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The Art Geek

Thoughts on technique, experiments with new ways of working, works in progress, or general ramblings. Much of the material posted here relates to SketchUp, to painting in various media, and to drawing. Your mileage may vary. Enjoy!

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Actually Carrying It Out

Saturday, May 22 2010 7:02 p.m. UTC

SketchUp 'original’

Following on my previous post, I decided to actually carry out a painting based on the last SketchUp prototype. Here is the procedure I used this time:

  1. Export SketchUp image from LayOut (SketchUp Pro required) as a 'hybrid’ PDF image
  2. Import PDF to Photoshop
  3. Size to actual painting size (11” x 14”), 300 or so DPI
  4. Convert to grey scale
  5. Convert to bitmap, diffusion dither, 600 DPI (a good match for my printer, an ancient HP LaserJet 6MP, which I keep around solely because it’s awesome for this transfer technique)
  6. Divide image into four (in this case) separate images less than 8” x 10.5” (unless you have a large printer or want to use Kinko’s)
  7. Print out the image panels
  8. Cut and glue the printouts together using acrylic gel medium, leaving a small 'leaf’ to one side of each inner boundary and gluing adjacent printout to that 'leaf’
  9. Coat printed side with a few thin layers of gel medium. This helps avoid wrinkling during the transfer.
  10. Use acrylic matte medium applied to both assembled transfer sheet and stretched, primed canvas. Place image face down on canvas. Use spoon to remove bubbles and smooth out areas where more medium has gathered.
  11. Allow dry AT LEAST 8 hours
  12. Spray water to back of paper and gradually remove paper using a sponge. This can take awhile, but I find it a satisfying process.

Beginning the transfer paper removal. The four panels are still clearly visible, though they become rather less so after the paper is removed. Any remaining texture can be smoothed out with a few layers of gel medium, applied with a palette knife or credit card

Transfer detail

By the way, I adopted this from a technique described by Gregory Gillespie in the early 1990s when he was a visiting artist at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, and have developed it for my own work for quite some time. The procedure takes some practice to get right, but there are many variants, each of which is suitable for a different texture, level of accuracy, speed, etc. For more variants of the technique, see “Hollis Brown Thornton”:'s writeup.

When the transfer is done, you can then start painting. Acrylics work well at this point, or you can go straight in with oil (but then, no acrylics on top of the oil, or your painting can develop adhesion issues down the road). I use and absolutely adore water-soluble oils, so these days I typically go straight to those. My studio is 99.9% free of organic solvents (I still use a tiny bit of cobalt drier from time to time, which has a bit of solvent in it).

Detail with oil

I doubt I would be able to develop this kind of imaginary mechanical structure in correct perspective without the aid of SketchUp or other 3D modeling software.



The current state is shown here. I expect more color to develop and possibly even radical changes down the road:

Current state of the painting

Parenthetically, it is exceptionally rare that I get to apply 3D vector mathematics and programming (for the SketchUp plugin) and painting in the same project. Ironic, too, that though I work in physics, I am using all that juicy math for art, rather than for physics!

More Prototyping

Saturday, May 15 2010 5:43 p.m. UTC

A month ago I spent an enthusiastic weekend or two writing more Ruby plugins, one result being a tool whereby one can take any rectangular face oriented in any direction, and 'draw’ with it by tiling it repeatedly in any plane. The result is that one can make fairly complex, architectural-looking co-planar geometries quickly. I find it fun to use. It expect I’ll publish the plugin eventually as part of a set of drawing tools.

Tiling plugin

But the goal is still to make paintings! I have been making progress on a few old paintings, sketching, and occasionally putting together images with SketchUp which might make sense to transfer to panels or canvases and then render in oil paint. For example, the following image was drawn with combination of the new tiling plugin, creating a surface of revolution with the Follow Me tool, and 'texturing’ it with Fredo 6’s Tools on Surface. Final camera vew tilted before export and then colors tweaked with iPhoto.

'Structural Ship’ experiment


Sunday, March 28 2010 4:44 a.m. UTC

Tilted view with bubble forms and surfaces of rotation

Until today, I was frustrated by a minor “feature” in SketchUp that no matter how one wheeled about one’s model with the Orbit tool, the horizon was always horizontal. That meant exporting larger 2D images and then rotating and cropping in Photoshop or iPhoto.

Today, I accidentally discovered that holding down the 'option’ key (on a Mac) while orbiting allows one to tilt the horizon in the camera’s view. A minor trick, perhaps, but one I had wanted, and all the more enjoyable for its accidental discovery.

Volcanic Surfaces of Revolution

Monday, March 8 2010 12:45 a.m. UTC

Flags and Bubbles

Sunday, March 7 2010 4:37 a.m. UTC

Another Structure with curved edges, figures, and flags

While the paint dried on several paintings today I spent some more time playing with structures in SketchUp for future paintings. Here are a few tricks used in this one:

  • Soap bubble plugin for the hanging fabrics
  • Using the rotate tool with option held down to clone, then typing, e.g., “15x” to create the prayer flags along an arc
  • Making curved flat shapes and then extruding them using the Follow Me tool for curved surfaces
  • Extruding shapes and “intersect with model” to cut doorways through curved faces
  • View->Hidden Geometry and using the Move tool on vertices to carefully suture pieces together when an imperfect match between adjacent surfaces occurs.

As the stuff becomes second nature, you find yourself limited by imagination more than by the tool… the sign of a good tool.

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