Category Archives: Art Resources

Pose tool

Generally, when I am starting on a new pose, I will start with drawing or sketching.  This allows me to take a moment to understand the pose composition and proportions before diving in to creating an armature.  Also, since building an armature can be a pretty left-brained activity, it helps me to draw to get into the creative frame of mind before I start worrying about accuracy and potential structural issues.  I have a small 3×5 sketchbook on me at all times for these quick sketches.

For this pose, I tried an additional tool after making these quick sketches: Pose Tool (iOS, Android, Kindle, Windows Phone) by AlienThink.

You set the pose by manipulating natural joints.  I discovered this to be a remarkably insightful tool to figure out ‘how exactly is that arm getting in that position’.  For complex poses, my biggest enemy can be thinking I know what is going on compared to just observation.  And frankly, even with observation, it can be difficult to figure out rotations sometimes.  Short of actually grabbing the live model and flexing their joints to figure out how they work (educational–not recommended), using a tool like this was actually quite helpful.

Pose Tool is not meant to be a 3D modeling program like Modo or 3DSMax.  But it sure did make want to do more 3D modeling in programs such as them though.  When I saw muscular, proportion, or compression differences between the live model and the Pose Tool mesh, I really wanted to get into the nitty gritty and make it all ‘just right’.  For better or worse, Pose Tool gives you just enough control to get the general pose but not so much that you begin to start noodling on eyelashes and finger nails.  For that reason alone, it was invaluable for forcing me to focus on capturing the pose rather than be distracted by surface or muscular details.

There are also some interesting overlays, including showing the inter nature armature wire positioning and a simple box version.  The simple boxes allow you to see the big shapes and their orientation to each other.

Some minor quibbles with Pose Tool

  • I would really appreciate it if there was a highlighted segment mode when posing.  I lost track of how many times I grabbed the wrong segment.
  • Undo.  See previous comment.  Pro tip: Save. Often.  I had to restart several times because I accidentally screwed one thing or another, or accidentally reset the pose.
  • The file management (load and save) user interface is obtuse at best.  I still don’t think I have it figured out.  Are there two sets of saves, one for male and female?
    • I really wish I could save to a cloud service, such as DropBox so I could use the same pose on multiple devices and have peace of mind.
    • Naming save files would be great. ‘female pose 0’ doesn’t really help much.

My favorite feature is  a variety of included textures, including flat white, monotone skin, colored skin, generic proportions model, and anatomy.  This helps with simplifying what you are looking at so you can work on basic posing and then later review anatomical and surface details.

When I first used Pose Tool, I thought it was an interesting novelty.  However, actually including it in my workflow and using it as a way to sketch the pose quickly on my iPad makes it an incredibly useful tool for you to create references from.  And finally, once the pose is created you can manipulate it to see angles that are critical for modeling but are generally impractical when working from a live model.

Worth Killing Trees For – Art Magazines

Below are the art magazines that I subscribe to and read.  While most of my reading is currently digital, these magazines are either not available digitally, or their production quality is so good that I just enjoy them more in print.

Considered one of the best art magazines, International Artist is my favorite.  It is targeted towards artists with practical explanations on working methods and tools.
A publication of the National Sculpture Society.  Really, the only magazine focused on figurative sculpture work, that I am aware of.  Most other sculpture magazines are focused on the avant garde, including installation and abstract art.
Fine Art Connoisseur is a wonderful magazine sharing modern representational artists in many mediums.  Whatever this new guard of neo-classical artists will be called by art historians, Fine Art Connoisseur is targeted towards collectors fine art.

Never Buy Another Art Magazine Again! RSS Feeds

I was talking with a fellow artist today and I promised that I would share some of the RSS feeds that I subscribe to.  For those of you who are not RSS-savvy.  RSS subscriptions allow you to receive updates to all kinds of syndicated internet content, particularly blogs.  I subscribe to hundreds of art blogs.  Below are some of my favorites.

Before that, a brief note on tools.
I use Google Reader to capture all of my feeds, and I use different clients to read my Google Reader subscriptions depending on the platform.
iOS: Reeder
Mac OS: Net News Wire
Windows: Feed Demon

Now is also a good time to plug my Twitter feed.  Every time I see something interesting and useful related to art, I post it to my feed.  I’m very selective about what I put on my Twitter feed.  You won’t find out what I had for lunch, that I’m stuck in traffic, or a particularly interesting article I found about the technology gossip.  Just art.  I think of it as an Art Channel.  If that is the content you are interested in, I promise that my Twitter feed is just that.

Okay, so on to my favorite RSS feeds, not in any particular order.

Artist Blogs

Art Business and Inspiration

Despite my inflammatory headline I do, in fact, subscribe to several art magazines.  I will cover those in a future post, including why.  I also have an upcoming post on Art Podcasts.  Stay tuned.

As always, comments welcome.

Undressed Art

I read…a lot.  Particularly books about art.  However, every so often I read a book that is so good that it makes me glad that I am literate.  It so good that I am thankful I know how to read.  Because by being able to read I have been access to so much life-enhancing knowledge.  This book has literally made me better by reading it.   A better artist.  A better person.  The book is The Undressed Art ,Why We Draw by Peter Steinhart.

Books about art generally fall into a few categories, (a) how-to books written by artists, (b) art history books by art historians, and (c) self-help books written by artists or marketers.  Every now and then, someone addresses the fundamental nature of ‘why’ people do art.  Usually, it is done on how art relates to society.  The Undressed Art, however talks about why to do art from an artists perspective.  The first two chapters describe the experience of drawing and going to a life modeling session in better words than I could articulate myself.

Steinhart describes the experience of a figurative artist, what draws us to the subject, the experience of working in a life drawing session, and what motivates both artist and model.  He discusses how the acceptability of figurative art has changed through the history of art.  There are many interviews and quotes from artists, teachers, and models that discuss their experiences with life drawing and its meaning to them.  He discusses the taboos in a life drawing session as well some humorous anecdotes.  Steinhart discusses the issues of eroticism and sexuality of figure drawing, and how clinically artists and models treat the experience compared to how non-participants imagine it is.  And importantly, he describes the futility of the experience and yet why artists continue to persevere.
I recognized many years ago that art was not optional for me.  In particular, figurative drawing is core to who I am as a person.  Although done in groups, figure drawing sessions are often silent and artists rarely interact during a session.  Reading this book for me was like having a conversation with a kindred spirit in a way that I would never have in real life.
I recommend this book to anyone who is a visual artist, and particularly to anyone who draws as their premium medium.  More importantly, I recommend this book to the spouses and partners of artists, because I can think of no better description in words of the figurative artists experience than what Steinhart captures in this book.
Comments welcome

Sculpture Videos

Although I got a BFA in Sculpture, I feel like I have learned more about sculpture before and since my formal education.  Part of that is simply time in studio.  Many years have passed since I have graduated, and as a result I’ve simply spent more time in the studio, practicing, working, and learning.  The other factor is that there are vast more resources available for art education than when I began sculpting.   Many artists can self-publish books, videos, and workshops in order to share their knowledge.  This has led to a great proliferation of art education materials.

Belows are some of the sculpture videos that I recommend.

Mark Prent’s Ultimate Guide to Fine Figure Finishing
This video is intended for special effects sculptors who want to create hyper-realistic life casts.  Although my interest is not in the film industry, Mark provides excellent instructions on casting and finishing.  In this video, Mark covers installation of glass eyes, how to embed hair and how to airbrush color onto the figure , face and hands.  The airbrush coloring section is particularly useful because Mark provides specific color recipes for each layer as he paints.  This alone would be worth watching for anyone interested in creating realistic skin tones.
Available from SmartFlix to rent or Pink House Studios to buy.

Mark Alfrey’s Standard Molds and Casting
A very thorough overview of making molds for both plaster and silicon.
Available from SmartFlix

Making Babies with Lewis Goldstein – Vol 1: Sculpting a Child’s Head and Making the Mold.
He focused on making portraits of children, particularly for dolls.  However, even if you aren’t interested in dolls, the section on making the mold is useful.  He describes how you can make a plaster box mold with very little effort.  Very useful for smaller portraits.
Available from SmartFlix

Photographing your art work – Part 3: Lighting 3D

Photographing 3D work, such as sculpture, has a unique set of challenges due to the complexity of managing the work (you can’t tape it to the wall), and lighting.
For previous posts in this series, see Photographing Art on the Cheap and Lighting 2D.
Behind my work, I have a roll of seamless background paper spooled on a curtain rod.  I roll it out across a stool creating an even background.  For many years, I just used a black sheet.  Make sure that it clean and ironed so that it doesn’t show any texture or folds.
As far as lighting, you will need at least two lights, one on either side of the camera.
If you are photographing figurative or portrait sculpture, there are many resources on how to photograph people, which will apply directly to photographing sculpture of people.  I generally light my portraits with three-quarter lighting.
Do you have suggestions on photographing sculpture?  Please leave comments below.


Photographing your art work – Part 2: Lighting 2D

To see information about photography equipment, check out my previous post, Photographing Art – On the Cheap.
The diagram below shows how I set up lights to photograph art.  You will need two lights.  Mount the art to wall.  Tape it or hang it.
Angle the lights so that the brightest part is not directly on the work.  Pointing the light directly on the work can cause hot spots and glare.  However, if you are using continuous lights, you will want to angle the light more towards your work to maximize the brightness.
Alternatively, if I have a lot of work to photograph, I will set it up on a panel leaned up against a block or paint can.  This way I can lay work down flat, and just shoot the camera, without having to re-tape every piece or adjust the lighting or focus with every shot.
  • Make sure the camera is perpendicular to the art work. Otherwise, your image can become trapezoidal due to foreshortening, with the nearest edge being wider than the back edge.
  • Crop your images. Remove the background, torn paper edges.
  • Avoid ambient light. Photograph at night or in a completely closed room. The most common mistake I see in artists photographing their work is doing so in daylight.
If you have tips and recommendations for photographing your work, please leave a comment below.
Coming up next: Photographing 3D Art