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Old 08-15-2010, 04:09 PM
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WildVisions WildVisions is offline
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Lightbulb SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

I was talking with Diana Lee earlier this morning on Facebook and we got to discussing animal portraits and how they are rendered in SB. I have decided to make this thread as a resource for those of us who love creating animal art in SB. I will be explaining how to render things such as fur, noses, eyes, etc, along with all the imperfections and why it is important to include these. I am away from my external hard drives and library of refs so I will be using images from google to supplement this article. Please do not use these for practice, as they're just here for illustrative purposes only.

EYES
Technique: I use a crosshatching pattern to create eyes. I find that this creates the smoothest gradients. By using this type of stroke I am also setting my eyes apart from all the other textures in the piece as this area is the only place where cross-hatching is present, besides noses. This helps them to read as 'different' when set against fur. It is common to render the eyes as a series of strokes that radiate out from the pupil like a starburst. People tend to make these strokes vary in weight to give the eye those natural variations. Upon inspecting eyes, however, you will notice that the transitions are much more subtle and tend to not be straight lines.

Imperfections: Eyes can present several imperfections. The most notable are spots and natural variations in the pigmentation of the iris. The second is the discharge that forms in the tear ducts. In "Cautious Observation" (detail, right side) you can see that I have added these 'eye boogers' rather than leaving them out.

Scratchboard Examples:


Photographic Examples:



NOSES
Technique: Noses are rendered with a mixture of cross hatching, similar to eyes, and stippling. Again, using these strokes helps to create a texture that is drastically different than fur and will allow these parts to stand out. Noses of canines are often moist and can have strong, bright highlights under the right lighting conditions. If you observe the texture of the canine nose up close you will find that it is actually made up of little 'cell' shaped formations. When rendering your subject up close, or at a large scale, make sure to include these. Feline subjects have a more subtle nose texture, but it is still present. For subjects at a distance this texture is usually omitted. Also note the texture where the muzzle fur meets the nose and the skin can be seen through the sparse hairs.

Imperfections: Noses can come with a variety of imperfections. These include scars, scuffs, and various debris that stick to them. Things such as loose hairs, dirt, tiny bits of grass, etc can sometimes be found clinging to a wet nose. Those who have outdoor dogs are familiar with this.

Scratchboard Examples:


Photographic Examples:



FUR
Techniques: Fur comes in variety of lengths and textures. Pay attention to the direction and texture of the fur you are rendering. Often, people render fur as long or short lines following the growth pattern. If you look at a real animal's coat however you will find that hairs tend to have natural variation and are often not 'neat' at all. I use small groupings of several scratches together to create the texture for short fur, such as that found around the eyes and on the muzzle. For longer hair I will use slightly 'wiggly' strokes to simulate the 'scraggly' look.

Imperfections: The most common imperfections found in fur are scars, bent/loose hairs that are still clinging to the coat and debris from the environment. Grass, small leaves, burrs, etc will often find their way into an animal's coat, especially along the legs, belly, and chest. If the animal lays with it's head on the floor, it's not uncommon to find these in the cheek fur too! Scars usually are present on the face, although they can be found on the legs too. They are most noticeable in short fur and will be present as dark areas without fur. Because the scar is an indentation, pay special attention to the highlights and shadows on either side of the scar. The scar is essentially 'embossed' into the fur. These highlights and shadows are very important and will give your scar depth and make it believable. Pits and areas where the fur is clumped together are also prevalent. Watch for these! Fur is seldom 'perfect'. These pits are most common on the foreheads of canines, but also occur in the long neck fur of canines and felines alike.

Scratchboard Examples:


Photographic Examples:



A note on imperfections: A lot of people tend to overlook these, possibly because they want to portray the animal in a 'perfect' light or maybe because they just don't notice them! These little details add life to your subject. Animals in the wild are, for lack of a better word, dirty. They are not bathed and groomed on a consistent basis like our beloved pets. No one is there to pull the burrs from their coat or dust them off. Sure, they lick themselves clean from time to time, but they won't stop and do this every time they get up, so chances are they may walk around with stuff hanging off of them and not care/notice. In the wild they will have scars, mats in their fur, loose hairs/shedded 'clumps' hanging off of them, and various environmental debris tangled into their hair. These are normal and are a part of nature, so why not add them? That said, if they are not present in your ref and you choose to add them, remember that 'less is more'. Unless your animal just finished rolling all over the floor, he or she will not be completely coated in debris. Likewise, unless your animal is old and has gotten into a lot of fights, their face will not be riddled with scars. As with all things, it is important not to over do it.

I hope you guys found this little write up helpful! I will be adding to it as I build up more examples of various things, but this one covers the basics.
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Old 08-15-2010, 05:07 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Thank you Christina for taking the trouble to give us this most informative information. Your excellent observations have been noted and I will save this thread to my 'favourites' so that I don't miss any future additions. Most appreciated Have you thought of producing a book?
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Old 08-15-2010, 07:16 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Excellent - Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this Cristina.
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Old 08-15-2010, 08:39 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Thank-you! This is very helpful.
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Old 08-15-2010, 08:42 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

This is a great thread! Thank you for doing this.

Diana
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Old 08-15-2010, 09:43 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Great stuff and clearly present. Thanks.
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Old 08-15-2010, 10:23 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Wow! Thanks Cristina for taking the time to post this. This is exactly the kind of information that I was looking for. Hopefully I can use these to improve on my future boards.
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Old 08-16-2010, 12:52 AM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

well done
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Old 08-16-2010, 02:09 AM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

It's brilliant and it will be a huge help to most of us, if not all of us, and me for sure.

Now, to throw the cat amongst the pigeons so to speak. You mention the change in technique for eyes and noses compared to fur, and I agree with you. That's why I often stipple my eyes to show that change in texture. I said so much in a previous thread and Cathy showed that she does eyes with the radiating lines, and when you see her eyes (well, her scratchboard eyes, not her actual eyes ) it's hard to deny that what she does works incredibly well too. I won't invade your thread with my or Cathy's images but it seems to me that it can work either way if it's done well. So, is this a case of people learning one thing and then gravitating to something that works for them or in your opinion should we all be using cross hatching?

Example of eyes by Cathy and me (and many other people) are here

Thanks for this thread once again. Cathy has already put it in the Close-Up study threads so it can be seen anytime.
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Old 08-16-2010, 04:27 AM
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WildVisions WildVisions is offline
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Patrick,

My post was meant sort of as a guide, rather than the end-all be-all of SB techniques. Although I am stressing the importance of imperfections in animals and how those add to the realism of the piece, the techniques shown are just my way of achieving the look. Like those 'how to paint wildlife' books, it shows my methods of achieving certain effects, but it's not the only way. Looking at the close up threads you linked, Cathy does have some very minor cross-hatching along with very dense radial strokes to give her eyes that 'smooth' look. You use stippling in conjunction with lines, which also smooths it out. Diana Lee uses the exact same technique as I do, cross hatching. We are all getting smooth gradients because we all have one thing in common: line density.

The reason I suggested crosshatching is that it's a fast way to build up density (I can create a finished eye in about 5-10 minutes) and it's an easy technique for a beginner to master. I've noticed a lot of new faces popping up here, some of whom are new to the medium, so I posted this in hopes that it will give them a springboard from which to grow and build their own techniques. There are also some variations in the eyes, like the canine one in the middle photo, that would require cross hatching to achieve or, at the very least, very dense, small radial lines or stippling. Those are difficult to achieve if one is using long, sweeping radial strokes unless they've built up that technique for a while and have mastered it, as Cathy has. Even in her eyes she uses shorter strokes to build up key areas.

I have optimized my techniques for a balance of speed and quality. If I sit down and work for about 8-10 hours, I can knock out a 11x14 board in a single day with the detail level of "Cautious Observation". For schedule reasons I can't work that many hours in a day usually, but even at my usual pace I can get a lot done! I've created this method because I don't always have time to sit and work on art consistently every day or even every week, so I need to be able to create pieces reasonably fast. If not, I'd be churning out 1-3 pieces per year!

These are mostly a guide/primer to wildlife/animals in SB. The seasoned pros may get inspired and mesh my techniques with their own, and the newbies will have a basic foundation that will offer them a structured approach from which they can then develop their own stylistic preferences.
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Old 08-16-2010, 05:37 AM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Thanks Cristina, that's a great answer, and I can now marvel at and be jealous of your speed
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Old 08-16-2010, 08:15 AM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Christina, as some one that primarily does wildlife art I find your excellent suggestions and very detailed explanations of your techniques to be invaluable. I very much admire and appreciate your generosity and willingness to share your knowledge. Eyes, noses, and fur are all weaknesses of mine and I hope to take advantage of the information and apply it in my future efforts. Thank you again for taking the time to share this information with us.
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Old 08-16-2010, 08:39 AM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Thankyou so much for sharing this information - it is very helpful indeed.
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Old 08-16-2010, 09:42 AM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

Thank you for this thread,this is very good information. Rick
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Old 08-16-2010, 12:06 PM
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Re: SB Animals with Life! A Detailed Thread on Rendering Techniques

I REALLY appreciate this thread and the others I've seen on the subject. Everyone has great techniques and I hope to try them all. Most of all, thank you for sharing your information for us all to learn from. And the closeup and real photos are a huge help also. Lynn
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