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Thursday, August 14, 2014


A Glimpse of Ancient Times, Esteves, (created using DAZ).                    
Every few months I dive into a discussion of art created on a computer. Sometimes I've labeled it digital art, or fractal art, electronic art, or CGI (computer generated imagery). It all sounds complicated. Even the terms tend to induce a spinning head. Although I've probably been guilty of making it all sound very complicated, really, it's not as bad as it would seem. In the beginning, it was. But, one of the hallmarks of digital imaging is the fact that computers tend to make the complex simple...or at least simpler. The more powerful the computer, the less challenging it is for a user to produce a desired result. I started out on a Commodore-64 using a word processing program called EasyScript. Believe me, it was far from easy--horrendously complicated, in fact, requiring me to memorize dozens of menu commands to use it with any degree of efficiency. The first computer drawing programs had similarly steep learning curves (or if they didn't, they weren't worth fiddling with). The same paradigm is at work today in the creation of digital art.
Wandering Brian, Szark (Brian is the seated figure in the right, center).
Soft V6, Elele
Although there are one or two others similar in form and function, one of the best pieces of creative software available today is called DAZ (actually, DAZ Studio 4.6 Pro). In the past, such software has been exorbitantly expensive. However, one of the most amazing factors in computer software is the ironic fact that the more powerful (better) it gets, the cheaper it tends to be. DAZ is listed at $249. However, believe it or not, you can actually download it for FREE. Why? Because the DAZ people have lost their minds. No, really, they simply have a somewhat strange business model. It would be like General Motors giving their cars away, but only if you buy all your gas from their dealers. That's right, the program is free, but the content isn't (far from it, in fact).

No extra charge
for nude poses.
Meet Victoria and Michael (her foot, his hands). I swear, it's not a photo.
Adam and Eve, Devon Oreschnick
DAZ (Digital Art Zone) had it's birth around about 1999. Her name was Victoria, which would make her about fifteen at the moment. However, one of her primary virtues is that she's really quite ageless. Using DAZ software she can be made to look virtually any age, any height, any build, any size, shape, weight, as beautiful and seductive as the dewy dawn, or as ugly and repulsive as a dark and stormy night. Her male counterpart is Michael, and similar traits apply to him. Each sell for a nickel less than $40. That's Victoria in the role of Eve and Michael playing Adam (left). Even though it's painted entirely with pixels, those pixels don't come cheap. In addition to the modeling fees (each figure has its own software package), the artist also purchased the jungle background ($9.95); the grassy foreground ($14.95); an "Enchanted Forest" ($34.95); the apples ($29.95); Adam's "Surfer Hair" ($14.95); and Eve's "Sultry Hair" ($16.95). If you don't have a calculator handy, I'll be glad to add all that up for you.  It comes to...WOW!!! $201.60. Ah, but the program is free.

Need an antique classic automobile for your painting? There's an app for that...
and you can turn it every which way but loose.
Red Skin, Danny Thesen.
Realism is only one option.
Why so much? Well, as any professional artist will tell you, getting started costs money. Here it doesn't (except for owning a reasonably powerful computer). However, the models, the background, every single, tiny, bit of content has been rendered digitally by a DAZ artist (or subcontractor). All the user has to do is to choose and assemble all the parts in a pleasing manner to suit his or her tastes and purpose. That does not make the creative process exactly what you'd call "easy," nor does it guarantee great (or even good) art. Far from it in fact, regarding both elements. What it does do is to make the creative process more intuitive, and less technical. While it does not, by any means, eliminate bad art, it does tend to facilitate better art. DAZ eliminates most of the need for the artist to be an expert at figure drawing (anatomy), drawing faces, perspective, textures, and greatly reduces the technical problems with color, shading, and lighting by making simple the age old practice of trial and error.

Skin Study, Hellboy.
Screen resolution and visual textures are totally the decision of the artist.
DAZ Dragon, Laticis Imagery
In effect the artist simply makes decisions and "directs" (poses) his models (actors) much as would a movie director, except for the fact the DAZ artist gets instantaneous visual feedback allowing his or her decisions to be quickly and easily "second guessed." The movie director has to wait for the film to be developed. However, like the movie director, DAZ provides a virtually unlimited "back lot," as well as a virtual warehouses full of props, sets, costumes, makeup, wigs, whatever you want or need...for a price. Special effects? Whatever you like...and can afford. Action? Well, that's a little more tricky and time consuming, but animation is built into the software as well. If the action calls for children, whatever the age, there's no agents, no parents, tutors, or child labor laws to worry about. Need a monster? How big? How ugly? How vicious? How hairy? Design your own nightmare based up a DAZ prototype.

Sleeping in an Airline, Story Rendering. Digital modeling and posing solves
many of the problems in creating such an image, but not all of them.
Notice, the head is just slightly too large for the child's tiny body.
Hel, Buda San. Beauty is only skin
deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone.
Although the vast majority of artist using DAZ seem to prefer at least some degree of realism (or Surrealism), neither are mandated. The fact is, DAZ software seems to appeal most to fantasy artists, creators whose wild imaginations have, in the past, far outstripped their technical virtuosity in rendering them. Not any more. Learn-to-paint-and-draw goes out the window. The whole definition of being an artist changes. No longer must he or she be a master of eye-hand coordination, or the owner of a steady hand constantly concerned with neatness and precision. Instead the DAZ artist needs to be gifted with a sharp eye for proportions, composition, visual clarity, atmosphere, posing, expressions, and good taste. These are all intellectual talents feeding into creative genius. The computer in the hands of a digital artist, as with so many other computerized tasks, relieves the artist of the mundane in favor of far greater freedom in the act of creative communication--the very definition of art.

Undead Donuts, Storypilot.
Not a photo, not a painting either, nor very
appetizing; but it makes up in creativity and humor,
not to mention shock appeal, what it may lack in "good taste."



  1. I'm not sure if my previous comment made it through because I didn't get any notification, so here it is again. I was saying that as far as 3D CGI goes, nothing beats Blender, which is incredibly powerful (at par with industry standards like Maya or 3dsmax), feature rich and completely free and open source with no strings attached. I'm sure there are plenty of good DAZ artists out there, but DAZ (and Poser, which is similar but not free) are really more like setting up props and playing with dolls, as few, and I mean less that 1%, artists create their own figures. On the other hand, this does give them the advantage of concentrating on composition alone, without having to worry about pesky things like modelling and creating the whole scene from scratch. If you want to create landscapes in a minute, you can also use Bryce. I think some of the early versions are available for free.

  2. Velvetgunther--

    No, your first attempt, for some reason, didn't show up. Thanks for your comment. I guess I chose DAZ to write on in that it does allow a beginner (like myself) to play around with it virtually for free. Basically, your opinion of the software is about what I suggested as well. It's a good piece of software for an artist with minimal traditional training in art, allowing them to create without first going through "basic training." I'm aware, but not familiar with most of the other pieces of software you mention. Actually, I've not had much luck with DAZ in that the words on the screen seem so small I have trouble reading them. Until I can get some accomodation with that problem, I'm going to be quite limited with what I can do. Plus, it's extremely time consuming. In any case, I thank you for commenting.