Sunday, December 11, 2016

Where to stop?

One of the most confusing aspect of painting is to know where to stop. For example, I painted the following landscape by following a tutorial from a book. In the first seating, I just painted the background with earth tones including Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna as well as the sky using Ultramarine Blue mixed with white.

On the left side is the result after second seating, where I added rough details in the grass and greenery. On the right side is the result after the third seating, where I pimped up the painting by adding enough contrast for ex. darker green values at the edge of the "supposed to be" grass field and tree lines, also the changes in the tones on mountains are more varied now. (Unfortunately both of these photos were taken at night with artificial light, resulting in deviations in true colors in the photo. The final photo at the bottom is taken in direct sunlight depicting the true colors.)

 

The original painting "New Mexico" by Becky Bening (included in the book "Complete Guide to Painting in Acrylics" by Lorena Kloosterboer) has more details but not necessarily so much more that I would venture to blindly copy it. My goal was to get the hang of color mixing and the process of landscape paintings.

Mixing the hues of greens/yellows for the grass and trees, different blues for the sky and mountains was a helpful learning experience. It is hard to imagine that in fact a red pigment (Cadmium Red) was used to gray out the saturated greens coming directly out of the tube. I would write a post on color mixing in near future.

Unlike portraits or still life, landscapes require a slight different approach. Its not an individual component that matters but the painting as a whole which is important. In portraits, the painting will be screwed up if you get the proportions of a single facial feature wrong, although everything else might be perfect. There is a bigger room for error in landscapes but that doesn't make it that simpler. Composition and perspective must be nailed otherwise it ends up looking flat and uninteresting.

Here is the painting after adjusting that unexpectedly bluer hill in the right side image from the comparison above (third from the right in the landscape):


Acrylics on a 24x32cm Canvas Paper
Painted in 2016
Well, now my question: Do I proceed with a fourth seating to sharpen the details and to add more contrast or leave it here?

I stopped and hanged the painting on the wall ;) Maybe later sometime I might continue adding the details.

Friday, December 2, 2016

First Sketch


This was my first sketch 3 years ago, when time was ample and money was scarce. 



And here is the link to the original blog post from the old blog.

Friday, November 25, 2016

La Madre dell'Ucciso - Franscesco Ciusa

One can go long and long about philosophy of arts, various artistic mediums and their final effect on human perception and psyche, skills of the artist and so on. But the greatest of the art pieces have something in common irrespective of the mediums, aesthetics, craft of the artist or the popularity; the ability to poignantly express human conditions. Look at Edvard Munch's Scream or Michealangelo's David or Van Gogh's At Eternity's Gate. Of course, "what is great art" is subjective but the common denominator of human subjectivity, I guess, overlaps greatly with the complete possible spectrum of "greatness".

I first visited Sardinia in 2015 and the island struck a spell on me with its landscapes, seascapes, history, nuraghes, food, people and beautiful small towns. I visited it again in 2016 and stayed at Nuoro for a night. It's a hermit city quietly resting in the mountainous inland of the island, away from the bustle of touristic businesses along the coastlines and has still preserved that "aboriginal" feel. It was a little boring or precisely expressed, a little lifeless compared to other cities like Bosa on the island, but there was something different about it. I usually plan some of my travel days specifically according to the Musuem opening times and if fact, we visited three Museums in Nuoro in just one and a half day. It is said to be Athens of Sardinia for its native brewed writers, painters and sculptors.

The second museum was a Nuoresi sculptor's museum. It was almost empty during the siesta hours with only handful of people walking and gazing at the sculptures of the artist. The corridor was long with small rooms on both sides and at the end, on the left side, there was a quiet darker room. Upon entering the room I was frozen for a second to see a life-size sculpture of an old woman wearing a headscarf, sitting stoically, holding her knees together with her old frail hands. A small light was amplifying the mystery by just throwing enough light from the top that one could barely see her forehead under the scarf. The wrinkles on her face were telling, her cheeks were showing bones and the veins on her hands were so alive that I could not stop observing every inch of the carved stone. The most striking thing about it, was the expression on her face and her slightly pursed lips: she was sad but proud, she was old but strong, there was a touch of regret, pain and misery on her face but nothing called for pity. Minutes flew by, I stood there, locked, wondering about the old woman and at the prodigious skills of the sculptor. Then I looked down to read the name of the sculpture, it was like those rare revelations: "La madre dell'ucciso" with an English translation on the label "Mother of the killed".

Those few minutes left one long impression on me and even after months, she keeps on mystifying me when I think about her. I didn't have a camera with me, so I take liberty to post her photos here from Wikipedia.

La madre dell'ucciso - Franscesco Ciusa
Photo by Davide Mauro / CC BY-SA 4.0

Coming back to my point about the greatness of art, this sculpture has become one of the most beloved pieces of art for me for its sheer humanity, besides the awe-inspiring craftwork from Ciusa. It is perfectly executed with precise dimensions and proportions just as if she was alive. No blood is flowing through those veins and nowhere is there a beating heart, yet it deeply moves the onlooker. I believe Ciusa poured an eternal life into something which was once just a stone. And that makes great art really great.

La madre dell'ucciso - Franscesco Ciusa
Photo by Roburq / CC BY-SA 3.0

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Photographing in Raw Format

When I switched from my point-and-shoot Fujifilm to a DSLR, for a month I tried to soak as much technical information regarding digital photography as could. One of the most covered topics was the raw format, but I could not find any satisfactory practical article which enlightened my noobness. Some articles even unabashedly bashing the JPEG format to an extent that it left me with an anti-RAW feeling just for the sake of it. Fortunately those zealots didn't affect that tiny objectively thinking part of my brain much. So I thought of giving it a try during my trip to Amsterdam.

It was a back-lit sunset situation at around half past six in the evening. I haven't become a photography ninja as of yet, so I just applied my limited knowledge and took this photo in manual mode with my Nikon 5300D and 18-105 Lens. I was in manual mode on a purpose to learn the ins and outs of exposures. Honestly, this situation called for exposure bracketing, but I just wanted to experiment and see to what extent this otherwise unexciting photo can be recovered in Lightroom to get hands on RAW recovery experience.

Original Image as taken at 1/200 f/9.0 ISO 160


After doing some editing in Lightroom it turned out like this:

Recovered Image in Lightroom.
Place your mouse pointer anywhere on this image to see the original image hidden beneath in layer for easy comparison!

Though zooming right in the recovered areas do expose the noise, I must say the quality of the recovered image is outright acceptable given that this photo had so much shadows in it and if I was shooting JPEG it would have ended up in trash. RAW did more than just impressing me, it convinced me to keep it a standard format on my DSLR: (by moving your mouse over to the edited image) Look specifically those pinkish red buoyancy floats on the boats on the middle left side of the image which were more or less lost in shadows in the original image. Also those beautiful sunlit leaves of the cropped tree on the right side. Even the lens flare in the center right is completely invisible in the original image.

I can totally understand those excited opinions regarding RAW Format. JPEG does have its place in those mass point and shoot occasions or some banal photos. RAW on the other hand is the way to go for me during a thought out shooting walk or when the highest leverage in post processing is necessary. It would have been a fair experiment if I also had an original JPEG image. In that way I would have two originals and two recovered images one from RAW and one from JPEG to compare the recoverability of RAW and JPEG side by side. But from previous experience with JPEG, I can safely say the recovered image might not even come close to what was recovered with RAW here.

You can download the original RAW image here in case you want to experiment yourself with it.

Here is another pair of recovered image from that session. I tried to push the limits of sense to get whatever amount of details I could get but the recovered image has that unnatural over-the-top saturated HDR look.

Just don't overdo it or it'll look like an ugly HDR photo.
Again for the sake of showing the squeezed juice, move your mouse over to see the original unedited image.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gadgetry Upgrade

For the past 4-5 years, I used a Lenovo Ideapad Z575 which had long given up its edge, a broken HTC mini one which is now replaced by a smartphone given to me by a cousin of mine which was lying around his workplace and a Fujifilm F600 EXR point and shoot camera with a dust on its sensor which leaves its black footprint on each of the photo I take with it.

My laptop screen was dead some months ago, which I replaced. Even the replaced battery was such a retard that I couldn't stay away from the power plug. In the summer, the core temperature of CPU reached up to 100 degrees, ultimately resulting in unexpected shutdowns in the middle of skype calls or a nervous La Vuelta mountain stage. For a month ago, without any prompt or windows BSOD, my laptop just gave up. The keyboard and mousepad works only in BIOS, when windows boots, I couldn't move a damn thing or type my password. Probably a north-bridge issue. Well to keep the story short, I let my considerations and bank account off the leash and decided to upgrade the gadgetry.

So, a month ago, I treated myself with a DELL XPS 15, a beautiful Dell U2415 Monitor, a Logitech MX Master bluetooth mouse and a Nikon D5300 with 18-105 Kit lens!

First I ordered the well received portable XPS 13 but my clumsy fingers weren't happy with the small size factor of the 13 inch laptop. So I returned it back and got its bigger brother. In my potential list were macbook pro for that cool trackpad/display and few other windows laptops but then I went with this one because:
  1. Specs and aesthetics: XPS 15 is a sheer wonder to look at. The thin bezel (border around the screen) just nailed the design factor for me. The laptop is housed in a sturdy metal body which feels stiff and the carbon fiber area near the keyboard provides a rubbery smooth feel for the fingers and palm. Just a pure aesthetic bliss! 4K touch panel version was stretching my budget too far. The one I got has a Full HD IPS panel, external Nvidia GTX 960M graphic card, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD(which I got replaced with my 256 Gigs SSD and the HDD now acts as an external storage) and it runs on a Skylake i5 quad core. It hosts enough ports for my needs and a SD card reader which is quite useful. 
  2. OS Comfort factor: I have always used Windows/Linux and I have my own scripts written for productivity. The specific keyboard shortcuts are deeply ingrained into my finger muscles that I don't want to unlearn and relearn it for mac or rewrite scripts for the platform.
  3. Ecosystem: I had two iPods back when I was in college, a 1st Gen iPod shuffle and later a 2nd Gen iPod touch. Though those were the loveliest of gadgets that I owned, I hated the whole iTunes business. The whole ecosystem of mac world puts me off. I have my own set of freeware on Windows like Q-Dir, AHK, Notepad++, MusicBee which will need a replacement if at all possible. That's too much of a hindrance for me.
  4. Exclusivity factor: To be really honest, I see uncountable macbook pros and airs in the hands of business travelers and girls/guys in cafes and everywhere here in Europe that it isn't really exclusive anymore like it was back home in Mumbai. Well, I admit I am a vain ass and the non-exclusivity factor did affect my choice.
  5. Value for money: Though there were other similar spec laptops from Lenovo and Acer lineup which were cheaper than this one, I gave up on my pursuit of "maximum bang for the buck" in exchange for the look and feel of the XPS.

After a month of use, I must say there are some things which might be annoying to nitpicky personalities:
  1. Smudges: Oily smudges on the palm-rest area pop up just after light usage. The right photo above speaks for this case.
  2. Speakers: Placement of speakers underneath the front edge of the frame is a questionable decision given that there is enough space on the surface left because of the smaller keyboard. External Speakers are advisable for those who want a better sound experience, though the speakers are not that bad. For audiophiles, I need not suggest!  
  3. Keyboard: Why did they waste so much real estate on the frontal area? Neither did they place speakers besides the keyboard, nor did they design a bigger keyboard which could have been ergonomically better given the 14/15 inch footprint of the ultrabook. I think they probably wanted to optimize manufacturing costs by using the same keyboard for XPS 13 and 15. Considering the price point, that seems outright unjustifiable to me. 
  4. Webcam: A well discussed issue with the XPS's; due to thin bezel, they had to place the webcam under the front IPS panel on the left side showing unflattering view of the your face. Well, it has a good side though, you humbly realize that you don't always look as cool as you might think you look ;) I do have an external USB webcam, so not an issue.


I even let go of my aversion of mice and got me a Logitech MX Master to try it out. Man, after using it for a month now, I am thinking of getting another at work too. That is one supercool piece of a mouse. Ergonomically, that is from weight and shape point of view, it suits my hand really well. It's expensive for a mouse but after thinking about how much time I spend every day working with computers(avg 12-13 hours a day including work!), I think the money is well spent even if it enhances the experience tiny bit; this mouse is a day and light difference to those standard mice which I used before. It has even helped me get rid of that RSI feel. At work, currently I use two mice; one for each hand, because they are small and light, I get wrist pain after a while.




Finally, the whole new setup has enough oomph for my multitasking needs: surf with thousands of open firefox tabs, watch HD videos seamlessly, do Lightroom/GIMP stuff, run light VMs and play games. Overall, an aesthetically pleasing place for me to go about spending considerable amount of my time.

Well, I won't write about the Nikon now, I'd rather post the photos I take with it ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Practice Run by Grégoire Bouguereau

It was in the winter of 2013 that I came across this heart wrenching photo from Grégoire Bouguereau. It was selected as the wildlife photo of the year 2012 by National History Museum and it was showcased in an exhibition I attended. The frightened calf in a hopeless run for life is haunting and reminds us of the cruel order of the nature. The cheetah cubs probably not only devoured the calf but also "learned to kill" it until it actually lost the hope of freedom and died. I think that is what hurts more; its not the death itself, its the way.

Practice Run, Photo Credit: Grégoire Bouguereau

The photo left my bones cold and I actually ended up sketching it when I came back from the exhibition. I should have avoided keeping the sketch under other pieces of paper as you can see the smudges and yellowing of the paper on the edges. Now it finds itself organized safely in a nice display file in my portfolio folder.

Sketch of the photo on 16x12cm Paper
Do check out other stunning wildlife photographs of this photographer on his website

Friday, October 21, 2016

Panning

Lately I have been reading "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson to notch up my photography game a little bit. The book lays out with many examples and in simple terms the relationship between the three corners of the exposure triangle namely aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The example images are inspiring and the related caption text describing the author's choices of camera settings is immensely helpful to understand how the three variables are manipulated to get that particular image.

One of the most important point the author makes is that there are many possible settings to get the correct exposure for the given subject but there is almost always just one single combination of the variables which yields an artistically correct exposure. Anyway, if you are into understanding the topic thoroughly, I would wholeheartedly recommend the book.

I tried experimenting with the panning which is discussed in the book while visiting Amsterdam. Panning is basically a technique where one moves the camera parallel to the direction of the motion at slower shutter speeds to focus sharply on the moving subject while at the same time blurring the stationary background. The end result is a photo portraying the motion of the subject due to the one directional blur of the background. 

It was a beautiful autumn evening and the city was full with cyclists on the bridges. This photo was taken at one of those busy bridges. I spent almost 15-20 minutes literally "shooting" the cyclists as they rode by with different shutter speeds and aperture settings almost as if I was playing that duck shooting game "Duck Hunt" on the 8-bit gaming console back in those school summer vacations. This one is one of the sharper ones which I could take at full zoom. I believe with more patience one can lock the subject as sharp as a knife.

1/40 f/10 ISO 160
I chose exactly this one out of the other competing panning shots because I just love the style of this girl; with her hairs trying to untangle themselves from the chequered bluish green shawl, her cool rucksack and that classy blue-jeans-black-shoes combi.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Autumn

1/60 f/6.2 ISO 200

Taken with my old friend FinePix F600EXR in Bamberg, Germany. It's rather an eerie surprise now that I'm looking at the metadata of the photo; it was taken exactly four years ago on 13th of Oct 2012.. Funny how dead things call back for attention as if it was all destined to be.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Sleeping Faun

Back in 2013, when I first saw two paintings of a Faun in Neue Pinakothek, the mystery of the idea took hold of me. Here are the two paintings from Arnold Böcklin (both images are taken from the website of Neue Pinakothek):

"Faun, die Syrinx blasend" - Arnold Böcklin
Photo from the Pinakothek Website
"Pan im Schlif" - Arnold Böcklin
Photo from the Pinakothek Website
One funny difference about visiting Museums and watching the photos of painting is the misjudgement of the actual scale of the painting in photos. The second painting above "Pan im Schlif" is in fact almost ten effing times bigger in area than the first painting "Faun, die Syrinx blasend". The second painting is pretty huge that it gives you the impression as if you stand there in midday sun, looking at the back of the resting faun under the shed and have a touch of angst that he will turn his head and stare at you..

Later I learned that a 2200 year old marble statue was acquired by the "Mad king" Ludwig of Bayern and is at display in Glyptothek. Here are the photos of the Sleeping Faun which I took during my visit to the Glyptothek. The statue doesn't really fulfill the potential mythos of a faun but it's one hell of an exotic one. The inebriated facial expression and the unforgiving sexuality of the statue is as mythical as the spirit of faun itself.





The shape of the figure and the range of gray tones in the photo enticed me to try in on a canvas paper. This is how it ended up.

"The Sleeping Faun" 
Acrylics on a 24x32cm Canvas Paper
Painted in 2015

I painted the face just as dabs of paint for two reasons; first, honestly I am not yet confident drawing and painting facial expressions as it requires pretty good amount of skills to asses the proportions of facial features as well as tones in order not to screw it up and second, due to the expressionistic sort of the painting. I guess I'll try a realistic painting later on someday. 

The corners of the canvas paper were taped while painting to make the paper firmly attached to the support and therefore they couldn't be painted; it doesn't look pro now ;) It was a beginner mistake as I should've either directly used a stretched canvas or a canvas pad. Well, we all make mistakes and learn.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Fossil

This sketch of a fossil held in my hand is one of the first ones I skeched back in 2013. It took a substantial amount of time and patience to complete it and was like a quantum jump in my skills related to evaluating gray values and surfaces. Here is the link to my old blog post about Darwin and this sketch: http://saurabh-sawant.blogspot.de/2013_02_01_archive.html The photo on my old blog was taken by my old Fujifilm advanced point and shoot camera at night with that crazy yellow tint. This high res photo is taken from Nikon D5300 on a bright daylight.
 "The Fossil" 13x17cm


Here is the original photo I used for the sketch.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Learning Excerise: Michael Naples

This guy's paintings are so pleasingly realistic. It was a pleasure to copy this squeezed lemon painting of his.

My attempt:
Acrylics on 9x9cm Paper

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Painting of The Panther


Sculpture "The Panther" by Franz Marc 
Acrylics on 24x32cm Paper
Painted somewhere in the first half of 2015

Friday, July 15, 2016

Brothers

To get the idea of the room, space and different postures of the people in a museum, I went to the Neue Pinakothek twice while the painting was being drawn in my mind. Actually I photographed the probably most visited room in the neue Pinakothek where the Van Gogh/Gauguin Paintings are displayed to keep a visual proof during the drawing stage. I drew the two brothers without much visual input except the sitting one, where I took support from the man "at Eternity's gate" :)


Brothers
Acrylics on 40x30cm Canvas Board
2015

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tulips

Acrylics on paper. 18x24 cm

I believe, after my recent experiments with painting, that drawing skills play a very crucial but hidden role in a realistic painting. Even if the colors are messed up or not very well executed, the final outcome still looks pleasant. The other way around, careful and patient handling of colors and brushes on a not so "good" drawing almost always look awkward; which is always undesirable for a realistic painting except of course that rawness is what the artist is looking for.

Well, here are the steps I took to make sure the Tulips end up looking like Tulips and the proportions of leaves to that of this really cool transparent bluish vase are harmonious.

1. Underpainting - That thin grayish layer to get rid of the fear of empty white canvas ;) Just partially kidding, actually underpainting gives that muted glow to the finished painting and is used extensively by almost everyone.
2. Drawing - An enjoyable process in itself albeit being the driest(both metaphorically and literally) part of the whole thing. Use as much eraser as you need and want until the drawing feels sufficiently good. Patience and time spent at this stage will pay wholeheartedly later.
3. Painting leaves first so that when the blue of the vase is painted over, the part of the stem inside the vase will still be visible underneath.
4. Painting the vase with thinned blue using Acrylic Medium to suggest the transparency of the vase.


5. Painting tulips. I found this the easiest part of the whole thing.
6. Background. Here was a difficult decision. To use complementary colors or analogous. I "like" Van Gogh's Sunflowers (There are some other paintings from him which I personally find absolutely enchanting and if I would write about those, "like" would surely be an unfit expression.. Well, its what they say is a "geschmackssache") so thought of giving the same analogous colored background treatment to the tulips.


A dividing brushstroke of a deep dark blue between two background colors like the one in the Sunflowers from Vincent will surely make it more mature ;) Well maybe, its destined to be deprived of that line. (the bastard ego of the creator!)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Learning Exercise: Will Kemp

It's been two years I started sketching. However the sketching stints were quite sporadic. For months I didn't touch any pencils and they lay there in dust. All the time, I have been enjoying the paintings from Van Gogh, but recently stumbled upon on other painters like Cezanne and Monet. Week ago, we visited Lenbachhaus in Munich. The portraits, landscapes and other abstracts painting in the museum charmed me to the depth. To observe the daubs of paints they left upon the canvas is such a delightful visual experience. It might sound a cliche but I admit that it really felt my mind with some unexplainable poignant feelings.

Anyway, it was Christmas and Franzi gifted me some acrylics, brushes and canvases after seeing me drool all over the paintings of these guys. I sat down, googled some instruction as usual (just like The Eye) and came upon this artist Will Kemp and his cool tutorials: http://willkempartschool.com/how-to-acrylic-paint-light-and-shade-part-3/
After 2.5 hours of patience, here is the end result:

Acrylics on paper. 18x24 cm
Of course his color mixes, brush strokes and shades are way finely executed; but instead of being unnecessarily modest I'd say it doesn't look like a bad attempt ;)

Friday, June 3, 2016

A New Beginning

Around 6 years ago, I started my first blog Scattered Pieces and stopped it in 2014. I see the old one as a single oil painting by an amateur artist who enjoyed being locked up in his dark room alone and now is gone missing.

Before the unnecessary words and thoughts dilute the feeling, I'd say, its good to be back here. I missed the blog and I miss the man.