Monarch Clusters at Pismo Beach

On my work trip to Santa Barbara, I was pleasantly surprised to drive by the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. When we lived on Monterey Bay, we used to visit the butterfly grove in Pacific Grove but I didn't have the camera gear I now own. So I took this serendipitous opportunity to photograph these marvels of nature.

Accidental Art Amidst the Oilfields

During my recent trip to Santa Barbara, I spent a day photographing the area around the Carrizo Plain. There are a huge number of oilfields located to the east near Taft, CA., which I drove through to get to the high hills of the Tremblor Range. These unusually-shaped expansion loops are peppered throughout the hundreds of drilling sites. An interesting example of accidental art!

John's Impasto User: Janet Stoppee

Artist Janet Stoppee of M2 Media Studios recently painted this Blue Ridge Mountains street scene of Sperryville, Virginia.

Janet writes:

I painted this inspired by the Impressionists. It is cloned from a shoot Brian and I did capturing our favorite tree in the Blue Ridge mountain village of Sperryvile. I used John’s Impasto Medium Gloss Varnish on a few places like the tree trunk, steps and a few other areas to give it more movement.

I really tried to step away from too much photographic detail. I used the Fan - Flat Cloner Brush and made different variations of it.

You can see more of Janet's work here

Elias Mina: John's Impasto & Smart Brushes User

Toronto-based photographer and artist Elias Mina works in both Painter and Photoshop. Eli writes, "I used your Smart Oil brush in Painter (John's Smart Brushes) and then moved to Photoshop to use mostly your brushes to paint inside and around the window. I can't make up my mind which is my favourite! I hope you don't mind me sharing with you my excitement. I am applying textures to selective part like sky, etc. and sometimes to a whole image. What a difference they make when I get it right."

You can see more of Eli's work at his web site.

John's Artists' Brushes User: Roland Saldivar

Phillipines-based artist & colorist Roland Saldivar has been using my Artists' Brushes tool presets for Photoshop CS5 & 6.

Roland writes:

I want to thank you so much for making your Artists' Brushes available. These brushes are awesome! I have never been this close to the look of Painter in Photoshop before you made these brushes available. Now, I am having so much joy in playing around with your brushes and making really satisfying digital art.

John's Artists' Brushes and Dry Media for Photoshop CS5 & CS6 are each available for $19.95. If you have Photoshop CS5 or CS6 and are into painting, this will be the best investment you can make!

If you have an image created with my brushes, send me a JPEG and I'll feature it here on the PixlBlog!

Moku Hanga: Outstanding Japanese Woodblock Print App

I recently downloaded the iphone app, Moku Hanga, by JixiPix Software. This app does an excellent job of emulating traditional Japanese woodblock printing. Moku Hanga is actually Japanese for woodblock. JixiPix also has iPad and Mac versions of their apps, so I downloaded the desktop version since I was so impressed with the iPhone version.

Moku Hanga handles high-resolution files with ease. I can even feed it Photoshop PSD and Canon RAW files with no problem. The app is supplied with presets for instant gratification, but is totally user-customizable. A set of paper backgrounds and edges fill out the app.

In the spirit of Japanese woodblock subject matter, I used a photo of a pagoda I shot in Sydney, Australia (of all places!). I did do a bit of prep work in Photoshop, using the Adaptive Wide Angle filter to eliminate camera lens distortion (see the original image below).

The best feature of Moku Hanga is the price: $7.99 (the iPhone and iPad versions are $2.99). JixiPix has several very nice image-filtering apps with highly reasonable pricing.

I have a feeling I'll be getting some more of these!

John's Dry Media User: Thomas Brissot

Paris-based concept artist Thomas Brissot has been using my Dry Media tool presets for Photoshop CS5 & 6.

Thomas writes:

I purchased your dry media brushes for photoshop, and I wanted to thank you. It is very helpful to me, I always looked for something that could do a bridge between Photoshop and Painter. I now can do extremely playful and fun stuff with Phosothop (and of course, if I have fun doing my work, the result is much better).

John's Artists' Brushes and Dry Media for Photoshop CS5 & CS6 are each available for $19.95. If you have Photoshop CS5 or CS6 and are into painting, this will be the best investment you can make!

John's Artists' Brushes for Adobe Photoshop CS5

John's Dry Media for Adobe Photoshop CS5

If you have an image created with my brushes, send me a JPEG and I'll feature it here on the PixlBlog!

Don't Adjust Your Display!

The above image may appear to be waving and composed of parallelograms, but it is actually made up of squares.

Akiyoshi Kitaoka, Professor, Department of Psychology, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan, studies visual perception and optical illusions. A favorite subject is the "anomalous motion illusion", in which our visual system is provided contradictory information causing apparent motion when there is none.

Check out professor Kitaoka's website for a dizzying array of visual illusions.

WARNING: Viewing these illusions might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick.

John's Smart Brushes User: Terry Sita

John's Smart Brushes user Artist Terry Sita writes:

I am sending you two photos of painting I did with your Leroy brush. We raise Thoroughbreds so there are always a lot of horses around to photograph. The foals are born usually between Feb. and May.

I rather like the look of the smart oil, since I am a realist painter, but I am trying to loosen up and get more color in my work, so I thought you would like these better.

After auto painting, all I did was bring back the eyes and a little of the hair on the head. If I used the smart oil, I would have to do a little more work to put color into the piece. I hope you like them. I am still a beginner at Painter 12 and these brushes eliminate much of the work.

You can see more of Terry's work on her website. Terry mentions using the Leroy brush. I named this brush after artist Leroy Neiman. and attempted to imbue this brush with some of the vibrance of his paintings.

Mr. Neiman passed away today at 91.

John's Smart Brushes come with installation videos for the different versions of Painter, as well as a tutorial video to help you get the most out of these interpretive brushes.

John's Smart Brushes are $24.95. You can purchase them using the PayPal link below. Major credit cards are accepted if you don't have a PayPal account.

Seeing from a Different P.O.V.

Click image to view larger

My brother-in-pixels, Mark Zimmer, provides a unique commentary on his Relativistic Observer blog about looking at the world:

What you see depends upon where you are. But it also depends upon who you are. If you are here you will see day. If you are there, you will see night. Sometimes there is a sun, sometimes there is a moon. An ocean surrounds an island, but dry land surounds a lake.

The post is accompanied by Mark's playful digital illustrations. If you haven't added Relativistic Observer to your blog reader, you owe it to yourself to do so...now!

John's Smart Brushes User: Karen Bonaker

Artist and Digital Art Academy webmistress Karen Bonaker painted Sedona Canyon View utilizing John's Smart Brushes.

"I started with a painting that I had just completed free hand and thought it may be fun to play with the brushes using it as a source.

I started the cloning on four separate layers (using the Impressionable, Smart Oil, Smart Chalk, and Impasto Oil brushes) and then resolved each one until it all seemed to work in harmony.

Finally added a layer and filled with a Canvas pattern. Wonderful brushes!"

John's Smart Brushes come with installation videos for the different versions of Painter, as well as a tutorial video to help you get the most out of these interpretive brushes.

The Last Draughtsman: Robert A. Nelson

Robert Nelson,

Professor Emeritus, Millersville University, is a highly respected contemporary painter, sculptor printmaker and collage artist. Nelson studied art education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a master's degree in 1951. He taught at his alma mater as well as the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and the University of North Dakota before returning to school at New York University, where he received his Education Doctorate in 1971. The next year he began teaching at Cleveland State University, where he stayed until 1975, when he joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

I had the good fortune to meet and interact with Nelson in a printmaking workshop during my undergraduate days at the University of Nebraska. Nelson is the consummate draughtsman and is quickly becoming a vanishing breed. While he handles multiple mediums effortlessly, perhaps his greatest asset is his drawing skill. I discovered this profile video and am happy and surprised to see that Robert still has the gift and is working away at age 89.

I hope I'm as lucid and creative as Robert in my sunset years.

Mark Zimmer: The Relativistic Observer

Click image to visit the Relativistic Observer blog

My brother-in-pixels and good friend, Painter creator Mark Zimmer, has recently launched a blog, the Relativistic Observer. With his terrific insight, Mark covers a wide variety of subjects:
The future, technology, gadgets, MEMS, Painter, creativity, energy, world events, security, cryptography, image processing, mathematics, and my past. Oh, and maybe a few songs.
Mark is an inveterate note taker (a page of Mark's notes is shown above) and shares many of his insights, including the creation of Painter, which I was fortunate to be a part of. He also writes about his musical composition chops and shares some of his songs.

A good read and highly recommended.

Arched Oak

This unusual oak tree—a favorite of mine—resides in a nearby park. I have no idea why it has chosen to grow this way, but it makes for an interesting portrait of a unique tree.

I'm currently working on my Painter 12 Essentials title for lynda.com. Scheduling has gotten moved around and I won't be recording until sometime in the Jan/Feb timeframe. Expect its release sometime later in the first quarter of '12.

Stumbling into History

During my most recent trip to Southern California, I photographed this interesting architectural landmark near the Santa Barbara airport. This is a Barnsdall Rio Grande Oil Company gas station built in 1929 and turns out to be one of the most architecturally significant structures that represents the best existing examples of California gas stations built in the heydey of automobile travel up and down the California coast.

Besides its architectural significance, this station was utilized as the set for the 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange.

You can read more about this unique location here.