I prepared a large “composite” image — an amalgam of three distinct views — of this project for yet another competition. The plan and perspective-northeast incorporated into this illustration are somewhat modified versions of earlier images; the perspective-west between them is a new creation, from a slightly different point of view than the first silhouette rendering in 2010.
Although I find I think of this concept illustration — and the earlier ones for this project — as drawings, since these were created entirely within a personal computer and not with traditional media some might readers might beg to differ with that categorization. I’ll summarize my process: although the concept was first tested with hand sketches and 3D models made with Google SketchUp, the final version of this project was modeled to a decent level of detail with the NURBS modeling program Rhino. As opposed to exporting the model to some typical rendering program and pixel-scrubbing the resultant images, I used the freely-available RDK for Rhino to create a material library for the file. Multiple straight-out renderings were made from this model, with and without textured materials, using the built-in scanline Rhino Renderer. I also created alternative 2D output from Rhino: I developed customized viewport display modes, assigned them to specific objects in the model as necessary, and then printed these viewport displays directly to raster image files of the same resolution as the Rhino scanline renderings. Essentially, we are talking about high-quality “screenshots” of the Rhino model displayed in rather untypical ways.
For each component view illustration, I “layered” the scanline Rhino renderings and certain of the “viewport display prints” in Adobe Photoshop. Other viewport display images were used to create masks in Photoshop around various locations. I sampled, blended, masked, and otherwise manipulated the various layers until that inexplicable moment when the image seemed “done.” I should point out that during this process digital photographs of various real-world surfaces (rust, dry stone walls, bark, mountain-sides, grass, etc.) were collaged in Photoshop with the renderings and viewport display prints, and these were manipulated-to-ideal-size-and-intensity where I could not map texture satisfactorily in the original model due to Rhino’s current limitations. A certain amount of new detail was also painted entirely in the image editor, pixel by pixel.
In turn, for the final “poster,” the component views were selectively placed and blended with each other and additional imagery. For instance, I scanned samples of paper (previously stained with tea and “foxed” with moistened grains of instant coffee) to provide the “aged parchment” background seen behind the mountains, the east perspective, and the plan. Some faint text “written” on this parchment is a scan of a pencil copy of the original description for the project; to make it more unfamiliar, I wrote it backwards (a particularly odd talent, I know…I discovered that it was relatively easy to do years ago, as long as I did it with my left hand. Even in a mirror, the handwriting does not look like that I create normally with my right hand). The backwards script was digitally flipped in Photoshop, and then “abraded” and smeared nearly to the point of illegibility with various tools.
I have at times in the past used a Wacom stylus and tablet for this sort of elaborate image editing, but for this entire project (including the earlier renderings created in 2010) I relied on a customizable gamer’s mouse (a Cyborg “R.A.T. 7”), with the additional keys and dials programmed to control Photoshop functions such as brush size and intensity…my hand has proved steadier “pixel-painting” this way, which suggests that the old stylus-brush paradigm for two-dimensional work is perhaps not optimal for me any longer, if it ever was.
Given the pseudo-archaic subject matter, my choice of visual idiom here probably does not require further explanation. But I suppose that my motivation for creating this elaborate simulation — entirely by digital means — of anachronistic methods of representation still bears some justification. I do have considerable experience in various traditional forms of painting and drawing; I don’t precisely know why I no longer use those traditional methods, as opposed to digital methods. Perhaps the digital simply provides me with a greater range of unpredictable results than the analog. The art in this sort of illustration, and perhaps even in my overall design efforts, has always lain (as far as I am concerned) in recognizing and incorporating into the work the unexpected outcomes, the marvelous ones I did not consciously seek to achieve but found somewhere along the way to other goals.
I believe this may be the last bit of graphics I develop for this particular scheme, which (despite all my efforts) does not seem to have been received as well as the my earlier hypothetical projects.