Saturday, May 26, 2007

Teach Me To Fly

I started this digital collage about 11pm last night, not usually the best time to start new projects. I was up until 2:30 am looking for just the right images, and then finished it this morning. ATC size (what's an ATC?), done in Photoshop CS2, with the sky photos from stock.xchng and all the vintage images from one of my Flickr groups.

For fellow Photoshoppers who might be interested, here's the process I went through for this piece:

1) I started with the road map and the eclipse line drawing (in sky), thinking they'd be good background material. At this point, I had no theme or message in mind -- just wanted to play!

2) Next I found the B&W aviator photo. I liked his broad smile and imagined him as a barnstormer at the frontiers of aviation. (Maybe the goggles reminded me of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, fresh in my mind after a week-long Bullwinkle video marathon with Gavin.) He was extracted from his original background, levels corrected, de-specked, and face brightened. For some reason, I knew right away he needed a color gradient, and chose this one.

3) The aviator suggested a flying theme, so I searched for some other images to do with flying. The swift was an obvious choice, and when placed in the upper left corner, the aviator seemed to be admiring him.

4) I found a clipart advert from the 40's with an airplane and "Learn To Fly". But when placed in the composition, I found it didn't work so discarded it.

5) I had an old drawing of detailed bird wings, and I turned two different wings into brushes. Though I'm tired of all the winged ladies and children in popular art these days, I thought one of the wing brushes added a nice level of detail when used with a brown color and the level's opacity reduced.

6) At this point, I liked the elements but the composition still needed work. Remembering the "Learn To Fly" clipart, I changed that idea to "Teach Me To Fly" as a theme: the aviator looking to one of nature's premier flyers for guidance.

7) After finding images of gyroscopes, astronomy maps, etc., it was very late and time for bed!

8) In the morning, adding more line drawings (like gyroscopes and astronomy maps) seemed like way too much detail. I had a brainstorm about blue sky with fluffy clouds fading into a starry sky, and found some suitable photos on stock.xchng. The photo merge effect was achieved with gradient layer masks (had to consult my Scott Kelby book to refresh my memory on this technique!) and was so pleased with the result that I then blended in the background road map at the bottom too.

9) Now with the dark sky at the top, my original swift and eclipse drawing were too dark and got lost. I fixed that by inverting the coloration on the swift (that so rarely works successfully, but I liked the somewhat ghostly result this time) and changing the black lines of the eclipse drawing to a gradated white to dark grey.

10) Looking good so far! But the lower left still seemed to need something, and some of the road map lines didn't jibe right with the lines in the eclipse drawing. I moved the map around until I got a major road line to lead up from the left to the center of the eclipse drawing -- it seems to add movement and draw the eye inward.

11) I wasn't sure about adding the words "Teach Me To Fly", but tried out some ideas and fonts just to see. I like this version following the shoulder line, in a casual almost hand-stamped sort of font. Black was way too dark, but a nice mauve-grey made it blend in much better.

12) Serendipity: a layer with my "reserve" copy of the swift was peeking through the background layers, forming a little shadow under the green swift and better defining his lower wing. (I usually have a reserve copy of each image in the document until I'm sure I like what I've done with the original layer, then delete the unused copy layers at the end.)

13) Finally, I added a very narrow frame all around the image with the Stroke option, and gave it a slightly metallic blue-grey bevelled layer style... just because I can in Photoshop.

1 comment:

Frère Gare said...

Very cool... nice work! Next time, consider working as large as the images will allow so you could make a larger print or postcard instead of limiting yourself to ATC size. :)