Giving life to a painted vision

Concepts can hit me like a train. Every so often, I will come up with an idea that I become so obsessive about that I daydream about it, thinking up shots and looks on a near constant basis. My watercolor series was one such concept.

The watercolor portraits were a time and work intensive project. I began painting with watercolors late last year and what began as a hobby quickly became a great source of inspiration. Not only did it allow me to be expressive, but it also allowed me to approach familiar ideas from a new angle. So combining my passion for photography and this newly discovered form of expression was only a matter of time.

My idea was to take a beautiful portrait of somebody and make it look like an authentic watercolor painting without doing any of the actual painting in post. I had no idea if it would work or how to go about accomplishing it, but the image I had in my head was so clear and well-defined that I had to at least try. A lot of experimentation was done in order to find the correct look. This image, in particular, took six straight hours of work in post to get the desired effect.

Here is the starting image, which is the RAW file straight out of the camera.

This second image is purely the painted background, which was shot separately in order to get the paint in full focus.

And here is the finalized composite of the two images, with everything edited together.

As you can see, there were several aspects of the image that had to be altered to achieve the final effect. The initial image, for example, was lit normally, without taking the flattened nature of a painting into consideration, which meant having to take out the shadows in post. The background also had to be shot separately and composited in because the depth of field was too narrow. I also shot the blank watercolor paper as a stock image that I later used as an overlay so the texture blended the background and subject together.

These were not created within a studio using professional equipment or high tech gadgetry. These were done in my living room with a model, a makeup artist, a desk lamp, and a little bit of paint. As well as a lot of effort and mess.

With passion comes vision. And you can create your vision using every day tools and the resources already at hand, no matter how limited.

Arielle LewisComment