Simple Digital Art: A Specific How-To

Good evening.

It’s a dark, windy, rainy night here and I have just finished a piece of art-as-a-gift I thought I’d share with you. Not only will I share the finished piece, but because it was all done with photographs and Photoshop, I thought it might be fun to share the process, to show how simple it can all be.

Here’s the finished, yet untitled piece. It is for my guitar-playing nephew, for his birthday.

Rock and roll!
Rock and Roll, the heavy way.

This finished piece is actually a compilation of multiple, manipulated photos taken in my basement within the space of ten minutes. Canon EOS 60D on a tripod. No flash. Electronic remote control.

The first shot taken was the headshot. This is simply me making an angry face while wearing my wife’s steampunk wig.

It's the hair, man!
Heavy Metal Timmy!

Next came the skull. Much easier than you think, because in my vast collection of shit and paraphernalia, I have a skull or two. This one is actually an aquarium prop from Walmart and cost less than $20. I made sure to take the skull at the same angle and in the same light as the face shot. I also had to blacken in a hole in the back of the skull where it looks like a large calibre bullet passed through. Yes, it’s one of my favourite props. 🙂

Aquarium prop skull
Aquarium skull

Since I wanted the face in the image had to be younger than my 53 and have a full, black goatee (and not just my greying red Beatnik chin fuzz), this had to be added. I knew that fine detail would be lost in the final piece, so rather than spend months getting each strand of hair perfect like the animators at Pixar would, I went for the quick and easy fill-it-in solution.

Angry rocker with beard
Making the beard black and full.

This next part is my favourite part because whenever I do it the images freak out my friends and family. The effect is very cool. I copied the image of the skull and superimposed it over the angry, bearded face. A few easy adjustments were necessary to find the right scale and placement and by playing with the opacity, I was able to find just the right mix of skull and face to let both come through. I then used the digital eraser to carve back the skull to look like the hair draped over it.

skull overlay on face
Skull overlay on the face

Since my nephew plays guitar, I needed to incorporate an axe in the image. Since my own guitar is a hollow-body jazz guitar, it wouldn’t have worked, so I used one of the miniatures in my collection. Yah, I know, you want to know where I got this cool little prop. Unfortunately, the only place to get them is from an Ontario merchant at the Calgary Stampede or the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. He does not have a website so it’s in-person shopping only. It’s a pain in the ass.

Clapton Miniature
A miniature of one of Clapton’s guitars

First I had to erase my hand, and whiten the background. Once that was done, the skull/face were added and the parts not overlapping with the guitar were erased. Also, because I wanted the rocker to look much more gaunt than my own chubbiness, I drew some hair in to make his face look thinner.

Compilation of the images
Combing the guitar and the rocker

It looks kind cool and haunting here, but I wanted the final piece to look like it was hand sketched in black ink, like a band member had done it on the road, lounging in the bus between gigs. I used the sketch filter of Photoshop to find just the right brush length and contrast. Once I found that balance I signed it, textured the signature, and was done.

The end result.
The finished piece.

Not exactly wild and exciting, but it has taken me longer to write this blog than it did to create the artwork, once I knew what I wanted.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Ciao for now.


UPDATE: After an editor asked for something with a bit more to it, I created these two for her to choose between, using parts from the other piece plus an image I took years ago of Tyler from the Barenaked Ladies…

Rock is Death, Baby!
Rock is Death, Baby!
DEath MEtal MAsk
Putting the Black back in Sabbath.

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