Friday, September 27, 2013

The Surgery of Illustration: Healing the Mistakes Via Photoshop

So this is a story of trying and not really going anywhere for a long time and getting a tad frustrated and then taking that frustrated energy to try to pull it out in the end.  It was very much a learning experience, many things that I did this time, I will be doing differently for my next illustration.

I have to say that my experience in the OR was the most positive so far.  Everyone was very kind to the patient coming in to get an umbilical hernia repair.  The OR staff was actually interested in what I was doing there holding a giant sketch book and they liked seeing what I was working on during the course of the procedure.  The vendor for the hernia repair mesh showed me some of their marketing materials which served as a great reference for my sketches and fully rendered illustrations.

So I was on a roll of positive energy after the OR and enjoyed developing my sketches.  The problems came when I opened Photoshop, plugged in my Wacom tablet and put stylus to tablet.  It has been awhile since I've done Photoshop painting, especially in gray scale.  I wanted to incorporate my scanned sketches into the illustration which in theory sounds like a time-saver, but I really hadn't tried the method out before.  There were a lot of tricks I was unaware existed.  Luckily, Karen was a very patient teacher as I sent her many an email with my slowly developing paintings.  Putting the sketch layer on the top layer was something that makes a lot of sense when you see it done, but I naturally had had it on the bottom like it would be in a traditional drawing.

"Texture, texture, texture" is now my mantra.  It is replacing "form, form, form," not that form is not really important but my first attempt made the hand and intestines all resemble hot dogs.  They had nice shadow cores and highlights but lacked anything to differentiate them.  I didn't even really notice until it was pointed out to me, next time I'll know to check for "the hot dog phenomenon."

Other things I learned:
-Add layer masks in the beginning, not 3/4s of the way through
-Have reference of what surgical gloves look like in reality, not just other illustrations
-Don't use the same Photoshop brush for everything, there's a reason they are adjustable
-Shadows make things look better with minimal effort
-Keep trying, keep pushing, and try not to freak out as deadlines approach, you can get it done!

Things I actually did successfully:
-The mesh texture on the patch was actually a low opacity image of mesh that was put on a multiply layer, didn't have to spend my time painting it in
-I really like the views that I chose.  They add depth that a surgeon can't see with their eyes, but are thinking about during the surgery
-I only worked until 10pm the night before it was due and was well rested for critique

Next up for surgical illustration: craniotomy!

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