December 23, 2018

Vector portrait of a wolf

Okay, this is a somewhat incoherent blog entry. I started the vector portrait of a wolf a few days ago, then stopped because drawing with the Huion H610 Pro in Affinity Designer was extremely slow. When drawing a line, it took up to a minute before the lines appeared on the monitor screen - that was a real test for my patience and most likely for my computer as well. It is a first gen i7 machine with 16 GB slow DDR4 RAM and a crappy, aged Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti.

So I reluctantly decided to quit. But after a day or so, I just could not leave the portrait unfinished and continued in spite of the slow rendering. So below the ======= line is the original post and what you read and see above it was actually posted after resuming to draw.

It would probably have been a lot easier to draw this in pixels, but I have a deep rooted preference for vector drawing, since it has a lot of advantages like rescaling with out loss of quality. So I struggled a couple of days and squeezed out this portrait that contains zero pixels and 100% vectors. Below you see the progress sequence of this vector portrait.

Update April 30 2022 - recolouring

Update March 21 2019 - color change to see the effect

Update Dec 2018 - Completed for the time being;
I am basically tired of the slow rendering and may
one day next year add more detail and correct errors

Update Dec 28 2018

Update Dec 27 2018

Update Dec 26 2018

Update Dec 24 2018

Update Dec 23 2018

Dec 22 2018 - first set up


I am currently - December 23 2018 - working on a 100% vector portrait of a wolf, using the very affordable Huion H610 Pro digital drawing tablet and the very affordable vector drawing program Affinity Designer. It actually is a test to see how well Affinity Designer works with tablets. I may post the entire progress sequence once the portrait will be completed. One stage is placed below to give an impression of where I am going with this:

Resumed drawing anyway Dec 30 2018 - colour testing

Update December 25 2018

One thing I've noticed already (on December 24 and 25 2018) is that the rendering of the brush strokes are very, very slow. In addition uninterrupted hatching (scratching) renders faster than separate brush strokes. There is an experimental function in Affinity Designer in the beta version - High Precision Tablet Input (located under Preferences - Tools) - that seems to slightly improve performance, but not enough to create a situation in which efficient drawing is possible.

It can't be the file's size which currently is just over 10MB, so it must have to do with the way Affinity Designer handles the processing of the brush stroke input. For instance, the vector portrait of Vladimir Putin is 68.3 MB and that did not result in any problem; in this vector portrait the input was done entirely with the mouse while the number of (custom made) brush strokes was significantly less than that of the wolf portrait. Below is a screendump of the outline view in Affinity Designer which shows the enormous number of curves or brush strokes that exceed 20.000 even in this incomplete state.

The vector outlines at an earlier stage

In its current state Affinity Designer isn't really suited to do more than simple vector drawing, unless the artist has a sea of time, the patience of an angel and the concentration to exercice these characteristics while creating a complex brushed vector drawing with a digital drawing tablet. To put this experience in perspective - I haven't had any serious experience with Affinity Design's competition, since I refuse to work with the hideously overpriced Adobe Illustrator and the bug ridden CorelDRAW.

The open source program Inkscape however, is very responsive, once the rather concealed tablet input settings are figured out correctly. The undisputed best results were made with the free program Krita; not only was it very responsive, but its interpretation of the tablet's pen pressure levels was absolutely brilliant, but only with the Dynamic Brush Tool which is a pixel brush. Krita is photo-editing software that has a certain level of vector drawing capabilities, while Inkscape and Affinity Designer are vector drawing programs that have certain photo-editing features. Unfortunately there is no file format that allows interchanging between these programs that retains layer structure and vector functionality.

Project terminated for the time being

I discovered that this is a known issue on the Affinity forums, so what is left to do, is to wait for code updates that are in fact capable of handling complex tablet input. In addition, I would also like to consider the possibility that the Huion driver doesn't collaborate well with the Affinity Designer software. Or it could be a mix of these two assumptions. Affinity Photo - Serif's photo editing program - seems to have no problem with the input of the Huion tablet, so the culprit probably is the Affinity Designer software. Perhaps it requires a lot of processing power to calculate the tablet input and convert it into vector curves. Whatever is the case, I will not work on this portrait until the problem is solved and in the mean time, focus on making different types of vector art (without using the Huion Tablet in conjunction with Affinity Designer).

Update Dec 30 2018

I decided to continue anyway even if the drawing is frustrating. Sometimes the lines drawn appear on the screen a minute later, but I feel I've come too far to just abandon the project.

July 4, 2018

Vector Celtic Motive

Celtic motives have always intrigued me for some reason. It probably is the effect on the subconscious mind of symbols. I quickly doodled one in Affinity Designer to see if a reasonable effect could be accomplished in a vector drawing program without ending up with an image that is too flat. I hate flat design; it just reflects a lack of skill, dedication and attention in my perception, regardless if it's promoted (shoved down ignorant people's throats) to be trendy and therefore some sort of 'must' to follow (for those with malfunctioning brains).

The deeper reason probably being that I hate trends that basically just are veiled traps in which artists are conjectured to do their thing. In other words: follow my hallucination or you're not a member of the club. I couldn't care less for such clubs of mindless followers under corrupt leadership to be honest. So here are some versions of my non-flat Celtic doodles:

I haven't yet figured out how to go about some details that bug my eyes in this doodle, but I'm confident I'll find a solution for them at some point. I will probably run into some function 'by accident' and be informed by an impulse of unknown origin that this is the way to work around functional limitations. This is how I commonly stumble through life, chafing as that may be.

The thing about Celtic motives is their continuity and connectedness in a patterned complexity, I guess. It may be some type of artistic metaphor proving the correctness of the Mandelbrot fractal patterns that are everywhere in everything at all times in this universe. Metaphors being the crux of symbolism, the latter seemingly making language redundant in the perceptional process and various kinds of human communication.

In the absence of the need for language, there still are mathematical descriptions that shape the objects in the symbolic metaphors. The magic of form in numbers. Some would say math is just an other language that is simply detached from culture and tradition. That could give cause to question the necessity of culture and tradition, which is perhaps best suggested in a visually spectacular way by the Celtic culture / tradition.... This is just an other paradoxal situation that sadly crams this realm of limitation and bewilderedness.

Where as language is not capable of proving its own redundancy, certain types of images apparently are. Which brings me to something else I profoundly dislike, apart from the flat imagery I mentioned earlier, namely 'experts' explaining art to people whom they most likely consider to be uneducated bonkers peasants that clutter this planet for no reason at all.

These would-be connoisseurs annoy the crap out of me, because when analysing the bunk they blabber, it makes no sense whatsoever and in addition it gives me a rash, that is how pathetic it is. They usually surround themselves with retards that don't know their head from a hole in the ground, who are very good at giving not so smart people the impression that they are very knowledgeable about matters concerning art. Such brain dead yokels never disagree with anything that is spread by fellow idiots, so a much needed attitude correction never takes place.
I am relieved I got that off my chest. Long live the Celts and have a nice day.

June 25, 2018

Mobirise web editor - pros and pains

Recently I decided to clean up my system and program drive (a Samsung SSD). I use Mobirise quite often to relatively quickly build websites. It is a handy tool to swiftly build simple sites in a brief measure of time. The program allows to install different versions alongside each other. I uninstalled an older version, but soon found out that Mobirise projects are linked to a specific version. Newer versions are unable to open projects that were built in older ones. That was a huge surprise. So when I was asked to update a client's website, I found myself unable to open its project with the newest version of Mobirise. This meant that I had to look for the matching older version, install it and import the project in that one to edit it. So much for freeing up space on my SSD...

After installing the older version I found that my own website was no longer remembered by the latest version of Mobirise that I had installed on my machine (&$#@&!!!!). Importing my website's project failed, because I had not exported the site after editing it. Mobirise can not import html-files; it has to be a mobirise.project. Installing an older version seems to automatically reset the program's memory, forcing users to start from scratch or import projects that were meticulously updated, parallel to updating the site. This probably has to do with the data the program stores somewhere in the C:\Users\blabla directories. It definitely is something to keep in mind when editing websites and upgrading to newer versions and re-installing older versions.

Running into these peculiarities may require a lot of time and effort to restore. Users of Mobirise should keep all versions installed with which websites were built if maintenance at a later date is required and always export projects immediately after updating websites in order to be able to edit them after installing other versions of Mobirise. This could imply that users may end up with a number of different installations of different versions Mobirise. If many sites were built using Mobirise, they should also keep track of which version was used to create which website. Concerning the project export problem, it must be noted that the program does not automatically Export the site when Publishing it. If you don't do this, you will most likely end up in deep shit at some point. Mobirise is a free program, but it comes at a price.

As a last resort I tried to import and edit the html-pages and related data of the websites in Pinegrow, but soon found out that Mobirise buries a lot of detail in various style sheets and java and json files and scripts, which is a pain to figure out, even in Pinegrow, because they are scattered all over the place. This is all done intentionally of course to make sure that if people start using Mobirise, they will stay with Mobirise that makes its money by selling extensions that give the program added functionality. It's OK to (continue to) use this program, but users have to be aware of its pitfalls. When building a decent amount of websites, it is probably wise to look for a more structured alternative. On the other hand, if you only have one or two pages to build and maintain, you will find Mobirise (even in its standard, extension-less form) has some pretty amazing options.

After finding out all these utterly annoying, weird and unexpected quirks, I estimated that it would cost me a lot less time and headaches to rebuild my website from scratch. I wasn't happy with some elements anyway, so this was an opportunity to approach matters differently. I wouldn't have ended up doing this had all this mishap not occurred, so that is a small positive aspect of this unforeseen chain of events. For the time being the previous version is still on-line, but the new one will hopefully replace it not too long from now (June 25 2018). Stay tuned.

My revamped website is on-line now - June 28 2018.

Update July 25 2018
All of a sudden Mobirise was unable to open the most recent site that I was working on (which is what it is supposed to do) or the related project that, by the way, was meticulously updated continually since I kept running into problems as I described above. I've had it with this program and would not advice anyone to use it for any project. I am utterly fed up with it's unpredictable and unrepairable malfunctions. You will face the problems mentioned here sooner or later when using it. Look for other / more reliable programs! Do not begin to use it and save yourself huge amounts of time and frustration.

June 21, 2018

Youtube channel shop window image

This concept image was an experiment created in Affinity Photo beta version I just threw in some objects that I thought were appropriate to be in the image and beyond that I find people that explain particular pieces of art to those they consider to be ignorant to the subject quite appalling, to be honest. I would like to add for the sake of clarity that I don't consider this collage to be art in the sense that I perceive what real art is, but it is a linguistic limitation that drove me to use the word.

The two identical neon signs behind the window glass were created in Rhinoceros (to create the shapes) and edited in Cinema 4D (to assign the materials to the objects) before being placed in Affinity Photo. The .aphoto-file was exported to png, then imported again into AP again and in the Tone Editing persona given one of the standard HDR treatments - Dramatic - plus some minor tweaks to enhance the image quality to somewhere in between realistic and HDR effect.

I just visited a forum in which two artists quibbled about their art calling the other person's scrabbles 'IKEA-art' and meaningless, which actually were accurate perceptions. It becomes weird when looking at the art of the two artists who both make IKEA type of rubbish, one admitting it and the other thinking that is an unjust qualification of the type of art that he makes. So each of them doodles IKEA-bunk and criticises the other for making meaningless IKEA-drivel. Communication on this level beyond me. Might be a case of Dunning-Kruger.

Anyhow, this is why I don't like explaining what I do, i.e. where it concerns art / design. What's more, I'd rather die than produce 'art' that would make a three year old feel embarrassed. If people don't get it, it's not my problem, if they do, good for them. I admit that this kind of response is easily mistaken for sociopathic demeanour, but you just can't make a person think outside of his or her ambit. Oh, and b.t.w. below you see the image that I used as a reference. Have a nice day!

May 26, 2018

Vector painting - 'Crossing Death's Frontier'

This work probably is completed now (June 10 2018). A first attempt at making a realistic 100% vector portrait created in Affinity Designer. To be brutally honest I hate the proverbial vector portraits drawing method (no offence) that are full of hard lines that artists often try to hide by fiddling with the colours of semi natural shapes, because most vector drawing programs are simply unable to produce proper blurred edges. This shortcoming has been promoted to be some type of trend (which is what dodgy marketing departments do and gullible artists mindlessly believe), but it remains an absence of functionality nevertheless. Affinity Designer does not lack this crucial function. I admit that similar effects can in theory be created (in Illustrator and CorelDRAW) using the mesh-fill tool, but that requires a whole lot more time and skill and leaves significantly less room to improvise (which is what I did a lot in this particular painting).

Affinity Designer's parametric characteristics allow to change almost everything at any point in the designing process. This is impossible to do on-the-fly while using the mesh-fill tool in Illustrator and CorelDRAW. I'm aware of the mesh-fill technique b.t.w. because I tried doing that in the past. It requires a heap more time to create, painkillers to combat headaches and does not allow much tinkering once a drawing has been created, where as Affinity Designer offers almost unlimited possibilities in this field that don't require a great deal of time to accomplish. The magnificent open source program Inkscape has similar features, but its user interface is rather difficult to see through, particularly for those used to the Corel and Adobe UI's. Affinity Designer has a similar look and feel as those and shares many (programmable) shortcuts.

I'm currently trying to prove that by creating this vector painting and the vector portraits I've previously created, it is possible to create art that is indistinguishable from pixel art - the advantage being that vector art is resolution independent; it can be scaled to any size without losing quality. The results may not be perfect yet, but I feel I'm getting there. The outer edges of the shapes were blurred intentionally to give the painting a realistic appearance. Several sub-drawings were created to create ornaments mostly that were later placed (and edited) in the main drawing. Below you see the progress sequence. I will be posting updates in the time to come. This is a meticulous and labour intense process, so it may require some time. Affinity Designer's almost 100% parametric functionality allows endless tinkering to correct mistakes and / or apply enhancing effects. Click on an image to see larger versions in Google's light box that also allows to scroll through all images.

This is what it would look like when framed
Current hight over 1 meter, but infinitely scalable

HDR effect added

Completed (for the time being) vector painting
stage 20 of June 10 2018 12:08

Detailed view of vector painting
stage of June 10 2018 09:33

The measurements of the original drawing are 156 x 126 cm, but the image can be resized infinitely to be smaller or bigger without losing quality (which is a characteristic of vector drawings). Creating this vector painting approximately cost me 2 months, working on it on and off. I am considering to make it available for print. This can be done on paper, (behind) plexiglas or on (dibond) aluminium by a print shop of which I am certain they can produce optimal quality. Contact me if you are interested.

May 14, 2018

CommuniCats went dark

Today I customized this site's theme to dark. It's more friendly on the eyes than the flashing white sites that bombard you with photons. I wrote something related to this in 2013 already. This site's previous theme wasn't white, but still too light. Hope you enjoy. There are plenty of 'experts' blurting out tons of reasons why websites should have a light background, but that doesn't mean they are correct. They just parrot what others whom they consider to be experts, say after which they look like experts as well to those who don't have a clue if what they say really makes sense. Even if so called scientific research allegedly proves that backgrounds should be light, you should never take it for granted. If you give a fuck, that is.

CommuniCats turned dark. Forgot to take a screen shot
of what it looked like before, but anyway, that is history

Mainstream science hasn't yet figured out that many diseases are caused by light that has a harmful wave form and frequency, which is called dirty light, which of course is caused by dirty electricity. Perhaps because they're paid by the parties that benefit from people not being healthy, which is a multi-billion-dollar industry. That is because certain wave forms of electricity and light contribute to making you die early in a not so pleasant way. Sounds far fetched, I know, but that's what they want you to think. But 'science' has a rather wretched track record of spreading lies. It's only scarcely known because the equally corrupt mainstream media does not report them. No one pays me to make this site and I did my own research, so this is why this site has a dark background. It's difficult to find on Google's search engine (which is conspicuous by itself), because they don't want you to know, but when using DuckDuckGo it can be found instantly.

Those who exclusively rely on mainstream channels to gather information of course disagree, but in my opinion mainstream is the mouthpiece of factions that cause the miserable situation that this world is in today - they have the power and funds that can put out anything they want at any time and all of that is aimed rendering them financial benefit, which is why they have off ledger bank accounts that no one who appreciates being alive dares to check, while the rest has their (non-existing, i.e. plundered) capital written in red type. The site to where the last link leads to b.t.w., is believed to be a leak source of (factions of) the British intelligence community, which is why these dirty little secrets came out anyway, because it is quite difficult to dispose of a well trained and properly informed bunch of spies that have advanced weaponry and access to inaccessible networks. So, in spite of the would be web-experts' hallucinations, CommuniCats went dark.

Have a nice day.

May 10, 2018

How to create a vector woodcut portrait

I've been experimenting with creating vector woodcut portraits, which is a bit of a nuisance. I knew it was possible in programs for pixel pushers, but I wanted to see if it could be done in a vector drawing program. Of course I used my favorite Affinity Designer for this. It is Microsoft's developer award winner of 2018! Many things to consider when constructing such drawings. Still a tad confusing at this point. After approximately four trials and errors I arrived at this level of design complexity. I used my vector portrait of Abe Lincoln (its exported png of course) as the image for this test. The images were duplicated several times and to each a different 'Threshold' setting was applied, which exposes more or less of the original image. After applying these values, the images must be Rasterized in order for this woodcut effect technique to work properly.

The image Threshold values are
indicated in the Layers panel

Below you see various versions of the portrait with layers turned on or off. Click on the portrait to see the different versions in Google's lightbox for better comparison. For those seriously interested in mastering this technique, I would urge them to study this article all the way to the end; Affinity Designer has so many options and each of them can add to the quality of the artwork. The appropriate options for this particular technique are all described here.

Abe Lincoln vector woodcut portrait
with all layers visible

In the Layers panel all layers are marked
visible which results in the image above


The portrait with the zero degrees Curves turned off

This is what you see in the Layers panel
with the 0 degrees Curves turned off


The portrait with 0 and 30 degrees turned off

This is what you see in the Layers panel
with the 0 and 30 degrees Curves turned off

If you do exactly what it says below in Affinity Designer, you should get a proper result. For this portrait I created 6 different sets of sine lines that mask the image and rotated them 15 degrees relative to the previous one, starting a zero degrees. The sine stroke width was as thick as the space between the strokes. The image size is 1000 x 1000 pixels.

Working method:
  1. Create a sine line, using snap to grid and standard grid lay-out
  2. Duplicate it until entire page is covered 
  3. Select all lines and ‘Expand Stroke’ 
  4. Combine all expanded strokes – after which they will show as a single ‘Curve’ in the Layers panel 
  5. Duplicate a number times of your choice 
  6. Rotate each of them to different angles, making sure they cover entire page – you have to enlarge them until they do 
  7. Import an image 
  8. Duplicate it to the same number of combined strokes / Curves that you duplicated in step 5 
  9. Apply a different ‘Threshold’ level to the original image and duplicates 
  10. 'Rasterizeall images 
  11. Drag each image inside a curve so that the Curve serves as a mask 
  12. Make sure none of the Curves has a fill or stroke width assigned 

The 0 degree sine lines Expanded Strokes
that were combined, given an outline for visibility.
Note: The final result should have no outline or fill
assigned to any of the Curves!

This is what shows in the Layers panel
when only the 0 degree Curves are visible,
that have the above settings applied (temporarily)

  • The initially drawn wavy sine line is duplicated to cover the entire page, then Expanded Stroke (under Layers in the menu bar) was applied, after which they were Combined which results in a single Curve in the Layers panel
  • The rotated Curves must be enlarged to cover the entire page
  • The Curves, as described in the previous point, were duplicated and rotated in increments of 15 degrees
  • The combined strokes shown as Curves will show up over the images. Hit the Magnifier Zoom tool to see the result without the Curves overlaying them 
  • Each Curve containing the rasterized image can be manipulated in several ways – opacity, type of filter
  • I gave the Curves a 3% Gaussian blur to make the portrait more realistic, also selecting Scale with Object, hence the fx shown in the Layers panel. This is a function not present in Illustrator or CorelDRAW. It opens up a world of possibilities the competition is incapable of
  • The Rectangle shown in the Layers panel can be switched on or off and given any desired colour fill. The document itself was given a transparent background
  • I started this portrait with wavy sine lines, but any shape of curve could of course work
  • The rotation angle of the duplicated Curves is in the names of the layers; I used increments of 15 degrees, but also here different angles could give the desired result
  • When a satisfying construction of Curves is found, probably any image could be used to turn into a woodcut portrait or drawing
  • This was a first experiment for this type of drawing, when more effective constructions of the Curves are found I may update this blog entry

Improved result

Some further improvements applied to make it look more woodcut like - is as in the image below:

Improved result of vector woodcut portrait

This was done by editing the original image that is on top of all layers, as shown in the Layer panel below to 54% Opacity and using the Add filter. The values are displayed inside the red rectangle.

Layer settings for best result

The idea is to simply stop at nothing to achieve the desired effect. 

A Great Tip!

If you click on one of the Curves in the Layer panel, that basically are the containers of the rasterized images, and then select Lock Children in the Interactive menu bar below the Main menu bar, you can move, resize or rotate the Curve container while its children - the rasterized image - remain in place, do not resize or rotate while you are editing the container Curves. This allows you to alter the effect of the Curves containing the rasterized image in the portrait, dramatically changing its appearance instantly without any hustle, allowing you to make the image look exactly the way you want.

The beauty of Affinity Designer is that 99% of all actions can be undone or re-done. It is non-destructive and parametric and has a huge number of undo levels (set to 1024 standard). It also has a history panel that allows you to change any action at any time. These functions (among a great number of others) really set Affinity Designer apart from its competition - qualities that graphic artists most definitely appreciate.

Final result

And here's what Abe Lincoln's vector woodcut portrait may look like when framed after some more tinkering was applied - background fill with 100% noise and a 36% opaque rectangular overlay with 100% noise and a Glow filter. The frame was drawn in 3D in Rhinoceros:

And here's an other one. Monsieur Voltaire. In this one I did not rasterize the images, which allowed me to experiment with even more parameters - Threshold, fx and rotation angle of the Curves masking the images.

When using the above mentioned settings, it allows endless tinkering that often results in very different results of the same subject in this type of portraits. Affinity Designers parametric qualities make it possible.

Another magnificent function

When clicking an image in the Layer panel that is contained inside a Curve (or not) a button appears in the Interactive Menu Bar that read 'Change Image'. Clicking this button does exactly that; it will open a dialogue box that allows the user to choose another image that will replace the original one, keeping the centers of the original and replacing image aligned. If the image are roughly similarly sized, this means that in the case of creating woodcut portraits or other types of artwork, the existing Curves can be used as a template in which different images can be placed! An absolutely brilliant option of Affinity Designer.