Art and Illustration: Technique vs. Style

The ideas outlined here are not new and have no doubt been discussed by professional artists.  This is just my take on the topic, mostly for my own sake in my own evolution as an artist.  And maybe or hopefully it will help other in their journeys as artists.   (After finishing writing this, I realized I didn’t even cover philosophy  and how that will influence an individual artist).

There is a lot to learn about the techniques artists and illustrators use to create their art.  Aspiring artists spend hours, and years practicing to get their techniques better.  What I want to talk about is another aspect to the creative process: Style.   Or, what makes one artists’ work unique from another.  Or to put it another way, the true goal each artist is working towards.  (And yes, a super realistic style is a very very valid goal as well.)

I’m am just trying to comprehend the elements that go into making it as an artist.  Also, knowing that styles of all kinds are not only valid but cherished by millions of people is a really empowering thing.    So if anything, I’m trying to view “technique” in its relationship to the many other elements of art and illustration.   If Art is about communicating, and mood, and character, technique is a tool for realizing that, but tools alone do not make art or illustrations, it is people who do.

Often you notice established artists have a certain, unique style to their work, or maybe they are just really really good at a particular style, like a particular way of drawing superheroes.  (I know, Marvel and DC both employ artists and illustrators with so many different styles, and that to me is an awesome thing).

For artists (from here I’ll just say artists as short for artists, illustrators, concept artists, and the like), there is a shared knowledge of various knowledge and principles that span the spectrum of styles.  Things like, Anatomy, Light and shadow, dynamic movement, portraying emotions, and everything else related to the craft and technique of drawing and painting.  For me, Style comes in when an artist decides what they want their work to “look like,” the types of techniques used to achieve the desired effects, the end result itself, what the finished work will look like.

And yet Style is also an end product, an end goal the artist strives for.   Artists are often known for the style of their work.   Its nothing new that I am saying here: that technique is learned, and yet technique itself does not create an artists style without the artists’ conscious and sustained effort to be consistent in drawing a particular style.   Techniques are used by artists to achieve their style.   The philosophy of the artist, their worldview, always unique to every artist, often also shared and similar to the worldview of other artists, will also effect their choice of subject matter and genres they might work in, and their choice of the Styles of their work.

I recently spent an afternoon at the Chicago Art Institute and looked at paintings from the 15th century to the 19th century.    There were several styles I could discern.   One, an more idealistic Greek-like style that was idealized but realistic.   A more illustrative style, and even semi-cartoonish in nature style as we’d view it today(almost like comic books today), but also where the trees clearly illustrations and not meant to pass for trees you’d see in nature.  And another that went for as much realism as possible.

I could spent the next several months researching historical events, schools of thoughts, prevailing cultural trends and philosophies, to try to figure out why certain artists painted in the styles they did.   Everything style that existed in the 19th century, there were also artists and their students, even if not the most popular or famous of artists, creating the same style in the 16th century.   And in the 19th century, not everyone created in a realistic style, but retained some elements of illustration and idealization in their landscapes.

And there’s the fact that there was a certain amount of realism in Medieval art before the Italian Renaissance.   (Even without the use of perspective).

And so there it is:  technique and style and even that word philosophy, if you like.   The choices for every artist to make.  And its not even as binary as: more cartoonish or more realistic.   There are so many styles, so many unique goals artists have for their work and for themselves.   I guess what’s important is knowing what style or styles you yourself as an artist want to create, and then put all of your art knowledge and techniques toward creating THAT particular Style.

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Magical Worlds and Monks in Eastern Popular Culture and D&D

I recently purchased the 5th Edition of the Dungeons & Dragon’s Player’s Handbook. Looking through its pages, studying each class and their attributes. I played briefly when I was younger, so I felt that nostalgic feeling of studying the nuances of each class and of the abilities unique to each.   It had been so many years that I was also looking at the Player’s Handbook like someone completely new to it’s world.  (Being a veteran of the MMO Neverwinter Nights, many other video game RPGs influenced by D&D).

I was fascinated by the qualities and abilities of some very unique classes, from Bards to Rangers, and not only their unique qualities, but their use of magic.   It seemed like the nature of the world is basically a world filled with magic, even if its practiced by a select few.  It’s still basically, in many ways than one:  a world full of magic.  When I came to the Monk class, I was surprised to see no magic at all for the Monk, mostly from a perspective of a fan of  the history, myths, legends, of “warrior monks” and the magical arts in the popular culture of China.

You can scroll down to see a potential list of Spells from 5th edition that could be learnable by Monks.  It surprisingly makes the Monk a different but unique and equal adventurer alongside the magical Bards, Rangers, and Clerics.

Chinese and Japanese pop culture fantasy worlds are also filled with magic.  The tradition from years and even ages past to today, is as rich as that in the West.    I know Monk class has Ki points that allow for some magic spells at later levels, but this separate system doesn’t quite allow for the same amount of choice that other classes have with regard to magic.  I appreciate the inclusion of the Monk as a class, and see the ability for it to be better incorporated into the magical world(s) of D&D.  (And it is in later books like Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide).  But there is still room for more of the richness of Eastern fantasy and magic to be included in D&D.

THE MONK IN LIVING TRADITIONS, LEGENDS, and POPULAR CULTURE

China, to say nothing of other countries like Japan and Thailand, has no shortage of movies, myths, and stories set in fantasy settings.  I will focus on China, but similar traditions exist in Japan and Thailand.

The adventuring monk is a type well represented in Chinese myth and popular culture, but a lot of the truth of this character is rooted in reality. The Temples of Shaolin and Wudang are world reknowned in popular culture and movies that are embraced around the world. They are also active and living communities that continue to train monks and people from around the world who seek enlightenment and are drawn to learn the martial arts from the monks themselves.

Shaolin-large selection

SHAOLIN AND WUDANG SWORD

THE SUPERNATURAL: GODS, MONSTERS, WHITE MAGIC, BLACK MAGIC

Just as important as their “warrior monks” skilled in athleticism, martial arts, and in wielding the Chinese longsword, is the spiritual and religious traditions of Buddhism and Taoism that cultivate the minds and spirits of their monks. The monastic life of study and meditation instills in the monks a connection to the natural and spiritual worlds, and a devotion to a life of helping others. In popular culture, Shaolin priests and monks also use their skills to defeat evil spirits, demons, vampires, and the undead, while Taoist magic is used for the same purpose.

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CHINESE FANTASY MOVIES  (right-click on image and open in new tab to see enlarged version)

 

The sword-skills and styles of Shaolin and Wudang are world reknown due to popular culture. Their sword styles make them excel particulary with longswords, using both piercing and slashing style of attacks in both styles.  Shaolin and Wudang monestaries both have their own unique martial arts styles, training that gives their practitioners amazing acrobatic and athletic abilities, and a training in meditation and spirituality that gives them a connection to and a life in harmony with all living things of the world.

Given the nature of these hero monks, their role in Dungeons & Dragons is unique.   Like the bard they are proficient in melee weapons and should be proficient with the longsword (And with subclasses they are).  Like Clerics, Druids, and Rangers, they possess a connection to both the spiritual and the natural worlds that makes them unique among adventurers.

It would seem Barbarians, Fighters, and Paladins share some common traits as classes while each having unique features. Classes specializing in Magic: the Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard also are of a type. In the same way, Monks are unique from Rangers and Bards, but should share a little bit more in common with these other two classes, namely their use of magic and proficiency with certain martial weapons.

 

SPELLS FOR MONKS IN D&D: WHAT SPELLS SHOULD MONKS BE ABLE TO LEARN?

 

Therefore, because of their traditions of magic and spirituality used to help others, it seems only right that just as Bards and Rangers have the ability to learn multiple spells at multiple levels, the Monk should have the same ability.  Also, it just makes them better adventurers and heroes, the kind that are depicted in the epic stories of Chinese popular culture and movies that are often filled with their fair share of magic and monsters.

The following is only one person’s views and opinion. While subclasses address the martial aspects of Monks, they do not seem to address the magic and “magical” aspect or lack thereof in a satisfying manner.   Since Daoists focus on Divination, and Shaolin on the spiritual aspect of living, and both have a connection with the natural world, I chose spells that met the criteria of these three aspects.

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CHINESE DIVINATION

 

Taosit Magic-Large Selection 3

TAOIST MAGIC

 

To show the reasonableness of the following list of Spells, that the number of lower level spells are no more than those available for a Ranger to learn, and the number of higher level spells are no more than the number available to a Bard to say nothing of the more religious natured classes of Clerics, Druids, and warrior-like Paladins.

As for how many spells should be allowed to be learned per level, that is something I have not considered, but it probably should not be much different from the Bard or Ranger.

 

MONK SPELLS

 

CANTRIP

Guidance

True Strike

 

1st LEVEL

Animal Friendship

Comprehend Languages

Cure Wounds

Detect Evil and Good

Detect Magic

Detect Poison and Disease

Divine Favor

Expeditious Retreat

Feather Fall

Jump

Protection from Evil and Good

Speak with Animals

 

2nd LEVEL

Aid

Blur

Calm Emotions

Enhance Ability

Protection from Poison

See Invisibility

Lesser Restoration

Locate Animals or Plants

Locate Object

Pass without Trace

 

3rd LEVEL

Beacon of Hope

Clairvoyance

Fly

Remove Curse

Tongues

Water Walk

 

4th LEVEL

Divination

Locate Creature

 

5th LEVEL

Commune

Commune with Nature

Contact other Plane

Dispel Evil and Good

Divine Favor

Greater Resoration

Legend Lore

Reincarnate

 

6th LEVEL

True Seeing

 

8th LEVEL

Holy Aura

Mind Blank

 

9th LEVEL

Foresight

What exercise equipment should astronauts have onboard spacecraft sent to Mars?

 

 

          It is estimated that a trip from Earth to Mars will take 5 months.   We know that astronauts on the International Space Station do 2 hours of physical exericise a day to maintain muscle and bone mass during their stays on the ISS.   It is worth considering that astronauts on a 10-month trip to Mars and back may require regular physical exercise while they live and work in a similar zero-gravity environment.

 

          A Study has shown that a 10-month mission without any exercise by the astronauts would result in Astronauts unable to do basic tasks:

 

TRIP TO MARS WOULD TURN ASTRONAUTS INTO WEAKLINGS | NBC NEWS

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38770561/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/trip-mars-would-turn-astronauts-weaklings/#.WNK89Rjoo7j

 

           “Astronauts on a mission to Mars could lose nearly half their muscle strength during the long trip, giving them the physiques of senior citizens by the time they arrived, according to a new study.” writes Mike Wall.

           NASA has years of research and data on what is needed to mitigate bone and muscle loss for crew onboard the ISS.   The same technology will must likely be needed for any manned missions to Mars, as research suggests significant bone and muscle loss during a 10-month trip.  

           NASA has already determined what is needed to mitigate bone loss during long-term stays for astronauts onboard the ISS:

 

PREVENTING BONE LOSS IN SPACE | NASA

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/benefits/bone_loss.html


Not only is regular exercise needed, but a certain diet also supports healthy bone and muscle.  According to the above research, the keys to promoting health in the elderly are the same for astronauts:  “The three key elements for promoting the health of elderly people…. are nutrition, exercise and medicine.”

          At this time, no Spacecraft in production for missions to Mars are designed with any exercise equipment onboard.     As the research suggests, can a manned mission to Mars be successful without the necessary exercise equipment for the crew?

 

NASA ORION SPACECRAFT

https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html

 

 

SpaceX  RED DRAGON (A Modified SpaceX Crew Dragon)

http://www.spacex.com/crew-dragon

 

EXERCISE EQUIPMENT ONBOARD THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

 

Yogurt Sundae Recipes

Here is a recipe for Yogurt Sundaes.

I’m not a chef.  I envy the chefs who are the actual artists at what they do.

Plain yogurt works best.   There are two versions: one with 2 yogurts, and one with 1 yogurt.  The 2 yogurt one is a normal sized dessert.    The 1 yogurt ones are nice for snacks.

YogurtSundaes-Bowl1.jpg

 

YogurtSundaes-1.jpg

 

 

Shakespeare’s Bookshelf to be my Primary Focus

 

I’m new to writing.  I’m learning my own style as I write for the website Shakespeare’s bookshelf:   Shakespeare’s Bookshelf.

Writers say that projects take a lot of work, and spreading yourself too thin on too many projects is never good.     And I can see that as I study and write about Shakespeare’s life.

Also, there is a wealth of science-fiction movies that explore space travel and stories in space.  The Martian.  The New Star Wars.  Also a lot of TV shows.  So many movies set in space.  While Shakespeare’s Bookshelf will be my primary focus, I hope I have time to work onside sci-fi, even if it’s small projects, short stories, a short film.

But having a primary focus and secondary focuses is a good thing, especially for me as I am very disorganized.  I should have completed a sci-fi novel (or two ) by now, because I used to write notes and ideas but then I don’t build anything from them.  I hope and I think I have a better understanding of the writing process (and the animation process, and music writing process) from more recent years and the many people who inspire on a daily basis with their wisdom.

I’m also going through a move this year as well.  So that is taking up a lot of my time as well.

The research needed for the story of Shakespeare’s England is immense.  People have written books about the world of Shakespeare before.  I can only imagine the amount of work it took for them to write those books and have a consistent quality to the writing.

Shakespeare’s England is worth studying, too.  The story of English composers and the music of 1500s England is a great part of the story, too. This is long before Bach or Handel, and yet they were writing amazing music.  The lyric writing was as good as the poetry of the day.  So Shakespeare was not only reading poetry, prose, and plays, he was also living at a time when music was also very popular and important part of English society.

I also have current projects and work that leaves me little free time for this type of project.  By focusing my energy on Shakespeare’s Bookshelf, it will ensure I make it as good as it can possibly be.

 

Paul Kanter

 

Product Photography Gear/Equipment

So to do Product photography, you’ll need a decent camera, which nowadays an entry-level DSLR camera is excellent quality, like a Canon T3i.  This camera even takes excellent video.

You’ll need someplace to photograph.  And some good lighting on whatever it is you’re photographing.  Some lighting solutions will take up space, but there are also tabletop lights, too.

LIGHTS

Here are a few tabletop lights.  Tabletop Lights

You CAN buy a lightbox, but instead you can buy some white cardboard paper and it works just as well to have a white background.

Here is a whole kit with some lights and said lightbox that folds up/folds out to create a box.  Tabletop Photography Kit  Good price for just the lights.

For lights that have stands and stand on the ground, with light boxes to soften the light a bit, these are are good set:  Light Set

It uses bulbs you can get at a Home Depot or anywhere else.  To replace the bulbs it comes with.

The above even shows a mobile phone as the camera and it isn’t impossible given the quality of photographs that phones take nowadays.

 

So you have the lights and something to shoot on.   For a camera.

CAMERA

If you’re using a DSLR, a nice thing to have is a wireless remote control, so you don’t have to touch the camera at all when photographing.  (This also cuts down on any movement to the camera that might cause motion blur).

Camera Remote

 

Here is a nice package price that includes a Canon 6Ti, basic lens, and macrolense, as well as tripod, memory cards, remote control, and a camera bag.  Really good deal for the price:

Canon EOS Rebel T5i Bundle

 

For an idea of price range:

Here’s a less expensive Bundle without a macro-lens.  For most things a Macro-lens isn’t needed.   Its for tiny tiny details.  This Bundle gives you a Telephoto lens which zooms in for if you’re far away and need lots of zoom.  Not relevant for product photography, they are used for Sports and things like that.

If you’re on a budget this gives you a good camera with the things you’ll need.

Canon EOS T5 Bundle

 

Camera Batteries

Every Camera needs them. If you get a couple you can always have more than enough, and 1 charging while using the other, etc.    Good to buy in a bundle and some come with a charger.

for T5:

Camera Batteries for T5

for T5i:

Camera Batteries for T5i

When they aren’t name brand they aren’t expensive but they are still good quality.

 

That should do it for Product photography.  And again, with the camera Bundle, think about your price range, what you’re going to be using the Camera for besides Work.  There are bundles that are for video that come with microphones.

 

Look at the features shown for the cameras.  More expensive cameras may have the same technology or features you don’t need.  So buy according to your needs.

As for Photography tutorials, there are always websites and Youtube channels with information on every aspect of photography.

 

Basics of Logo Design

There are some principles of logo design that are universal.    Every logo is designed to be unique.  A search of logos within a given industry is helpful too, since the products of industries are unique, the logos created to sell those products are unique as well.

Here are logos from many different companies i many different industries.

Logo-complexHere are logos from video game publishers and companies

logo-video-game-developer-logo Logo-Testronic-Games-Client-Logos

Here are logos for social media and web companies:

logo-web-derby-web-design-logos

There are similarities in design simplicity and differences in style.

The type of product, such as sporting foods or computers, is also important in determining the style of the logo.  (Also if the customer base is male or female or both.)

Every company exists within an ecosystem of brands.  I couldn’t say why web companies have one style of logo that is wholly different from sports or cars.

But every company strives for a logo that will last their company for many years.

Here is a website that can calculate an approximate cost for graphic designers, from free-lancers to design firms, as well as give an idea of the creative work that goes into designing a logo for a company:

Design Quote.Net

Any final logo design that is chosen should be able to sit comfortably side by side with other companies in a given field.