I think creation is good for the soul. I say so right here on the “Äbout” page. If you’re lucky and/or talented enough, you can make a living out of it too. I’m either not one or the other, or neither. However, I do like to create. I like to write, so I write this blog (amongst other things); I make music, so I have something to write about (ha ha); and I make little pictures to go with the music I make, for when I post it on this blog, and on SoundCloud.
I’ve almost finished the new one – the next post is going to BE the song, I swear down – which means the time had come for me to create something visual to accompany it. And this is what I came up with (larger picture to be found at the bottom of this post).
I pretty much knew what I wanted to do as a concept (which will make more sense when accompanied by the song!): in Manchester Art Gallery there is an absolutely gigantic painting of a chariot race called, what else, The Chariot Race. It was painted in 1882 by Alexander Von Wagner, and it’s like the film Ben Hur come to life (in fact it’s said he was inspired by the novel, which was published in 1880).
The artist places you right in the heart of the action – right in the path of an oncoming chariot, in fact, the four horses galloping, almost out of control, wild eyed and slavering, the charioteer barely keeping them reined in. It’s one of those painting that look as if the subjects are about to burst out of the canvas, and the sheer size of the piece adds to that impression. It’s really worth seeing in the flesh if you happen to be passing through Manchester (also there’s a great collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, if you like that sort of thing).
Anyway, this was the idea: to take some close up photographs of the painting, of the horses in particular, and then digitally overlay them to create a composite image. And that is what I did. One afternoon I went to the gallery and took four pictures with my phone: one of each of the four horses in the lead chariot. Job done, I donated some money to the gallery on the way out (although I went via Hylas and the Nymphs, one of my favourite paintings). Then I forgot about them till this week.
The final image was simple enough to do: I set one of the pictures as the background, then each of the of the others as a layer on top, adjusting the levels and opacity of each. It took a bit of trial and error to decide which should be the ‘base’ and in what order the others should be layered. I wanted to get as many horses in the image as possible, but still have them distinct – I quickly realised that I would need to make the image out of three composites as four was too murky. I really wanted the horses’ teeth and eyes to be prominent, and the shadowy figures in the crowd. When I was happy I ‘flattened’ the image, and then adjusted the levels again – mainly saturating the whites.
Voila! I’m pretty pleased with it. I was going for a kind of Francis Bacon-esque aesthetic, and I think I got what I was after, particularly with the three sets of bared teeth and the disjointed, staring eyes. Think it goes well with the song too – and this week they will be united at last!