For the 2014 card I resolved to be succinct, clever, and funny.  Like New Year's resolutions, this one is sometimes kept and sometimes not.  I mulled my options while watching a TV documentary about American Artists, and while looking at Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, a bell went off.  I was impressed by the painting's simplicity and it's use of empty space, which presented an opportunity for me to insert Jade and myself. We're the ones in the Santa Hats. 

     We had to produce two versions this year because the original painting was so large that our features could not be distinguished if the entire scene was compressed to fit onto one page. The original was cropped to make the counter look larger, and to fit onto an 8.5 x 11 sheet of photo paper. The second version was severely cropped so that the characters at the counter appear much larger, relatively speaking.  The first card was printed one image per sheet, and the second three card images per sheet so that we could avoid going bankrupt. 

     (The ink alone for this project weighed in at $160. It goes up every year.)


     The first step in production was to print the original painting.  We used that hard copy as a reference, while Jade and I took turns posing at the dining room table.  We positioned  a light over our heads and tried to copy the bored, lonesome expressions of the customers.  In all, we took about thirty preliminary shots, with and without flash.  We culled the ones that were obviously unacceptable for reasons of focus or blur or lighting or bad poses.  Then we blacked out the background, a necessary step in the superimposition of the images, and began adjusting exposure and color to match the painting as much as possible. 

     We assembled the counter scene at high resolution.  This served as the base of the three-cards-per-sheet image.  It was  overlaid onto the original to make the large single card.

      Once the portraits were completed, much labor was spent touching up.  The working image was comparatively large, which made it possible to alter individual brush strokes if necessary.

      The adjustments were not so visible in the finished version because afterward the entire image was collapsed to fit onto one sheet.  I added the wreath on the wall.

     At left you can see the effect of the Photoshop dry brush filter.



     In spite of the pledge to keep it simple I did add frills, such as the Christmas lights and the phony sign above the window.  Again, the goal was to match the sign that was there originally.  That meant color, but also skewing it to match perspective lines, adding a drop shadow, matching the font and finally, more dry brush to keep it from looking as though it had been generated by a machine.


     I laughed at my own cleverness until I did a web search and discovered that dozens of other folks had done parodies of Hopper's classic painting.  Some showed Batman sitting at the counter, some have Star Wars troopers marching outside, and one showed a bear throwing lawn furniture through the window.                         



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