Sunday, December 25, 2011

AOE3 Mod - Nihangs and Tabinan Lancers

I ended up finishing the Nihang textures for all upgrades, Nihang, Veteran Nihang, Honored Nihang (the game is American, we decided to keep the Honored spelling as they were) and Legendary Nihang. Nihangs are still the only Sikh unit in the mod. After studying Sikh armies I found out they were always a mix of various ethnicity and religions e.g. Muslims dominated in the Sikh artillery. Only the Nihangs were completely Sikh in their make-up. Hence there will be two Nihang unit, the Chakram and this mod's Nihang. The latter is available for recruitment in the barracks, the former is only available through shipments as Chakram belongs to the Udasi sub-civ.
There have been changes from the last update on Nihang textures. For one their clothes will change colour according to the team colours. So if the team colour is blue their clothes will be blue but if the team colour is red their clothes will be red. I also gave them chain mail to wear underneath the Char Aina armour. And I re-textured the shield to look like an Indian Dhal.

From Left to right, 3 Nihangs, 3 Veteran Nihangs (gained chainmail and a shield) and 3 Honored Nihangs (gained char aina and a katar). In history most Nihangs would have been without much armour but what the heck they look awesome! Legendary Nihangs have the same textures as Honored Nihangs.

I began working on Mughals yesterday and ended up completing their Tabinan Lancer unit for all upgrades Veteran TL, Honored TL and Legendary TL. Mughals also had awesome cavalry archers. I have begun texturing their Tabinan Archers. Currently looking for ways to show their upgrades to Veteran and Honored. Mughals will retain India's elephants and Zamburak so I don't need to texture anything else for the Mughals. I am reworking their Bhumi militiamen unit, as the previous model did not allow for team colours to appear on the unit. This is important since their Dhal will not look like a blue bulls-eye as it did previously but more like the Nihang shield shown above, and so it will not have team colours. That means the team colours must appear on the unit somewhere.
I have asked my team partner to do a mod write-up, which will be a proper overview of the mod. it will present all Civilizations, their units, specialties, explorer units, etc. When it is ready I will publish it.

From left to right, Tabinan lancer, Veteran Tabinan Lancer and Honored Tabinan Lancer.

Oh and a Merry Christmas and Happy Gurpurab to all!

Legendary Nihangs invade enemy colony and are immediately met with resistance.

Legendary Tabinan Lancers destroy invading European artillery.

Friday, October 28, 2011

ROM 2: European and Indian Firearms

Last weekend we paid ROM a visit yet again. This time with a smaller sketch group we put our attention to the European firearms section.

I left this section after drawing several pistols and revolvers to draw Indian medieval guns: Toradar and the Afghani gun: Jezail. Let me tell you, looking at photos online and looking at actual guns in front of you are two totally different experiences. The latter is much more rich and vivid. "You had to be there" sort of thing. All the details on the guns are visible from the designs and embellishment to the marks and scratches that it accumulated over the years.

By the way, Toradar will be seen in my Hari Singh Nalwa painting, and Jezail appears with the Afghan musketeers in the Age of Empire 3 Mod I am working on.

There are always lots of children in the ROM. At one point, while I was studying the bedsheet/curtain motifs, a whole bunch of kids gathered around me to look at the designs I was studying. But never have I had a child look at my work so closely. While I was studying firearms in the European section, one Asian kid came up and literally hovered over my sketchbook to see what I was doing. He was so intrigued and fascinated by it! We also talked a little bit before I went back to my meditation.

We are filled with so much curiosity when we are children. We look at things and enjoy them simply through our senses without thinking about events from the past or worries of the future. We simply look and are satisfied by the act of looking. Fulfilled with any sense experience that comes our way.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sheridan, ROM and Birds

Sheridan's been awesome so far. I am enjoying the experience of drawing for hours and hours everyday. I have been drawing from life, still life and boxes mostly.

The first week I just happened to stumble into like-minded people who (with intensity) wanted to get better at making art. We were sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch talking about art and artists mostly. We somehow got into a discussion of making a sketchgroup that would go around sketching things, people, environment, etc. While we were still discussing the details, I suggested that we get started without wasting precious time discussing it. Usually when you want to do something, you end up talking about it for hours and hours and when the time comes to actually do it, you are too tired to actually do it. If you still have the energy to do it sometimes you feel gratification for just having discussed it. You feel satisfied that you discussed the idea and think you can get away with delaying action. I was not going to let that happen to us.

So I said "Let's do it!" and we began sketching people in the cafeteria. I discovered that I really enjoyed doing this. Not only because some people are really cool and you get into interesting conversations with them while you sketch them but also because in the caf, people are talking, gesturing, going through series of facial expressions, eating lunch and moving around. These moving faces and hands are very difficult to draw... and I found I really enjoyed this challenge.

Yesterday, we took our sketchgroup to the Royal Ontario Museum to study things like dinosaurs, animals, birds and carpet motifs. Yes carpet motifs. For my Hari Singh Nalwa piece, I wanted to study Indian carpet, bedsheet and curtain motifs so I can make the painting look authentic. I want to have the painting look historically accurate and have a royal feel to it. After my study, I will paint similar designs onto the carpet and walls, which right now are the only major things that are left in the painting.

I studied the hanging bedsheet/curtain thing for an hour or so before moving on to birds and animals. People were walking by complimenting us and asking us question about our program and why we were drawing etc. Sometimes hovering too closely to look at the work... which sometimes got awkward... Good times. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Akalini: Warrior Monk

I'll keep this one short since I want to keep a balanced post length on this blog.

I always wanted to do a female warrior inspired by Sikh aesthetics. I have painted several Akali-inspired males in a fantasy setting so I thought my next one should be a female. Luckily everything here just fell into place, the colours, pose, armour and everything. The male ones did not turn out as well as this one, which is why I did not upload them. However, they became a source of ideas and inspiration for me.

Inspired by Akali Snake Charmer piece, the idea came from a painting of one of those male Akalis, in whose background I had drawn a silhouette of an Akali with a really tall turban and armour spikes. So I cropped out the silhouette, enlarged it and started working on it.

This piece was obviously inspired by Akalis but Akali women never dress like this nor are they ever monks. This made it really exciting for me to work on it. I intended to push the fantasy style and context of this piece by adding armour pieces that are clearly unreal. It is not possible to fight in such large turbans either. (Hint: This is a fantasy piece NOT a historical one.)

This was a nice break from my Hari Singh Nalwa painting.

Click on the image to see the full version.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Painting Hari Singh Nalwa

Last month, I spent my time mostly working on Baba Deep Singh and all other works in progress. This month I did not work on other paintings, rather I studied Art (yes, it is something you have to study) and focused my attention completely towards Hari Singh Nalwa.

I have been making some changes to Hari Singh Nalwa. This painting just keeps getting better and more challenging. One could say it is growing up like a human child. It is currently a teenager, very difficult... at a stage where I must have a lot of patience with it.
For one I added some more canvas at the bottom, expanding the piece to show Hari Singh Nalwa's feet and the carpet below his feet, like in Ingres's Napoleon. That not only opened up the space, gave this teen some room to breathe but provided some opportunities to add in Indian carpets and other props like a shield and a musket.
Paintings start to "plateau off" (like a square-root graph, yay math!) after a while. The progress on them starts to slow down as more research is done and when more items and photographs are collected. This process itself makes the painting very valuable but this is where patience and persistence is necessary to keep the artist going. At this stage, the painting gets quite frustrating. Not only because of the additional research on small details but because the artist himself grows and his vision expands, at every new stage he has a better vision than he had before. So he continuously strives to turn the painting into his vision, and every time he thinks he's captured it, it escapes right before his eyes and becomes more magnificent. It is a never ending battle that I am also "fighting" with Baba Deep Singh Ji's painting.

I had stumbled across this video last year "In Praise of Steel". It was a recording of a presentation by historian Davinder Singh Toor. I thought it was very informative and quite entertaining to watch. I recommend it to anyone who does not know about Sikh history and also to those who think they know about Sikh history... to everyone really. In the video, he presented quite a lot of photos and paintings of Sikh related artifacts. And so when it came time to detail Hari Singh Nalwa, to work on the very minute but important bits, I felt I did not have enough resources, I contacted him and he was very generous to help me out with lots of references - these mind blowing close-up images of ancient Sikh weapons, helmets, armour and battle standards! I cannot thank him enough.


Going back to Ingres's Napoleon. I think it is an awesome painting, the design decisions he made, truly add a majestic touch to Napoleon as he sits on the throne. Napoleon is made to look like an emperor. Indeed it was painted when Napoleon rose to the throne. With Hari Singh Nalwa, 'majestic' is good but he is a general and not at Maharaja Ranjit Singh's level. So I removed the throne I previously had. Also because I did not find a single image with Sikh thrones looking like that.

I also found an old painting of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on his throne (though not the throne most of us might be familiar with). Now what was special about this painting was that wall behind him, had a design painted on it. I am experimenting to see whether it will sit well behind Hari Singh Nalwa. Also there are some tricky shadows and lighting in Hari Singh Nalwa that I am constantly dealing with. The shadows overlap some complex structures. Another issue is painting accurate carpet designs and the other designs and patterns.

Hari Singh Nalwa's going to have some designer clothing. ;) I noticed a lot of rich, high status men did not wear bland single-colour clothes, rather they wore clothes with patterns. They wore rings, plumes, with ornate armour. Not to mention, ear-rings... Yes, high-status men of this era are seen to wear big loopy earrings. Not sure if this trend started from or before the Gurus times, it certainly seems that way from the artwork I am looking at from the 1800s.

Some people pointed out how Hari Singh Nalwa looked very old in the speed painting. They are in fact, correct. Hari Singh Nalwa was 46 when he died, around Guru Gobind Singh ji's age, who was 42. In Hari Singh Nalwa's paintings, his beard is shown to be very grey at 46, and I suspect that even Guru Gobind Singh ji's beard would be very grey... if it was, it is a major flaw in previous paintings of Guru Gobind Singh ji. Even in my own Machhiwara scene, he should really have a more grey beard. Another small bit of info I picked up along the way.

Anyways, here's a nice big sneak peek at Hari Singh Nalwa. A lot of the engravings on armour and other designs e.g. on the battle standard, are still incomplete. The kara, ear-rings and musket are also incomplete. I end up going through many shabads, songs, videos, breaks, going-out-and-never-coming-back-to-it-for-several-days... while I work on these things. It can pretty tricky trying to curve the pattern around the gauntlet, for instance.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Painting Baba Deep Singh ji's Face

Well I have been meditating for a while now. And that's probably affecting my brain structure... well it IS affecting my brain structure. It's changing and so... stuff happens. *thumbs up*


(Lol, well I studied how the brain changes after many years of meditation for my class assignments. Maybe I will share some of that later.)

Anyways, been working on Baba Deep Singh ji at turtle's pace. I actually haven't worked on it in the past few days... That's because I have been feeling quite confused. The words "I don't know." are quite frequent in my head. (Though I still talk as if I know) Just a general feeling of confusion, combined with inactivity. There is peacefulness. Fulfillment. The confusion and inactivity is not something I detest. It's weird...

So as I worked on his face, my family members and other individuals commented on it, and gave some advice. Which I then tried out while painting. Basically, most people said he's gotta be looking angry, and some said he would be peaceful.

Enter in confusion et al. I believe (I think I believe this) that one would be very angry in a battlefield because well it's a battlefield. But after meditating and looking at people like Bhai Ghanaiya ji (who fed water to fallen soldiers because he saw the Waheguru in all of them... in the midst of a war, Battle of Anandpur, I think) I think maybe it's possible to be calm in a battlefield. And that maybe it's the hallmark of the elite soldiers... that they are calm in battlefields. They have gotten used to the conditions so it's nothing new for them. At which point, their emotions do not get into the way and so they can display maximum levels of skill and experience.

Now with that said, Bhai Ghanaiya ji wasn't getting charged at by 10 enemy soldiers. And he wasn't about to breathe his last breath. He was not scarred or with fresh wounds everywhere. He was not fighting. He was not in a war. He did not perceive war as we see war... I am not going to go that route, it's too hard to describe.

Point is a warrior is going to be in a battle. He is going to experience war. A battlefield is a very different environment than our normal lives. In our normal lives it's easy to be quite peaceful with calm faces (hint: meditate more often). A battlefield is a death bed. Emotions often provide great fuel for activity, for charging into battle, for hacking, slashing, and killing people. Chopping off limbs, smashing skulls... Now it seems a highly skilled meditator would be in control during his own emotional outburst that results in this gruesome scene. He may well be very angry but he is steady... and he may not be angry (that's allowed as well).

But would a skilled meditator, a wise being, have an emotional outburst? I don't know. I don't think one can know. We can only try to imagine what it's like.

So I am just going with it... whatever gets painted, gets painted. Not giving a hoot about diddly squat.

The first image is the very first ever. (Quick fact: There is only one print with this face out there. Someone from Dubai purchased a Large canvas print. At that time, I did not personally handle orders so if that was you and you are reading this, get in touch.)

I then added more beard because at this point in time, I felt his face needed more beard, and I was quite satisfied with this.

Recently I felt that the image can be significantly improved. I mean I have gotten better at painting, more skilled, more experienced (if that's what you call it). So I worked on it. Some input came in from people, my mind, etc. The number 3 is what I painted. Some more input came in from people, my mind, etc. and number 4 was the result.

At this point, my sister comes in and comments. So I sit down with her and I try a few things out to see if I could bring back some of the elements from #2 and all that battlefield stuff I was talking about. She adds in what she thinks would help. The result was #5. That's where it's currently at (I am still trying to figure out how that blood that is pouring out of the wound... how that will flow down his face. Will it flow towards the side? straight down? into his right eye? all of the above?)

At this point, you have the opportunity to give your own feedback. Which image? Is it working? Is it good? bad? Why? Just say whatever comes to mind.

I will meditate on it, and see how the face turns out when I paint it. Also I think I could benefit from all your perceptions of Baba Deep Singh ji. Everyone's got their own image, and although we cannot know what we are all thinking when we are thinking, we can get some hint of those thoughts and images. The more knowledge the better. Also, tell me what you like about Baba Deep Singh ji.

Ok almost 5 am. Going to go to bed. Goodnight

Friday, June 24, 2011

Monkey mind monkeying maround

Yep I am inventing a new word... I think, let me check...

*googles the word*

Never mind, there is already a word called 'monkeying'. What? You thought I was going to google 'maround'?... No! Obviously that's not a word, everybody knows that... I uh... googled that too...

'Monkeying' means to
1. Behave in a silly or playful way.
2. Tamper with.

Ok then... I will add my own personal number three to that.

3. Working on 5 or more paintings simultaneously, and not getting any of them finished for another couple of decades. *sigh*

That's pretty much what I have been doing for the past month or so. I have been working on Hari Singh Nalwa a little bit. I gathered more resources from people for that painting then began to make changes to things that were not accurately done. But more than that I have been working on 5 other projects, simultaneously. Paintings of the Gurus, Bhai Bachittar Singh(!), and Baba Deep Singh. You guys
already know about Bhai Ghanaiya and Vaisakhi speed paintings.

Baba Deep Singh?

Yes, been making lots of changes to it. By changes I mean painting over everything. I also tried several other compositions for Baba Deep Singh. Sticking to the basic idea and narrative, and Baba ji's pose (I love his pose as it is, it's got that leadership feel to it). I ended up with this crazyass, complicated painting, with lots of horses and horse archers. But I figured that is probably changing it too much, to the point where it will be like working on a whole new painting, which in turn will require a lot more time to finish.

So I went back to the original and just sat there and let the brush (pen on tablet... -_-) do it's thing. This is hardly different to what normally happens. I just sit there and the brush just goes on doing stuff. As it is doing it's thing, there would be moments where I would think - that's working! keep it going! Other at other times - meh... that's not... stop, stop... STOP! delete that layer, now. At the end of it all, usually 3-4 hours later, I feel exhausted.

How was summer Bhagat? Great! I just sat there staring at the monitor, watching a painting (or 5) being made...

Well, not really.

(First image: Guru Amardas ji in his old age. Second image: Detail from Baba Deep Singh. Third Image: Detail from Bhai Bachittar Singh.)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How do you kill that thing with a sword, seriously?

I had been spending some time playing video games. I had been taking breaks in between painting of Hari Singh Nalwa and replayed Prince of Persia... so this was inevitable... just like when I took breaks in between painting Guru Nanak and ended up with this.
I always wondered what would happen to a character if he/she was a Sikh. How might they develop? So I thought to myself, what if Prince of Persia was a Sikh? But with any character, I don't just end it there, I mean I don't just picture Prince with a turban and beard. What I picture is unique to me. Even though it is based on an existing character. It's not exactly that character if you know what I mean. The representation in my mind is what I see in that character. They say that there is a style inherent in everything, and that an artist merely seeks to capture this style onto the canvas. It is said that Renoir, a French Artist, stared out into the open sea, just gazing deeply into its waves. However, what came about on his canvas was not the sea... click here to see that painting (Viewers discretion is advised)
So I got to work, and did some concept art for the character. 'Patialvi Yuvraj' has this ethereal arm, a sort of celestial, magical arm that he receives once he is loses his own, in battle. It connects him to this other dimension from which the "material" of the new arm comes from. So not only can he travel between our dimension and this other dimension, his arm itself provides him with many skills and tools that he uses on his adventures... So although, the Patialvi Prince was inspired by the Persian one, he is somewhat of a different character... And although, the current name "Prince of Patiala" is a sort of an amusing, satirical name, the character definitely isn't. His story, personality and powers - available only to me currently - often revolve around in a fine mist in my mind. They are there as small floating water droplets that must be collected to get a glass of water because I am very thirsty right now. I will have a glass or two after I publish this post.
Aside from everything - this kind of thing simply gives me inspiration for my art. It gives me more reasons to draw. It gives me more to draw. It may not be novel but it stimulates my artistic juices. It grows within me. It (will) eventually lead me to create completely novel characters, inspired more deeply from Sikh religion, culture and aesthetics. Sikh religion, culture and aesthetics themselves have yet to bloom from the strife, disinterest and fanaticism that cloud them...

In this particular piece, I was studying anatomy when I drew the Prince. I took that anatomy and attempted to distort it with the Jinn. Ya I know Prince is running away. He's running away only to find platforms (in an arena?) to climb, walls to run, metallic hole things (that have been strategically placed there by the developers) to stick his dagger in ... he can make a dagger out of his ethereal hand, let's go with that... continuing on, poles to swing and columns to leap to, to finally get on top of the dude (Press X/ Swing Wiimote at the right moment) latch on with the weapon, climb up to the skull and grab his eyelid (God of War style) and spill the contents of the eyes in the arena. He will try and grab you, you gotta Press X/ Swing Wiimote again right when he does so... ... screw this here's the painting.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Going Deeper into Art

It is spring time and my university is all done. This summer I am planning on releasing Hari Singh Nalwa. I have been working on Hari Singh Nalwa quite a bit. Since a lot of the progress was lost, I have had to go back and really work at it. Also I realized it was a little mundane with him just sitting there, so I added some very relevant "props" to enhance his painting. So at this stage, I am ready to enlarge the entire image to about 7000 pixels and start detailing it out. Right now it can be printed at Large but when printed on 60" MASSIVE Canvas this will be a life sized portrait of him! It's going be awesome!

Now when I say university is done, I mean it's ALL done. I am going to graduate this year and earn my Biology degree. I guess that officially makes me a Biologist. But my mind is completely focused on art now. For three years I went through university thinking I would continue in the field and do art on the side. I was so focused on getting into medical school to become a Doctor. However, this last year of study, my mind did a complete turn, and I started thinking about doing art full time. That's right. Becoming an artist for a living! Now I don't know if I could do Sikh art alone. I would love to do Sikh paintings all my life but I think I might have a better chance doing other art. I love video games and working on them. one of my dreams is to create some of my own. Part of this dream involves me working with several major video games companies, and getting the experience I need for Sikh video games.
So last year of university I decided to go into art full time. There were several things that lead me to this change. One was simply because I was pretty good at it and very passionate about doing it. I have been painting all my life, and the more I painted that more deeply I got into painting.
The second reason came to me in philosophy class where we studied this philosopher Merleau Ponty. In a nutshell, his position was that art puts us into touch with the world. It expresses a truth about our perception. Our perception being a dialogue that takes place between us, the "observer" and our "environment". I think Ponty would say something akin to Indian Gurus, that there is no observer and environment, just the dialogue, just the perception. His main point was that art expresses truths about that perception, real truths. Whereas, science lays out a skeleton of the world, art lays out its flesh. So I thought that was kind of cool.
Along with that I realized that by shifting my attention between two or more things, it will become difficult to master either. I want to master art, become a master like Caravaggio or Rembrandt or Rubens, etc. I want to really get better at it. Art is one of those things that I would do even if I didn't get paid for it. Now of course, I still need money for sustenance and so I sell my work. But art is something that I can do without reasons. For me it just happens.
With all that in my mind, I decided to go to art school. I applied to Sheridan and got accepted into their Bachelor of Arts program.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Updates and Sikh Mod

Hi guys, yes, I could have blogged more but didn't feel motivated enough. I have been working on several paintings, both historical and fantastical one. (I actually started many more pieces but some were lost due hard drive failure. I have been much more careful about backing up my work since then.) I also started laying out some ideas for future games I might do. One of my dreams is to create some video games of my own, with characters that are designed by me, with Sikh characters, and so I regularly remember that dream and design characters and gameplay around it.

As I was in the process of doing this, I felt very motivated to work on a mod that I have been involved in. I started this back in 2009 when I felt like I had nothing to do. I always feel like that for some reason, even though I have a lot on my plate... it's full! When I first announced it, I made a new friend in the process and he got me started. I did not know squat about programming so I left that job to him. I would take care of the art, while he (enjoys math) would take care of the programming. He was actually thinking of a similar mod, and so was very quick to join me. With Sarbloh Warriors down, I saw this filling its spot.

We planned to mod the Sikh Empire for Age of Empires 3. Age of Empires is a real time strategy game where you choose one of many civilizations and take on the other civilizations in battle. The Age of Empires series is one of my favs and so this was very exciting.
Its second expansion has India already but a modern India. It has one Sikh unit to begin with, Chakram, a hoop thrower. That's right its main attack, it's only attack is to throw a Chakar (and to hit someone with it if they come close). Ridiculous, I thought to my self. The game was awesome, and Chakram was even cooler but it did not feel right when I played it. Udasi, a sub-civilization can train Chakram, a Nihang... a Nihang who does not use swords... you get the point...

So this winter, feeling very motivated, I got back to that mod, got back to playing Chakram, got back to altering the game files so that I could train more than 23 Chakrams! This winter, I took a deep breath and thought "This is it! If I can't give this guy swords..." I never finished the sentence, I don't think negative. "I can give this guy swords!" I thought positive and it paid off, Nihang was born. Though, this was just a Chakram with a sword. I later went back and 'modded' meaning modified the textures to make them look different.

This was a new step for me and I realized how easy programming this game was. Well, this was not REAL programming. This was modifying existing code (computer language that is translated into the game), well-written, easy to understand code.
So the next week, I was found living on my computer, except for maybe sleeping and bathroom breaks. I really got into it! I managed to create several units (the playable soldiers of a civilization) before that friend and I got back and shared code. (I still have to work with what he has already done, which was most units of the Sikh Empire). As an immediate reaction to his input, I started creating Maratha, Mughal and Afghan units. All of a sudden a rush in my energy levels and motivation made me very confident. I decided we will split the Indian civilization into Afghans, Marathas, Mughals and Sikhs. More units, more playing styles and more research that needs to be done... It is only now that I realize how big of a task it is to create even one civilization let alone four! However difficult it might be, my plan is to finish at least two. I am hoping we get a few other like-minded people to help us. If this ever gets finished it will be the coolest mod ever! Right now I am back at university and getting back to studying science but hopefully I will come back to the mod this summer.

Here's a screenshot of the mod, of Sikhs and Mughals in action. Click on it to see the full image. (We can only modify existing units, so I cannot make the different turbans more accurate than this)