Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Blog Topics

Ok, I am an artist, not a writer...

In this my first blog, I reconstruct a photomontage originally created by Belgian photographer Koen Demuynck.



Ok, I'm an artist, not a writer......

About a year ago, I took an English class at our local community college. Having a real distaste for the English classes that I was forced to endure in high school, I had serious misgivings about taking the required class. I soon found out that I really enjoyed writing. The assignments that were given me sparked my imagination, and I realized that I was just as creative in my writing as I am when I am doing an oil painting, assembling imagery in Photoshop, or taking a photograph. I have been writing ever since, and I am about thirty thousand words into a manuscript for my first novel. My goal is to be finished with the book within six months.

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed for a teaching position, in which the instructor ( me ) would teach a week of photography, and two weeks of Photoshop. While I truly am an expert in both, I did not get the position. I assume the other applicant may have been less nervous than I. I am great at what I do, but when it comes to speaking in front of a group, big or small, I get stage-fright.

I was given the task of speaking about composition, and how it relates to photography, and I put together a twenty minute power point on the subject. In the course of my on-line research, I perused quite a few photography web sites. One site, which I thought was just outstanding, was that of a photographer named Koen Demuynck. In his recent work, he builds these wonderful montages of ( stacked up ) animals. The motion in the image of horses on his home page reminds me of a Frederic Remington painting on steroids.

I have been thinking about beginning a blog for quite a while. There are the obvious reasons for blogging, one of which is getting to a higher place on the search engines. Those little internet spiders love words, and a site with more imagery than words, lays around in cyberspace anonymity. I had to have more of a reason to write than just SEO, but I was not sure what my topics should be.

After putting a lot of thought into the teaching of digital photography and Photoshop last week, the idea occurred to me to begin by writing about how I would approach the creation of an image, whether it is a photograph or a painting. So, my plan is to begin with a study of :

Koen Demuynck's image of a pile of elephants

koen demuynck's elephants

and see through the reconstruction of the same type of image, how I would approach the task. You can find his image at the link above, and scroll to his recent work section. When I was last there, it was image three.

Over the next couple of weeks I will build a similar image, one step at a time, and see how the whole thing comes together. The image I will put together will not take three weeks to complete! In real life it might take a matter of hours, but I will be putting a lot of screen shots of the imagery and menus to help the reader understand what I am doing. Kind of a "Photoshop" school.

The obvious beginning would be to bring my camera to a local zoo, or run away from home and travel with a circus to capture elephants in all sorts of various poses, but being as it is right around zero here in Chicago, I will have to settle for what I can find on the internet.

Step One: Find the Elements

What makes Koen's image work, is that all of the hues in the image are very close together. The sky is nearly the same color as the elephants. This marries the entire composition into something which at first glance seems believable. A closer look reveals that the image is "photographed" from a low angle which elevates the elephants. So, I will first find a foreground and sky that I can use for the image that I will be building. I always begin with a background, whether I am painting in oils, or composing digitally. Rather than going out with my digital camera and photographing the snowy ground and grey sky, I will google something like "Serengeti plains" and see what I come up with. When searching for imagery, I refine the search so that the images are larger than four megapixels.

icons of searched images

Step Two: Get the image size and build the background

After finding two images that I can use for the foreground and the sky, I copy and paste the Demuynck image to the image of the sky. I then resize the file with snap to document bounds and snap to layers checked in the crop tool. The resulting size is 4000 pixels wide and 2033 pixels tall. With the proper dimensions, I will begin to build the image. I was also sure to have the crop tool set to "hide" rather than "delete". I drag a guide to the place where the horizon lies in the Demuynck image.

The images below show the approach I have taken to begin to get the "feel" of the Demuynck image. Image number one is the image i begin with. In the subsequent layers I build, I flip the sky resize it larger, and multiply it on itself to build the drama. I also resize the foreground and blur it as it moves towards the horizon line. ( image #2 ) I then use the original Demuynck image as a color layer to cause the layers below to be the same hues throughout. (( image #3 )

retouching step one

The resulting image of the background

Step one finished

Step Three: Start putting the elephants in!

elephants added

This was a little harder than I thought it would be. The actual outlining was easy, but finding enough elephants on the internet was difficult. I placed twenty-one elephants in the file. Now I have to do a lot of dodging and burning so that the elephants look like they are all lit the same. I also have to add shadows where they belong. In the original Demuynck image, the elephants are back lit, so there are passages of equal value which help the composition as a whole. There is also some dust flying in the original to give the viewer a sense of motion. So I still have some work cut out for me.

Step Four: Finishing Touches

finished montage

With the shadows in place and the dodging and burning complete, the image is finished. You can see the image in a larger size by clicking on the image above. if this were an actual production job, I might have taken greater care in the outlining, and there would probably be better imagery to start with, but when all is said and done, it didn't turn out all that bad. My thanks go out to the original artist, Koen Demuynck, It was his imagination which inspired the demonstration.

Site design by G. Brauck Creative Arts LLC