Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tuesday Afternoon - The Evolution of the Design

The Inspiration

A couple of years ago I drew a quick sketch that I stuck away in a sketch book and forgot about.  A few weeks ago I was going through my old sketches and it caught my eye.  As I was looking at it, a finished piece started to form in my mind.  I imagined a faerie sitting on a the hands of a clock with a couple of birds.

The sketch itself had some problems and needed some work, so I spent a few minutes fixing those issues and went looking for reference material for the final piece.

The Elements

I can't remember life as an artist before the internet and Photoshop.  I must have blocked it out because life is so much easier now.  What used to take hours at the library searching for reference material and possibly days drawing and redrawing to come up with the perfect design can now be done in a very short time.

I sat at my trusty laptop and searched for three things: a clock face, doves and wings.  I found three images that I liked and saved them.  I separated the doves from an image that contained several birds and started putting the image together.


The composition of a piece of artwork is as important as the composition of a great piece of music.  All of the elements must work with each other and they must fit into a framework that is pleasing to the viewer.  Centuries of studying great artists have lead to the discovery of the use of the Golden Mean.

The Golden Mean, or Golden Ratio, is a geometrical concept derived from the mathematical Pi.  There are tons of websites that describe how it all works on a mathematical level involving the Fibonacci Sequence.  But for our purposes on this site, I am simply going to show you what it looks like when drawn visually.

So what does this have to do with artistic composition?  For some reason that has yet to be accurately explained, the human brain absolutely loves this visual design.  The eye follows the spiral line to it's natural conclusion and everyone is happy.  Have you ever noticed that vacation snap shots tend to be boring, but professional images of the same locations can be stunning?  We live in a very ordered society.  Everything has to be compartmentalized, labeled and put in its place.  So when we take a snap shot we try to do the same thing.  We put our main subject directly in the center and the horizon line exactly halfway down.  The professional photographer does not do that.  They almost always have the main subject off center and the horizon line is never in the middle.  The closer the photographer composes his shot to the Golden Mean, the more appealing his final image will be.  The same goes for art.  It doesn't matter what direction the spiral is going, but the elements in your final design should always follow its lead.

With all of this in mind I started putting my elements together in Photoshop for a first draft of the design. I liked this ok, but it did not have the dynamic pop that I was looking for.  It did not express the emotion that I was wanting to present and the faerie, as well as the doves, got lost in the mass of purple I used for the clock face.  It did not looks so much like constructed work of art as it did a really weird acid trip.

I also noticed that I put the clock hand right across the middle.  Essentially putting the horizon line exactly where I was not supposed to put the horizon line.

Finally, the image was very top heavy.  The bottom of the image was just empty space.

Fixing the design

The first thing I decided to do was to create my own clock face instead of relying on photo reference from the internet.  This was simple enough to do in Photoshop.  I'm not going to go into detail here about how to use Photoshop, there are lots of tutorial based web sites that will give you all of the information you need to know.  Once I got the clock face created I decided that instead of making the whole thing one solid color, I would turn the clock face itself into a stained glass window.

I remembered one of my art books having a tutorial on how to create stained glass using watercolor.  So, I scanned an image from that book as an additional element to my composition.  I knew I was not going to use this exact stained glass design for my final image, but this would at least allow me to do a mock-up to use as a guide for my finished piece.

I found a different reference for the wings.  I did a LOT of distorting a duplicating in Photoshop to get the wings to look exactly the way I wanted them.  Then I had to deal with the empty space at the bottom.  The faerie obviously had a piece of fabric wrapped around her body, so I decided to continue that fabric into a long drape that she was sitting on.  A quick web search resulted in a window drape that worked nicely with a bit of tweaking and distortion. 

Final Draft

So here is my final draft.  In future postings I will talk about the processes of designing the stained glass, transferring the design and how to bring each of the elements to life.