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Archive for the ‘Portrait Art’ Category

A Redbubble Review and Free Wallpaper Art

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Warped Portrait of the Artist Damien Hirst
Warped Portrait of the Artist Damien Hirst

I set up an artist’s account on Redbubble a long time ago but confess to never having really used it. By chance I happened upon a link by an artist on Google+ to their Redbubble profile – at which time I decided to think critically about Redbubble as a selling platform and whether or not I should keep my account there. This led me to write up a review of Redbubble as a sales platform for artists. As a part of this review I thought it would be a good idea to upload some new artwork on the basis that this would help me with my review process. By coincidence I had just completed a new work of art using a 3D image painting program I had just finished writing. I decided to make that piece available as an open edition print on Redbubble as a part of my review process.

I originally intended to make my Redbubble review available here on my blog but judged it to be too long for a blog post. So I’m making it available as an article on my web site. You can find the review here:

Selling Art On Redbubble – A Review.

The review reflects my feelings about using Redbubble as a platform for monetizing my art. Spoiler Alert: my Redbubble review is a positive one. In fact the process of writing this review makes it more likely that I will become more active on Redbubble. My only negative issues were with regard to the profit potential for artists selling on Redbubble (addressed in the review) and that their web site is not mobile friendly.

Currently I have the following artworks for sale on Redbubble:

The Damien Hirst Illustration

I’ve illustrated this post with a small digital painting I just did of the artist Damien Hirst. I’m making a free wallpaper version available for anyone interested. Note that this is for personal, non-commercial use only.

Click here for the wallpaper version of Warped Portrait of the Artist Damien Hirst

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Portrait Art Video Project

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Portrait Art Video
Portrait Art Video

Last week I wrote about making and posting my first video to YouTube
in Learning YouTube and Movie Maker. Earlier this week I posted my second video – The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco – a promotional video for my portrait art.

Let me tell you about the process I used to create this video. First I knew that I wanted the video to be not much longer than two minutes. Next I estimated how long I wanted each artwork to be displayed in the video. These two pieces of information told me exactly how many of my artworks I could use for the video.

My next step was to create the individual jpegs that would be used to create the video. I used Adobe Bridge to select the art that I wanted to use for the video. I then used Adobe Photoshop’s Image Processor (Adobe Bridge -> Tools -> Photoshop -> Image Processor) and the Resize to Fit option to create uniformly sized jpegs. I then created a title slide and a credits slide for the video, again using Adobe Photoshop.

Next was to bring all the jpegs into Windows Live Movie Maker. It was at this point that I sorted the pictures into the order I wanted. Once I had finished ordering the portraits in Movie Maker, I next applied a transition effect to each image. I tried to apply effects that I felt would work nicely for the artwork being transitioned from and to. Lastly I adjusted the display time settings associated with each image. Since I wanted to use a uniform display time for all the artwork in the show, I used Ctrl-A to select all the images and then used the Edit feature to set a uniform display time. I then individually selected the opening title slide and closing credits slide to give them a longer display time. At this point the visual portion of the video was complete. I exported the video and then watched it to decide if the timing and transitions were all to my satisfaction. To watch the movie I used my video player of choice – VLC Media Player

Adding sound to my video

At this point I had a silent movie. Now that I knew the movie’s final length (2:37), I had to locate suitable music of at least that duration. While I could have looped a shorter audio to fill out the video, I wanted to avoid that. Regarding music, there are several web sites that offer music under the creative commons license. Even though I limited my search to creative commons licenses that allow for commercial use (non-commercial licenses dominate) just to be 100% safe, I was still able to find a nice selection of music.

A note to those interested in using music with a creative commons license – it is important that you follow the creative commons licensing terms. The musicians are providing something for nothing except an acknowledgment in the work you produce. You know – that thing artists hate to hear — "can I use your art for free – you’ll get good exposure." These musicians have said yes so be sure to give them their proper credit in your video.

I found a very nice selection of music on opsound.org music web site. One song I found particularly appropriate was Big (Astronaut Mix) by Dave Howes. Big (Astronaut Mix) was a little bit longer than my video so I turned to Audacity. Audacity is excellent, free, open source, audio editing software. Being able to use Audacity to edit the soundtrack was wonderfully simple. There were only two things I had to do in Audacity. The first was to crop the soundtrack’s length to exactly match the length of my video. The second was to apply a fade effect to the end of the soundtrack so that the audio would fade out in the final seconds of the video.

With a soundtrack ready to go, I reopened my Movie Maker project, imported the mp3 file, and once again exported the video. It was just that simple.

With my video completed, it was time to turn to YouTube. While the video upload was in progress, I gave the YouTube entry for the video an appropriate title: The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco and an appropriate description:

A video presentation of digital portrait art created by Jim Plaxco. For details and a list of the art used, see http://www.artsnova.com/portrait-art-video.html.

Soundtrack: Big (Astronaut Mix) by Dave Howes, http://opsound.org

Also, rather than use one of YouTube’s random frame choices for the video’s thumbnail, I went with the custom thumbnail option and selected the jpeg of my video’s title slide.

I must confess that the entire project was rather a stress-free, enjoyable exercise. If you are an artist and have contemplated creating your own video to promote your art, what are you waiting for? The tools are free and the time investment in creating a video similar to mine is not bad at all.

Watch the video
The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco Video

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What To Do With Bill Nye?

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Bill Nye, Planetary Society
Bill Nye, Planetary Society CEO

I attended the Space Tech Expo in Long Beach CA in May because:

  • I’m an advocate for space exploration
  • I’m a lecturer on the subjects of NASA, newspace, and space development
  • I was covering the expo as a reporter for Ad Astra magazine

I came home with quite a collection of photographs, mostly of the conference but some of the neighborhood of the convention center and some from the Aquarium of the Pacific which I visited after the expo ended. I hate to say it but even though two months have now passed, I have yet to do anything with the photographs. The only work I have done with them was to select and process the photos that I felt would make good illustrations for my article in Ad Astra magazine.

For non-space folks, the best known person at the expo had to be Bill Nye The Science Guy, currently CEO of the Planetary Society. I got a number of nice photographs of Mr. Bill but what exactly to do with them is the question. I’ve determined to do a portrait but how to do it. As you can see from my Portrait Gallery index page, I generally eschew normal portraiture. For me, the fun lies in dreaming up some non=standard/non-traditional way to represent my subject. In fact if I did your portrait, your own Mother (hopefully) wouldn’t recognize it as being you.

So the question is what to do with Bill Nye? Do I simply create a digitally painted portrait? Maybe I should algorithmitize him? Should I spatially derange him? Do I dismantle him? Do I turn him into a planet (Planet Bill)? Do I create a geometric-based representation? Do I turn him into a nebula? I did that once creating what I called the Godzilla’s Head Nebula. A bit of playfulness on my part.

The one certainty in this is that I will use one of my own painting programs, of which I have created quite a few. The programs are quite primitive in that they lack any sort of GUI. Instead I rely on keyboard shortcuts to control and modify a program’s behavior. Because these programs are written by me for my own personal use I don’t have to worry about niceties like a user interface or user friendliness or extensive features or help documentation. Creating a program just for my own use in specialized situations allows me to focus my energies on the business end of the program — which is the creation of new painting tools.

Adobe Photoshop has a very nice brush engine and I have used it to create many custom brushes. For an artist to limit themselves to the set of brushes that Adobe provides with Photoshop is to really limit their creative possibilities. If you are a Photoshop user who is still using only the brushes that came with Photoshop, I suggest you do a web search on &quotePhotoshop brushes&quote as there are many free custom brushes out there that you can download and add to your installation of Photoshop. Even better, practice, practice, practice creating and using your own brushes.

As good as the Photoshop brush engine is, it does not provide me with the degree of freedom and versatility that I seek. This is one reason why I write my own painting programs (another reason being that I actually really enjoy this part of the creative process). One limitation common to all my painting programs is that I have never attempted to incorporate multiple layers. Yes – I’m stuck with using just one layer. Which is one big reason why, most of the time, I use both my own program(s) and Photoshop together to create my art. I paint one layer in my program, save it, and then open it in Photoshop for additional "processing." Sometimes I go back and paint a second version, save it, bring it into Photoshop and merge the two separate paintings together using Photoshop’s layering features.

Well, what started out to be a commentary on how to do a painting of Bill Nye has morphed into a peak into my creative work flow. So back to the question of what to do with Bill Nye — at this moment I have no idea, which means that it may be some time before a painting of Bill Nye shows up in my art gallery. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.

In closing I’ll leave you with the words of British mathematician Professor Sir Erik Christopher Zeeman which seem appropriate to this discussion:

Technical skill is mastery of complexity while creativity is mastery of simplicity.

Ad Astra, Jim

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New Art

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Autumn Mountains Digital Art Painting
Autumn Mountains Digital Painting

I last wrote about my creating a database for my art (see Creating An Art Inventory). As a part of that process I made a New Year’s resolution to get all my art added to my web site. Given the large number of digital paintings that I have to add, I decided to write a C++ program to create the needed gallery pages. The program works by pulling the relevant data from a control file created from my art inventory and writing that information to a skeleton gallery page. I’m happy to say it worked like a charm.

The first two paintings I’ve added are:

Autumn Mountains digital painting
Autumn Mountains
Portrait of Amie digital painting
Portrait of Amie

Portrait of Amie (a cropped version is shown here) is the final version in a series of paintings I made while developing and testing a digital painting program that employs what I refer to as an algorithmic paintbrush. This painting was particularly challenging because not only was I developing a work of art but I was simultaneously developing the painting program to create that art.

Autumn Mountains came to me unexpectedly. I was flipping through my copy of The Atlas of Middle Earth and paused on a page with a map of Ered Luin (Blue Mountains) and Grey Havens. It brought to mind the line art of J. R. R. Tolkien used to illustrate my very old copy of The Lord of the Rings. With that style in mind, I created the foreboding, fantasy landscape Autumn Mountains. Note that a wallpaper sized version is available from the Autumn Mountains gallery page.

More art to follow so stay tuned.

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