Beard-Detailing Demo December 31, 2017 21:10 18 Comments

Here's a peek at a portion of Lesson Three in my MTDC series, "Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush."  In this chapter, I use my mixer brushes to add beard detail to an underpainting that was made in a previous chapter.

Mixer-Brush Painting Techniques: Video Sample April 9, 2016 09:37 6 Comments

This is a video sample from my tutorial, "Painting Portraits with the Mixer brush in Photoshop," Chapter 4, "Mixer-Brush Techniques." Demonstrated here are two painting methods - one showing a technique for painting onto a blank canvas, another for painting using the "mixer-brush cloning layer setup action."

Tools of the Trade: Birding Cameras April 9, 2016 09:37 6 Comments

I'm often asked which camera/lenses I use to photograph the birds I paint.  There are of course many options for this kind of work — ranging from the extremely expensive high-end DSLRs/telephotos to the much more affordable point-and-shoots.  Cameras like the Nikon Coolpix P900, which I use, and other similar super-zooms are really the best and most affordable options for the bird painter.

Bear in mind that if the ultimate goal is to take photographs of birds for use as references or starting points for our paintings, we really don’t need super-high-resolution images. So you really don’t need a great big camera with a great big sensor, and the big, heavy lenses that would go along with it — or even the tripod that would be needed to support this kind of rig.  An all-inclusive point-and-shoot camera, like the P900 will do a much-better-than-adequate job for us.

There are quite a few cameras in this category.  Along with the P900, there’s the Canon SX60, the Pentax XG-1, and the Fujifilm S1, to name a few.  At about $600 the P900 is the most expensive of the group, but it does offer some big advantages — the most important of which is its 83x optical zoom lens that ranges from 24mm to 2000mm (35 mm equivalent).  You can imagine the cost of the lenses that would be needed to cover this range with a full-sized DSLR.

You won’t necessarily get great feather/fur detail with the P900 (especially at the long end of the zoom range), but I really prefer that the detail not come from the photograph, but rather from my brush.  With the right set of brushes I can add just the right amount of feather detail to my bird paintings.  

Also, the autofocus isn’t always super accurate — I sometimes have to play with it a little to get it to behave, and raw shooting capability is certainly a feature I would like to see added.  Overall, though, I’ve been very satisfied with the P900's performance and image quality.  I’ve really found this camera to be a great image-capture tool for my birding needs.  

And I wouldn't want to leave you with the impression that this camera is only good for bird photography.  I've found it to be an excellent camera for all of my general photography needs — from landscapes to portraits to sports.

In a future post I'll be writing about my process for capturing bird photos for use as painting subjects.  And be sure to catch for my upcoming video tutorial:  Autumn Nuthatch, Painting Birds with the Mixer Brush.

I shot all of the images in the P900’s “auto” mode without use of a tripod.  With lower light levels and/or use of extended digital zoom, a tripod would be highly recommended.  The house finch and the cormorants were shot using a 35mm focal length equivalent of 2000 mm.  The moon was shot at 1800mm (in 35mm).  Note: some images were cropped, color-edited and lightly sharpened.

More Free Stock Image Sites - Courtesy of Canva April 9, 2016 09:36 2 Comments

In a previous posting I provided a list of 19 stock photo sites that make photographs available to us free of charge. As digital artists it's always nice to have a wide assortment of images to use as references, starting points or inspiration for our paintings.  The design website, Canva, has recently put together a much more comprehensive list of 73 such sites.  Maybe you'll be able to put a few of these images to use with your next project!


Spring Snow in Lake Arrowhead April 4, 2016 12:30

El Nino came to California, but his presence hasn't been felt here in the southern part of the state nearly as much as it has to the north.  We were happy to have received an early spring storm that left a nice blanket of snow in the San Bernardinos.  The snow really didn't last long, which would be typical for this time of year.

We continue to hope for a wetter-than-usual spring to bring our lake level up (our lake is currently about 7.5 feet below full).  We'll see what happens.

This image was taken with my iPhone.

Follow Deardorff Training on Pinterest November 26, 2015 09:53

I'm happy to announce that Deardorff Training is now on Pinterest.  I hope you'll join me there.  Be sure to click the "follow" button to see what I'm working on - as well as some of the artwork/artists I enjoy.

If you're not a Pinterest member, it's easy to sign up - and it's free.  Once you do, you'll quickly see that it's a great source for ideas and inspiration.  I look forward to seeing you there!


The “Over My Shoulder” Training Series November 8, 2015 12:16 5 Comments

With my “Mastering the Digital Canvas” portrait-painting series complete, I’m looking forward now to my new series, “Over My Shoulder,” that will cover new subjects and techniques.  The first lesson in this series will focus on my technique for painting birds using the mixer brush in Photoshop.  This is a passion of mine, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you my approach to this kind of painting.  The tutorial will be available in the spring.

Other painting subjects for this series will include florals, landscapes and still-life - as well as some different kinds of portraiture.  If you have any thoughts about what you’d like to see presented, I hope you’ll feel free to share those ideas.

This new series will be structured a little differently than my MTDC series.  I took a lot of time in Lessons 1-3 to introduce the tools I use for painting in Photoshop.  I tried to show all the finer points of the smudge tool and the mixer brush - how they work; designing and creating them; all the different controls that are available.

The OMS series will assume that you already possess all of this knowledge, so the instruction will focus more on workflow and technique.  I plan to be a little more concise with these tutorials, but we’ll see how that goes.

Note: The work-in-progress painting above shows a northern flicker that I photographed on my deck.  This bird is a fairly large, distinctly-marked member of the woodpecker family. They are maybe even more striking in flight - their underwings are magnificent.  One morning my wife, Janet, and I watched as a male and female flicker danced in near-sync on our neighbor’s roof.  It was quite a show.

As I make this painting, I’m using the mixer brush (the same brush configurations provided in Lesson 3 of my MTDC series).

Autumn at Lake Arrowhead November 8, 2015 12:05

One of the many things I love about living in the mountains is the color that accompanies the arrival of autumn. It doesn’t last long, but when it’s here — it’s beautiful.  I try not to miss an opportunity to capture the amazing colors with my camera — and then, of course to combine elements of these photos into digital paintings.

The painting above was made fairly quickly using the mixer brush in Photoshop.

Stocking Up: Finding Great Images to Paint September 22, 2015 21:00 2 Comments

The paintings I make are always photo-based, whether they’re photo-transformations or paintings that begin as blank canvases — using the photo only as a reference. And I’ve found sometimes that my own photo library doesn’t always meet all of my needs. This may be the case with you as well.

What i’ve done, and what I would recommend to you would be to seek out and use (with permission of course) images taken by other photographers. These may be images posted to different photography or digital-art forums - some with an invitation to other members to retouch/manipulate/paint the posted image. Early on, as I worked to expand my skills as a digital artist, this was a great resource to me. Not only the images that were made available to me, but the feedback and encouragement I received from other members.

Another great resource I would recommend to you for the purposes of practice and portfolio-building would be the stock-image websites that are out there in increasingly larger numbers. You might be surprised to know that a large number of these sites offer use of their images for free.

Here’s a list of eighteen of my favorite sites offering free-for-use images: Pexels, Stocka, MMT, DesignersPics, Unsplash, Splitshire, Pixabay, Life of Pix, Magdeleine, Stocksnap, Gratisography, Kaboompics, Raumrot, Picjumbo, Im free, Re:splashed, ISO Republic, and Stokpic.

The stock site I use most often when I'm looking for a picture to paint is Dreamstime.  You'll have to pay to use most of their images (a very reasonable price, I think), but they do have a really large selection of free images as well.

So you might want to take a stroll through some of these sites. You might just find the inspiration for your next masterpiece.