Revisits: Abuse

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, April 24, the theme is Abuse. Here’s the image:

Image 3 Final Revised blog

In earlier projects for Fictive Dream, I made a couple of images for each story. I followed that trend with the earlier Love and with this one, Abuse. At this point in the project, I was still feeling my way in getting the look that Laura wanted. We had developed some specifics from our experience with Love; the tree motif was established as was the general layout of the images – sky, ground, tree, and text all had a specific place.

For this image, my first thought was to create one with a bruised feeling to it. I came up with this one, featuring the purple tones and trees pushing each other:

Image 3 blog

And my next idea was to do one that was less dramatic but still had the bruise colors in it, this time yellows and pale purples, with a battered-looking tree:

Image 4 blog

When I showed them to Laura, she made a request: could the tree on the yellow one be put into the purple scene?

At this point, I had not done all the digital work to Love that you saw in the previous post; remember, Love was reworked at the end of the string of images for the project. You may imagine – Laura’s words struck fear into my heart – could I do it?

Of course, I could take my scissors, cut out the tree in the yellow image, collage over the trees in the purple image, glue in the tree, and hope the picture would scan well – the standards for the actual physical image did not need to be as high as if I were selling it as a framed piece, thank goodness, because in real life, layers add a lumpy look to collage if you do too much of them, and it distracts from the piece.

Still, I didn’t like the idea. I decided to try the digital route and see if I could get it to work. I used Adobe PhotoShop Elements 15. First, I copied small sections of the ground and sky in the purple scene and used them to cover the trees, taking care to vary my selections and blend them in well.

Then I went to the yellow image and extracted the black trees using the
Quick Selection Tool (located at the top of the tool bar to the left of the screen, in the Select section). With a little work, this tool allowed me to pick out the tree and copy it to the purple image.

Then I added the text and voila! The job was done.

Image 3 Final Revised blog

Not only did I have the image Laura wanted, but I felt that I could use this technique, if I had to, for other images. It gave me a measure of comfort – if an image required some tweaking, that did not mean creating an entire new collaged image.

And as you remember, it did come in handy, allowing me to improve the Love image later on.

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

13 thoughts on “Revisits: Abuse

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    The image is great! The purple definitely has connotations of bruising and I like the idea of the one dominant tree being fractured or splintered. I am impressed with your skills with digital manipulation. I have not attempted anything like that but can imagine that I would find it very challenging and, therefore, stressful.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I’ve done a lot of work with digital aspects over the years, mostly in working with the photos of my artwork, but I also used to do a good bit of digital collage and so on. The tools have improved a lot and I feel confident I can figure things out (eventually) but the question is can I make it look all right? I think this one worked out well, but you are right, it is stressful and can be frustrating. Practice does help.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          It takes time and practice, but the tools improve every year and there are so many more options and programs. I enjoy creating work just on the computer but since I spend a lot of time on it already for writing I don’t have as much patience for it anymore. I do like to play around with photos, still. though.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I like how this one came out, even if it doesn’t exist in real life as a collage, I like it, and I’m happy I could figure out how to make the combination.

  2. Fictive DreamLaura black

    I liked the colour of the chosen image for Revisits: Abuse the minute I saw it. I thought the purple was exactly right for the theme. The problem for me, at least, was that the two trees gave a sense of being in co-operation. The single and much heavier tree in the orange/pale purple image, however, could be read as malevolent (the abuser), or as the broken victim. Also, a single tree would be consistent with the isolation that abuse victims feel. You had to do significant amount of additional work to transfer the single tree from one image to another, and I’m very grateful that you did. This is one of the best images in the series and it helped me to crystallise my thoughts about what I wanted for the project. Many thanks, Claudia.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I think it’s very interesting that the two tree version had the possibility of being interpreted in more than one way – maybe it’s because there are two “actors” and that expands the roles they could be playing? Interesting to think about. Making the change did not bother me at all, aesthetically, but I was not sure I could do it and make it look as good as I wanted. I was pleasantly surprised by the results – as I said in another comment, the tools in PhotoShop Elements 15 are more advanced than earlier versions, and I was able to learn what I needed to do pretty quickly. I was glad, because the result turned out really nicely, and not only was what you wanted but also gave a whole new version to the theme, and I always think more possibilities are better than fewer. I also really like the “bruise” colors and I enjoyed painting the papers to come up with the assortment – one of my favorite combinations in the project.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I feel this was a true collaboration – if Laura had not asked me to try I would never have combined the elements or thought of it (I still view the physical piece as the real art, if you know what I mean, and am sometimes blind to how it could be altered or extended through different paths or mediums or technologies). I am really happy with the result, and I also feel that now I have three images that I like, rather than the two on paper I started with. I like the idea of the ground being like a tundra, which to me is a harsh bleak environment, but not lifeless or without the possibility of change.

      1. Alistair McDonald

        For sure, outside input is invaluable (even if ignored!). And yes, I saw your tree as still alive, even if frozen over for the moment. So the image worked well for the theme

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes, it is interesting how that happens. I think I respond more to color in a piece than the images, as time goes on. And switching the tree emphasizes it here, I think.

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