The Aglisian room
EN: The Aglisian room is a photomanipulation project that includes the development of a painting, poetry and other small artwork. The scene is inspired by the wonderful work of different classical artists like Millais, Vermeer, Milet, Caravaggio and Da Vinci. It depicts a scene of tragedy, despair and hope. On this page, you can follow the development of the painting and discover the transformation from a collection of separate photos to its end result. This blog is divided into several chapters, each describing a different phase in the development of the painting. Just scroll through the page to navigate or click on the chapter-links below. The progress bar below shows the advancement of the project.
NL: De kamer van Aglisia is een fotomanipulatie-project en omvat de creatie van een schilderij, een serie gedichten en andere bijbehorende werken. De scene is geïnspireerd op verschillende grote artiesten, zoals Millais, Vermeer, Milet, Caravaggio en Da Vinci. Het schilderij beeld een tafereel uit van tragedie, wanhoop maar met een gouden randje. Op deze pagina kunt u de ontwikkeling van het schilderij volgen. De blog is verdeeld in verschillende hoofdstukken. Elk hoofdstuk beschrijft een fase in de ontwikkeling van het schilderij. U kunt door de blog navigeren door te scrollen of op de onderstaande links van de hoofdstukken te klikken. De onderstaande slider toont hoe ver het project gevorderd is. De blogs zullen worden geschreven in het Engels.
A few years ago I started experimenting with the manipulation of photos to create a fantasy-like, allegorical depiction of reality. I started with very simple manipulations to discover the possibilities of Photoshop and develop certain techniques. My ultimate goal is to make a big scene with separate pictures and combine them into a new scene with a new meaning. A scene where the different figures actively interact with one another and tell a story that goes beyond the photos. This seemed very difficult to me, so I experimented with single portraits first. After that, I added more people to the scenes and I tried to establish an interaction between the different figures. This process took a few years, but about one year ago I finally felt confident enough to start with a large scene that counted more than 20 people, all interacting with another. You can see the final result of this scene (called “Nocturnal Festivities”) here.
Nocturnal Festivities inspired me to make an even larger painting which is more detailed and has more emotion. So, a few months ago I just started, without having an idea of the end result in mind. I just started collecting images, making my own photo’s and everything together. The idea is to let the painting grow organically, instead of working towards a fixed end result. Still, there are some basic conditions I want to meet, namely:
- The photo’s used from the internet must be CC0 rated, so they can be used for commercial purpose too;
- It must be a painting about tragedy and despair;
- The style must be a combination of classical painting styles and composition, inspired by artists like Vermeer, Caravaggio, Milet and Da Vinci;
- The scene, including the background, must be made from scratch;
- The whole development must be documented in a blog, which you can read here…
The Aglisian Room is going to be a photomanipulation where everything is made from scratch, so without pre-made backgrounds or complete photos. The painting consists of a collection of individual pictures, which are distorted, re-painted and manipulated to create a whole new picture. The first step, to begin with, is the background: The room itself. I looked on the internet for different photos to use. But most of them were already too detailed, because of existing furniture and light. And they were looking “too new”. I envisioned a room that needed maintenance and reflects the despair and sadness of the scene, without losing its beauty. I stumbled upon this beautiful Urbex picture on Pxhere: (link)
Although it is an Urbex photo and there is a lot of junk in the image, it has a lot of free space to play with. There is almost no furniture and it has beautiful details. I decided to remove the windows and walls and only use the frame of the room, with its beautiful columns and arches. I copied the most right arch of the room to create an even bigger space. This also breaks the symmetry, and thus the order, in the room. The basics of the “golden section” are used to create this dissymmetry, without making the room too chaotic.
With the frame in place, I searched for patterns for the floor and walls. For the floor, I wanted to use marble in a simple black and white checkerboard pattern. The marble has a very nice shine to it and can reflect the light beautifully. Also, marble has a very subtle texture with it’s “veins”, giving the room its age. The checkerboard pattern adds to the “chaotic but proportionated” feeling of the room.
For the walls, I have two options in mind, namely a plaster wall or stone. The plaster is nice because it adds to the luxurious aspect of the room and it blends in with the pillars. Also, it doesn’t distract the viewer too much, because it does not have a lot of texture, compared to the stone wall. But, I feared the plaster was going to make the room look too “new”. A stone wall has a lot of texture, creating the possibility to play with light and shadow a lot. Also, I liked the idea of removing some stones and creating holes, amplifying the “Urbex effect” of the room. I got the inspiration from a stock image of a church with stained-glass windows. This picture also inspired me to use gothic arched windows instead of rectangular ones, as you can see in the image below. In this picture, you can see the new floor and stone walls. I’ve also added a horizontal wooden plane, that is going to be a table. Also, there is a temporary figure in the picture which I use to determine the scale (just ignore that he looks far too happy).
With the floor and walls in place, it’s time to add more ornaments and detail to the room. I want to place some sculptures in the room where the columns are and also under the beams. I made a photo in Rome of a nice ornament of Medusa with the burden of the structure on her shoulders and wings. In the picture below you can see the ornament. I’m going to add the sculptures later, after the big part of the different scene’s are finished, because the sculptures should fit the ambience in the room.
I did, however, choose a nice picture for the fresco on the ceiling. It is photographed from the right angle and has the right colours. Maybe, I’m going to change the scene depicted on the fresco later.
Also, I’m going to start with the first scene, simply called the “First Table Scene”. I don’t have a suitable name for it yet. In this scene, the people are sitting around the table (which is already in place). I have added some people for scale. It’s going to be a table that is very close to the ground, so people can lean on it too. Like the people around the table, it has to carry a burden and is going to succumb under it. The other figures I placed in the room are just pictures I want to use, but don’t know where to put them yet 🙂
Now the base layer of the background is finished, it is time to add figures to the scene. I decided to start with the “First Table Scene” in the far right of the painting and work my way from the right to the left. At the table a small group of people are sitting arguing with each other or caught up in their own thoughts of despair. But, at the far right something dark is happening. The people are experimenting. Something illegal. What they are doing exactly cannot be seen, only imagined, because the figures are covering the scene with their bodies. On the left of them there is a couple. The man is wounded and the woman is caring for him. They have been caught up in a fight. Next to them is a small group arguing or just busy with their thoughts and burden. I will add a close-up later, when I start painting the figures.
Besides the “First Table Scene”, I want to add a wedding scene in the middle of the room. The bride in the middle is actually the “second” bride. The actual bride (the woman in red, leaning on the table) has been turned down by the groom (the prince, who is going to be a king) on the wedding day. She is from a lower class than the king, and there are dark events (like the “Experimenting Scene” and violence) happening in her family. This is why the king had to turn the girl down, under pressure from his mother the “Queen”. Now he must marry someone from inside the upper class, which he doesn’t want to do. The Queen is the old lady sitting at the centre of the table, discussing with the two brothers of the actual bride lying next to them.
I also added some other figures at the far left of the painting, but I’m not sure what story they are going to tell, but I possibly want to use them later.
In this chapter, we are going to zoom into the “First Table Scene”. This part of the scene is going to get the first layer of paint, to achieve the “dark” style of the painting and to blend in the different images used in the scene. This part involves painting with light and shadow, deciding where the light points are going to be and working from the light source outwards to determine the next light source. By deciding which figures need to be “in the spotlight”, I am able to determine the number of light sources in the scene. Everything will be lit up by candlelight, so there is a warm orangy feeling to the scene. This is only for the first layer. Later on, more detail is going to be put in the light and the casting of shadows. In the picture below you can see the dark transformation from right to left.
On the picture above you can see how big of an impact light and shadow has on the scene and the figures in it. The loose images are blending in to create a new reality. In the picture below you can have a closer look at the “First Table Scene”. In the far right, there is the “Dark Experiment” and the wounded couple. In the middle, the Queen is negotiating with the brothers of the “real bride”, who is lying on the table seeking comfort. Also, there is a man with a newspaper in the back, looking suspiciously at the people conducting the dark experiment. Next to him is a wealthy woman, the sister of the queen, who keeps an eye on everyone, including the viewer of the painting. She is the only one in this scene looking directly to the viewer. She is disturbed by a man, offering her something. I still have to figure out what, but I think it is going to be a bird of some kind.
The next scene of the painting is the wedding scene. In this part the “new” bride is being dressed up. The dressmakers en seamstresses work very hard in order to get the dress done. In the center of the scene is the new bride. She looks a bit shy and a little bit ashamed of ruining the wedding of the original bride (the bride in red in the first table scene on the right). She seems to be in thoughts, thinking about her promising future.
On the right of her is a seamstress, who is holding a mirror. The mirror is broken and is actually reflecting the wall instead of the bride. The seamstress is a good friend of the “first” bride and cannot bear to look at the new bride, but has orders to do her job. A dark figure is pointing to the candle, symbolizing the “light of the truth”. Below the bride, some of the workers are working on her dress. Also, there is a little boy looking at his mother (a dressmaker) who cannot bear the workload. At the left of the bride one can see the prince, who is going to be king after he marries. He is angry about the seamstress with the mirror, because of her attitude. He cannot wait to get married and become king and decided to already wear the crown of his kingdom.
The third part of the painting was one of the most difficult scenes, because I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to depict here. It has changed a lot, until it became a second table scene (somehow I do like table scenes :P). In the fragment below you see the final idea for the scene. The idea is to show a scene of violence, but without disturbing the rest of the picture. It depicts domestic violence and insobriety. The man lying on the table is drunk and has used violence against his wife and children. This scene still has to develop during the process when I connect the other scenes to this one.
Now the three main scenes in the painting are covered in the first layer of black and light, the first stage of detailing can begin. In this stage, I will focus on the casting of light on objects and faces and add more detail by adding scenery, hair and accessories. I will work from the left to the right this time because I stopped at this point in the preceding stage. As you can see in the picture below the detail of light and the shadows are higher and more realistic, even though it is not finished yet. Also, I added focus on the candle by means of a halo or aura around it, because it plays an important part in this scene of violence.
Also, I pay attention to the smaller details like the fireflies you see floating in the air. They are important because they also cast light on the people and objects around them. This is a secondary light source. They cast not a lot of light or shadow, but they have a big impact. The other details, which do not emit light, will be added to the scene in a later stage.
Next to the fireflies scene, there is a woman with a green dress. In this stage, more attention is given to the fine details, like the embroidery on her dress. This is done by resharpening and repainting parts of the figure. The same is done with objects, like the orb the man with the beard is holding. Besides this particle effects are added, like the smoke from the cup and the illusion of wind in the candle.
Also, new parts are added to give the painting more detail, for example, the lace on the bottom of the dress of the woman in white sitting on a chair and the woman in white sitting on her knees and holding a piece of lace in her hands. You can also see, compared to the former chapter, that the lighting is different. This is because a greyish light effect had been added to the total painting to highlight details and focus more on the characters instead of the background.
Now, most of the scene is final, it’s time to bring the characters to the foreground by adding light effects and shadow on their background. I start with the right of the picture, just where I finished in the last chapter. I use burn tools to lighten up faces and increase the effect of the light points in the scene. Also, I make a start of filling up the bottom (the first row) of the scene with new characters and objects. As you can see in the picture below new people (in the left and right corner) are added and a small coffee table. These additions are still conceptual and will be worked out later. But, these characters are the last to appear in the scene, as they fill up the last remaining space. After this, only the ceiling needs to be done and retouching.