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Exercise 3.3: Image Development

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

This exercise asked me to explore new contexts through cropping an existing image of a busy scene. The choice of image sources that I could use was wider than usual, including any choice of another artists work as one of the options, however as I prefer to use my own photos whenever possible, I found this photo I took on a visit to York of a street with lots of activity to focus in on.

My chosen image of a busy street scene in York

The exercise originally suggests printing off multiple copies of the image to crop using L shaped card viewfinders, but as some other students have also commented in their logs, this seems a bit counterproductive as the same effect can be achieved using digital software to save on paper. Although arranging elements manually during exercise 3.1 had it's advantageous for me in that case, on this occasion I decided use Adobe lightroom to crop and export the 10 different versions of the images with ease.

I made sure to reflect the method that I would have used with the L shaped sections of card by using custom ratios to freely crop the content and didn’t exclusively use the default aspect ratio. I ended up with the following 10 images, named using the words that I most associate each with.

I’ve edited this way before to change scenes in photos on a subtle level, but I was surprised at just how much I could change the content through more extreme cropping. I found that I could shift the focal point of the image entirely by excluding and including different elements such as buildings and architecture to social scenes of people.

Out of the selection, I was asked to title each one and to pick a favourite to adapt into an illustration. I liked a lot of the discoveries made in the scene, particularly of people going about their day, but the figure that stood out to me as the most interesting was the woman that appears in Distracted. She sits on a bench seemingly alone, perhaps simply taking a break or waiting for someone else, but in any case she’s disconnected from her surroundings as she looks intently at her phone.

Although I initially centred her in the Distraction image, she also appears in the background of Lamp. My first instinct was to frame her the same way as I normally do by use some of the elements from lamp to surround her to symbolise the distractions but following my feedback, but I wanted to change my compositions and approach into something different to what I'm used to by considering the hierarchy of the full scene.

From my rough sketching, I decided on option 3 which used Lamp as a basis for the main image while still keeping the woman on the bench as the main focus in the bottom left of the image by washing out and loosely detailing the objects she is not paying attention to in the background.

The lamp running down the centre created a natural looking divide in the environment to help to box her in underneath the tree, so I adjust some of the placement of some of the elements outside of this space to exaggerate the crowded feeling of the world around her and to make sure the lines naturally led your eye to where she was sitting quietly in the frame.

Roughly sketched composition ideas.

I initially tried watercolour to try and achieve the loose painting effects that I wanted, but I had difficulty blending and layering the colours. I'm not well versed in watercolours and ended up overworking some areas that didn't balance the way I had envisioned in my head. I wanted to avoid restarting completely as I was worried about losing some of the improvisations i had made with object placement, so I retraced for a second attempt.

This time, I made sure to fully block out the full background before painting and discovered a useful effect when I would break up and disconnect the lines as slightly more impressionistic gestural marks for objects further away from the focus of the woman on the bench. This sent objects further into the background and provided a contrast to the connectedness of how I had illustrated the woman on the bench.

When it came time for painting again, I used a wider choice of lightly applied watercolour pencils for the base colours, then added layers of regular watercolour when i felt it was needed for some extra definition. Unfortunately, although this worked much better in making a subtle background, I quickly overworked the women's cardigan once again and added to my frustrations.

Attempt 1 | Attempt 2

After admitting defeat using traditional means on this occasion, I turned to using a program called ArtRage as a digital solution. I've rarely used it and never for a full piece, but it simulates the motion of paints fairly effectively in the right hands and proved to be what I needed to have full control over the softer tones and faded background that I had planned. I could now quickly plot and adjust the colours on the fly to create something that felt very different to my usual style.

Experimenting with digital colour and background opacity. From left to right: 100% | 70% | 50% | 0%

Having the image digitally coloured granted me options to adjust the background opacities until I found one that struck the balance between guiding the eye towards the woman on the bench as the main focal point on the picture, yet still providing interest in the background to the viewer that she is unaware of herself. In this case and after some consideration, 70% background opacity looked the best to me as the colours are still warm here, but also muted to provide contrast with the vividness of the tree, the bench and the woman on her phone.

For the final part of the exercise, I needed to add text to my image to add to form a title that matched the Distracted theme as a poster. Phones are can be the cause of the distraction for many of us, including the main character in the illustration, so it made sense to me to emulate the a common messaging style in a blue chat bubble using the (font).

The title placement was trickier than I thought as I didn't want the title to interrupt the flow of the picture and (ironically) distract from any other elements. After some trial and error I found that situating it just above the tree at a size around the width of the focus points below it meant it wouldn't interfere with the rest of the frame whilst still becoming an active part of the narrative.

The final titled poster. "Distracted"

I am disappointed that I couldn't realise this idea using traditional methods for this exercise, though it has shown me that I need to improve my ability through practice using a wider range of watercolour techniques and to make the most of the mediums unique properties. Despite this hiccup, I am still proud to have realised this idea in the end by taking some steps out of my comfort zone that break away from my regular art style.

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