How Writing Brought Me Back to Art by Shannon McRoberts
This was one of the problems I had many years ago when I needed cover art for my first novella. I was pretty sure I would need a snazzy cover, but how would I get the right kind of art? I had found pictures I wanted to use on the internet, but I could not find who actually made them to ask for permission. I never was, myself, any good at the human form – flowers were my forte – my people on the other hand all looked like they belonged in a Fauvist museum. That is when I did a few internet searches for “making fantasy art.” After much digging and clicking I ran across a program called Poser. It looked like something cool, but how steep was the learning curve? Could I try it out and see? The answer to those questions were “I don’t know.” I did find the price for the full software was pricey given I had no idea if I could use it – 200 or so dollars for the basic Poser program. WOW! But the search also brought up an ad for Daz Stuido; it was similar software, but it had a price tag of FREE! I downloaded Studio and with a few clicks I had made what they called a “render.”
Now, some people right now are saying that this is not “art” because it’s computer aided. I am sure a few of you are even saying you can click buttons too. However, to make decent pictures you need not only technical knowledge, but basic art knowledge. You can kind of think of these programs as “virtual photoshoots” where you CAN find a purple elf waiting around for you to take their picture! What you have to do is set the picture up the way you want it to look and then you hit “render” on your computer. The computer then proceeds to do a bunch of math and other high brain function stuff to give you the final render. After that you can tweak on it some more in Photoshop. However, If you have no inner artistic ability, like one of my real life friends, this type of program can frustrate you to no end. He has all the technical knowledge in the world for computers, but he just couldn’t make anything “look good” even after reading the book I let him borrow on how to make your renders look good. This is why I say Poser and Studio are both tools much like oil paint and crayons are in the traditional sense. You can give any person the same five items as far as runtime contents and you will end up with five different quality pictures and five different ideas; kind of like flash fiction.
Of course this, my dear friend, was how I fell down the rabbit hole. I stumbled upon these great programs in 2009 and quickly became addicted to things such as the latest wardrobe for Victoria 4 and hours of trying to streamline my runtime. Now, almost four years later the means to an end has become an obsession of its own. Once I bought Vicky 4 enough armour, castles, and weapons I found myself with the ability to CREATE the art I loved. Some nights I have to choose between writing in a fantasy world and making a visual representation of a fantasy world. Yet, I am really glad I learned how to make art in Poser and Studio because the art helps me create the writing and the writing helps me create the art.