Specifically, I'd like to talk about DAZ3D. DAZ is 3D rendering software that gives people like me (who can barely draw competent stick figures) the ability to make art like this.
|Wood Elves by Maraich|
The premise is deeply seductive. You see images like the one to the left, and they're beautiful. You watch the intro video and see how Daz works. It's 3d rendering software with props. It's like the ultimate dress up game. You buy the dolls (characters) you like, and the clothing you want them in, and the props around them, and then arrange them however you like. Almost everything is practically infinitely customizable. You can take their base objects and make your characters, places, and scenes come to life.
It's brilliant. If you're anything like me, you can barely produce legible handwriting, let alone draw anything. But with Daz, all you need is the ability to move sliders left and right. I can do that! You can do that! And if you're like me, upon seeing what was possible, and looking at your cover art, which isn't terrible, but you'd like to spiff it up, your credit card leapt out of your wallet and began entering the numbers all by itself. (The basic software is free, the characters, props, clothing, etc, all costs money.)
So, I bought characters, I bought clothing, I messed around with sliders, and produced...
|Graveyard 1 by Keryl Raist|
See, there are things you learn while you learn to draw that a lot of us who aren't artists don't know much about. Shadows for example. The software handles the shadows, but you fine tune them. So for example, the shadows on the clothing look fine, but Sarah's (the girl character's name) hair looks off. Likewise something weird is happening with the shadows on the ground.
If you can actually draw you probably know something about posture, poses, and facial expressions. I've had problems with the shoulders. Chris' (the guy character) shoulders are too stiff. He's supposed to be relaxed and comforting. Sarah's supposed to look like she's about to spring up and attack something that's scaring her.
As my husband said, it looks stiff and cartoonish.
But this is all fixable. (Hence the steep learning curve comment.) After many hours online reading more about how 3d renders work, and more hours spent adjusting sliders, I got to this.
|Graveyard 2 by Keryl Raist|
The big issue right now is posture. Sarah's shoulders are doing a better job of conveying 'scared' but her arms are wrong, and in real life, the knife would fall to the ground if she was holding it that loosely.
Real artists use life studies. There's a reason for this. It wasn't until I actually held a knife that I realized how tight the fist needed to be or that the thumb was way off. Meanwhile, if you're so scared you're about to attack, that sort of bent arm/fist just isn't happening. On top of that (though you can't see it in the picture) I had the weight on her legs wrong, which adds to her looking 'off.' I'm taking a picture of my husband holding a staff soon, because Chris' grip looks better from shot one to two, but I have a feeling the arm is off.
|Graveyard 3 by Keryl Raist|
Then I'll probably re-light the whole thing three or four more times to just see how different combinations work.
So, do I recommend DAZ? Yes. Doing this is a whole lot of fun. But it's not easy. And it's not quick. When it comes down to it, we see so many thousands of tiny details that we never really notice, until we run into an image where they don't look right. Then we still don't notice them, but we do realize the image isn't right.
I'm not ready to start publishing my images as cover art yet. But I'm pretty sure one of these days I'll get it down. I will learn to really see the details. In the meantime, I look at the images others have created with Daz and feel hopeful that one of these days I too will produce something worth putting on the cover of my book. One of these days, I'll get to the point where I can do things like this:
|Spirit Quest DS Version by Maraich|