Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Building a Composite Image

Ride the Gator by Sara Harley
Ride the Gator, 2024

I often have to supply an artist statement and struggled with writing one. This is the current way I describe my process:

Using my photographic library to illustrate visions I have in my mind, I include elements from many different photographs to make a composited image that is open to the viewer's interpretation. Predominantly using elements of nature, I create painterly and surreal pieces that deal with a range of subjects to help promote emotional healing. 

Quite a mouthful.

Basically, it boils down to this:

Something triggers an idea in my mind. It could be a dream (as in the case of Ride the Gator, above. More on that if you keep reading) or it could be a concept that I'm struggling with, developing a theme I want to work with, etc.

Once I come up with my idea, I decide on a setting and take a look through my photo library for something suitable. I build the image from the background, adding and subtracting details as I go. 

Ride the Gator started with a dream I had two years ago.  I had been diagnosed with lung cancer, a real shocker as I had never smoked and they found the cancer quite by accident, and I was waiting for surgery. The dream was so vivid, I wrote in down in my workbook the next morning:

After my surgery and recuperation, the idea of creating a "riding the alligator" image never left me. However, my artistic drive seemed to leave me for quite some time and I felt unable to work with photographs. The idea transferred to my 2023 workbook, then my 2024 workbook, and finally came to fruition in February.

I started with the background and created it with several layers using elements from different photographs:

I added a moon from another image, created some stars, and blended them to get to this point:

Next came the alligator. I purchased this alligator on Amazon in 2022 and photographed it in September of that year. Then he sat on my shelf, and the photos sat on my computer, waiting patiently until 2024. I took photos from many angles, and you can see by the one I chose to use that the photos were quite terrible:

I flipped the gator and inserted him into the image:

Now, who was going to ride the gator? I tried a couple of things...a ceramic dog, a real dog, and settled on a raven. The balloons were added while giving the first rider a trial:


Satisfied with the raven, I added some layers of texture and colour, and fiddled with the lighting and position of the balloons for the final result:

Ride the Gator by Sara Harley
Ride the Gator

The whole process takes quite some time, usually some time working at the computer and searching for images to use, then a lot of thinking time, then back to the computer for changes and tweaking. Sometimes images get abandoned, with me not knowing how to "fix" them, but this one was smooth sailing. Probably because I had a specific idea in my mind.

Is it a strange image? Probably to most people. Am I happy with it? You bet! It was worth the two year wait to create.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE getting to see the whole process behind the image! (...I just assumed it was magic! Ha ha)Thanks for sharing!


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