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July Mermaid - Monthly Project

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

I, like many of you, have been out and about enjoying summer. I've been spending time in my garden that I keep at my friend's house, gaming with friends, and scooting around the city enjoying some yummy food with my husband. We are still keeping covid-safe as best we can, but we, like many of you, are also ready to enjoy the heat while we can. With that in mind, there is still one thing I have not been able to convince myself is covid-safe enough for my comfort zone, and that is visiting a swimming pool. I'm sure it's fine, but I'm just not mentally there yet. So instead of actually going swimming I decided to turn myself into a mermaid. Funnily enough, I am afraid of the ocean once it gets deep, I hate ocean sea life, and am afraid of caves. So I'm pretty sure I could never ever in any life or plane of existence be a mermaid. But I cannot deny how beautiful they are, and as a big old cryptid enthusiast, I love me a good siren story (for the record I'm enthused by the stories, and do not believe creatures like the Jersey Devil live among us).

The Mermaid “They were beautiful dark lakes in which her thoughts swam about like mermaids.” - Hans Christian Andersen

When one conjures an image of a mermaid or siren in their mind, one usually thinks of the long flowing hair fish tailed beauty like in the image above. However, did you know the the original tales about them we depicted quite differently. The sirens of Greek mythology were actually described as half woman half bird-like creatures. You can actually find many descriptions of them in The Odyssey. Historians believe it was roughly around the Hellenistic period that the stories of sirens started to sprout tails, and when Christendom started to become dominant, the faithful depicted them in their fishtail form, therefore solidifying this modern day look.

There is no evidence to prove that mermaids exist. There has been a long debate among historians about what exactly it was that cause sailors to believe in these mystical creatures. Almost every civilization has stories about mermaids, and yet there has never been any evidence that they existed, making these creatures of lore a universal myth we have all heard of (similar to the vampire). There are, of course, many theories. Some believe it's the result of mental health trauma, caused from being at sea for so long without a woman in sight. Others believe that manatees are to blame, as from a distance when they are sunbathing they can look fishy and humanoid (I personally don't see it). There are so many theories, and location of sighting and the culture seem to play a large roll in explaining these sightings.

My mermaid was my longest project to date. Truth be told, I was hoping to do her for June, but as I started her I realized she was going to take WAAAAY more time than I had originally thought. This was thanks to that flowing hair and background elements. It actually can take quite a lot of time to find all the elements you need to build a composition, as you need to make sure they are close to the angle of your portrait and that the lighting is easy to adjust. This beauty took me roughly 8 hours. If you watch the video you will see that I tried multiple different looks with her. I changed her hair colour a few times, there were other fish and more bubbles at one point, and I really struggled picking my clothing and accessories, as there were so many to choose from. The file has 36 layers, 6 groups, and is 1.353 GB. Fun fact, this PSD file was so large and render heavy that I crashed my computer multiple times. It was rough. The file at one point was over 2 GB and I had to apply some destructive editing techniques to reduce the size. I learned a little more about layering and using different elements to make the background water effects. I also watched another editor's video on how they made a mermaid and had never thought of using the smudge tool to create strands of hair. It is a technique I used, but I feel like I need more practice. I ended up using the clone stamp tool with pressure sensitivity, and my brush, eventually, because I just could not consistently get the effects I was after. I have also decided that I really like using the gradient mask to create colour adjustments for my subjects to help them better look like they are part of the scene. I did decide to keep the subject brighter than the scene probably called for, but I didn't want her to just fade into the background. Overall I am quite happy with the results, and she is definitely in my top 3 for favorites of the portrait series.

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