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June 2006

June 2006: Halves



  • EMG News:
    June 2006: Halves
  • Wombat Droppings:
    After the Sketch
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Beyond Paper
  • Behind the Art:
    Color Theory, Part 2
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Heraldry, Part 2; Color and Fur


  • When You Don't Quit Your Day Job
  • Dipping into Digital, Part 2: The Process
  • Cleaning Scans and Preparing Print Files


  • Poem: Half


  • Movie: Gubra
  • Movie: Lucky Number Slevin

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  • After the Sketch
    Wombat Droppings
    by Ursula Vernon

    Okay. We’re halfway through the year, and halfway through the process. Life is good!

    You’ve got your sketch. It is a good sketch. It is a sketch that would make Michelangelo proud. Failing that, it’s at least serviceable and the noses are mostly in the right places.

    Now what?

    Well, here is where the roads diverge, depending on whether you’re doing digital art or real media.

    If you’re goin’ digital, but you have a physical sketch, you scan the sketch. There are various tutorials about clean and careful scanning of finished art—you don’t need to worry about ‘em. As long as you can see where the lines are, don’t worry too much about it, since we’ll be painting over top of this.

    Now, then. What size should you work?

    Well, there are two practical limits here, and those are printer and processor. I work at, minimum, 8 x 10, 300 dpi, because that’s the minimum size of my prints. These days, since I have a larger format printer, I am much more likely to work at 12 x 18, 300 dpi. This means that a file with multiple layers can really start chewing up the memory, obviously—my husband built my computer for the kinds of stuff I’d be doing to it, and you may well find that if you’re going to be doing a lot of digital art, you’ll need to upgrade at some point. Painter in particular is a real hog, particularly on a Mac. (We’ll leave aside the whole Mac vs. PC thing for now--the fact is, it really doesn’t matter any more. The days when Mac was the only graphics machine are long gone, most of the files are cross-compatible, the programs are the same, and now the only significant difference between the two is how much it costs to upgrade to make it do what you want.) If anybody’s technically minded and needs to know specs, you can e-mail me, and I’ll get my husband to rattle them off.

    Okay. So you go into Photoshop, and you make your new file, and it’s 8 x 10, 300 dpi, and you pop your sketch into it, and enlarge it, and place it in the right spot on that page. Fabulous! Go get yourself a Coke, you’re done for the day.

    Now, what do you do if you have a physical sketch, or a digital sketch, and you want to do a physical painting?

    Well, there’s a coupla methods people use. If your sketch is the right size, there’s lightboxes, or that thing where you put graphite over the back and go over the lines really hard, which I never do myself. These methods assume that you’re working at the correct size already, though, and some of us like to sketch small and paint big, so that can be a problem.

    If you want to enlarge it, you could do that thing with the grid, but crimony. I want this painting done before I die. You can also just redraw the whole thing by hand, but if you’ve spent all that time getting the sketch perfect, this is fraught with peril.

    The method that works for me is opaque projector.

    One version of the 'Sir Trace-a-Lot Jr.', sans happy blue flowers, purchased by the editor for about $14 at Michael's.

    Now, an opaque projector is a neat little device that takes whatever’s on the projection bed and splortches it on the wall—or the canvas, or your face, or whatever. And I mean anything. It’s not like a transparency projector. You can stick your hand on the bed, or a live chicken, or a sketch. They sell for between $40 and $200—you can pick ‘em up at a good art supply store, and they’re very handy for transferring sketches. Or you can do what I do, and buy a Sir Trace-a-Lot Jr. for 12.95, which is the exact same thing, only in friendly blue plastic and crappily constructed, with happy plastic flowers on the side.

    You could even put a photo on there. And trace it. Without ever drawing at all. (What, you thought photo paint-overs were solely a Photoshop thing?) Not all artists do this, obviously, but a significant percentage of photorealists do, and have for centuries, if the camera obscura buffs are to be believed. The screams of “My god! Is that cheating!?” is a whole ‘nother column, or maybe three or four, and we’re definitely not goin’ there today (and being fantasy artists, I’m wondering where you got that photo of a dragon anyway). Regardless, it can be done with an opaque projector and what you do with this knowledge is up to you.

    For our purposes, we’ll leave aside such concerns and focus on your sketch. If it’s a physical sketch, you can pop it on the projector, and it will be projected onto your canvas or board or whatever (that’s probably another column there, too). Then you just wiggle it around until it fits the board like you want, trace the lines with a pencil, scream when the cat nudges the projector, and we’re good to go.

    If it’s a digital sketch, you’ll need to print it out, but other than that it’s the same. If your sketch is quite large, as a matter of fact, you may want to scan it, up the contrast, and print it out anyway, at a size to fit in the projector bed. Because I am a cheap bastard and using the aforementioned Sir Trace-a-Lot Jr. I wind up printing off these wee little sketches, no more than 3 inches on a side, at 600 dpi. The level of detail matters, because it’s gonna be projected huge, so use the highest dpi your printer will support and decent paper.

    Now, you need relative darkness to do this. You’ll want to pull the blinds, and if that’s not enough, you may need to take your art into a darker room, which can result in some really exciting experiences trying to get the angles right with the projector balanced on the toilet. (Also. Just because you can get the easel INTO the bathroom does not mean you can get it out again. Learn from my mistakes.)

    And that’s how I transfer a sketch.

    Ursula Vernon

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