Tom Parrish Concept Art and Illustration

Tom Parrish Concept Art and Illustration: November 2013

Thursday, 28 November 2013

First Watercolour Sketch

Here's my first watercolour sketch (well, not ever...but certainly in the last 4-5 years at least!), Eva Unit 01. Strangely, despite being a big Evangelion fan, I've never drawn an Eva, so this was a lot of fun. Looking forward to trying out some more of these at the next Drink and Draw session, in the mean time I'll post some more sketches from D&D over the next couple of days as well.

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Working Across Multiple Machines

This is a little off topic for my normal blog posts, but it does relate to the freelance lifestyle so I think it's appropriate; that and the tool that I've started using is so great that I just have to get the message out about it.

Before we get started, here's a bit of back story/context to frame the dilemma. I use an iMac for 95% of all of my design/painting work. I previously worked on a Macbook Pro for portability, but as I found I spent more time working from my studio than anywhere else, I decided to upgrade to a more static setup. This worked out really well, until I started doing more freelance work on location in clients premises. By this time, my Macbook Pro had pretty much ground to a halt from old age, so I opted to dual wield operating systems, and purchased a custom built PC laptop, geared towards video editing and high end graphics work. Switching back and forth between both systems has had it's challenges, but the latest version of Outlook has finally integrated a lot of the functionality that I'd come to rely upon with iCloud (synced contacts, mail, calendars, task lists etc), so the disparity between the two systems was reduced. However, the major issue of running two machines still remained: FILE MANAGEMENT and VERSION CONTROL.

Solution 1: Shared External HD
I am a real stickler for version control on files. The immediate solution, when going out on location, was to simply take the files with me that I thought I'd need - this rapidly became frustrating as requirements were often unpredictable. This also often lead to having 2 or more working versions of the same files, that I would then have to resyncronise manually. Not ideal.

Solution 2: 'Working Folder' in Dropbox
For a while I started using a 'Current Working Folder' in Dropbox. I use a Dropbox premium account with my clients everyday, so 100gb is generally plenty to sync across both machines for current projects. This was nearing what I was looking for, but still had the issue of not being able to sync my entire HD (effectively) across both machines (without it being prohibitively expensive).

Solution 3: NAS Drive located at home office
A bit more of a technical solution, I thought for a while about setting up a RAID NAS Drive at home (Network Attached Storage). Although initially pricey, this would have given me a single location to store all my files, effectively setting up a personal file server. The great thing about this would have been it's accessibility from anywhere with a net connection, but the draw back would be the limitation of read/write speeds across the web and to the drive itself. Although this would have solved the problem of the single location, this just didn't seem practical for day to day use.

Solution 4: Cloud Storage Backup
One of the first useful work arounds came almost by accident from my online back up provider. I use JustCloud to clone my HD to an unlimited backup every night, and as such have access to the latest version of files that are stored on my iMac via the web. So, when out and about, I can download missing files (provided there's a strong enough web connection). This in itself has proved invaluable, but still leaves the issue of version control from two production sources.

Solution 5: AeroFS.
I cannot stress how much this programme has changed the way I work, in such a short space of time. Effectively, AeroFS is a Dropbox rival, with a major difference: It is peer-to-peer, rather than cloud based. This means that rather than copying files from your Dropbox folder to the web, storing them there and then copying them to other syncronised folders, it cuts out the 'middle man' and shares directly between machines. This eliminates the restriction of cloud storage space. So, if you have two (or more) machines, you can create an AeroFS folder on each, and each will automatically push any content from that folder to the other machine, and vice versa. It works over LAN and the web, and is completely secure. The best part? It's free!

So, by keeping all of my important data in my AeroFS folder, I keep all of my client and art related files with me at all time, and because they're automatically pushed to my iMac from my laptop when I'm out and about, they're automatically backed up to the cloud via JustCloud. As a secondary layer of backup, the iMac also backs up via Time Machine to an external HD. It's a seamless and automatic way to keep all your files backed up and synced across multiple machines.

Have you had any particular data management problems working as a freelancer? Or come up with any interesting solutions or work-arounds? If so, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

You Should Stop Using The Eye Dropper Tool.

Okay, that's a fairly inflammatory statement, allow me to qualify it a bit more: You should stop using the eye dropper tool in Photoshop for anything other than blending existing colours on the canvas. If you're laying down new tones and hues within your painting, you really need to step away from the eye dropper and resist the temptation to sample a vaguely suitable colour from your existing palette.

I found, whilst working on this Gil Elvgren study, that a lot of colour choices in darker areas of the painting (particularly with skin tones) were quite surprising. When analyzed however, they made perfect sense. This got me thinking about the way that I currently select and mix colours to apply in a painting, particularly when laying in shadow, as I tend to just eye drop an existing colour and reduce the value of it to make it darker. This can lead to quite lifeless and flat colours, which boarder on muddy soup - the digital painter's worst enemy.

By stepping away from the eye dropper and mixing a fresh hue on the colour picker, you slow the process down enough to carefully consider what it is you are looking to achieve and what influences you should take into consideration before you lay down any colour. For example, by slowing down and considering the colour choice more thoroughly, you may remember that there is a warmer light source that should be bouncing on that side of the face, rather than just a muted pink tone. Once you've picked, mixed and blocked your colour, you can go back to blending on canvas with the eye dropper, but when introducing a new tone I think it's really important to work a bit more traditionally, and mix by eye.

Now this isn't to say that you should be introducing lots of different hues into your painting, or that indeed you should be aiming for a rainbow effect of oversaturated tones. I do think, however, that you would be surprised at the range of differing hues within an image when you look closely.

My point is that the digital workflow allows for us to fly through stages of painting that a traditional artist would stop and consider (preparing paints of a palette, for example), and we need to make sure that during the process we do now allow ourselves to switch to autopilot over important decisions. The colour picker and eye dropper tools make it so easy to power on through to painting, that one of the most critical components of painting preparation gets overlooked.

My 2 cents anyhow. I found it to be quite a revelation this last week, and thought I'd share. Do you guys have any insights or tidbits on maintaining control of colour in paintings that you'd like to share? Comment below!

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Monday, 18 November 2013

Drink & Draw Sketches

Just a quick update to start the week - here are a couple sketches from last week's Drink & Draw session! Mike is still pushing me with traditional tools: this week I found sketching with a 4B and 7B was pretty comfortable which, given my propensity for 2H and ColErase pencils, is nothing short of amazing!

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Elvgren Master Study WIP

I'm having so much fun with this, that I couldn't wait to post it. Here's a quick snapshot of the Gil Elvgren study I'm working on at the moment.

I'm really taking my time over this and trying to understand the logic and thinking that's gone into not only how the brush strokes are constructed, but the colour choices that have been made whilst building the volumes. It's been a really eye opening experience, and has led to one major revelation that I'll blog about shortly.

In the meantime, here's the WIP!

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Batman Sketch

Without using the phrase 'speed painting', here's a sketch I painted yesterday afternoon whilst jamming with my buddy, Mike. Just a couple of hours and painted mostly on one layer, I tried to keep loose and make design decisions on the fly - not normally how I'd work, but it felt good to go with the flow while it was working!

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Bournemouth Drink and Draw: Imagine FX Feature

We've been featured in this month's Imagine FX magazine! Still getting over this - I've been a subscriber of IFX for over 6 years and am a fan of the magazine to say the least, so to see my name in there is just awesome!

I emailed IFX about 2 months ago, looking to see whether they might run a little ad in the old 'Planet of the Arts' events section, as they've featured several other Drink and Draw events in there before. I explained what we've been up to, and they were really interested in running an article in the new Creative Space section of the magazine. So, when we ran our first session at Nest Space, we shot a bunch of photos and the rest, as they say, is history!

For more information about how Drink and Draw was started, click here.

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Cell Shade Style Test

As well as working on painting technique, over the past week or so I've been trying to deconstruct and understand a couple of different methods of rendering a sketch in an anime/cell shade style. I put together a costume/character design for ZeroSpin and had a pass at one. I've leant more towards a classic comic book style of inking in this sketch (as that's a style I really enjoy as well), but I think with the next one I'll definitely look to use more of a dead line weight and really try to simplify the cuts. Still, always good to be experimenting!

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Drink & Draw - Halloween Special

Another amazing session up at Nest Space, this time with the appreciated attendance of an undead model. My buddy Dan very kindly offered to model for us, so after a half hour of make up or so, we had a wonderfully colourful (and groaning in character, I hasten to add!) zombie to draw! I also added a couple of Ghostbusters props into the mix on the table for some still life reference, and then we got cracking. The evening was made even more unnerving by an Halloween sound FX CD that David had found on Spotify, that looped all manner of screams and moans... very ghoulish! :-P

We switched it up a bit as well this time, having David model with Dan, giving us some cool dioramas to draw -- well, mostly a zombie mid-bite of a victim, but it worked really well. Already plotting and scheming for the next one!

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Saturday, 2 November 2013

International Self Portrait Day

First post of November... my Self Portrait Day painting! I got 95% of it done yesterday (on Self Portrait Day), but I had to squeak the last 20 mins this morning to finish it off. Here's the finished painting (not massively happy, but I'll just have to try harder on the next one), along with a couple of WIPs.

I actually got my haircut half way through the painting yesterday evening, so I had to go back in a change the style whilst painting!

Finished Painting

Work In Progress images

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