Things That Make Me Smile No. 220: Hobbies

A man standing in ruins in the desert by Margaret McGaffey Fisk
Click on the image to see the full size. This is an experiment with adding texture to fabric as well as using a scenery bubble rather than building each piece.

We’ve all been quarantined to one degree or another during this pandemic. It’s not easy–I understand why my cats whined so much–but there’s not much we can do about it. That’s where hobbies come into play.

A hobby or two is nice during normal times. It’s a break from your required routines and lets you stretch muscles you don’t usually, whether your hobby is marathoning or drawing. During the pandemic, though, hobbies are critical. They help us tolerate the necessary limits, raise our spirits, and keep us from climbing the walls.

I’ve always had a couple of hobbies I consider active, a handful of ones I’d like to try, and those I wish I could get back to. I’m using this time to expand my skills in 3D artwork, something fun and useful as I do some of my cover art still by preference.

When I sketched frequently, I had a decent amount of skill. Nothing to rate above amateur, but I liked the results. Now, too much time passes between attempts, and I’m frustrated by the difference between the vision in my head and what comes out on the page. Art still draws me, but it also repels.

A friend introduced me to Daz3D years ago. Seeing as the program is free and comes with a basic set of 3D items, I tried it. The first attempt ended up with two or three pictures (what I call advanced collage) that I liked, but then I drifted away. When I couldn’t find a model that matched my image, though, I went back to Daz3D to produce the characters and sometimes scenery. Then, I used GIMP to put together a book cover with the character.

During this quarantine, though, I’ve started playing with some of the advanced features. I’ve been expanding my understanding of the pieces I know and using parts I never touched before. It keeps me busy, helps me not to dwell on the very real danger we’re in, and makes me happy. The picture above, while not perfect, was an attempt to make the fabric more realistic by improving the visual texture. There are things I want to do to improve that image, and I might even get around to it, but I’ve met the goal. I can now use that technique to improve the woodgrain, cloth, and metal in my pictures.

Even better, I’ve been able to make special gifts in the form of screensavers or backgrounds that I can deliver without leaving quarantine. I’d show some of them to you, but I forgot to ask for permission to share so I used my technique exercise instead.

I’m not fast now, and I struggle to figure things out, so this would have been unlikely to happen at any other time. Still, when this is all over, I may be that much more sophisticated–and maybe even faster–when I finish working on the Steam and Shadows cover I began already. For example, I now know how to age the sections of the metal man on it, even though I haven’t done it yet. This will allow me to combine the aging of the first one with the best of the shiny examples.

This image was originally for a poll of your favorite coloring.

Anyway, that’s my story from the quarantine block. How about you? Have you revitalized an old hobby or taken on a new one to keep yourself occupied?

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