The Power of Observation
In the evolution of a personal style, the skills of observation and mimicry are essential to your repertoire. It can be argued that art cannot exist in a vacuum, and it is through the cycle of inspiration and scrutiny that we identify what we like, remould and form original concepts. To reverse-engineer what works is a powerful working practice when developing your skills in Photoshop.
Online galleries for any medium, are a great thing – Ive always been a staunch advocate of sharing art. Aside from the multiple benefits of gaining exposure and receiving feedback, the ease of which you can follow an artist and track their style I feel is equally important.
The casual reader may retort ‘Well done Captain Obvious‘, but bear with me here. This is a practice that is already very prevalent on the social-art sites, but what I would like to address is how to take the notion further. Here’s an example; I like to create cyberpunk women complete with biomech panels, interfaces and tech components. My initial attempts weren’t that realistic, so I hungrily devoured every good looking cyberpunk piece on DeviantArt, poring over the minute details. It is with this close scrutiny that I ‘reverse-engineered‘ the cyberpunk woman, and then proceeded to make it my own.
Lets take a look at the work of Photoshop virtuoso MichealO, featuring his AmalgaMATE4 biomech piece:What makes this piece work? The elements that I admire is the fact that everything is tangible, yet there is a ‘softness’ to the fantasy elements. The panels follow the anatomical guides of muscle and bone, the raised surfaces catch the top-left light source, soft shadows hang to the undersides, everything reacts with the hues of the surface material and environment. In a nutshell, he has mastered the light.
It would be crude to produce exact carbon copies of work that you admire, but to analyse and dissect the components that make it succesful is a very worthwhile pursuit. In this example, I took from MichaelO the subtle lighting tricks and applied them to the spines of my Splinter Girl cyberpunk series. Viewing art daily is key to absorbing these finer details, the artist that doesn’t spend time admiring the work of their peers is missing out on a great deal.
I recall my experiences of DeviantArt frequently on SurrealPSD, as that was the site that catapulted my interest of photo manipulation into the stratosphere! Within weeks of registering (and subsequent addiction), I had already latched on to a number of artists that inspired me to produce better art. The ‘I wanna do that‘ impulse is very strong in creative activities, and Im sure a great number of people got started after seeing awesome examples of the craft. Here are a couple of DA artists that sparked the drive for me:
Being a horror-hound, I was immediately drawn to the ‘Death and the Maiden’ gothic chic of German photo manipulator DaStafiZ. I was awestruck by his prolific output and awesome approach toward the concept of the Beauty of Fear, a theme I was very much interested in myself. A lot of my early works were homages to his style, and attempts to emulate his aesthetic. (Image: Fragments of Faith by DaStafiZ)
Swiss artist rache-engel is a DA big hitter with his dark alternative art, and with just cause. Early on, I was fascinated by how he blurred the line between digital and traditional, using natural media techniques and smudging to create powerful fine-art pieces. (Image: Angel of Death by rache-engel)
Torvenius is an amazing concept artist from Sweden that pushes a real ‘cyber-noir’ universe that has a great esoteric undertone. Granted he is not a photo manipulator, but your influences shouldn’t be limited to your chosen artform. Thematically his works inspired me very much when I was starting out, in terms of subject matter, pallete and mood. (Image: Totem Girl by Torvenius)
Enjoying art and viewing new work on a daily basis will fuel your mind with the fodder to execute increasingly succesful work. If you are not already doing so, signing up to an art community is a great way to analyse fresh work and your skill-set develops rapidly as a result. It’s a glaringly simple premise, but a point well worth repeating. Look closer at what works and reverse-engineer to your liking. All the great artists do it.
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Image Credit: Microscope Fibre by jan3090