Introduction: Creating Art From Scratch - "The Gazelle"

Picture of Creating Art From Scratch - "The Gazelle"

This is kind of an ongoing project for me, but I haven't really had the chance to work on it as of late, which is extremely unfortunate.  "The Gazelle" was my first creation, and I made it a while back so I don't remember the exact details.  It's one of those, "make it up as you go" kinda things, ya know?

Anyway, so I got this idea one day to make a zoo out of pretty much nothing and have these creatures on display, only they're modified humans.  The idea was inspired by my favorite artist ever, Salvador Dali, and his "Les Elephantes" painting.  (You know, the elephants with the long, skinny legs that will eventually be tattooed onto my side? - TMI, sorry.)

So I started putting it together.  There are 25 active Photoshop layers in the final result, (not including the initial modifications to the gazelle herself), 10 to put the gazelle in her surroundings, and 15 for the background.  It took me about 6 hours to put together, so if you plan on making something yourself, be prepared to stare at a computer screen for hours on end.

Step 1: The Gazelle

Picture of The Gazelle

Now, before I could put anything from the final image together, I had to create the gazelle.  It looks like a simple task to stretch out her legs, but let me tell you, it was much more challenging than you would think. 

Not only did I have to stretch her legs, but I had to prevent her body from stretching as well, so I selected the bottom half of the photograph to stretch.

*Note: the reason why the top part of the original photo has grey around the edges is because for part of the stretching process, I adjusted the camera distortion in Lightroom before taking it into Photoshop.

I used puppet warp for most of the stretching, but when you puppet warp half the image instead of the whole, the intersection where the two halves meet don't line up anymore.  On top of that, the feet distorted, her thighs became thicker and her butt lengthened.  Obviously, I didn't want this, so after using puppet warp for a TON of different adjustments, I went back in with liquify and tightened all of those areas as well as her shirt, arms and stomach.

In the last image, you'll notice that I took the time to cut her out and put her on a white background.  Why, if I was just going to put her on a different background anyway?  Because not only is she easier to select from white, but I could create my own shadows for her legs and flip her around.

Step 2: The Room - Step 1

Picture of The Room - Step 1

Now that I've got my creature, I need to create a room for her to live in.  Initially, I had the idea that my "zoo" would be a skyscraper with plexiglass on both of the broad sides and brick surrounding the short sides, so that's how I based my room.  You can see into it from the viewer's point of view, but you can also see through to the outside, (we don't want to be TOO inhumane and never let our creatures see the light of day, right?).

So I started with the basics.  The sky, walls, and floor, using the Vanishing Point filter, (filter > vanishing point).  Doesn't look very realistic does it?

Step 3: The Room - Step 2

Picture of The Room - Step 2

In order to make my room believable, I needed to add some tonality and light direction.  In order to make a successful composite, you need to make sure that your subject and background are lit the exact same way.  If your subject has a shadow on the right side, but your light source is also on the right side, it's not exactly believable, is it?

First I created the tonality, using various curves, vibrance and saturation adjustments.  Then while looking at my original photos of my model, (flipped of course), I used the dodge and burn tool to create my shadows and light.  On top of that, I also added some more grout to the bottom edge of both sides of the brick so that they looked seamless and blurred the sky a bit so it appeared to be more in the background.

Step 4: Now, the Gazelle

Picture of Now, the Gazelle

This step took the most patience.  When putting a composite together, you know there are going to be some differences in the lighting, regardless of how much you tried to match each photo.  In this case, I didn't take in the fact that I had changed the tonality and color shifts of the background, but not the gazelle, so when I first added her to the image, she stood out way too much, in numerous ways.

I started with the shadows and lighting adjustments.  The are very subtle, but without them, there is a huge difference.  Her feet looked like she was kind of floating over the floor rather than standing on it, and the light source on the left wall and floor didn't quite match the direction it was coming from on her face.  Again I used dodge and burn to fix these.

From here on, the rest was relatively easy.  I adjusted the tonality and colors yet again with even more curves, vibrance and saturation layers, and for the last and final image, I added a texture on top, (an old vintage paper texture, to be exact), which gives "The Gazelle" it's yellowy tones.

All in all, this project was totally worth the time I spent on it, and I look forward to creating the other "creatures" that will live inside my zoo. 

I hope this inspires you all to go out and make some art!!

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