Saturday, February 24, 2007

Imagine Publishing Launches Official Corel Painter Magazine

Imagine Publishing, the UK's fastest growing consumer specialist magazine publisher, on February 23 announced that is has reached an exclusive agreement with the Corel Corporation to publish the Official Corel Painter Magazine worldwide.

Corel Painter is the finest real media software on the market, allowing users to emulate the look and feel of traditional art materials. Whether you are working from a photo or a hand-drawn sketch, the amazing brush sets turn your computer into a digital canvas and allow you to create amazing art.

With the Official Corel Painter Magazine, Imagine Publishing will provide new and existing Corel Painter users with the ultimate companion to the software. Each issue will be packed with tutorials explaining how to create art with the program, covering everything from using the default tools, to learning how to re-create famous paintings.

Each issue will feature a coverdisc full of important digital resources such as tutorial files, training videos, exclusive brushes and demos. The magazine will be complemented by a dedicated website where readers can interact on the forums, upload their own artwork and download even more Painter resources.

"Corel Painter is the perfect software for digital artists and we're very excited to be working with Corel in producing a magazine that does this incredible program justice. Each issue will be full of inspirational art and step-by-step guides to ensure that readers not only gain a greater understanding of the Corel Painter software, but that they also become better artists in their own right," said Imagine's Managing Director, Damian Butt.

"We are very delighted to be working with Imagine Publishing, a company that has a proven track record when it comes to producing high-quality consumer magazines. And by adding its expertise and resources to our enthusiasm and deep industry, customer and product know-how, we will together be able to deliver a first class magazine that shows the true power and creativity of the Corel Painter software," said Corel's Deborah Thomas.

This is definitely good news for Painter users everywhere!

Monday, February 19, 2007

In Search of Personal Style

I recently taught a workshop for portrait photographers. While working with this group, I was struck by the fact that each photographer had a distinct style. For instance, one had a strong sense of color; another made great use of shadow and highlight. I began to think about what style is and how an artist acquires it.

During their formative years, artists focus much attention on these questions of style, and art students often question whether they have their own styles. A good approach to developing style is to look closely at the work of well-known artists whose styles you are drawn to. As a learning aid, try to emulate these artists’ unique styles. In doing so, some of what you emulate will likely rub off on your own work. By emulating existing styles, you will begin to develop a personal stylistic vocabulary that you can use to balance your personal preferences. As your personal art matures, these bits and pieces of other artists’ influences will be absorbed into a look that is unique to you.

Style is an elusive beast. The more you concentrate on it, the harder it is to obtain. Conversely, if you simply keep producing art over an extended period, you’re likely to discover that a style—your own—has crept into your work.

In a basic sense, everyone already has the essence of a personal graphic style. Try writing your name, and take a close look at it. You created this complex expressive gesture effortlessly. No one else can sign your name exactly as you do. This is style in its purest form. It manifests itself only through repetition.

If you use the default settings of the brush variants in Corel Painter, your images are likely to resemble those of other artists who have used the same variants. Play with the brush variants you are interested in, and try making adjustments to them. Corel Painter retains these changes. In fact, the more you use and adjust your customized brush variants, the more effectively you can use them as tools for self-expression.

Although Corel Painter has an abundance of brushes, try not to fall into the trap of thinking that more is better within a single image. As a general rule, I don’t use many different brush variants at the same time. When the early desktop publishing applications became available in the mid-1980s, people unfamiliar with typography suddenly had dozens of fonts available to use within their printed materials. Being somewhat naive, these users quickly established what has been called the “Ransom Note School of Design.” This type of graphic work was quickly identifiable: a single page of type would typically contain every font style available to the so-called designer. The moral of this story is that in good design, less is more. The same axiom applies to the number of brush variants used within a single image. Restricting the variety of mark-making tools helps the image maintain an inner consistency.

This is not to say that you should not experiment with a wide variety of brush variants — you just shouldn’t use them all within the same image. A good alternative is to set up a test image, on which you can try out several brush variants that interest you. Let the various marks intersect and affect each other. This kind of creative play can lead to unique expressive discoveries that you may end up using in your work. In time, these discoveries may become part of your unique personal style.

Is style a big deal and should you be concerned about it? In the long run, probably not. Given enough time, an individual’s sense of style typically develops on its own. It is a good practice to analyze and understand what makes your art unique. Getting into an artistic rut is often the result of relying on an established personal style without working to move beyond it. In the best circumstances, one’s personal style is a continually evolving entity. Some aspects of your style tenaciously remain, despite your artistic evolution. Other facets are discarded when they are no longer crucial to your personal expression.

So, how do you attain and perfect your own personal style? The same way a pianist gets to Carnegie Hall — practice, practice, practice. And practice makes perfect.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Corel Painter X Has Landed!

Painter has reached ten—version 10, that is. Officially known as Corel® Painter™ X, this edition continues to innovate with ground-breaking features. I’ve always enjoyed the point in software development when all of the elements—the features, packaging, advertising layouts, and all of the associated details—finally come together. What was several related concepts congeals —the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Painter X is such a release. Painter was founded on the principle of faithfully capturing the artist’s gesture for the purpose of creative expression. Painter X is no exception to the rule.

The new RealBristle Painting System represents a significant evolution in digital paint tools. RealBristle brushes deftly respond to the subtle nuances of the hand, translating this motion into strokes imbued with complex expression. The result are the most realistic digital brush strokes ever seen. Add a Wacom 6D Pen and the results are further enhanced.

Painter began its life primarily known a start-with-a-blank-canvas artist’s tool. In the intervening years, digital technology has engulfed traditional film-based cameras. The digital camera is now ubiquitous to the point of being an accessory on mobile phones. Likewise, Painter has become an accessory to digital cameras. With these two mediums converged, you can now easily dip your paintbrush into a photograph.

Using a photograph as a source image, the enhanced Photo Painting System produces convincing hand-painted results with a single mouse click. This feat is made possible by the Smart Stroke Painting option. Initially analyzing the source image’s content, Smart Strokes dynamically change brush size, stroke length, and pressure based on the detail and focal areas of the original photo. Strokes intelligently follow the forms of the original subject matter. All of this translates into an amazing breakthrough enabling the drawing-challenged to produce remarkable finished art. Smart Stroke Painting is going to be an out-of-the-park homerun for photographers!

In the past, an artist had to pre-mix his color palette to match the painting’s subject matter. Both Painter X’s Match Palette effect and Color Schemes (Underpainting palette) provide the ability to apply another image’s color palette to an existing image. The effect can be deftly subtle—matching the color and tonality of one photograph to another, for example. Or creatively dramatic—applying the palette of Picasso’s Three Musicians to a painting in progress, for example. Try that with traditional tools!

Every time new features are added to Painter, its interface grows. Users, take heart! The new Workspace Manager provides a complete solution for organizing and saving palette, brush, and library visibility. For example, you can now decide which variants you want accessible in each Brush Category, turning off the unused ones in the Workspace Manager (you can turn them back on at any time). Multiple Workspaces can be saved for streamlined workflow depending on the task at hand.

More importantly, saved Workspaces are encapsulated into [b]a single portable file that is easily shared with others—perfect for placing one Workspace with its brushes into many hands. Speaking as an educator, this feature alone makes Painter X worth its weight in gold for teaching workshops.

Both Windows and Mac users have cause for celebration. On the Windows front, Painter X is compatible with Windows Vista™. And on the Mac, Painter is now a Universal Binary, enabling it to run natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based systems.

Beyond the big features, it is the attention to small details that makes Painter X shine. An Auto-Backup feature, session-independent Color Management, Tracker settings that stay put. Little things, but they add up.

I advise you to now get yourself into a seated position. The printed User Guide has returned! What’s next…a paint can? That’s right, Painter X acknowledges its roots through the offer of a limited edition one-gallon paint can. Both the retail packaging and limited edition include an updated Welcome book showcasing Painter art, poster, and a cool compositional aid.

It may sound cliché, but this is the best version of Painter ever. Corel has paid a great deal of attention to user requests, as well as the small details that add up to a well-oiled creative expressive machine. Painter’s not getting older—it’s getting better!

Looking for the best-of-breed in visually expressive software? X marks the spot!

Viva la Painter X!


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Cameras Without Film

With the rise of digital photography, utilizing a photograph as a starting point in the creation of an artistic image has become effortless. Within some quarters of the creative community, this practice is viewed as a form of cheating. The contention is that a “real” artist begins with a blank canvas. Should a Corel Painter user feel a twinge of guilt when employing this assistive technique?

Ever since artists have been drawing on flat surfaces, they have employed techniques to aid in their quest for realism. Prior to the Renaissance, most art was primarily employed to aid in the teachings of the Church to an illiterate population. Symbolism, rather than realism, was paramount to the artist and to his audience.

With the Renaissance came humanism and the flowering of the sciences. The Florentine architect and artisan-engineer Brunelleschi is credited with the invention of linear perspective. This mathematical system accurately describes the visual fact that the apparent size of an object decreases with increasing distance from the eye. The use of perspective enables the depiction of a three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional surface.

Due to our visual sophistication, it is difficult for us to fathom the emotional impact of a three-dimensionally painted image upon a population unfamiliar with perspective representation. Its awe-inspiring, heightened realism provided artists with a powerful tool for visual communication. As the theory of perspective spread among artists, various mechanical perspective aids were created to assist in the transcription of reality to a two-dimensional surface.

Concurrent with the Renaissance was the development of scientific optics. Finely ground lenses were used to magnify the heavens as well as microscopic objects. One of these lenses was eventually fitted to the pinhole of a camera obscura, a technique which employed a darkened space, such as a room, to project an exterior scene upon a two-dimensional surface within the room’s interior. This was essentially a room-sized camera without film.

Around the mid-17th century, paintings began to appear depicting images that possessed stunning optical accuracy. This is the same time period in which the lens- and mirror-based camera obscura became known to artists, particularly the Dutch oil painters. The work of painter Jan Vermeer has been the subject of scholarly analysis demonstrating his use of the camera obscura as a tool in the creation of his depictions of everyday life.

Vermeer’s work exhibits a dramatically accurate representation of light and color. The apparent size differences of objects relative to the viewer are consistent with an optically projected image. The optical effect of soft halation around brightly lit objects is present. To maintain a competitive edge, artists that employed the camera obscura were highly secretive of its use, leaving the public in awe of such painted realism.

Today’s camera obscura is the computer screen. A photograph can coexist effortlessly within Corel Painter’s art studio of brushes, the artist free to dip their paintbrush into a photograph. Just as the theory of perspective and the camera obscura before it, Painter is another technologically advanced tool of interest to artists. With each of these tools, an image of reality is presented as a starting point. The artist then develops the image with the touch of humanity.

The Artist is the Film.