similar features; CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator do not have object blur functions and are therefore not suited to create realistic vector portraits, other than with the hideously tedious mesh-fill tool. The result is very unrealitsic looking portraits with hard edges as is shown in the image above. Adobe's marketing department has tried to turn this into the standard for vector portraits (in which it obviously succeeded) by suggesting that the programs shortcomings are the standard tools to use. But from whichever angle one looks at the result, these are not realistic portraits of high quality. At best effects promoted by Adobe's marketing department can be achieved.



This is the custom vector brush
created to draw realistic strands
of hair. This can be imported in
your collection of brushes and
used for this specific purpose.



This is the custom made brush used
to paint skin pores. Mix dark strokes
and bright strokes combined, the latter
always on top in the layer panel.



Apply 3D and or Bevel / Emboss fx
to the textured brush strokes to
create a realistic skin pore texture
and fiddle with the brush properties
use custom colour and transparency
overlays and underlays, whatever it
takes to approach realism as much
as reasonably possible.




So below you see a realistic vector portrait created in Affinity Designer. Bear in mind that at this point (September 2019) you are looking at the early stages; it will become more realistic as more work is done to the image. Skin pores and detailed strands of hair in particular will be applied. For the hair texture I created a custom brush that allows to create realistic strands, both dark and bright. The oldest stage is at the bottom - more recent stages are placed above that. Click on one of the images and they will be shown in Google's Lightbox, which (on a PC anyway) allows to scroll through the various stages to quickly see and compare the changes. The original size of the portrait in which it was drawn, is 80 x 62 cm, approximately ten times larger than the images submitted to this site.





September 20 2019 00:09 virtually in 3D frame





September 20 2019 00:09




September 16 2019 stage 12
vector curves & Brush strokes
outline view (hugely helpful
in the process of drawing)





September 12 2019 11:50





September 11 2019 11:01





September 10 2019 17:20





September 9 2019 20:13





September 9 2019 16:43





September 9 2019 12:20





September 8 2019





September 8 2019




September 8 2019








August 31, 2019

Old demo airbrush on T-shirt

While browsing through old files I found a freehand airbrush of a Native American chief as seen below. I recall using a Vega 1000 airbrush and Illu-Color paint. I did this portrait during a demo for Revell, the company that sells magnificent scale models of all sorts of vehicles. I was in my Native American period and sprayed portraits of  Native Americans almost exclusively. Somewhat to the annoyance of the Revell sales persons, but I drew a bigger crowd than the companies from the surrounding booths, so they did not forbid me to spray such portraits.

Revell planned to sell airbrushes and paints that could also be used by the scale model hobbyists. The Vega airbrushes that Revell rebranded to their own products were ok, but their paint was not suited to spray portraits during a demo, because they obviously were tuned for use on scale models. I never tried it for this purpose, but I think they were well suited for it. But I had to spray 8 hours in a row in a demonstration, so I threw away their paint and filled the bottles with Lukas Illu-Color, my favorite brand of paint at the time, excellently suited for use in airbrushes, particularly for T-shirt art because it can be made water resistant when adding Lukas' Textil Medium. Visitors couldn't visually tell the difference between the Revell paint and Illu-Color, so I got away with the switch.

Spraying on T-shirts is the most forgiving way to airbrush. It is in fact difficult to produce spiders - paint slipping over the surface in all directions except the right one. The cloth absorbs most of the paint and you have to spray in one spot for a really long time to make the paint soak the fabric and create a blop that darkens the paint's colour which can't be repaired. T-shirt cloth will absorb most applications of too much paint and thus hide mistakes. In addition subtle fadings are easy to make, which is perfect for portraits as well as really thin lines and spatter texturing. T-shirt cloth allows to almost touch the surface while spraying without risking the paint to land in a different sport than the artist intends.



Freehand airbrush portrait of a Native American chief sprayed on T-shirt




The show was very busy, it was held in the Jaarbeurshallen in Utrecht in the early nineties of the previous century and the sales people were happy with the public's attention. Next to our booth were people of a company that sold colour pencils, crayons and all sorts of hobby paints, who mingled with the public in front of our stand where I gave the demo. They pretended to be part of the crowd and asked all sorts of stupid questions in an attempt to disrupt the demo. Probably because they though it was funny. When lunch time broke they asked us to guard their booth and went to grab a bite in the giant mall in the Utrecht train station area. That was practically begging for revenge.

We opened their bottles with mediums that they used for their demos and replaced the substances with all sort of fluids we used to get our paint to work - thinner, reducer, flow improvers, ox-gall etc. none of which would suit the purpose that was indicated on the labels. When they gave their demos in the afternoon we mingled among the crowd and pretended to be an interested visitor asking to demonstrate their mediums, which of course ended in a disaster. They soon understood that we had been fiddling about with their stuff and stopped messing up our demonstrations. They never asked us to guard their booth again in the remaining days and did no longer try to disrupt our demos.

It was a good show for Revell and we drew bigger crowds than nearby stands. It was always very busy, we sold a bundle and had a lot of fun. One of our competitors dropped by and asked how we were doing. On of our sales persons boasted that he was the best salesman ever, claiming he could even sell a colour TV to a blind person and a widescreen at that. Word spread quickly among the companies participating in the fair and I guess events like these made us the rogue participant at the show, which made us stand out among all average people hired by the competition.



Even older airbrush than the one above
also sprayed during a demo for Revell.
Image is small because in the early 90's
of the previous century cameras all were
low res and the battery died after 3 shots




Brief airbrush resume
. 
In the late eighties of the previous century until the first few years of this century I conducted airbrush demos and seminars for Van Beek Graphic Art supplies, mainly the Paasche airbrushes (before they threw product quality out of the window), Bakker Graphic Art Supplies, demonstrating the brilliant Fischer Aerostar, Badger Holland obviously demonstrating their models and the Testor company, demonstrating the innovative Aztek airbrushes, spoken of with disdain by many airbrush artists, me excluded. After that I taught at an airbrush school in Almere where I met many nice people, but the owner of the school put too many students in each class, which made it difficult to give everyone the attention they deserved. Besides that he forgot to pay me more than once. Today I focus more on creating digital art - vector art in particular - but as a therapy do the occasional airbrush now and then.



Freehand airbrush portrait of Bob Marley
sprayed with a Paasche V1 airbrush and
Rotring Artist Color acrylic ink for the
great, late Henk Bensdorp of Van Beek
Graphic Art Supplies.



The man who helped get started in airbrush was Henk Bensdorp of Van Beek Graphic Art Supplies. He not only introduced me to the scene, but also gave me the tools to spray - airbrushes, paints and mediums. Without Henk - who unfortunately is no longer with us - I would never have gotten this far in airbrush art. The above portrait of Bob Marley was a visual thank you for all he had done for me.



Freehand airbrush portrait 'Ernesto's mom'




Another really old airbrush (early 90's of the previous century if I remember correctly) was the above freehand portrait that I sprayed for a co-worker, using the Paasche V1 airbrush and Rotring Artist Coloro acrylic ink once again. The V1 was stolen years later while attending an other airbrush show. I bought an Iwata HP-BH on the sport with a participant of the show: Airbrush Services Almere that became my trusted and preferred tool later.




August 7, 2019

Crystal Reed 100% vector portrait


Haven't been posting for a while. Life kept me busy, staying alive mainly. Started a new project some time ago: a vector portrait of Crystal Reed who plays Sophia Falcone in the television series Gotham. 100% vectors, zero pixels. Created once more in Affinity Designer, no other program was used. Reference photo you find here. Below I post the progress sequence, which will be slow I suspect. Oldest stage at the bottom, newest at the top. Please bear with me as I complete this portrait, that for the time being is a work in progress.

The face' pores were created with custom brushes that I gave Gaussian blurs, transparencies and in some cases 3D fx. In some areas over- and underlays were placed that I gave custom fills, transparency and Gaussian blurs. All fx and strokes were given the property scale with object, so that the portrait can be re-scaled to any size without losing quality and crispness. This was all done using the mouse. The hair will be done with the Huion 610 Pro graphic tablet.

Tip: if you click on an image, you're taken to Google's Lightbox (which are slides basically) that allows you to scroll back and forth through the various stages, that makes it easier to compare the stage differences. On a PC you can use the scroll wheel to flick through the stages, on a tablet you must click the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and on a smartphone the Lightbox is unfortunately not available.





This is what the portrait may look like when framed.




Now I have to put it away and not look
at it, before I apply the final touches . . .



Drawing the hair is tedious labour
as can be seen in this outline view.






Started detailing the hair Did this with the
mouse because the pen battery was dead.






Finally I got around to working on this vector portrait again.
Did subtle detailing on the pores and accents, the eyebrows
and increased the height of the portrait. After this I hope to
start on the detailing of the hair and her dress.




Outline view of the image above this one.






Colour testing




Stage 13 - hair background added




Stage 12 - accents, highlights, shadows & lip creases





Stage 11 - upper lip details




Stage 10 - accents highlights and shadows




Stage 9 - working on accents and shadows




Stage 8 - added some shadow backgrounds on right side of face




Stage 7 - fine tuning location and shape of face components




Stage 1 to 6 - setting up face components














August 4, 2019

Blender 3D re-invented itself

The 3D design world has almost completely been monopolised by Autodesk and their subscription fees have since soared beyond the spending capacity of by far most people. One could comfortably buy, drive and maintain a properly ensured car for that kind of money. And whereas the opportunity to travel is a basic need of life, leasing a 3D package for an extremely steep rental fee, certainly is not.





Donating a voluntary modest monthly amount of money would greatly help to continue the development of Blender that has finally made its UI more accessible to a larger number of users. Expanding its contributing user base would allow it to remain competitive.

A truly open source model without donations would make it difficult to survive for complex and regularly updated programs in a market aggressively attacked by corporations such as Autodesk. The Blender organisation offers a way for many users to benefit from far more reasonable terms than the corporate products, while by no means sacrificing functionality.

In addition, the recent alliance with Ubisoft has the potential to counter Autodesk's monopoly, especially since Blender in fact offers more than the average 3D program in terms of versatile capability. Blender offers advanced modeling, rendering, sculpting, 2D vector drawing and animation / screen capturing in one package! In more than one way, this is a magnificent development!

I would therefore urge 3D artists that formerly found it difficult to wrap their mind around Blender's UI, to check out the 2.8 beta release candidate that features many significant changes that make it a lot more user friendly - nowhere near the puzzling shortcut key driven workflow of previous versions. It truly blends all above listed options into one coherent and relatively easy to learn application.

I get it that hardcore Blender users find the changes annoying, but I think there are at least equally as many artists that could never get on good terms with the old UI. For the latter group and new users the renovation of the interface will probably feel as a blessing. In view of Ubisoft's involvement the aim most likely is to grow, which means that some of the functions that were hidden within Blender's former niche interface, needed to be altered to suit a more common understanding of how to operate the program. Which in my view the developers did in a wonderful way.

If Blender would have continued its niche approach of its interface, that may have hampered their aim to expand its user base and make its program more attractive for developers in the gaming industry (and in doing so for a great number of other users as well!), which would be a pity since the program has so many awesome functions, that put it on par with its hugely over priced commercial competition. This undoubtedly is why Ubisoft sought collaboration, that must have seen this is potentially a match made in heaven . . . .



July 23, 2019

My Digital Art portfolio

Not too long ago I was forced to take a break, but lately I cautiously started to get some things done again. Currently I am busy creating a portfolio of my Digital Art that will contain portraits, paintings, creative writing, DTP, tech art, logo design, illustration and cartoons. As some of you may have figured out as a result of my more recent posts, I have been putting an increasing emphasis on vector art for a while, but haven't yet abandoned pixel art all together. Affinity Designer makes it possible to even make realistic portraits and paintings in vectors that are indistinguishable from pixel art, except when this type of art is re-scaled; vector images retain their quality and crispness regardless of how much they're enlarged or sized down as opposed to pixel art that is created for one specific resolution.







But I digress. So far I've finished the cover of my Digital Art portfolio and a good number of pages that contain examples of my work, but the booklet needs to be completed still. At this point I am selecting a number of my poems to be contained within the document - I've written so many.... In addition I remake them in vectors to maintain the crispness of the fonts; so this may take some time. I plan to issue versions for print and for the web (in pdf) and will make them available in this blog and on the blog page on my website. Bear with me while I work on completing these documents and stay tuned. Above you see a 3D rendering of the booklet and below the cover image that was drawn in 100% vectors in Affinity Designer. The booklet is created in Affinity Publisher, Serif's newly released DTP-program.






I have vectorized the poems after which there are no more jagged edges (unless you zoom in like crazy). The portfolio is still not completed, but you can see the stage so far (August 1 2019) here. Bear with me; this document may still need editing. This will be completed in the final version that is still to be issued.





May 22, 2019

Airbrushing that relativity bloke

I hadn't touched an airbrush for over two years, but picked up the tool again yesterday after a visit to Airbrush Services Almere that has redecorated their shop excellently. Not sure if I'll continue this old trade again, but it was nice to do. Therapeutic more or less. I used the Iwata HP-BH airbrush with Inspire H2O sepia paint on a canvas structured paper (Canson for oil- and acrylic paints). 100% freehand airbrush and some erasing with Faber Castell 7057 eraser pencil. No pencil- or hairy brush strokes added to enhance accents or add detail. I may be testing other airbrushes and paints while at the analog airbrush craft again.

The Canson paper is extremely strong and allows erasing (even with fiber glass erasers if done carefully) after which airbrushing over the erased area can be continued without a problem. In some places I sprayed Inspire white over the erased area before continuing airbrushing. That is somewhat similar to applying a layer of gesso onto which the portrait is sprayed. No spiders or absorption blobs due to too much paint accumulating in the damaged area where the paper surface was erased (which results in unwanted dark spots). Excellent!

This paper is well suited for artists who want their painting to have an authentic canvas effect, but in fact works a lot easier than real canvas.... It does not allow as meticulous details as on smooth paper, but real canvas doesn't allow too much detail either.

The H2O paint was I recalled it to be; the best a available on the market. Using reducer works better than mixing the paint with water. It makes the paint flow well, gives less clutter and keeps it usable / sprayable in the airbrush paint cup longer. In addition it allows erasing with more control. Finally it makes the airbrush easier to clean. These are properties not all paints combine.

For fine details I added Vallejo Flow Improver to the mix: paint : reducer : flow improver = 2 : 8 : 1 The Flow Improver really does its job well; add too much and the paint will slip (and cause 'spiders'), but it significantly extends the period in which very fine details can be sprayed or postpones clogging of paint in the airbrush. Nice stuff. Mind you, fine details are better applied on smooth paper or special airbrush board. Use low air pressure, push the trigger carefully to barely let paint come out and work very close to the surface (1 to 2 mm) with the air cap removed.

Oldest stage at the bottom, newest at the top. Hint: click on an image and you'll be taken to Google's Lightbox which is a type of slide show that allows you to scroll tbrough the stages (on a PC that is) for easy compare of the stages.




Really finished. 19:44 hrs June 11 2019
Only varnishing still needs to be done.





Finished. I think. 11:16 hrs
June 2 2019. Daylight photo





Further hair detailing 10:45 hrs
May 29 2019. Daylight photo





Added hair contours and texture accents
23:22 hrs May 27 2019. Daylight photo





Adding background for accent balancing
11:22 hrs May 26 2019





Adding texture detail 10:24 hrs May 26 2019
Daylight photograph





Accent and balancing by erasing 23:33 hrs May 24 2019
Photo shot in artificial light






Added texture detail 21:39 May 24 2019
Photo shot in the evening with artificial light





Corrected left eye and added some detail 12:02 May 24 2019





After another half hour 14:00 hrs May 22 3019




After airbrushing half an hour 14:00 hrs May 21 2019









January 1, 2019

T-shirt designs


Here are some T-shirt designs I made, some of which admittedly are rather mundane, but I believe such are the requirements of the market of the printing-on-demand business. I created these, using Affinity Designer - the best vector drawing program around. Click on the images to enter Google's lightbox in which you can conveniently scroll through the images with your mouse's scroll wheel and see them against a dark background.

The T-shirts and other products with the designs can be ordered on the SpreadShirt site; just click the link in the captions below the shirt images.




Visit the Top Teez store on SpreadShirt





Visit the Top Teez store on SpreadShirt






Visit the Top Teez store on SpreadShirt






Visit the Top Teez store on SpreadShirt








Visit the Top Teez store on SpreadShirt