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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics


The correct term is “photo illustration,” a kind of digital art that manipulates photographs. Arguably all digitized photos are digital art, and the boundary between a manipulated photo and a photo illustration can be blurry. Unless you’re doing what I’m doing, which is a miles-long stroll across the uncanny valley away from any borderline cases and deep into the thickets of abstractions. Where Photoshop can create photorealistic images from digital nothingness, I’m unphotographing photographs into pixelated pulp. I’m also using the un-Photoshop program, MS Paint, which Microsoft “deprecated” in 2017. I prefer it for two reasons: 1) I’m too lazy to learn Photoshop, and 2) I’m ridiculously happy with my results. I have added one cheat though: I open photos in Illustrator when I want to add something in grayscale (as you can see below). The steps just prior to the chessboard transparency are the most involved, free-form selecting slices of the image and transparency-pasting them back over again. It’s a way of mixing of colors directly on screen in what can look oddly painterly if you keep doing it long enough, which I do. I initially stopped there, but then had the brainstorm of testing the chessboard overlay. I like the results (see above), but maybe the pre-chessboard version is better (see the final image below).

This took much of my Sunday, waiting to drive to Charlottesville to pick-up my son at the train station as he was traveling home from Philadelphia for his spring break. Though maybe that’s the wrong word–when does home stop being “home”? That’s him in the photo. It’s another philosophical puzzle whether that’s him in the unphoto too. When does a photograph of Cameron stop being a photograph of Cameron? When does a photograph of Cameron stop being a photograph?




















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