I've spent this last week looking at the moon while walking around our neighborhood in the evenings with my wife (Gina The Gorgeous). The more you look at the moon, the more there is to see, and the more your mind turns to philosophical musings and meditations.
There are, of course, a humongous number of moon-related quotes. Two of my favorites are as follows (I'd love to hear the ones that stir you):
"Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind." – Neil Armstrong
"There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls." – George Carlin
Both of these quotes send shivers down my spine, but that's not what I wanted to tell you about. I've convinced myself that you've been "champing at the bit," desperate to hear about the status of my ongoing hobby project to create a massive mosaic of Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night
to cast your orbs over my previous blog on this topic).
Well, one significant element to this piece is the moon in the upper-right-hand corner. Since this picture was largely a study in blue and yellow, Vincent decided to paint the moon as a yellow crescent (it's the crescent shape that tells us it's the moon … that and the fact we're looking at a night sky, of course).
In my case, however, I've decided to go for something different. First of all, I'm not going to have the village in the foreground at the lower-right-hand side. I'm envisaging my piece as reflecting the night sky as seen by early humans say 10,000 years ago. Also, one of the things I always associate with the moon is the "man in the moon" – the face my dear old dad guided me to see when I was a little lad. So I've decided that my mosaic will feature a full moon.
I've also decided that I'm actually going to create this element as a single piece, because – the thing is – I want to have a face in the moon. Nothing brazen, you understand. I may not be an artist, but even I know that a great big smiley phiz boasting a cheesy grin would not achieve quite the effect I'm hoping for. I want something much more subtle. This is why I've been spending so much time looking at the real moon, observing the delicate differences between the various gray hues.
The problem is that, as I say, I'm not an artist ("I R an engineer"), so this was something of a poser for me. What would you do if you were faced (pun intended) with this problem? Well, I was chatting with my graphic artist chum Bruce, who hangs out in the office next to mine, explaining what I was trying to do. I was thinking of taking a photograph of someone and somehow manipulating it in Paint.net to give me the effect I was looking for. In turn, Bruce noted that Winston Churchill
had a round moon-like visage and a commanding presence.
As soon as Bruce said this, I could see it in my "mind's eye." I immediately bounced back into my office and had a quick Google (it's OK, no one was looking). There are, of course, myriad pictures of the great man, but my eyes immediately honed in on one where his face is partially shadowed and he's looking slightly down and to the left (from my perspective).
I copied this picture into Paint.net and set the contrast to 100%, which serves to divide the picture into black and white as illustrated below (there are probably a lot better ways to do this, but I'm not an expert here).
The next step was to zoom in on the face, and to set a circular cropping region as shown below. As you can see, this is a low-resolution image I'm working with, but it will more than serve my purposes. The real trick at this point in the game was to restrain myself from making the crop area too big. Once again, I don’t want my "man in the moon" face to look like a photograph – I want it to be much more subtle than that. I want people to be looking at my mosaic and sort of squinting their eyes and saying "You know, that almost looks like a face…"
Even at this stage, I found it hard (as a non-artist) to really visualize how this was going to turn out, but the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing has never stopped me before, so I pressed on regardless. Once I'd implemented the crop, I pasted the resulting image into Visio:
You must admit that just the act of cutting away the surrounding parts of the image make it a lot easier to see where we're going. Finally, for the moment, I placed a white layer over the image and set the transparency of this layer to only 10%, resulting in the following:
Now, imagine this as a 5-inch diameter moon in the upper-right-hand corner of my mosaic. What you can make out of the face is stern, and it's looking down on the scene in just the right way. The next step is to replicate the light and dark areas using two glazes on my ceramic tile (I'm sure this will "fuzzify" the image even further). I'm going to be experimenting with glazes and my kiln this coming weekend – after which I will take a stab at creating my "man in the moon."
Generating the final product might take a few attempts and a couple of weeks' work (just for the moon, the entire mosaic is going to take months). Am I boring you with all of this, or would you be interested in seeing photographs of my moon when it's finished?
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