The Virtuous Man
To make this picture, I first tried to think of what the best way to represent “virtue” was, and the best answer I came up with was marriage, because sexual purity is often closely associated with virtue. So everything was built around the idea of the man leaving the darkness below to meet his eternal partner in the light above. I chose to create my own image instead of taking a picture for two reasons: I love doing things in Photoshop, and I have little to no experience taking quality pictures. I guess lack of a decent camera also contributed to that decision. So here’s a “brief” (sort of) explanation of how I did it all and what it means. I tried to keep it as simple as possible, and still include some more “technical” Photoshop terms for anyone who understands them and is a little more interested in the specific techniques used in the process. I also avoided talking about all the ideas that didn’t work out so that this didn’t take 8 pages to write.
The bottom background is actually a picture of Mustafar from Star Wars Episode III with all of the buildings and structures edited out (clone stamp and content-aware fill). I started by positioning that how I wanted it, and then cropped the stone steps out of a picture on the internet, adjusting their levels to make them more dark and sinister. For all the monsters, I just searched for something like “demon png” on Google images (because it’s easier to just use png’s when available, because of their built-in transparency, rather than manually cropping things out of jpegs) and added some red outer glows to most of them to add to their aura of “evil.” The fire at the bottom came from two pictures. For both, I set their blending mode to “screen” to filter out their black background, and then duplicated the brighter one and mirrored it across the center of the image. The softer fire I just stretched out across the bottom to add to the ambiance. I added the Vegas sign in as an afterthought because I like including funny little things like that in my work. I knew people would immediately recognize it and understand its appropriateness in the picture, and hopefully get a kick out of like I did.
For the top, I picked a picture of “heaven” from a Google search and edited out some large, obtrusive angels in the picture (again, clone stamp and content-aware fill) so that it would just be sky. The stairs were conveniently part of that picture, and I just used the color replacement tool to turn it gold (because steps leading to heaven should obviously be made of gold!) I think the temple came from a picture in the new “For the Strength of Youth” that just came out (and is available online), although I can’t remember for sure. And I just happened to stumble on the picture of the group of people on the right, and decided it would fit in.
The woman in the wedding dress was pretty easy to find just like she is, but the man was probably the one picture that took me the longest to find and get right. I couldn’t for the life of me find one of someone proposing in a suit, with a view point from behind. So I decided instead to have him coming up out of the bottom part of the picture. Then I had to separate his top and bottom half to get his feet to line up correctly with the stairs, in order to keep him the right size and not be too far into the cloud or too close to covering the woman. Once that was done, I added white glows to both of them. The cloud came from a really nice png I found online. I just duplicated it, adjusted the transparency, and arranged them so that it wasn’t too obvious that there were two exact duplicates of the same picture making it up (like you can pretty easily see with the fire at the bottom).
There isn’t a whole lot of hidden meaning in the picture; everything pretty much represents exactly what you think it does. The top half is filled with good things: the temple, the woman ready for marriage, and the overall “heavenly” appearance. The group of people on the right probably represents family history work, which isn’t directly related to “virtue” but still adds nicely to the heavenly effect. The bottom half is obviously much darker, and I’m sure you can guess that it loosely represents Hell and temptation and evil and whatnot. The demons could either be temptations or Satan’s minions. The rocky landscape with lava represents Hell as it is typically symbolized. And like I said, the Vegas sign was just thrown in for comic relief, although it does fit in quite nicely.
I didn’t really attach any specific significance to any of the parts when I made it. My main goal was just to represent the choice between good and evil and depict the man choosing the good side, and I used things that people typically associate with either side of that choice to represent the opposing forces . All the parts are really open for interpretation from the viewer, and I think that works much better than me trying to draw connections for each part of the picture.
A Voice for Virtue