19 September 2021

New business cards to correct a design mistake on the previous ones.


 Earlier this year I redesigned my business cards. I don't use then very often but they do come in handy now and then. The old ones were a stale design, they needed an update and more modern cleaner look. The new design I really liked... until they arrived in the mail and I knew I made a serious mistake. They were far too dark and not easy enough to read.

Things can look great on your 17" RGB 5K monitor but when printed on paper in CYMK on paper the ink can absorb and diffuse the colours, muddying them. Contrast is your friend in print projects unless obscuring details is part of the design. I didn't even dislike them, but i knew they were not going to get attention or even read because of the lack of contrast.

So lesson learned/relearned and I kept much the same design look but made sure all the information was readable from a distance and clear. Before they were black on dark grey and now the logo stands out and  I added my phone number back in. I don't really want to be called on the phone and prefer email but having phone number lends more credence to me being a real business.

15 September 2021

Illustration: Paul torsion assise


 A bit of skin in my last 2 drawings I guess. This was from 20+ year old references as well and the quality was better than my recent diver references but still somewhat degraded. I had quite a few of them this time so I think I got more out of this one. You don't find many guys with muscles as defined as this. 

I did have to change the pose and some details slightly. This was mostly for clarity of the image. A few toes from the crossed over leg were really distracting and there was a hint of penis which is not something that I would normally hide but it took me some time to even know that was what it was. I also removed his tan line. To be honest it was pretty sexy looking but, again, distracting from the pose. I thought emphasis was on the shoulders and back, not his butt. 

11 September 2021

Apple iPods

 When I bought the new iMac, they came with Apple iPods, a 200$ item. I would never pay that sort of money for earphones but for free, I was all in!

I ride with wireless headphones so I can listen to podcasts for the 3-4 hours I am on the road and high fidelity sounds isn't a big deal to me. I just need to be able to understand what people are saying. That said, the sound on the pods is very, very good and they come in little charging box that helps them be useful longer. They are more comfortable in the ears and can attach and switch from one Apple device to another which I have done now and then since getting them. They pair quickly (usually) and I like the double tap I programmed to turn them on and off. 

What I don't like about them is that I really can't use them while riding. They fall out of my ears too easily and that is disastrous and a bit anxiety producing. While I like the programmable double tap feature, you can't change the volume that way - something that seems super basic and big omission. The screen on my iPod and iPad will show them connecting but sometimes I still have to go to the bluetooth setting to connect them for real. They are more susceptible to interference while walking around I have found. These annoyances don't take away fro the great sound and comfort so while I don't use them all the time, I am hardly sad to have them. I can imagine that are really good on long trips to listen to movies etc, should I have be on a trip somewhere again. 

08 September 2021

Plongeur / Out games MTL / diver 01

 


Much quicker turnaround this time from start to finish! Only about 7 hours of work. The reference photo was old grainy and not great but I liked the pose and the sort of calm before the storm look many athletes have directly before an event starts. I had more detail planned for this one, like painting the pool in and there should be railings on the diving board visible - but I felt they were distracting elements, adding nothing. Once I finished the diving board it looked done to me. I found another image that might make a nice pen and ink style drawing. I really need to find a way to get reference images of more athletes doing their sport. And yoga as well. And dancers. I used to have easy access to all that years ago and never really had the time to take advantage of it, now I'm not sure how to find willing models at this point. 

05 September 2021

illustration: Nathen & Pascal 02

 


I don't know why but this was a long one do paint, about 35 hours. I tried not to obsess over the fingers, toes and ears - things I often work on for hours and hours because they are complicated to get looking right - obviously I did not try all that hard and obsessed anyway. 

Lots of hidden details in this that are only visible close up or in a print. The upper tank top has ridges and I drew them all so the material wouldn't look shiny, as shiny as it would have looked without that texture added. I went for more contrast in the skin tones between the two guys and I think it was successful. Pale skin is harder for me to render than darker skin. I don't know why I picked that colour for the background but I'm glad I did, I think it's nice compliment to the 2 skin tones. 

It might not seem it but this is more "painting like" than many of my previous colour illustrations and the transition between tones is rougher so I might be getting away from my pen and ink level of detail and letting myself work a little looser with paint. I notice it anyway! 

04 September 2021

27" iMac, 10 core i9 with AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT 16 GB and 5K screen

 I recently made a huge decision and upgraded to the higher(est) end iMac and sold the machine I only bought in 2019. There were several reasons that seemed important, at least to me. The former imac I bought when it's predecessor exploded while I was working on several projects and I needed something THAT DAY. With limited funds and time I got a pretty much base model and while it was slightly faster than the one on fire at the moment, it wasn't a step up which is what I need after having a computer for 6 years. Then the pandemic hit and it seemed pointless to upgrade with no work coming in. I am convinced eventually the M chips for the new Mac lineup will take over but not as quickly as they might hope with the chip shortage etc going on. I also use an older version of Cinema 4D with a ton of plugins that will not weather that transition so well. I could have spent 8 grand on a Cinema upgrade and 4 grand on a new computer... but then I would have to live in the box the computer came in. 

The new machine ticked off a lot of boxes for me like increased rendering speed by, well, A LOT and even better performance with the few games I play. Apple now also only sells with SSD drives and while the fusion drive was fine for the years I had one, application just popping open after a couple seconds is really easy to get used to. The rumours of a 30" screen coming up was a temptation to wait but I already use 2 17" screens to work on and a new design isn't a big motivator for me. I use these for work, not decoration, and I wasn't exactly horrified by the look the iMacs already had. I don't care how thin my desktop is... it's on my desk. I am not moving it around and most of it faces a wall. 

My spouse is a teacher and I do much of his graphics for his classes especially - when everything went online for a year. This lets us buy one at the educational discount which isn't huge, but it certainly helps. I also know selling my other would cut a big chunk off the price and I moved the extra RAM I installed in the old computer into this new one so I did not have to buy that. 

Still it was a big investment to make with no guarantee more work would be coming in to justify it. I did know if more did come along, especially CGI work, the old computer wouldn't cut it and I would have to get something faster. So better to have it now. I should be able to edit up to 8K video now with no stuttering and my current animation project is much easier to work on with the new graphics card and processors. It's probably the biggest speed and performance bump I have ever experienced going from one computer to another. 

Fellow artist, Mike Luce bought one of these a while ago and he gave me me advice on my decision which I found very valuable. There was a big speed increase in the Affinity lineup which I am totally profiting from now and Blender will have a big update fairly soon and that already runs super fast so I am looking forward to doing a project with the exclusively. One can only draw and paint so fast but the opening on Krita (also updating very soon) and saving large files is done in seconds now and not a minutes. 

I am still in sticker shock but I can't imagine that I will regret doing this and it should be with me for quite a few years to come. 

21 August 2021

dessin/illustration: flamant des Caraïbes

 
From my recent visit to Zoo Granby. I haven't really painted birds much and doing the feathers was interesting. The reflection was a challenge as it's so loose and the water as well. I am not known for my "loose style" of anything. I worked on this at 400% magnification so many details won't be visible unless it's a large file or in a good print, but that is my typical magnification when working. 

I used Krtita, I wanted to wait until the new version is released but that is going to be September and I have plenty to draw before then. 

14 August 2021

Nathan & pascal 07 : illustration/colour

 This took a while and was a good challenge. Not sure it is what I was going for but to be honest I didn't have a strong plan to start with. I am happy with the hair which I seem to be getting better at and the rock they were on top was interesting to do. This was painted in Krita and I used the recently released crayon brushes to give the rock a rougher feel. I played with a solid background but in the end decided on textures because I think they make the acrobats stand out more. 

Krita is on the verge of a big update with rewritten brush engine and a ton of other things so I almost wanted to wait to do this, but I have several other projects of them in the pipeline so no real reason to wait.  I am also having a new iMac that should be substantially faster and more powerful delivered next week so I'll be wanting to see how Krita performs on that after it's update. 

08 August 2021

Nathan &Pascal Drawing 01 +


 I uncharacteristically approached two guys practicing acrobatics in the park a couple weeks ago and asked if they would like to pose for reference photos for a series of drawings. I am pretty anti-social, to say the very least, but they were so nice and enthusiastic after I showed them some of previous stuff that I was glad I did it. 

This is the fist in the series. Drawn in Procreate on the iPad and I liked the sort of upside-down feel it has. I went back and forth on wether to have a shadow, or to show the yoga mat they were on. the shadow was sort of wild and I thought it went well with the rest of it. 

I also did a simplified sketch in Affinity Designer, something I have been experimenting with as it's a million miles away from my usual drawing style but has it's own challenges. I think I captured the weight of the pose with very few lines so I think it is a success. 



02 August 2021

drawing/dessin: suricate Afrique

 

A trip to the zoo with my 2 year old nephew let me take some reference photos of animals I might not see while riding my bike around Montréal, including these guys. 

I used Sketchbook Pro on the iPad pro as I was reminded about it recently by reports online that has left Autodesk and is now an independent application run by artists. It has been free, but will now be paid. It will be pretty cheap and it's great they will continue to develop and improve it. 

The drawing itself is nothing to brag about. I haven't drawn in a while and I did a photoshoot with some acrobats for future art and felt I needed a "warm-up".  This came together in just a few hours. 

11 July 2021

August updates? Affinity, Procreate and Krita

 While no official dates are announced, it seems a few software companies have some updates happening  most likely in August. 

Affinity Suite:

Designer was just demonstrated with some pretty powerful speed updates, all software based so every computer should benefit. In the demo, 600 000 (!) layer objects were panned and zoomed with no redrawing to be seen. I don't anyone who uses that many objects but the point is to get the suite ready for some new features. Affinity is reasoning, rightly, that it's better to get the bugs out and really have sold base before introducing some calculation heavy features. Photo and Publisher will benefit form this speed enhancement and I have my fingers crossed that there will be an update in August that includes Publisher for iPad. 

Krita:

Krita is about to go to version 5 and there are a ton of updates planned. For me the new animations features will be really helpful. I liked drawing in Krita but the animation functions were buggy, slow and lacking. They seem to be addressing all that and updating the interface. I would love to be able to use it for drawing and animating since the drawing the tools are so amazing.

Procreate:


Procreate teased us with some video of the upcoming new features which included 3D objects you can paint and add to real world images and maybe video?. I can see a use for say making a some stuff in Blender and then sending the object file to procreate to make detailed backgrounds or as the base for a drawing but I'm not sure about anything else. Photoshop added 3D many years ago and I never used it for anything. They already tweaked it for the M1 chips in the iPad pro so I have a ton more layers to work with and Apple seems to have heard the frustration about the 5 gig max for apps that Procreate brought attention to and iPad OS 15 will address that. 

Blender:




Blender is close to a 3.O release and the new Cycles render engine loose amazing and makes me feel the need to switch much more acutely as I don't think I'll be updating my computer anytime soon and really could use a boost in render speed! 

30 June 2021

A second self portrait - sort-of


 I recently updated the design and re-arranged the stories in my first book of short stories. I cut one and added a new one and also added illustrations for those that didn't have them the first time out. The story "The Face in the Glass" was a head scratcher in terms of what sort of image to make and I ultimately deiced something "punk-ish" might be good. Originally I was going to do a mohawk only from the side. I decided instead to really simply and stylize a photo of me from the 80s. So not sure it counts as a real self portrait or not. I wasn't really going for resemblance as much as I was going for a certain look - much like I was going for for myself in that era! It would have been cool to colour the make-up but the book is printed in black & white so greyscale had to suffice. 

The book is for sale on Amazon as a printed book and a Kindle book.

The new price is 5.99$ (CAD) and the print version should be updated in the next few days, but the Kindle version is ready now. 

19 June 2021

illustrations: Trois femmes influentes Louise brooks, Pam Grier, Nichelle Nicols





A style I wanted to try out. I also wanted to do them all in Affinity Designer  for yer iPad since I am not really familiar with the interface and want to use the iPad pro much more for design, graphics and art over the next year. 

Nothing special about the images really. I don't exactly have access to any of these women to take my own references so I used pretty well known photos but the point wasn't originality but to play with this style of portrait.

11 June 2021

iPad IOS 15 announcement : did it live up to the hype and rumours?

 


One of the problems with Apple announcements is all the hype and speculation about them months ahead of time. This time was no exception and while iPad IOS 15 didn't fulfill all the dreams about it, it probably did more than anyone should have really anticipated. 

It's a solid upgrade with new features in multi-asking and interface improvements adding some much needed and much appreciated (by me) functionality to the devices. I look forward to using them and they will without a doubt help me make the iPad Pro more useful in my professional work. 

The biggest disappointment have little to do with the the IOS itself it seems. Many people wanted and were predicting a slew of professional apps to be released along with it. It's no secret the iPad Pro is far too powerful for any of the software on it and can handle what any of the new M1 chip devices handle. Those apps were not to be seen. I personally don't see myself editing any of my movies on the iPad Pro anytime soon, or coding on it etc but I know some people do. Procreate did an interview and made users aware that Apple throttles all the Apps with a 5 gig RAM limit and that restricts what can be done with any app. The porting of professional desktop apps directly to the iPad is not happening anytime soon. 

I am sure there are reasons to limit RAM on the devices, some good and some not so good but I was happy enough with the update. My big disappointment is that Affinity Publisher for iPad is still not released and no idea when it might be. THAT is the app I need to work from the road much more than Final Cut Pro. I would love to see Blender on the iPad or Krita but these things depend as much or more on what the coders of those products want and can accomplish and less on what Apple does at this point. That hardware is ready and the IOS might not be totally there but I don't think Apple is deliberately hindering them from getting it done for nefarious reasons. 

In short, I'm not disappointed with what the fall update is bringing to device but I am impatient for some apps that will put a little more "pro" into the iPad Pro.  

05 June 2021

NIK 4 Plugin suite by DXO


 I updated to suite 3 last year because it was more compatible with Affinity photo, despite the fact nothing else about the plugins had changed. This update does have more changes and some really welcome ones, but I would still question even the 60$ upgrade fee as only 2 plugins got any love while leaving the others behind. The installer app was updated and improved, it deleted the old versions and installed the new with no problems. Updaters are often overlooked so this was a nice surprise.

Silver Efex Pro and Viveza got a major interface overall and a couple new features along with better U-Point control which is the primary reason to get these plugins - in my opinion. I really like the new look. It's modern, easy to read and better organized. Viveza has needed some love for a long time and it is finally where it need to be. Silver Efex pro got the addition of Clearview, borrowed from DXO Photolab  which clears out haze and can really add drama to a dull photo. I already have that in DXO Photolab thought and adding more presets which was a large % of the update to me is cheating when listing new features. 

To make this worth the upgrade price, they really need to apply the new interface to all the plugins and maybe they will before NIK 5 is released. If not I won't be updating again as while the new look is great, they all work fine as it is and they would have to add really amazing new and unthought of functionality to make me spend more money. They update DXO Photolab quite a bit between paid iterations and I hope NIK will get some of that attention too. 

That said, if you don't have the NIK collection at all, it is well worth having and does amazing things. It integrates more completely with Photoshop and Lightroom but it works nicely with Affinity with the exception of Perspective Efex which you have to run as a stand alone. HDR Efex is my favourite HDR processor but to use it with more than one photo, which is what HDR is really all about, you have to either do the initial processing in Affinity and then open HDR Efex or open is as a standalone to import a series of bracketed pictures at once which is what I would recommend. 



29 May 2021

Days of digital past: Sony Mavica camera 1990s




I started early in the digital revolution having been on the "internet" in the 80s with my Amiga computer. So when digital photography started up I was curious to try it out at our Boston studio. My studio partner and boyfriend bought us a Sony Mavica. 1.6 megapixels! Removable media in the form of floppy disks - many reading might not even know what they were but they held about 1 megabyte of data on a square flat disk inserted into the side of the camera.)


The image quality was AMAZING.... so we thought. I have to say I still have some images from photos sessions I used it on. Usually I would do some digital and a roll of traditional film as coverage and scan those negatives fro processing. We made some money by taking photos for dating apps (mostly Manhunt but not exclusively) and the digital images were perfect for the low-res photos needed to load onto the websites. We would do a full session, do a quick retouching and cropping and then the client would leave with a floppy disk to upload to their home computer. It literally went from weeks to get the photos to a client to them leaving after the shoot with them in hand. 

It wasn't long before Sony had a 5 megapixel camera with Zeiss-icon lens that we just HAD to upgrade to but this was the first in our hands and I guess it has some sentimental feeling attached to it. 


Below are a couple of the images I still have from that camera. Not too bad but I did need to use Topaz Gigapixel to get them to a decent size for today's browsers. 



28 May 2021

crapaud (illustration)


 I came across a toad on my bike route and the thing was just not going to move for anyone so I took some reference photos to draw from. I used the my new iPad Pro and Sketchbook Pro. I still like the pen brushes in Sketchbook - especially when doing stipple work which most of this is and it's the reason it took almost 2 weeks to draw. I used a grey background so I could use a white pencil brush to add highlights and a watercolour brush for the shadow. 

25 May 2021

iPad Pro 11 inch 2021

 I have had a 12.9 inch iPad Pro for over  year, it was my brother's old model and I really loved it. The large screen combined with the Apple Pencil was simply awesome for drawing and even though it was from 2015 it was still overpowered for any app I can think of for iPad. So why replace it? 

The problems I had with the device were definitely 1st world. The battery wasn't lasting as long because of it's age but it still was good for 5 hours of drawing which was more than enough. I did love the large screen but it was awkward for me to move around or take anywhere - it wasn't any more portable than my laptop. Portable enough, but heavy and took up too much space where I was using it. I also had really annoying layer limitation with Procreate, 4 layers at the size I usually draw on which is mostly a RAM limitation. 

So I decided to either sell or return it to Apple for credit and get the 11 inch new model that was just released. It arrived on release day and honestly I didn't expect much difference in how it worked with what I do. It has surprised me, though. My layers in Procreate went up to 9... OK not so much but better. This is because I went form 6 gigs of RAM (I think) to 16 and 256 gigs of storage to 1 terabyte. The new M1 processor and graphics card is noticeably faster. Loading programs, even heavy ones like Affinity Photo or Designer pretty much just pop open as did my copy of Real Myst. I started drawing on a regular base iPad with the Apple Pencil and since this is larger than that, the loss of screen space hasn't felt dramatic, but I am missing that extra space for tools a little bit. Manipulating the smaller tablet has made up for that and this is so light and portable it's easier to work on while sitting on the deck or moving around. I am working on a new pen and ink drawing using Sketchbook Pro and so far, it's pretty nice. 

The storage and RAM were good enough reasons to update but the M1 chip, but having the same chip set up as the mac mini, MacBook and new iMacs is hinting that more professional apps should be coming up. The hardware on the iPad has been ridiculously ahead of iPad IOS and I am hoping the next update will allow Affinity to finally have what it needs to port Publisher to the iPad and it should make it easier for developers to add an iPad version of their lineup. My hope is Blender will take the leap and eventually so I can dump my laptop completely and still have a backup system in case my desktop has some mishap. 

A friend bought himself an Apple Pencil 2.... and never opened it so I ended up with that upgrade free of charge. The pencil does seem more responsive but it has a nice feature where I can tap the end to change from my brush to the eraser and back again without thinking. It's really handy! Sometimes the small things count more than any big new feature. The fact is charts by magnetically attaching the the side instead of the super fragile was the original pen worked provides peace of mind of that very expensive accessory. 

Developers Conference update:

I will post about this again after the Mac Developers Conference makes it's announcements because the new hardware updates would be much less a reason to spend this cash without a substantial update to the iOS. I don't think I will regret buying it, but I could certainly use more reasons to love it. 

20 May 2021

poisson 2 - another fish illustration


 Third done with Krita and I think I got the scales much better as they look more defined and I didn't loose the "sheen" I've been working hard to get. I tried to use layers more to my advantage with this one and the atmosphere is a lot darker than the first two. I think that worked better with this type of fish. I have no idea what type of fish any of the three I've drawn are. by the way. 

15 May 2021

Another fish illustration


This one took longer and was harder to  figure out... I didn't really get the scales as defined as I would have liked. Something I still need to get my head around. Fish are hard, the skin is multi coloured and shimmers especially this kind of fish so it is a challenge to get it even close to looking right. The reference photos I used is below for comparison. The photo wasn't great, to be honest I don't know why I had not deleted it from my files - but it was a nice subject to practice with. I might have used it as cut in some animation project but I really do not remember. Adding the deep blue made the illustration look much more vibrant



09 May 2021

poisson - Berlin Aquarium


 Painted in Krita. I had this in the back of my mind as a something draw or paint for years but never did anything about it until I was on a "purge" of old files recently. It took about 3 days to paint andI think it shows some progress in my painting skills. I put the dark blue/black, the fin and the eye on separate layers so I could block out the main colours on the body and mix them easier. then I added details by slowly building them in on top, mixing them and doing it again until they looked OK. The transparency of the fin was a challenge and the fish eye was more complicated than I thought it would be. I thought about adding floating crap in the water but that looked distracting so I decided to keep it simple.  

click image to enlarge

08 May 2021

DAVC logo project

 


I close friend decided to take on more neighbourhood association duties and one was to make  logo for a new committee. He came up with an idea and put it together but he used text edit to do it... I can't even imagine how he got as fas as he did using that! Another issue was he used a copyrighted image in the background. So he asked me to work on it and make sure the end file was usable for their needs. 

Sometimes, a project like this can be nightmare but his original idea made it pretty clear what he was going after and what he wanted the look to be. I made my analysis as I always do, what is the main point of interest, how o make sure the text is readable and how to get the sale across in a way that is clear and reproducible at different sizes and with different mediums. The colour swatches on the bottom can easily be turned into greyscale for a black and white print ad and still read as switches for example. 

It came together pretty quickly and he liked it so I would say it was a success! 

24 April 2021

petit ours (2e animation 2D)


My second attempt at 2D animation. I found some very helpful tutorials that moved me along with Open Toonz and I also looked into Adobe animate which I was fairly familiar with after doing tons of work in Flash back in the day... they are the same program, really. 

I wanted to go deeper and did, but I think I should try vector drawing over raster drawing next time. I did some animation in Apple's Motion app this time and also added the shows and smoke effect there. I played with adding motion blur to the characters but it looked too weird. The rally toy looked awesome but not the rest. I also tried a few tricks for the falling toy. I did a quick sketch animation by hand, then reproduced it in a 3D with some physics applied to see how it might look and need up using a combo of the 2. 

I kept getting disturbed while doing this one and had to redraw it 3 times at one point to get back into the feel of it again. The drawing tools in Open toonZ don't really help thought if I use it next time I'll try some of the new brushes they just added in a new update that also squashed some bugs I had last time out. 

These are just tests to see what I can do and what I have to learn and even if it's something I can get a good handle on. One thing I've noticed looking over the work of others on YouTube and TV is that the tools seem to be driving the styles of animation these days. What I mean that the current crop of animation software is focused less on drawing everything by hand and more geared towards making 2D puppets that sort of look like simple video game animations to me. For sure it's cheaper, faster and less of a headache to make things this way but It is a little disappointing as well. 

22 April 2021

Poster: The Man Who Fell to Earth

 I went through the film frame by frame to find interesting images to work from. I wanted this to be clean and simple and not give anything of the movie away. The image I picked took a lot of retouching to look ½ decent between the grain of the film and the fact it was a screen grab but it works,  I think. I often wonder if there is a remake in the works for this based closer to the book but I think it would be a long hard climb to get over Bowie's interpretation which makes this film. 

04 April 2021

Review: Topaz Labs Gigelpixel, Sharpen, Denoise AI and Jpeg to Raw



 Topaz Studios has enjoyed an expanding reputation for well done innovative plugins over the years, often being ahead of the game particularly when it comes to the new Artificial Intelligence plugins. 

Photoshop has just added the ability enlarge photos with little to no quality loss, but Topaz has been there for a while. Their Gigapixel AI enlarges up to 6 times the size of the original and, while there are simple and sparse controls, they do allow some options over the final result. You can do photos one by one or drag a bunch into the window and  run a batch of them. From what I have seen, the Photoshop version of this is super fast but with no control. Gigapixel is VERY resource intensive and it's hard to run anything else if it's processing a group of images. The end results are worth it. If you have a client sending you small images that need to somehow be used for print, this will help or if you have smaller files from earlier digital cameras (like I do) you can bring those files into a size that is actually useful in todays world. Most of interpretation done enhances the photo, though now and then you might get a weird interpretation and I found that light colours chest hair on a light skin and get a little chunky looking and needs some finessing to keep it looking natural. 


Denoising is now standard is many image editors but Denoiser AI is a step up from most of them, while suffering from the same setbacks that I don't think you can really get around. Some images are just too much for any software, AI or not, to just make up large areas of ambiguous pixels. Overall the images can be greatly improved and if the problem is just grain from lower light but otherwise detailed images it does an amazing job. One thing I found was if you have already demised the image somewhere else, this plugin can't do much more with it. This makes sense as the image has been "smoothed out" so the grain has already been removed so there is little left to read. DXO Photolab has the best denoiser I have seen but it only works on RAW files while Topaz plugins work on any number of formats.

Sharpening is another tool every program has. Usually there are many methods to enhance sharpness. Denoiser AI take the subject into consideration and has setting that allow special attention spent to faces. Of all the plugins this one worked less impressively than the first 2 and getting a good result wasn't as easy or natural looking especially on older black & white photos where eyes can merge into black blobs. It did bring some focus back to out of focus images (within reason) that other techniques can't begin to do. I don't know why but I tried the same images one day and it was really terrible and tried it another day and worked fine... it's supposed to be AI so maybe it learned something? 

Jpeg to RAW was included in the package I bought and I can't say much about it. It refused to open. What it is designed to do is take a jpeg and bring back some of the colour range and information that gets strips away when compressing to jpeg so you can edit in a RAW processor with much better success. I did contact Topaz and they got right back t me, acknowledged the problem and said a fix was in the works and would send me a message when it was ready. Disappointing but also the customer service was awesome. 

Another issue was integration with Affinity Photo. It can do it... but not if you bought the app from the Apple App Store. This is a problem with other plugins as well and the reason when Affinity goes to Version 2.0 and charges for updates I'll buy directly from them. I find the Apple Store updates lag behind the ones directly from Affinity by up to a couple days as well. Luckily,  the Topaz Plugins also work as independent applications 

4x enlargement with original for scale.



27 March 2021

Animation: Nauti :Mordre Moi Pas! (Don't bite me!)

 The last time I did a honest to goodness 2D drawn animation was when I was a teenager. I had built my own animation stand, filmed it with my Bell & Howell Super 8 and edited on my hand cranked film editor.  That animation was a dragon catching the wind then swooping down and then upwards past the camera. I made a pipe cleaner model with plastic bag wings and photographed it in the key frame positions for reference. I sketched it out on paper then inked one side of plastic sheets and hand painted the colours on the opposite site one by one before adding a painted sky and placing them over that to be filmed. It was FANTASTIC. Well, I remember it being fantastic. It's been lost to time so I have a feeling my memory of it has been more than slightly enhanced over the years. 

Times have changed, for the better with computer based animation software. I was going to redo that dragon but instead I decided to try a new idea using one of the many (it turns out) application on my hard drive that can handle 2D animation. I have done some 2D for explainer videos more recently and to add something to3D animations that I couldn't achieve using that software. Out of practice - but not unaware of what I was getting myself into. 

After Effects, Motion, Krita, Rough Animator, Photoshop, Procreate, Blender all have 2D potential and components. Rough animator seemed perfect but it was... too rough for what I wanted. I think I will use it for what it is named to do, to make rough tests, in future. The others were Ok if you were mostly using puppets, characters broken into segments and then moving the segments, but Krita has an awesome set of painting tools so I decided to try it out. It had much of what I was looking for and the interface was clunky but easy for me to understand. I got about a second into the animation when I had to stop. Krita was just too slow and buggy in animation mode, it needs some love from the developers still. I will keep an eye out for improvements.


I had downloaded but never really used Open Toonz, a free open source software that had a really large feature set. I would love to have a copy of Toon Boom but it's subscription only and not cheap enough to play with so Open Toons won out. It was faster and handled the layers and number of frames better than Krita but it lacks all but the most basic of drawing tools, something that I think is its biggest problem. Any backgrounds or elements that need any detail of refinement I would do in a paint program and import them.

Though buggy at times, the eraser doesn't always work and the interface is somewhat primitive and one might say ugly, it does do the job. It has vector tools, puppet tools, great onion skinning to see what came before and after you current frame and was free. Exporting is funky and you need an add-on to export to mpg video while jpg and tif exported fine, png which I needed to use dropped a few frames on my first export. Clearly it still needs work but it also provides pretty much everything I needed to do the animation. 

I split Nauti into a frame by frame drawn head, while the body, arms and tail were puppet animated as were the legs. I did a rough sketch animation and then traced that and coloured it before exporting the animation in sections so I could composite it in layers in Motion. It was a pretty straightforward work flow. Originally I thought I wanted a black and white pencil sketch look but decided that something more "fully rendered" would be a better challenge. 

So is it a Disney classic? Hardly. Not at all. That wasn't the point of making it, though. I learned many things about Open Toons and 2D animation. I am not a comic or cartoon illustrator so just making the dog was pretty hard and I found timing in 2D was more different than in 3D than I thought it might be. My voice is as terrible as ever but this is not an audition for my voice talents so it's fine for now.

I will make another, either another Nauti or maybe I will remake my dragon masterpiece. I need to do more and better pencil tests next time, learn more about timing and setting up Open Toonz, and get better with the drawing tools in Open Toonz as well as draw in comic style better. 

22 March 2021

autoportrait 2021 - procreate ink

 


So this is something I have never done in my memory - drawn myself. I have drawn plenty of others and animals and places etc but never myself. 

Took a week doing it at night before bed. The reference is from a  series of photo self portraits, which is something I do reluctantly every few years but I wanted to do something different this time. 

It's pretty simple and basic. Stipple for the skin tones and lines for the rest. I did a little extra work in Affinity Photo because I usually add the title and my name there and noticed that the right cheek was a mess and needed more stipple work to blend it better. The is black fill with white stipple to give it some added detail. 

I avoid looking in mirrors so this was sort of weird, looking at my own face for hours. I think the beard came out well and the hair isn't bad and that is usually what throws me off the most. 

21 February 2021

Animation: A Vine on a House based on the story by Ambrose Bierce

 


My latest gothic horror animation is based on a very short story by Ambrose Bierce, read it here if you like, and is itself fairly short. Like my previous Bierce animation, this one also strays quite a bit from the text as I try to make it relevant and more visual. For all the character, save one (the man on the porch) I used a free character generation application called "Make Human" which lets you create realistic humans with slider controls, including dressing, rigging and weighting. This means you can, hypothetically start using them in minutes and creating them takes only a few minutes as well. It is a huge time saver, especially for subjects that are not required to be created in a specific style or have to do anything unusual or complicated. I used this as a starting point and repainted the clothing myself and added controls to the rigging to make moving then less of a bone by bone affair and it worked for the most part. 

The setting itself took few months to put together. It is one location but one that ages and rots over a long time period. I wanted the fade from past to present to be noticeable but for the house to retain enough features that no one would thing the location had changed. 

I found the Make Human models were not suited for some of my rigging techniques. At least I could not figure out how to use them which was  ashamed because there are some plugins I rely on for every project that I could not use. I did find some work arounds but making them walk was really a challenge so I had to limit that as much as possible. 

This IS a horror short so there is some blood and violence but nothing like we see on TV show everyday. I do hope there is a little shock or 2 for people watching, however.

08 February 2021

recent updates: Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher and Krita and Sparkle Web Designer

 

There have been a nice amount of updates recently. Some things update more than others and I would say free software like Krita and Blender are pretty fast and furious with updates while some commercial software seems to be slowing down. Maybe it is the pandemic. Free software people might have more time as their normal jobs are on hold while commercial software might be the opposite because it's those companies who might have put jobs on hold. This is just a quick take on my latest updates and not an  in-depth review of any of the software.

The Affinity Suite

I won't lie, I was really hoping for an iPad version of Publisher to get released as it was sort of scheduled for last year. That aside the 3 desktop and iPad apps got nice improvements and Serif as a company seems to really listening to its users. 

Photo has a great new blend mode, Divide that is wonderful for taking a colour tint from photos. I tried it with a night shot from Budapest which had a very strong yellow tint because of the lighting and it was impressive as you can see.





Designer has a nice contour tool that is hard to describe as it have a few uses that really give you more options for designing and vector drawings. 

Publisher had PDF passthrough now which makes adding them to existing documents super easy. There were problems still with adding them. I have a project which uses a 300 page PDF and it works like a charm... at first. Reopening the file was a nightmare and I had to split the PDF up into sections and export each section as jpg pages. Smaller Pdfs were better but slow to open. It's edging closer and closer to having all the features I want form Indesign so - progress. For the next big update, 2.0 which will be paid most likely, I would love to be able to group pages in the page window so you can drag them around higher or lower in the hierarchy. This would make book with chapters that get moved around much easier to accomplish. Right now there is some limit to how many pages you can select and move and it's not easy to drop them in the right place. 

Krita

This has been moving along nicely and is more and more my choice for drawing on the computer. The blending brushes and the natural look to the painting, drawing etc brushes is really amazing. It's a little buggy now and then but this new update has been bug free for me so far. It needs better text handling if only for adding my name, title and date to a finished piece easier. 

Sparkle Web Designer

This software is always fixing bugs and improving. This time is had a blog feature I would love to use as some point. If I continue to have almost no one reading this one it might be easier to just switch the blog to Sparkle and integrate with my home/portfolio page. 

31 January 2021

drawing: acrobate suspendu 02


 Another in my acrobat series but this time done with paint brushes in Krita. It looks a lot my colour drawings but that isn't really a bad thing. I often work in colour by doing it all in grey scale and recolouring then adding addition touches, but this time I just picked different paint colours and blended  them in. 

Definitely a challenge but it was easier than I anticipated. I think all the drawing I have been doing lately especially in Krita has paid off in being comfortable trying this and not automatically thinking it was just going to fail big time. 

Sadly, my ability to get tons of reference images from all the free cirque shows were normally get here in Montréal was cut off this past summer because of the pandemic cancelling everything. So this is something I found in a folder from years ago. Maybe this summer I can get new references to work from? 

27 January 2021

Poster project: Dracula


Took many references to get this one going. Overall, I like it but the likeness is still not where I want it to be. I do not have a solid grip on the new techniques I am using. The background is from an image of the underground crypt at the start of the film but I tried ot be loose, well, loose for me, with it. The red touches were from when I saw the play in the 70s with Louis Jordan. Everything on stage was black and white with one red coloured element. The logo is copied from a title card for the film. One thing I noticed researching these is there seems to be no official logo for any of the films. They differ from the actual film titles ot the posters to the lobby cards. 

26 January 2021

Illustration: barn


 I have thing for delapitated barns, I think  many artists and photographers do. There is something challenging and cool about a solid structure collapsing in on itself that turns lines into curves and wood into splinters. This is a barn in northern Quebec from a photo I took while ago on a long bike ride. I plan to visit more barns someday when I and everyone else can get outside and travel again. 

Drawn in Procreate on the iPad over several months when I had the time to dedicate to it,