May 9, 2017

Freehand airbrush portrait of Johan Cruijff

After a long time of not having touched an airbrush, I took up the tool again to make yet an other portrait of Johan Cruijff. He was one of soccer's all time great players along with Pele, Maradona and Messi. Off the pitch he was a warm blooded man, who was moved when seeing a disabled child playing near a swimming pool. In that moment he decided to help common young people and the disabled in particular. In my mind that sets him apart from many of his glamour seeking peers. Cruijff looked past the boundaries of the world of top level soccer and saw human beings who were in need of a little help that they were unable to obtain anywhere else.

Remarkable things happened during the airbrushing of this portrait. When I planned to set up the portrait, which is drawing the image of his face onto a blank canvas frame, I picked up my cellphone to see what time it was. It read: 00:14 hours. 14 is the number that Cruijff wore on his shirt... Two day later my daughter sms-ed me, I picked up my phone and it was 14:14 hours... This blew me away. I often have such synchronicities when creating portraits, but I felt in this case they were extraordinarily strong and clear. I suspect some artists to have had similar experiences.

Below you see a sequence of various stages of the portrait; the oldest at the bottom, the newest on top. I used the Iwata HP-BH and Custom Micron SB airbrushes and Inspire H2O paint. The original photo was a black and white picture and I decided to spray the portrait in monochrome, since the visual impact of the image was powerful, beautifully expressing Cruijff's mindset. At this point - May 9 2017 - it is a work in progress, advancing quite slow since I am having lower back discomfort. I will post significant updates when ready. Stay tuned and please be patient.

May 5, 2017

Digital cartoons

Apart from analog airbrushing, I create digital artwork on my Huion graphic tablet from time to time. The advantage over crafting analog art is that digital tools have an undo function and allows to work in layers. It is also possible to apply filters with which the appearance of objects can be changed at will. These properties are hue, color, contrast, brightness and texture while a range of other manipulation tools can be used as well.

The programs I use are the Adobe and Corel suits of which both the vector and bitmap applications I use. They are increasingly integrated, which allows to combine organic shapes with geometric forms. Making cartoons is a somewhat tricky business, not unlike making portraits, but there's a twist to it. While exaggerating certain facial features and reducing other ones, the likeness to the subject's appearance has to be preserved. Depending on the character this is at times a thin rope walk.

Dutch TV presenter Sierd de Vos

The cartoon above is one of a Dutch TV presenter who specializes in Spanish soccer, the Primera Division. He has a unique way of reporting that often is hilarious, giving all sorts of background information about the players, their girlfriends and / or wives and local restaurants in Barcelona or Madrid during the match. Although some think he should restrict himself to talking about what is taking place on the pitch, the humorous anecdotes he weaves in his accounts, caused him to gain a rather large number of fans, which resulted in him being awarded a TV program of his own by the broadcasting company.

Regular guest in a Dutch TV show Johan Derksen

One of the persons who thinks he wanders off too much while reporting a soccer match is an other Dutch TV presenter, who is a regular guest in an other program that focuses on football. This program is well known in Holland for casual football related talk as is often encountered in the pub before and after the matches among supporters. An attempt to a cartoon of this man you see above this paragraph. He has taken grumpiness to a different level, never worrying about political correctness or consensus. It got him onto trouble a few times, but that didn't bother him too much either.

Second regular guest in the soccer show is Rene van der Gijp

The second regular guest in the soccer show is an ex top player, who could have gotten more out of his career is he had put his talent to proper use. His urge to clown and do whatever he felt like won the battle. He can nevertheless look back on a reasonable record. He tends to solve tense situations with a humorous response that disarms whoever tries to escalate matters. This talent lets him get away with saying things that other people would probably be wise to keep inside. The soccer show is one of Hollands most watched TV program.

Dutch TV football talkshow host Wilfred Genee

The TV show referred to above, is hosted by the bloke you see above. In view of the guests he has on the show this isn't always an easy task, since the regulars are at times unguided missiles that blurt anything that pops up in their minds, unrestricted by what is commonly regarded as civilized conversation. He also appears in radio shows in which he is allowed to take part in discussions not related to football, which he does quite well too, casually switching from surprisingly in-depth remarks to witty nonsensical rants.

Ajax Amsterdam coach Peter Bosz

Finally, yet an other football related cartoon is one of Ajax Amsterdam coach Peter Bosz who managed to transform their game from numbing to exciting within less than one season. Quite an achievement, since his predecessor Frank de Boer won four Dutch league championships and as a result was granted sainthood by the fans, even though Ajax' play was rough on the eyeballs. Moreover, Bosz has a past in Ajax' mortal enemy camp Feyenoord. Many fans initially weren't pleased with that at all, but Bosz simply ignored that and went on to teach Ajax his game of continuous pressure and attacking style.

He made Ajax return to playing the type of football that gained the team worldwide acclaim. They made it to the semi final of the Europe League this year, which hasn't happened in 16 years. If they survive the away match against Lyon they may even make it to the final... So kudos to him for that.

In the cartoons I tried several different techniques, in attempt to find the best way to make them. As those who use digital programs know there are many ways to achieve certain effects. Other cartoons I made (digital and analog), can be found in the cartoon section of this blog-site to which you find a link in the navigation bar at the top of each page.

August 23, 2016

An other Andre Hazes portrait

Andre Hazes probably was one of the greatest Dutch ballad singers ever. Unfortunately he moved to more endearing venues, leaving his fans with an unforgettable legacy. I usually listen to Buckethead, Metallica or Earthtone 9, that sort of stuff, but I am moved by Hazes' voice. He was one of those rare talents that enter this dimension once every century or so; spirits that become artists who transcend partitions humankind stubbornly clings to. This is a freehand airbrush portrait that started out as a drawing and gradually evolved into a realistic portrait that preserved its pencil like fibre.

Controlled spattering
Toward the end controlled spattering (with the Iwata Custom SB) was done; turn pressure very low, just enough to push the paint out. Use undiluted paint (Inspire H2O acrylics), pull the trigger back all the way and release it. Repeat this rapidly, like tick, tick, tick - as fast as you read this. Start with Black Smoke, then very carefully and sparsely Base Black and finally Base White. If spattering turns out not like you want it, immediately hit the spot on the paper with the side of your hand or a tissue to remove the paint from the paper. That also works to soften the spattering, decrease its intensity. The low pressure and viscous undiluted paint will clog the airbrush (Iwata Custom SB) quite fast! So it's probably wise to clean your brush often and thoroughly in between colour changes or refills.  I may make a Youtube clip of this technique some time.

Oldest stage at the bottom, newest on top as always.

Virtually framed in Rhonoceros 3D v5

August 11, 2016

Portrait of a little girl

Recently I started experimenting with a combination of airbrush and color pencils. I prefer the oil-based pencils because they're not affected by paints and lacquer. In addition their coverage is quite good and they leave light-fast colors. The Surface of this particular portrait was Canson's linen textured paper, which is not the ideal surface for color pencils when attempting to create realistic art, since the bumps and dents of the surface results in grainy lines and coloured surfaces. When the pencil tips are sharp this problem is reduced.

I tried the whites of Faber-Castell Polychromos and Caran d'Ache Pablo (which are oil-based), but the graphite Derwent GraphiTint gave the best result and is probably the cheapest of the three as well. The Derwent has the same feel as the oil pencils, perhaps even a little bit more oily - smooth movement over the surface - and its coverage was absolutely great. I haven't tested smooth surfaces yet, but will do so in the near future. My guess is that the Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache will do better on such surfaces, but I have to experience that to be sure.

The reference photo does not show the top of the girl's head, so I created some more hair there to be able to position her face better on the surface. The photo also lacked detail, but fortunately child's faces have less accents than that of older people. Airbrushing those requires good concentration, because subtle accents are easily messed up. The girl's hair was a different story, half messy (which is what it should be with children) and also difficult to interpret due to the lack of fine detail. This where the Derwent pencil saved me a lot of time.

I started using the Iwata HP-BH and it behaved badly. Checking the needle tip under a looking glass showed a slight kink in the tip. I straightened and polished it after which it performed well again. For the hair, I used the Iwata Custon SB after first polishing its needle. Since I always spray freehand, this top of the bill airbrush was necessary (saves time). The Inspire H2O paints in combination with the Createx 4012 Reducer currently are the best paints /reducer available to spray fine detail. It took me four days to spray - doing all sorts of other chores in between airbrushing.

Oldest stages at the bottom, newest on top as usual.

Virtually framed (using Rhinoceros 3D)

July 19, 2016

135 glasses

New possibilities with new software (Cinema 4D R17). When you think there's no more functionality to be invented, they come up with new things. The spline tool is amazing and parametric, even when objects are cloned multiple times, allowing users to fiddle with shapes. The edge smoothing - chamfer and fillet - was a long awaited feature that adds to realistic rendering. Great work Maxon!

Area light and infinite directional light were applied. Anisotropic rendering and depth of field as rendering functions. A floor was also used. The R17 rendering engine is great and includes a filter that allows to manipulate many settings. Slight editing afterwards was done in Corel PhotoPaint and Faststone image catalogue. Transparancies, reflections and shadows can be controlled excellently.

1920 x 1080 pixels

The advantages of 3D modeling are that view angles can be changed almost without limit, the scene can be modified - lighting, object shape, colouring, texture and positioning etc. A variety of lights can be placed anywhere without the source itself being visible or casting shadows. Each (part of an) object can be made transparent, have controlled reflection and the shadows cast are modifiable as well (sharp, blurred and defined between opaque and absent). And these are only a fraction of the possibilities...

All in all this was a useful upgrade for the type of simple work I usually create. Meanwhile R18 Prime has been released for a relatively modest price - $ 945.45 - compared to other 3D programs. In addition (and for additional money) the Broadcast, Visualize and Studio versions are available, each of which adds functions to those already incorporated in Prime. Price schemes you find here.

July 15, 2016

Roger Waters portrait - frustration limiter

Recently my bloody computer crashed. Guess which system? I'm having an ordeal repairing the unruly beast (it's not a run of the shelf machine, but one tuned to DTP and 3D). While waiting for processes to finish I started doodling Roger Waters to limit the measure of frustration.

What I found out during this frustration limiting process, is that the surface of the dirt cheap office copying paper works quite well for both airbrushing and working with (opaque) colour pencils and that it allows to combine both techniques perfectly. However, the paper is very thin and in no way suited to any erasing that goes beyond using smooth and soft erasers (let alone scalpel or fiberglass erasing techniques). So this unplanned project has me searching for the proper type of paper - with a smooth, but not too smooth surface - and oil based colour pencils that would make the portraits water resistant and light-fast.

The tool I used for this rush portrait are: Iwata CM SB, Inspire H2O, Caran d'Ache Luminance colour pencils. I watched a number of Youtube videos and I concluded from that that Faber Castell Polychromos pencils may be what I am looking for. They are similar to Caran d'Ache Pablo oil based pencils, but significantly less expensive. I will try them in the near future and post my experiences with them in this blog.

Oldest stage at the bottom, newer one above that.