DPP Home Profiles Bert Monroy - Re-Creating Reality

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bert Monroy - Re-Creating Reality

Bert Monroy is a Photoshop master who uses software like a brush and canvas all at once. He's not a photographer, but a digital painter who pushes the software envelope to create his art

To get that realism, one of Monroy's tools is a camera, but that doesn't make him a photographer any more than carrying a pencil would make him a writer. Since an average piece may take him up to 200 hours to complete, he relies on notes, sketches and snapshots to help him create the most realistic scene possible.

“It's kind of tough to sit in one place for that long and get what I want,” he says. “So I take a series of shots. I take a main shot of the scene and then a series of close-ups—the details of what a sign says, what does that garbage can look like—and then I also sketch because the camera does distort. By sketching the actual scene, I'm seeing it the way my eye sees it. The photograph is giving me the colors and textures; the sketch is giving me the actual dimensions of the scene. Then I use those elements to start building my image on the screen based on my notes, my pictures and my sketches.”

While conventional wisdom may deem photography the more realistic medium, as a painter, Monroy takes a different approach. He feels that to accurately represent how a place looks to the human eye, it takes a human hand without the distortions inherent to photography. In order for a painter to create realism, he must be meticulous about making straight lines straight and colors accurate, but also understanding that it's the minute imperfections that make scenes appear real.

“It's a Japanese philosophy,” Monroy explains. “If you look at certain pieces of Japanese pottery, you'll notice that there are slight imperfections. I once inquired about that: For a society that's so into making things clean and perfect, why are there imperfections in these things? And they said it's because life isn't perfect, so by making things perfectly round, it's a distortion of reality. A little nick or bend in something makes it more real. That's a philosophy that I bring into paintings. To make it perfectly clean, it just wouldn't be real. So I add the grime, I add the imperfections, I add the little piece of litter. Something that's going to make it look like a real place in the world. There will be a sign with screws that hold that sign in place. I'll go in and add rust to the screws and little drips of where dirt came down with the rain. I'll add things that I think should be there to make the scene come alive.”

Building The Image

Monroy takes his sketches, notes and snapshots and starts with Adobe Illustrator before moving into Photoshop to make his worlds come to life.

“I start working the way I used to work,” he explains. “I'll create a horizon line, I'll decide where my vanishing points will be, and I start drawing my vanishing lines out toward the viewer. Then I start building where the different elements will be—a window, a door, a garbage can. Once I have all these guides in place, I bring it into Photoshop and it becomes a layer where it's simply a guide. On top of that I start building the image with a series of paths that I create with the Pen tool in Photoshop. In some cases, I'll go back to Illustrator and create the elements there because maybe I want more detail than I can achieve in the Photoshop file. So I'll do it in Illustrator at 400 percent of what I need, get all the detail I want, then reduce that to 25 percent and import it into Photoshop. Then it rasterizes to the resolution of the Photoshop file, and the detail that I wouldn't have been able to achieve in Photoshop will start to come out.


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