•  CGSociety: Reader Project
    Huang Nguyen, 11 November 2005
    This piece was created for the Master and Servant challenge. When I heard about the contest, I decided that I wanted to create something quite different. Rather than going with the two character’s interaction, I wanted to go with something more circumspect, more of a personal demon. I was always a slave to my past memories, always living in the past. And I think that sometimes influences my decisions in life. So I set out to create an image that would reflect that. Since drawing my portrait was just plain boring, I decided to incorporate some of the things that interest me the most. Girls, the WW2 era, and tattoos!

    My initial thought was to blend all of these elements and see what I could come up with.  My first sketch didn’t quite work out, cos it didn’t convey the pain and sadness that I wanted.  I started to flesh out the second sketch and went with more of a profile, that way I could allow her to stare into space, and allow room for the tattoos on her ample skin.  I wanted some kind of harness or headgear to denote some constraint.  I started to play around with that and in the end decided with the goggles and chinstraps. By then, I was pretty satisfied with the sketch and the next stage was to flesh out the details. I added tattoos and fixed her anatomy, and did some clean up.

    In this piece, the memories are of the master, and the girl (which represents me) is the servant. The tattoos represent past memories.  It's broken into three sections and these represent three dramatic things that change me forever. Inside the tattoos are various details from different past experiences that shape my life.  Notice the chin strap; this denotes the constraint of speaking one’s mind. The goggles represent how I sometimes block out things that I don't want to see or deal with.

    I created various layers separately and composited it in Photoshop. I wanted to capture those old photos from the WW2 era and create the background textures. I used a soft lead pencil and shaded in the background. I also used a grease pencil to get the grainy effect and added minimal colors to the piece in Photoshop. I applied noise and film grain filters to simulate that feeling of age and weathering. Unfortunately, it created some weird moiré pattern that I can’t seem to get rid off. This background layer was used as a Multipler in Photoshop.

    This layer was used to mimic the aging, creased old photograph. This is how I created the scratch layer. I took one of my old pictures and pretty much wore it down. I ripped the edge and tore it up a bit; I also burn the edge as well. Scan it into Photoshop and played around with the level settings and used it as a dodge layer in Photoshop.
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    This is where I start to lay down the color for the rest of the picture. I started to flesh out her skin color and details in various elements. Her face and chin guard were the primary focus on this layer. I also started to experiment with different color hues; always keeping in mind that I wanted to have a very minimal color palette. I basically wanted to go for a monochromatic color scheme.

    I started to focus more on adding details and colors to the tattoos. Here I'm fleshing it out a bit, since the line drawing is a bit confusing. Once colors were added, it helped to bring out the details.

    The tattoo was always a challenge. I started out wanting to design a serpent or a dragon, but in the end opted to go with something non-distinct.

    Starting to detail in the face, adding highlights and eye shadow.
    At this point, all of the layers have been added and various details are refined. I’m feeling pretty good about it. But it just didn’t work out. I received a lot of messages saying that my theme wasn’t clear, so it was back to the drawing board.

    In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking.  The message was very vague and it’s pretty hard to perceive all of that just by looking at the picture. But at the time I just couldn't pull it off by any other means. As the idea couldn’t be grasped without text, I had to try a new approach.

    I decided to go with a hand holding the picture. Since photographs hold so many memories, I went with this idea. You know that feeling when you look at an old photo; it brings back a wave of memories. I did a quick thumbnail and distorted the image, but it was too flat and stiff. I needed to warp the picture in order to maintain the idea of a timeworn photo.

    I was tight on time, so I decided to cut it into little strips and then paste it back together. A rather primitive approach, but it seemed to work for me. So the picture is now nicely warped, I painted in details and added noise to wear down the glove. At this point, I really don't know what I'm going to do about the background. I was thinking maybe, old newspaper clippings or letters. It might seem a bit too busy.

    The glove (hand) represents us, and it was worn down to give the indication of times gone by.  The endless streaming of newspapers was to denote thoughts and memories passing by.  I decided to add some sort of writing to the photo, sort of creating an illusion of someone’s love letter.

    Since, I don’t really know how to write in Mandarin or Kanji, I decided to make up my own. The characters were created using a brush on paper and then scanned in Photoshop.   I hope they aren’t anything bad.  I applied the characters on a different layer and faded the writing just a little bit.

    I remember the tragic 9/11, where people would post pictures of their love ones on the side of buildings, and I wanted to do something similar. Like as if he’s picking up her picture off the wall.

    Again, I went back to the grease pencil and shaded in the background. I wanted to use it as a backdrop to the newspaper clipping that I will overlay later on.

    I scanned in old newspaper clippings and blurred them until they were illegible. As for the background, I went with something cool to offset the warmth color of the photo. I did experiments with the warm color, but it seems to overpower the main focal point. Also fleshing out more details and playing around with various filters.

    Sometime memories have a way of coming back, to always beckon and haunt us. Good or bad, they are always there.

    I added a worn out tape to show that it was attached to the wall and added more scratch marks on her back and upper left hand corner. I also played around with the background color and started to introduce a warmer palette. I've fixed a few things and did some more clean-up. Most of it is just too subtle to even notice and at this point; I felt that it is the final image for me.

    Related links
    CGTalk thread
    Huang Nguyen web site
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