Monday, August 11, 2014

RDNA selected Zombie Attack as an Image of the Week!

This is a cool feather in my cap, and Ah'm so proud that I could bust a button! One of the potential illustrations for our upcoming book, GUTSHOT: Night of the Living Deadwood, was selected by an online community called RuntimeDNA as one of their Images of the Week! 

One of the RDNA Images of the Week for Aug. 8, 2014
I'm a particularly proud pappy (all my illustrations are "my children," so ta speak) because I put a lot of work into this one, and am pleased with the way it turned out. I really like the look of terror on Sheriff Mike Foreman's face, and I think i achieved just the right amount of "ick" in that gutshot he's giving the zombie (yeah -- I like that it's a gutshot).

Another thing that makes me wanna hoot-n-holler is that this accolade comes with a prize! I got to pick out an item from their 3D store. Now, there were limitations, such as no software or bundles, so wipe the gold fever from yer greedy little eyes. This is an Image of the Week award, not the lottery!  And nevertheless, Ah'm pleased as punch to be winning it. RuntimeDNA seems to have pretty high standards all around. I really like Daz3D.com and Renderosity.com, but Ah gotta be honest -- there's just something a little classier about the RDNA folks. Can't really put muh finger on it, but the items they offer are just a smidge better than some of the other stuff out there.

So, Ah know none of yuh could bunk down fer a good night's sleep without knowing what I chose from the store. I will admit, I did poke around a bit, but to be honest, there was never any doubt. Last September they came out with an outfit that I've wanted ever since I saw it. It was a stylized saloon gal outfit, and I've always pictured her as one of the characters in the Deadwood book, probably pulling out a Derringer and shooting some undead gambler right between the eyes for having an ace up his sleeve.

The outfit is called Rockabilly Burlesque, and I think it's just the right mix of sexy, period-appropriateness, and steampunk. With these clothing items (and some of the jewelry) available to use on my own copy of the Victoria 4 figure, I will be able to pose her and create new illustrations for the Deadwood book. Of course, my work will be in b&w (since that's how the book will be published). But still, I think I'll manage to make good use of this outfit.

Copyright 2013 RuntimeDNA.com 

Stay posted, folks. Things are gonna start getting interesting around here!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Renderosity just selected me their #6 Favorite Artist of the Week!

I just got a really cool pat on the back from my saddle pals over at the Renderosity.com website. I maintain an online gallery over there (have since waaaaay bacck in 2001, if i recollect correctly). Anyway, as it says in the headline (talk about yer spoilers), they selected me as the #6 Favorite Artist of the Week.


This is based on the number of folks who added me to their Favorites list, the number of folks who commented on muh work, and things like that. I spelled it all out in detail over at muh other blog, Mike Mitchell Online. Mosey on over there if you'd like to take a gander at some of my non-Gutshot related artwork, and for more info about Renderosity's selection process.

UPDATE: During the next two weeks, I actually climbed as high as #2! Then slid back down to #3 on the daily charts. Needless to say, it was a fun ride while it lasted. And, who knows, I may just hit the charts again in the future!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Deadwood - Rex's Close-up...

Sorry for missing last Wednesday's post. I got tied up with a few work-related issues.

However, I actually did do some Deadwood art last week... but this time for someone else.  The publisher's of my 3D software were sponsoring a Portrait Contest, so I decided to continue my work with Rex and post it over at the Daz3D Web site. I'm not going to provide a link to the contest because you have to be a registered member of the forum to see it -- and I really don't think most of you are interested in registering for a forum just to see two images that I'm going to post here.

Rex -- Maybe he's had a little
too much moonshine?

This first WIP (Work In Progress) image that I created was trying to "show a little bit of crazy" in his eyes, but that actually became the problem. You see, I captured the crazy, but because I started with the image of him looking over his shoulder, his eyes didn't come out with an even expression. It just seemed a little off to me, so I redrew his eyes looking straight ahead (more or less). This just combined to make this an okay picture, but not a great one.


Rex - A little calmer... and maybe a little grumpier.

So I revisited the image and made some changes. I was in a time crunch, so I removed the mug of coffee from his hand (I had issues parenting it to his hand -- something all 3D artists recognize as a pain in the you-know-what). And I also changed his expression.

Unfortunately, I think I tamed him down too much. This a nice image, but it kind of lacks the immediacy and sheer character of the first one I did. In this one, however, I do like the way i combined the crosscut filter with the color better than I did with the straight b&w crosscut effect I used above.

As usual, the postwork effects were created in Photoshop with Flaming Pear's India Ink filter. I believe Filter Forge has a similar filter/plug-in, but I have not used it.

I haven't heard from the contest people at Daz, but I don't expect to win anything. This was really just an exercise and a chance to get some work out there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deadwood - Rex Sees Something

I took another stab at the Rex image from last week, and I'm still not happy with it. The composition and lighting are still way off.

Turning his head, Rex watched as a hideous shape
emerged from the shadows... a shape that was hauntingly familiar.
Now that I've got a decent contrast between his beard and shirt, I've got to increase the contrast between his shirt and britches. In color, they are too similar in tone. Right here, with this quick inking conversion, I compensated for that by using two different techniques: His upper body is Basket Weave and his lower body is inked with Cutline. Both of these are settings in the Photoshop India Ink filter by Flaming Pear. To get a clear look at the effects, click on the above image to see it full screen.

Right now I've got to decide if this image is worth pursuing, or if I should go back to my original idea of using the Wolf Willis character, instead. No matter what I do, though, the lighting and composition (i.e. how the figures are framed) need work.

Oh, and that fire pit looks HUGE at this angle. I definitely need to shrink it down a bit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Deadwood - Rex Hears Something...

This week has been tied up with a lot of work and other projects, so I'm actually very  behind on creating art for the Night of the Living Deadwood book. However, I did get a start on a new image... one that's surprised me in more than a few ways.

You see, I originally pictured this scene with Wolf Willis, reaching for his pistol which would be in a gunbelt draped over the log. Instead, I found myself using a new character named Rex... an old frontiersman/prospector character with a bald head and a long beard. I also found myself using a lot more props this time around. Often, I add trees and logs in post-production (that is, I don't put them into the scene, but add them in Photoshop).

There was a noise behind him. Instinctively
his hand stretched out for his trusted Henry rifle...

The other images I've shown you were mostly completed (if used, some will be tweaked before being printed). But this time I decided to bring you in at the early stage and show you the first step in the process. This is a low-resolution, low-quality rendering of the basic scene. Right now I'm just putting things in their rough location and doing a rough pose on which to start building. In other words, this is the digital equivalent of a sketch.

As such, there's no ground, nothing around the tree, and most of all, nothing lurking between the trees. This is a simplified scene with just the basic elements that I need. For instance, I need the campfire for a light source (and it comes from a low angle, so that will make it more ominous). I need the log as something to lean the rifle up against. I could have it lying on the ground, but that would make it hard to see and that location would require him to lean over to reach it. Not practical for a still image. The tree behind him could be done in post (i.e. Photoshop), but I want it to be more solid, so I'm actually putting it into the scene. I will use it and the branches of the smaller tree to frame a zombie that is coming up behind him.

I'v already made a few decisions regarding changes:

  • I need to shift our Point of View (POV) to our left and rotate it so we get a better look at Rex's face.
  • I need to raise his arm so we can clearly see it reaching for the rifle
  • I need to put a coffee cup in his right hand (just to give it something to do)
  • And, if I have one, put a coffee pot in the fire (gotta explain what's in his cup)
  • I need to alter the pose of his feet so they don't touch
  • I might need to make his shirt darker so his beard stands out better
A closer view with different lighting. Things were way too bright
 in this scene, so I toned it down, as you can see in the render above.


Anyway, those are just a few of the thoughts I've had regarding this scene so far. Hopefully, I'll manage to get back to this before next week and show you how I've progressed. Until then... keep yer powder dry, saddle pals!



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Deadwood - Art Preview: Hungry for Revenge

Arizona pulled back on the reins and the horse came to a gentle stop. She sat still in the saddle -- a few pebbles bounced on the ground -- the last movement from hooves on a rocky ground. Monty's tail made a gentle swishing sound and he cocked his head, wondering why they had stopped here, where there was no grass or water. Taking cues from his mistress, it sensed her anxiety and snorted, turning his head to look first one way, then another.

Arizona shushed the horse -- listening intently. At first, it was too quiet. Not even a buzz from flies or bugs. Then she heard it. Falling rocks... something dragging in the dirt, loosening a spray of pebbles and debris from the ridge to her right. And a shadow fell upon her then, but that wasn't why her skin turned to goosebumps and ice grew on her heart. The skin was rotting and dry, eyes sunken but still burning with hate. And if she had any doubt who it was, that vanished when she saw his hand. It was in a bar in Tombstone where she herself had cut off the little finger on his gun hand. Right before she gutted him.

Cole Black had risen from the dead... and he hungered for revenge.

Cole Black is back!
Click on image to see it full-size.

Another illustration for the upcoming miniatures game, GUTSHOT: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADWOOD. This time I experimented with a slightly different style. This isn't quite perfect, but I think it's a good direction. I will definitely be continuing my experiments down this avenue. As with other illustrations in this series, this is rendered in color in Daz Studio 4.6 and then converted to b&w in Photoshop.

I'm ready for my close-up!
Ugh. Not even a mother could love this face!
Tune in next wee for more glimpses of the dark side, as I continue to work on nailing down the look and feel of the artwork for our cowboys vs. zombies miniature game.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Deadwood - Zombie Crawling Revisited...

Another day, another creature feature!
Here's another take on our friendly fiend.

Last night I did a quick revisit on good ole Mr. Happy, and I must say, I'm happier with the results. I used a different technique on him -- splatters instead of basketweave -- and I like the results a lot more. I also got rid of that bad background.

This is a definite improvement. Next up, I'm going to take a look at making the edges rougher and maybe adding some rough hair. I'm also going to look at manually inking a version of it (or another image).

Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes action.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Deadwood - Zombie Crawling

I hate to say it, but I think this week's testis another swing and a miss.

You wake from a deep sleep... the horses are skittish.
Something is rustling in the underbrush. You roll over, expecting
to see a raccoon or maybe a skunk. You never expected THIS!

There are a few things I like about this image, but just a few. There's something wrong with the way his torso is flowing down into his waist. Honestly, it looks like he's got really saggy boobs. I tried tweaking it, but never got the results I wanted.

I may just have to put this one down to being a bad pose and leave it at that. Also, I really cut corners on the background -- and it shows. The foreground tree is okay, but the background's tangled branches really don't work for me. Alas, I knew I was cutting corners when I did it and knew I wasn't going to fix it later. There just isn't time to spend on something you know isn't going to work out.

As before, this is the Mr. Happy character for the Michael 3 figure. All post work was completed in Photoshop, with the bulk of it being performed by the Flaming Pair India Ink filter.

NEXT WEEK -- Another attempt at another zombie.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Deadwood - More Zombies

A Work In Progress {WIP} of the zombie horde

This week's sample image is definitely not going to make into the final book. I put more work into this image that I should have spent on it, especially considering that I'm not pleased with the results. In fact, I almost consigned it to the trash heap, but decided it's worth showing even the failures.

Let's call these guys, from left-to-right, Zed and Hap.

Zed is based on the high-resolution 3D model "Long Time Dead" that is available from Daz3d.com. This has a lot of texture detail and a very high polygon count. He's the zombie that attacked Sheriff Mike Foreman in last week's blog post.

Hap is based on a low-resolution figure for the Michael 3 base model, and he's called Mr. Happy.

Now, if all this 3D talk is making your head spin, fret not. I'm just including it for the 3D enthusiasts who follow this blog. The rest of you can just look at this and go, "Yeah, sometimes you nail it, and sometimes you hit your thumb with the hammer."

The problems I'm having are with the skin tones. I'm not getting them to convert to inked patterns correctly. Plus, all the detail on Zed makes him a VERY slow figure to work with. I honestly can't imagine how slow the system would run if I had two of these in the same scene. Plus, the texture on his face has these huge black spots around his eyes and mouth. This looks good in color, but in b&w he looks like Rocket Raccoon's evil grandpa. And don't get me started on those Gary Busey lips of his...

Mr. Happy, on the other hand, makes my computer's CPU VERY happy. He's a very quick figure to work with, and I can imagine that 5-8 of him in one scene would not cause too many problems. But, I'm having a heck of a time getting clothes to fit him properly. His knees keep sticking out of his pants, for example. And I have yet to get any hair on him, nor a shirt that fits. I can get a cowboy hat on his head, but if he's just wearing tight pants and a cowboy hat, he kinda looks like an undead stripper.

Artistically Speaking
Getting down to the art itself, I don't like the poses or lighting in this scene. I think the background is okay, but other than that, I just don't like it. I suppose if I dropped Zed it wouldn't look quite as bad. Hap kind of has this look like he was walking in the grave yard and just heard someone breathing behind a wall, so he's about to go over and try to make lunch out of him. But with Zed there, both poses seem more comic than menacing.

After the poses, I hit the inking effects, which are too heavy on Zed and not quite right on Hap. And that unevenness, by the way, is a big part of the reason that I included them both in the same image. I need to standardize their appearance so the figures have the same look and feel throughout the book.

Here's hoping that I can pick things up next week. Because, yes, I intend to be back again next Wednesday with another post. I'm going to try to keep this up for at least another month as a way of motivating myself to stay focused on this aspect of bringing GUTSHOT: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADWOOD to press by next year.

See you next week, fear fans!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Deadwood - Art Preview of a Zombie Attack!

Sheriff Mike Foreman is terrified to see what's
crawled out of Boot Hill! 
Unless he gets a handle on things fast,
this could be the beginning of the end!

Here it is, folks. Our first actual glimpse of a zombie from our upcoming book/game, Gutshot: Night of the Living Deadwood. This image features Sheriff Mike Foreman battling a traditional shambler, which is one of the three types of zombies that will be included in our game. In this case, the young law enforcer doesn't know that you need to shoot for the head, so this battle could be very short.

This is a sample image, where I focused primarily on the techniques needed to combine two figures into a single image. I was interested primarily in the lighting (most of it comes from the muzzle flash), expression and creating a sense of dread. I'm mostly happy with the results, although I now think the pose and angle couldbe a little better (for example, I don't like that the gun is aiming straight through him, it should be at an upward angle). I also should have spread out the zombie's legs farther apart to help convey a sense of movement. And, truth be told, the muzzle flash needs a little work.

Nevertheless, I'm generally pleased with the results and think it's a good start.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Deadwood - Another look at Sheriff Mike Foreman

Sheriff Mike Foreman don't look none too happy in this
sample image that might make it into the Deadwood Book.
Here's another quick look at Sheriff Mike Foreman from the upcoming book/game, Gutshot: Night of the Living Deadwood.

This time I experimented with a few new things, like a different effect on his pants (these are light, before they were dark) and I tried using an exaggerated expression on his face.

To be honest, neither of these were successful, so this image probably won't make it into the final book. Especially since I forgot to pin his sheriff's badge to his vest!

However, I might revisit this image and fix the face and tin star (plus change the background) later, if it turns out that I need it for the final book. I just thought I'd include it so you could get an idea of the behind-the-scenes process that we use to select artwork for the book.

As before, this is the Michael 4 character from Daz 3D; it was rendered in Daz Studio 4.6 and converted to b&w in Photoshop.

Next week -- our first action shot featuring a zombie!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Deadwood - Wolf Willis art preview (part 2)

I was talking to Paul "Mad Dog" Mauer the other night about the artwork for the upcoming Deadwood book (he gets all flustered if I use the full name, Gutshot: Night of the Living Deadwood, in conversation). He likes the look of the final artwork I'm showing, but asked to see what it looks like before I convert it to black & white line art.

To back up a second, the images I'm creating start out in a 3D program called Daz Studio. I'm currently using the latest release, which is version 4.6. This is actually a free program created by a company called Daz3D. I've been a customer of theirs for more than a decade, although I used to just buy content from them. You see, they started out making figures, clothes and hair for a 3D program called Poser.

Both of these are considered entry-level 3D programs and they have tens of thousands of users around the world. Now, to digress for one second, if you're knowledgeable about 3D software you might ask why I'm not using a high-end application like Maya, 3D Studio Max or even Lightwave, or something in the middle like Carrara or even Strata 3D or Blender. The simple answer is, those are bigger than I need.

I'm not creating animations, nor am I modeling my own figures and props. Frankly, there's already a huge collection of props and figures that have been created by professional (and semi-pro) designers out there for use in Daz Studio and Poser. Rather than waste time reinventing them, I've chosen to buy (or simply obtain free models, because there are thousands of freebies out there) and compose them into scenes that I can then use to illustrate the upcoming Deadwood book.

And there's a LOT of manipulation involved. These models do not just magically transform into the black & white line art I'm previewing here. There's no simple mouse-click to do the conversion. It takes a combination of my eye and experience to go from the original render to the final image.

But, to answer Paul's question, here's a look at what I'm actually starting with. As you can see in this animated GIF, the Daz Studio software deals with wireframe 3D meshes that are then covered with textures.

From mesh to man, this series of screen shots from Daz Studio
show how detail is slowly added to the figure to bring it to life.

As 3D meshes, these have been pre-rigged, meaning they have "bones" that let them move at the joints just like people (and dogs) do. Each finger, toe, eyelid, mouth, etc. can also be moved to grasp the rifle and make the face look different (the same figure, for example, could look like different people just by adjusting the chin, cheek bones, hairline and body type). I can also move the camera around so that we can see them from different angles (I could easily switch this to a side view, or do a close-up on the dog's face. Likewise, I can adjust the lighting (in this case it comes from below to add a hint of drama to the scene).

I don't want to get into a big discussion on 3D or what my process is to convert the artwork to b&w, but if you're interested, let me know and I'll post more info about it.

Check out last week's post for a look at the final version of this image.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Deadwood - Wolf Willis art preview

Here's another art sample from the upcoming book/game, GUTSHOT: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADWOOD. This is a new character, a bounty hunter by the name of Wolf Willis (and his companion, a half-wolf dog that simply goes by the name Wolf). As you can imagine, Willis gets his nickname from his canine companion.

"Wolf" Willis stands ready to face all odds.
(click on image to see full-sized)

Right now, to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm keeping the wolf. I need to create a few more test images to see how he renders and converts into line art. I also need to see how many poses are available for the dog -- pre-set poses help save a lot of time over having to create them from scratch.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Deadwood - Art Update

Mike Foreman -- This young Deputy just got a
big promotion when the Sheriff got mauled by wild
animals... at least they THINK it was animals!
Wow, has it really been that long since my last post here? That's frightening. I haven't been completely silent at the Hawgleg Website, or even at our Facebook page.

I thought I'd give you a glimpse at some artwork that we're developing for the upcoming game, Gutshot: Night of the Living Deadwood.

This is a simple character study of a character who will be featured in some of the images that will go into the Deadwood book.

If you're not sure what I mean, let me explain. You see, when we created the original Gutshot book, we were able to tap into a vast collection of public domain artwork from pulp magazines published in the 1920s - 1940s. There were a lot of great Western magazines published back then, and we really benefited from the artistry of those bygone days; we found dozens of great images of cowboys, gunfighters, gamblers, and so on.

But, as we move forward with our new project, we can no longer find suitable artwork from the past. As you might imagine, there aren't a lot of zombie cowboys to be found in those old magazines. So, we must create new artwork for our new book. Although this creates some difficulties, it also creates some new opportunities. By creating a "cast of characters," our examples will be able to tell a more unified story than we did in our first book. I don't mean we're going to include a lot of fiction, but rather that when we provide an example, we will be able to tell a mini-story the progresses throughout the book. This is sort of what they did back in the Vampire: The Masquerade and World of Darkness books from White Wolf.

Hence, the need for "characters" who will appear in both text and art throughout the book. This first one is Mike Foreman, a young sheriff in a small Western town. He got the job when his old boss was mauled by wild animals. At least they THINK it was wild animals. I mean, what else could it be? His first job will be to investigate who stole the sheriff's body from the undertaker's office before it could be buried.

Stay tuned -- I'll be posting new images here soon, of Mike and some of the other characters from the Deadwood game.
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