I like keeping my illustration projects in sync with the seasons, though I’m so slow I often finish them near the end.
This illustration ties to events in the second to last chapter of the fourth Geren novel, The Subverted War, which means little detail can be provided without significant spoilers.
So instead of narrative details, perhaps a little about the creative process would interest some viewers.
I learned years past that building a scene in Vue and then plopping the Poser figures into it never worked for me. In part, the “camera” settings between the two programs don’t match, so an angle that looks great in Poser can’t be aligned with the camera in Vue.
Trying to bring the character(s) into Vue and then building the scene around that too often led to file corruption because it took me weeks of fiddling, especially for projects where renders took 10+ hours.
So now I do a rough draft of the landscape and lighting, and the same with the character(s) in Poser, knowing that both will be updated and changed. For this illustration in particular, I left simple conforming clothing on Geren and didn’t waste any effort on setting up dynamic clothing until the scene was complete. With hyarmi, I have to bring them in “naked”–hairless, because otherwise all that fur bogs down processing and renders and speeds up the scene going corrupt.
I’ve learned the hard way that having something that looks fantastic on a small or even half-sized render looks far from it when rendered at full size. This illustration was a delight because all the large renders were under 2 hours, which greatly sped up my progress.
I use a blend of small, large, and medium renders as I hammer out details (dozens of small renders, most of which get deleted after comparing to see if the change moved the image in a desired direction). I’ve learned that the vision in my head can never be perfectly matched, in part because it’s usually in motion, and from different angles at once. So it’s much wiser to go with what the software constraints dictate, even if it is not a clear match.
In this case, I had to give up on a closer view despite wanting that. I seized the providence of the half-arrow in the clouds and aligned the Shado and camera angle with it. Don’t throw away gifts like that!
I did some refining of the characters in Poser and then brought them back in, and that led to shifting from the characters facing slightly away to facing slightly into the camera.
Then I start hammering out the textures (and creating more backups in case the scene goes corrupt, along with recording the positions of the figures). For that I often do patch renders, small and large, of a piece of the scene, since I’m focused on one part at a time. So those don’t get saved long. Thankfully for this project I was able to save textures in Vue instead of taking copious screenshots (which is what happened with “Desperate Errand”).
I rarely save many in-progress images in Poser, because I know I’ll be changing the textures, while the lighting and camera angle also will not match Vue. I’m not very skilled with dynamic clothing simulations, though at least I could draw off some of what I learned from “Cold Hillside.” But because this stage took me hours over multiple evenings, I saved more images than usual.
The close-up render at a different angle was due to extra work. This project meant creating texture maps for a proper ikeri eye and finally settling on how many pupils they have (four). I’ve been using my cobbled-together Shado figure since 2012, but the Shado’s eyes are almost never visible.
Once I finished building Geren’s clothing by turning each dynamic item into a prop, it was time to bring him back into Vue and tweak the clothing textures. It helped I had some saved from older projects, like “Cold Hillside,” “Autumn Play,” and “Face-off.” I only had to adjust them based on lighting and distance and the quirks of this version of the software.
At this point I start running full-sized renders. I sometimes email them to myself at my job, so that I can look at them throughout the day and come up with a list of improvements. (Flipping the scene so it’s a mirror image really helps with this). Once I’m done in Vue, I start doing work in Photoshop Elements on stuff to fix by hand. If I were better with Poser and Vue, less of this would be needed!
- Part of Geren’s pinky is under a scale–ouch! (I had to go back to both Poser and Vue to fix this one)
- Scale-tips poking through cloak
- Black creases on trousers
- Need to handle the “beak” pieces
- “Stripes” on snow (did a bunch of Vue patch renders for this)
- Black edges on parts of wings
- Fix things poking out of snow on foreground right
- Remove stripe on Geren’s trousers
- Make the bottom of his cloak dirtier
I always do additional full renders or patch renders as part of this process, racing against the inevitable crash or scene corruption that will pounce at some point. For example, I couldn’t find a simple way to make the snow on the boulder look trampled just where I wanted, so in Photoshop Elements I combined a version with pristine snow and a version that had splotches all over.
Once I can’t come up with much more fiddly stuff, it’s time to tackle final tweaks such as gamma/levels, brightness/contrast, and tint.
Then comes the fun: making wallpaper versions for my home and work monitors, making a version to enjoy as a puzzle in my puzzle software, and posting it online.
But sometimes it’s hard to cut the cord. So if the scene hasn’t gone corrupt yet, I might even play with alternate views until I can get it out of my system!