I’m affiliated with the Dark Realm Collective (DRC), it’s an art group that specializes in Dark / Horror / Supernatural subjects – the group was founded October 2014 by Matt Seff Barnes. As a collective, we release four ‘art packs’ a year; each pack has a title, and a selection of five ‘themes’ for the artists to choose from.
This easter we used witches as our theme. With a few theme-titles to choose from and to spark our imagination.
what about themes?
I used to be very active on Flickr back in the day when I was doing my 365 projects, and we played photo games in groups where we had theme-of-the-week, theme-of-the-month or any group that had themes.
Especially when you’re doing a daily self-portrait, inspiration sometimes fails. So falling back on themes can be a big help.
Working with themes is a great way to start creating images. Its a good exercise for storytelling through images. If you ever feel uninspired or feel you don’t know what to make, pick a theme, any theme. It can be an upcoming holiday, a favorite movie you like or a book you loved reading as a kid.
Start from there and then let go, let the theme be your guideline. It doesn’t need to be followed to the letter, just let it help you focus in a direction.
So back to the witch..
Every time a new DRC-art pack is made, the makers are given a few titles within the theme. I always throw these titles in the googles and see what comes up. Sometimes I even learn something new ;-)
I never let the titles dictate my image, but the research does help.
So I needed to make something witchy happen. But no matter what I tried I couldn’t really find a good image in my mind to create. Now this usually happens when I have a lot on my mind, which at that moment I did. But I was confident something would turn up. Deadline was looming.
Then I got a facebook message from a fellow crazy photographer Laura Marijn, whom I still hadn’t met. She asked when we could meetup, and we planned a studio date at her place.
We talked a lot, and then set out to shoot some images. Still not having a clear idea what I was going to make, we searched through her props to see what we could use. Since we never met I wasn’t sure what I could produce with her, but we just went with whatever came up.
We found a few bags of moss, wood and more natural looking stuff and using some tape and some great laughs (tape doesn’t stay stuck to skin for very long), she managed to transform herself into a beautiful looking forest creature.
Perhaps this was going to be my witch themed image. We took the photo’s and had a really good time shooting in her studio.
So now I had my photo’s, I still didn’t have the complete image in my head. I culled through the shots and found one that looked serene, yet a bit menacing. (It needed to be a dark image, if I was going to use it for the Dark realm Collective)
I started drawing my way around the photo with a sketchy brush. And at the same time sampling colors from the original photo’s to blend it all together. By sketching I allow myself to quickly create a compelling composition and have room for experimentation.
I also draw in a red guideline on a separate layer which acts as my composition guide for symmetry and flow.
Once I’ve fleshed out a basic composite I start collecting textures and images to replace the crude sketch-lines and build a more realistic scene.
My textures came from different sources, some are from online searches others, like the smoke are from the texture store
You can watch the process in the video below.
- if you’re lost for inspiration, start playing with themes. Use them as guidelines to spark your imagination.
- Sometimes its nice to not plan a shoot, but just let things happen, oh and props do help ;-)
- when starting a composite, draw your guidelines that define your composite in a separate layer, it helps to build a “readable” image for your viewers and gives you guides to focus on.
- try your hand at sketching on a photo, just try things and experiment. It helps if you have a background in drawing though.