Tile in a Fountain

I love the tile work at the bottom of the fountain right outside my window. This time of year they empty all the water out, but even dry it looks amazing. Almost like a multi-colored ceramic octopus ready to crawl out and rampage.

This image is hiding its true self, however. Like a good story, there’s a lot of layers going on here to create what you see. Specifically Photoshop layers. In other words, this image didn’t start out looking this way. Here’s the original:

It’s good, but it’s not quite as alive as the image above. Why? Because I had my way with it in Photoshop. When I looked at the image, my heart saw octopus but my eyes saw flat, slightly dusty tiles begging for life. The real problem lay in the lack of good lighting (and my lack of flash and props to add lighting where none existed). It was an overcast day, and all those clouds tend to put a damper on the colors of people, dogs, streets, trees, and happy ceramic tiles.

Good lighting, of course, is all about highlights and shadows. Shadows in the right places can make the light spots seem above or below, which gives the illusion of depth. The image at the top of the screen looks like it has layer upon layer of tiles, all cascading over one another. In reality, they are all on the same plane. All it takes is a little work with a brush in Photoshop…add darkness where you like and highlights where you want them and voila: octopus! Or squid. Or is that the same thing?

The point is:

The layers of light and dark on an object is what makes it interesting.

It’s the same with the characters in a good story. Their shining moments, or highlights, and their dark moments, or shadows, create layers of complexity that give the illusion of a living, breathing person. You just have to know when to shine the light, and when to let the shadows play.

When I looked at this image, I saw an octopus. What do you see?