Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bit by bit ... putting it together ...

This Side Up work-in-progress

Here’s my sketch in indigo acrylic, the first step in my painting for this week’s "Balance" Challenge on Daily Paintworks.

Having been a graphic designer and illustrator for my job for almost 30 years, I really like the “assignment” feel of these challenges. Especially this one. I’m treating it like an illustration assignment. Here’s a little bit of how my thought process went on this one:

First I wandered about the house a bit, looking at stuff. What could I stack up that would be interesting and different from what everybody else was doing? Hmmmm. I thought of pillows. I thought maybe a stack of books with a cup of coffee on top. Paul said he could balance some books on his head if I wanted. Hmmm. Books ... books ... I was really starting to like the books idea.

Then, as I was passing by one of the bookcases in the upstairs hall I remembered that weeks and weeks ago when I was organizing bookcases up there, Bailey had climbed into a box that was sitting precariously on top of a stack of books on one of our MIT library chairs. No, we didn’t steal the chairs from the MIT library; Paul’s dad bought them decades ago at a sale when the library was getting new furniture. Then he gave them to Paul. Now they’re Paul’s and mine and I love ’em.

ANYHOO, back to our story. I remembered that on that occasion I had taken a couple of pictures of Bailey in the box on the stack of books on the chair. Soooo ... to the computer!

After browsing for just a few minutes in my folder labeled “cats,” I found the subfolder called “cats and books.” I’m so organized. Only virtually, though. My real-world office/studio is a mess right now. And so, I found the photo:

Hooray! But the lighting was pretty boring, so I decided to re-create the situation in a prettier setting, with more interesting light and a more colorful stack of books. Soooo ... to the dining room!

I put together this set-up and, using a print-out of the original photo as a guide for the angle, took several photos.  I wanted to get the angle of the chair and the box as close to the original as possible, because Bailey was sure not going to cooperate and pose in the box again, so I was going to copy her from the original photo and add her to this photo for a reference. I chose the books mainly for color, but they happened to be books I like, so that’s a bonus.

Douglas Martin’s The Telling Line, a collection of essays on book illustrators; Life in the English Country House (I love stuff about bygone days in England); Breathless by Dean Koontz, which is very good and suspenseful and funny and, best of all, as is Dean Koontz’ frequent custom, one of the key characters is a dog -- plus it’s orange, perfect to complement the bluish books in the stack; my Bible from my college days, Spoon River Anthology, an American classic; and Murder Ink, a mystery reader’s companion (I love a good mystery ... it exercises the little grey cells).

Everything was all set to put together, but when I put Bailey in the photo, the lighting was totally wrong on her. I had to look for a photo of her where the light was coming from behind her. Soooo ... back to the photo archives. Folder: Cats, subfolder: Bailey.

Aha! (By the way, don’t you just love how the pencil container behind her is positioned just right so it looks like she’s wearing a little crown with pencils and scissors on top of her head? Try to imagine it -- it’ll make you laugh.) This photo is just the thing! Except she’s lying down.

Here we go! But she’s really blurry. And she’s facing the wrong way.

So I used just her head from the baskets photo, added it to this body (it didn’t really matter if her body was blurry, at least the light was right), flopped the photo so she’d be in the correct position for the composition, and, using my original Bailey-in-a-box photo for reference, sized her and cropped her to look like she was sitting in the box ... 

... et voila! I didn’t tweak the lighting on her body, so I know it looks obviously Photoshopped in this photo, but that’s ok; it’s still a fine reference photo for the illustration I have in mind!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow!! What a wonderful method this is. I am gonna start snapping pictures right and left and saving them to use like this. I love this idea. I have often taken pictures and thought hmm. . .some of this picture works and some doesn't and just moved on to the next. Not anymore! Wahoo for you and your sharing!