Reflector vests

Illustration for a slide deck, took around 1.5 hours. Need to draw more cars.





Some nondescript big cats from memory

Limb variants

Matrix of heavy-light arm-leg permutations




Step 2: Doing red without red is .. challenging. There is some trick to it, hmm... use saturated cyan for background, dark neutral grey for object color?

Step 3: DONE! If anyone offers you a job painting spots on a jaguar, do not accept.

What the hell





After setting down the palette, I hid the reference photo and painted on top of the sketch, trying to work from memory. Comparing to the ref, the bow shape is wrong and the bow sucks in general. Bow wake is screwed up. The red is too thick and too filled. Lighting doesn't work (not that there is much). Good exercise.

Update #2:

Continuing from yesterday. Brought back the reference photo and started fixing things. This thing has a super busy deck with an endless amount of red pipes and railings and all other tanker craziness. I still need to put in the name and the windows and blend out some of the spurious detail. Now, a good question would be whether this kind of an illustration would be better achieved by just tracing the photo instead of doing it the hard way like this...

Update #3:

I think I'm going to leave it at that. The deck is lacking detail and the water is very suggested, so those would be the things to sink more work in. And the bow form doesn't read quite right. Oh well, maybe I'll fix them later, if it starts bothering me enough.

Update #4:


Some random sketching

random imaginary head

from watching this (been listening to the Ancient Greek History course while painting). Bad likeness, should do better.


Another cormorant


Second cormorant today. Man, this took hours. The green background is evil too. I like the soft feathers, it is a nice effect.

[edit] Version with palette visible and minor touchups, 4:3 aspect ratio

MyPaint tutorial: Painting a Cormorant

Recently I've been using MyPaint to draw and paint. MyPaint is an open source painting program with a really nice brush engine and lots of good preset brushes (even if I mostly end up using just five...) Anyhow, this is my attempt at describing how I paint a picture with it.

I'm using this Cormorant photo from Wikipedia as a reference. I had the photo open on the other monitor while painting. As I'm working from a photo, this tutorial is less about constructing and lighting a cormorant and more about expressing the shapes and colors of something you see.

I'm not a total master expert of painting, so if I'm saying something wrongheaded and stupid, it's your responsibility to set me right! Now, let's get started.

At 0 minutes, start the timer!

The first step is picking a background canvas: I went to Layers -> Background... and picked a nice blue one (so that I don't have to work so much filling in the background color). Then I picked the 6B pencil from the brush window and drew a rectangle to act as my work area. It gives you some structure to work with.

I tend to have the brush selection window and the color sampler open when I'm working (B and T are the hotkeys to toggle those, respectively). MyPaint is very much hotkey-driven. Keep your other hand on the keyboard and draw with the other. The main hotkeys are 'd' and 'f' to control brush size, 'r' picks the color under the cursor, 'i' mirrors the canvas, and '.' and ',' zoom.

At 6 minutes

Next, I drew a rough sketch of the cormorant, focusing on proportions, basic structure and value separators. Drawing a polygonal sketch using straight lines helps with getting the angles and proportions right.

At 9 minutes

I mirrored the sketch to see it in a new light (helps spot problems). The beak was a bit too thick, so I toned it down. Then I picked the flat wet brush from the brush window and set down five colors for the palette.

The palette I use depends on the image, but it usually has a dark value, a light value, a medium value, some basic colors plus grey. Here the dark color is nearly black red, the white is yellowish, the blue is for shadows (water & sky reflection), the orange is for feathers, the grey is for shadows and doing saturation contrasts.

Putting down a palette before painting helps me a lot. Without a palette, I have a tendency to get stuck in smudgy midtones with no color variation. And a small palette somehow helps with getting impact in some strange manner. Maybe it makes the results more graphic? Dunno.

At 10 minutes

I started painting by putting down the shadow parts. When I ended up covering the drawing, I redrew the lines with the brush.

At 12 minutes

Next I picked the blue and did the white shadows with it and jotted down some background.

At 14 minutes

I used white to do the lit areas. At this point, the image is pretty much done and the rest is just refinement :)

At 18 minutes

Brought down the darks and refined the edges. The light-dark edges are pretty much _the_ defining feature in an image. If you get them right, you can just about screw up the rest of the picture and it still comes out alright.

The wet brushes smudge and blur when using light pressure (on a Wacom tablet). When pressing more, the brush puts down more color. So they work nicely for blending and painting, you can go from really soft surfaces to hard edges with the same brush.

The dry brushes put down color directly without smudging, so they're good for getting an equal color on a surface. I used the flat dry brush to even out the black part in the above image.

At 22 minutes

Added orange for the feathers and the reflection of the white feathers, and the light coming through the tip of the beak. I also worked some texture in the back feathers.

At 29 minutes

Tightened it up, blended the head feathers, worked silhouette details. The blue outline looks kinda nice. I'm using gray on the eye and the beak. The Hard Details brush works well for sharp detail work.

At 37 minutes

Blurred the back feathers with a grey flat wet brush using light pressure. Twiddled with head outline, toned down the eye, smoothed the beak shape, worked the throat light-dark edge, random pinch and tuck.

And a couple more minutes

I did the changes below after writing this post, so I don't have an accurate number. And it helps to go away from the picture for a while. Helps spot problems.

Tweaked head shape, added texture to feathers, popped out the underside of the beak with a lighter edge. Also tweaked the eye shape a little. Done!

Lion waiting


Lion and Fox

ref, edit: version with reworked hind legs


Fox and crow and jackdaw and gull

Photoreffed, this went too fiddly towards the end.

Photoreffed, around 30 min.

Photoreffed, around 15 min each.

Another wolf





Photoreffed from Wikipedia and GIS

Tyger Tyger, burning bright

And a goth version for goths


Looks silly

More skull drawing

Knowing that you can use a skull as a scaffold to help draw human heads, what would happen if you used skulls from other species and tried to drape them with human features. Weirdness, that's what.

About Me

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Built art installations, web sites, graphics libraries, web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, media player themes, many nutty prototypes