Waiting on a bunch of information on three separate jobs, all of which have had their schedule back up. Was supposed to spread these over a few weeks, but it looks like they’ll be crammed into next week all by itself. This is the calm before the storm I guess. Six images, for three separate jobs, one week or so… yikes. Not much to do at the moment other than bide time. So here’s an image from February. It’s a quick study for a project which may or may not happen. The architect was just testing the idea… It was for Paul King of EYP in Boston.
Underneath the overhang at left in this image (above) is a little bounced orange light from the landscape. In my thinking it helps to keep the value low enough to establish that it’s in shade, but the hue itself is what we generally consider a “bright” one, which preserves an overall luminosity.
The primary intent was to test the idea of a new masonry ramps and stairs, and new post lights. But we also wanted to show the building as it might look after some additional renovation work. There was an existing continuous fire-escape balcony across the front facade, over the entry door, which would be taken down. Additionally, the landscaping would be redesigned, and the clunky additions, metal railings, roof equipment, and other ungainly aspects of the original building would be removed as a part of the work.
Although I had plenty of information, including plans and sketches from the architect, there was no single ideal photograph taken from the angle that we wanted to show the building from. Sometimes, especially with a quick sketch from an existing building, you can simply work over a photograph taken from the desired angle, cleaning it up and tweaking it.
I decided to make a digital model, and to use the partial photographs as textures. I clipped the existing photographs apart, flipped, copied elements, rotated, and distorted them (from being in perspective to orthogonal/squared), and used them to texture the model. Since the sides of the building are in perspective (distorted) in the photographs, I had to play around with them and square them up before I could put them onto my model.
You can see in these iamgees above that there are foreground fences, air conditioners, signs, branches, and plants blocking parts of the facade. No real big deal, as I’d be overpainting these and fixing whatever didn’t need to be there as I painted the final image in Photoshop.
You’ll notice that from this high angle of the digital model angle that the textures don’t really work from this vantage point. The perspective of the windows (especially on the center of the building) is all wrong. But since some of the photos were taken somewhat close to the point from which the perspective would be drawn, the windows would read more or less correctly when the view is taken through the properly placed camera.
As you can see in the Upper Left Camera View, the windows suddenly snap back into proper perspective, and they even appear to return into (or sink back into) the openings properly. Because the individual facades are symmetrical, you could actually move the camera to the far right for a reverse angle shot showing the building from the right, as long as you flipped the textures on each facade before rendering it.
I don’t spend all day trying to work up the world’s most perfect photoreal image, as you can clearly see. Cornice don’t exactly align, textures repeat (see the repeating brick on the new masonry ramp and stairs). All that stuff can be drawn in quicker than it can be modeled. What I do have is quick color, shadow, and ambient lighting. I didn’t bother with sophisticated shadows either. These are “hard” shadows (which calculate quickly), and I don’t think this image took more than 3 seconds for the software to render. You can even see that the tree shadow is way out of scale. I just wanted something on the ground, and because it’s a sketch, we aren’t getting too fussy.
I did have the software save the shadows on an additional separate layer, so could use that layer later on in Photoshop to punch or manipulate the shadows all by themselves.
If you want to, you can even save out the shadows from separate light sources, which is especially helpful for interior images because they often have many light sources. In this case, the sun was my only real source for shadows. I could have saved the shadows for each object (say the tree by itself) on its own layer. But this thing was just a quick image. Say 6 hours from start to finish. No real need for the extra fuss.
After about two hours of modeling and testing, it’s about four hours of paint work in Photoshop. I use a combination of techniques, all with an eye to creating a softer, human-hand approach. I use straight 2d digital paint (for lack of a better word) in Photoshop, some pattern/texture layers to break down what would be overly perfect photographic images, and a few (very few) filters. When I use filters, though, it is never anything like simply running the ‘watercolor’ filter. I’ll use a few passes of the sponge, paint daubs, and maybe palette knife filters. These will kill detail, and that allows me to go back in and paint the detail where I want it, right back on top of the dumbed-down original image.
Most of the time I essentially paint over the image, though sometimes allowing it to show through to establish color or some texture. When I’m working with something where I have some decent photographic information, I will often also use a pattern stamp brush to break that image down, and bring it back into the rendering with the obvious evidence of a human hand, reflecting actual strokes and brushwork.
I work on a Wacom (pronounced “Wah-kom”) monitor, a 21 inch pressure sensitive monitor with a hand-held pen cursor. I can lay the monitor flat and rotate it, just like I might work on paper. If I had to do this with a mouse I think I would pull my hair out. I used to use a smaller Wacom tablet off to the side. It’s not difficult, but the arm position is awkward. I prefer to draw right on the screen. The Wacom monitor has doubled my productivity, with no exaggeration.