Water-Drenched Photomontages

I have experience with photoshop and illustrator but I have never played with water effects. I had to look up how to create a splash effect and I found a site that teaches 30 different water effects for Photoshop. There is a lot of photo manipulation involved and may be difficult to produce successfully. Since this is an experimental project I am going to experiment to see what results I can achieve. Here are some screen shots of the process I am going to use from the tutorial. I hope to achieve something to this effect but with different animal silhouettes.



This process involves collecting  various different images of splashing water and using their form to match the contours of the intended form. This will involve a lot of experimenting and tweaking to get it just right. There are examples of the process that I will be following (taken from the tutorial site):


Here is an image the tutorial worked with. This is just an example of one water splash that will be utilized. In actuality, there will be an array of images to choose from.


In this process, we are removing the background color from the image. This is achieved through finding the color channel with the most contrast between the areas that that we want to be opaque and those we want to be transparent. In this example, the background is blue so it will be the red channel we will be modifying.


In this step, we begin to combine the multiple elements to create an image. In this example, we are replacing the human figure with splashes of water to emphasis movement. In this example shown is still a crude image that needs tweaking and warping to make it fit into the contours of the body. This is the essential process that will be repeated to create the form.


Additionally, different water splash images will be used to accentuate the limbs of the form. I will be utilizing this technique to achieve my experimental project.

Incredibly Adaptive Animals

Camels – One animal you probably think about when you think about the desert is the Sahara desert camel. Camels store a large amount of fat in the humps on top of their backs (no, not water—that is a myth). The fat can be burned for energy when the camel is unable to locate any food. While most of us are searching for ways to burn off fat and slim up our bodies, camels are actually evolved by nature to carry extra fat around to survive!

Scarab Beatle – Also known by the less dignifying (but perhaps more descriptive) name “dung beetle,” the scarab beetle was a holy symbol to the ancient Egyptians and has some impressive adaptability. Dung beetles make creative use of animal feces. They are able to subsist almost entirely on animal waste. There are several ways that scarabs can make use of the dung they find, depending on how flexible they feel about their living situations.

Scorpion – This type of scorpion is translucent and yellow in appearance, and is among the most venomous animals of the Sahara desert, and the entire world. They look ephemeral and fragile, but they are incredibly dangerous, capable of causing respiratory failure and death.

Sidewinder Snake – There are a number of species of sidewinder in various deserts around the world. The horned viper is particularly well known in the Sahara. The venom from this snake can be lethal, and also quite painful, even in cases that do not lead to death. The unique sideways movement of the sidewinder helps it to traverse the sands quickly and effectively. Sadly, changes in the environment have caused the horned viper to enter the endangered species list.

Monitor Lizard – This large lizard (generally; some can be quite small) is venomous and can become quite aggressive when threatened, especially during colder seasons. Monitor lizards not only include desert-thriving species in the Sahara, but also species which can live in forests or even wetlands. This makes them some of the most versatile creatures on the planet. They are extremely intelligent and can even count.

Cockroaches – Cockroaches have been around for about 250 million years, so they’ve already survived a few mass extinctions. Here’s why: they can regenerate most body-parts, they’re prolific breeders and can hold their breath for over 40 minutes. What’s more, because a cockroach’s brain is dispersed throughout its body, it actually only needs its head to drink. Since a cockroach can survive without water for several weeks, that means it can live headless for the same amount of time!

Humans – Brains count for a lot when it comes to species survival. There have been five mass extinctions in the Earth’s history; the most recent was called the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction and took place about 65 million years ago. 85% of animals, including dinosaurs, went extinct. To work out why some species perished while others survive to this day, scientists compared birds that survived to other flying animals that did not.

Tardigrade – Tardigrades can survive any and all of the following: extreme pressure, radiation, the vacuum of space, boiling, freezing (close to absolute zero) and dehydration. They can go without water for 10 years (and probably a lot longer), entering cryptobiosis (extreme hibernation) and reducing their metabolism to less than 0.01% of normal; they only take a short while to return to normal with the reintroduction of water. In order to survive during cryptobiosis, the tardigrade enters a state called a ‘tun’. This happens very quickly and makes them practically indestructible.




I have a few ideas that I would like to further develop. My main theme that I would like to keep constant is water which represents adaptability. It will be a sort of multi-layered metaphor as water represents adaptability and adaptability can be equivalent to survival. One idea was to lay an image and create a wave effect or underwater effect over it. It would be a series of images and each one would represent a stage of life and/or emotion. I have scenes planned out to depict serenity and chaos/conflict but I’m not sure how to proceed after that. I’m also unsure how successful I would be in depicting these effects through depiction of water. If I had the knowledge of how to properly light scenery and photograph transparent water to achieve these effects, I might be more encourage to try this method. Here is a sketch of my idea:


Another idea is to sculpt something in the form of a creature that is known for its survivability and have it filled with water. This would be a great project if I was able to mold glass so I can create something transparent. I thought about using plastic bottles to mold shapes but I’m not sure how to fuse plastic together without inhaling toxic fumes. Some animals that I planned to create was a human because I think we are the most adaptable beings on this planet. I also wanted to use insects and reptiles such as alligators and beetles. I also partly chose these animals because they are aesthetically interesting to the eye.


These previous ideas were not very practical for this project as it would be difficult to achieve. I also wanted to focus more on graphic design and digital art rather than physical forms. The idea that I would like to further develop is to select few animals that may serve as a metaphor for adaptability and survivability molded by liquid or water. These are some preliminary sketches:



A Destructive Force

This idea of water and adaptability is a concept that I want further develop. I like the ambiguity of it. It can represent serenity or chaos. It can give life and also take away life.  It can be presented in different forms: gas, liquid, solid. These concepts brought me to the largest masses of water: the ocean. The ocean can be a beautiful scene or a destructive force.  This reminded me very much of a scene in the movie Good Will Hunting starring Matt Damon and Robin Williams. In this scene, Matt Damon’s character Will analyzes a painting done by Robin William’s character Sean. It depicts a man in a single rowboat in the middle of the ocean bracing for a thunder storm and choppy waves in the near distance. Here is a detail of the painting:

It paints a grim scene that is quite similar to Winslow Homer’s famous The Gulf Stream of 1899. While there are inherent similarities, his 1885 oil painting, The Fog Warning, bears a more resemblance to the painting in the film. The context of the painting is described as: “The painting is a landscape, or rather, a seascape, featuring a fisherman with a prize-catch who has to make a potentially life-changing decision: does he dump the fish overboard so that he can make it back to the mother ship before the fog rolls in, or does he keep the massive herring and hope for the best? We can see from the vacant oarlocks in the foreground, that, like Will and Sean, the fisherman has been abandoned.  The fact that the decision he has to make is his and his alone is another similarity between the figure in the painting and the characters in the movie.  This “roll of the dice,” the crucial first step towards a new life, is an existential theme that both Will and Sean grapple with throughout the film. “


The Fog Warning 1885


The Gulf of the Stream of 1899


I am a strong believer of science and I believe that science triumphs all. The most crucial trait in survivability is the ability to adapt to the environment. This is a concept famously coined by Charles Darwin as “survival of the fittest”. I was initially going to quote Charles Darwin on this theory but after research, I learned that the quote I was going to use has been misquoted. The initial quote was to be:


“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.
In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

I further researched this topic to find the correct quote and learned that “survival of the fittest” is no longer a used term by modern biologists because it does not accurately describe the process of natural selection. “Survival of the fittest” is simply a short summary of the concept and is more commonly identified as “natural selection”.  Natural selection focuses more on the reproduction and offspring, which is a key component to survival, rather than survival and preservation of self.

This idea of adaptability and survivability not only applies to animals but to humans and social interactions as well. Those individuals that are able to adapt to their environments and situations are better suited to provide, thus better suited to find a mate, and reproduce, carrying on their genes for future generations. This is merely a simplification of social functions in its most basic forms. This idea of adaptation reminded me of a quote by Hong Kong American martial artist, Bruce Lee.  In his documentary, “Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey”, he recites lines he wrote for a TV role. He says,


“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, be shapeless – like water. Now you get water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend”.