I warn you, this may be a long one....

I want to go through how I created my last image, "Trust".  I was initially planning on creating a fake underwater scene.  I vividly remember watching Brooke Shaden's video of how she created "Finding Rescue" (you can see it here) and that was it, I was hooked on watching all her videos and she became a huge inspiration to me.  Another artist who I met at the Brooke Shaden retreat in norfolk last year, and who amazes me with her talent at creating underwater images out of nothing, is Holly Burns (go check out her work, you won't regret it).  So I've had it in mind for a while to try one myself, but as you can see from looking at the image I created, clearly that didn't happen.

When I was planning the image I knew I'd be compositing my body together to make it appear as if I were falling/floating downwards because there was no way I could get in that position on my own in my living room.  I had to visualise the shape I wanted to see in the final piece, and make sure I took all the images I would need to be able to create that.  I had to think about several things to make it work and be believable:

I would be using a black backdrop, so to make cutting myself out from it as easy as possible I needed some contrast, and that meant choosing the pale dress instead of the navy blue one. I also have quite dark hair so I got out my wig which, while still dark, provided just enough contrast. 

Where did the light need to hit my body?  The light was going to come from the top of the frame in the image, so I had to position myself so that the window light was hitting the side that I planned to turn sideways and face upwards.  

I needed to make sure that I maintained a consistent angle of my body to the camera.  If I twisted too much then the angles and perspective would be off when I came to put the body parts together, and that never looks good. Unless you are going for a broken mannequin effect, in which case, twist away.  But I was not.

So I contorted myself and balanced on a stool here and there, swished my dress and flicked my hair.  And the result, after several hours with my trusty Wacom tablet, was this:


It was at this point that I looked at the image and decided she was most definitely falling, and not floating.  The underwater idea was shelved and I began rooting through my stock images.  As soon as I saw the pictures I took of some undergrowth in a local wood I knew they were perfect.  I asked Photoshop to merge the three images and this was the result:

To give you a sense of scale, those trees are actually baby trees.  I was crouched right down taking pics and if I had stood up among them, they would have been shorter than I am.

Now, I'm going to go through several individual frames below, describing the changes I made to get from one to the next, but if you just want to watch another cool Gif instead, have a look below.  If you fancy reading a bit more about it, keep on scrolling.

So, here's how it came together:

I did a bit of re-shaping to get a square frame, removed some distracting elements and cloned in some extra bushes at the front.  I then added some extra blur and some contrast to selected areas, giving this:

Then I placed the figure into the scene, choosing a position and scale that felt right, and created a shadow for it:

I created more depth and contrast to the figure by dodging (lightening) some areas and burning (darkening) others: 

Then I got to work altering the colours in the image.  This is usually one of my favourite parts of any image creation and involves global colour adjustments, as well as more targeted ones. 

The next step was to change the lighting, emphasising light coming down from above and placing the edges more in shadow to draw the viewer's eye to the subject.  Et Voila!  The finished piece: 

As I said when I posted this on my Facebook Page, this image has a lot of personal significance to me.  It wasn't what I set out to create, but during the process of its creation I trusted that it would become something beautiful even when I was uncertain of where I was going.  To feel that I have developed that trust in myself as an artist was a bit of a revelation.   

Falling, surrendering to the knowledge that there is nothing left to be controlled aside from your own perception of those moments of weightlessness, and finding what beauty can be found there.