Dan Johnson

Free webinars with Netcom Learning

I haven’t been teaching for a while, but it looks like it’s time to get back to it again. I have given 2-day training courses for Netcom in the past and they have recently scheduled me to give some webinars in the upcoming months. I’ll be giving instruction on using Photoshop and illustrator in November and December. Be sure to check it out. It’s free, so what better deal is that? After each session, there will be time for Q&A, so that could be very helpful. The first one will be in Photoshop on the 4th of November. Click the links below for more detailed information.

Working non-destructively in Photoshop, 4 November
Full list of webinars on the Netcom Learning website

Back to freelance illustration

My contract at 2K Games is over for the moment, so I am back to the usual: freelance illustration, consulting, teaching, and looking for new projects. One of my first little jobs was this image here, done for packaging. I had a good time doing it and I’m pleased with the results. I had actually been thinking about how to render shower tile for a few years and this was the perfect opportunity. Plus, reflections are always fun to do. Two versions of this image were done; one showing the application of the product, and the other was a final scene with water coming out of the shower head.

A new little side project

I’m back to freelancing full-time right now, so that also means looking for more work and new projects at the same time. I’ve competed some new illustrations, so I will post them when I am able. But I recently worked on a little personal project for family. My wife’s aunt has needed a headstone for her grave for a couple of years now and her family asked me to prepare an image to be used for a bronze plaque to go on it. I worked up a couple of ideas based on some very generic specifications, and I tried to show how the image might look as the final bronze bas-relief. We decided on one, so they will probably move ahead with the final plaque soon. Here is the favorite design.

A personal digital painting

I have been doing a lot of texture and similar work recently, so I decided to get back to a personal painting. I saw a bit of Alien 3 on TV a while back and was struck with some of the interesting sets and dramatic lighting. It seemed like it would be a fun image to paint, so I hunted down a similar image and started to work during some down time on a recent family vacation.

Here is my take on it. It’s pretty close in terms of architecture and lighting, but I had to come up with some of my own details. And because the image from the movie was practically monochromatic, I decided to add a bit of color variation for visual interest, and so it wouldn’t be as much of a direct copy. Anyway, it was a fun little project. I’m freelancing and looking for new projects again, so I may have time for some more personal projects that have been on the back burner for a while.

Back to posting

It has been a long time since I have posted anything, but things have been busy for the past few months. Early in the year, I started a contract with 2K Games, working on the upcoming NBA2K15. Initially, I was creating facial and hair textures for the Create a Player feature that is a big addition to this version of the game. I also created shoe textures and quite a few in-game pricing icons. My contract was extended twice, but last month we finally hit the hard deadline and got everything working. The game should hit stores next month, so if you are a basketball fan, look for it. My work is in there, along with hundreds of other artists and programmers, of course.

More Adobe Certification

Everything Adobe is Creative Cloud now and it was time for me to recertify as an ACE/ACI. As usual, I procrastinated until almost the end. After the tests are available, you have 90 days to recertify. If you don’t, you have to take the full proctored test again. Having passed it once, I never want to do it again. With the CC versions, it’s hard because updates come automatically and if your version of CC isn’t the latest one, it won’t have the new features. It’s hard to know unless you really look into it. The lab where I’m teaching Illustrator now is running CC, but it’s not the latest build, so there were tools and features I didn’t know. 
So I had them install the latest version, did some quick practicing and studying, then took the test with only a couple of days to spare. As usual, it was awful and I was down to the last few minutes as I worked on the last questions. The questions were obscure and difficult, some answers were poorly worded, and at least one question was based on a false premise, so how could I find a correct answer for that? I was told once by someone at Adobe that the people that write the exams don’t actually use the software, and each time I take a test, I am convinced of that more and more. But I did pass and am now up to date as an Adobe Certified Expert and Instructor in both Illustrator and Photoshop. For now.

Good news, everyone!

I had been putting it off for a while, but the deadline is coming up at the end of the month. I finally took and passed the Photoshop CC recertification exam. So I am now an Adobe Certified Expert in the latest version of Photoshop. It actually wasn’t that hard, although it had the usual obscure questions and answers that didn’t quite seem to fit. But it’s over and now I have to worry about the Illustrator exam.
In other big news, I am now being represented by Way Art in New York. This is pretty exciting and something that all illustration students talked about in school: getting a rep. I am also in the Workbook directory for artists. This is through my association with Way Art. Hopefully, the coming year brings lots of new work for larger clients. The links to portfolios I created specifically for these sites can be seen at the links to the right.

Just a few updates

You may (or may not) have noticed the change in the title of this blog. I’m now teaching CS6 and sometimes even CC and I now have it myself, even though I’m still doing most of my professional work with CS5. I’ll be switching over fully when I feel it’s stable enough with my system.

I also inadvertently came across an article I had written a couple of years ago about the basics of matte painting for the PSD Tuts+ website. It was just a short one explaining a few basic concepts and how Photoshop was used in the process. I’ll post a link to it in case anyone is interested.

The time has come for me to recertify in Photoshop once again. I had thought the deadline was earlier this month, but it is actually on the last day of October, so I will be studying up on the new features in CC and taking the exam soon. 

Click here to read my article on matte painting.

A new commercial illustration

It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy doing film effects work, but I still take time for my freelance projects. This is one I finished recently. It was a bear to do because of all the detail and elements that had to be included. It was also more difficult because I am living away from my home studio, so I had to do this with my smaller tablet and without my secondary monitor. But I think it came out okay. Actually, I’m rather pleased with it. I get asked this all the time, so this one took about 67 hours to create, including comps, getting source material, and calls with the client.
What is it, you ask? Well, it’s a piling driver, making a retaining wall of Z-sheet piling for flood protection. Because it’s in a residential area, this particular driver is designed to pound the piles into the ground more quietly.

Some recent work

If any of you have been wondering what I’ve been up to in the long silence of the past few months, I’ll let you in on it. Much of it has been not that interesting from an artistic point of view; I’ve been reworking past images for application in new layouts. The film effects work is kind of interesting, but there’s nothing I can show at the moment. 
But there are some fun things I can show. Here is a digital painting I just barely finished last week. In the final piece, it wrapped from the front to the back of a card so you didn’t see the entire elephant at once, but I painted it as one image, then adjusted it for the final layout in Adobe Illustrator. It was a quick little project, but is was fun and something I don’t get to do much of.

Here is a personal piece I did as a matte painting challenge contest for the CG Channel website. The plate was provided and instructions were given to create a Rivendell-like setting as a matte painting. I shot my own source material for the buildings and used them along with a new sky to create this painting. Video footage was also provided, so I then took my matte painting into AfterEffects, motion tracked the footage, then matched my painting to it. I also added some birds (had to key out the sky) after stabilizing the original clip. There was a good deal of masking and color correcting, then mist was added at the bottom. As I was working on it, I did send it around to get advice from other matte painters and I think that really helped. It may not be perfect, but I was pleased with the result, for a quick comp of the painting. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t win or place in the contest, but it was a great experience nonetheless.

Click here to see the final comped footage.