I should know better by now than to deprive myself opportunities of fresh fun – how many years was it before I finally put that Carpenters CD on? – but apparently, I don’t. It was seemingly about eighteen years (five months) ago now that I read of a fun alternative digital painting software, MyPaint, over at the excellent blog of photographer Nigel Borrington. Having tried to draw Steve Blackman many times recently, each time to little avail and much regret, I ventured over to the new software more in desperation than intrigue.
But the intrigue soon won over. I didn’t attempt stippling in my initial grapples, nor did I especially intend for it to happen here – MyPaint rather made the decision for me. Scrambling through the brushes – of which there are plenty, each loaded with intuitive and satisfying blending behaviours reminiscent of my brief affair with Corel Painter – I came across a ‘splatter’ brush which was weird in that I didn’t actually have to click to put a dot down, only glide the cursor across the canvas. Quite an unnerving experience to begin with, but ultimately less strenuous and a lot speedier! I could easily make a dotted brush like this in Photoshop, but the added urgency of automated dots made it curiously dangerous. This might be nowhere near to the degree of precision that Antoine de Caunes was afforded, but it did come much, much quicker; about three hours, while Antoine took as many days!
One other thing I have to say about MyPaint is just how smoothly it runs and without requiring nearly as much of the memory that others do. The only minor niggle I would have with performance is that it took a little while to save work – as someone who has long been in the habit of frequently hitting CTRL+S, these minute-long waits started to grate a bit. But that’s just me being hideously impatient, and could be down to my PC being from the dark ages and not the software itself.
I would recommend a look to anybody with an interest in digital art, especially those with a graphics tablet, as with the pen you’ll realise the full potential of the brushes. Its interface and some of the behaviours might take a bit of getting used to, but ultimately looks a productive tool that brushes away many of Photoshop’s distractions, focussing purely on the illustration aspect. I’ll certainly be giving it another look. Thank you, Nigel, for sharing it with us! Nice to have a new weapon at my disposal.
Did I mention that it’s free to download? See here: http://mypaint.org/
Below is the raw MyPaint splatter/stipple painting. Looking back at his awesome poses, I find it almost unforgivable that he ditched the alluring chest hair of his early days, so I’ve attempted to restore it here, in stipple form. The various dots surrounding Steve were not intentional; they were where I kept throwing the cursor out to think about what to do next, such was the frequency of these dots marking the page, before braving a return.
“Lethal Weapon” Steve Blackman was incredible. One of the things I loved about him the most was that his character’s icy demeanour seemed perfectly pitched, and thus was almost too convincing. He didn’t appear to care for showiness – which in turn provided many a beautiful straight-man moment with some of the more ludicrous characters on the roster – and really did look like someone you’d rather not mess with, even before you get to his martial arts kicks, nunchucks, and very large kendo stick.
Though his notable reign in the WWF began in 1997, Blackman actually began wrestling for them almost a decade prior, in 1988. However, while performing in South Africa later that year, he became very ill, contracting malaria and dysentery which left him bedridden for over two years. After that he spent another four years in physical therapy to recover his impeccable conditioning, which is where he also accrued his martial arts smarts, becoming expertly educated in karate and jiu-jitsu, among others. This is a strong guy.
His time was spent mostly dominating the ‘hardcore’ division, mixing impressive skill with outright mayhem in bewitching fashion. But being apparently at home here meant that he was never really propelled to the main event scene before his retirement in 2002. Perhaps they didn’t feel he had the charisma, or similarly perhaps they thought a legitimately tough athlete had no place representing the WWF at the time. A shame though that might be, his work is looked back on with great fondness, seen a key part of that golden era. He was very refreshing.
After wrestling, he returned to martial arts for a short while, later running a number of schools dedicated to the cause. Now a family man, he apparently lives a somewhat less smash-mouth life these days. But I’d still prefer not to piss him off!