The Art of Scurry Tails
By Jeffrey Bishop
When we started Scurry Tails, the primary thought was toward creating a venue for simply sharing our stories. But since the web is by nature a multi-media communication channel, we were compelled to pay almost as much attention to matters of visual interest of our postings as we were giving to matters of plot and story arc; to copyediting and to Scare Ratings.
Necessity being a mother, we got creative, fast.
Now, reflecting on this after almost two months and 13 postings, it’s worth noting that the creation and sharing of artwork supporting these posts has been every bit as challenging – and enjoyable – as our writing efforts have been. So with this post, we’d like to give our readers insights into the processes used to create some of the more creative images used on this site.
For many pieces, we started off with some of our own original, personal photography, and used these essentially unaltered. For edited photographs or “from-scratch” artwork, we leveraged a basic knowledge of Photoshop Elements, Paint and PowerPoint to add or enhance the “creep-out” factor of the art and to make sure that it complements the story it supports. As you can see, there’s even dry-erase-marker art here as well; indeed, we are open to all forms of artistic expression (coming soon: interpretive dance? Probably not, but do watch for pen-and-ink and other visual art media).
All artwork is original, although in a couple of instances we obviously creatively reinterpreted others’ work for noncommercial purposes here (our understanding is that this is within fair-use boundaries, but we’d be motivated to cease if our understanding is incorrect and if asked to do so by those in the legal trades).
Follows is a discussion specific to five images we’ve created. Click the thumbnail to see the art full size.
To Helen Bach
For this image, we hand wrote in cursive one of Johnny’s letters from the story – not an easy feat since it’s been about 25 years since the author last wrote that much cursive. The letter was set on a wood-grain table with other historic-looking stationary items – an ink pen and a brass letter opener (a real World War II trench art item). Once photographed — via smart phone — the image was cropped tight and a lighting filter was used to add dramatic effect.
The youngest of the three of us created this image in Paint based on his interpretation of the story. The clone tool came in handy to make the hoard of scurry tails. As the caption says, they appear “just as we imagined the critters!”
In PowerPoint, we used Word Art, Insert>Shapes and Right Mouse Click>Format Shape tools to make this one. The bottle of Moon Screen was placed over a sylvan-green gradient background in Photoshop, and a lighting filter was applied to simulate moonlight on the bottle.
We’re Coming to Get You
For this image, we started with an open-source image (taken by talented Air Force photojournalist Val Gempis) of an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, which the Air Force uses for search-and-rescue operations. We did a lot of work in Photoshop; with little regard for craftsmanship, the background was replaced with a dark blue to simulate night, and the image was cropped tight, to show only what might be visible through a bedroom window, and to remove the tell-tale hallmarks of a helicopter – the rotors and the tail. A color-to-transparent gradient was used to create the bright white spotlight and colored position lights, and a lens flare filter was added – all to help the Earthly aircraft further simulate an alien spacecraft.
The Blue Eyed Cat
This piece of art started as a photo of our beloved cat Sabra, who passed away last fall after 17 years with us. She was a Russian blue – a silvery-grey breed. To give her a ghostly white appearance, we used Photoshop to convert the color photo to black-and-white. The color profile was inverted, making our dark cat light – almost white. Finally, we converted the black-and-white image back to RGB and used a digital paint brush with a moderate transparency in a shade of blue to re-color the eyes.
As we continue our creative efforts, we sincerely hope that the art aficionados among our visitors continue to enjoy the site and the stories, as well as the art. And that readers alike value and appreciate the art that helps to “tell” the tales found here.