I was moving some stuff around today and I found a street photo I made back in January 2010. Hard to believe that was over five years ago now. This was one of the first 10×15 inch street photos that I made and it’s done in my classic cut and paste different photos into one big photo style. No words to go along with the image but it does have a title. “Subject Unknown”.
I’ve always face a little problem with my street photos in that none of these people had asked to be my models. They have no idea these photos even exist. They were all taken in public places but I still feel protective of people who didn’t volunteer or get paid to be my muses. So I’m always trying to find ways to work around their identities. It also helps me be creative. Plenty of other photographers make photos all about the model and the model’s identity or the model’s pretend identity so nobody will miss out if I make mine about obscuring the model’s identity. That trail eventually lead me down the path I use now with many filter recipes that give me different looks and effects over my photos. But before I developed those I did a few photos with this mask technique.
The rest of this photo follows an anonymous model technique too but that’s by giving the viewer little glimpses of a persons face and not the whole face. We see a nose and lips, pieces of arms, the back of a shoulder, and a figure off in the distance. I also uses blurry out of focus figures. I’m big on blurriness as one of the words in my photography vocabulary. Sometimes things need to be out of focus. It adds to the visual variety of a photo. I’ve actually made photos where everything is in sharp focus and they don’t turn out well. They lack a certain depth that the eye can move into. So blurry is as important as sharp. But I couldn’t make the main figures blurry to obscure their identities. Blurry can’t be the main flavor of the dish.
So I came up with masks. I draw masks all the time. I draw odd faces all the time. It was natural that I reach the conclusion that I should draw masks on the main people in the photos. I even thought it was an easy solution in that good old way where I think things will take way less time then they eventually do.
At first I thought I could draw the masks digitally. I opened the photo in Photoshop and proceeded to use my Wacom pen to try and draw the mask over the person’s face. It didn’t turn out as I’d hoped it would. I thought maybe if I drew it at a larger size it would be better but that didn’t work either. I just plain don’t have enough time in drawing digitally to get a real feel for it. I find the whole process clumsy. Drawing on a piece of glass with a tool that won’t do exactly what I want it too is frustrating to me. I’m sure if it was my job and I was doing it all day every day I’d get the hang of it soon enough but that was never my job. So I decided, once again, it would be faster to draw on paper and scan in.
Now the first thing I had to do was draw all those faces. This is easy enough to do digitally since it wouldn’t be a finished drawing. I just trace over the faces and then print that out in blue line to draw over. Though the faces are only an inch or so tall in the final photo I drew them at four to six inches tall. Each was drawn on a different piece of paper and then I scanned them in to be colored on the computer. Coloring a drawing on the computer is something I do all the time and am very comfortable with. It’s totally different than drawing on the computer. It took some doing to get the masks to fit just right though. If I remember correctly I had to warp and bend them ever so slightly in Photoshop to get them to look the way I wanted. They had to be in the right place compared to the hairline and ears while bending slightly around the jaw. That took more fiddling than I thought it would.
The last thing I remember doing to the masks is knocking back their layer opacity to 90%. That means the color is not quite solid. Ten percent of the face behind it shows through. That’s really not enough to notice any features or such but it makes the masks slightly less stark. They sure do stand out against their photo backdrops but a little less so with the 90% opacity. I went back and forth with that trying to figure out exactly how much if any of the background face I wanted showing through the mask but eventually I settled on very little.
Overall I like how this photo came out. I like the boldness of the masks paired with the boldness of the figures walking towards us. Plus it makes some sort of statement about our faces and the masks we wear on them. “My mask is my true face” are the words that go with one of my old prints and they can be used here too. What is real the mask or the face underneath? I don’t have the answers just the questions.
Either way I only did two or three of these masked photos. They ended up taking a lot of time to do. One of the reasons I like working with photos is that it’s a faster way of working with images than drawing or painting. I can get more done in the same amount of time. If the photo is going to take the same amount of time then it has lost its advantage. But looking at this on makes me want to do more. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to speed things up. Sure I will.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got nine new comics.
Check them all out here:
Here I go again with another trip to Bryant Park in NYC. This time I’m taking a different way in. Instead of taking a train into Penn Station from Nanuet I’m taking a train into Grand Central Station from Tarrytown. That means a little more driving an a more expensive trip. First off Tarrytown is across the Hudson River from me. That means taking the Tapan Zee Bridge. Any bridge means a solid chance of a traffic jam but on a Saturday morning at 9AM I didn’t run into one of those. Right now they are building a new Tapan Zee Bridge next to the old one. There are lots of big cranes along the span and a bunch of pylons have been sunk with cross pieces on them. Most of it was fenced off for safety and I was driving so I didn’t really get more than a glimpse.
It took about half an hour to get to the Tarrytown train station as compared to twenty minutes for the Nanuet one. The cost of a train ticket is more from here too. I just spent $20.50 on an off peak round trip ticket as compared to $16.50 from Nanuet. Plus there is the six dollar bridge toll. And you have to watch the Yankees schedule because Tarrytown has a pay parking lot that’s free on nights and weekends except when there is a Yankee game going on in the Bronx. Then it’s an extra six dollars to park. That’s why even with the inconvenience of having to change trains on the Nanuet line I usually take that one. The train also run more often in Tarrytown.
I’m on the train now. The good thing about this line is that the trains run a lot more often. There are two or three an hour as compared to one an hour over on the Nanuet line. This train also ends up at Grand Central Station which is a great building. It’s wonderful to travel through as compared to Penn Station which is a confusing ugly nightmare. It’s like it wasn’t even designed with humans in mind. What kind of crazy person designs the doors that a thousand people have to go through all at the same time to be two people wide? Penn is nuts. I was looking at some photos I took in Grand Central in 2013 that made me want to take this train again. So I did.
It’s also a very pretty ride along the Hudson River. I haven’t taken this line in a couple of years so I haven’t seen this view in ages. I think I’ll stare out the window for a while. Look the Palisades!
Now I’m in Bryant park. I made it in time to catch the last twenty minutes of the Saturday morning dance class in the park. It goes from 9AM until 11AM. That was my plan. I haven’t had a chance to shoot any of the dancers since last year so I’m glad I got the chance today. Now I’m resting for a moment because the sun is hot today. It’s in the low 80s so it’s not super hot but it’s not cool out there in that sun. I had some back pain yesterday but I rested up and am feeling much better today. Still I’ve got some twinges so I might have to take it easy. I wanted to walk down to 14th Street but I’m a little unsure right now. I’ll see how it goes.
I’m back on the train. Only one break to write in the park today. I kept busy but took breaks so I wouldn’t wear down my back held up well. I felt some dull pain early on as I walked around with me camera bag on my shoulder but it went away quickly. My camera bag isn’t even a real camera bag. I’ve had plenty of those before buy I find for me a day bag works best. I don’t really have a lot of camera equipment to carry but I do have other stuff. I don’t always carry my iPad but I have on my last two trips so the bag has to fit that. Plus I got one with a place to carry my water bottle. I have to stay hydrated on these hot July days so I carry my water. Then I also need room for my food.
My camera doesn’t even fit in the bag very well. I just kinda push the camera to the bottom. It distends the bag but is surrounded by padding so it’ll be okay for short trips. The camera is in my hand all day so it doesn’t matter that much if it doesn’t fit in the bag well.
I stuck to Bryant park today. I didn’t make it out of the area at all. The park was crowded and full of things to shoot. The library steps at the back of the park was especially full of people. I made a few laps of the park but I think I was enjoying taking photos of all the people on the library steps best. There seemed to be a wide variety of people all full of life.
I saved a little time to shoot some pictures in Grand Central but it was less than I planned. On my final pass at the library steps as I was leaving there were two weddings being photographed there. Lots of dressed up people posing. I was taking a few shots of the first wedding. They seemed to be Japanese hipsters. Japanese Americans I guess because who else would be taking wedding picture in NYC except the locals? Hipsters is only guess too because that’s how the bride and groom seemed to be dressed. I think someone was dressed as Elvis too. Hipster Elvis though. Not Vegas Elvis.
After shooting a few photos I turned around and was startled to see a dozen pink bridesmaid dresses. That was a lot of pink. The hipsters were more my style but I took some pink dress photos too. Finally dragging myself away I walked the couple of avenues east and caught my train.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.
Check them all out here:
I am a bit tired this evening as I write this. Just normal life tired but also tired from doing a lot of coloring on my “Ghost of Fifth Street” comic project. I had mentioned before that I was having trouble starting the coloring because I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do until I decided to keep it simple. That and it was a daunting forty two pages of coloring work.
I’m not a huge fan of coloring on the computer. Sure I do it all the time and once I start can get into it but I’d still rather paint and draw with real three dimensional tools. But often the computer is the most efficient and effective way to add color to something. Especially if that something is a digital project.
Normally it takes me a long time to color a piece on the computer. Always longer than I think it will. It’s mostly my art prints that I color on the computer and that could be why it takes so long. They’re not like coloring a sketch or a comic. An art print is a single image that’s got to stand on it’s own. That usually means that the color has to be just so. It has to say something in conjunction with the drawing and often the color is what holds the whole drawing together. It’s not uncommon for me to color a piece half a dozen different ways to get the one I want. And then I often do more drawing in the color. I build the color up as shapes and those shapes have to be drawn just right. I’ve had many prints that I wanted to color in a day take three or four days. It can really be a pain.
That’s why this forty two pages of coloring seemed really daunting. Was this really going to take me eighty days? That would be crazy. That’s when I finally figured out how to keep it simple. I just started adding flat color in Photoshop. No drawing with the color. That isn’t really needed either. My comic is not about the color like one of my prints is. I like it pretty well in black and white but wanted a color version too for some reason. Probably because more people will read it if it’s in color.
Keeping it simple means a lot of thinking though. It means I have to make the color work right here and right now and not leave anything to be decided in the future. Sure I can add technique over it later on if I want to but that’s not a necessity. I’ve got to find the right colors to define the drawing’s space right now. That was my task.
I fell back on the very old technique of doing the background first. That’s how paintings have been done since the beginning of painting. Work from the deep space forward. And lots and lots of neutrals. That was key. Neutral colors are earth tones. Browns and greys of every hue. They are what you have to set up so that all the bright colors can stand apart from them in the way you want. It’s essential to learn how to work with neutrals. They are also very safe and if you overdo it with them can make things boring. I’ve seen a lot of boring pictures where the artist was too timid with color.
I started with the skies. Somehow that was the key to me getting things done. I figured out what color the sky was going to be in each panel it appeared. Turns out I had a lot of skies in my drawings for this comic. I didn’t want them to all be the same color blue so I mixed it up. I had a few different shades of blue, some more blue/greens, oranges, and some occasional pinks. Clouded skies were done in shades of those colors. Once I had the skies all colored things didn’t seem so bad.
After the skies I moved on to the other background objects. That was where I did most of my work with the neutrals. Sometimes it was objects, buildings, and landscapes and sometimes it was design elements. I had a few pages that were full image splash pages made up of lots of figures and design elements. Not so much a real space but more like one of my art prints. I kept it simple and didn’t do any drawing with color on these pages so they went along fine like the rest.
But what is the reason I’m tired you ask? Because I have been knocking out these pages like a crazy person. It seems that once I make my mind up to do something I have to put everything else aside and get it done. Every spare moment for the last three weeks has gone into getting this coloring done. At first I was getting a page a day done. It was taking about two hours a page. Then as the pages pilled up I could see that there was an end down the road. Some days I was able to get two pages done and on the weekends three pages a day. All my other art got pushed to the side as I did more and more coloring. It was a little frustrating because I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I wasn’t even trying to get three pages a day done on the weekend but couldn’t get anything else done so I kept going back to it. I’d call it obsessive but I’m really not a very obsessive person. It was a little annoying though since I couldn’t switch from project to project as I often do but once I settled down and got more and more done I was okay with it.
I’m especially okay with it now since I only have two pages to go. It’s hard to believe I’ll be finished soon. Another stage down.