Working Dark

Working with old photos is an art in itself.

Working with old photos is an art in itself.

I don’t usually create dark, moody artwork. Perhaps there are elements of “Simran: Altar of Memory” which are bittersweet, even sad (it’s about dementia, after all), but it’s not spooky. Recently, however, I decided to work with old tintypes and photos my grandmother gave me, and one in particular just seemed to pick up on the fact that it’ll be Halloween soon.

This started with a scan of that old tintype. I work with old photos from time to time, healing scratches, brightening faded images. Working with this photo, I tried to heal some of the damage of time while only brightening it enough to reveal details. Once I did, I discovered details I wanted to emphasize, like the skull in the lower left. This might not have been a skull at the time the photo was taken, but when the image emerged in working with it, that became the theme of the picture, so I repeated it.

That led to other repetitions. Ordinarily, I would smooth out the background, eliminating visual “stutter.” In this case, I cause the stutter. Patterns repeat in the background, in the setting, giving the photo a cluttered, neurotic feeling.

When it felt like I’d reached that point, I turned it into a digital watercolor and continued painting, sometimes pixel by pixel. As I worked, I gave him a backstory. A brave boy, the son of parents who hunt the things that go bump in the night, he is comfortable in the graveyard, knowing his parents have banished evil and confident that one day, he will take his place beside them.

His image is available in our IdeaJones Redbubble shop.

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