Sword and Sorcery

Captain Elisabeth Lovejoy (Sword) and Aura Lockhaven (Sorcery) team up to take down a nasty ogre.

SnS2

Elisabeth’s importance in the Aura storyline is growing. The Aura tales are sword and sorcery. If Aura handles the sorcery, someone has to handle the sword.

The two friends obviously have different fighting styles. Aura fights from a distance. Her accuracy is pinpoint up to fifty feet. Using bladed weapons, Elisabeth has to get up close, and personal. This ogre is already dead; he just doesn’t know it yet.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.2 -> Luxrender 1.5.

 

 

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Happy 2016

new year

“All y’all celebrate without me,” I said. The clock ticked away behind me, signaling the final thirty minutes of the year 2015. “I just want to read tonight.”

“Oh, no you don’t,” Aura Lockhaven replied, grabbing my left arm. Perhaps I should have written the Enchantress of Hartshorn a little less authoritative. I certainly should not have given her a mesmerizing voice like a cross between a Celtic harp and a waterfall. “We aren’t letting you off that easy. You rather created us, or don’t you recall the past two years. So, dance with us. Drink with us. Celebrate 2016 with us. It’s almost midnight, and you’re still dressed quite 1974. Really, now. Tweed with navy? There is a wee difference between being charmingly retro and being cheap about your wardrobe.”

I snorted. “Says the woman who wears a bikini to work.”

Aura smiled. With a giggle, she said, “Whose fault is that, Mr. Writer and Artist?” Aura looked over her shoulder to the blonde warrior, now clad in a clubbing dress and reposed in my other chair. “You could help me, Iryndelle. He created you, too.”

Iryndelle grinned. “Don’t look at me, Enchantress. I belong to a totally different storyline. You’re the written character, the queen of his fictional universe as he calls you. I’m just a lowly graphic novel heroine. Getting him to recognize New Year’s Eve is the responsibility of you printlings.”

“Lovely,” Aura grumbled.

It seems I wrote myself into a corner with these characters. They’re taking over. I sighed. “No, you go ahead. 2015 was a long year. I just want to rest tonight.”

“Rest tomorrow when you’re recovering from a hangover,” Elisabeth Lovejoy snapped, taking my right arm. Her grip was like iron. I forgot how strong I wrote her. “We’re about to make you famous, so get your writerly butt, and the rest that’s attached to it, out of that chair and dance with us!” Elisabeth tugged on my arm. “Aura, he gained weight.”

“I don’t know a gym membership spell,” Aura muttered.

“That master’s degree went to his head. Metaphors and alliteration are heavy,” Iryndelle quipped.

“I’d kick your ass out of that chair, but you’d probably write a nasty death scene for me if I did,” Elisabeth said. She’d do it, too. So would I. Eh, too much work.

“Aura. Elisabeth. Iryn. I’m too old for this,” I said.

“Old?” Sagacius roared. I forgot about him. Next to Aura herself, he’s my senior-most character. Sagacius is not someone to be ignored. “You don’t know the meaning of that word, boy. Egads! I could tell you about old … I could tell you about ancient, eldritch, arcane, and mythical, but you’re an insufferable know-it-all with your Oxford English Dictionary and penchant for etymology. Old, indeed!”

The wizard must have cast a spell on me, because I stood up and said, “You’re absolutely right. 2016 is going to be the best year ever. Three hundred sixty-five days to do accomplish great things and have fun doing them. Let me get dressed. This calls for a white dinner jacket. And champagne. We need lots of champagne. I think Benny Goodman is in order, too.”

“A white dinner jacket, with your fourteen inch long hair? Oh, merciful heavens!” Aura muttered. “This isn’t London, and you aren’t John Lennon.”

“Benny Goodman?” Elisabeth asked. “Is it about to be 2016, or 1936?”

As I left the room, I heard Sagacius sigh, and say, “I was hoping for Taylor Swift. Ladies, we have been created by an anachronistic boar.”

“At least, he’s changing those socks and that shirt,” Aura said.

Happy 2016! May the upcoming year bring you more love, abundance, happiness, and joyful surprises than you can shake a stick at.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.2 -> Luxrender 1.5

Aura Lockhaven, Iryndelle, Elisabeth Lovejoy, and Sagacius copyright Nathan Boutwell, 2016.

Off Balance

Some days just don’t go as planned.

aura action new C

A reworked render from yesterday’s post about Aura’s new skin. I was able to shrink the boots after all. It’s amazing what happens when one begins messing with morph sliders. I tried a new light scheme, and added the attack effects. If Aura is going to be off balance, there ought to be a reason.

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.1 -> Luxrender 1.5.

 

Gothic

Gothic

“Uncle Peter?” Veronica Gladstone asked.

The rain beat against the window like so many tiny, cold drums. A flash of lightning did little to warm Veronica’s mood. It did, however, cast more light upon the room than did her feeble lantern. She gasped at the sight before her.

“Good evening, Veronica, dear. It took you long enough,” Dr. Peter Synn said. “I expected someone with your insatiable curiosity to discover my chamber on the first night of her visit, especially after I expressly forbade you to enter this wing. I find your obedience somewhat surprising, dear.”

“Did you say that you expected me?”

Veronica shuddered at the implications her intrusion being anticipated. The shackles on Synn’s desk implied one meaning. The skeleton strapped to the table implied another. The expression of the rather hirsute officer brought to mind yet a third. If she dared call him a man, then the figure next to him could crush her with one hand. She couldn’t decide exactly how the suave, but pale, aristocrat standing next to the clock wanted to devour her. Most disturbing was the unreadable face of the man near the window. She felt a fifth enter the room. Without looking, she recognized him as Michael, Synn’s silent valet. With the sound of squeaking iron, she knew he closed the door and blocked her only avenue of escape.

She felt all eyes upon her. As her gown slid from her shoulder, she wished she had taken the time to lace it, and to don her robe. Clearing her throat, Veronica said, “Uncle Peter, I do not believe you will harm me. I am, after all, your niece.”

“Permit me to correct your faulty memory,” Synn replied. “You are my wife’s niece, not mine.”

“Speaking of Aunt Barbara, I haven’t seen her since I arrived. Where is she?”

“Why, whatever do you mean, dear? Barbara is right here in this room.”

Veronica became aware of another presence in the chamber. Someone she saw, yet did not see. The figure looked and felt all-too-familiar. She wondered just who her aunt and uncle were, and what sort of company they kept. Self-preservation overwhelmed her sense of curiosity.

“Please allow me to depart,” Veronica said. “I will say nothing to Mother or Father.”

Synn laughed. “Do not fret, dear. I shan’t kill you. Neither shall my friends. Despite his appearance, Andrew is a Fusilier, and quite the well-groomed gentleman. Oliver is prone to violence when he loses at chess, but otherwise is as kind as a kitten. Christopher finds the taste of prostitutes more satisfying to his palate than that of the daughters of gentry. Vincent is somewhat a lady’s man, but he promised to remain clothed in my home at all times, so you will at least know where he is. Michael only does as I command. As for your aunt, Barbara seems to have mayhem of a most pleasant sort on her mind tonight. No, we shan’t kill you. I invited you to visit me because we have, shall I say, intentions for you.”

“What do you want from me?” Veronica asked.

“A witch would complete our little cadre quite splendidly.”

Veronica inherited her parent’s talents, and learned much at their sides. Somehow, Peter Synn knew. She cut her eyes toward the figure who appeared to be her aunt. Barbara swore that she would never reveal the Gladstone’s secret craft to anyone. Apparently, she had revealed it to her husband. While Veronica’s family faced no threat of death by fire, witchcraft was considered fraud by law. The many ears and tongues in the room threatened her father’s position, the Gladstone home, the family reputation, and its liberty.

She stammered, “I hardly qualify as a witch, Uncle.”

Synn sighed. It was a triumphant sigh. He said, “You shall join us, Veronica. One way or another, I assure you that you shall. While you decide whether that will be voluntary or compulsory, please enjoy a nice glass of wine with us. I insist. Michael, be so kind as to seat Veronica at the table.”

DAZ Studio 4.8 Pro -> Reality 4.1 -> Luxrender 1.5 -> GIMP 2.8.

Preliminary work in GIMP, ShaderMap 2, and Hexagon 2.5.

This was originally planned for late August. It was delayed to take advantage of the new features of Reality 4.1. So, just in time for Halloween.

I apologize for Veronica’s obviously modern panties, but I needed something to preserve the remaining modesty of a rather immodest girl. Besides, this scene is already everywhere in terms of fashion chronology. The Invisible Man is a markedly late Victorian character, but as no Victorian suits are available for G2M, I relied on the versatile Regency suit (Synn, Michael, and Vincent). The Century Nightgown (Veronica), on the other hand, looks like an intimate from around 1890. Corsair (Andrew) is historically nebulous enough to fit anywhere between 1800 and 1850. Princess of Darkness (Barbara) looks 20th Century to me, but it was the only non-fantasy texture I had for the Morphing Fantasy Dress. The Regency era accurate Sensibility didn’t look right when made transparent. Still employing the fashion time machine, I stepped back to the era of Queen Anne and used the Pirate Coat (Christopher) to give the vampire more of a continental flair, combining it, yet again, with the Regency suit. Highland Lad (Oliver) is decidedly Jacobian, but it works for a 19th Century setting. It also shows off his sutures. Considering Veronica’s panties, however, I was tempted to put Oliver in the Edwardian era Grantham Hall Suit and call it a day, or four hundred years worth of days.

Characters are named in honor of the “Hammer Repertory Company” (Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed, Veronica Carlson, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, and Michael Ripper), with the addition of Vincent Price, as no scene like this is complete without a nod to him.

Pensive

pensiveWhat is Aura thinking?

DAZ Studio -> Reality 4 -> Luxrender 1.3.

Preliminary work in GIMP 2.8, Hexagon 2.5, and Shadermap 2.

Perhaps the question ought to be where did she stash the bottle and goblet in that outfit?

This scene was a test of the IBL with one spotlight for an outdoor scene. Reality 4.1, with its 21X speed increase, debuts this coming Monday, so I’m preparing for the Sarethian Seven graphic novel. Most of the first story takes place outdoors. I really like the way the IBL looks, so it’s a go.

Aura Lockhaven’s New Body

Yes, I am messing with poor Aura again.

I grew up in the 1970s. During that time, I watched old movies featuring Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and Elizabeth Taylor. When no one but Granddaddy was looking, I slipped peeks at his copies of Playboy. The actresses and Playmates were voluptuous. They had breasts. They had hips. They had the classical hourglass figure. The women walking around town during that time looked the same (except they were dressed).

They were also short.

All right, when one is 6′ 4″, short is a relative term. But Marilyn Monroe was 5′ 4″. Elizabeth Taylor was 5′ 2″. Most of the Playmates were the same, with only a few above 5′ 6″.

It only occurred to me recently that the reason those women looked so voluptuous is that short women simply look that way. Tall women, with the same bust-waist-hip measurements, look willowy. To see what I mean, compare 5′ 9″ Jennifer Lawrence to 5′ 4″ Scarlett Johansson. They have the same bust-waist-hips measurements, yet Ms. Lawrence looks more slender, while Ms. Johansson looks more curvaceous. It isn’t that Ms. Lawrence’s waist is narrower than that of Ms. Johansson. It’s that her waist is longer. That results in a different visual ratio. It’s really an optical illusion, but that is simply how the human body works.

When I wrote Aura’s book description, I gave her an hourglass figure. It’s simply what I like. Because it’s what I grew up with, that is my personal aesthetic. Besides, my wife has an hourglass figure. It’s also a bit of a smack in the face against the body-negative images coming out of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Aura weighs 150 pounds, which is a very healthy weight for someone who is 5′ 8″. At that weight, she will have a larger bust and larger hips.

When I designed her 3D counterpart, I tried to bring that over into visual perspective. But something didn’t look right. The lateral proportions looked correct, but they didn’t match her head. While I am a consummate breast man, hers looked enormous, even if they matched her waist and hips. I had a feeling the problem lay in the longitudinal measurement (her height) but had no way of finding out. Models in DAZ are measured by scale percentages, not inches or centimeters. A height of 100% tells me a lot!

That all changed this week, when I acquired the little DAZ Studio addon features Measure Metrics and Figure Metrics. Measure Metrics actually measures everything about the model, from neck circumference, to foot length, to overall height. It does it in inches or centimeters. Nice. Figure Metrics allows one to design a character based upon real world measurements, with the sole exception of bra cup size (which is unique to each individual woman anyway). If I want a 5′ 10 1/2″ tall man, I can have one. If I want to make a model of myself, with my 37 inch sleeve length, I can do it.

While I don’t state Aura’s vital statistics in the book, other than her height, I know what they are. She told me.

Height: 5′ 8″

Bust: 37 (if they had bras in her era, she’d be a D)

Waist: 24

Hips: 38

When I applied Measure Metrics to Aura’s character, it gave me the following measurements.

Bust: 42

Waist: 36

Hips: 44

Whoa! Why were her vitals so gargantuan? Because the Victoria 6 model, upon which Aura is based, is 5′ 11″ tall. I had no idea until I applied Measure Metrics. Aura is exceptionally tall for her era, but that’s a little extreme. The model is three inches taller than the character I tried to depict using it.

To give her an hourglass figure, I had to increase her lateral proportions to a ridiculous scale. Imagine trying to give nearly 6 foot tall Taylor Swift the proportional figure of 5′ 6″ Diane Lane. Ms. Swift has a smashing figure, but at her height, she appears very slender and willowy, not curvaceous with an hourglass figure. It is impossible for Ms. Swift and Ms. Lane to have the same proportional figure. For Ms. Swift to have the same visual ratio as Ms. Lane, she’d have to be about 44 inches around the chest and hips, instead of her 35. That is exactly what I did to Aura’s character model.

And I was a straight A student in geometry?

At this point in the evening, Figure Metrics came into play. Using it, I rescaled Aura’s height, bust, waist, and hips to match her book measurements.

The results are astounding.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of Aura before and after Figure Metrics rescaled her. The purple cube is the same size in both, to provide perspective.

Aura Body

Now, Aura Lockhaven looks like the Enchantress of Hartshorn, a woman with a fondness for ale and roasted pork. Much more proportional. A little less Marvel superhero (8 1/2 heads tall) and a lot more woman next door (6 1/2 heads tall). Her visual ratio looks realistic.

There is plenty of room in my art for a woman with a DD or even DDD bra cup size. Aura is not that woman.

Neither are the Sarethian Seven.

Today, I am applying Measure Metrics and Figure Metrics to them. The results will be even more dramatic. Remember, the Victoria 6 model is 5′ 11″. The tallest of the Seven is Iryndelle, at 5′ 5″. The shortest is Coravanne, at 5′ 2″. I’m depicting Coravanne using a model that is nine inches taller than she is. They may have similar names, but 5′ 11″ Taylor Swift cannot portray 5′ 2″ Elizabeth Taylor. What basketball player would they get to portray 5′ 10″ Richard Burton? Yeah, this will result in totally different looking women. I am not complaining.

When I finish, I will rerun the group render of them, and show you the results.

Henry and Aura

henry and auraIntroducing Henry Lockhaven, the town of Hartshorn’s favorite, and wealthiest, tavern owner. Henry will be our intrepid host and fearless narrator for the Tales of the Sarethian Seven graphic novels. Also introducing his ten year old daughter, Aura, who may be the most formidable and demanding audience he has tried to entertain.

“Now, really, Daddy,” Aura said. “You’ve told that tale before, only it was Noishante not Yveramore, the merchant wore blue not red, he rode a donkey not a horse, it happened in Harion not northern Karpi, and –”

“Do you want to tell this tale, young lady?” Henry snapped.

“No, I rather enjoy hearing you tell it. Your tale is like your ale. Do try harder to get it right,” Aura replied.

“Aura, dearest, sweetest, youngest child of mine. Did you learn this attitude from your brother or your sister?”

“I learned it from you, Daddy.”

“Oh. Right you are. Carry on, then.”

DAZ Studio 4.6 Pro -> Reality 4 -> Luxrender 1.3.

This will be an interesting series of stories, as Henry has been dead ten years in the written Aura novels. So, not only will the graphic novels serve as stories of the Sarethian Seven, but they will also serve as Aura’s backstory.

Refining Aura Lockhaven’s 3D Appearance

I’ve been making further refinement in Aura’s 3D incarnation, moving her yet closer to her written description.

aura_closeup by nathan boutwellTons of DAZ Studio/3D technical geeky stuff follows. If that isn’t your cup of coffee, skip seven paragraphs.

Improvements include:

Laticis’ fiber mesh eyebrows. This may be the singlemost dramatic improvement to Victoria 6, eliminating the flat brow look about which so many of us have complained. I made thickness morphs for them in Hexagon (Aura has bushy eyebrows). Textures made to match her hair. The ability to do that may supersede the depth provided by the prop. One of the most common gripes of 3D artists is brunette eyebrows on a blonde character.

AJ’s Blood Vessels maps applied to the skin texture. Finally, human looking skin. Aura is the queen of my fictional universe, and I want her to look as real as possible. No human has perfect skin! Her base skin texture is Belle overlaid with 25% layer of skin from ForbiddenWhispers’ Ultimate Merchant Resource Kit. Those are the blotchiest skins in my runtime (without getting silly about it). The Blood Vessels add to the “not a Photoshopped magazine model” appearance.

New specular settings using Reality 4’s dual specular channel option. A specular map in each channel, with its own setting, simulates the depth of reflectivity of human skin, and adds to the subsurface shader. We naked bipedal primates are not as solid as we believe.

New normal maps made by merging the Belle bump maps with AlFan’s Displacement for V6 maps. This was tricky. Each type of map does something different, and merging them required them to be baked at lower levels in ShaderMap than if applied singly in Reality. Too hot, and Aura became a hag instead of a 22 year old enchantress.

Gregoria hair by Mairy3Dream, with custom textures. Yes, she’s back in this hair again! This hair is the closest to what I see in my mind, looks great, has a much finer mesh, and wonderful action morphs. It also had an annoying curl below her chin that I could not get rid of. Until the morning of July 12 when I found the corresponding slider. The original maps also had a built-in reflection that looked like white streaks in Reality, especially in the reds and browns I combined for Aura’s dark chestnut hair. Hence, the new textures, made by overlaying EmmaandJordi’s Sirea hair textures.

Although it’s appeared before (“Working Late”), this is the first good look at Aura’s seven pointed star necklace (septagram?). It replaces the toric she wore in 2013 and 2014. Magicians in her world recognize seven elements: water, fire, earth, air, spirit, metal, and light. One point for each element. Each point should have a different stone corresponding to the element’s color, so I’ll have to go back into Hexagon and rework the materials maps at some point to allow that. The chain is the Piratess necklace by Ravenhair.

They won’t see this blog post, but I want to thank these DeviantArt 3D artists for their significant contributions. 3dLux did the hard work on specular settings for Reality 4. He also brought AJ’s Blood Vessels to my attention, and walked me through how to apply them. Laticis made the eyebrows, and offers them free. They are easy to apply and texture. It was also easy to make thickness morph for them. The hardest part was erasing the eyebrows from the original diffuse map. Sigstan worked up an awesome tutorial on portrait lighting on the Reality forums. His tips for hair and eyes for R2.5 still work in R4.

Of course, not much can be seen from a portrait render. How about a comparison of before and after?

Below is the original of “Defender of the Faith.” It was rendered in late 2014, using Reality 2.5.

defender_of_the_faith by nathan boutwellAnd now, the same scene, with the changes in skin, hair, and clothes, rendered through Reality 4, using a new light setup.

defenderImages and Aura Lockhaven copyright Nathan Boutwell.

The Worst (or Funniest) Name Change Ever!

DAZ3D has renamed FaceShop. It is now HeadShop!

Your source for fine cranial paraphernalia.

Sublime products for the refined ear enthusiast.

Please do not refer to noses by their street names.

All eyeballs certified organic by Eye Times.

Mouths subject to search and seizure by local authorities.

Tongues available in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.

Dimples for medical use only in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada.

===

I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t even try to help myself!

Working Late

working_late“Please, Lady Aura!” Milly begged.

Aura Lockhaven frowned. “I’m reluctant to make love potions. They’re too manipulative.”

“Oh, it isn’t for him,” Milly said. “It’s for me.”

“If you don’t love him, why are you marrying him!” Aura snapped.

“He’s wonderful. He treats me like a princess. He’s kind, generous, loyal, attentive. He makes me laugh. I just want to make sure I love him as much as he loves me.”

“It sounds like you already love him,” Aura said, smiling. “Oh, all right. I don’t see any harm. When is the wedding?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

DAZ Studio 4.6 Pro -> Reality 4 -> Luxrender 1.3 -> GIMP 2.8.

Preliminary work in GIMP, Hexagon 2.5, and ShaderMap 2.