The art of KaniS

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I'm a bit of a strange artist... My vision of a professional artist is someone who carries a sketch pad and draws things for the sheer joy of drawing them. I read that Michael Whelan did this, actually drawing something on the bottom of a coffee table when he was young just to get what was in his head out. But for the most part, I don't do this. Once I've done something a few times I get bored of it and don't want to do it again for a long time, if ever. If I can't impress and surprise myself (and hopefully others) with what I've done, it just doesn't excite me. People sometimes ask me "How'd you do this?". The only thing I can say is that I observe things. I extrapolate my observations of reality into art. That's perhaps why I'm better at doing photorealistic things then line drawing. I can't always get things to look right the first time I render them, but if I stare at it long enough I can always tell when something doesn't look right and change it until it does. It can take extraordinary patience, but it's really just an extension of observing real things.

Golden Dragon in Moonlight
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This was my first completed full color dragon. In grade school I found out I had a knack for copying visual things when I did a very detailed copy of a picture on the front of a Nutcracker record. It had a tree in the background and I insisted on copying every leaf individually rather then just putting them in randomly which would have given nearly the same effect anyway. In 6th grade I took an art class which focused on copying things using the old grid method (make a small grid on the small image you're copying and a proportionally larger grid on another piece of paper. Use the grid lines ad guides for making an enlarged copy of the picture). It was there I really realized I had a talent. Around that time I was also getting into dragons, so I tried to draw one in pencil. To my dismay I found I couldn't do them that well because I had nothing to copy from. Still, I kept trying every once in awhile, and I slowly got better.
It was a picture of a bronze dragon in a game called DragonStrike that really got me started with dragons on the computer. At the time I assumed someone had gone in and drawn this dragon pixel by pixel in 256 colors so I figured I could do the same. Of course, what I didn't know was that this dragon was scanned from a picture called Dragons of Deceit , by Larry Elmore and modified slightly. Not knowing this, I tried drawing a gold dragon I'd designed. After a while I once again realized it just wasn't going to look nearly as good as the bronze and I gave up. Then in grade 8 or so I decided I wanted to do a dragon game on the computer. One of the first things I decided I needed was a title screen. I knew if I tried to do a dragon from scratch it was going to look less then professional, so I decided to use the bronze dragon as a model. I liked smooth dragons at the time so I covered the bronze scales with smooth gold, pixel by pixel, using Deluxe Paint ][ Enhanced. I removed the knight riding the dragon and changed the wing membranes and the background. Actually I bought a book on fractals planning to use the software in it to generate fractal mountains for the background but of course their software didn't work and I ended up scanning the example mountains with my cheap hand scanner. At this point the whole picture was 320x200x256 like the original bronze dragon. When I realized I simply didn't have enough time to finish the game I'd wanted to write, I decided I might as well expand on this picture, and so I made it 640x480x256 and once again smoothed it pixel by pixel. I often wonder if the tediousness of this first picture is what's made me want to do a limited amount of art. Of course the more technically minded readers will notice that 640x480 isn't quite double the size of 320x200. I ended up with a small bar of black at the bottom of the picture. I decided to fill this with my own design. I created the hands, crouching legs, and tail of the dragon from scratch, and though they weren't perfect, they did convince me that maybe I could design things on my own. Later I got a 640x480x24bit card and a cheap paint program called Photo Finish and blended the gold and the high contrast edges into the 24 bit picture above.

Dragonfire Logo
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I designed this logo in a generic art class I took in 9th grade as a black and white stamp design. Dragonfire is the name of the BBS I was planning to run and later did run. I later copied the stamp design onto the computer and used Deluxe Paint IIe to create the crystal effect. I had intended this image to be an advertisement for my BBS, but unfortunately no one seemed willing to download an advertisement in the form of a picture, so I ended up doing the same old ANSI advertisements everyone else was doing.

Higher Love
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This is my second computer dragon and still the one I'm most proud of. I started it in 10th grade as a pencil sketch on a piece of notebook paper. As I said, I don't usually do sketches, but I was feeling very depressed because I thought I was losing my best friend and so I was trying to cheer myself up. My friend and I got back together later, but I kept working on this picture. It started out in 640x480x256 in Deluxe Paint ][ Enhanced and once again I found myself plotting pixels individually. Of course I didn't want to go for the same gold effect I'd done on my last dragon, so I decided to try backlighting. The original picture showed the sun in the upper left corner because the picture was sized to fit exactly on a computer screen, but I decided later the whole thing looked better without so much sky and so I cropped it. This picture also evolved over a few years and I ended up increasing the resolution to 800x600 and then making it 24bit. The quality of the dragon improved a lot along the way as I got the body to look more realistic, especially when I switched to 24bit and could start 'painting' on it rather then plotting individual pixels. Frankly, I had gotten sick of doing things over again to make them look right when I had to do it pixel by pixel. In 24bit I could finally experiment without it taking forever. When I thought I had something pretty nice I decided I might as well send it to Dancing Dragon Designs, a company that sells nothing but dragons. I didn't really expect them to do anything with it, and after a few months with no reply I'd given up hope when they suddenly called me. Once they agreed to use it I increased the resolution to something over 2000x2000 and once again improved the picture. Unfortunately someone else came out with some dragon screen savers and mouse pads like they were going to use my picture for and since I'm not a professional artist producing my own posters or other products, they couldn't afford to go looking for other ways to use my picture. =( Ah well, maybe someday. Anyway, you also might be wondering about the title of the picture, Higher Love. It has three meanings. The first you might have already guessed, the dragon in the foreground is perched on a very high spire and looking lovingly at the dragon in the background. The second is that dragons are my 'higher love'. The third is that it's the title from my favorite Depeche Mode song, and DM is my favorite band.
*purrr* I found out recently that Andrew Pidcock had seen this picture and been inspired to do a sculpture of it. Apparently he got the picture from another dragon fan but didn't know who had done it. A friend of mine saw the sculpture and pointed me to the guy who'd done it. Click here for his web page.

Love Of Spirit
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This is a Valentine's Day picture I did for my first love in my freshman year of college. The picture doesn't look as polished as my first two pictures because I procrastinated and had to rush to finish it in under two weeks between classes. Actually I quite surprised myself with what I could do in so short a time after spending years on the first two. I was using my new system, a 486 DX4 100 with a 4 meg video card and a graphics tablet instead of a mouse under Photoshop 2.5 for Windows. It certainly was a step up from plotting things pixel by pixel. I have to admit that computers make full color things much easier then traditional methods like painting (at least for me), but most of it is done in a similar way to painting using tools that emulate an airbrush or a paintbrush. I think the main advantage is that you can save your work and experiment without ruining the picture. And of course you don't have to wait for paint to dry or clean brushes. Also, certain effects like the transparent wings on my first gold dragon would be a lot harder without a computer. The hide on the velociraptor was actually done by starting with monotone green and brown stripes and then using the lighten and darken tools, but the skin on the dragon was all airbrush.

Rusty - my dog
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This is an acrylic painting done in a college art class on nine sheets of heavy paper that measure something like 4'x5' each. It's a blowup of a photograph of my dog, Rusty, using that infamous grid copy method I had hoped I'd left behind in 6th grade. I guess some things never change. I don't like to paint - there's no undo button, it's messy, and it's hard to get just the right effect or amount of paint with a brush. But I suppose the results can be kinda neat. I've only done one other painting - back in that sixth grade art class. My favorite artist at the time was M.C. Escher, so when we had to copy a famous painting, I chose him. Only catch was that we needed to work in color and Escher didn't do many color paintings. My solution? Add my own color. Click here to see a color version of Relativity.

Steel Dragon
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This is Steel Dragon from the story of the same name by Michael Glenn. A group of dragons on got together and decided to put together a book of dragon stories and poetry called Soaring Heart and Soul. They needed illustrations, and at the time I was getting frustrated with my job and wanted something else to occupy my time, so I offered to do one. Little did I know how amazingly time consuming it would be to lay out those scales. I was also plagued with hardware problems from my new computer. A month after the original deadline I was finally finished, and I still feel it was too rushed. But I was glad to have done it.

Portrait of Nauta Sinneau
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Nauta is a "Cetan", or anthro dolphin. Dolphins are one of my favorite earth creatures, along with raptors (eagles, hawks, etc) and ravens. I guess I hang around dragons too much, but until I met her I hadn't much considered how a dolphin with arms and legs might look. The idea was kind of strange at first, especially in that dolphins can't bend their necks far forward like a biped would. Having a period of free time and a desire to solidify how I imagined she might look, I made out a sketch and then decided to color it. After some tweaking based on Nauta's input she says I got it to look just like she imagines herself to look.