Friday, December 7, 2012

Shortcut and Shortcomings: Digital Art, Part Due

Okay so for my other website I tried to make another fully digital painting using Corel Paint Shop Pro. I took longer than I hoped - I was up till three, good thing school's out now - but it also reminded me of the point I made in an earlier post about digital painting: it is not easy as pie, or a piece of cake, or any sort of dessert related cliche. (Speaking of which, making those from scratch is hard too, but the site's not Baking with Pixels, I digress)

I still agree with that, but I'm also going to qualify it with my own experience, not that I'm not so abysmal at painting myself. To illustrate (pun intended) I'm doing to show you how I digi-fied this picture I drew.

Adorable right. But she'd be more adorable with colors, so I am first going to paint the outline. And by first I mean second. To start I need to make something called a layer or a raster over my original picture. It's transparent so it looks like I'm just tracing over my pencil outline (and, in a sense, I am) but look what happens when I click on the eye and turn my drawn layer invisible.

Next (note, the checkered pattern means nothing's there)

Magic! Except not. Anyways, with the oil paint tool at 5px (note: you can use another tool if you want, I just like this one) I kinda-sorta trace my drawing. Then I make a new layer to start coloring in with the paint brush. Note that it's impossible to color over your lines, you can color out of the lines like a Kindergartner, but never over them. In fact so long as you don't go outside the lines you can be a bit sloppy with the coloring because this:

Ends up looking like this:

So in a sense, you can be a little less careful with digital painting than with traditional painting, where two colors meeting on a portrait can mean it's time to get out the thinner. And unlike with pencil erasers, there's no grayish residue afterwards with digital painting.

Not to mention that the paint makes shading pretty easy, when using the paint tool all you need do to to get a slightly darker color than the base color is paint over it. No palettes required.

Not to mention that since I can copy the wing design on one side, flip it, and place it on the other side, the need to learn how to draw symmetry is moot.

However, that still doesn't mean digital painting is a walk in the park (yeesh, Walking with Pixels now?)

This is just the basic level of digital painting, to add mid-tones and highlights you'll need more layers, for awhile it'll seem like you're painting the same thing ten times over (which, in a sense, you are). Once you've added everything then you need to figure out how much of which layer to blend with one another, what should be the visibility of the highlight layer, if you mess up your painting could look like a complete mess.

Not to mention again, that paint brush tool. You have to hold your mouse down for the entire time while coloring a shape in or else you get slightly darker blotches all over your character's skin, clothes, etc. Not exactly strenuous but at least it's a pretty annoying setback.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stuck Home

I mentioned 'Homestuck' before when I spoke about web - comics. Admittedly it probably shouldn't have because, as the author Andrew Hussie clearly states, "[he] doesn't simply draw Homestuck." It's a quote more telling that meets the eye. 'Homestuck' is not something simply drawn and posted on the Internet for all to see, and it's a interesting example of what future art could be.

Though to do that, we have to discuss the burning question on multiple minds: 'what is Homestuck?' To answer, Homestuck is about four 13 year olds, John, Rose, Dave, and Jade, they play a video game. Spoilers ahoy!: Then the video game plays them. The game in question leads to the destruction of their planet, introduces them to an alien species called Trolls, and gives them a lot of enemies (which, to give you a heads up on what to expect, includes Betty Crocker and a puppet). In turns out the purpose of their game is to sacrifice one world to create a brand new universe, which they later do. At this moment, the fandom is watching the adventures of four new kids: Jade, Roxy, Dirk, and Jake.

But on the surface of that quote, you could say Hussie meant that Homestuck wasn't such drawn, it was also animated by flash. Music accompanied various pages so you not only saw art, you heard it too. You can also hear the fans' (often known as Homestucks) excitement whenever a [S] link appears.

More to the point however is the fact that Hussie creates elements of the story based on fan reaction. For instance, take the recentally introduced Calliope, Caliborn. To summarize, Calliope (green eyes above) is a cherub, a green - skinned, bald species that has to live by certain magic rules. One of said rules is having a 'sibling' inside their body, in her case Caliborn (red eyes below). Calliope and Caliborn, since another rule dictates that they are chained to one side of the room for each of them, interact with others (like four of the human protagonists) using a computer that lets see Jane, Jake, Dirk, and Roxy (said four human protagonists). The cherubs however, come from a different time than the humans, so to them a lot of the adventures the humans will have have gone by. Calliope, after reading their stories, is an avid fan of the kids, Caliborn, who's also read their stories, hates everything about them.

Meaning, their practically the fandom and the anti - fandom personified (chreubified?)

Calliopes has written fanfiction and draw fanart just as the readers of Homestuck have. Caliborn has grouched about the developments of the plots and loathes most of the new characters, just as those who complain about Homestuck have. If it weren't for the audience and their reactions in the first place, neither of these characters might exist.

It's interesting because this time in history may be the first to have an art medium that reacts to the audience. Obviously the artists of the past could hear and respond to criticisms of their works but Homestuck represents something beyond just that. The art in this case changes because of the onlookers, ideas of the fandom become part of what they are fanning about.

Also,  fan drawings and fan music (yes, fans have submit music based on Homestuck) have become used for Homestuck CDs, which is a lot more exciting to the lucky fan than if they just listened to music one author made. In a way, it might be more enticing to people who aren't normally comic/art/music infinicados. It's more to go to the beach and feel the sun and the waves crash over your skin than just watch it happening on TV.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Computer Animated Fun, er, Films

I was looking over an old-ish Cracked Article, where the writer Bell celebrates some of the most surreal movie scences that weren't made by CGI (computer generated imagery). Whether it's Batman flipping over an eighteen wheeler or astronuts floating in the weighlessness of space earth the title insists that "...You Won't Believe [They] Aren't CGI."

But that brings up and interesting point, CGI has become such a stable in 21th century films, it's already assumed any movie miracle is simply the deus ex machina making it happen. Nearly fifty years after Ivan Sutherland made "Sketchpad" for his TX-2 Compter, computer graphics have exploded into mainstream use, so much so that plenty of movies only consist of CGI. Thus the realm of computer animated films was born (specifically, it was born with Toy Story, the first fully computer animated film). They not only manage do well when compared to live - action movies, but they sometimes do better: be it in fan approval (to be fair, that review taking traditionally made cartoon movies as well) or in US box office numbers.

The box office numbers aspect is interesting since it turns out computer animated movies like WALL-E and Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa cost more to make than each movie of the Star Wars trilogy. The truth is, all the work put into computer animation for a whole movie might not be worth it financial speaking. For example, Tangled might be consindered a failure if we're only taking domestic sales into account. Even though it earned over $200 million in the US box office, the price of Rapunzel and her hair-raising adventure was $260 million.

But true to the adage “not all that glitters is gold,” the money drained into and gained by computer animated films aren’t what make them worthwhile. To continue with our movie about the lengthy haired heroine, Tangled generally got  positive reviews. This film, and many other - including the following Pixar Disney Princess's film Brave, which was praised for its breathtaking computer graphics, prove that these digitally made movies have a place in the modern entertainment world.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Last Night The VJ Saved My Life

Most of us here know what a DJ is. He or she mixes music tracks together for partygoers and club-hoppers. Thus it’s not all that surprising that the DJ is common subject of music itself: “Hey, Mr. DJ, put a record on, I wanna dance with my baby…” melds to “…DJ got us falling in love again” thanks of these guys, so a reference now and then seems like a good way to tribute the melody mixers.

But then, how come there aren’t any drawings of VJs?

For those who answered: “’Cause I don’t know what a VJ is!” then you should know that a A VJ is pretty much the visual add - on of a DJ, they create, blend, and mix images – usually while doing the same to music. This seems simple at first but it’s becoming an noteworthy art. Now there are events around the world like Mapping Festival and Vision'R solely for VJs and numerous people and universities have been studying the philosophical aspects of VJ. Technology required for VJing costs $ 2000 dollars – and this is considered a “magical” price according to the Create Digital Motion blog. It's 2K  that will enable individuals to practice their art apart from institutions.

But I can also relate to Kirn’s excitement about the potential of VJing becoming more of an indie art.  Art after all, is about creativity, showing things in a light that they’ve never been shown before, expressing the artist’s soul. It’s possible that with companies or other parties involved the will of the visual artist can get drowned out like in the infamous Public Image Limited riot at the Ritz Hotel in 1981 (to be fair, the problems weren't only because of the visuals in question).  

Point is, the art of VJing deserves some credit now and then too, because for a long while - since Louis-Bertrand Castel invented a stringed instrument with with mobile see-through colored tapes he dubbed the color organ in 1743 – it’s been a less noted but increasingly essential part of how music is enjoyed and how art is conveyed.

*The chart was found on Wikipedia and made by Carriegates

Monday, October 29, 2012

Picture Perfect and Then Some

Look at the mess in here! Can you believe that slob? Where does she get off exploding all over my clean kitchen? She didn’t even ask me if I wanted a glass! The nerve of some people, at least I snapped some evidence before she randomly combusted, no one’s going to believe this…

…which they shouldn’t because it didn’t happen. Thankfully there have been no recent attacks by literal blonde bombshells in my neighborhood. But the picture above is an excellent example of photomanipulation – that is, when photographs are “manipulated” by computer or technological programs. It could simply be use to touch up photos, like digital zit creams and concealers (this is often called photoshoppingsince it’s something Adobe Photoshop is commonly known for). It can also, unfortunately, be used to erase people from photos as part of a bigger attempt to erase them from history itself. On a less nefarious note however, photomanipulation is now a popular form of artistic expression.

I feel like the artistic aspect should be emphasized. Some people presently, like I used to in the past, write off photomanipulation as just snapping the picture and letting whichever program do all the work. It’s hardly the case in real life, why else would aspiring photo – manipulators need tutorial after tutorial to make these pictures? It takes knowing which buttons to press and how much should they be pressed, how much to edit and how much to leave alone.  While the water cycle only has four steps in nature, making rain has 11 steps with Photoshop

Web Designer Depot also agrees that photomanipulation “requires a very creative set of skills” and “[is] a great source for inspiration, generally because designers are able to express their creativity through various aspects of design.” The latter part of the sentence is definitely true, considering the picture of Hayden Panettiere blowing up managed to inspire the wacky incident that began this post. 

*The photo above was edited by  Marco Escobedo

Friday, October 26, 2012

Form, Function, Fabulous - Web Design

Click here please. Stare at the page for at least a full two minutes.
What that hard? If it was then that’s probably because the page had hardly anything to keep our interest. The background is blindingly blah-toned white, the text is 12pt black Times New Roman – one of the only fonts boring enough to be used for school essays– and the blue hyperlinks were exciting breathes of fresh air in a sea of drabness.
Thus you can see why web design has been introduced to the Internet. Why would you want the above page when you can have something like this? Or maybe this one?
Preview of the First
Preview of the Second
Even the most formal, stuffiest of sites on the internet have some kind of design to increase its appeal.

Preview of the First
Preview of the Second
It might seem strange, but web design is undeniably a new form of art. It's not what you usually hear when people think"Art" - especially because of the HTML and codes that are needed to make the design - but even still web design:

  • (Like other forms of art) tells us something without “telling” us anything – For example, if a homepage is structured, has many ways to get people to the links they need, but also has a crop of photos that show young teens either doing something fun or doing something studious – chances are it’s for a school like FIU. You can understand that purely from the design of their site, even if you didn’t know what the “U” in FIU meant beforehand. 
  •  (Like other forms of arts) shows personality and creativity – As it takes much time and a couple codes to make even the first page mentioned above, I would expect the maker of this site to be hard – working in other aspects of their life too.  Plus the bright pink broadcasts her appreciation of the color and a potential girly girl.
  •  (Like other forms of art) makes people stop and look - They draw your eye like a moth to a flame, or rather a web surfer to a gorgeously made page.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fanning the Art Flames

A while back, a lawyer from deviantArt – a social networking site devoted to showcasing the art of its members – discussed the possible consequences of making fan art. neatly summarized a very tedious speech: the lawyer spoke about “fair use and other public rights in copyright, generally downplaying them and omitting the de minimis exemption to copyright (the idea that it's not infringement if you take a small enough piece, for reasons that are separate from fair use) altogether.”

I’m not going to pretend I’m a legal expert here but I know about copyright. Plus, I am an expert in fangirling, so I can explain some things.

Fan art is exactly what it says on the tin, art not made by the original creator of the work – but presumably a fan – that showcases some character, setting, or other aspect of a work made by the original creator. In writing form, it’s fan fiction instead.

Just typing the words “fan art” in a search of deviantArt yields 1,174,570 results, adding in the amounts from other art sharing sites like Pixiv and Elfwood (minus the repeats on both sites) and the number gets even more staggering. It’s not hard to see why fan art is popular: What better way to show your love for a series than posting a drawing of your favorite character for the world to see? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery isn’t it? Thanks to the internet, you can now display your artistic devotion to everyone within a computer’s reach.

So why’s that bad?

Well for some authors and artists it’s not bad at all. JK Rowling for one is usually a supporter of those who write Harry Potter fan fiction.

But even she wasn't too thrilled with the Harry Potter Lexicon website when they tried to sell a written form their site's Harry Potter info.

And there’s the rub. Fan art can’t escape that legal hole either. DeviantArt has a system where people can pay for a “deviant’s” works (called deviations) and some have tried to do this with fan art. Sure, the artist drew that picture of Sailor Moon and they slaved over it for hours. But they're also not Naoko Takeuchi, and they used her character to make money.  

And that’s not even getting into the problems when the fanart in question is taken directly from the original artist and then expanded by a fan in some way. For instance the picture above is an original drawing by ryohukekei, the creator of Black Rock Shooter. The picture below is the same, only edited by someone else to be wallpaper for a computer. As mentioned above de minimis means that if its a small piece it’s not infringement to use, but that’s a pretty big piece so the legal gray area grows.


Yet for authors and artists, fan art and fan fiction can sometimes be a blessing. Fanart does introduce new people to the fandom sometimes. I only started reading Touhou and Kuroko No Basket mangas after seeing fan art on zerochan and I got curious about the two series. What made them so great that they have thousands upon thousands of pictures made by thousands upon thousands of fans?

I learnt eventually, but I would've never found two series I enjoy so much now if it weren't for the work of fans.