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April | 2013 | SketchTime

Tilt, Shift, Alt-DoF

TiltShiftGen is an awkwardly named tool that’s great fun to play with using art images and photos. Emulating a tilt and/or perspective shift lens, this software tool for computers and mobile devices enables dramatic effects using depth of field and selective focus.

Also, check out your local chapter of Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School for fun, low pressure access to richly costumed life drawing events. Molly Crabapple, the organization’s founder, has several immersive art projects available for crowdsourced funding on Kickstarter.

Taking a Page from the Master


Neville Page, an industrial designer best known as Hollywood’s “blockbuster creature designer” recently gave a presentation at the Oceanside Museum of Art. Posters and stunning 3d-printed models of his character designs from Super8, Avatar, Tron, Green Lantern, Prometheus, Cloverfield, & Star Trek were on display.

  • His process begins with sketching and marker work, after which the designs are imported into Zbrush. Modo is used for photorealistic rendering (taking input from cinematographers to match the lighting, lens angle, and depth of field of a scene). His workflows may also incorporate Max, Lightwave, Maya & Alchemy).
  • As an obsessive clockwatcher—a methodology he developed while teaching at Art Institutes—he’s very focused on timing & delivery.
  • Tools for symmetrical sketching (using Zbrush or PhotoBooth) are very helpful to quickly establish novel character shapes. He re-images and merges segments of models, textures and faces using these tools, and has built these explorations into a 5000-image library of shape inspirations.
  • To avoid overused reptile and elephant skin texture maps for the creature in Super8, he used an x-ray of a stingray for its other-worldly radiating patterns.
  • Design decisions on high profile projects require more justification than, “I chose this design because it looks cool”. This typically leads to heavier input from directors (…”Well, show me several other directions”). So before he presents a design to Spielberg or Cameron, he builds a full environmental justification for the character (rationale for coloration, morphology, etc.), which makes the concept much easier to “sell.
  • When he gets “stuck” on a design, he often restarts it in clay to shift gears.
  • Modestly, he claimed that 75% of on screen”creature magic” comes from the animation (which he doesn’t do).

Sketching in Public

rembrandt-museum-sketchBring a sketchpad during your next museum visit. You’ll find that guests often find art creation to be just as inspiring as the work of the masters hanging on gallery walls. If your inspiration piece is a well known image, it’s easy to find online afterward for a comparison of style and accuracy. This sketch study was completed in front of the famous Rembrandt self portrait. Later comparisons with a scanned image help me see that my eyes were a bit too high on the face. Comparisons of this type help improve rendering skills, and refine specific stylistic elements.