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Visual vocabularies

From: Digital Painting: Architecture

Video: Visual vocabularies

Throughout this title, I'm going to be referring to visual vocabularies. What do I mean by a visual vocabulary? Each visual medium, sculpture, painting, photography, and so on, has a set of unique features that defines it. For example, the medium of painting has expressive brush strokes, canvas, and paint texture, a simplified representation of reality, and so on. These visual elements are the nouns and verbs that make up the visual vocabulary of paint. Likewise, photography has a unique visual vocabulary that defines it.

Visual vocabularies

Throughout this title, I'm going to be referring to visual vocabularies. What do I mean by a visual vocabulary? Each visual medium, sculpture, painting, photography, and so on, has a set of unique features that defines it. For example, the medium of painting has expressive brush strokes, canvas, and paint texture, a simplified representation of reality, and so on. These visual elements are the nouns and verbs that make up the visual vocabulary of paint. Likewise, photography has a unique visual vocabulary that defines it.

Sharp focus, lens distortion, depth of field and so on. I'm going to use the notions of these mediums' visual vocabularies to show you how to translate one medium into another. In effect, using Photoshop, you'll be interpreting a photograph into a painting using your own expressive voice. Let's use these two examples for comparison, to show you what I mean. Both are of the same subject, a classic turn-of-the-century mansion in the Scottish Baronial style.

Let's start with the photograph and take a look at some of the key vocabulary elements. A wide-angle lens was used to take this photograph. As a result, the optics of the lens severely distort the building, exhibiting a lens artifact known as keystoning. This is when the verticals of the architecture are all oriented towards an imaginary vanishing point located some place up in the sky. Now look what happens in the distance, at the right. The carriage house retreats and there's little detail. We can tell that the architectural style is similar to the mansion, but not much more.

Looking closely at the photograph, we can see that the camera records detail in a continuous fashion, making no judgement with regard to what is important in the scene. Now, lets compare how the painting handles detail and subject focus. Like the photograph, the painting uses detail to draw the attention of the viewer's eye. However, unlike the photo, the detail is not continuous. Rather, it is indicated through a simplified rendering of the scene via brush strokes. Compared to the fine detail of the photograph, the painting is not nearly as complex.

The artist has simplified the scene by indicating with brush strokes which areas have greater importance. The artist has added new elements to the scene: a tricycle, ball, a young child in the upper turret window have been added. These additional objects introduce a story-telling element to the image. Who is this girl? Why is she inside and not playing with her toys? Is she being punished? Is she a ghost? This is left up to the viewer's interpretation. Both of these mediums portray the same subject matter, yet how each renders meaning to draw the attention of the viewer's eye is very different.

The photographer has utilized the camera's wide-angle lens to emphasize and distort the perspective of the mansion, giving it an imposing down-the-nose appearance. The artist's painting has interpreted the unflinching continuous focus and distortion of the camera, and rendered it to a simplification of form and brushwork that indicates a greater level of detail. Unlike the photograph's perfect recording of detail, the painting supplies enough detail, like dots, for the viewer's mind to connect. It is this additional creative playfulness that imbues the painting with the expressive interpretation of the artist.

By understanding how each medium uses it's vocabulary elements to create a scene to be viewed, we can translate one medium's vocabulary element into another's medium. In this case, photography and painting. As we go through this title, I'll describe the various key vocabulary elements of each, and show you how we can translate a photograph into a painting.

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This video is part of

Image for Digital Painting: Architecture
Digital Painting: Architecture

49 video lessons · 11562 viewers

John Derry
Author

 
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  1. 26m 4s
    1. Introduction
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      32s
    3. Installing custom content
      2m 46s
    4. Setting up Wacom express keys
      13m 32s
    5. Setting Wacom touch ring preferences
      2m 14s
    6. Setting Wacom stylus preferences
      3m 24s
    7. Division of labor: Image prep and painting
      2m 33s
  2. 19m 9s
    1. Visual vocabularies
      3m 49s
    2. The vocabulary of photography
      7m 38s
    3. The vocabulary of painting
      4m 59s
    4. Looking at reality through a mental painting filter
      2m 43s
  3. 38m 57s
    1. Removing lens distortion with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter
      6m 47s
    2. Removing distractions
      8m 7s
    3. Don't be a slave to the original photograph
      10m 51s
    4. Correcting image adjustments
      2m 58s
    5. Telling a story with added image elements
      10m 14s
  4. 25m 2s
    1. The eye has a better sensor than a camera
      3m 2s
    2. Adding natural shadows with Field Blur
      8m 47s
    3. Using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment filter
      7m 48s
    4. Using the HDR Toning filter
      5m 25s
  5. 39m 56s
    1. Resolution is in the brushstrokes
      3m 26s
    2. Using the Surface Blur filter
      6m 17s
    3. Using the Displacement filter to add imperfections
      6m 22s
    4. Using the Oil Paint filter
      11m 51s
    5. Making tonal and color corrections
      12m 0s
  6. 22m 40s
    1. Nondestructive layer painting (NDLP): Your creative safety net
      5m 54s
    2. Setting up the Mixer Brush cloning action
      7m 29s
    3. Using cloning layers
      2m 58s
    4. Working with adjustment layers
      6m 19s
  7. 20m 7s
    1. Using tool presets and not brushes
      3m 41s
    2. Categorizing and organizing brushes
      6m 14s
    3. Adding canvas texture
      4m 51s
    4. Using Sample All Layers
      5m 21s
  8. 14m 48s
    1. You must destroy detail
      2m 9s
    2. Establishing compositional structure
      3m 46s
    3. Determining a style and sticking to it
      7m 30s
    4. Painting in progress: Finishing the underpainting layer
      1m 23s
  9. 26m 40s
    1. Understanding simplified indication
      9m 9s
    2. Understanding color: Warm advances, cool retreats
      4m 9s
    3. Painting in progress: Introducing texture to the intermediate layer
      13m 22s
  10. 40m 19s
    1. The play's the thing
      5m 18s
    2. Focusing on the subject through detail
      4m 40s
    3. Using a traditional paint color swatch set
      4m 37s
    4. Painting in progress: Completing the detail layer
      16m 25s
    5. Adding surface texture effects
      9m 19s
  11. 12m 47s
    1. It pays to wait a day
      1m 55s
    2. Adjusting your importance hierarchy
      4m 49s
    3. You'll never paint the same thing twice
      2m 7s
    4. Helpful resources and inspiration
      3m 56s

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