Waheed Nasir: About the Artist
I live in Karachi, Pakistan and have a background in traditional art. My field of work includes art direction, visual development, concept art, matte painting, background plates, creating concepts and references for final lighting and overall mood, and 3D texturing. In addition to my digital work, I paint and hold exhibitions of my traditionally created art whenever time permits. To date, I have had 5 solo exhibitions and taken part in more than 20 group shows, both here and abroad. To cater to my softer side, I play guitar and compose music. I have more than 15 years of experience teaching traditional drawing and painting and guitar. I have more than eight years of experience working as a digital computer graphics (CG) artist. I conduct workshops and give lectures and demonstrations on art at various venues, institutes, and universities. I am currently working as the creative head at Grand Leisure Corporation Limited. When I have the time, I get involved in local and international projects as a freelance artist.
Software: Painter, Photoshop, Art Rage
Hardware: Wacom tablet
I believe art must touch hearts. There must be something more than just painting a beautiful picture[md]there has to be a story, a mood, an atmosphere, and something must be going on. Art has to get the viewer involved; it must pull the viewer in and make him think. If it’s a painting, it should look like a painting — it shouldn’t look like a photograph. One must feel the brushwork — loose and casual, yet calculated. Spontaneous suggestions are always more artistic. Art should be pure, straightforward, and come from the heart.
Nature is my biggest inspiration. I am also inspired by the realistic painting styles of the old master expressionists and flamenco guitar music. If it’s art, it inspires and influences me.
Step-by-Step Tutorial: “Those Gloomy Hours”
All the ideas for this image were in and from my mind. My aim was merely to make a conceptual digital painting that had a gloomy atmosphere. I went for a complete shot — showing the time of day (night), strong moonlight, a mountain range, a spooky castle with few lights inside, and water and trees. I planned, and aimed for, a silhouette settingso I went for a backlit condition. That served my purpose well and was just what I pictured in my mind.
I paint this scene in such a way that it shows details, textures, and light, so if want to, I can even have it made to use for a 3D short/project.
1) I make my initial sketch on paper using a pencil without references. I visualize the whole scene. While sketching, my only concern is the composition, with the placement of the main mountain and the castle as my focus. My sketch is just a rough suggestion; I am not after details at this time. My objective is to think about an interesting division of negative and positive space. See Figure 2.1.
2) I scan my sketch and open it in Painter to further work, refine, color, and finish it. I use a Wacom tablet while working in Painter. I start by choosing a middle tone — a blue — and add it as a base color to the sky and water using the Pens, Flat Color Brush. See Figure 2.2.
3) At this time I am more concerned with adding a ground color to every part of the image; I am not concerned with dimensionality at this point. So in Figure 2.3, I use the same Flat Color Brush to add background colors to the mountain and castle, filling these areas with flat colors.
I usually work on the entire canvas at the same time, especially at the start and before going on to the details. I work on the ground, sky, foreground, midground, and background simultaneously. I don’t like to finish one particular area first. This technique helps me build harmony throughout.
4) At this stage, I am working to build up the image in various areas, layer by layer, and now want to achieve some dimensionality. During this process, I use various pens along the way with solid, flat strokes, such as Flat Color and Round Tip Pen 10. I play around with the opacity at times and work to create the mood I am after by carefully deciding on a basic ground color for every part of the image. See Figure 2.4.
I build up my image layer by layer, in the same manner that I would for a real oil painting (on canvas). This approach helps me achieve a solid, rich-looking surface with body and volume.
5) I begin adding basic details using Pens, Flat Color for more solid strokes and covering. In Figure 2.5, I add a winding path, which was not in my initial sketch, on the main mountain. It is a major need and a visually interesting choice. This also lends visual significance to the main point of focus: the castle. I create clouds around the moon using Artists’ Oils, Dry Brush for my initial swirling shapes; right now their placement is the most important thing for me. I also add ripples in the water using a flat pen brush in a new layer and, for now, just a random suggestion of ripples according to the light.
I would like to suggest that all beginners who want to give digital painting a shot should read and learn about art in general. Besides becoming proficient with the tools and brushes that digital art software offers, you’ll have basic knowledge about the elements of art. No tool can make a nice composition for you, tweak a weak arrangement of things, or fix a boring color scheme — you must know about these elements already to produce a solid and convincing piece of artwork. Elements such as composition, focus, depth, perspective, light, tone, color, drama, and mood are crucial to consider when developing your image. You need a combination of tools and a strong know-how of art.
6) Now it’s time to make this image much more focused and defined. I start finishing the loose parts, always keeping in mind the light source, which is the moon at the back. Major areas become silhouettes, with light rimming their edges and the parts that would receive straight light from the moon being fully lit. Those areas that fall in a direct line with the moon I make even brighter.
7) In Figure 2.6, I add more details in parts like the foreground mountain. I decide to add branches to the sides of the image in the foreground; I use a Round Tip Pen Brush in a new layer so that I can tweak the shape and positions later if I have to. The branches are a nice frame for the whole view and make the focus even stronger. They also keep the eyes of the viewer inside the edges of the picture plane and more focused on the interesting parts.
I also work on the water a little and add more definition. I decide to paint a torch at the bottom of the path on the main mountain. This serves as a visual guide and helps me get rid of the big dark shape of that area. I create the effect of its light with a soft pen brush and make it even softer by blurring it. I add its reflection on the water using a pen brush, but I do not keep it as solid and defined as the actual torch flame because it’s a reflection and I want to show the water ripples breaking it up.
Draw with pencils and sketch as much as you can. Practice drawing from life. Learn to make your lines strong and develop a good flow. Practicing these things will give you confidence and make your digital/tablet work strong and impressive.
8) I work to finish the clouds, again using a Pen Brush. I apply a Gaussian blur on the first layer of the clouds and then, in another layer, I define some of their parts and reduce the opacity. The moon is just a circular shape that I make with a Round Tip Pen Brush. To get rid of its flatness, I put couple of random strokes on it using a darker tone with half the opacity. I keep the area around the moon brighter so that it becomes darker as it gets further away. Even the parts of the clouds closer to the moon and facing it get lighter strokes to show the reflected light. I add additional highlights on the water, on the castle, and on the winding path. See Figure 2.7.
I constantly observe and judge things while working. I never call any one thing finished during the process but keep working on all areas, all the time, until the end. Even if one part looks finished now, it will probably need attention again once other areas are completed. For example, if I decide to brighten up the moon, I not only add a brighter spot there but have to work on the lighter parts of the clouds, castle, and water — reconsidering the effects of the moonlight all over again, with stronger, more defined highlights.
9) In Figure 2.8, I desaturate the whole image and lessen the contrast a little because it was too blue-ish and too saturated for the eyes. Now it is kind of mature. The desaturation is an afterthought; I make these kinds of decisions all the time — judging, analyzing, and changing things for a better look. I do not have a general rule for these things but always consider what’s going to look best. These are mostly under the bracket of "personal taste."
10) At this point, I decide I am finished. I choose to leave some areas less detailed because I don’t want every area to get equal attention. To become a strong point of focus, the castle and main mountain must be well tackled with all kinds of details. Other parts, especially the mountains in the background, have minimum detailing because I want them to be at a distance, and they must recede into the background; additional details would just bring them forward and ruin any sense of depth. Figure 2.9 shows my final image. Every part works the way I visualized in my original concept.
Throughout the creation of this image, I did not use a lot of different brushes, but what I did use served my purpose perfectly. Using brushes unnecessarily only makes things look overdone and busy, often disturbing the viewer. Artwork needs to be straight, simple, and to the point.
The Creative Process
Both my creative process and my approach to art are traditional. I work straight and pure and, to a major extent, I adhere to the basic rules of art. I start by thinking about something specific. I look for a subject that will give me enough creative freedom and a mood to capture[md]something that will get the viewer involved. For me, this is a natural process. When I plan my images, the most important elements I consider are composition, light, mood, and story. I also want to make sure that I create a visual path so the viewer’s eye will travel across the painting but still come back to the main focal point; I love to have a strong point-of-focus for the viewer. After I make my initial sketch, where I take care of basic compositional elements, I add my ground colors and work in lights and darks. I work on the entire canvas at one time because that gives a sense of harmony to the image. I address tones and values rather than colors. I also try to capture air and atmosphere. I finish the image, layer by layer, and work to maintain a consistent mood throughout. Also, I leave many areas in an image unfinished, or roughly done, so the viewer can use his own imagination about it.
Painter is a beautiful software program that has great features for artists and painters with a traditional art background. I usually use its Oil Brushes, Palette Knives, and Pens; the thick oil impastos are just like the real thing.
I always work in separate layers. This allows me creative freedom and saves a lot of time when things go wrong or need to be changed — which can happen at any point — according to the needs of the project.
I try to make sure that I keep the actual tones, colors, and contrasts and that I don’t crop the original image. Also, whenever possible, I like to avoid unnecessary thick, dark framing. The work must be shown with the name and Web site of the artist, along with all due credits. My finished work is usually published on my website, as well as in various online forums and galleries. I sometimes create prints of my work, and I have plans to exhibit my digitally painted prints along with my traditional canvas paintings. I am looking forward to finding enough free time to do this soon!
When did you start using Painter?
I first used Painter at an animation studio about six years ago. I was working as a concept artist/matte painter and used Painter to paint textures for 3D work. Painter allowed me to create quick concepts for lighting and colors that the art department needed — all the time.
Did you have previous experience in traditional media?
Yes, I have a background in traditional art. Along with digital media, I still work in traditional oils, pastels, charcoal, and pen and ink. My favorite medium is oil paint on canvas. I am a fine artist first, and then a digital one.
Do you integrate your work in Painter with traditional artists’ materials?
Sometimes I integrate traditional tools by first drawing my image on paper and then scanning and importing it into Painter for coloring and painting.
How has it been for you to learn about using art tools in a digital setting?
Fortunately, I do have traditional painting experience, so that helps a lot with creating my artwork using digital media. A real artist, with a traditional art background, always has an edge over those who start drawing and painting digitally, with no actual drawing and painting experience.
Has Painter helped you to define your own style?
It has given me those beautiful tools and brushes that are just like traditional ones. I am happy that, even in the digital medium, I can work as a fine artist and create paintings that are like real oils. By being able to keep working in my personal style, I can work fast and even deliver things ahead of schedule.
Painter fits well with my creative process. It gives me the tools to create both realistic work and speedy paintings and concepts for mood, lighting, and colors. I even get what I want for my personal paintings from Painter’s large range of brushes.
What motivates you?
Varied happenings motivate me — incidents, memories past, nature, and even a strong piece of any kind of art.
Which artists do you admire?
I admire Caravaggio for his brilliant, realistic paintings; for the way he captured all those moments in time; and for his theatrical lighting. I like John Singer Sargent’s bold and casual oil paintings; his strong suggestions and thick brushstrokes are to the point and in the right place. I love his spontaneity. In digital media, I admire Craig Mullins’ work.
How has the Internet influenced your art-making process?
The Internet has given me a lot of exposure. I get to see a lot of art by people from around the globe and share mine with them. The Internet has brought me closer to people and allowed me to keep in touch with them. People get jobs and have made their names through the Internet. The Internet can teach me anything I want to learn. It provides tutorials, insights, life histories of artists, and what-not. I need only to have the will to learn, and the Internet is right there beside me to help.
What advice do you have for artists working with Painter?
First of all, understand the interface. Study and explore all that it offers. Get the hang of the tools — there are many — and explore all the brushes to learn which ones suit you and what exactly to use for a particular job. Once you’ve done that, life with Painter will be quite a lot easier. Furthermore, try exploring the brushes that are closest to traditional media. They’re a lot of fun.
* http://www.waheednasir.com 
* http://www.goodbrush.com 
* http://www.thomlab.com/ 
BA in commerce.
MACK/DADD Productions; Sean Kennedy; ICE Animations (Pvt.) Ltd., among others.
Awards and Career Highlights
Cover awards at various digital art forums for paintings and concept work: CGTalk; 3D Total; CG Expanse; 3DM3; cgTantra; ArtRage; among others. Feature/interview on ItsArtMag.com, among others. Work has appeared in various online magazines, such as 2DArtist by 3D Total.
Daryl Wise has worked for the past 15 years as the owner/operator of StreetWise PR, a small public relations and marketing firm near the Silicon Valley. Some clients include or have included Macworld Expos, the artist Peter Max, HP, Ambient Design, Adesso, Pixelmator, GLUON, and e frontier. He was director of the Santa Cruz Digital Arts Festival for three years and is a member of Cabrillo College's Digital Arts Advisory Committee. He is the author of Secrets of Award-Winning Digital Artists, Secrets of Poser Experts, and Secrets of Painter Experts.
Linda Hellfritsch holds degrees in traditional art and graphic design. She is a fine artist, freelance commercial artist, Web designer and writer living in La Selva Beach, California. She has curated and hung both traditional and digital art exhibitions in San Jose, San Francisco, Monterey, San Clemente and Santa Cruz. Her areas of expertise include art, design, art history, and arts education. Linda works primarily with traditional mixed media although her work has required her to design and develop digital graphic arts products. This exposure to digitally produced art has awakened a curiosity and hunger to learn more about digital art tools. She has spent the past several years talking to digital artists, experiencing their work and learning their secrets. Linda's background in traditional fine art gives her a unique perspective as a traditional artist in a digital world. In her spare time, she works as a scenic painter and props builder at the new Crocker Theater in Aptos, California.