This grim, noir-ish picture came to be that way almost by accident.
The source photo for this pic was a fairly typical “fashiony” sort of thing that just had a guy lying on the floor with his arm extended toward the camera. In the original, his eyes were open and wore a “coaxing” expression. The photograph was a bit cheesy, in other words. The lighting was very good though, and arm juxtaposed with the angle of the torso created some good dynamic tension.
I stared at the original for a while.
While staring, I thought, “How could this picture be flipped to suggest a much more interesting situation?” So, with the slightest modification to the guy’s eyes (now closed) and the addition of another character, some action could be implied.
What exactly is the nature of that action? It’s for you to decide. But it doesn’t seem completely benign. The main question would have to be”
- Why is that guy lying there?
- Is he, or is he not naked?
- Is the guy in the green pants friend or foe?
If you also had the fourth question in mind: how did this picture get created, then read on…
It started – as it almost always does – with a line drawing:
This was done with a pressure-sensitive brush tool set to about 30% opacity. That’s why the areas of overlap look darker. (the signature came much later).
Then, it was time to solidify the shapes and establish the values.
This was all done on a separate layer. It started with a thicker brush, still at 30% opacity, and took two separate sessions on two separate evenings to complete.
I didn’t like the direction the shading was going toward the end of the first night, so it was time to put down the stylus and approach the picture fresh the next day. This time around, I used a variety of gray shades, but each 100% opaque this time, to add a bit more bulk and certainty to the piece. I liked it better.
You can see the roundness – the volume – of the forms better now. Also, the shapes are less sketchy. The head an the body especially have much surer contours. The size and positioning of the head is probably one of the biggest changes that came in this phase, as well as the curve on the underside of the torso.
The arm, too underwent a sort-of-subtle, sort of major shift, too. In the original drawing, it has a heavy, limp quality that captures an almost languorous lack of muscle control. Completely unintentionally, the gray-scale version of the arm makes it seem stiffer, as though the muscled are struggling somewhat, or contracting. I have my preference, but neither one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’: each one just puts a different spin on the story.
The colors were next. They were mainly established the first night.
It’s funny how they end up actually describing the forms pretty well on their own. This layer was never meant to be anything more than “filling in between the lines”.
The way it works is these colors are on their own layer, on top of the the b&w layer. Then, a property called “multiply” is added onto the color layer, which makes it react to the brightness and darkness of the image underneath. That’s how you get the combination of the two layers. I’m not an expert at this yet, but working on it.
The result is a scene out of a hard-boiled 50s detective novel, with my typically lurid color scheme. Some stuff is working really well in the picture:
- The shape and description of the hand
- The foreshortening of the arm, torso and head
- The overall layout of the shapes
- The mood
Other things I would do differently:
- The sketchy quality of line – I had wanted something smoother
- The darkness – there’s an awful lot of almost completely black passages, which gets overpowering.
But sometimes those very shortcomings can become a pictures foremost charms. Who am I to judge?