15 July 2012

Addendum re: brightness and photos

I thought I would post a photo, before and after, to illustrate what I was talking about in the previous post. First is the original of this raven landing on a branch, and next is the one I bleached out a bit by using "brightness/contrast" in Photoshop Elements.

Note the difference in the shadow on the bird's face--there is virtually no detail in the original, but in the washed-out version, you can see the eye and the details of the beak and also the body feathers. In the second one you can also clearly see all the definition of the wing feathers and differentiate the feet from the edge of the wing.

By the way, I found this photo here, just to give proper credit. Thanks to whoever took it!

Studies for a painting

I've always been fascinated by corvids, particularly crows and ravens, and when I scored an Advance Reader Copy of Maggie Stiefvater's new book called The Raven Boys, I decided to do a painting of one to go with a review for my YA blog at the library.

But birds are such complicated things to draw--the contrary shape of the head and beak (so impossible to capture!), the sizes and layers of feathers, the contour and armature of the wings, the weird spiny feet--so I decided to do some drawn studies first. I started with contour and in one case then filled in a little (though I'm least happy with that one), using various photos from the internet as inspiration.

One note here about photos as source material--it really helps to have a program like Photoshop to mess with them and make them better references from which to draw and paint. Crows and ravens being mostly black (not really such a solid black, but that's how we perceive them), most photos blend everything together and you end up with a basic silhouette, as in this first contour drawing.

But take them into Photoshop or Elements and mess with the brightness and contrast and you can highlight and bring out what underlies that silhouette--body shape, feather definition, the lot. The background gets pretty bleached out, but you can always go back to the original for that later (yes, do a "save as" and preserve your original while creating a new photo from which to work). Try it with a dark photo and see what you can discover when you shine a so-called spotlight on it.

Painting still to come, but these helped me greatly to decide what pose is most interesting, and how to achieve what I want when I get there.