Jump to content


Photo

Discussion: manipulate a sketch digitally or not?

  • Please log in to reply
24 replies to this topic

#1 maroubra_boy

maroubra_boy

    Vendor - Gondwana Telescopes

  • -----
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 531
  • Joined: 08 Sep 2009
  • Loc: Sydney, Australia

Posted 15 August 2012 - 06:40 PM

Hi folks,

This may get some heckles raised. I sincerly hope not.

Manipulate digitally or not?

I find to maniplate a sketch on the computer would misrepresent what I've laid down in a sketch. If I'm asking people to comment on my work, I would rather that the bare bones be examined, otherwise any comments would be misconstruded, and I really don't gain feedback on where I can improve. I am writing only about pencil and paper sketches. Digital sketches I'm writing about a little further down the page.

I am not talking about adding colour, say, to a solar sketch. I see the point in that. Though it would be nice to also see the original too as the master sketch is what gives the best insight and "how-to" window.

It is more about manipulating contrast if it isn't in the sketch in the first place. Altering shading, nebulosity, sharpening stars, darkening blacks, whitening whites. Anything that isn't actually on the sketch.

I can see the need for some manipulation on a scanned image. Scanners are a poor tool to upload a sketch with. The light source is too harsh and creates too much glare off the page.

For this reason I photograph my sketches. I control the light source, and all I then do is take half a dozen photos with a fixed aperture and only change the exposure. It is then just a matter of selecting the photo I feel best represents the sketch.

I struggle to make comments on some postings as I don't know what I'm looking at.

It might be that the materials at hand are not upto the task, and a little help is needed. A little tweek in technique is required. Conditions wheren't condusive to a better result. Any reason. I don't know, which is why I'm asking.

Please do not be offened. I want to just get some insight into our niche aspect of astronomy, and maybe see how to even encourage more people to take up sketching in its many forms.

Digital sketches too are important. An experience I had with some children who had significant mobility difficulties showed me that a digital sketch would be their only way to participate, and with the original image coming off a monitor too.

Why do you prefer to 'sketch' on the computer?

Alex. :)

#2 cpr1

cpr1

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 722
  • Joined: 24 Mar 2012
  • Loc: Louisiana

Posted 15 August 2012 - 08:00 PM

First I enjoy looking at everyone's astro sketches. Just attempting to sketch in the dark under low red lighting is an accomplishment for me anyway.

When I first started I tried to make the stars round and sharper with editing software. I really didn't like the results. So I figured I would just have to get better at sketching and the details would take care of themselves. (Still working on that.)

Now the only thing I use the software for is inverting and maybe erasing finger prints and small mistakes. I prefer the raw natural look over the heavy processing. Color is fine though.

#3 JeanB

JeanB

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1330
  • Joined: 11 Jul 2011
  • Loc: Montreal, Canada

Posted 15 August 2012 - 09:07 PM

If my memory is good, I think we had this discussion 2 or 3-years ago.

First I have to say that I deeply admire those who can sketch and produce a wonderful work without or with minimal precessing on the computer. Some of my sketches were presented with minimal software post-processing. But others were extensively processed.

My humble point of view is that a sketch must first please the sketcher him or herself. When I sketch at the telescope I always take great care to sketch as accurately as possible. But I always keep a pictural memory of the observation even days after the observation. This pictural memory is, for me as important as the «draft» sketch.

To my point of view, sketch post-processing (even heavy one), is no better or worst than the extensive processing needed to produce photographs of DSO like galaxies or nebulae.

For this reason, I allow myself to improve the sketch to better represent what I saw, which I do not consider as an alteration of the observation session.

I always keep both the original sketch and the print copy of the processed sketch in my files side by side for reference.

This matter of discussion is delicate as it is a matter of individual taste and the goal everyone sets for themselves.

I guess this boils down to the question:

What is the goal behind sketching?

Regards.

Jean

#4 cpr1

cpr1

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 722
  • Joined: 24 Mar 2012
  • Loc: Louisiana

Posted 15 August 2012 - 09:31 PM

Jean you made a good point about processing a sketch. I would have to agree that it is not really any different than processing astro photography. I never looked at it that way.

I still prefer not much processing though.
As long as the individual likes the end result.

#5 Andrev

Andrev

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4113
  • Joined: 08 Feb 2011
  • Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Posted 15 August 2012 - 09:36 PM

Alex.

Your question remember me a very recent post I did here about 'Do the sketches are too exagerated' do you remember ? Like Jean said, photographs are superb realisation and I really like looking at them. But they don't represent what we see in the eyepiece. To me sketches are more valuable because of the natural view they offer. But we have to be consistent to make the sketch as real as possible and processing too much the sketch make it false like a photograph.

It's nice adding contrast to make it looking better but they have look what seen in the eyepiece at a dark site. Fuzzy objects must remain fuzzy too on the paper even if they are looking boring. At least they looks like the real thing. Some object are really boring but nice to look at.

And if peoples prefer altering sketches for the look, no problem with me and I will like them anyway, except they fell in the photographs category and are not representing what we see in the eyepiece.

Andre.

#6 frank5817

frank5817

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 8381
  • Joined: 13 Jun 2006
  • Loc: Illinois

Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:23 PM

Alex et. al.,

Good discussion.
Without the actual sketch in front of you, all actions to any sketch are digitally manipulations of that original.
If you photograph a sketch the lighting can be artificial, direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, camera filtered for indoors or outdoors. The camera has settings for shutter speed, f stops, brightness, contrast, sharpness and so on. All of these change the sketch from what it is in the original conditional to a collection of pixels that represent that original, and yes it has been modified. Scanning usually creates greater modifications.
I prefer the camera to the scanner but I admit to using both ways to copy the original. Scanning is quicker for me. I do minor modifications to brightness and contrast to match the digital image as close as possible to the original.
I actually enjoy looking at digital sketching and astrophotographs. I know how hard they are to generate and admire the effort that goes into creating them.
Sketching is more my cup of tea and I hope to explore all the different ways to generate hard copies in different medias before I get too old to do this.

The sketch is merely a representation of what the observer sees and that is limited by the eye and telescope optics and brain processing.
There are many additional variables here.

Viva la differences,
Frank :)

#7 Andrev

Andrev

    Skylab

  • *****
  • Posts: 4113
  • Joined: 08 Feb 2011
  • Loc: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:34 PM

Frank.

You have some very beautiful sketches in your gallery. Bravo my friend. All I can say, you are a moon's observer !

Andre.

#8 maroubra_boy

maroubra_boy

    Vendor - Gondwana Telescopes

  • -----
  • Vendors
  • Posts: 531
  • Joined: 08 Sep 2009
  • Loc: Sydney, Australia

Posted 15 August 2012 - 11:44 PM

I actually enjoy looking at digital sketching and astrophotographs. I know how hard they are to generate and admire the effort that goes into creating them.
Sketching is more my cup of tea and I hope to explore all the different ways to generate hard copies in different medias before I get too old to do this.


Frank, you've given words to the sentiments I've failed to find expression for. My experience with computers is limited to forums, really. My brother in-law worked on Happy Feet, and many more projects. I particularly feel inadequate speaking with him about graphics, or even my calculator.

I guess my original question was not phrased too well. I'm looking to see how much manipulation you do. I'm not wanting to pass opinion. I don't really comment of CGI stuff as I don't know anything about it. I would not know where to start offering comment.

It is subjective, which is why no one person's version of a sketch, image or photo is completely "correct", nor is it false.

#9 frank5817

frank5817

    Cosmos

  • *****
  • Posts: 8381
  • Joined: 13 Jun 2006
  • Loc: Illinois

Posted 16 August 2012 - 12:44 AM

Alex et. al.

Alex, I have a sense that you were sketching much as today before the days of internet astronomy.

If it was not for the internet and sites like this one I likely would not sketch. Through the late 50's until 2006, I was perfectly happy making written log entries and crude sketches during the night. I knew and admired the fine drawings I had seen by British and other astromomers over the centuries but felt no urge to sketch much at the eyepiece until recent years.
I remember one person saying he sketched because he had to.
I now know what that means.
I wrote this here in a post back in 2008.
As the sunset begins those of us who sketch the nighttime sky are drawn out to our favorite targets for a view of the glory. Why do we sketch the stars, galaxies, nebulae, planets, moon and in the daytime the sun? We do it because it is a most creative outlet for our interest in astronomy. It is a proactive way to improve our visual observational enjoyment. As a result of sketching we create for ourselves a more critical observers eye and take deeper, longer looks at the multitude of visible targets in this universe we all share.
Astrophotography is another avenue often pursued by the amateur observer but with sketching there is an attempt to duplicate the view at the eyepiece which is not the same as a captured photographic image. The differences are all well and good with many amateurs enjoying one or the other or both.
With a sketch we have a visual hand drawn record which can be used to supplement a written log. It can bring us right back to a specific observation in the years ahead. We also have many choices of media to record what we see, including traditional types and electronic as well. Sketching is fun and challenging and we don’t need any special skills to get started.
If you feel as I do, you take great pleasure in seeing the many sketches posted here and elsewhere by astronomers from around the world sitting or standing at the eyepiece of an instrument or even without one recording the beauty they see in the nighttime sky.

...additional comment to the above.
" The only thing I would add is..after one gains some experience and confidence, it’s as natural to draw an observation as it is to log it with words." Michael Rosolina [Special Ed]

Frank :)

PS Alex, I think it is difficult to make suggestions to a sketcher unless you understand what that specific sketcher is trying to accomplish. IMHO

#10 Aperturefever

Aperturefever

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 154
  • Joined: 12 Dec 2010
  • Loc: Lake Macquarie, Australia

Posted 16 August 2012 - 01:04 AM

Given sketching is an art form, I appreciate every artist has his or her way of representing their interpretation of what they saw at the eyepiece, and respect whatever route they have taken to present their artwork. It's all an individual one-off, and that's what makes art so precious.
For me it is aboout faithfully representing what I have seen, and I can only do that with pencils and brushes, and not digital media. I find I can only truly capture the subtlety of deep sky objects with the slightest kiss of a pastel-powdered brush, the mottling of stars with the gentle touch of a pencil tip whittled down to just the right shape. In my mind the soft glows in my eye is something to be handled with care, so delicate and at times fleeting that my concentrating hand's steadiness is the only thing I trust to faithfully ghost it from my vision to the paper on my clipboard. That is where the magic finishes for me - right there on the page, done and dusted.
I remember scanning in one of my first sketches and being horrified at how different it looked from the original. All the delicate detail - the real essence of the sketch - had gone. I manipulated the image to get it back and only got more and more frustrated that it was getting further and further away from what I had drawn. In the end my wife found me balanced over the end of a table, one hand raised to block sunlight, the other angling a camera at a sketch. This is the only way I have found that I can share my work - by photographing it - and I am still trying to find the best spot in the house and lighting.
So for me, it's all about the pencils and pastels and what I have done at the eyepiece, shivering in the dark, balancing a clipboard on my knee. For others more talented in such things the digital format breathes new things into their work. The great thing is we all get to show others how something looks to us, the visual observer, and that's crucially important, because it is something a photograph can rarely do.

#11 JayinUT

JayinUT

    I'm not Sleepy

  • *****
  • Posts: 3933
  • Joined: 19 Sep 2008
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 16 August 2012 - 02:11 AM

Alex,

To get to the meat of your question I'll share what I do, and it varies. Having learned the Mellish method from you I take several, three to six pictures of a sketch. Sometimes I play with the lighting in the room,, sometimes on the camera to get the shot I want. When I upload the picture I sometimes leave it totally alone, sometimes I adjust the contrast or levels to darken the background to either match the original or what my notes recall at the eyepiece. Whether I adjust the light while taking the picture or adjust the contrast or levels the effect is the same, a manipulation of my sketch to make it look more like the original. My problem is I haven't found that balance where my sketches online match the originals. I always seem to prefer the original.

I've also used GIMP to make digital sketches because it was easier for a time, and that word, time, is why I stopped. I'd do a rough sketch in the field and re-creat it in my office on the computer. I realized it was too much a duplication of effort. The Mellish method freed that from me. Now it is sketch at the eyepiece, take my picture, adjust, publish. Hope that helps.

#12 mike73

mike73

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 161
  • Joined: 01 May 2012
  • Loc: UK Plymouth

Posted 17 August 2012 - 02:54 AM

Good question Alex and some well thought out replies. :)

I use the Mellish technique as a method to improve my observing skills, I feel the slow and deliberate style makes me a better astronomer and to me this is far more important than how 'artistic' my completed sketch may look.

For me sketching what I see is far more important than sketching what I want to see.

#13 rodelaet

rodelaet

    Gemini

  • *****
  • Posts: 3185
  • Joined: 28 Apr 2006
  • Loc: 50°56' N - 4°58' E (Belgium)

Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:44 AM

Hi Alex,

I am a 'digital' person when it comes to deep-sky sketching. My personal goal of the whole process is to represent the field of view of the eyepiece in such a way that someone else can imagine what to expect to see. I start with a rough field sketch and I redraw it completely (digitally) at my desk.
I do enjoy looking at everyone else's sketches, be it crayon, pastel, chalk or digital. It's all a matter of taste.

Clear skies,

#14 JeanB

JeanB

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1330
  • Joined: 11 Jul 2011
  • Loc: Montreal, Canada

Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:12 AM

The discussion turned out to be very interesting! Every point of view enrich the reflection on our goal behind sketching. I may add to what I wrote above that sometimes I am not satisfy with my sketch: I know it does not represent what I really saw at the eyepiece. Lack of experience or nascent skills is mostly responsible for that. I guess that with more and more practice and advice from you guys original sketches will need less and less post-processing.

Regards

Jean

#15 idp

idp

    Messenger

  • -----
  • Posts: 454
  • Joined: 21 Aug 2009
  • Loc: New Haven, CT

Posted 22 August 2012 - 06:32 AM

Hi folks,

This may get some heckles raised. I sincerly hope not.

Manipulate digitally or not?


Hi Alex,

I understand your point, but I still see a couple of reasons why one would want to digitally manipulate a drawing.

1. If one is not an awesome draughtsman (as you are, if I well remember your drawings), but just an average guy with no artistic talents (as I am unfortunately), then it might be a matter of restoring the faithfulness of a sketch to the subject.

Scratches and dirt that were difficult to correct at night, paper that got impregnated with humidity making it hard to use the rubber, a detail that your hand could just not represent as it looked in your eyes. Digital can help you with that.

I agree that if you do it right at the eyepiece, there's no reason to fix it.

2. But then, if you want to scan your drawing most scanners - in my experience at least - will do a lousy job, especially for b/w. You had better photograph the sketch as you suggest, but I can never get the right brightness/contrast/color balance; not to speak of the distortions introduced by the lens. So, tweaking the image digitally with the original under your eyes is a good practice IMHO.

As you can see, for me it's about restoring the faithfulness to the original, rather than modify it.

After all, a very huge problem for past astronomers willing to publish their drawings (Mars, the Orion Nebula, M51 etc.) was to preserve the appearance of the originals through the printing process - and it proved to be a daunting challenge. Plenty of literature on that. Digital makes things immensely easier.


Just my 2 cents.

Ivano

#16 cpl43uk

cpl43uk

    Messenger

  • -----
  • Posts: 412
  • Joined: 09 Feb 2008
  • Loc: Bristol, UK

Posted 12 September 2012 - 02:11 AM

Good question and discussions. I'm exactly the same as Roel's comments. I am mainly interested in observing the object under study (rather than a quick 'tick the box') and find sketching gives me the space to truly 'look' at the object. I then want to record that as closely as I can to what I observe and for this to also be a help for those wondering 'what can I really see through a telescope'. I find that the best way for me is to sketch at the eyepiece as carefully as I can in a conventional way (as I do not want the evening to be just dominated by the sketching!) and then to convert to digital and clean up the result to as close a recollection as possible thereafter, even if this usually means degrading the digital sketch ( which can often imply too much sharpness/texture etc). My satisfaction is looking at the result and feeling I am back at the eyepiece. Sometimes this works, most times it does not since I have no real drawing skills! Separately I then admire the 'true sketchers' in this forum who for my mind create 'works of art' which mine certainly are not!

#17 IVM

IVM

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1056
  • Joined: 07 Jan 2008
  • Loc: USA

Posted 12 September 2012 - 12:36 PM

Why do you prefer to 'sketch' on the computer?

Alex. :)


Let's be honest - astronomical sketching is one of the least computerized fields of human endeavor. There seems to be only one reason for that. Art skills of any kind are difficult to acquire, but digital tools were not taught in art schools where most of us went when we went there. There is no other reason. Digital tools are more powerful, they are easier, they are eminently suitable to represent what an observer sees through the eyepiece. And the result is invariably viewed on a computer anyway - why make everything dirty with the graphite and blenders just to get there ;)

#18 FJA

FJA

    Sketcher Extraordinaire

  • *****
  • Posts: 6426
  • Joined: 17 Nov 2004
  • Loc: 50.65° N, 1.15° W

Posted 12 September 2012 - 02:23 PM

I've tried manipulating mine to see if I could get 'more nebulous' nebulosity, etc, but it's more effort than it's worth and I wasn't getting the desired effect, it just looked like a mess. Now, when I scan sketches so I can put them on the net, I just alter the contrast and remove stray pencil marks and blotches, etc. I like sketches that look like sketches.

#19 Ibmelrod

Ibmelrod

    Ranger 4

  • -----
  • Posts: 341
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2004
  • Loc: Ontario Canada

Posted 13 September 2012 - 12:43 PM

I see a computer as a tool no different than the choice of pencil, crayon, pen, charcoal, paint or powders. We use a wide variety of paper types with a whole toolbox of erasers, blenders, masks, prepared templates and stuff I don't even know about.

Personal choices of media are made and the response of the artist or viewers of the resulting work is the arbiter.

Criticism can be technical or subjective but it seems pointless if not fruitless to criticize a tool new or old. The tool will perish or flourish on it's own merit.

Art is innovation.

#20 ericj

ericj

    Viking 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 663
  • Joined: 17 Feb 2005

Posted 24 September 2012 - 01:39 PM

Hi Frank,

This is an interesting discussion so I thought I would add my 2 cents.

With regards to sketching although I began observing with the unaided eye in the late 1950's I did not make my first astronomical sketch until after I bought my first 60mm refractor in 1973.

During my first telescopic observation of Jupiter with the 60mm I wanted to record the detail so I grabbed a piece of paper and sketched what I saw (which was only a few belts).

On subsequent observations I made more sketches, and so without realizing it I had started to train my eye to see more detail. Over time this allowed me to see more detail on Jupiter with the 60mm, including belts, zones, a shadow transit, and even the Great Red Spot, although I could not quite make out the red color.

With regards to manipulating a sketch digitally I think sketching is an art form so people will approach it from their own perspective, which is fine.

For me, I enjoy being out under the night sky and sketching, and am reminded of a comment that a fellow sketcher once remarked, "To sketch is to see", and I agree.

Here is a link to some of my sketches:

http://ejamison.net/...l_sketches.html

Clear Skies,

Eric Jamison
http://ejamison.net/index.html

#21 Undermidnight

Undermidnight

    BEOTS "Tweener Cup" winner

  • *****
  • Posts: 3948
  • Joined: 25 May 2004
  • Loc: Untermitternacht

Posted 24 September 2012 - 04:36 PM

I digitally manipulate my sketches as I need all the help I can get!!! :grin:

Seriously though, to me, it is about the event itself. Sketching is such a direct link between the observer and the sky. A record if you will of my experience at the eyepiece. Even if the record is not very good.

Jason

#22 Matt Lindsey

Matt Lindsey

    Messenger

  • *****
  • Posts: 402
  • Joined: 06 Jun 2008
  • Loc: Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.

Posted 24 September 2012 - 10:22 PM

Great discussion Alex. Lately, I'm trying to bear in mind that, for me, the goal of the sketch is to accurately reproduce what I saw at the eyepiece--not trying to impress someone else by digitally altering the sketch and removing every last imperfection. At some point it doesn't resemble a sketch anymore and looks too sterile. Like you, I've been playing around with photographing, instead of scanning, the sketch, and I'm appreciating it more. I rather like the realism of the grayish background. I enjoy looking back at those images and the imperfections; it brings back the feel of a cold winter night or a humid summer evening.

#23 AdirondackAstro

AdirondackAstro

    Ranger 4

  • *****
  • Posts: 380
  • Joined: 06 Jun 2011
  • Loc: Plattsburgh, NY

Posted 24 September 2012 - 10:32 PM

For the two sketches I have just posted of M39 and M52 all I did to them was round out the stars a bit and invert the image. I thought about adding the blue color to some stars, or the golden yellow in others, but I decided to just leave it as is. I do wish a bit of the brightness of the gathered stars that I got on my sketch turned out the right way after scanning, but it didn't. If I change it too much to show up in the scan then it wont look as good on paper. I tried doing the same affect post processing on the computer, but I just couldn't get it.

I say if you're just touching it up to make it look better, or even just coloring stars then that's fine in my book. Adding color to nebula or galaxies makes it become more than just a sketch at the eyepiece; more like artwork, and less like a visual sketch.

#24 Asbytec

Asbytec

    Guy in a furry hat

  • *****
  • Posts: 8061
  • Joined: 08 Aug 2007
  • Loc: La Union, PI

Posted 25 September 2012 - 12:52 AM

"For me it is aboout faithfully representing what I have seen, and I can only do that with pencils and brushes, and not digital media."

Interesting topic, lot to get caught up on. But, initially I tend to agree the artist should use his medium to accurately display what he saw. Artists can certainly can and should do that. I am not an artist capable of the slightest whisk of a pastel nor even accurately sketching the phase of Mars. But, I can see mare and take notes.

For me, the problem I run into is wanting to share what took many minutes of patients and a moment of superb seeing to tease out. And I do not want to make it that hard for you to see it. So, that might require making the contrast or the color a bit more bold and easier to display in a digital media format. I could not imagine someone "patiently observing" a sketch waiting for some faint detail to spring forth. Chances are, it will not...you're not at the eyepiece viewing the real thing in variable seeing.

I use computer media because I do not have a scanner, it allows me to get the sketch up as soon as it's done. Like many others, I do work off a pencil sketch with plenty of notes. For example, over 30 minutes, I might notice a soft festoon that is not always visible. And I want to share that view. Should I share the times it was not, or sketch it? So, it get's sketched and noted then added to the final. And, in some sense, sketches are composites of an observation done over time, really not unlike an image. "To sketch is to see," indeed. It's a line I hope not to cross...often.

Another problem is (for digital, and for me) is getting the colors just exactly right in terms of softness and accurately portrayed. One can imagine with billions of colors to choose from, that can be a daunting task. "Na, a tad more brownish...eh, yea, that seems pretty close." But, it't generally the best I can do in the medium of choice.

As long as the artist is true to the subject observed, a little bolder color or contrast does not change the observation. It makes it easier to share it, especially since it is all digitized anyway and someone's monitor settings might not accurately display it. I learned this lesson when a scanned sketch was too light for some viewers, so it had to be darkened, er, enhanced to share it.

Sketching is such a direct link between the observer and the sky. A record if you will of my experience at the eyepiece.



Exactly, that's the wonderful experience we share with others! "Jupiter is just awesome, man, I saw oval BA!" (I have not yet, or I would have sketched it and probably represented it so you can too. :))

#25 Diabolo

Diabolo

    Sputnik

  • -----
  • Posts: 29
  • Joined: 28 Jun 2011

Posted 27 September 2012 - 11:47 AM

An observer I know draw as accurately as he can on a paper and redraw with a photoshop like program in order to have a view as close as possible to the eyepiece view. At first, it was a surprise, but to be honest, like that a lot. Some links to see those drawings :

Nebula

Stars

Galaxies

Jupiter

He observe thousands of object with a 12" and now use a 20" for those computer drawings.






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics