Banjo, Music, and Art

Music has always been an important part of my life. Playing music seems to be a part of my family. My dad, uncles, brothers, sons, nephews all play guitar. I remember taking my first guitar lesson when I was about six years old, and later I played in a band throughout high school and college.

Some of my best memories, however, were the improv jam sessions my family would have on sunny Saturday afternoons on my Grandfather’s back porch. The music was all acoustic, typically bluegrass, which was a big departure from the good old rock n roll I normally played. My Dad and my uncle were amazing musicians and kind of led the song direction.

One day my Dad came home with a beat up old banjo, and with a big grin, handed it to me. I just returned his gaze with a quizzical look, and he just said “For Saturday!” I lived with that banjo for a week to learn a passable Foggy Mountain Breakdown. The back porch jam session arrived, and I surprised everyone with the banjo, and we played a rousing verse of what I had learned. Upon reaching the end of the tune, my uncle excitedly asked “What else do you know?” I replied “That’s it!” I think we played the same song for four straight hours, but man, we had a day to remember.

Afterwards, that banjo went into storage, and was forgotten. But over the years, I always wanted to learn the banjo, and about a year and a half ago I bought a new one. I have had a lot of fun learning to play, so much so, that I decided to feature a banjo in a painting. The banjo in the painting is a creation from my own imagination. The artwork is a mixture of my love for music, the banjo, and creating art.

“The Banjo” is available as various sized prints in my Etsy shop.

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Finding a Natural Green

When painting your own plants, it can sometimes be difficult finding the right color of green. I use several methods for selecting colors. One is to use the mixer palette in Painter. The palette shown below exhibits a whole array of great natural greens, and I never used green in the mix. Most of the greens were established by mixing black and yellow. Then around the edges, I mixed in some cyan and blue. To get some red for flowers, I then mixed in a little red and orange. The additive colors were all chosen from the basic colors shown at the top of the mixer.

Here is a bush I painted in Photoshop using only the colors from the mixer palette. As you can see, I will often place some background colors behind the plant as I paint just to see how it will display against various background colors in the final painting.

The final test is placing it in a few renderings to see if it blends well. If needed, I will make some highlight /shadow adjustments to finish of the plant before placing it in my library.

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On Painting Glass

One of the most difficult things, for me, is to get realistic looking glass when painting in Photoshop. As a great deal of my art is architectural, it is a very important part of each painting. Just as the eyes are important in painting portraits, I believe that the windows are what bring life to the building in architectural rendering. They are the “eyes” into the the building.

Unfortunately, each window seems to be done in a different way. I have never really come up with a set pattern, but here are some tips that I use. A window may be as simple as a solid color or a gradient. On a more complex level, the glass will consist of a multitude of layers. I will start with the interior, or what is on the other side of the glass. Then I will add the glass material itself, color, texture (if there is a texture to the glass), and try to arrive at the proper transparency level. Next comes the effect of the environment on the glass, a specular gradient, and then whatever is being reflected on the glass. Each of these will be put in place with different opacities and different blending modes. Again, none of the methods seem to be the same for each window, but by experimenting you can get it right.

There a number of factors to take into consideration when painting glass. Here are a few:

  • Transparency level of the glass
  • What is inside the window
  • What is outside the window
  • How the light is hitting the glass
  • The angle of the glass to the viewer
  • The specular light
  • The shadows
  • What is being reflected
  • Window treatments, such as drapes or blinds inside
  • The light inside
  • The light outside
  • The time of day

Sometimes, none of the above apply. If you notice in the rendering, I simply put a brighter light inside the only visible door to one of the condo units to make it a focal point of the image. Long live artistic license!

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