Peace in the Valley

Peace in the Valley
A crisp fall day on the farm.

I painted this ArtRage painting on my iPad at B.C. Womans hospital while my wife was in labor with our twin sons Wiley and Rudie. I won’t ever forget when or where I was when I made this painting!

It was near midnight and I was in the cement bunker like basement of the hospital. My heart was racing and I was terribly exhausted and anxious. To distract myself and pass the hours more quickly I sat in the lobby of the delivery room and painted this far off peaceful place.

Stanley Park Thumbnail

in the garden
doodled this while sitting in Stanley Park

Silas fell asleep while we were at the park yesterday. I had the iPad with me and made this thumbnail painting while he slept.

Mountain Railway Painting


It was an exciting morning. I discovered that the good folks over at ArtRage added script recording to their iPad app. After the download and a quick cup of coffee I started doodling this little mountain railway scene.

I was really geeking out over this new addition because a few weeks back I had requested this very feature and now it was a reality. Major props to the ArtRage dev team on this one. I’m sure the idea was in the pipes long before I had ever thought of it. Super fantastic, I can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeves.

After exporting my thumbnail script I up-ressed the painting on the desktop app and went to town. This whole process worked exactly as I had imagined. With the newly expanded canvas on my mac I was able to really flush the painting out, smudge it up and add in a lot of detail that would have taken forever on the iPad.

I really like this new workflow. Its simple, straight forward and functional. I can see myself using this a lot in the future.

in the news aaeqmt

The secret passage

This is a rough pass on a silly sequence from my Dick and Don project. The set up is that our heros were framed for a robbery they didn’t commit and at the moment are hot on the trail of the real villains. The gangsters are followed to a newsstand which opened to reveal a secret passage.

head profile

Don, Rough Zbrush Head Sculpt

This is a very old character of mine, I created him a life-time ago. I believe I was ten.

Recently, I have resurrected old characters like Don here to see what my adult self would do with them. In this case it was a zbrush sculpt. Start to finnish this project took me one night of work. The base mesh was made in Maya and then polished up and roughly painted in zbrush.

Don, Circa 1996

I found this animated gif of him, dated 1996, and put it up here for reference. At the time of this drawing he is already a few years old. There are boxes of better Don drawings sitting up in the attic that I really should scan.

animated gif
Oh 1996, when animated gifs were all the rage and every website had to have one.
head profile
Don maya sculpt

Wild Horses Doodle

running free
An ArtRage iPad painting

A doodling I made while listening to Cory Doctorow’s lecture on copyright law at Siggraph Canada. With that in mind I obviously have to post this painting under an open creative commons licence.

dog and guy with green hair

Messy Paintings with ArtRage

Silas and I Messing around in ArtRage

I employed my two-year old son Silas to helped out with this next ArtRage test. Today we were testing speed and the painting apps “mess factor”. Not trying to make anything too special our goal here was to see how well ArtRage could manage an untidy canvas. As it turns out it excels at quick dirty brush work and is a wonderfully expressionistic drawing tool!

The paint media brushes with their buttery depth and texture are a welcome relief to the flat world of Photoshop. Now I like Photoshop, I’ve painted in it for a good fourteen years but as a painting tool it is sterile. Although there have been countless updates over the years the drawing tools in Photoshop have never really improved much. I tried switching to Painter several times to fill this void but was never sold. Corel Painter makes nice messy paint stokes but on my iMac the rendering just couldn’t keep up and as a tool it felt frustratingly slow. My strokes would lag, especially when painting at a large-scale, and I found myself halving to rough paintings out in Photoshop before finishing them in painter. I also stumbled a lot with its interface, which was confusing to navigate at times. All this made for a pretty lame workflow and Painter with all of its 6D brush goodness was just never able to win me over.

This is not the case with ArtRage which can keep up with my quick strokes and took all of one minute to learn how to use. Case in point, my son Silas has played around on the ArtRage iPad app for the last two months and since the user interface between the two is all but identical he had no problem navigating the desktop app. Now he’s two so that translates as a very intuitive interface. Our one complaint is that changing brush sizes in ArtRage is a tad difficult. Both he and I struggled with this at first and the app could be greatly improved by simply moving the size controls from the corner of the screen to the brush settings tool pellet.

After a good hour or two of going crazy with our colors and brushwork Silas and I have concluded that the ArtRage passes the “mess test” with flying colors. There are always improvements to be made with these things and it would be nice to see a few more random functions like palm smears, gravity blending or water pooling which could effect brush stokes. For now though I’ll take ArtRage as it is as I am sure these sort of things will come.


A Few More Mess Tests

Here are a few extra mess tests that we made while putting ArtRage through the ringer.

This is one of Silas’ first Artrage paintings and I think it is a good example of how well it deals with colour smearing.
messtest e
Going a little crazy. Silas and I gave the app a good scribble test.
A feather in his hat

Programable Paintings

A feather in his hat
Original, full-res version.

ArtRage Studio Pro is the newest weapon in my digital painting arsenal and possibly the most powerful.   The selling point for me was a new function in version 3.5 that lets you record a painting as code that can be manipulated freely in post.  And yes that is as awesome as it sounds! For what was once the realm of flash and other vector based applications has now come to ArtRage and all of its messy paint stroke goodness.


The most obvious application for this technology is its ability to re-scale a painting after the fact. Not just resize an image but completely repaint a work at a higher resolution! In the world of digital painting this is BIG NEWS, no pun intended.

Years ago at USC I remember talking to my friend Jerome Pinzuti about this very idea. As both a painter and a programmer he proposed to me the possibility of recording every action that a digital painting program makes so that it could be played back, changed or manipulated at any point.  He made a strong point that a painting was just a string of commands and that it would be more practical to save them as functional code and not as useless compressed images.  The idea at the time was so simple. If you want to change the painting, then just change the code. This was a far off wild idea at the time but it is now a reality within ArtRage and I couldn’t be more excited.

Rebuilding a Painting

This functionality has so much potential. I downloaded the app late last night and immediately started painting a few tests.

One of the first benefits of this scriptable painting system is the ability to play back a painted work in time-lapse. What follows is not a screen grab of me painting but rather the script from the resulting painting running after the fact. I included this to demonstrate how the script rebuilds the painting. It is not a freeze of the image but rather a recording of the string of commands used to build it. For instant, time information and even stokes that I deleted are drawn and re-deleated within the recorded script.


File Enlargement Tests

Below is the resulting image of the same painting but run on a canvas which is 10,000px wide which is quite a bit larger than the original 1600px wide image.  This took the program about fifteen to twenty minutes to complete, but it was rather entertaining to watch the machine redraw the work.

Wakefield Head scriptedfull
The final scripted enlargement. Scaled down to a more reasonable 3000X1836px from 5000px

As a control I cropped the original image in Photoshop and enlarged the remaining slice to 1500px. As expected it is full of digital artifacts and pixelation. Everything that one would expect from an enlarged .jpeg file.

wakefield headphotoshop
Original image slice scaled up to 1500px. Notice the pixelation and digital artifacts.

Next is a slice from the image which was enlarged using an ArtRage script.  I cropped the resulting image to match but it is still at 100% resolution, measuring in at 1500px across.

Wakefield Headscripted
Scripted image scaling. No artifacts but the brush textures themselves stayed the same size and would need to be programed to match the new image scale.

Compared to the normal Photoshop enlargement it is remarkably clean especially for an image that was scalled so much.  I was rather impressed by this but disappointed to see that the texture of the original work had been lost.  It is obvious on closer inspection that the brush stroke textures themselves stayed at the same scale resulting in a much smother and flatter image.  The painting was enlarged but the size of the brushes painting it were not.  I imagine that this could be adjusted in the code or since the program is able to generate displacement maps be recalibrated through a filter.


reprogramming the painting

The next logical thing to do after this first scale test was to bust open the code and do some basic ArtRage script manipulation. My first order of business was to try and change the painting medium. I was expecting some difficulty in this task but it proved surprisingly easy . Digging through the script in textedit I was able to identify different brush types by their “toolID”.  That done all I had to do was change them to what ever medium I wished and hit render.

So to re-render a the painting in watercolour all i had to do was change “Value: { 4900 (Oil Paint) }” in the code to “Value: { 4916 (Watercolor) }”. As proof here are a few of the resulting images.

Wakefield Headwatercolour
A watercolour render
Wakefield Head pencil
A pencil render
Wakefield Head chalk
re-rendered in chalk

I am in love with the idea of painting in code and these initial findings are very promising.  Future exploration into the code and scripting language used to generate these paintings is a must! At the top of my list I would really like to learn how to manipulate and change textural elements to better match the enlarged images but I can’t help but think that there are far greater possibilities than this.

There is room here for some really interesting studies and experiments. In the study of visual literacy and cognitive sciences maybe this can be used as a tool to learn how people draw and translate thoughts into images. This code is a window into the mind of an artist and since every command is time stamped it can be used as a very accurate record of the creative process.

Can we define a masters style? Is there a code for abstract, impressionist or romantic? For instance can you deconstruct one persons drawing style or technique and mash it up with another? Can we take the speed, angle and pressure information of the brush and store it as some sort of filter that can be plugged into another script? Can line quality be tightened or loosened after the fact? Can I change the colour pallet to match another painting?

Could you program a robot to repaint the same image in real life?  
Can a digital painting be accurately recreated on canvas?  I mean seriously, could you actually print this out as an oil painting and hang it on a wall?  I say yes.  I don’t see why not.

The possibilities are endless and the future is bright.

If anyone else is interested in playing with ArtRage’s scripting code. I found this helpful guide online to get you started.

the frightened dog

Scared Dog Pose

This is a folow up post to the previous Doggy Dog post.

I spent a bit of time working in ZBrush last week posing several old models. This dog model is one of my maya sculpts that I revisited. The work went pretty fast, I spent one night on this pose.

The dog isn’t rigged so to do the work I built a quick temporary Zsphere rig to block in the main gestures, then polished out the rest with normal matte transposing and sculpting techniques. The work was rather straight forward, the most difficult part being wrinkle management and keeping the skin from folding into itself. In this regard I wish ZBrush had a function like Mayas Ncloth which would prevent topology from passing through itself. Maybe it does and I just don’t know these things.

Rendering was done in Zbrush except for the stereoscopic “anagliphic” version below which had to be done in Maya using a stereo rig and mentalray.