Category: Digital Art


Further exploring Howler’s capabilities I rendered the very same landscape in Puppy Ray GPU as was shown in the last post, having been rendered in 3D Designer. Oh my! Taiga forest, I lived there.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

Rendering Trees in Howler

I use DAZ Bryce quite a bit to render landscapes. A useful feature is the capability to “stack” terrains. Stacked terrains offer a quick way of adding trees or rocks. Here’s a simple mountain terrain rendered in Bryce.

daz bryce 3d mountain terrain

Simple Terrain Rendered in DAZ Bryce

To add trees I duplicate the terrain then modify it in Bryce’s terrain editor. Generally I first add a bit of height and slope noise so the result will be more interesting. The terrain editor can add “spikes” to a terrain bump map. This can be done at several resolutions. In the screenshot of the terrain editor below you can see spikes added to a terrain map. The size and number of spikes generated vary with the resolution chosen. Here the resolution is very low so that you can see the spikes, they are not just dots.  Simple dots would probably render as cylinders, not cones. You can see a rendered view at top right. When rendered in Bryce some of the cones are truncated.

screenshot of daz bryce terrain editor

Adding “Trees” In The Bryce Terrain Editor

When the two terrains are rendered together the spikes of the “tree” terrain protrude through the original terrain. After selecting a texture for the “trees” there are a number of ways to further modify the terrain. By simply raising or lowering the tree terrain relative to the original you can vary the size and number of visible trees. Areas without trees and treelines can be made my editing the  bump map. Such tree layers work best for mid-range or background terrains. With a bit of work you can a quite realistic image.

bryce terrain - spikes, or trees

Same Terrain With Trees

I wondered if I could do something similar in Howler, so I rendered a terrain bump map with spikes, or trees, in 3d Designer; this is the result. The grass color was set as a reddish hue to resemble soil or conifer needle duff. Snow and rock were set as similar shades of green.

example rendering of trees in dogwaffle howler 3d designer

Conifers Rendered in Howler’s 3D Designer

As you can not work simultaneously with multiple bump maps in 3D Designer it would be necessary to edit the bump map to make areas without trees, such as on the peaks and steep, rocky slopes. A better texture map and some method of distorting the trees, so they do not render merely as smooth cones, would improve the results. Post processing might be required to distort them for added realism. I usually have to do the same thing for trees rendered this way in Bryce.

Here’s a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter (which you have seen before), operated by mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, Alaska, flying over a snow-covered mountain range. While Dogwaffle began as a 2D, raster-based paint program, Howler can model landscapes with multiple ray tracing utilities. This image, of stunning, almost photo-realistic quality, was rendered up in the 3D Designer utility. 3D Designer also has the ability to insert localized cloud formations of several types into your image. In this example you can see the leading edge of an approaching snowstorm just beyond the mountains.

outrunning an approaching blizzard

Running Ahead Of The Storm

Dogwaffle has an amazing array features – 2D, 3D, particles. There is also a large and growing number of video tutorials to help you figure out how to use them. Look here for more examples in the future including landscapes rendered with the Puppy Ray ray tracing utility.

Some years ago I mentioned Pleistocene Park, a project in Siberia attempting to recreate what scientists call the Mammoth Steppe, to reduce combat global climate change. Please join me in making a donation, even two dollars can help. More information about Pleistocene Park and how to donate is available here.

yakut horses at pleistocene park in siberia

Yakutian Horses at Pleistocene Park

A New Toy

Like most artists working with digital media I use several software applications. Sometimes I may use as many as six or seven programs to produce a single finished image; especially if it involves 3D modeling – whatever works to get the job done. One program I have used for quite a few years now is Project Dogwaffle. I began with the freeware version and was very impressed; it was also a lot of fun. There have been many updates over the years and I upgrade every so often. A few days ago I upgraded to the latest version, known as Howler. No single application does everything, but Howler is a very sophisticated, though generally easy to use program. In addition to the standard painting functions that you would expect you can also make animations. Special settings for “painting” foliage are also included and some time ago the ability to generate 3D terrains was incorporated.

I have been tinkering with my new toy and thought I you might interested in the results. There will be more examples and explanations of how I use Dogwaffle in conjunction with other software posted here in the coming weeks. I am always experimenting and trying to push the envelope of what can be done. My friend Philip Staiger who helped develop various versions of Dogwaffle will also probably be posting some of it and additional material at his website, thebest3d.com. He has also made some very good video tutorials. My thanks to him for his recent assistance.

As I said 3D terrain modeling has been a feature for some time and, like the other capabilities, it gets better with every new version. The ability to work both 2D and 3D in the same software makes some things much quicker and easier.

Here is the first image I worked up in Howler. I probably should not have put my copyright mark on it as I, more or less, slavishly followed the steps outlined in a video tutorial by Dan Ritchie who developed Dogwaffle. I really like how Howler handles fog.

Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset

To generate a 3D terrain you need a black and white image where the lighter the shade the higher the elevation; I call this a bump map. Here is a bump map for mountainous terrain. A simple, black and white, overhead image – think topographic map where the lightest shades are the mountain tops and the dark shades are lowlands. These are very easy to make by rendering plasma clouds.

black and white elevation map

Black And White Elevation Map

Here is a screenshot of the same bump map inside Howler’s 3D designer filter. Notice the terrain is a light neutral color. On the right you can see a panel with some of the many settings you can adjust.

screenshot of project dogwaffle howler 3d designer

Draft Terrain Render In Howler 3D Designer

The next step is to apply an image map, a texture, to the terrain. This is a simple image map made by again rendering plasma clouds, adjusting the color and adding a rock pattern to make it more interesting and realistic. As with rendering plasma clouds this is quick and easy to do. For the sake of brevity I left out a couple of steps required to add the snow.

terrain image map

Terrain Image Map With Snow

The same image map applied to the terrain bump map in 3D designer.

image map applies to the bump/terrain map

Image Map Applied To The Terrain

By adjusting a multitude of settings – elevation amplitude, illumination, point of view, etc., etc., etc.,  anyone can make a nice scenic view.

Here is another doodle I made. Except for the Northern Lights, which I made with other software, everything in this image was done with the Howler version of Dogwaffle on the same manner as outlined above. You can also make some very nice Northern Lights in Dogwaffle.

example 3d terrain render in project dogwaffle howler

Aurora Borealis Over Snow-Covered Mountains

One other thing you might find to be interesting.

Here’s a fractal image I made some time ago.

fractal magen david/star of david

Fractal Star Of David

After running it though the same process as above – I was curious what would happen – this is the resulting image with the illumination set to make the relief more visible.

fractal image rendered as terrain

Fractal Image Rendered As Terrain

I definitely recommend Dogwaffle to anyone, from beginners in digital arts, to professionals with many years of experience.

Thin Air

 

When making images I may use something I draw/paint from scratch, objects and landscape modeled and rendered with 3D software, or photographs I have taken – sometimes I make use of all three in one image – whatever works. I do a lot of experimentation. In this doodle of stark, high mountains I am trying to “automate” the irregular presence of snow rendered in 3D; so that the snow line is not just that, a line. I haven’t perfected the process, but I think I am on the right track.

In this case I applied a terrain image map which I made in the PD Artist version of Project Dogwaffle (which, by the way, has a very useful 3D terrain modeling filter) to mountainous terrain in Daz Bryce. I duplicated the terrain with a snow material. Repeatedly applying a variety of random variations (noise) in the geometry of the two terrains gave the effect I was looking for. A bit of post-processing produced a rather nice result.

thin air - snow on the mountains

Thin Air

I’m always trying to get better at what I do. It takes tome to learn new tricks and techniques and improve old ones. This rendition of a Russian AN-2 in flight somewhere over Siberia in the 1950s is much better than the one I did a few years ago. This is sort of a doodle for a couple of other images I want to do which will include an AN-2 or two. The AN-2 was built by the Antonov Design Bureau which is still in existence in the Ukraine.

an_2_wip

As the AN-2 is a biplane, making it more complicated to portray than single-wing aircraft, I first tried out a few things I learned to do on something simpler. Two Dassault Super Mystère B2 fighter bombers from the Israeli Air Force (IAF) 105 Squadron (Scorpion) in flight over a mountainous desert landscape; circa 1967.

two_mysteres_mod

The Super Mystère was the result of progressive improvements in earlier Dassault aircraft which were also flown by the IAF. The Super Mystère went into production in 1957. Israel acquired its first aircraft of this type a year later. They saw service in both the 1967 Six Day War and in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. It was the first aircraft flown by the IAF which could attain supersonic speeds in level flight. IAF pilots liked the aircraft feeling it was a good match for the MiG-19.

The image of the Super Mystères is available on various products at one of my Zazzle stores. The AN-2 should appear there at some time in the near future.

Here is the squadron insignia of the 1st Polar Airlift Squadron, known as “Santa’s Own,” to which are assigned Santa’s eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. The Latin motto, “UNA NOCTA TOTIUS MUNDI,” translates as “The entire world in one night.”

first_polar_airlift_patch_blog

And this is the night operations, arctic/polar blue, subdued camouflage version:

first_polar_airlift_subdued_blog

The First Polar Airlift Squadron (1st PAS) has a long and storied history. Based at the North Pole the 1st PAS is best known for providing airlift for Santa Claus during his annual, global, nocturnal delivery using venerable, reliable air-mobile RT-1 Reindeer (aka Caribou – Rangifer tarandus) generally deployed in teams of eight. For operations during inclement weather the squadron maintains one Reindeer equipped with a “RUDOLPH” enhanced red navigation lighting system.

For heavylift missions at other times of the year the 1st PAS also maintains a fleet of air-mobile A-1 Moose (Alces alces), one of which was featured earlier on this blog.

There are some who think I make these things up. The squadron did ask me to design the patch, so, in a sense, I did make it up. However the idea that the 1st PAS does not exist is just not true. Here’s a photo of Santa Claus on a training flight over Greenland , in the training sleigh “ICEBAT -1,” which was forwarded to me by the squadron public information officer. It is even signed by the jolly, old elf himself. What better proof could there be that the 1st PAS exists? The subdued version of the squadron patch can be seen on the left side of the sleigh.

fpas_slay_blog_96

The insignia is easier to see in this enlargement:

fpas_slay_blog_enl

Not only can the unit insignia be seen, but, as Santa takes flight safety very seriously, you can see that both he and the elf in the back seat are wearing flight helmets. You might also note that Santa is not wearing the traditional red suit. Instead he is wearing caribou fur the reindeer need not be made aware of that) as it is much warmer than the red getup and does not require multiple layers of thermal underwear.

The unit insignia are available on many items at one of my Zazzle stores. Ten percent of all proceeds from these items will be donated to charity. Search for “airlift.”

Here is more proof that both Amazon and the thieves it allows to sell stolen images in the Amazon Marketplace have nothing but contempt for customers.

Below is a screen shot of an absolutely atrocious copy of my work. Though the image was obviously taken from the Zazzle product page, it looks as if it is the typical degraded  copy of a copy of a copy…. You can see the address in the screenshot though I am sure it will be removed by Amazon when I report it. This particular seller offers a large number of stolen images which are just as degraded.

fukushima_stolen_pillow_amazon_blog

That the seller would offer such poor imagery, that Amazon allows such poor-quality products to be sold. Well, they must think you are idiots.

Compare it with my original image:

radioactive salmon

New Element Salmonium-235

Buyer beware! Lawlessness rules the land. The robber barons and thieves only want to separate you from your money and do not care who they harm to do so.

Amazon sux, and, as you will read, Amazon must have agreed with that sentiment.

The war with Amazon continues. A few months ago the company promised that it was going to do something about the proliferating millions of stolen images offered for sale on its web sites. Of course, we have heard nothing further from them about stopping the sale of stolen intellectual property in the Amazon Marketplace. The situation grows worse by the day.

Some time ago, in order to share my feelings about Amazon with the wider world, I posted a few products on Zazzle which expressed my disgust. Gosh darn it, I should have realized, who woulda’ thunk it, that the same Internet thieves who steal my art and sell it on Amazon would also steal and sell images criticizing Amazon on Amazon. No criminal could be that stupid, could they? No criminal would be so stupid as to endanger the legally-sanctioned, international fencing operation where he sells ill-gotten goods. Oh well, them things just happen.

As it happens, Internet thieves are now offering a number of these images for sale.  They appear on multiple Amazon web sites. I have chosen one to tell you about; one of the English-language ones.

Here is a screen shot of the stolen image on Amazon’s UK site. I have added a sightly enlarged image of the pillow so you can more easily read the relevant text.

fma_pillow_amazon_screenshot

Let me make a short aside here to illustrate something else those contemplating purchasing stolen goods from Amazon’s hordes of Internet thieves should be aware of.

Here is a my original image. A fairly good simulation of a pilot’s leather jacket patch:

fma_patch_trap_small

And you can view the actual product here. And, if you like the image, without the Amazon comment, a full-size version of it, along with some related imagery, is posted elsewhere on this blog. Look for “Flying Moose Aviation Patch.”

Now compare my original with the crappy image from the Amazon product page:

amazon_stolen_fma_pillow

Products sold by Zazzle all have nice, sharp images. That’s because the company ensures only high-quality printers are used and the artists and designers who work with the company submit high-resolution (lots of dots per inch) images.

The images displayed on product pages are not high resolution. This true for Zazzle, Amazon, and most any other seller. Typically, they have less than one third as many dots as do the originals. So when criminals steal an image they have to enlarge it to be big enough to print on a product. That necessarily distorts the image. So, if you purchase something from an Internet thief, and they actually send you something, in all likelihood it will be a crappy image on a crappy product. Not only do these thieves steal my art, but the crappy images damage my reputation as an artist.

The thieves do not care about quality. They only want to make a fast buck, or renminbi – they are criminals.

Okay, enough of that; back to our main story.

Gee, willikers; what to do about the Amazon sux pillow? I am just a member of the lumpen nobody-ariat who can be safely ignored by the uber-rich. You know, those with enough money to buy politicians, ensure that laws are so written as to let them get away with just about anything, and conquer the stars.

However, I actually mean Amazon no harm, certainly not the employees. So, nice guy that I am, I submitted a copyright infringement report. I am really good at this as I have to do it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, ad nauseum. The same stolen images re-appear over and over and over and over and over and over and over again; often offered by the same thieves on Amazon, often with the same ASIN (Amazon’s product identification number). And very often we go through the same long, drawn-out process: Amazon replies claiming they can’t understand how my copyright is being infringed just because some thief, usually operating from China, has stolen the image and is selling it without my permission.  Well, you can see how I, and many thousands of other artists, might not feel all nice and fuzzy about Amazon.

Anyway, in spite of my antipathy towards Lord Bezos and company, I submitted the copyright infringement report. Amazon replied and flat out refused to remove the product. That led me to believe that Amazon agreed that Amazon sux.

I then submitted a customer review drawing attention to that fact that the product bore text stating, “Amazon sux.” Amazon approved and posted my comment. That only strengthened my belief that Amazon sux and Amazon agreed.

Again, as a member of the lumpen nobody-ariat, I do not have the money to sue Amazon and force it to tend to its reputation. And, anyway, Amazon defeats just about every lawsuit brought against it. The courts have ruled that Amazon bears no responsibility for the stolen goods sold on its web sites. In effect Amazon is a legally-sanctioned, international fencing operation.

Now whenever I come across one of my land mines while searching through the millions of bootleg products for my stolen images I just chuckle, or even chortle, and move on. I will not be reporting them, or similar images made by others. And, once again, given the ever-proliferating millions of bootleg products on Amazon, it is highly unlikely that I have found them all.

Just as I have to spend many hours a day searching through millions of images, so must Amazon – if it cares about its public image.

Just as Amazon operates in multiple countries and multiple languages, so do I.

Just as Amazon bears no responsibility for the stolen images which appear on its web sites, neither do I.

There are certain other characteristics which will make them more of a challenge to find.

It would be a mistake to assume I am the only artist who is torked off at Amazon.

Even though Zazzle artists and designers have to search through the millions of images we do not have to scrutinize them closely as our own art jumps out at us. Amazon, on the other hand, has no idea what to look for and I ain’t tellin’.

Live by the Internet thief, die by the Internet thief.

I was going to inform Bezos about this, “Seattle control to Lord Bezos.  We have a problem,” but decided not to interrupt his conquest of the Universe. In any event Amazon seems to have reconsidered and removed the pillow.

For another interesting tale from the Great Amazon War click here.