We were invited to be a part of the 2nd Tarot Card show curated by Aunia Kahn, “Tarot Under Oath” exhibited at Last Rites Gallery in New York. We chose the Temperance card because it was resplendent with symbolic meanings, much of which we chose to take in a more apocalyptic direction. The process for making our piece was multi-stepped involving the creation of a set and a great deal of digital painting and ‘pixel pushing.’
Though it would be very difficult to break down every single step we take to create our digital imagery, suffice to say there are many, many, MANY layers. The most important step of all is getting as much as we possibly can in-camera. No amount of photoshoppery can turn a lack-luster performance by a model or actor into a quality piece of work, so it’s imperative that our talent is perfect for the scene.
Additionally, we do a great deal of adjustments to the lighting and composition on-set prior to ever clicking the shutter. We are methodical on-set, making adjustments to the decor, props, wardrobe, etc. until we are happy. Our friend Alex Pardee once said, “Being on set with you guys is like working in photoshop, but in real life.” This is true! Only when we have the entire mise-en-scene dialed in exactly as we want it do we really start shooting. Therefor our shoots do not often result in a ton of images – on average, we capture about 300-400 images, of which only 1-6 will make the cut.
STEP ONE: choosing our favorite
Below is the RAW, unretouched image. This is how it looked at the moment of capture.
STEP TWO: Assemblage
This is the time where we cut together the many pieces that are shot separately and draw what we were not able to find or build ourselves. (We affectionately call this stage, “assembling the giant robot.”). You may review our “Building the Apocalypse” post to see exactly how we created the set and the various pieces & parts.
STEP THREE: Color is King
Color is REALLY important to us and we usually look for a triad of two dominant colors and one tertiary color. Most commonly, we use Munsell’s theory of color. Often however, this is not what real life gives us. When we are shooting we are most keen to capture texture and shape as we can easily shift colors around digitally (and often prefer to do so). Since we were recreating the traditional tarot card, “Temperance,” it was important for the wings to be red, (the color of blood) and for the setting sun to have a golden glow. Additionally, we decided to have the angel’s dress carry the sun’s golden glow into the scene and for her to be standing in a chartreuse toxic spill.
STEP FOUR: Shaping the light
It is often impossible to truly have the flow of light to be exactly as we want it to be in our final images. We try to focus on the big broad strokes on-set and create an overall light story. We then take this overall light story and push it to more extremes, drawing on the heavily crafted illumination one might see in a painting by Caravaggio and Vermeer. Below is the final image with all of our digital repainting.
To give a better comparison of the many changes that are made digitally we have comprised a series of side-by-side images. In all cases the image on the left is completely unretouched and the image on the right shows the final piece.
Making the wings more dramatic by doubling their size…
Making the angel’s face more dramatic and mechanical…
Adding nefariously branded detritus & human skulls to the scene…
Adjusting the arm positions and adding shading…
Adding a sense of greater depth by reducing the size of the background and adding an insidious toxic spill…
We hope this has helped explain the many steps we take to realize our images. If you find yourself in New York during the “Tarot Under Oath” show’s run, we hope you will stop by Last Rites Gallery and check it out.