Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Renderosity: Holy Cow! Now I'm #3!

Got moved up to #3!
For more info, check out last week's column.
Renderosity.com had a recalculation of the data, and now I'm actually the #3 Favorite Artist of the week!

Needless to say, I'm shocked and amazed. I mean, hitting #6 was amazing enough, but apparently even more people are taking notice of my gallery and are liking what they see.

Which is very cool.

And, to be honest, it doesn't change anything. I'm going to keep making the best images I can and I'll still be my harshest critic (just ask my buddies Mike Murphy or Paul Mauer... or my very bestest "buddy" of all time, my wife, Donna). They'll tell you that I seldom really like my finished work. It's just that I can always see something (even if it's just a line or a shadow) that I could make better. Thankfully, my past experience in newspapers taught me one thing: Once you publish, you need to stop looking at it and move on to the next task.

But, that being said, it's nice to be recognized by my peers. I'm talking to a lot of great people who like what I'm doing, and we're even discussing comics in general and we help each other improve each other's work (I had some great tips on improving the colors in one of my comic book style illustrations).

Anyway, enough late-night rambling. I've gotta get up early for work tomorrow. Before I go, though, I'll leave you with two more creations from my "glass & chrome" period. As with the other two, these were created in Vue D'Esprit waaaaay back in 2004.

Reflections of a Rose
8-24-2004

And here's another one that I had fun with. It is actually the third of a series I made with this bottle -- which I modeled in another program and imported into Vue, which is why the title is "Still Dreaming..."

Still Dreaming of Sandy
7-13-2004

On this one, I recall that the red smoke was difficult to texture properly. Normally I would do this in postwork (i.e. Photoshop), but I wanted it to be reflected properly in the chrome spheres.

Friday, we'll continue the desert theme with a visit to a dry planet in the Galaxy Prime universe! See you then.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Renderosity: I was selected the #6 Favorite Artist of the Week!

This was a pleasant surprise! once more, my work has been recognizes by my peers in the 3D Digital Art Community at Renderosity.com.

As before, there's no prize for this, but it's still quite an honor to be selected out of more than 75,000 artists. Out of these, there are probably 3,500 actively posting within a single week, and of those, about 800+ produce work that is popular enough to be considered. So, #6 out of about 800 or more? Yeah, I'm pretty flattered right now.

Here's what the Website says about the selection process:

Favorite Artists
Renderosity's Favorite Artists are displayed here after careful calculation of the statistics artists have accumulated in the last week. The base statistic being the number of members who have added a particular artist to their favorites in the last week, also taken into account are the number of images each artist has uploaded in the last week and the number of comments that have been posted on those images, to distinguish the more visited of two artists with the same number of favorites. The featured thumbnails taken for each artist represent the most popular image to-date that each artist has uploaded, as according to views, comments and favorites.
-- from the bottom of the Art Charts page



I decided to preserve the entire list of the Top 20 Favorite Artists from this week by taking a large screenshot of the entire page. You'll obviously need to click on it to read the names on the list.

By the way, if you have a long memory, this happened before in Sept. 2013. That time I was selected the #16 Favorite Artist of the Week. This time I've actually moved up 10 slots!  There's more info about Renderosity and its membership size in that blog: http://mikemitchellonline.blogspot.com/2013/09/i-hit-renderosity-top-20-this-week.html.

Blasts from the Past
Since I've been posting all of my recent artwork here and at the Hawgleg Publishing blog, I'm not going to repeat it all here. Instead, I thought I'd show a few of the really old pieces in my gallery, including "my most popular image," which is the one they used for my thumbnail on the list.

I Left My Heart At Crystal Beach
Sept 1, 2004

Although I still like this image, and enjoyed discussing it with people at the time, it's really not representative of the type of work I do any more. This was created in Vue d'Esprit, which is a very powerful landscape creation program. It does amazing things with water, air, sky, and textures like glass and metal. Back then, I was just playing around with the software, creating whatever image I fancied at the time. These days, I must admit I'm more focused on art for publication online and in print. Here's another image from that same time period -- sort of my "glass & chrome" period, if you will:

Sun and Shadow, Light and Love
Aug. 25, 2004
For me, at this time, the image was all about the reflections and the colors cast by the glass. Again, I like this, but it's not really what I'm into now. If anyone's interested, I may post a few more of these "oldies but goodies" later in the year, after I finish the Galaxy Prime postings, and the series I've got planned for after that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Galaxy Prime Art 9: Gear & Equipment

Flying away from superheroes and heading back into space, this week I thought I'd show you a little something different that I created for the Galaxy Prime Role Playing Game project. My previous pictures were all of space ships and vehicles, which I admit was a lot of fun. But then came Chapter 9, which included equipment. The fact is, this section was seeming pretty empty, so I had to dig up some designs for gear that looked both alien and familiar. To be honest, I think it came out looking more familiar than not, but at least it looked suitably futuristic.

Galaxy Prime, page 89

The rifle and glasses were free models I downloaded from the StrataCafe.com website (it's a community of Strata Design 3D users who share models, textures, and tips with each other). The pad is my own original creation that I made for a client who kept pushing me to create a more unusual interface for a software control panel. I finally popped this out, and it's all black and chrome and funky. Yup... too funky. We went with something a lot simpler. The model languished in my files, unseen for 6 or 7 years, but, when this project came along, I thought it was a great place to put it to some use.

After the game had been out for a year or so, I met up with game creator James Shade at a convention (OwlCon in Houston, I think), and he mentioned to me that a lot of people had commented on this particular illustration, wanting to know two things: What does it say on the tablet, and what the heck are those those three little things on the right?

The symbols on the tablet are in an "alien font" I downloaded for use int he book. It's name is actually ALIEN, and I'm sorry, but I don't remember where I downloaded it. If I can remember (or find it again), I'll let you know. At any rate, this was the "standard" alien language font that I used in the book. As filler, I wrote a variety of quotes and attributed them to the various races. For example, one such quote (and one of my favorites on pg. 193) states: "Translation of an old Kor saying: 'Don't be afraid to bite the hand that feeds you... sometimes it has the tastiest meat!" The Kor are the Warlords of the galaxy, and not afraid to take power by force.

But back to the tablet. Here's what it says:

If you actually take the time to decode this, you probably have too much time on your hands! But thanks for your enthusiasm.

As for those little things on the side? They're energy cartridges for the laser rifle. They plug in somewhere at the back or bottom. I don't know. I just made it all up, so don't spend too much time trying to find any logic or hidden meanings..

Friday, July 11, 2014

CCN: Superhero Cover 2

Two weeks ago I showed you my first efforts in using Manga Studio 4 EX to digitally ink a character I had created and rendered in a 3D program called Daz Studio 4.6 Pro. I spent so much time explaining the project to you that I never really commented on the work I did.

To be blunt, it was a good first start, but there are a lot of errors and technical problems that I'll need to address. For instance, the line weights are very inconsistent (note the thickness at the bottom of the legs and the thinness around the head). Not to mention my sloppy work defining his abs.



Nevertheless, I decided this was a decent start, so I sent it to the CCN editor so he could use it as a simple interior illustration, either in the fanzine or our Facebook group. I decided to go really retro with the b&w version, using a large halftone pattern and some digital noise inside the cape. I also decided to create this funky "past into future" faded version of the image, showing him transition from b&w to modern color.

It's a fun technique, and I think it does an even better job of showcasing the inking issues I have with this image. But... in spite of all the things I see wrong with it, it's still good enough for a comics fanzine. This has a nice retro vibe and I can dig it!

BTW: Wish me luck on finishing the cover. It's due July 16. In order to keep it under wraps from the members, I won't be posting a full version of it until after the fanzine is published and mailed. So, look for it sometime in August.

See you next Friday as we return to the reaches of space and visit a desert planet being pestered by space ships and a hint of war. And no, Luke Skywalker does not make an appearance! See ya then!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

I thought we'd take a break from my sci-fi artwork and spend a little time here on earth to honor the men and woman who have contributed to making our nation a great bastion of hope and freedom.



I'm not going to lie... in recent years, the divisiveness in the United States is making it hard to put aside politics and focus solely on the meaning of this day. But, looking at this illustration I created a few years ago, I can try. I've never discussed the imagery in this picture with anyone before. But it is there.

  • The hat is white because we are the good guys.
  • The gun is there because we must never be afraid to fight for the rights and freedoms that are enumerated and stated so eloquently in the Constitution upon which it sits.
  • There are six bullets present... They represent the fact that we fired off the first six shots securing the past. Now we must reload to secure the future.
  • The American Flag is in the background because it is the backdrop against all that we do, every day, to ensure that the freedom it represents never fades into the black shadows that cling to its surface.
  • And why the cowboy imagery? Yes, I created it for Hawgleg Publishing (the company my buddies and me founded to publish our Western game, Gutshot). But more than that, I believe -- no, I'm convinced that the hope for the future lies in the mindset and patriotic hearts of the the men and women who embody the spirit of the South and the West. So yeah, I think our best hope lies in the cowboy spirit that has not, and WILL NOT, fade from the South and Southwest regions our great nation.
I hope I'm not being too highbrow or preachy today. But the truth is in the words you see here: "Liberty is never without cost." I hope, in the years to come, we don't shirk from paying that cost with steadfast determination and humble hearts.

Friday, June 27, 2014

CCN: Superhero Cover 1

I thought this week we'd take a break from the space race and head back down to earth. Of course, I'm not going to stray too far astray from the fields of the fantastic.  I've been asked to do a cover for a fanzine that I was strongly associated with way back in the 1980s & 1990s: THE COLLECTORS CLUB NEWSLETTER.

I was actually the group's president and published 15 issues from #36 - #50 over the space of several years. I'm far too lazy too look up the dates right now, but I think it was from around 1983 - 1987 or so (I'll look it up later when I've got time). Anyway, the group was cool and featured several people who would go on to professional careers in comics and elsewhere, including movie producer, a screenwriter, an award-winning game designer (that last one's me).

Anyway, I left the group ages ago, but it continued on until 1999, publishing a total of 103 issues. Through the social media phenomenon that is Facebook, many of us old CC members reconnected and created an online group where we have caught up on what's happened in our live: marriages, divorces, current success... and our love for the comics of that time period. Former member Alan Sissom even decided to revive publication and created an honest-to-goodness revival of the title that is printed the same way it was back then: a small digest-sized magazine of 5.5 x 8.5 inches with a b&w interior (that's a sheet of typing paper folded in half and stapled on the spine). The fanzine includes letters, artwork, fiction, poetry and other stuff, including some highlighted conversations from the FB group (which is accepting new members, by the way, and it's free to join and free to receive a PDF version of the newsletter).

Anyway... all that preamble is just to set you up for this week's illustration. Alan asked me to do the cover for the next issue of the CCN. Being the swell guy that I am, I agreed.

I thought about doing something space based (like my Galaxy Prime work), or even adapting one of the new illustrations I've created for the GUTSHOT: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADWOOD project that I'm working on at Hawgleg Publishing. Both of those were viable ideas, but I decided to do something new and original for them, and something that tied in more closely with the group's focus on comic books. So, I'm going to create an original superhero cover in the style of a classic comic book. 

For the cover, I'm going to use the club's "mascot," who appears in its logo.


I did not create this logo -- I'm pretty sure it was drawn by Nick Alenikov (who used to draw under the name "Nasty"), but I did clean it up and color it a few years back for the group to use in this modern, color age (back when I was leading the group, color was too expensive, so covers were photocopied in b&w on color paper). The logo is also used over at the Website I'm setting up for the group: www.collectorsclubnewsletter.com  The plan is to host scanned covers and scanned issues to create an online archive of the material we created way back when.

Meanwhile, back at my cover project...
But I digress. Using a 3D program called Daz Studio (it's similar to Poser), I created a 3D version of the character and started to work on getting the classic comic book look I want for the cover. I tried a few of my digital inking techniques, but I wasn't happy with the way they turned out. So, I cracked open an old software program I have called Manga Studio (I have version 4). This is a VERY cool program for creating comic book art. It actually has the ability to set up panels, word balloons, force lines, and so forth. But it's best known for having a very cool set of automatic brushes that simulate real-world brushes and pens without the need for a pressure-sensitive pen and tablet.

Like any software, there's a big learning curve. I've played with this program, but have not invested the hours it will take to master its power and flexibility. And it really has a lot to offer.

I spent a few hours manually inking this sample figure illustration. Much of the time was spent figuring out how to get good results from the brushes and pens. I tried different weights, techniques, and approaches until -- by the end of the evening -- I was getting some decent results. 

The example you're seeing here is my sample inking overlaid on the original, color render (enhanced a little in Photoshop to pump up the colors a bit and make them look more like classic comic book coloring). This is JUST A SAMPLE -- this will not be used in the cover I'm creating. No... that will be something a little more interesting than a simple character pose image.

Time Spent so far:
2 hours downloading superhero props & costume bits
4 hours creating the character
4 hours inking with Manga Studio


Friday, June 20, 2014

Galaxy Prime Art 8: Space Station

This picture reminded me of one of the things I learned while creating artwork for a game set in outer space: even though space is really black, you cannot have that much blackness in your artwork. The fact is, it overpowers the reader and taxes the printer.

Galaxy Prime, pg. 129. This is one of the few illustrations I created that
does not have a caption in the book. I don't remember why, either.

Most of my backgrounds are public domain images from NASA or other space agencies. They come into Photoshop as beautiful color spectacles, and through filters and adjustments, are transformed into interesting backdrops for interstellar adventure in the world of Galaxy Prime!