top of page
Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Image Development

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

For this exercise I dug out an image I had worked on for a brand I work with. This image is one of my favourites for the contents, plus it has a lot of space around the people to play with, to consider text or include logos. I really love the lighting of the diner, the red against the chrome, the skates against the jackets and how natural the models look at the bar. This felt like it had possibility for several ways to crop the image and the ability to bring a different feeling for each.

I began with putting the image into illustrator. I created a thick black outlined box as a guide for cropping, and a grey box I would set to multiply for the areas that wouldn't be in the frame. I didn't think of a fixed dimension at this stage, I just wanted to experiment. Here are the results:

My aim was to still consider a void for where text could sit. I also believe that a crop an off angle crop with void gives atmosphere or a sense of loneliness, or even character behaviour in a space. With space around the model you not only focus on the character but also the location, why are they sat there? What is the story there? You question the motive, which in the end makes the image interesting. So did I achieve this with the above crops?

It helps that the picture is already strong for providing the viewer with questions. The cropping exercise does enable to you to view the picture differently, create new stories within the one shot Perhaps even a storyboard can be crafted from just this image. You can zoom into the models, pan out to the scenery, etc.

I like the panoramic views when considering a photo like this. I like to exaggerate the surroundings as this creates a feeling in me. A word or phrase that comes to mind are along the lines of "late", "after hours", "midnight" of course "diner" comes to mind, and words associated with that. But the sense is calm, it feels late for its emptiness. It feels like music would be playing chilled 50's in the background. You may even hear the action in the kitchen that is set far left out of shot, cleaning dishes or workers talking to each other. What is the sense from the models? They have props, skates are on the back of their chair. Are they working in a roller rink and have finished their shift? Are they working at the diner and waiting for customers to enter? Have they just skated in from the street for a late night snack?

Considering this words more I picked a couple of the crops and applied text. I tried different fonts, different words and moved it around the image to see if this would change the feeling or add to it.

This photo felt like it could be from the scene of a movie. It had character, a story and possible emotion. Sure the lighting could be shifted a little to add to the drama some more, but as it stood it was on the right track for drama. I felt I could turn some of the words listed above in to a title which would emphasis those 3 elements. The Night Shift became the title I played with, it gave drama to a possible story. What happened on the night shift? Was it just the one night shift, or is it regarding the staff that work the night shift every night? It had suspense, it made the audience question. So I ran with it!

Before applying text to the image I wanted have a play with making a title for the image.

I went for a basic crop on the first attempt. Zoomed in a little and chopped some of on the left. I thought the right side of the image had more interest. I went small on the text to begin, and met my struggles early on.

The image was strong but the text was lost, and was there really an atmosphere after adding the title? Where ever I put the text on this image, it was always difficult to read. It need a shadow behind it, which personally I'm not always a fan of. So I decided to open the image into Photoshop and give it some darkness. I was getting late night vibes from the original image, but it's all very bright and busy with reflections etc, not enough depth to it.

I MUCH prefer the image after darkening it up. Adding "The bad girls club" as the sub-title made it feel like it's a dark teen movie. Now not only are we looking at what looks like a quiet night shift. They look tired, fed up, and mischievous. Could we now be questioning what their motive is? Are they plotting?

Information has been lost when I darkened it. I think I could have brought some props back in, show more of their chairs with skates, just to keep the essence of the image alive. I also think I like the idea of using bigger text, maybe this would add a twist to the feeling.

I then went a tiny bit further in Photoshop and added a Blue gradient over the top and set to "Screen". This simply added a wash over the section of the image that had the models. I think it gave it a nice effect to the image which helped bring the characters out:

The big bold text in this version had me thinking of a Tarantino film. It needed work, but I think this could be fun to develop if considering his style.

This gave me Pulp Fiction vibes and I loved it! Now I'm thinking of a Tarantino film with lots of stories intertwined, with a big disturbing finale that is completely crazy but genius. What if I took the photo back to the original, without the darkened background. Would this still work?

It's not bad, though immediately feels more busy. It has the retro vibe to the original which I think works well in this style poster, however still could have the levels tweaked a bit to give more depth. Also I would like to see more space below the skates rather than above, but working with a landscape photo this was already set at maximum crop for the bottom. I'm also wondering whether I could have centralised the characters, could this have balanced the image.

After receiving feedback from my tutor, it was suggested to look at some artists that created cinematic works. For example, Edward Hopper had been one of the suggestions to research. Familiar with some of his incredible paintings, I immediately saw why his work had been recommended. I couldn't quite put my finger on the feeling the photo I had used in this exercise created within me. Until I was reacquainted with Edward Hopper's work.

Born on July 22 1882, Hopper later became a prolific artist. His works depict urban loneliness, disappointment, even despair. Hopper continues to be regarded as an important painter of the “American Imagination”, a phenomenon which his urban paintings capture. - Author James Peacock, The Conversation [1]

I'm a huge fan of cinematography, I find there is true beauty in capturing scenes that have narrative and provoke emotion in one single shot. The way light is considered to create atmosphere, the stillness in the set and the body language of the actor just spark such deep reflection within, like I want to be there. Hopper manages to capture a pure energy in the way he paints, composition and use of space with a lonely character placed in the scene creates melancholy. I could see a resembling effect in the photo I had used for this exercise in comparison to "Nighthawks" painting. Although not an image from outside looking through a window, I could see similar angles in the surrounding composition that matched Hopper's. My photo also captures two people sitting at a bar either being served or waiting to be served. The isolated characters are still in their expression, perhaps in deep conversation or maybe just sitting and simply existing in a moment together.

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942 [2]

I jumped straight in at recreating the photo as a painting, but digitally. I started with making a quick study to get colour and atmosphere down.

Feeling good with the composition and the tone, I closed in on trying to get the same level of detail as you would expect to see in an Edward Hopper painting.

To lift the piece I also included a paper texture which I hoped would make the illustration look less digital. I stripped some of the details from what was in the original photo as to not distract from the people in the scene. Hopper's work always seemed to be sparing with clutter, and often stuck to a minimalist aesthetics, possibly adding to the loneliness in the subject.

Feeling as though my choice in crop could have been pulled back to widen the shot, I could really push the melancholy by emphasising the space that isolates them. Never the less, I was pleased with drama I feel I had caught from the photo. Does this work on my poster design?

... Almost!

Really glad to have had the recommendation, and I look forward to bringing Hopper's work into my work in future projects. It's exactly the type of work I enjoy viewing, be it a painting or through cinematography.




bottom of page