When one of my agents mentioned process videos, I will admit that I had a bit of a freak out. I am such an intuitive worker that it’s hard to document a step by step process or anything I follow when processing my images. The other problem is that I often spend hours on an image going back and forth, playing.
What happens if I do this? What would this setting look like? A lot of times, when asking those questions and experimenting, the work takes me in a different direction than what I had originally intended.
When I started with Night Stalker, my original intention was a daylight scene with the silhouette set in. I start my edit in Lightroom optimizing the photo and making colour edits to set the mood. Then I’ll open it up in Photoshop and play around. It was then I thought it would tell a better story…..have more suspense….if it was a night scene. I had not done a complete day to night edit before so there was a lot of experimentation.
Anyhow, these videos require a bit of a learning curve on my part, so this is pretty basic and rough. I will be attempting to do more, and will hopefully improve on them.
I post images all the time of completed works, but never really talk about the technical aspects of making the image. Sometimes an image can appear to be quite simple, when a lot went into making it. Other times a complex looking image was very simple to do.
In the making of Shadow Soldier, I had drawn the silhouette of a military figure in vector format, and then was looking for the right setting to place him into. I am always trying to think like a storyteller, and how can an image help tell a story. What kinds of stories are being told and the characters that might be needed is always something I’m paying attention to. The suspense genre is popular, and I love making images for this category of literature.
I had originally been thinking of a night scene. Maybe a forest or barren landscape, but when browsing through my photo library, I spotted one of a darkened corridor of a brick building. A narrative instantly popped into my head. The image had some problems I would have to overcome in order to make it work. Mainly that it was in landscape format and had unwanted elements (either side) of the composition.
I wanted the figure placed towards the back of the corridor. Needing room for copy space, I couldn’t just crop out the sides and get to the right vertical dimensions needed for a book cover. I would have to ‘invent’ some of the top and bottom of the scene; make up the cement of the sidewalk and bricks of the building.
I took several hours to come up with a convincing recreation of the building to fit the correct format. I also wanted to simplify the fencing seen in the background by the window so the background of the soldier wouldn’t distract the eye. I used quite a few different brushes to try to match the wall on the left side in the background.
Then playing around with colours, curves, textures, and such, I arrived at a the following image which has a strong narrative and would be perfect for a thriller, suspense, or historical novel.
What is the narrative in your mind when you see the finished image?
I split my photography between photos for the wall decor industry and the book publishing one. When shooting for book covers, I need to adjust my thinking quite a bit from that of the fine art or decor market, which is more concerned with producing a pictorial image that can enhance a living space.
For the book cover market, I am looking for the story, or the potential story. There are times when the two can overlap, but I usually put myself into a different frame of mind for covers. Since I like a good mystery or suspense story, I often try to think in terms of that genre when out shooting. The resulting images often have a bit of a dark undertone to them. Like this bison skull, below. It has a clear bullet hole in the head. Overall the image tells a story that could be successfully used on the cover for a variety of stories, besides the stereotypical western genre.
The image below of the old fashioned workshop, could be used on the cover of a suspense novel. Perhaps a story about a mass murderer, or the disappearance of an important person. But it could just as easily be about the breakdown of a marriage. The loss of a grandparent, or a story set in the past. What about a story about a seemingly idyllic neighbourhood with a dark secret. Is it the caretaker?
Even seemingly random subjects can make great book covers. I would never have thought when I snapped a photo of our cat on the fence with a specialty camera set up that it would end up the cover of James Patterson novel, but it did.
The book cover industry engages my creativity and imagination and allows me to become a bit of a storyteller in seeking out and composing my images. It’s a job I truly love.
ORIGIN 1920s: from Spanish, contraction of duen de casa, from dueño de casa ‘owner of the house.’
In art Duende loosely means having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, often connected with flamenco. The artistic and especially musical term was derived from the duende, a fairy or goblin-like creature in Spanish mythology.
I saw a posting going around Facebook which states Duende is the mysterious power of art to move a person. While the definition may not be quite correct it’s a wonderful sentiment. There should be a word for such a thing, shouldn’t there?
As an artist that is the ultimate goal. To create work with soul, emotion, expression, and authenticity, which has a mysterious power to move another person. For as long as I live that is what I search for – that is the thing which I strive to create. Art is a continual process of learning, refining, experimentation, and play.
What is it that keeps the artist going? It is the search for that magical something – that duende which is different for everyone. We want to inspire passion in not only ourselves, but others as well. We want our work to move a person. The ultimate feeling of satisfaction comes not from awards or accolades, but from the story from that one person who was spiritually moved by your work. The irony of it all, is that the artist will rarely know when they’ve achieve a work having duende until it is placed before the public.
It is no surprise the earth…..mother nature…..the great outdoors, or whatever you want to call it, supplies the majority of my inspiration in art making. Even seemingly unrelated paintings receive the benefit of a little time spent outdoors.
Albert Einstein wrote: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
No truer words were spoken. When I am feeling lost, be it in art or life, I simply need to spend a little time outdoors to find my way again. Today I woke up feeling frustrated by yesterday’s studio time. Because I know we have bad weather on the way again and it will be a few days until Spring-like weather returns, and because it’s Earth Day, I decided to head outside for a walk in the woods with my Poodle, Rosie. I don’t even need to be outside 5 minutes before the heaviness of mind and spirit vanishes.
It helps to live in the country and have the wonders of nature at my fingertips. In the forest was a small flock of starlings. I laughed as I listened to their attempts to mimic the other birds, especially their fairly accurate depiction of a Red-tail Hawk. Off in the distance beyond the duck pond was a Red-winged Blackbird calling. My favourite sound of spring, right next to the call of our Sandhill Cranes couple who return year after year to nest in the bog hummocks behind our property.
After coming out from the forest, I spotted the pair in the horse pasture behind the house, so went to say hello. It’s my own annual festival of the cranes. A tradition that has gone on for nearly 10 years. Each year when the cranes return they feed in the pasture, and I go out – not too far mind you – and we spend time together. Me watching, them trusting and going about their business. They squawk if I move too quickly or come too close. We each know our boundaries and limits.
An hour or more can be spent in virtual silence together. The cranes trust has grown each year. Last year I was privileged to witness their mating. This year they came so close I could hear their footsteps crunching on the still frozen grasses. The photographer in me grabbed my camera first when I went out, but after I’d fired off several shots, I found myself wishing I would have brought my sketchbook.
Could there be any more perfect way to spend time on Earth Day than outdoors sketching or painting?
Feeling inspired, I am now eager to return to my studio. When I work out the problems from yesterdays painting session I think I’ll head back outside with my sketchbook and see what inspires me.