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SCIENCE FICTION ARTIST IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS DigitalArtLIVE.com

ATMOSPHERE

‘KIBOSH 1’

JOHN HARRIS

‘HANGMOON’

ISSUE 56 | MARCH 2021

VUE ● BLENDER ● POSER ● DAZ STUDIO ● REAL-TIME 3D ● 2D DIGITAL PAINTING ● 2D/3D COMBINATIONS


We now have a monthly ‘little sister’ title for makers of comics: VisNews. This is part of our new Visual Narratives Academy for comics makers.

VisNews #1 | Aug 2019

VisNews #2 | Sept 2019

VisNews #3 | Oct 2019

VisNews #4 | Nov 2019

“Treasured Stories” — your various options for making comics in 2019.

“Mind the Gaps” — where are the current opportunities in indie comics in 2019?

“But that’s cheating!” —is using 3D to emulate 2D really ‘cheating’?

“Every Page Counts” — our survey of the usual page-counts across various formats.

An interview with the head of the UK’s leading comics degree course. The Tookit - our survey of all the key digital comics production tools.

Manu de May interview with a leading maker of DAZ Studio comics.

Lin Welly - interview with a leading DAZ Studio comics storyteller.

Neil Gibson - an interview with the mastermind behind Tpub Comics.

Freebies - NoName Doll and Zdog.

Freebies - a wealth of Krita comics production add-on tools.

VisNews #5 | Dec 2019

VisNews #6 | Jan 2020

VisNews #7 | Feb 2020

VisNews #8 | Mar 2020

“Big Hair Males” which Poser male hair looks good in Poser’s Comic Book mode?

“Storyboard Software” - we survey the options for comics.

“Dotting Hell” - we find a robust free solution to ‘speckle removal’ on scanned art.

“The Moebius Twist” comics advice from Moebius, and how to emulate him in Poser.

Kaz Windess - a leading maker of quirky ‘goth’ storybooks.

Matt Timson - we interview an acclaimed maker of horror comics, also a spot cartoonist.

Georges Peters - we interview a leading DAZ Studio graphic novelist.

Shadow Corp. - we interview an artist doing serious planning for a Blender graphic novel.

Freebies - 21 day Poser trial, free Motion files, free font.

Freebies - Everything freeware, a full Poser Pro 11 training DVD.

Freebies — Poser Watercolour Shaders, 2 Expressii, Desktops 2.0.

Freebies - Comic Materials for ZBrush.

Freebies - Lightwell, MB-Lab for Blender.


VisNews #9 | May 2020

VisNews #10 | June 2020

Miriam Rivera — the world’s leading heathcare comics artist, with a specialisation in viruses!

John Swogger — one of the world’s top makers of archaeology ‘outreach’ comics.

Interested in making comics and telling stories with the aid of 3D software and other tools? Digital Art LIVE had created the new Visual Narratives Academy to help you develop your story ideas onto fully rendered sequential artwork. The Academy is a unique on-line group of artists sharing and refining their skills to produce rich and fulfilling narratives. We specialise in teaching the use of 3D character software DAZ Studio and Poser and placing it at the heart of the workflow. Our professional mentor artists also coach the use of supporting applications for further postwork effects, layout and framing of your stories.

You’ll be surprised at how many cost effective resources are available for your subscription! The Academy’s core learning is structured around seven modules, to which you have access for six months. Members also get access to the monthly Visual Narratives webinar workshop recordings; the monthly VisNews newsletter edited by David Haden (see index opposite) and the main DAL magazine stack; the special monthly online Coaching group; 50 hours of video in the Tutorial Library — and there’s also a special Facebook Group too! Please try it out — there’s a 30 day money-back guarantee!

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INTRODUCING THE NEW DIGITAL ART LIVE

Members’ list: Discover and search for members who may have similar likes to you. You can FOLLOW a member and get notified of anything they post. You can even find members who are geographically near to you!

Topics: Your personal STUDIO posts can be tagged with a topic. You can follow a topic — this gives you the power to filter down to what interests you. You can also click on a topic and search on all posts just inside that topic.

Events: This section will reflect our LIVE webinar events for 2021 — and will also include the Zoom links for these.

Coaching Groups: Resources:

Chat:

This includes the Visual Narratives Academy tutorials library, and VISNews which is our regular informative publication for graphic story-telling artists.

This provides a general chat area for anyone who is currently online at the STUDIO. You can also chat to members individually. 4

This gives access to private chat and posting areas that are just for a coaching program’s members. It’s an area where you can also see details of our upcoming coaching programs.


Home: A feed of latest posts, events etc. are shown here. The central FEATURED area shows pinned posts, events and other content that are highlighted for your attention.

Paul Bussey introduces your new Digital Art Live STUDIO.

“Digital Art Live STUDIO is a brand new and highly engaging forum for digital artists.

Discovery: This offers a ‘bird’s eye view’ of all the different kinds of content inside your STUDIO.

It’s a place that offers community, resources, education, support and fun... all in one place. No matter what digital art software you use, you'll find a committed group of artists who are striving together to learn to be better illustrators, better visual storytellers and better 3D content creators.

Instant Search Results: A nice, super quick search tool, to get an overview of what the STUDIO offers on a specific topic.

Manage: Easy access to management of your settings, profile picture and more. Here you can also access your drafts and saved posts. 5

I would like to invite you to join Digital Art Live STUDIO for free and connect and engage with other digital artists like you. Please use the link below to join.”

https://digitalartlive.com/studio


PARTNER WITH

DIGITAL ART LIVE!

SHARE

YOUR EXPERIENCE AND YOUR CREATIVE STORY

Tasos Anastasiades

John Haverkamp

Daniel Seebacher

Chris Hecker, ‘Tigaer’

Just a few of the talented webinar presenters who have partnered with Digital Art Live!

Would you enjoy the opportunity of teaching other artists, in a live online setting? We are actively looking for artists or content creators to work with Digital Art Live as a partner, in presenting some of our live webinars.

We’re particularly looking for artists and content creators who work with DAZ Studio and/or Poser, Vue and other landscape software, or digital comics production.

We will also consider webinar ideas which relate to your specialist skills, or which help users to fully use a software plugin that you’ve developed. Webinars are recorded, and we profit-share with our presenters on any future sales. We sell on the popular DAZ content store, which has strong traffic and sales. Please use the link below to submit your application, and we’ll be in touch!

https://digitalartlive.com/presenters 6


Front Cover: Detail from the digital painting “Fall Asleep” by ‘Hangmoon’, who is interviewed in this issue of the magazine. ‘Hangmoon’ is the maker of both PaintStorm and Realistic Paint Studio.

THE ‘ATMOSPHERICS’ ISSUE

CONTENTS OUR NEW STUDIO! ―― 06

EDITORIAL ―― 11

CONTESTS ―― 28

RYZOM ―― 44

BACK ISSUE INDEX ―― 52

REVIEW: REALISTIC PAINT STUDIO ―― 66

PYTHON SCRIPTING ―― 74

GALLERY ―― 76

IMAGINARIUM ―― 90

INTERVIEWS

―― 10

―― 28

―― 56

‘KIBOSH 1’

JOHN HARRIS

‘HANGMOON’

‘Kibosh 1’ talks about learning DAZ Studio, and how he learns from both movie-stills and the Old Masters in painting.

Veteran British sciencefiction artist John Harris talks about his many decades of fine work, from the ZX81 Manual to today.

Alexander Komarov has been a painter for fifteen years, and with his brother is the maker of Realistic Paint Studio.

DAZ STUDIO | PS

2D PAINT | BOOK COVERS

2D PAINT | SOFTWARE

“When I decided to make scenes and post my artwork online I only had one criteria for how I wanted each image to appear overall. I wanted each scene to look as though it could either be a frame from a movie, or lifted from an illustrated book.”

“My aim has always been to put the focus on the atmosphere of the setting … In the case of book cover art, I would say that tonal construction is the key. It needs to work on a level where detail is irrelevant, if it is to be seen from across a bookshop floor.” 7

“… after graduating in Programming, we couldn’t find a job … such a profession was almost impossible in Russia. … We created Realistic over two years. Sergei programmed, and I drew and made the 3D models, and the website. ... It’s all programmed in C++.”


MAGAZINE

PODCAST

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Subscribe to the Podcast feed

Join our mailing list to get a free magazine speeding to your inbox.

Our audio inspiration for sci-fi artists, available on iTunes.

LIVE Join our live webinar-based workshops for digital artists. digitalartlive.com Credits for pictures, from top left: Detail from “The Purfume Floaters of Florillia” (fax 1970s album cover) by Mutinate; detail from "Dive Ships" by dmaland; detail from part of the Symbiosis project, by Steven Sanders.

Paul Bussey

Dave Haden

Editor-in-Chief, Conferences

Editor and magazine layout

paul@digitalartlive.com

david@digitalartlive.com Please support Dave at Patreon.

Copyright © 2021 Digital Art LIVE. Published in the United Kingdom. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. No copyright claim is made by the publisher regarding any artwork or writing made by those featured in this magazine.

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EDITOR’S LETTER

WELCOME...

Welcome to our new ‘Atmospherics’ issue, which we hope is well-timed for a moist early springtime here in the UK.

A key new Lumina AI feature has the AI ‘know’ where to lay in a convincing valley-bottom mist, in a landscape picture. That’s already available. Coming later in 2021 to Luminar AI is a long-awaited expansion of the superb automatic ‘sky replacement’ feature. Luminar’s Sky AI 2.0 has already been demonstrated, and will see your newly-added sky reflected in the water below. The key to all this will be to know how to add such things to a picture, while retaining a convincing naturalness.

Our 3D digital tools are renowned for rendering perfectly clear and pin sharp images, ideal for scenes in airless outer-space or spaceships, but the real world likes to do things differently. When cold, our warm breath fogs in the air. When hot, there’s often a heat-shimmer rising. Landscape distances mist up and haze even on a relatively clear day, with colours desaturating and shifting with distance. The Shopshire poet Housman’s famous “blue remembered hills” were blue for a reason. It’s thus useful to know how the real atmospherics of a scene would make it look. Adding a little moisture also goes a long way in digital portraits. Think of limpid eyes, recently licked lips, warm brows, sniffy noses, and licked or damp hair. The 3D hobbyist already has some easy-to-use and affordable helper tools for atmospherics. DAZ and Poser users have stacked planes that form ‘fog cubes’. Renders can be accompanied by a ‘depth pass’, and all Poser users now have access to this formerly Pro-only feature. For further postwork there are Photoshop plugins such as Flood 2 (add scene-reflective water) and Luce (‘god rays’ etc), along with a great many fog and mist brush-sets and overlays. But there’s quite a bit of craft involved in setting up such scenes for efficient rendering, and then doing convincing layered postwork. Wouldn’t it be nice if a new age of AI-assisted ‘semiautomated’ landscape retouching could help us out here? Well... the new Luminar AI software is already having an impressive go at that — if you have a PC powerful enough to run it. FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/3DArtDirect 9

I also hear that advances are happening in the technology of atmospherics for real-time videogames and animation, though most of that is outside the range of most people and would take too much space to mention here. However, I should note that the Blender crowd now have the affordable Pure Sky 3.0 plugin which is doing fine things with the real-time Eevee engine and volumetric rendering for fog and clouds. The latest version of Blender (2.91 and up) also offers a fun ‘Volume to mesh’ feature, so you can turn a 3D mesh into a volumetric cloud and visa versa. But would it not be easier and quicker to paint the scene, you ask? Glad you asked, as this issue welcomes a veteran science-fiction painter famed for his large and atmospheric paintings. We also talk to the maker of the superb new $25 Realistic Paint Studio software. Which, as our software review shows, is far more than ‘yet another digital painting app’. DAVID HADEN Editor of Digital Art Live magazine

david@digitalartlive.com

RSS: https://digitalartlive.com/feed/


‘Kibosh 1’ is making impressive pictures with DAZ Studio, full of atmosphere, scale and human interest. DAL: Kibosh, welcome to the Digital Art Live interview. You’ve begun making wonderfully accomplished and atmospheric pictures with DAZ Studio, and as such we thought you’d be ideal for this issue. KB: Thank you for the compliment; it’s an honour to speak with you regarding my artwork and I’m glad you find it suitable to feature in your magazine. You’re the first publication I’ve been interviewed by, so this will certainly be a memorable moment for me. DAL: Super. How did you start out in making digital art? Did you go straight to DAZ Studio, or did you come to it by other software which you had previously spent many years with?

KB: Digital art was something completely new to me, several years ago. As a child I dabbled in drawing and attempted painting with acrylics during my teens and early adulthood... with relative personal satisfaction. But with no training or schooling in the arts it was often frustrating, which is a common experience of many people learning a skill without guidance. So it gradually fell by the wayside. I found an outlet for my creativity in other ways, of course. Visual art has always ‘pulled at my coat-tails’ but I had never tried creating art digitally up until a few years ago. I don’t recall the exact reason for looking – perhaps I had seen a write-up in an online publication — but one day I was searched for 3D software.

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Picture: “Hostile Planet” (DAZ Studio, Photoshop).

I came across DAZ Studio which happened to be a free download... and I took the opportunity. Again, knowing nothing about 3D, I then tinkered away at learning the basics while signing up for the DAZ Store’s ‘PC+’ discount purchasing club, which inspired me... whenever I saw various props that were reasonably priced. The DAZ scenes I visualised in my head were way beyond my ability to make them, at that time. But not knowing about any limitations or restrictions of the software, I just went about trying to make them anyhow. I struggle to draw people and animals, so this way I could make scenes without having to worry about those problems. So, long answer... but no, I have only used DAZ Studio and to be honest have not delved too deeply. 11

‘KIBOSH 1’ UK

DAZ STUDIO | PHTOTOSHOP

WEB

Kibosh’s big impressive pictures need a powerful PC. Kibosh uses a self-assembled 2019 PC with an AMD Ryzen 9 CPU paired with 64Gb RAM, and an SSD for the Windows OS. The graphics card is a powerful single RTX 2080 Ti. For DAZ Studio be still finds Scene Optimizer useful, and Mesh Grabber for quickly removing items that obscure the view.


Not too deeply into the technical aspects of it, like a lot of software folks use it. I probably only know (and use) about 20 percent of what it is capable of. DAL: Yes, it has a lot of potential once you wrestle the UI into behaving, and start expanding it with scripts and plugins. But you seem to have a strong advantage here in your skill with pictures. Did you train more traditionally in scene composition or lighting, or does it come naturally to you?

KB: That’s an interesting question, it probably doesn’t ‘come naturally’. Although I do tend to observe the world quite intently sometimes, so perhaps that rubs off. With no formal training in any of the arts, I just jumped into it and learnt as I went. But what I do have, is an annoying predisposition to examine something for hours or pull something apart to find out how it works. I say annoying, because it takes me three times as long to do some things compared to other people. I’ll mull it over for ages figuring out the best way to do it! So regarding composition and lighting – I viewed an awful lot of artwork at the beginning

of my 3D adventure, across all genres, from various online sites, in order to determine what exactly made one image better than another (in my opinion). I don’t mean the details or subject matter, I mean “Why has that image got feeling and mood?” “Why does that image draw me into the scene?” “Why does that image have so much apparent depth to it?” And I came to the conclusion –ignoring all the myriad finer points which make a great picture – that it pretty much came down to composition, lighting and contrast/colour values. Now, I still don’t know what the best composition is, or best lighting etc is, and how to achieve it – it’s a lifelong journey of discovery – but I know it makes a vast difference to the end result so I set out trying to learn at least the basics. Mostly just by observing and trying to replicate the various effects and of course exploring the invaluable online tutorials available. DAL: I see. “A lifelong journey of discovery “... yes, that’s a good way of putting it. What barriers did you have to overcome as you learned? Was it difficult to learn Photoshop?

Picture: “Sacred Land” (DAZ Studio, Photoshop).

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KB: Just setting time aside and sticking with it is quite a barrier I think, I tend to get distracted easily! But also the very common experience of discouragement when looking at all the incredible art which is being done by a lot of people. Now this happens naturally for many, many artists, and I know it can be reduce one’s own motivation to make work. It doesn’t particularly bother me now, because I’ve realised that we compare ourselves with others in all aspects of life and when it comes to artwork, or any skill for that matter, it’s no different. There will always be people better than ourselves and they are the ones who we learn from and observe to figure out why they are better and it should actually motivate us more if we want to improve. They give us a standard to aim for and perhaps even surpass if the desire is there.

But you’re right, for most artists who ‘know they can reach the mountaintop’, seeing it in the distance is very encouraging. Especially if it seems to get a little closer each day. There is the drawback of ‘posting the early work online’ though, in that process... KB: Yes, it’s obviously a very personal and somewhat vulnerable act to post your art online for everyone to see, critique or simply be ignored... so I consider it a brave thing for anyone to do. But by doing it, and linking up with similar minded folk we can all learn from each other, which is fantastic. I just wanted to say something about this because I’ve had a few discussions about it online recently; it’s something many artists go through.

DAL: Yes, very true. It could be a bit depressing for those who simply find they don’t have the innate talent they’ve been flatteringly told they have, but then the trick is to find some area in which they could succeed, even if they know they will never reach the heights.

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Photoshop is something I’m still learning as well — there are so many ways within it to achieve a similar result, so it can be a bit daunting and often I forget how I did something if I haven’t used it for a while. I did work with a team of graphic designers for quite a few years which meant at least I knew how to use the software without going into it completely blind when it came to my postwork.


I have to admit that, due to my lack of technical knowledge with DAZ, I now often resort to ‘fixing it in post’ rather than try to figure out how to achieve it in render. It’s probably just laziness on my part, for I’m sure I could learn but it’s an area I probably need to address in my work. DAL: No, I think ‘post’ is a legitimate timesaver for stills. Although automating some of the ‘post’ process with recorded Photoshop Actions – I mean personal ones that encapsulate your own workflow, not the shopbought ‘cheesy FX’ horrors that get sold – can help save even more time. Not everyone has the luxury of time, even with the lockdown. KB: Another minor barrier for me is that sometimes it’s awkward asking questions about very basic aspects of software or techniques. Occasionally people have assumed I’m a professional artist with a lot of experience so I’ll feel a bit embarrassed asking “What’s a mesh light?” or “How do you make a surface more glossy?” in DAZ for example. But really it doesn’t matter, if anyone wants to know something and improve then they should ask dozens of questions, no matter how trivial they seem!

DAL: True. And sometimes even a simple question can lead to interesting results. Looking across your gallery, I see there’s a tension between very calm moments, and very dramatic angst-filled moments. Does that reflect something of your personality, would you say? KB: I would probably agree that it does in some manner – I assume that most creative work reflects parts of an artist’s personality and thinking – it’s something I don’t always see at the time but later, like you, when looking over my gallery, it’s quite noticeable. Being another of those ubiquitous reserved, ‘introverted artist types’, I spend too much time pondering life and reflecting on daily world events. So perhaps I balance out my natural quiet nature with dramatic images to counter that. Now that you’ve asked the question I’ll probably have to ponder that for a day or so! DAL: Yes, I wonder what effect ‘daily world

events’ will have on artists. Will we see an eventual renaissance of art, an interpretation the human meaning of ‘the events’. The artworld in general seems to have responded very poorly so far. Or perhaps, as happened in the 1920s, we’ll all just roar off to a wild party full of new ideas and mediums and forget the past . Which, in their case in the 1920s, meant the deadly flu pandemic, the world war, the prudish and ponderous aspects of the Victorian-era. But returning to your Gallery. It also has a decidedly ‘cinematic’ feel, with the marrying of drama to big atmospheric scenes. Have you learned much from studying movie-stills, I wonder? KB: I’m particularly happy you consider my work that way, because when I decided to make scenes and post my artwork online I only had one criteria for how I wanted each image to appear overall. I wanted each scene to look as though it could either be a frame from a movie or lifted from an illustrated book. It’s not that I expected them to be in a film or book, it’s just a standard that I wanted to apply, so that I was satisfied with the final result. So yes, as well as studying paintings and 3D art, I sometimes look up images from movies and videogames to observe how they compose their shots, create atmosphere, use light and especially at the moment, see how they create mood by the colour filters they use. In fact several of my images are re-creations of “stills” from TV. These were done because I liked the original image and also as an exercise in order to see if I could recreate them. “Table by window” is a case in point. [A detail from this is shown in thumbnail on our Contents page, readers]. It’s a great way to discover how each element contributes to the overall image’s total look and feel. DAL: Yes, a good way of learning from the best. You also have a strong affinity with a certain school of fine painting from Europe, and sometimes directly emulate it with digital art — such as Bouguereau. And to great effect, I might add. It’s wonderful to see digital art now able to emulate such historical masterworks. How much work was involved in discovering the required workflow for such advanced pictures?

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Picture: “Late Arrival at Tall Towne” (DAZ Studio, Photoshop).

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KB: Ah, yes, I was going to touch on that in my answer to the previous question. I lean toward the medium of paint, whether actual or digital, as a ‘style’. Which is probably why a lot of my images inevitably have a slight ‘painterly’ look about them. Often when I’m browsing images for inspiration or research I’ll come across paintings by some of the extremely talented artists from the past and again, both as an exercise in finding ways to recreate a piece and simply because I love the painting, I’ll set about copying it. DAL: How is that done. Is there a method you’ve worked out? KB: I actually find the workflow easier doing things like re-creations because all the hard work of composition, colour and lighting has already been worked out! All I have to do is prepare all my props and figures as close as I can to the original and make sure the positioning is correct. To make that easier I’ll set a camera with the right POV and then place props or primitive cubes as placeholders where the key elements in the original sit. From those reference points I can slowly build up the other elements positioned and sized to give the same perspective and proportional surface area of the original. Then the lighting can be emulated by placing them to give the same effect as the original work, which again, I find easer because I can see where the light should fall simply by looking at the painting and moving the lights in real time within the 3D set.

DAL: Thanks. It’s certainly paid off. And you’ve been able to take that achieved look and apply it to fantasy, and now to science-fiction with your marvellous recent “Sacred Land” picture. Will you make more science-fiction pictures, do you think, or is fantasy your main thing? KB: I enjoy a multitude of genres, mostly so far I’ve dabbled in fantasy, Victorian and medieval scenes but I love a good sci-fi or dystopian movie so I’m really not sure why I haven’t done more. I’ve done a few post-apocalyptic storyline images featuring an unlikely couple which I will no doubt add to in the future. But getting back to science-fiction... perhaps that will be the challenge for me this year!

DAL: That will certainly be of interest to our readers. Now... there are obviously backstories behind many of your pictures. And some of them obviously also seem to fit in a series as you suggested just now. Are you working towards picture/story books with some of them? KB: I’m actually not working specifically towards picture books but, as you point out, some of the series would probably be suitable for that purpose. I rarely see any scene as static or stand-alone, normally I want to know what happened before the depicted scene and what will happen afterward. So what often happened when I began making 3D scenes was that I couldn’t help but create a small series of images. I’m probably a story-teller at heart which you can see by the events portrayed in my images, and I’ve always planned to add to the adventures of the Victorian orphans, Leisha and the giant, the old soldier and Elven mercenary, and the girl and Monk. But I get distracted so easily with other ideas and scenarios that these characters tend to get left behind! The good thing about having established some characters from different genres is that I can easily adapt them into any new images within one of those genres. Perhaps in a few years there may be enough scenes added to each ‘story’ to form a book! DAL: Great. Is print resolution and concern for you, then, if the works might one day be printed as a book or graphic novel?

KB: I’ve begun to keep it in the back of my mind because that would be wonderful if it happened, but I don’t render in very large resolutions simply because all the props and atmospheric volumes I use tends to overload my computer or take all day to render. The earlier images were only about 1,100 pixels high in landscape format, but now I try to make them at least 2,500 pixels high x 3,0005,000 pixels wide — depending on the format used. That’s still only just over eight inches tall at 300dpi print resolution, so not that large. Perhaps you could offer some advice on that — is there an ideal size I should be considering? Picture: “Grape Harvester” (DAZ Studio, Photoshop).

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Picture: “Mortal Fates: Cartography Agency” (DAZ Studio,18 Photoshop). Based on a story by Kibosh’s brother.


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DAL: Well, I’m almost all digital except for some scholarly print-on-demand paperbacks using a template. But I have looked into it, as I have various projects planned that could well go to print at some point. I guess it probably starts with what size print book you have in mind. Offhand I know some details about how Brian Haberlin made his big acclaimed Anomaly book. He was doing real-time renders from Poser at 4k, laying them into big ‘widescreen’ comics page assemblages which were 7,000 x 5,000 pixels. That worked well. David Revoy, who makes the ‘girl witch’ comics series Pepper & Carrot with Krita, and who makes the brush sets that ship with Krita, recently posted a big technical report on exactly what he learned when he took Pepper to self-published colour print books in the French ‘BD’ album format. It seems to have been a long and frustrating experience, and he learned a lot about print books and shares it freely. That would probably be a good afternoon’s read, and then use your notes from that for follow-up research.

Having the proposed POV already sorted means I don’t have to fill the entire scene with terrain or trees. I can leave large areas empty, since they are hidden by objects in the foreground or a structure in the midground. With a bit of tweaking of the camera I finalise the POV, sometimes making low res renders of slightly different viewpoints to determine the best one.

Talking of workflows, could you say more about the general workflow that’s involved with making a picture? How much time to prepare and arrange the composition, how much time for the postwork, for instance?

The final render/s may be split into several passes of foreground, background, one with a volumetric dome, one without etc depending on the complexity of the scene or what my computer can handle. When they’re done I’ll start the postwork. This can take several days as well, as I alter something, let it sit, then come back with fresh eyes and tweak some more.

KB: Not being a hugely disciplined person... did I mention that I get distracted easily! ... my workflow is often interrupted or drifts off onto other ideas with sudden inspiration, but generally it goes something like this: I’ll have an idea. There are hundreds of ideas but as I don’t make hundreds of images and only a few come to fruition. Normally I’ll have mulled it over in my head for days or even weeks while I’m working on another image, trying to visualise how it should look. Then I’ll make some very rough thumbnail sketches to clarify whether the POV should be high or low, should the character be left or right and what should the main focus be — the structure the character is looking at or the character doing the looking, for example. Once I have the general composition of the picture figured out I’ll place a few of the larger elements of the landscape, first with a placeholder character to build up the correct scale and perspective.

Then I begin filling in all the details which I like to add to make the ‘world’ a living, believable place. Depending on the scene, lighting is sometimes left until nearly the end of the process so I can test different skies, lighting angle or colours to give the best overall mood or feeling I wish to express. Regarding the timing for this, composition can be spread over days or weeks as I keep coming back to tweak things. I don’t generally spend whole consecutive days at the computer working on the one image. Sometimes I even have a couple ‘on the go’. Often I’ll take a break of a day or so then dive back in.

The main things I do in post are fixing any abnormalities like poke-through or dForce problems on clothes, altering levels and enhancing shadows, light, altering colours slightly. Desaturating and using ‘selective colour’ to give a consistent overall tone, and adding any effects like debris, magic effects, fog, god-rays — if they didn’t work well in the rendering stage – rain splashes and dirt on objects that should have it. Again, only if I can’t add the dirt to the base colour images found under the ‘surfaces’ tab.

Once I’m happy with the generally finished image I’ll play with overlaying gradient filters or run it through some of the old Google Nik filters set at low opacity to take some of the harsh edge off the render.

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I do all this because as I mentioned earlier, I prefer a softer, more painterly or illustrative feel to my images. The filters might include a gentle bloom for the brighter areas, skylight filter, some grain, removing colour cast and often a slight vignette. These are usually only set to about 20-50% opacity, but for me, I think they improve the images subtly enough to warrant their use.

Whose work do you admire and what names should we be looking out for in this line?

DAL: Thanks. Yes, I recently picked up a couple of interesting ‘surface grunge’ addons for DAZ when they were 70% off in the Black Friday sales, though still have not found time to install and test yet. One by Stonemason, I think. Have you found any especially useful plugins or adds for DAZ? If so, what are they and how do they help you? KB: As mentioned, there is an awful lot I don’t know about the capabilities of DAZ so I don’t use a lot of plugins at the moment, but the LAMH Catalyzer of course is invaluable for fur — although in very heavily populated scenes it often crashes, so sometimes I’ll have to render the object separately and try and add it in later. DAL: Yes, we had a ‘Fur’ issue a while back, if readers want to know more about LAMH.

KB: Then there’s the Look at This script, great for automatically posing heads and eyes. Mesh Grabber is a recent purchase and it has helped enormously to shift parts out of the way or deforming objects etc, and Scene Optimizer has been essential to quickly reduce my scenes to a manageable size to fit in available video memory. Also, in almost every scene, I’ll add a volumetric dome to give that realistic haze to infer distance or natural foggy/misty conditions. DAL: Yes, Scene Optimizer is vital for those without amazing graphics cards. It looks like we’re going to need something similar for Poser, as the crazy 8k + 20Mb texture sizes are starting to show up there too. But to return to your painterly style. There’s a growing number of digital artists doing very accomplished painterly art with digital tools, mostly in fantasy. I’m thinking of ‘SirTancrede’ in France, and a half-dozen others. All very accomplished.

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KB: Interesting that you mention ‘Sir Tancrede’ as his scenes were the inspiration behind my delving into making my own 3D images. I had seen a couple on the DAZ website so I searched online and found his DeviantArt Gallery, which I promptly joined so I could follow him. His mix of Disney-like style, nostalgia, fastidious detail and his ability to make ‘clutter’ look so good made me want to make images of the same calibre. At the same time I began watching Glen (now ‘ZippyGuitar’) and ‘Enchanted April’ – both of whom you have featured previously in Digital Art Live – ‘Enchanted April’ actually made an early comment which prompted me to post some of my art for the first time. She does wonderfully whimsical work, as well as historical pieces and Glen makes incredible story driven, detailed images of a world and characters he has developed over many years. MagnusStrindboem and Slofkosky, both on DeviantArt, also make story driven scenes of various genres filled with style and detail. I tend to only follow the DeviantArt and DAZ Galleries, otherwise I’ll spend all day studying pictures and no time making them! Although upon reflection, I find that most of the artists I do follow are more likely to be digital painters rather than 3D artists simply because I like the finished style. DAL: Great. What tips can you give to younger artists who are just starting out with the 3D art at the hobbyist end, DAZ, Poser, Vue etc? Things to avoid, things to definitely do? KB: Follow a few artists you admire within a gallery like DAZ or DeviantArt, especially if they reply to comments. Some of the better artists have so many watchers, over so many sites, they can’t possibly reply to them all. Comments means you can ask questions or for a little advice in a friendly environment. And if you can develop a small group who you regularly ‘chat’ to on these sites, they can encourage and motivate you. DAL: It sounds like you’d like the new Digital Art Live STUDIO forum.


KB: Thanks. Also, I’d say that... remember also that everyone had to start at some point, the best artists didn’t put out their first image looking as good as what they are producing now – so don’t be discouraged by your first attempts if you compare them with the best. Learn what it is about a picture that you like and simply make your art, and make some

more, and then more. No piece is ever perfect but by doing, making art every day, or week, guarantees you will improve, just as you will with any activity you take up. Things to avoid... unless you actually like the genre or style, don’t make similar art just because it’s popular. If you’re only motivated by the number of ‘likes’ you get on your posts then you’ll

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see a great artist and their Gallery is all fan-art.

probably go down the path of compromise and ‘sameness’. Do what you really have fun making because unless you’re enjoying something, regardless of whether anyone else likes it, there’s not a lot of point in doing it.

KB: Either way, please just keep making your art – who knows where it may lead! DAL: Indeed. What changes to your tools would you like to see, that would help you produce your pictures — either in DAZ, Photoshop, or in the hardware?

DAL: Yes, and ‘fan art’. Nothing wrong with that, but it can be a little depressing when you

Picture: “The Door of Ethren” (DAZ Studio, Photoshop).

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KB: Perhaps a magic ‘Make Art’ button that reproduces what I see in my head rather than what normally comes out! But seriously, the version of Photoshop I use is quite old, yet it has all the requirements I need at the moment, and DAZ has more than enough features to keep me busy for a few years. The only thing I can think of which would help my type of scenes is the way DAZ handles memory which often causes issues with large complex scenes. But really, if I became more familiar with the intricacies of the software I’d probably discover ways and means around most problems. This is where teachers and more experienced users are an invaluable resource.

may only be using around 5-6Gb of video card memory. The monitor is a 3440 x 1440 wide screen which leaves plenty of room at each side for the tabs and palettes to be open while working with the main viewport in DAZ.

DAL: Yes, or the scene could be broken down into foreground, middleground, back-plate, characters, rendered on their own and then brought together in Photoshop. You mentioned your PC a minute ago. What is your PC and studio set up now? And being in New Zealand, do you have the nice ‘Lords of the Rings’ type view from the windows, that many readers will imagine?

DAL: Yes, then you probably want a pen monitor so you can draw on the screen. XP-Pen make perfectly good ones that are much cheaper than the Wacom Cintiq. They used to be a little iffy on the colour range, back when they were Ugee, but now they’re fine on colour. Their XP-Pen Artist 22 Pro 22-inch is probably your ideal current target. What are you working on at present, art-wise?

KB: LOL, funnily enough I have just moved to a new town and I chose the house primarily because of the view! It’s not quite the rolling hills of the Shire or the rugged mountain ranges seen from Hollin, but it has forests, bushland and distant hills. I’m adapting one of the bedrooms into a studio with that view to inspire me... but I suspect that in reality it will mean I will just day-dream more, staring out the window instead of my monitor -- imagining people and creatures moving about or living in the woods…

KB: Well, coincidently — inspired by Sir Tancred’s scenes of Snow White — I’ve begun work on a couple of alternative versions. Plus, probably originating from my recent home move, I’m laying out a scene with the theme of ‘moving house’. See what I mean about ‘having a few on the go’, even if I may take a month or more to complete them! It keeps me from getting bored working on the same image for too long.

DAL: Oh well, there’s an idea. Blend 3D CG with real photography of the woods, this Autumn. I think it’s Autumn where you are, ‘down under’. Early springtime here in the UK. KB: As for my PC... it was assembled by myself in 2019. It was based on the new Ryzen 9 CPU and I’ve recently upgraded to 64Gb RAM. A couple of standard hard-drives for backup and runtime storage and an SSD for the operating system. Graphics card is a single RTX 2080 Ti but I still haven’t figured out why rendering sometimes falls back to the CPU when textures

DAL: Right. I recently made a DAZ script to open/close those side-palettes, on a simple mouse-gesture. KB: I did also purchase a Wacom tablet for postwork, but I struggle with the disconnect between drawing on the tablet surface and seeing the results appear on my monitor in a completely different angle or plane... perhaps with more use it will get easier?

DAL: Brilliant. Ok, that’s a good point to end on. Kibosh, many thanks for this in-depth interview. KB: Thank you very much for the invite, it’s been a pleasure. In thinking about the answers to your questions I’ve discovered a little more about my own way of working and which areas I probably need to focus a bit more, so I’m glad for that as well. Thanks again and I wish you all the best.

Kibosh 1 is online at: https://www.deviantart.com/kibosh-1

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Pictures: From the “A Child’s Imagination” series: “Follow that Ship!” and “Gentle Forest”.

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Here we offer our readers a small selection of contests, for your consideration.

Entries are now open for the 2021 World of Wearable Art — the world’s leading ‘wearable art’ competition. Your creative, eccentric and futuristic work can be designed digitally (Marvelous Designer), but must be then be turned into a real garment that can be worn in a major catwalk fashion

show and before an audience of around 60,000 people. Note that WoW are also starting to offer “exclusive residencies and internships” with leading creative firms. Free to enter. Deadline: 26th March 2021. https://www.worldofwearableart.com/ 26


A fairy-fly wasp, showing the fine hairs on its walking pads.

The Biomimicry Institute has a 2021 Student Design Challenge. Small teams of talented and ambitious students will “learn, practice, and create biomimetic strategies” and then seek out new and fresh strategies, using nature to help the team design a practical way to solve one of the world’s many pressing needs. Can elegant and efficient biomimicry principles help humanity to do things like grow even more food, provide

Here in the UK the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, in London, has an Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021 contest. You don’t have to be an dedicated astrophotographer to enter, as the contest also have categories in: “People and Space photographs of the night sky that include people”; and “Skyscapes - photographs of landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes in which the night sky or twilight sky is a prominent feature”. The latter presumably has to be on earth, but there are plenty of places on earth that look alien! There is a £10 entry fee. Deadline: 5th March 2021.

cleaner water, clean away waste and litter, or offer new way to ‘grow’ habitat or shelter structures? And could your idea work at scale? Design concept images are needed, and a short ‘video-pitch’ which could well involve CG artistry. A modest team entry-fee of $40 applies. Deadline: 30th April 2021. https://challenge.biomimicry.org/en/ challenge/global-design-challenge-2021

Photographers should also note the Nikon Small World contest, for macro/micro photographers of microscopic things — many of which have a distinct sci-fi feel to them! Entry deadline: 30th April 2021

The USA’s Norman Rockwell Museum is seeking entries for an outdoor art exhibition from artists “working in all media” for a juried outdoor exhibition of contemporary sculpture and installation art. The show, Land of Enchantment: A Fantastical Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, opens 10th July 2021 in conjunction with the museum’s blockbuster indoor exhibition, “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Art”. Application deadline: 26th March 2021.

https://www.nikonsmallworld.com/

https://www.nrm.org/

https://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory/

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We’re pleased to have a long interview with the veteran British science-fiction artist John Harris. His pictures adorn the covers of many classic sci-fi paperbacks, and his large-scale paintings are found in the collections of NASA, Shell and many others. DAL: John, welcome. We’re very honoured to have such an accomplished science-fiction artist for an in-depth interview. JH: Thank you for inviting me.

DAL: Let’s start at the beginning. Was there anyone in your very early years — at school or sixth-form — who especially helped you see or find your ‘path to art’? If so, in what ways did they help you? Alternatively, was it perhaps a struggle, for you to get past prejudices and narrow parochial views of what art was ‘supposed to be’ in the early / mid 1960s? JH: Yes. I went to a school which was, to be frank, quite poor academically. Though they had a very charismatic art teacher, one of those characters who then abounded in English private schools. Tweed jacket, dickie-bow tie, corduroy trousers and brogues, etc. He singled me out and said: ‘you’re going to be a painter’. So he must have seen something that I was not really aware of. Consequently I left school quite early, and went directly to Art College. As for the prejudices etc. they might have appeared in Art College, but, oddly, more on my part. Somewhere along the way I had developed this ambition to be ‘part of the mainstream’. Certain artists, most of whom were part of the British landscape Romantic tradition, such as Turner, Samuel Palmer, Graham Sutherland, captured my attention. 28


Picture: “Sunflowers in starlight”.

JOHN HARRIS UK

PAINT | BOOK COVERS | FILM

WEB

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It was only later that I realised that embedded in those artists was a core ‘perception of the world’ whose real heirs were… the artists who work in film and fantasy illustration today. DAL: Very true, very one could see much modern work as a popular outcropping of the British mystical tradition. But what sorts of science-fiction were you able to access as a boy, in the early 1960s? Which did you find you most enjoyed? JH: The list is long, but a few stand out and they almost all belong to an era which people now call the Golden Age of Science Fiction. I think of it that way, but that may be because that was when I did most of my reading of the genre. Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, Fred Pohl. Many others. I enjoyed them all, but I think I was most affected by Arthur C. Clarke, who captured most perfectly, that sense of wonder, and aspiration to live in a bigger universe. DAL: Yes, and of course he was a ‘starter’ into science-fiction for many British lads of the 1950s-70s. But returning to painting for a moment, you mentioned Art College — which was a very different beast back then. What sort of formal education in painting and art did you have? Whose work impressed and influenced you when you were a student? JH: Yes, I went to art college at age 16 and was in the system for five years, learning the academic process. In retrospect it was rather a haphazard process. This was the 60’s and the colleges were in chaos, with traditional systems being thrown out, to be replaced by a kind of anarchy. We were expected to ‘find our own way’. But I was lucky to have a tutor who taught a very specific way, a process of unpacking seeing. In practical terms, this meant avoiding descriptions of objects as such, and focusing on the play of light and how it reveals objects. Learning the techniques of painting, as such, was minimal. To this day that bias has remained with me.

DAL: So it sounds like there was a disjuncture between the training and the interests? JH: Yes, all of that had little in common with the artists who affected me emotionally. These were the ‘poets in paint’, Turner, Graham Sutherland, the Surrealists like Max Ernst, Dali. But what that unpacking process had done, was to show how visual reality worked, and made it possible for me to paint pretty much whatever I could imagine, in a convincing manner, as if I actually saw what I was painting. DAL: Ah, I see. Great for an imaginative painter. So in terms of the timings… you must have been part of the post-National Service generation who graduated from university in the late 1960s, and who were then able to go travelling abroad seeking mind-expanding experiences. Some of which also melded into speculative ideas, such as the possibility of ‘ancient astronauts’ which was a very strong interest at that time and one I believe you still have. What has lasted with you, from that era and those experiences? And how do you see that legacy in your visual work?

JH: This was a crucial part of my life and yes it reveals a dichotomy that has followed me throughout. I have always had a large streak of ‘the seeker’ in me and in my last year at college I learned a technique of meditation, TM, which I practice to this day. I think that — largely as a result of that — I found a wellspring of imagery which related vaguely to scifi and to the speculative ideas that you mentioned, and I was tuning into ‘the zeitgeist’ of the times. DAL: Yes, one of which was the ‘ancient astronauts’ ideas by the early-mid-1970s. For readers unfamiliar with these ideas they can range from the microscopic ‘panspermia on meteorites’ scientific theory up to fully-fledged ‘Space Gods’ in spacecraft. And in presentation from serious to comics (The Eternals). But having looked into the matter at length, do you have any favoured theories or conclusions today? 30


Picture: “A Dream of Starlight”.

“I once spent a fascinating day with Arthur C. Clarke in his home in Sri Lanka.” 31


JH: I didn’t really absorb the full range of that, though as you suggest, I did have my own ideas, and they have undoubtedly found their way into some of my imagery. My assessment of it today is that we live in an unfathomable vastness which hints at ‘knowing stuff’ without ever actually delivering. And the most mysterious part of ‘all of this’, is ourselves. Science is in turmoil over ‘the hard problem’ of consciousness, but I’m convinced that in that ‘hard problem’ lies the answer to all our questions. DAL: Fascinating. And wehile we’re talking about that 1967-75 era I imagine that the very imaginative and often quite surreal music of that period also influenced you? I’m thinking… Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, and suchlike? And those who influenced the crossover into early Electronica… mid-period Bowie

and Eno and Kraftwerk and the like? Did your talents ever cause you to mingle personally with that creative crowd, when you were back in the UK and a young working artist? JH: Yes, it’s true I love all that stuff, particularly Pink Floyd and Brian Eno. Actually, any music that generates a sense of space and mystery. As for mingling with such luminaries, only very marginally, and occasionally. My agent would be contacted over the possibility of an LP cover, but it never came to anything.

DAL: I see. Now, turning to your career… you took the Ansel Adams / Syd Mead route in your early career, of creating large ‘hallway’ paintings for the likes of Philips and Shell. But you are also now best known among sci-fi fans for the small ‘pocket’ size art of sciencefiction books for the likes of Arthur C. Clarke,

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Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, Jack Vance, and others. What are the sets of considerations that must be weighed, before you can successfully create for each format? JH: Yes, here I’ve been very lucky, and blessed firstly with my agent Alison Eldred who managed (most times) to persuade the publishers to minimise any interference in the creative process. It has always been my contention that the readers/audiences of sci-fi, are a sophisticated group, and do not need to be spoon-fed. I have studiously avoided detailed description of character and action in the covers I provide, for good reasons. One is that every reader has his or her own idea of what the protagonists look like. The artist’s own idea will never be the same as the reader’s. DAL: Yes, very true. A good tip for cover-artists of fiction. And publishers think that ‘show the monster on the cover’ is a hot-ticket to sales.

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JH: I can remember, as a young reader wincing at the image of a particular character shown on a cover. It could seriously undermine my enjoyment of the book. The same rationale applies with much of the ‘illustrative’ content of the image. So my aim has always been to put the focus on the atmosphere of the setting. As for your question on scale. Scale, light, colour, these are my palette. When dealing with resolving the actual scale of the image, there is a peculiar effect that I have noticed, which may seem counter-intuitive. In the case of large scale work, it might be thought that one would need a lot of detail to hold the attention together, whereas the small pocketsize’ image does not need it. My experience is the exact opposite! Large scale work must be very simply constructed and the less detail the better. Actually, the same applies to any composition, but it is more noticeable on a large scale. Pictures: “A View from Above 1” and “2”. Two of John’s recent large-scale paintings of the famous ‘Nazca Lines’. Overleaf: “Gully Foyle’s Fate”.


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JH: In the case of cover art, I would say that tonal construction is the key. It needs to work on a level where detail is irrelevant, if it is to be seen from across a bookshop floor. But in any event, whatever plans the artist might have for his work, it could all be completely undermined by the typographer’s work. So I always adopt the point that my image must work as something I would want on my wall.

“I had been invited to watch a launch of the Space Shuttle and did a piece which now hangs in NASA’s Space Center Houston. I went through all the reference images I had made on my trip to the Cape [and] it occurred to me that the real star of the show of a space vehicle going into orbit, was the view down towards Earth.” DAL: All good advice, thanks. Yes, the typography is vital, and if some well can really add to the pleasure of of reading the book in paper. Even in ebook covers are still vital, and its been painful to see the lack of care given to ebook covers. I imagine many authors are not happy about their ebook treatment. Talking of authors, did you ever meet any of the authors, at conventions or similar events? JH: Only very rarely. I once spent a fascinating day with Arthur C. Clarke in his home in Sri Lanka. DAL: Super, yes... we pieced together a long new interview with him a few years ago, from sources in the public domain or Creative Commons. He did a lot of great work for Sri Lanka’s development, or Ceylon as it was then. There’s a fine biography of him now available, but the buyer needs to get the latest edition.

Talking of Clarke, have you been tempted to write science fiction yourself? JH: Yes, but I think it requires a very sustained discipline which I lack. Though having said that, about twenty-five years ago I began a project of an illustrated fable about a culture based around an active volcano. It became an ongoing project which is called ‘The Rite of the Hidden Sun’ and I’m adding images to it all the time. There’s a film and a whole website dedicated to it. But what has come out of it ‘going into the future’, meaning a sort of visual diary of an artist travelling through an unknown region, recording what he sees. DAL: Sounds superb. You might look at Mithen’s book ‘After the Ice’. Not an artbook but he has a traveller move through time, visiting the known sites and places of prehistoric humanity, as they originally were when people lived there. It’s non-fiction, very scrupulous in sticking to the facts, but vividly described in a style of a rich travelogue. Talking of big books… digital artists have the luxury of both being able to zoom in and out of a picture, and also not having to consider print. But in contrast much of your work has been for print — in what ways do you ‘work for print’? I mean… the aspects of crafting the picture during the making of it, that then enable it to ‘work well’ on the page when commercially printed in volume. What do you take into consideration, technically?

JH: [Laughter] I must confess here, that I just don’t take any of that on board, really! Beyond being given a format, and whether it’s a wraparound or front cover, I simply do paintings which work unencumbered. Of course I ‘hold in my mind’ where the text or titling is going to go. But other than that, I leave the publishers to do what they can with it. DAL: Ah, I see. A good way to work, if it works for you and the client. Ok, moving on. In the mid 1980s and early 90s you also made wellremembered cover art for computer manuals, such as the ZX81 and other Sinclair manuals and also the early videogames. How did that come about, and were you given a tight brief or…?

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Above: Some of the well-loved covers for the very early Sinclair personal computers, as illustrated with paintings by John Harris. starting with the famous ZX81 programming manual. Here we also see two of the several later manuals for the ZX Spectrum, the BASIC Programming manual and the Microdrive and Interface 1 Manual. The ZX81 was the UK's first ‘home computer’ made in the UK by Sinclair Research and launched in March 1981. Designed to be a low-cost introduction to home programming, by Christmas 1981 it was on the Christmas presents list of millions of clever boys, and it sold 1.5 million units. It effectively launched the home computer market in the UK, though today it would be considered basic, quite literally — you had to programme it yourself in the BASIC language! The Sinclair ZX Spectrum followed in 1982 and led to a boom in competition from the likes of the Commodore 64 and later the Amstrad range — which began to edge home computing toward the desktop PCs we know today. Right: Commissioned cover for the Sinclair Microdrive manual.

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39 Pictures: “Echo” (book cover), and “The Human Division” (book cover).


JH: Well, here again, I was blessed with clients who just said, ‘do your thing, and we’ll figure out how to use it’. DAL: Superb. Did the Sinclair series give you any new fans?

JH: Yes, well when you think about it, for many kids, their first introduction to computers was via the ZX81, and it was part of their experience of joining a larger world. I still get requests for limited edition prints of these. DAL: Wonderful. Yes, I know this magazine’s publisher, Paul Bussey, is a fan from the Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum days. Now, I should add that you’re also a marine artist and that you’ve also made large ocean paintings for the Royal Caribbean cruise liner fleet. Nice… those ships being the closest you can get to a spaceship, on Earth, I would imagine. But I read that your current work is now envisioning ‘aerial landscapes’? That fits nicely with the ‘Atmospherics’ theme of this issue of this issue of the magazine. Could you tell us more about that ‘aerial landscapes’ series please, and what it involves? JH: Yes, this is a series of images called ‘The Secret History of the Earth’. It came about as a result of a commission from NASA in the midEighties. I had been invited to watch a launch of the Space Shuttle and did a piece which now hangs in NASA’s Space Center Houston. It was, in retrospect, a pretty conventional image, and when I had completed it, I felt a little dissatisfied, and that I had missed an opportunity to do something a bit more radical. So I went through all the reference images I had made on my trip to the Cape and it occurred to me that the real star of the show of a space vehicle going into orbit, was the view down towards Earth. Looking at those images I came to see clearly that the Earth’s surface shows its history and that it is constantly rewriting itself. Hence the title of the series. DAL: Great. Yes, that’s almost an Eno-esque card from Oblique Strategies: ‘Find the hidden angle’ or suchlike. JH: But the generation of these images, which are only loosely connected to the actual

landscapes visible from space, turned out to be very tricky in practice, and brought up an issue, which I had never really considered before. The matter of reflection. All painters have to consider the values of reflectivity of different media, but the materials I was using brought the issue to a whole new level. Using thick gypsum and builder’s filler to create body and juxtaposing that with the finest pigment dust creates a dialogue of highly contrasting texture. The dusty nature of the pigment is about as matt and unreflective as you can get. Add to that the highly reflective quality of gold leaf or similar metallic material, and you have a very potent visual language to play with. It’s another ongoing project! You can also see these images on my agent’s website. DAL: Sounds fascinating. We have a review later in this issue of Realistic Paint Studio, and in it I suggest the potential for an ‘eco-box’ of digital painting tools — swan feathers, damp mosses, soft beach-ambers — but I had never considered the potential of simple builder’s sand and suchlike. Talking of sand and beaches… what attracts you to such wide open vistas, do you think? Were there perhaps some special childhood experiences or places that ‘attuned’ you to such spaces? JH: That is a question which raises a curious thing. I cannot remember when it began, but, like most people, I do not deal well with the sense of being trapped… in a word, claustrophobia. Without getting too existentialist, this is an inner experience I’m referring to. The opposite sensation of vastness, can, I’m sure, also raise terror in some, but for me it is ‘mysteriously beckoning’. I would go so far to suggest that this polarity is the central force in my experience of life. All I can say at the moment is that I associate the vast with freedom, and wonder. DAL: I see. And then there are also the structures in your work, as seen in your 1980 magazine series “Orders of Magnitude” and your first book Mass. Are these evolved from basic shapes, or are they more ‘engineered’ via background research into similar types of actual giant structures? Or a bit of both? 40


Picture: “Micopolis”.

“I associate the vast with freedom, and wonder.” 41


JH: Entirely intuitive and emotional. DAL: I see. Tell us about your work with the Symposium of Imaginative Realism, please? Is that where people can best see a range of your original work?

JH: Yes, that was the result of an attempt to raise the profile of the artists working in the field and bring the work to the attention of a wider audience. I have to say, I think it was a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, which tipped heavily in favour of sword and sorcery. Which, to be frank, was not the direction I was going in. But I think the concept was a good one, if only to bring to a wider audience, the very high technical quality of the work. For me, it was an opportunity to air some of my bigger pieces to a wider public.

JH: As you say, this is a hidden process and I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it is best that way. I would only interfere and force it if I knew. Best to let that be... DAL: Ok, that seems a good point to end on. John, many thanks for this interview, and we wish you all the best for the future. JH: Thank you and thanks for these challenging questions.

DAL: And for those who can only afford paper, I should point out that the Paper Tiger book, Mass and The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon are still available for readers to buy in hardcover. Both very well reviewed. I hear that your many paperbacks are increasingly collectable too, for the cover art. But you also create and sell Giclee prints? What sizes do those go to? Can they approach the scale of the originals?

JH: Yes, in some cases they can be bigger. Of course there are practical considerations about framing and hanging, which limits just how big you want to go. But on the whole, I would say that Giclee printing of these images has been very successful and in some cases, even flattering! DAL: Super. Now, you currently live in Devon I believe? Have you ever been tempted to make a landscape series for that ancient county? Or the county’s magnificent coastline? JH: A good point, I’m always tempted. Maybe one day I will. But it has to ‘ease into focus’ before I start. I find that such interests cannot be managed.

DAL: Can’t be forced, yes. It’s often best when they creep up on you unawares. What inspires you to begin a new series? Have you noticed common factors that lead up to such new ventures or themes in your work?

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John Harris is online at:

John also has films online at:

http://www.alisoneldred.com/

http://www.alisoneldred.com/johnharris/on-video-1/ and Vimeo.

His large fine-art Giclee prints can be ordered here. His two printed artbooks, titled Mass and The Art of John Harris, are available via Amazon or eBay.

Alison Aldred also represents other artists who will interest our readers, inc. Grahame Baker Smith; Jim Burns; Jim Kay; and Ian Miller.

Picture: “Stars Like Dust”.

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We are pleased to present another pick of the concept art for the game Ryzom, with a focus on the ideas for flight and flying.

Most if not all of the concept sketches here are by “Garcia”, who we believe was Patrice Garcia. He later worked on concepts for movies such as The Fifth Element and Valerian.

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Created for one of the most ambitious sci-fi PC videogames of the 2000s, the Ryzom pictures are now under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike.

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The massive multiplayer eco-world game Ryzom was crafted by indie studio Nevrax from 2000 and released for the PC in 2004. But two years later Nevrax went under. The game’s artistic ambition was such that the Free Software Foundation offered $60,000 for it. Then in 2010 the new owners Winch Gate kindly released all 3D assets as a 13Gb download, and later also released all the concept art under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike. The Ryzom archives continue to be a great learning resource and source of design ideas for 3D and 2D, and one of the greatest of the early releases under Creative Commons. Visit the Ryzom Art Archive for more details.

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Issue 33 Oct 2018 Abstract characters ● ● ● ● ● ●

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Issue 39 May 2019 Deserts

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Issue 40 June 2019 Depicting character ● ● ● ● ● ●

Glen, aka ‘Glnw43’ Anja von Lenski Lisa Herron Lovecraft on covers Moon contest Gallery: Expressing character ● Imaginarium

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Issue 41 July 2019 Moon ● ● ● ● ● ●

Xin Liu of MIT Jeremiah Humphries Jan van de Klooster NASA Moon art Index of past issues Gallery: ‘Bases and outposts’ ● Imaginarium

Issue 45 Dec 2019 Ancient Gods & Heroes ● Joseph C. Knight ● Daniel Eskridge, aka ‘Deskridge’ ● Dani Owergoor ● Index of past issues ● Recent comics ● Gallery: ‘The Mythic’ ● Imaginarium

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Issue 50 July 2020 50th issue

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Elon Musk Darya Girina Ulises Siriczman Luca Oleastri Mars habitats Contests Gallery Imaginarium

Issue 56 March 2021 Atmospherics ● ● ● ●

‘Kibosh 1’ John Harris ‘Hangmoon’ Review of Realistic Paint Studio 1.2 ● Python editing ● Main gallery ● Imaginarium

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In Moscow, Sergei & Alexander Komarov have created not one but two superb digital painting applications, PaintStorm and the new Realistic Paint Studio. We talk with Alexander (‘Hangmoon’) about how it was done. DAL: Alexander, welcome to Digital Art Live magazine. We recently spotted your fabulous new Realistic Paint Studio and purchased it. We’re reviewing it later in this issue of the magazine, and then we though… what better to also have an interview with the maker. AK: Yes, though I just want to say I am not the only maker. Our team is two people, me and my twin brother Sergei. In this interview I will take responsibility for both of us! 56

DAL: Ah, I see. Firstly, thank you — and your brother — very much for making such a fine piece of software Realistic Paint Studio. You also make PaintStorm but I have not been a PaintStorm user. My desktop path to the ‘ideal’ digital painting was SketchBook Pro –> Krita –> Rebelle — but I imagine that your experience in developing Paintstorm is why Realistic Paint Studio is so good. Thanks also for the excellent price, $25, which will make it accessible to a great many people.


ALEXANDER & SERGEI KOMAROV MOSCOW

PAINTSTORM | REALISTIC PS |

WEB

Picture: detail from “Sail Away” by ‘HangMoon’. Digital painting. 57


What was that started you on the road to making such digital painting software? That was about 2011 I think, a decade ago now? How did you begin, in the early years? AK: Yes, PaintStorm Studio started in 2015, and was developed for two years, by my brother Sergei Komarov. Then I was inspired by many software programs all at the same time, since each one had something convenient for offer but lacked other features. Like SAI had a good brush stabilizer, Clip Studio a good fill tool, Photoshop had color corrections, Corel Painter the bristle brush, and so on. Thus we often discussed how good it would be to have everything that was good in one program. And Sergei decided to try to program at least a small drawing software for our own use. But it turned out to be a full-fledged product, and we thought… why not try to sell it? DAL: I see. And you’re also an accomplished artist, and must have had a good amount of input there. Artists who can also code are very rare. Was it difficult to learn the skills involved in coding and optimising software? What coding tools did you learn for that? AK: We have a higher technical education in Programming. But after graduating from university, we couldn’t find a job in the industry. Because we dreamed of programming something graphic or, best of all, videogames! In 2001, such a profession was almost impossible in Russia, so I had to change my occupation. The world of programming is such that, if you fall out of it for five years, you need to learn everything again. But the main thing is to understand algorithms. Simply put, everything can be reduced to “if, then”. But with drawing, the opposite is true. If you can draw, you will never forget how to draw. As a child, we drew better than anyone else in the class, but back in the 1990s, it was not even worth thinking about the profession of an artist. And it’s always been a hobby. It is believed by some that people are divided into two types: techies and the humanities types. But I still can’t figure out what type I am. I'm close to both. DAL: I see. What language are you using now?

AK: It’s all programmed in C++. I mean not only Paintstorm and Realistic Paint Studio, I mean all. DAL: Great. What other challenges have you had to overcome in the last decade, and how did you successfully overcome them? AK: The main difficulty is not believing that one will have the patience to finish what was started. And also lack of motivation. DAL: I see. Have you and your brother been able to occasionally hire in people to help you, and also to help promote the software? AK: No, and our promotion of the software is very poor. ‘Promotion’ is just artist recommendations. Word of mouth.

DAL: I see. For readers unfamiliar with your software, what is the difference between Paintstorm Studio and Realistic Paint Studio? I mean in terms of the intended user-base? AK: The brush engine is very similar in both, but Realistic and Paintstorm are very different. Paintstorm is aimed at professionals, there are a lot of panels, settings, buttons, everything can be customised. Realistic is aimed at those who are used to drawing with traditional materials and do not want to understand the technical details, but simply want to use readymade, already configured brushes. In other words, the user who wants to go straight to drawing, rather than tedious customising. Also, Realistic has its own colour-engine which we call ‘realistic color’. Maybe you've noticed before that colors in the digital painting look different, as in traditional materials. In real life, the color spectrum is wider and changes hue with transparency levels. You can notice how poor colour mixing in typical computer graphics, compared with real-life painting. ‘Realistic color’ replicates real-life colours. Realistic Paint Studio’s brushes are designed and presented as a nice 3D models – archetypes of real-world drawing tools: pens, brushes, pencils and etc. Psychologically it is much more convenient. Also all Realistic canvases have well-configured paper textures. Of course you can enable texture in Paintstorm too, maybe also in other software — but there 58you’ll spend much time in setting it all up.


“The brush engine is very similar in both, but Realistic and Paintstorm are very different. Paintstorm is aimed at professionals, there are a lot of panels, settings, buttons, everything can be customised. Realistic is aimed at those who are used to drawing with traditional tools and materials and who do not want to understand the technical details”.

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Since I respond to support emails, I know how many people are afraid to change the brush settings in software, so as not to “ruin” the brush. In Paintstorm, we created a lot of different starting brushes, mainly to show different features, assuming that users will create brushes themselves for their own tasks. But I get a lot of emails like “I accidentally erased the 5th brush from the 3rd category, how do I get it back?” Maybe this is because most artists are not techies and do not like to dig into the settings.

Picture: “Red Fish” by ‘HangMoon’. Digital painting.

DAL: True. Realistic takes that worry away. And the brush engine is superb, even on a modest ‘everyday’ PC under Windows 8.1 and AMD. In fact, having tried a few digital painting tools on the PC desktop, I’d say it’s in the top three, if not the best. How has that happened, that you have bested other software which have huge teams of people working on their engines? Is it the C++ coding language that makes the engine efficient, or just years and years of small tweaks?

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AK: I don’t know! You must ask those big teams what all those people do! Every new Paintstorm update have more new features than Photoshop has had for years. But I know of other examples where several people have created something full-fledged. Examples: the Polybrush 3D software created by one man. As I think 3DCoat is created by a few people, though I’m not sure on that. Then the Hollow Knight videogame was made by three people, one of whom is the composer!

work from one or two people. And often they do look nice, because the maker wants them that way. They don’t have to go through a committee to try to get a nice UI, and then see the job passed to the boss’s relative. Realistic PS is like that too, in that it also caters to the needs of artists to have things ‘look nice’. When I first saw the website for the software, I was like: “Why am I being shown these real-world art supplies?” Then I realised the tools are the software! How long did you take to craft this unique UI, and what were the challenges?

DAL: Yes, it’s very encouraging to see such

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AK: We created Realistic over two years. Sergei programmed, and I drew and made the 3D models, and also did the website. Some brushes are copies of real drawing tools, but most of the look of the VIP brushes were invented by me. All these realistic 3D models was made mostly in high-poly and rendered to images. That’s why they look like real. On the challenges, those are still the same, lack of motivation and laziness. I have many different hobbies, and find that it is difficult to do one thing for a long time. Also… my dog needs three hours a day for walks. DAL: A lucky dog. There must also have been quite a lot of work involved in ‘the final output’ that is possible from Realistic PS, in which the creator can see their work ‘framed’ in all sorts of realistic situations? AK: I just created a video with the process of traditional painting, pencils, crayons, and so on, took a screenshot from it, and then tried to repeat the result in CG as accurately as possible. Most often, the brush settings were very fine-tuned. At first we even wanted to store unique brush settings for each type of the paper user are offered, but then we brought the textures contrast back to a general one.

Every canvas has second hidden texture for usage with brush. Most of the paper textures were scanned from real paper. It was funny — we went to an art store and bought each paper in just one copy. DAL: And now Realistic PS is out and in a nicely buffed 1.2 version. What are your plans for the software as it moves toward a 2.0 version? AK: Yes, we are plan updates. But probably Realistic updates will not be released often as Paintstorm updates are. The most requested things are in the import/export features. I hope we’ll please our users. DAL: Great. There’s no chance of a .PSD output, I imagine? Because that would lose the vibrant Lab-based colour? Am I right? AK: Yes, the only way is to merge a layer with a flat white and then convert white to transparency — it will “kill” some pixels, but result will still be acceptable. We also plan to add the ‘realistic color’ engine to Paintstorm in the future. DAL: Interesting. Will it become possible to unlock reference-picture export, so you could have watercolour over a scanned pencil sketch or imported lineart?

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AK: We intentionally disabled this feature, so that the import reference image could not be part of the final picture. So that people would not use Realistic as a nice viewer of photos or works made in other programs. Of course, this is annoying… maybe we will fix it in the next updates. DAL: It would be very useful. One aspect not mentioned yet is the built-in tutorials. These are unique and well-made. Wwho made them? AK: No matter what cool tool you create, the user must know for what specific task it is needed. In Realistic we added fast video demonstrations which show the usage of brushes. As far as I know something similar is now available in the latest Photoshop versions for tools, but of course not for Photoshop brushes. Actually it’s not only videos, but code scripts, and that means that user can start to draw over the ‘demo’ by using the same brush. All the drawings in the program — demonstrations, tutorials, examples — were drawn by me personally. I reviewed a lot of paintings in different genres, trying to copy the most relevant style for each designed tool. In other words, for this task, I did not try to show my own artistic style… but instead I tried to

draw everything in a typical and familiar way, a way that was fitted to each brush. DAL: Right. So the software is also a media delivery / training platform, and integrated right into the software. I like it. Could there be paid plug-in tutorials from ‘big names’? AK: Paid tutorials are unlikely. But now it is actually possible to create your own tutorials, only there are no instructions on how to do this yet. We hope that users will send us lessons, and we will add the best ones to the official library. DAL: A nice idea. And I should point out to readers that you are also a very accomplished artist, if they do not know this already from seeing your pictures accompanying this interview. As can be seen from your DeviantArt Gallery, you respond very well to fresh beauty and big landscapes, and are obviously influenced by manga art from Japan. Who are the artists you most admire from Japan, and why? AK: I love many of the Asian artists on Pixiv! My favourites would be: ‘Nineo’ who drew a header for the Paintstorm site – this picture is the only one there which was not drawn by me.

Pictures: “Gold 63 Sea” and “Five Minutes of Silence”. Digital paintings.


Other artists on Pixiv are ‘ASK’ and ‘rei_17’.

AK: Yes, and for that I can thank 3DNchu, who found us and advertised us for free at their site DAL: Thanks. Have you had a big response from and on social media. Japan for Realistic PS? I imagine they would especially value its elegant interface. DAL: Wonderful. Ok, Alexander, many thanks for this interview. We wish you all the best in

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the future, and urge readers to read our review and try the Realistic Paint Studio trial version which you have on the website. AK: Thank you!

‘Hangmoon’ is at: https://www.deviantart.com/ hangmoon and https:// hangmoon.artstation.com/

Picture: “This is the life on Mars”. 65


An astoundingly beautiful digital painting software, easy to learn, and with the nicest and most realistic brush-engine we’ve yet seen. For just $25. Too good to be true? We test Realistic Paint Studio in its latest 1.2 Window desktop version. Like many a great budget-price software, I stumbled over this by accident. A chance mention on DeviantArt had me thinking... “Realistic Paint Studio, what’s that? Just yet another digital-painting software?” I almost didn’t investigate. Surely anything good would have a snazzy name like FlingSplash Paintifier, SplodgeBlodge Paintifizz or Artisinal Artificer? At that point I was happy to start learning more of the ways of Rebelle 3, while keeping a weather- eye on Krita. But I took a look anyway. My first impression of Realistic Paint Studio (RPS) was the site, and I was like... “why are they showing me all these real-world art supplies and canvas boards, rather than the actual software?” Then I realised all this lovely real-world art kit is the software. The ‘penny dropped’, as we say in the UK. In fact rather more than a penny dropped. After a few YouTube videos and a check of the specifications, $25 of PayPal was dropped into their Checkout to purchase RPS as quickly as humanly possible. Yes, the new Realistic Paint Studio 1.2 costs just $25, all-in. No subscription, no Cloud shackle, no timeouts, no nags or ads. After some initial testing I was immediately sure that other such desktop software packages — Rebelle 4 ($90), Krita 4 (free), Painter Essentials 2021 ($50) etc — have some ‘serious heat on their tail’. Especially in that segment of the ‘young teens and beginners’ market which wants desktop PC software running on their XP-Pen or Cintiq penmonitor. RPS also runs on Mac and iPad. 66

Want a quick lesson? Just pull out a drawer. A step-by-step guided tutorial shows you exactly how to make this picture. You can even ‘drawn along’ in a slide-out tray, and the software will auto-select brushes for you.


All brushes and pens look and work like their real-world equivalent. 67


Then I realised… if Realistic Paint Studio is this impressive in 1.2, what’s it going to be like by version 3.0? And would it get there? I investigated this point and was encouraged. Turns out this lovely new software is made by a two man team in Moscow, who we are now pleased to have an interview with (see earlier in this issue of the magazine). They also make the existing PaintStorm Studio, so I was reassured that they knows what they’re doing, and where they’re going, and that a version 3.0 would likely appear in due course. RPS is also not likely to suffer from “too many cooks spoil the broth” syndrome, e.g. the constant feature and UI tinkering that you see with Blender. Myth-busting

Why have you not heard of this beauty before? It was launched with a very quiet ‘soft launch’ via DeviantArt at the end of September 2020, and with seemingly no marketing budget beyond the making of one YouTube video. Not even a press-release. No forum. A few myths about it quickly snuck onto DeviantArt and YouTube, legacies from the initial version 1.0 release, so it’s best to clear those up now. The myths are that it “doesn’t have shortcuts, has no reference layers, or is stuck at 72dpi”. If those were ever true, then none of these claims are now correct. In version 1.2 for instance I was able to set up a 3,800px canvas at 150dpi with no problem, and could have gone higher. RPS has reference layers, and it has customizable keyboard shortcuts. The UI is not rigidly fixed, as you might expect with such a richly photoreal interface. It is quickly got used to, smoothly tilted, and more importantly got out of the way. Nor is it cluttered with drop-down menus and tool-tips.

The free Trial version and specifications The 900mb trial is available for Windows and Mac and iPad. Install is easy on Windows, which is the OS for this review. RPS is not "Windows 10 only", and the specs say it can run on Windows right back to humble Windows Vista. RPS is GPU driven and an NVIDIA GeForce card and 8Gb (rather than 6Gb) of system RAM is stated in the specs. So check the free Trial to ensure that you can run it.

RPS installed fine on a domestic AMD GPU with Windows 8.1, and ran well even when painting with the largest wet brush on a 3800px canvas at 150 dpi. But to get the most of out of it, a strong modern graphics cards would be best, especially if you want paint blending on a big canvas, or have RPS in mind for kids likely to make fast jerky movements with big brushes. Registration Registration and unlocking is easy and very simple (Clip Studio, take note...), and is locked to the email address used for your PayPal address. You don’t need to sign up at the website too, or burrow into your email to get the sent licence. Apparently the software only “phones home” once, when first activated.

Version 1.x limitations Like any version 1.x the RPS software currently has its limitations: ● At present there’s no PDF manual, but there is a guide in basic English on the website. I copy-pasted each page of this to LibreOffice Write and obtained a basic DIY PDF manual that way, for armchair reading. ● It’s a ‘realistic’ software... so you can’t customise the brushes and pens in any way other than basic size, colour etc. But the supplied brushes are fine, realistic, and highly tuned and optimised. I suspect that they are the best ones ported over from PaintStorm, which is made by the same developer.

● You can’t have a huge “house-painter” brush quickly “wash” the top of a 3800px canvas, for example adding a “blue base” watercolour ready for a sky. You would need to build such big wash base more gradually, like you might in real life. Oils are different however and — though I’ve barely tried the oils yet — it seems they can have bigger brushes. ● While you can import a reference image, such as lineart, the software cannot “knock out white” on import. That knockout must be done in another software, then saved to PNG. Also, the new “knock out” lineart must be clipped to the new edges (i.e. must have no transparency beyond where its inks extend) or it will come in 68as a reference layer with proportions skewed.


An example of the ‘rendered’ final output — here an opened sketch notebook on a wooden backboard.

RPS appears to use Lab mode to ensure vibrant colours, of the sort you would experience if you were able to get the best set of supplies from your

local art supplies store. None of which would matter if the brush engine was not superb. It is. In fact, we think it’s better than RPS’s competitors.

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You can change the imported reference layer’s proportions on import, but that’s not ideal in such a case. This ideally you want everything at the same size throughout the workflow, including your imported reference layer. ● You can’t export your imported reference layer along with your final art. ● No ‘stroke smoothing’ aka ‘jitter damping’, but a report from Japan suggests that Lazy Nezumi ($30) will work with RPS on a desktop.

● There are no tooltips to tell you what the proper name of the brush or pen is. Traditional painters and illustrators will feel right at home, but digital artists may be left wondering what some of the curious-looking items are meant to be called. But you find that they do give you ‘demo’, and you can consult the website guide for more information. But since there are only a limited number of tools, and since these cannot be ‘broken’ by fiddling about with brush customisations, you’ll very likely soon start to learn what everything does. ● You can’t save to Photoshop .PSD format. There’s a good reason for this. Doing so would apparently push your final file back to RGB, and the Lab-based colour vibrancy would be lost. I daresay you could re-vivify the colour with a Photoshop plugin suite such as Nik, but then perhaps the edge-blending that Lab enables would also be lost. In which case I can see why the developer wants to keep the vibrant output as ‘WYSIWYG’ in PNG and JPG.

The workflow Ok, so with the OS, install details and caveats out of the way, how does it all work in practice? Your first choices are not the tools in their beautiful photoreal boxes, but the choice of Drawing (inc. charcoals, crayon, pastels in oily or chalk, marker) | Watercolour | Oil, and then a choice of fine papers or canvases. After that you want to set up the pixel sizes, which is done via the more conventional UI for the settings. Then you select your brush. At this point you can also get a live demo of the chosen brush, how it’s meant to be used and look on the page. It’s kind of like having a personal tutor sitting next to you.

One tricky thing, for those coming from other software, will be that there is no expected “magic wand” for masking closed areas of lineart, as with most other graphics software. You would have no magic wand tool in a real painting studio, of course, so you should not expect one here. Actually it turns out that it’s the Cutter Knife tool that serves as a Lasso. Which kind of makes sense, as RPS is trying to keep everything as realistic as possible. The other metal tools that sit alongside the Cutter Knife have similar functions. The Box Cutter makes rectangular selections. The Scissors automatically remove whatever shape their points have ‘cut’. There are also several ways to mask ‘or lock alpha’ including a special brush that only paints where there is already paint laid down. This is one aspect of RPS where reading the manual will pay off. Also, note that you can paint beneath the “knocked out white” lineart reference layer, as well as above it.

Yes, there is a drip engine, but if you’re fascinated with realistic watercolour drips and digital ‘blowing’ of wet paint then Rebelle is what you need. But Rebelle would cost you $90. ArtRage is good for oils, but those who like to work with a range of ‘heavy paint’ might prefer Corel Painter — although in its full version that software is vastly more complex and expensive than RPS. The same goes for brush customisation. If you’re a brush-settings fiddler, then RPS is not for you and Krita will give you both the superb David Revoy brushes and an appreciative audience for your variants. In its version 1.x RPS seems to do crayons and the oily/chalk pastel sets best, and as such these may well be what you want to test it with first. That said, its watercolours are also lovely to work with. None of this would matter if the brush engine was no good. But it’s great. The engine appears to be a trade secret, in terms of how it works, but it works beautifully across a range of media. Blending, tilt, pressure and other expected features are all there, and these are level-pegging with other paint software. It’s rather pointless to try to describe in words, when a Trial version is available — try it and you’ll see how good the brush-engine is. 70


Pictures: “VIP” extra tools set, and (below) the “Oils” tools set.

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The other secret weapon of RPS is its output frames. These place your finished artwork in a variety of very realistic settings, complete with realistic lighting and subtle shadows (see examples below). These are superb for sharing on social media. If you prefer your own background there are also other ways to export. Or you can just have the basic page or canvas. If you chose your initial page/paper well, you should have no problem in taking the picture to another software for finishing. The only problem there is that you might lose some of the special colour vibrancy that RPS has.

Extras?

The VIP box

3. Sell additional creation templates and matching output frames. I can image a paidfor comic-book and comic-strip pack.

There is a lesser priced $19 version of RPS, but at present an extra $5 gets you the full version with a VIP box of brushes. This has a metallic ink pen, a glitter ink pen and also the more serious additions of a fountain pen, a Japanese calligraphy brush, a mechanical pencil for thin lines, and a calligraphy pen with six nib types. The VIP box is only $5 more and it’s a fun upgrade, especially if RPS is to be used by kids in middle-childhood (7-12). The VIP box, and the superb pastels, suggest that budget-savvy teachers will be bringing RPS to their digital art classrooms in 2021.

At just $25 how could RPS make money in the future? Well, it should sell like hot cakes once word gets out. But I guess that there would be five ways to increase earnings without annoying the users… 1. Sell more VIP brushes/pens and paper packs. There’s room for at least one set of fancy pens and brushes. How about an ‘ecobox’ — swan quills, vivid mosses, soft ambers?

2. Sell VIP ‘pull out drawer’ paint-along tutorials, from famous names.

4. Sell new background packs for export renders intended to be ‘shown around’ on your tablet, phone or on social media. 5. Unlock reference-picture export. For instance, have the final result show a glimpse of a pencil sketch done in another software, underneath your RPS watercolours. That would help match Rebelle, which is ideal for that kind of workflow (draw by hand / scan / knock out white / paint over with watercolours).

Pictures: “Sketch” tools set, and a “Crayons” sketch final72framing.


Conclusion

Digital artists may already have their favourite paint software, in which they have invested a lot of time and frustration. From the expensive behemoth Photoshop to the free Krita, via (at the sub-$100 end of the market) Rebelle, SketchBook Pro, Corel Painter, Clip Studio and many others. Not to mention various tabletonly painting tools. The choice of moving to RPS from one of these will be a personal one.

Ideally, we’d all have a regular supply of beautiful pastels, fresh chalks, firm tubes of oils, packs of Copic markers, the best imported Japanese pen-brushes and fine papers and boards. We’d also have a sunny and spacious art studio up in the loft or out in the garden, smelling redolently of paints and solvents, warm cedar-wood and badger-hair brushes. We’d even have several elf-like assistants, and the best visiting personal tutors being flown in to show us how to paint. For those who have none of these luxuries, RPS is a pretty good substitute, with an emphasis on the ‘pretty’. Technically RPS works and runs fine, even as a new 1.x version, and as an experience it’s as good as if not better than other software in the crowded digital painting marketplace. It’s fun, easy to learn and also helps you to learn in a very hands-on way. What more could you want for $25? It is ideal for those in the fine arts who — due to the lockdowns and their severe impact on the creative industries — find they can no longer afford expensive art store supplies, and who now need to move to digital software.

Budding digital artists will have an easier choice, especially if a pocket-money price is required and the audience you have in mind involves sharing work on social media. RPS looks great, works great, and is the right price. Parents of youngsters will also appreciate the angst-free nature of the software. Just bear in mind the email-lock limits its potential to be a surprise gift to others.

Realistic Paint Studio 1.2 is available now at $19, or $25 with the VIP Box of brush and pens. It runs on Windows, Mac or iPad. https://realisticpaint.com/ & manual

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Not into digital painting? How about the beauty of coding in a simple and easy-to-learn language, Python? Here we outline what’s needed to move up from the popular Notepad++ to the free Microsoft Visual Studio Code. The Python scripting language is a key one for 3D graphics work, with useful Python scripts able to run in the likes of Poser, Blender, Vue, Cinema 4D, Maya, Inkscape, iClone and others. Scripts made with Python can be vital helpers. Being able to hack and tweak and bodge the language — if not actually write it from scratch — is also an asset for your C.V. in these difficult times. Thus, here we present a short quickstart guide to moving from Notepad++ to the free and elegant Visual Studio Code. Despite having the name of Microsoft’s big Visual Studio software range, Studio Code is not a fearsome behemoth that will take years to learn. Studio Code is more like a super-slick and fast Notepad++ — but it can hook into your local Python installs for debugging, can be taught about Poser via a simple addon, and has loads of fab free helper ‘extensions’. The User Interface is responsive and is easily learned. Here’s how to go about moving from Notepad++ as your Python coding software. 1. First you need two large wriggly Pythons! Have no fear, these have been caught and tamed — they’re freely available and easy to install. For Poser 11 script development you’ll want Python 2.7, and for Poser 12 either Python 3.7 (or the latest 3.8). 2. With these installed you then download and install the free Microsoft Visual Studio Code. There’s no sign-up needed, no log-ins, no nagging, and it’s a swift 85Mb download.

3. There is one small hurdle to jump, though. Disable ‘telemetry’ in Visual Studio Code's Preferences, to prevent the software ‘phoning home’ with usage data. Then close and reload.

4. Now load a .PY Python script, any .PY script. If you don’t have one handy, there are a number available for Poser on the Renderosity Freestuff or on ShareCG. You can load a .PY script simply by drag and drop, if you like. 5. Visual Studio Code should have autodetected where your Python installs (called ‘interpreters’ by coders) are. In which case, now find the bottom-left taskbar item which toggles quickly between these. 6. Visual Studio Code will then detect that you are using the Python coding language and will suggest that you want Studio Code’s additional free Python module. Say ‘Yes’ and this will download and install. You may want to say ‘no’ to the further additional Pylint addon download — so far as I can see this adds little that’s useful for a Poser script writer. ‘Linting’ is a play on the word ‘hinting’ — it lays subtle hints into your code, like faint underlining of things that ‘might want looking at’. 7. With Visual Studio Code installed, now Poser scripters will need a Poser helper module. Go get ADP’s free Fake_Poser as a .ZIP, unzip and place its two .PY scripts in both... C:\Python27\Lib and ..\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python37\Lib

8. With the following new lines added to your Poser script header… try: import poser except ImportError: import POSER_FAKE as poser

… you now instantly get ADP’s Fake_Poser helper working in your test script. 74


Now you can mouseover a ‘Poser part’ of your script and see that Studio Code has been tricked into knowing about Poser code. A popup will tell you something about that bit of the code, how it is to be formed, and what it does. You can also press Ctrl or right-click to see more help. It’s kind of like having the official Poser Python Methods Manual inside your code. 9. From the Visual Studio Code’s Extensions panel, you now get a colour theme for the Visual Studio Code editor. “Choco Dark” works nicely, and is seen above. File | Preferences | Colour Theme switches you between colour themes for the Editor. Font size may also need to be increased — 22 points in the ‘Console’ font works for me on a desktop.

10. If you did install the extra Pylint helper, you may then want to turn off the ‘linting’ of code, for now. Since it doesn’t seem very helpful for PoserPython scripts. Turning it off is done in Preferences | Settings, then you type ‘linting’ and un-check the boxes there. 11. Now get vital extensions such as Python Indent (no need to guess what the next line’s indent should be), and Better Readability (detect rogue or ‘invisible’ items in the code).

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12. Then have Windows associate .PY Python scripts with Visual Studio Code, such that clicking a .PY script opens it. Studio is almost as quick to open and load as Notepad++ is. 13. For those on widescreen monitors, you may want a more centered view. View | Appearance | ‘Centered Layout’ is a subtle UI fix for this. 14. It’s vital to know how to get out of Full Screen mode. Microsoft suggests the keyboard command of Alt+Shift+Enter is supposed to work, but it doesn’t. It’s actually now F11. 15. If sharing screenshots in public, you may want to turn off View | Show Breadcrumbs. 16. With the UI set to your liking, how to save the tweaked workspace as a backup preset? It’s View | Command Palette | then you scroll right down to the bottom to Workspaces: Save and click once on it. View | Open Workspace restores the UI layout from your saved preset. You are now ready to learn and code Python, with helpers and debuggers and add-ons at your command, and in a smart clean interface that can easily look and feel much like Notepad++. You’ll then find a wealth of improvements over the old way of working.


Grab a handy bio-flyer, and launch yourself into the skies of this month’s Gallery, which celebrates cloudscapes of all kinds.

Picture: Steven Sanders of the USA, from his Symbiosis project.

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Picture: “Vespa” by Typk of the USA.

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“Intergalactic Yachting” by Adrian Mark Gillespie, UK; “Dawn of Mars” by Mutinate, UK + clouds by Kid3o.

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“The harbour [of Celephaïs] was full of painted galleys, some of which were from the marble cloud-city of Serannian, that lies in ethereal space beyond where the sea meets the sky, and some of which were from more substantial ports on the oceans of dreamland. […] For a week the strange seamen lingered in the taverns and traded in the bazaars of Celephaïs, and before they sailed Carter had taken passage on their dark ship. […] One morning at the turn of the tide the sails were raised and

the anchor lifted, and as Carter stood on the high stern he saw the sunrise-blazing walls and bronze statues and golden minarets of ageless Celephaïs sink into the distance, and the snowy peak of Mount Aran grow smaller and smaller. By noon there was nothing in sight save the gentle blue of the Cerenerian Sea, with one painted galley afar off bound for that cloudhung realm of Serannian where the sea meets the sky. And night came with gorgeous stars, and the dark ship steered [ever southward]. 80


Picture: “Stormy horizon” by Justv23 of Lithuania.

And the sailors sang strange songs of unknown places [...] while the wistful watchers murmured old chants and leaned over the rail to glimpse the luminous fish playing in bowers beneath the sea. […] Each day the sun wheeled lower and lower in the sky, and the mists overhead grew thicker and thicker. […] On the twentieth day a great jagged rock in the sea was sighted from afar, the first land glimpsed since Aran’s snowy peak had dwindled behind the ship. Carter asked the captain the 81

name of that rock, but was told that it had no name and had never been sought by any vessel because of the sounds that came from it at night. And when, after dark, a dull and ceaseless howling arose from that jagged granite place, the traveller was glad that no stop had been made, and that the rock had no name.” — from The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, by H.P. Lovecraft.


Picture: “Monk” by Prokhoda of Russia.

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“Somewhere near the southern edge of Dragon Teeth Ridge I ran into a rare cabin a top the mountainside. I was warmly welcomed in by a kindly old fellow by the name of Rammi, an undertaker. I believe he has been in that profession for quite a few years, judging by the discoloration of his scales. He doesn’t enjoy company much and prefers the life of solitude

with his pet snake. A few times a cycle he receives visitors who need someone ‘delivered away’, which he assumed my business was. His cabin was filled with stone statuettes he carves in his spare time, which he has in plenty. His favorite subject is clouds, as there are many rocks carved in their shape. I was impressed he could make such hard material seem so soft. 84


I was also able to learn more about his profession. The tombstones are most always carved on the spot where the body is to be laid to rest, due to their size of the slabs and the tough elevation or terrain. Sometimes he is away from his cabin for months, travelling far to do his work. Before taking his offer of the proffered bed I went out to look awhile longer 85

at the dazzling clouds. At some point many people lived around his home, judging by the stone monoliths. But I asked only about his title. He finds it quite ironic, as most people like to have a high place to be their final spot on this realm. An old carry over from the albinos, he supposes.” — ThemeFinland, for his “Undertaker’s Cabin”.


Picture: “Passing through the storm” by Ninjatic of the UK; “Lord of the Sword: conquest of the faithless” by 000fesbra000 of Chile.

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“Heaven on Fire”, made by LukasFractalizator of the Czech Republic, using the Chaotica fractal software.

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Picture: “The last fight” by Mohamed Saad of Egypt. 88


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VIDEOGAME: Airborne Kingdom Not played a city/civ-builder game in a while? Cast your mind back and imagine a cross between the old Sid Meier’s Civilization II and his equally compelling Railroads! game, with dashes of SimCity. Now add floating cloud-cities and steampunk technologies and you’d have Airborne Kingdom. It’s a fun city-builder and light-touch city-management game, but also one in which exploration, allies and trade all matter. The floaty music soundtrack and graphics are outstanding, and add greatly to the game’s lightweight and fun feeling. This fun is aided by the fact that your rapidly-growing steampowered cloud city never engages in tedious battle-combat. Instead your war is against gravity — constant coal-supplies are needed to keep the steam-cities aloft — and you also battle to attract talent and trade to grow your Empire. As King you also try to subtly forge a single benevolent global Empire by diplomacy — a process which regrettably becomes a bit formulaic and rather adds to the lack of re-playability. After a week, you'll likely be finished with Airborne Empire for a while. But it’ll be a fun week, up on Cloud 9 with your city!

Our pick of the most inspirational art and products. Make your imagination LIVE!

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Airborne Kingdom was released just before Christmas 2020 and can be had from the Epic Store in a £24 deluxe edition which includes the Soundtrack Album. It is now at v1.02 and should run on Windows 7 64-bit and up, and on even a modest PC.

91 Picture: With thanks to The Wandering Band


TV: The Expanse series

Comic: Jules Verne’s Lighthouse

As we near the end of an era when polished and epic science-fiction TV series were abundant to the point of being commonplace, The Expanse stands out for melding intelligent intrigue, believable characters, and the vast scale needed for a space opera of Solar System colonisation. Based on the somewhat different novels of the same name, The Expanse has concluded its fifth season and is now set for a sixth and final season. Each season has raised the bar, offering even more superbly crafted plots and excellent CG visuals. There are 55 episodes to date. While the usual TV padding is present (bickering, bonking, bawling and blistering levels of sentimentality) the storylines are intricate enough that no episodes can be skipped, though you may find the fast-forward/mute button comes in handy. Note that the audiobooks for the novels are not yet complete either. The final book in the series is due Fall 2021.

Brian Haberlin has a new science-fiction comic series out soon, and is hot from success with his Sonata and Marked series and from selling the TV rights for these. His new Jules Verne’s Lighthouse (Image Comics/Shadowline) comic takes a little-known but poigniant Jules Verne tale (Lighthouse at the End of the World, 1905) and tweaks it into a five-issue science fiction epic of “survival and redemption”, featuring space pirates living in a giant supercomputer on the edge of the galaxy. As usual, the comic’s art will also be of special interest to 3D artists, since Brian Haberlin is well known for working in sophisticated ways with the Poser 11 software to tell his stories. The format of the new series departs a little from the usual six-issue approach, as the first issue will be a double-sized one. This ‘bumper length’ first issue is set to ship in the USA in mid April 2021, at around $7 in paper. Definitely one to take a look at when it appears! 92


Biography: Renegades & Rogues

Documentary DVD: Moebius Redux

Renegades and Rogues: The Life and Legacy of Robert E. Howard is now available from

Hasko Baumann’s Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures documentary is one of the best screen documentaries on making imaginative art. While many English speakers may think they have seen this film about the great comics artist Moebius — it was shown on British TV back in 2007 as In Search of Moebius — it was actually heavily cut by the BBC to just 48 minutes.

the University of Texas Press. Author Todd B. Vick is a leading R.E. Howard expert and has produced an accesible new introduction to the life of the creator of Conan, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, King Kull, Red Sonja and many others. Vick writes on his blog... “Renegades and Rogues establishes a solid foundation for current and future fans and scholars providing them with an objective, unexaggerated, unromanticized examination of Robert E. Howard’s life and work. It includes the vast amount of new data that has been uncovered over the last ten years presented on blogs with limited readership.”

The original running time for Moebius Redux is 70 minutes and the original un-cut original film is now available via a German import DVD with English subtitles — with over two hours of extras, including extended interviews. In total there is now 190 minutes of material here. Baumann offers a loving, but very ‘warts and all’, look at the gouche master of French comics. He was also able to tap long interviews with the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philippe Druillet, H.R. Giger and Marvel’s Stan Lee.

For the latest chronological survey of Howard’s many tales, also see the book

Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography (October 2018) from Pulp Hero Press. While this is a good sound book, be warned that it does have a great many plot spoilers.

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The DVD is rated ‘12’ so there should be no import problems for those in the UK or USA.


The Art of Atomhawk

Enchanted

Until June 2021 / Online, UK

Summer/Fall 2021 / nr. New York

Newcastle University’s Great North Museum has a virtual online tour of their lockdownclosed exhibition devoted to the illustration and world-building work of Atomhawk. The Gateshead-based digital design studio... “has contributed to films and video games like Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Empires and Minecraft Earth.”

The USA’s famous Norman Rockwell Museum opens a blockbuster exhibition titled “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Art” in June 2021, and they are now set to make this even bigger. In early 2021 they put out a call for sculpture and installation art for an adjunct show to be titled “Land of Enchantment: A Fantastical Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition” to open 10th July 2021 in the Museum grounds. This juried outdoor installation... “will feature original works inspired by the main exhibition’s themes of classical and contemporary mythology, fairy tales, and fantastical heroes”.

https://greatnorthmuseum.org.uk/whatson/the-art-of-atomhawk

Pictures, from left, across double-page: Interior of part of the “Atomhawk” exhibition, via a Matterport VR tour.

Located about 80 miles north of New York City, the main show will run through to Halloween 2021 and feature original works by the likes of Gustave Dore, Arthur Rackham, Winsor McCay, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, Hal Foster, Frank Frazetta, Brian Froud, Boris Vallejo, Michael Whelan, and many others. Tickets will be in high demand — book early!

Detail from “Garden of Hope”, by Gurney, one of the pictures which help to trail the “Enchanted” exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Detail from a Klaus Burgle illustration of an underwater research station, used on the “Technikvisionen” exhibition poster. The No.5 Underwood model of typewriter — as used by Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, Solomon Kane and many others.

https://www.nrm.org/ 94


Technikvisionen

The Typewriter and Popular Culture

Until August 2021 / Germany

Until Halloween 2021 / Switzerland

“Technical Visions between Science Fiction and Reality” is the planned spring/summer 2021 exhibition the Frankfurt Museum of Communication in Germany. The blurb, translated: ‘Ideas from scientific reality are taken up by writers, film-makers, or illustrators, and imaginatively recombined. Then possible effects are thought through further. These fictional stories, in turn, serve as sources of inspiration for new technical designs. Exactly ‘which ideas followed which’ can be an intricate story, perhaps involving coincidences and simultaneities, and as such now requires deep and subtle scholarship to trace. Some of these future visions are now part of our everyday lives, while others have (as yet) missed the mark in an entertaining or even a tragic way.’ Visitors can also enjoy the large permenant exhibition “Histories of Media” which “looks at the full spectrum of mediated human interaction — from stone tablets to data goggles.”

The Swiss Museum of Science-Fiction (Maison d'Ailleurs) offers an exhibition that takes a closer look at... “the relationship between the typewriter and popular culture, from cinema to videogames to science-fiction literature.” The tour highlights the role of hand-pressed alphabetic keyboards... “in the technological utopias imagined during the 20th century, from pulp magazines to the most astonishing prototypes” for futuristic typewriters. Many of which were produced by Swiss makers.

https://www.mfk-frankfurt.de/en/back-tofuture-technology-visions-between-fiction-and -reality/

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The show is paired with “I, Monster”, being staged in “a monumental scenography inspired by 19th century circuses” and showcasing a range of pulp monsters from space aliens, giant robots and modified humans, to the older Victorian gothic monsters such as Dracula and even older classical ones such as the Medusa. This show has a 256-page catalogue. It appears that the shows are actually available to visit in person, and the Museum will even be opening its own pop-up store/gallery in the local town in April 2021. http://www.ailleurs.ch/en/expositions/


Picture: Detail from “The Purfume Floaters of Florillia (faux 1974 album cover) by Mutinate. DAZ Studio, Poser, Photoshop,

Are you interested in being interviewed in a future issue of the magazine? Or presenting a webinar for our series? Please send the Web address of your gallery or store, and we’ll visit!

paul@digitalartlive.com

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Profile for Digital Art Live

Digital Art Live Issue 56  

In-depth interviews with digital artists in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. ‘KIBOSH 1’ talks about learning DAZ Studio, and how he learns fro...

Digital Art Live Issue 56  

In-depth interviews with digital artists in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. ‘KIBOSH 1’ talks about learning DAZ Studio, and how he learns fro...

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