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January Medusa - Monthly Project

Welcome to the first in a series of images I will be creating over the year. The goal with this series is to use simple photos I have taken of myself to create new pieces of art. My hope is that this will help broaden my Photoshop knowledge.

If you don’t already know, I am obsessed with Photoshop. I love using it as a tool for retouching, (this is what I do all day,) and I also have a strong appreciation for photo manipulation and digital art. If you follow some of my nerdier work (@cosplaybugyeg) you know that photo manipulation is not a new field for me. I have turned myself into video game characters, aliens, and even placed clients into different fantasy scenes for their wedding photos. So, why make this into a monthly challenge if it is something I have done before? Every time I have done a project like this I end up learning something new. Sometimes the only way to learn a new technique in Photoshop is to try new things and put yourself into situations that make you approach a problem in a new way. For example, with this month's photo I had to learn a completely new way to dodge and burn, because the 3 other ways I like using were not yielding the results I wanted. What I would normally use for my weddings and portraits, simply would not work in this case. Now I know a new technique I never would have learned if I had not experimented, and maybe I’ll be able to use it in future work.

Photoshop is such a big program and its abilities are endless. There are hundreds of ways to do the same task. But if you never challenge yourself to try different techniques you may never learn a newer, better way to complete a goal. For example, retouching blemishes used to be done using the stamp tool in the early 2000’s. Now you can use content fill tools, such as the patch tool to achieve better and faster results. But if you never bother to learn new techniques you could be hurting your productivity, and potentially the quality of your work. When I used to help hire people for a retouching lab I worked for, I could tell who was applying from a specific post secondary school. All the students from that school had the same style of retouching, and it was all outdated techniques. This was because the teacher at the school was teaching outdated techniques. You cannot imagine the joy of these new grads when I showed them new tools like the patch tool and the spot healing brush. Even if we did not hire them, we always got a thank you, because we showed them new techniques they could practice at home that made retouching way easier than they thought it was. For me, I learned from this experience two things: 1. Just because you learned something once, does not mean those skills cannot be updated. We live in a world where system updates can be rolled out weekly, and to truly be up-to-date you need to keep on learning. You can’t learn something once and expect it to stay the same forever. 2. Don’t be afraid to learn on your own. These grads had assumed that what they had been taught was and would always be the way. But they never thought to check and see if there were other better ways to do the same task. Google is a brilliant tool and it is severely underutilized. I personally have no problem searching to see if there is a simpler, faster, or better way to do a task I find tedious. With these thoughts in mind, I desire to continue to learn and not become complacent in my skills. I consider myself a fast and efficient Photoshop technician. I know (because my job used to time me) that I can retouch 20 portraits in an hour when pressed to, and yield high end retouching results. However, the world of retouching is changing, the programs are constantly changing, and without challenging myself to try new things, I will be left in the dust. So without further ado, I give you this month's newest piece, and I hope you enjoy this series as it comes out over the year.

Medusa Near them their sisters three, the Gorgons, winged

With snakes for hair—hatred of mortal man” -Prometheus Bound

I am enjoying a Greek mythology stage right now in my day to day. I have been enjoying the stories of the Greek gods retold in Lore Olympus (a modern retelling of the Rape of Persephone as a webtoon comic by Rachel Smythe), playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and enjoying a podcast called Mythology by Vanessa Richardson. This last one admittedly has the most influence on this piece. There was a two part episode on Athena, and although I had heard of Medusa and gorgons before this, I had never actually heard the story of Medusa. This podcast did a great job telling the story and it’s really stuck with me these last few months (you can listen to it here). I believe wikipedia has a good summary:

“In a late version of the Medusa myth, by the Roman poet Ovid, Medusa was originally a beautiful maiden, but when Poseidon had sex with her in "Minerva's" (i.e. Athena’s) temple, Athena punished Medusa by transforming her beautiful hair into horrible snakes.

In most versions of the story, she was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who was sent to fetch her head by King Polydectes of Seriphus because Polydectes wanted to marry Perseus's mother. The gods were well aware of this, and Perseus received help. He received a mirrored shield from Athena; gold, winged sandals from Hermes; a sword from Hephaestus; and Hades's helm of invisibility”

I guess the moral of the story to the Greeks; don’t make Athena mad. She’ll curse you, and then send a hero to kill you later. Sucky. Anyway, I really found this story interesting and decided to turn myself into the accursed gorgon. Sometimes as an artist you don’t know why something inspired you as much as it did, but you need to act upon that inspiration. This was one of those cases.

This piece took roughly 9 hours, I think. Admittedly, I was timing it based off of my recorded footage, and I am missing lots of that footage (my hot keys stopped working without me realising. I’ll fix that in the future.) But I know I watched three 2.5 hours movies, and about 2 hours of youtube while working on it, so about 9 hours (give or take an hour.) It has a total of 86 Layers, 22 Groups, and is a whopping 1.27 GB (for those unfamiliar with these terms, it means it’s a really big complicated file.) You can watch most of the process of building this character at the bottom of the page.

All the images that were layered on were found on If you ever need free stock images I highly recommend this site. It’s where I get most of my stock for personal projects.

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