A Starry Seattle Night: Painting -> Photography emulation/adaptation

Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

Van Gogh's "Starry Night"

When given an assignment to create a piece emulating work of art that is considered a masterpiece, the cool toned, intricately lined "Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh was a great starting place.

I decided that rather than doing a straight-up emulation, I wanted to put a twist on it. I modernized my version by using a night photograph I had in my archives where the ferris wheel was already looking pretty Van Gogh-ian but there was not a star to be seen. As a bonus, the Space Needle was there too, to providing a sense of place if the water front wheel and iconic Ivar's seafood restaurant wasn't enough. I played up the tones to more closely resemble the painting and I tweaked it a bit in Lightroom to achieve a more painterly/surreal starting point.

Original photo

Original photo

From there, I opened it in Photoshop to add in the sky. I could have layered in the painting as-is and masked out the parts that wouldn't make sense in the image (like the trees) but I wanted to <s>do it the hard way</s> lend my own touch to the multi-media aspect. Instead I decided to make a low-opacity layer of the original as a guideline and paint in my own sky with my Wacom Intuos5 graphics tablet.

I selected a brush that had an "oil-painterly" feel and got to work. I sampled colors from the original painting to use in my adaptation and referred to the original as I went. The painting didn't cover the entire area I needed it to for the photo to give it a balanced composition so I extended it a little bit myself. Playing with the colors was surprisingly fun. I'm no Van Gogh so my Starry Night isn't as pretty, but I think I put my own twist on it for a decent result. I also sampled the colors of the reflections and water from the lower portion of the scene and added some brush strokes to add to the overall painting effect. I played with the opacity and blend modes of the sky and went with a toned-down look to match with the overall scene, but my instructor said he would have preferred for it to be brighter. Everybody's a critic. (OK, maybe some are meant to be.)

A new "Masterpiece"

A new "Masterpiece"

An aside: researching art for this project, I found a cool Google feature I'd never seen before... the Google Art Project. It has extremely high resolution photos of art work that is held in esteemed places like the Museum of Modern Art that you can zoom alllll the way in on to see the little cracks and things in these really old paintings. I got a kick out of their Starry Night because I'd only ever seen it as extremely 2D and with their rendition you can see that it's got thick paint with some cracks and gaps where you see canvas. Check it out!

Art, PhotographyHollyComment