16 August 2007

Women's Health in Full Circle: From Concept to Final Work Series 2

I'm still in the process of organizing my thoughts on the time I spent in Europe, but some places truly inspired me in a permanent way: I'm talking about Prague. The hotel we stayed in was beautifully decorated with prints from Czech artist Alfons Maria Mucha, an artist whose work I was familiar with (due to its extensive influence in the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as Art Nouveau and modern comic book art) but I couldn't pin a name to before.

When there was a contest to make a poster for the upcoming 2007 Obstetrics and Gynecology Postgraduate Conference, I knew the time had come to test how deep I had been imprinted. (The previous year, I also made the official poster, but my influence had been Gustav Klimt-- a blog post for another time.) The theme was "Women's Health in Full Circle." Mucha had made a number of awesome series, from the muses to the different times of the day, plants, and flowers. I used my previous training in plant taxonomy (when I was a Biology student a million years ago) and tried to integrate a series of my own into the theme-- from the start, I knew I would be making the seasons of the year.

On the left is Mucha's "Laurel," which is part of a series. On the right are some of the initial sketches I made, obviously drawing inspiration from that particular piece. I made several more sketches:

Then I laid them out in traditional Art Nouveau (oxymoron) style. Thick white borders (if I had more skill I'd do the flourishes myself).

I proceeded to color the art as it would appear in nature. The backgrounds would look infinitely better as a mosaic I drew myself (as Mucha did for "Laurel" above), but I was pressed for time, so I used the Crystallize filter in Photoshop on a few choice stock photographs.

Once the colors are in place, antique the whole thing with a global adjustment layer, on the color balance, levels, and hue & saturation. This is what was shown to the committee, and what won the competition.

I had a few minor problems with the collaboration (winning doesn't mean the end of work!). First of all, they wanted a postpartal woman, not premenopausal. Second, they wanted to use local fruits and flowers (I protested this, since technically there aren't even 4 seasons in the Philippines, so the distinction doesn't exist in terms of flora). Third, they wanted the young girl to look more like a child. You can't Photoshop those away, so it's back to the drawing board:

Even younger, they said. They wanted pigtails. Only to be grossly obvious... Anyway, I protested that it wouldn't look classy (I WAS going for the Czech/ Parisian/ Belgian feel), so I made "classy pigtails."

Here is the pre-final work, after adding color (blush on the cheeks, shadows, etc) and warmth. Lesson: you have to listen to your client, but always have legitimate reasons for not wanting to do something. Also, if you can draw a little, the effort will show.

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