Mixer Brush and Bamboo!

This is actually attempt number three I think…for some reason I’ve gotten mixed up (I’ll upload the first attempt later).  So actually my second shot at another traditional subject…bamboo.  This is another one that I submitted to the Adobe Tech Summit Art Show.  This one definitely involves heavier use of the Mixer Brush.  I threw some green in there for good measure, as my eyes were growing tired of looking at black and white during all of my practicing.

I spent a lot of time again beforehand just practicing the brush strokes – before I even tried to put a composition together.  You have no idea how hard it is for me to draw a perfectly straight bamboo stem.  If you look at pictures of bamboo, it is oddly straight, and for some reason my clumsy hands just can’t do it on my tablet.  The stems are segmented and thus require multiple brush strokes to perform…for me, it seems to go…I make one segment, then the next I seem to always go off in some wild direction.  Many times I end up with these bizarre zig-zag bamboo, that look ridiculous.

For the blending…took me a while to figure out that most often times, I mostly wanted to blend all of the colors from multiple layers together.  Fortunately, there is a setting for that on the mixer brush that can be toggled on/off:

With it on, I can blend from all layers including the background layer.  With it off, I can only blend media within my currently selected layer…very handy sometimes, for when I don’t want to pull what’s underneath, but want to move around the “paint” in my current layer.

Here’s the final product:

I think that I’m kind of happy with some parts of the painting, and not so happy with other parts.  I did get some nice blending in places, and some nice examples of the natural media bristle tips being pulled across the virtual canvas, that looks/behaves very much like a real painting.  I don’t think I did a very good job in adding depth to the image though.  Did not really follow the rule, “the closest, the darkest”, so the image comes out with somewhat of a flattened feel.  I don’t care as much that it isn’t super detailed.  I like the idea in sumi-e that you let your mind complete the picture.

Sounds perhaps overly sentimental, but this art (dare I call it that) is definitely a form of expressionism, where reality isn’t as important as the mood, and emotion being depicted.  Or maybe I’m just full of baloney…either way, I enjoy sharing this.

Again, let me know what you think about my paintings, or painting in Photoshop in general.


Starting to paint in Photoshop CS5

I’ve got it in my head that somehow, I want to learn to paint.  But I don’t have the patience or desire to go out and pick up all the supplies that I need…brushes, canvas, paint, etc.  That, and the fact that I’m so intimidated by all of the selection.  So instead, I decided to try my hand in Photoshop instead.  My current setup is using a Wacom Intuos4 tablet (the Large model, which is 12.8″ x 8.0″), and Creative Suite Master Collection CS5 on Windows Vista.

After watching a number of demos that I saw using some of the new painting features in Photoshop such as the Natural Media Bristle Tips, and Mixer Brush, I was inspired to see what I could come up with on my own.  Let me start by saying that I have little to no experience in doing any type of painting, but it has always been something that I’ve wanted to try out.  I think it helps that I work for Adobe, and get exposed to a lot of design ideas – there’s plenty of inspiration on a daily basis.   Secondly, after reading a bunch of novels based on Japanese culture and art, I’ve developed a fondness for traditional ink-and-wash (sumi-e) painting.  I really hadn’t seen many examples of Photoshop being used for this type of painting, so I was curious whether I could make it work.

So I’m pretty much starting out hoping that my attempts don’t end in pure disaster.  To make a long story short, let me just share my first attempt…

I didn’t want to start off too complicated, so I wanted to select something as simple as possible.  After watching a couple of videos on traditional painting of pampas grass, I think I found something right up my alley.  It gave me a chance to practice playing around with the brush settings, getting used to things like the tablet sensitivity, and the kind of brushes I can use for the various areas of the piece.  From my own experience, I have found that I need to change my brush settings depending on exactly what I’m trying to do.  For example, for the stems of the grass above, I’m using a very different brush than the multiple, loose bristle type brush I’m using for the shaggy grass ends.

In this way, I think I’m losing a bit of the spirit of sume-i in that I’ve made things somewhat artificially (for example, the pink/red color layer I through in), but at the same time, I still feel that I’ve been able to put together a piece that in some way still some meaning and some story to it….at least to me.  So I’m fairly happy with my start, but I’ve got tons to learn.  I think my biggest failure here is in how long it took me to sort of figure things out, and how many times I pressed Ctrl+Z to get to where I was satisfied with what I drew out.  But I think in practice that will come.

In any event, I submitted this work to the Adobe Tech Summit Art Fair, and it was accepted, so I’m very interested to see how it looks on a real canvas, after being printed out.  Many more paintings to come I’m sure.

I’m interested in hearing about other people’s experience in getting used to working with a tablet, or any tips and tricks that people have found to organize your life in Photoshop?  Or if anyone else has any ink-and-wash style paintings that they’ve done in Photoshop, I’d love to see your work.


Welcome and Introductions

Welcome to my my blog.  Let me start first by saying thanks for stopping by!  My name is Andrew Mikkelsen (yes, the Mik-Dog – my somewhat self-titled nickname), and I work on the Adobe@Adobe team.  The A@A team is an innovation team within IT at Adobe that is tasked with coming up with new and interesting use cases for Adobe software.  We work with the sales teams to help showcase our product capabilities, provide feedback to engineering on how our products work together, and build solutions within IT to help make the lives of Adobe employees better (I hope).  So, on a day-to-day basis, you could find our team working in anything from Adobe LiveCycle, to Flash and Flex, to our Creative Suite products.

Lately, my job has had me working in various forms of digital media, so I thought that I’d share my experiences in learning more about our software, my successes and failures, along with some of the work that I’ve put out.  I hope that I’m able to share something of interest to you.  Feel free to let me know what you think, or anything else you’d like to see, and I’ll do my best.


Andrew “Mik-Dog” Mikkelsen
Adobe@Adobe Program