August 23, 2016

An other Andre Hazes portrait

Andre Hazes probably was one of the greatest Dutch ballad singers ever. Unfortunately he moved to more endearing venues, leaving his fans with an unforgettable legacy. I usually listen to Buckethead, Metallica or Earthtone 9, that sort of stuff, but I am moved by Hazes' voice. He was one of those rare talents that enter this dimension once every century or so; spirits that become artists who transcend partitions humankind stubbornly clings to. This is a freehand airbrush portrait that started out as a drawing and gradually evolved into a realistic portrait that preserved its pencil like fibre.

Controlled spattering
Toward the end controlled spattering (with the Iwata Custom SB) was done; turn pressure very low, just enough to push the paint out. Use undiluted paint (Inspire H2O acrylics), pull the trigger back all the way and release it. Repeat this rapidly, like tick, tick, tick - as fast as you read this. Start with Black Smoke, then very carefully and sparsely Base Black and finally Base White. If spattering turns out not like you want it, immediately hit the spot on the paper with the side of your hand or a tissue to remove the paint from the paper. That also works to soften the spattering, decrease its intensity. The low pressure and viscous undiluted paint will clog the airbrush (Iwata Custom SB) quite fast! So it's probably wise to clean your brush often and thoroughly in between colour changes or refills.  I may make a Youtube clip of this technique some time.

Oldest stage at the bottom, newest on top as always.

Virtually framed in Rhonoceros 3D v5

August 11, 2016

Portrait of a little girl

Recently I started experimenting with a combination of airbrush and color pencils. I prefer the oil-based pencils because they're not affected by paints and lacquer. In addition their coverage is quite good and they leave light-fast colors. The Surface of this particular portrait was Canson's linen textured paper, which is not the ideal surface for color pencils when attempting to create realistic art, since the bumps and dents of the surface results in grainy lines and coloured surfaces. When the pencil tips are sharp this problem is reduced.

I tried the whites of Faber-Castell Polychromos and Caran d'Ache Pablo (which are oil-based), but the graphite Derwent GraphiTint gave the best result and is probably the cheapest of the three as well. The Derwent has the same feel as the oil pencils, perhaps even a little bit more oily - smooth movement over the surface - and its coverage was absolutely great. I haven't tested smooth surfaces yet, but will do so in the near future. My guess is that the Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache will do better on such surfaces, but I have to experience that to be sure.

The reference photo does not show the top of the girl's head, so I created some more hair there to be able to position her face better on the surface. The photo also lacked detail, but fortunately child's faces have less accents than that of older people. Airbrushing those requires good concentration, because subtle accents are easily messed up. The girl's hair was a different story, half messy (which is what it should be with children) and also difficult to interpret due to the lack of fine detail. This where the Derwent pencil saved me a lot of time.

I started using the Iwata HP-BH and it behaved badly. Checking the needle tip under a looking glass showed a slight kink in the tip. I straightened and polished it after which it performed well again. For the hair, I used the Iwata Custon SB after first polishing its needle. Since I always spray freehand, this top of the bill airbrush was necessary (saves time). The Inspire H2O paints in combination with the Createx 4012 Reducer currently are the best paints /reducer available to spray fine detail. It took me four days to spray - doing all sorts of other chores in between airbrushing.

Oldest stages at the bottom, newest on top as usual.

Virtually framed (using Rhinoceros 3D)

July 19, 2016

135 glasses

New possibilities with new software (Cinema 4D R17). When you think there's no more functionality to be invented, they come up with new things. The spline tool is amazing and parametric, even when objects are cloned multiple times, allowing users to fiddle with shapes. The edge smoothing - chamfer and fillet - was a long awaited feature that adds to realistic rendering. Great work Maxon!

Area light and infinite directional light were applied. Anisotropic rendering and depth of field as rendering functions. A floor was also used. The R17 rendering engine is great and includes a filter that allows to manipulate many settings. Slight editing afterwards was done in Corel PhotoPaint and Faststone image catalogue. Transparancies, reflections and shadows can be controlled excellently.

1920 x 1080 pixels

The advantages of 3D modeling are that view angles can be changed almost without limit, the scene can be modified - lighting, object shape, colouring, texture and positioning etc. A variety of lights can be placed anywhere without the source itself being visible or casting shadows. Each (part of an) object can be made transparent, have controlled reflection and the shadows cast are modifiable as well (sharp, blurred and defined between opaque and absent). And these are only a fraction of the possibilities...

All in all this was a useful upgrade for the type of simple work I usually create. Meanwhile R18 Prime has been released for a relatively modest price - $ 945.45 - compared to other 3D programs. In addition (and for additional money) the Broadcast, Visualize and Studio versions are available, each of which adds functions to those already incorporated in Prime. Price schemes you find here.

July 15, 2016

Roger Waters portrait - frustration limiter

Recently my bloody computer crashed. Guess which system? I'm having an ordeal repairing the unruly beast (it's not a run of the shelf machine, but one tuned to DTP and 3D). While waiting for processes to finish I started doodling Roger Waters to limit the measure of frustration.

What I found out during this frustration limiting process, is that the surface of the dirt cheap office copying paper works quite well for both airbrushing and working with (opaque) colour pencils and that it allows to combine both techniques perfectly. However, the paper is very thin and in no way suited to any erasing that goes beyond using smooth and soft erasers (let alone scalpel or fiberglass erasing techniques). So this unplanned project has me searching for the proper type of paper - with a smooth, but not too smooth surface - and oil based colour pencils that would make the portraits water resistant and light-fast.

The tool I used for this rush portrait are: Iwata CM SB, Inspire H2O, Caran d'Ache Luminance colour pencils. I watched a number of Youtube videos and I concluded from that that Faber Castell Polychromos pencils may be what I am looking for. They are similar to Caran d'Ache Pablo oil based pencils, but significantly less expensive. I will try them in the near future and post my experiences with them in this blog.

Oldest stage at the bottom, newer one above that.

July 12, 2016

Johan Cruijff airbrush portrait

I started airbrushing this portrait in December 2015 before Cruijff passed away in March 2016. Then didn't touch it for months until July 12 2016. Airbrushing on linen textured paper is more difficult than on smooth paper. Textured paper is wrinkled - furrows and ripples - which causes the jet from the airbrush to miss the lower parts while depositing more paint on the higher parts. To avoid inconsistencies the airbrush has to be moved slow and mix ratios of reducer and paint require more attention, generally spraying with more diluted mixtures in more layers to obtain the required colour intensity. Difficult as it may be, the surface texture gives the airbrush a traditional atmosphere.

In last December I still favored the Iwata HP-BH to spray with. That changed when I focused more on using Inspire H2O paint, which is process perfectly in the Iwata Custom SB that has a slightly smaller nozzle and a sharper needle point. When airbrushing a lot of detail on difficult surfaces, such properties matter. The SB and the H2O are an ideal combination that make it possible to effectively airbrush on textured surfaces. Especially since the SB is a syphon type gun that has the paint cup on a side (the SB is interchangeable). It results in an unobstructed view to the paper, while this positioning of the cup shortens the distance between trigger and nozzle tip, which means the artist has a more accurate control over the placement of the spray. The H2O paint has wonderful characteristics; it barely clogs and flows excellently while drying quickly after hitting the paper. I used Black Smoke once more with allows to spray any grey hue necessary between white and (almost) black.

Oldest stages at the bottom, newest on top.

I'll stop here before I ruin it...
Virtually framed in 3D

July 7, 2016

Don Corleone airbrush / color pencil / Affinity Photo

A slightly different approach for this portrait. I used more color pencil, mainly to set up the image. Surface is a Canson oil / acrylic linen canvas structure paper, 33 x 41 cm which is difficult for airbrushing because of the texture and smoothness. It requires very intensive spraying to achieve colour intensity, but the result is very vivid eventhough I used few (dark) colors. I used Inspire H2O Black Smoke paint, Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 (white) and Derwent Studio Sepia 53 pencils.

The setup technique is quite simple: I tape common office paper to the monitor and trace most important face features with a fine Edding 400 Permanent marker. The traced image I tape to my lightbox and placed the Canson paper on top of that. In doing so the pencil strokes on the Canson paper are limited and the pencils are used only to apply accents. It beats using a traditional projector, since there is always an unobstructed view on the reference trace image and the projector's heat dissipation always causes the image to move (become larger), which in portraiture is disastrous. Intense thin lines nevertheless had to be sprayed with the Iwata Custom SB airbrush, because of the irregular surface of the Canson paper that mimics a canvas structure.

The reference image contained mainly black hues, which made me decide to make a monochrome portrait. Later (October 2022) I added a colour layer in Affinity Photo and made some corrections - right side of the mouth' upper lip, left eye and overall hardened the crispness with the burn / dodge tool, mainly to the shadowing and accents. Affinity Photo is a photo editor like Photoshop, equally functional, but at a much lower one time fee. This program allows to apply corrections digitally, that would take ages to do with an analog airbrush, brush eraser, colour pencils, hairy brushes and Exacto surgical knife.

Editing analog airbrushes with Affinity Photo is what I often do lately. After not having looked at old airbrush portraits for a long time, I see all sorts of mistakes that are easily and quickly corrected in this photo editing program. Apart from amending shapes, it also allows to tinker with colour accents, which would be some sort of an ordeal with an analog airbrush and real paint.

The photos of the various stages were shot with an old Sony smartphone camera, which explains the mediocre quality of the images. Update sequence: Newest stage on top, oldest stage at the bottom. Click on the photos to see larger versions of the images.

June 30, 2016

Dog airbrush portrait

I haven't airbrushed a lot of animal portraits. This is the second one of a beautiful dog. Tools used are the Iwata Custom SB and Inspire H2O paint. Surface is 30 x 40 cm canvas. This is a work in progress. Newest stage on top, oldest at the bottom.

In artificial light, which source is above the painting, the structure of the canvas is more visible than in the photos shot in daylight.

It's probably best to place the painting in a square frame with a passe partout in matching colors to suit the dimensions of the dog's head.

3D rendering of airbrush in virtual frame - II

3D rendering of airbrush in virtual frame - I

Daylight photo

May 29, 2016

Double child portrait

This portrait is sprayed on canvas. It is a surface for airbrushing very different from paper or board since the canvas' surface is littered with tiny cavities that require special attention to be filled with paint. The surface was grounded with Schmincke Aero Grund, a white primer to ensure good adhesion of the paint. Many layers of this primer were sprayed prior to airbrushing the portrait. Portraits on canvas take much more time than airbrushing on paper, but they have an atmosphere that is difficult if not impossible to copy on smooth surfaces.

The paint used is Inspire H2O, mixed with Createx 4012 reducer. The airbrush used, is an Iwata Custom SB, which is a versatile tool. When used in the 'normal' position it is a regular siphon feed gun, but when tilted slightly gravity steps in to make it behave like gravity feed airbrush. Unlike airbrushes that have the paint cup above the main tube, nothing blocks the artist's view, allowing unobstructed sight on the artwork. Its needle / nozzle combination produces very subtle thin lines to be sprayed, which is a great benefit for portrait artists.

Children's faces consist of very subtle lines and areas. It requires much attention and concentration to airbrush them correctly - especially on a canvas surface. I intentionally beautified the portrait, because the children were in the episode of losing their baby teeth. Since portraits are (sort of) permanent recordings, I prefer to 'skip' the dental process and airbrush them with more beautiful teeth...

The photographs were shot with a Sony Xperia Z5 Compact smartphone that produces much better photographs than the Samsung S4 Mini I used before. A really great improvement. The difference in hues is the result of the time of day at which the pictures were taken. I don't have proper artificial daylight lighting and prefer working during the day in natural sunlight.

So far (May 29 2016 13:00), it is a work in progress; the oldest stage at the bottom, the most recent at the top. Click the images to see larger versions in Blogger's Lightbox.

Virtual rendering in 3D frame to assess what portrait will look like