Archive | February 2011

Looking ahead to March

February is slowly coming to an end, and for me it is time to review the month and look forward to March.

In February I focussed on further experiments with digital painting and Photoshop. I found out more about the brushes and how to customize them, though I must say that there is a difference between having a certain knowledge and being able to apply the knowledge in a satisfying manner! I need much more practice on that field.

I also tried a graphic tablet for the first time, desperately trying to draw the most simple things. A friend of mine in the design business declared that he gave up working with a graphic tablet after noticing that he was quicker with the mouse and that he didn’t have the time to spend a whole day learning to work with the darned thing. I stubbornly decided not to give up. But I am far from being able to present anything presentable yet.

I have neglected doing my daily sketches. I had planned to do the sketches at home and then have them scanned, and then use them for blog posts. But I got carried away by Photoshop…

So here are my art plans for March:

  1. More sketches. I’ve got a book from the library about how to draw horses, and in addition to that I’ve got a weekly postcard calender with a lot of horse photographies. So March will be the month of the horses, and you will definitely see some of them on this blog.
  2. The Graphic tablet. I hope to be able to provide some results at the end of March.
  3. Finish the digital painting of a crane (By the way, with digital painting I am very much tempted to work on more than one project at the time, and I find it quite a challenge to get one finished!) I hope you will see the crane in March on this blog.

This will be the last blog post in February. I’ll be away visiting my family in the south of Germany and come back on the 28th. The next post here will be published on 2 March 2011.

How to comment on other people’s Art

I have been on Flickr for quite some time now, I am a member of deviantart and I have been presenting my art on this blog for quite some time. I have received comments and I have given comments, and I must admit that in many cases I haven’t said anything after looking at some other person’s art.

Commenting on other people’s art is a bit like commenting on other people’s blogposts. Many commenters use their comments as a way to get traffic to their websites, blogs, articles or galleries. I don’t want to be misunderstood – this is absolutely legitimate, as long as their comments are qualified comments.

What are qualified comments? Let’s get back to the person at the receiving end. At the beginning of my blogging career I would have savoured any comment that came in, even a “great post!” one. But some blogging posts later I was not so enthusiastic anymore. What exactly was it that the commenter liked? Was it the subject, or the way I dealt with it?

I must admit that I didn’t have these difficulties with “Lovely picture!”, because I could relate to that – I had felt that reaction many times when looking at other people’s photographies. However I love to get comments which refer to certain aspects: “Nice composition”, “lovely vibrant colours”, “great macro”.

The same applies to pieces of art. Of course it takes much more time to comment then, because you have to take a closer look and find out why you love the piece. Is is the detailed work, the composition, the distribution of light and shadows, the imagination, the expression of skill, the expression of love for the subject – I think you are getting what I mean.

Commenting like this takes a lot of time. You might have to reduce the number of your comments. But: those comments are very important for the artist. They are not only helpful, but they also are an expression of appreciation – I appreciate your work and so I give my time to produce a qualified comment.

This blogpost was inspired by reading Judy Adamson’s blog post “Who needs Praise?”. I am looking forward to your comments!

Blue Building

Blue Building

Blue Building. Digital Painting by Ulla Hennig

I played around with the colours blue and green. I did not want to create a realistic building but wanted to create a kind of fantasy mood – some old building in the night, there’s a light coming from above, and the lord of the dark will soon enter the stage.

I am not hundred percent satisfied with the result, but in general that is the way I wanted it to be.

By the way: Now I’ve got a wacom tablet I can use for some days! I could not resist from trying it out at work – pheww! Whereas the mouse is doing what I want it to do (well, nearly all the time, they are exceptions!), the pen seemed to have its own will and personality. But I am firmly decided to get it under my control. Surely there will be a lot of adventures to be told…

I love my Library!

Bizarre Visionen - bold visions

Cover of "Bizarre Visionen - Fantastische Bilderwelten" by Gary Tonge

The original title of the book is “Bold Visions”, and Gary Tonge published it 2008.

I was looking for a book about digital painting with Photoshop and found this one. I ordered it via E-mail and fetched it today from the library. When I arrived at home I could not resist from browsing through the pages and looking at the excellent photos.

Of course I’ve already found lots of tutorials about digital painting on the web, including some very instructive ones on Youtube.
However there is a difference between reading tutorials online and turning the pages of a real book. I felt like a child going through some picture book, captivated by the vividness and aesthetic quality of the pictures.

Those kind of “real” books are quite expensive. Sometimes you buy such an expensive book and are disappointed when you’ve got it in your hands. Here in Berlin we pay 10 Euros a year and can go to every public library. There’s an online catalogue and we can order via e-mail.

Due to being an internet citizen I learnt about the intention of the British government to close down libraries. It made me realize how well off we are here in Berlin at the moment, and how important it is that we have a working system of public libraries. I think I’ve fallen in love with my library again…


Process or result?

I began to work on a new picture this morning. I’ve got some interesting landscape postcards, and one of them shows  a landscape full of impressive rocks in different shades of brown, grey and green. I knew that trying to paint that with Photoshop might be difficult, but I wanted to take up the challenge.

I tried for half an hour – and failed terribly. I was frustrated. My inner critic raised her head and shouted at me: “There you see – you are incapable of doing anything artistic!”. I trashed the file which was easy because I hadn’t saved it anyway. I looked at the postcard. Would there be other ways to paint the landscape? Somehow I didn’t want to give up.

I opened a new file and began from scratch. This time it went better, although I still felt insecure. Was I doing the right thing? Shouldn’t I put my time and energy into activities which produced results faster? Or any results at all?

I stopped working with my brush and took a break, looking out of the window, away from the picture on my screen. I did not have to provide any results, did I? There is no pressure from outside. The only pressure is the one I apply on myself. I am free to focus on the process, on trying out things, on learning things. Digital painting gives me the possibility to change colours and lines, the shading and the light as often as I want it. I don’t have to get it right from the beginning.

Of course the picture isn’t finished yet. I don’t know whether it will be finished one day at all – but that’s not important so much anymore. I look forward to working on it tomorrow…

The Dragon – a Picture and a Story to be told

Dragon - almost final version

The Last Days of the Dragon Prince

When I looked at the printed painting (it is the first digital painting I’ve ever printed out), a story began to form itself. It went like this:

It was the first time that the young dragons had come into the Hall of Fame. It was a huge hall with high stone walls. At the long end of the wall the Wise Old Dragon was standing, directly under a huge painting. Slowly the young dragons came nearer, huddling together like some dragon kids afraid of the Big Death.

“Get going”, the Wise Old Dragon said in his rough voice. “We don’t have that much time.”

Finally the young dragons had arranged themselves around the WOD, as they called him when they thought he could not hear them (mind you, he always could!). “Look at that picture! Here you can see the famous and unforgotten Flavir, the Dragon Prince.”

“He doesn’t look like a dragon”, LLarril said. “He looks like a bird with his feathers. We look different.” The young dragons looked at each other, and then at the Wise Old Dragon. “We are different.”

“Yes, we are. But without Flavir, the Dragon Prince, we would not be here. Come nearer, my young friends, and I will tell you the story of the last days of Prince Flavir and the first days of Hagnir who came after him…”

Yes, there is a story to be told. And suddenly I feel joy and anxiety at the same time. Could it be that I could tie the two together – writing and creating pictures? Suddenly two words are in my mind and I am terribly afraid to utter them – “illustrator” and “author”.

Well, I could always say: it is a story with a picture, and I wrote the story, and I painted the picture. I could avoid the words I am afraid to use…

Another Rabbit

Rabbit - colored with Photoshop

Rabbit - colored with Photoshop

Do you remember my first rabbit? This one above and the other one both derive from the same source – a quick sketch done with a ballpoint pen.

I simply could not keep from using the sketch for a digital painting. It is not so easy to paint fur digitally, and I had to experiment with different brushes and with different brush settings .

Sea Shore II


Sea Shore II. Digital Painting by Ulla Hennig

As you can see I did a bit of work on the water and the sky. I am still not 100 percent pleased with it – the picture now looks a bit too dramatical for me, and the clouds on the sky could be less blurry. But it is only my second digital landscape, so I won’t be too strict with my inner digital painter…

If you want to compare it with the first version, here it is:

3 Things to keep in mind when you begin with Digital Painting

For some time now I have been painting digitally – with Photoshop and without a Graphic Tablet. I’ve got a notebook with a touchpad at home, and I first wanted to try out digital painting and see whether I would like it nor not, and then think about buying a graphic tablet. I hate buying things and then not using them.

So the first question is: Do I like to paint digitally? Yes, I do. However I’d liked to know certain things before I began to do so. It would have made things easier or less frustrating. But there’s no use crying over spilt milk. But maybe writing down my first experiences with digital painting may be helpful to other people.

  1. Digital paintings are in no way “easier” to create than traditional ones, and they cannot be done in a rush.
    Whenever I have a look at my first creations I hang my head and cry. Okay, I wanted to see whether and how certain things can be done the digital way, so I did things quickly. Fact is, it can’t be done this way. On DeviantART I often read that people are working on their digital art for hours and days.  I was used to be fast when sketching an animal or a building, even a person in a certain pose and tended to get impatient when I was not successful at digital painting in a short time. I had to learn patience. I haven’t worked for days up to now on one picture, but for hours, in order to find the right colour, or the right texture.
  2. Digital painting affords artistic as well as technical abilities. You’ve got to have more than just a basic knowledge of Photoshop. In the last months I learned a lot about layers, brushes, tools and such things, but it still happened to me that I was desperately trying to add a nice background to my dragon picture with the result that everytime I activated the background layer the whole image went grey, and I didn’t know the reason for it. It took me almost one hour till I noticed that I hadn’t cut out the dragon from its white background. After I did that the problem was solved. Duh!
    On the other hand one of the most important questions in Digital Painting as well as in traditional painting is “Where does the light come from?” Without that answer given you may know everything about how to shade in Photoshop with the various tools – your art work will look like c*.
  3. Digital painting is work, but it is also – and for a big extent at least for me – play. It means trying out things, asking myself “What happens if I change that colour to a darker shade of blue?” “What happens if I use a bigger brush when using the smudge tool?” “What happens if I draw things with the pen tool instead of the brush tool?” It means doing things my own way, even if this way is not the “proper one”. It is fun!

Sea Shore – Work in Progress 1

Sea shore  - Work in Progress

Sea shore - Work in Progress

Okay, I am adventurous again and dare to present a work in progress here. This is digital from the beginning – no pencil work here.

Of course there’s a lot of work still to be done – the water in front of the palisades, the water behind it and the sky. But I think this work in progress can give you an impression of how it will look like when it is finished (at least I hope so!)