Learning From The Masters

As a young guitarist, I learned how to play by listening to my favorite songs and figuring out the riffs. As a young graphic designer, I figured out techniques by recreating ads and absorbing the principles of layout. I sought out the occasional tutorial and picked up things along the way, but a large part of what came to be my creative expression has it roots in studying and emulating the work of others.

Comparison of "Untitled 1989" by Jerry Uelsmann and my own study after.

Comparison of “Untitled 1989″ by Jerry Uelsmann and my own study after.

That’s the approach I took recently with my growing photomontage fascination. Over the past few years I’ve been making photomontages with my iPhone and image editing apps like Photoforge2 and Dynamic Light. It’s been particularly rewarding when developing pieces along the lines of my favorite artists, one of which is the great Jerry Uelsmann.

So I was looking through one of my printed Uelsmann books for inspiration and came across this image:

Click for a closer look at Uelsmann's work at Faded & Blurred

Untitled, 1989 · ©Jerry Uelsmann

I then decided to make it a weekend project to emulate the image in an attempt to gain experience and get closer to the techniques involved. Of course, apps and and iPhone are no darkroom and enlargers, but some fundamental composition principles carry over, as I discovered in creating my own version:

My take on Uelsmann

My take on Uelsmann. Click to view at full size. Created via iPhone.

This consists of a view of the sky from downtown Winston-Salem, about 14 stories up; a house from Old Salem, (historical area of my city); my own hands, and my flannel-shirt-wearing self at sunset.I had some help on the portrait and hands shots with the CameraSharp app’s timer, along with a tripod.

Four Source Files

My source files for this composition. Click to view at full size.

I can say that it was at once freeing and challenging to work toward a specific vision, bringing these elements together. I make no claim to total originality here, since the idea is obviously Uelsmann’s, but I’m satisfied with how it turned out. I may yet use the elements in future compositions, and I will probably revisit the challenge again one day of emulating and learning from the masters.

What do you think? Have you ever created art after something or someone that’s inspired you? Do any other examples of this come to mind? Let us hear from you in the comments.

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