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Friday, September 28, 2012

Developing a Style

In 1992, when John Derry joined Fractal Design, he introduced me to the traditional scratchboard tool. And the art of designing icons! The scratchboard tool was a tool that could scratch a thin layer of black paint off a white board. It was a very specialized traditional process, involving specially-prepared scratchboard and a special tool, like a crow-quill pen, with a changeable nib for scratching the black paint off.

In 1993, when Painter 2.0 came out, Fractal Design introduced the Scratchboard Tool to digital media. This tool had a very hard 1-pixel anti-aliased edge and also a width-changing ability that helped you create tapering lines very easily in response to pressure.

The above image is a redrawing of one of my original scratchboard sketches (then using traditional media), as depicted in Style and the Digital Era.

The scratchboard tool and its digital version pushed me to create more high-contrast art that came very close to a woodcut look. Some of my pieces from 1994 and 1995 are shown in Art From Deep Inside the Psyche.

This piece is from 1993 and shows some of my first work with Painter's Scratchboard Tool.

It also shows my Neuland Inline-inspired chop mark from that era.

It exhibits use of positive and negative space, even showing it several levels deep. Also, my preference for texture is shown in the overly-obsessive wood grain. I have cleaned this image up and colored it for display here.

You are acquainted with my modern woodcut style, having seen a few posts in this blog, and I present for you here some interesting icons I sketched in 1999 but have now completed in this style. This set of icons is the Disasters of Nature set.

Here is the "Earthquake" icon. Really the ground doesn't crack open in an earthquake, though! Why is it that most earthquakes seem to happen on bright cheerful sunny days? Because I have only been in an earthquake in California, thats why!

Yes, I was here for the 1989 earthquake, a 7.1 on the Richter scale. Although it was known as the San Francisco quake, it's actual epicenter was in Aptos, about 5 miles from where I lived, in the forest of Nisene Marks.

My friend Tom Hedges was actually hiking in that very forest when the earthquake hit! He said the trees shook and a huge amount of pollen and chaff came down from them.

The next is the "Wildfire" icon. A raging fire is another disaster, particularly here in California where every summer and autumn the fires come very close to homes.

There have even been some terrible fires close to my home, some as close as a half-mile.

You see, earthquakes strike without warning, and quickly start moving. It's really unnerving. Wildfire is also terrifying, because you can see it coming closer. Our firefighters always do their best and always contain them, but sometimes there is no way to prevent them from burning our homes.

California forests are all about renewal. After a fire, the wooded area grows back.

Lightning is another disastrous force of nature that can have devastating effects. Living near the coast, we find that many weather systems traveling frictionless over the ocean will suddenly release their energy quite close to us, as they reach land. This means torrential rain and, occasionally, lightning.

Such a powerful electrical discharge is really a grounding of the enormous potential energy stored in storm cloud systems.

A particularly strong lightning strike can easily possess a hundred thousand amps of current.

Humankind cannot yet duplicate the voltage and current of lighting, evidence that we still have a ways to go.

A hurricane icon depicts a fierce wind, blowing trees over and flooding with its massive overpowering storm surge waves.

Typhoons and hurricanes cause incalculable damage, sometimes flooding huge areas of cities, like New Orleans' Ninth Ward.

Although hurricanes never attack California north of the tip of Baja California, we do get some heavy weather here. Trees have been known to fall in the heavy weather.

And lightning has been known to strike the field outside my house as well, splitting trees from time to time. This is the consequence of living near the coast.

Tornados are a major destructive force of nature! Their winds lift objects weighing tons and throw them through the air, leaving a path of destruction sometimes a half-mile wide, like a scar on the earth.

The US is famous for its "tornado alley" stretching from Abilene to Fargo where one week can sometimes see hundreds of tornadoes.

I have seen a tornado in Japan. I was driving back from Hakone to Tokyo and one appeared less than a mile to my left. At one point it struck a lake and turned into a shiny silver waterspout. I was in no danger because the terrain was a bit mountainous and its vortex was trapped in a little valley while I drove by.

I will get back to these icons in the future, because it's clear that I have forgotten avalanches and volcanoes, both of which I have first-hand knowledge!


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