This manip was created to complement jan-u-wine's new poem, A Fairer Than Most Birth-day. She wrote it as this year's birthday mathom, but, since I already had prepared a Baggins Birthday post, showcasing a poem written several years ago from Bilbo's point of view--with a Frodo Art Travesty to go with it--I didn't post it. I promised myself, however, that I'd make a post for the new poem, complete with its own illustration.
The featured poem, which celebrates the renewed post-war Shire as seen through Frodo's eyes, cried out for Shire imagery. Since I'd already screencapped every trilogy scene set in the Shire, I decided a new Frodo Art Travesty was called for. The resulting image, Frodo in Ford Madox Brown's "The Hayfield", captures well for me the mood of subdued but intense reverie in Jan's poem, especially at the poem's end, when the time has become dusk and the moon has risen.
Source for Frodo figure:
The source for Frodo's image is a well-known publicity shot for FotR. I believe it was taken by Pierre Vinet, the photographer who did most of the gorgeous production stills for the trilogy. I love this image. Frodo looks young, yet wise, fresh-faced and bonny-cheeked, yet worn and grubby, warm, yet reserved, keenly observing, yet reflective.
Here is a reduced version of the shot:
Source for background:
Ford Madox Brown was a Victorian-era painter often associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. Although never a formal member, Brown was from the Brotherhood's beginnings an important associate and acted as a mentor to its members. He gave lessons in oil painting to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, at the younger artist's request (who soon quit, a lax student), and produced an essay on historical painting for the group's magazine The Germ (1850). He kept an unvarnished and detailed diary which offers many insights into the life and work of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Nevertheless, Brown had his own style and approach to art, although he used the detail and rich colours admired by the Pre-Raphaelites, as well as being drawn to dramatic and illustrative subject matter.
Born in Calais of British parents in 1821, he was shifted about between England and France as a child. A talent for drawing was noted and he began studying painting and drawing seriously from an early age. Although he was a proficient artist, his work much appreciated after his death, he was mostly ignored by the art establishment of his day, who saw him as an outsider, unwilling to compromise. He never made much money from his work. As principled and passionate in life as in art, he could be perceived as prickly in temperament, although he was considered a self-sacrificing and loyalfriend. He died in 1890. To see more of his work, browse ArtMagick's online collection here.
The painting was acquired by the Tate Gallery in 1974. A writer for their online site says of it,
Brown painted "The Hayfield" (oil on mahogany) directly from nature. The setting is the Tenterden estate at Hendon, in north London, looking east at twilight. He worked on the picture regularly from July until October 1855, finishing the details of the foreground in his studio, including the self-portrait of an artist relaxing in the lower left corner. The effect he particularly sought to capture was the way in which the brown hay was made to appear almost pink by contrast with the dense green grass. After it was finished his dealer rejected it on the grounds that he had never seen hay of this colour. Brown later retouched the painting before selling it to his friend and fellow artist William Morris.Brown, like a certain manip-maker and LJ user, was apparently a noted maniac for continually tweaking his work, fiddling and re-touching paintings even after they had been sold. To see the Tate's online image of the painting, which although small and indistinct gives a hint of the "pink hay", click here.
Ford Madox Brown's The Hayfield, 1855:
The Final Manip (skip this if how-to's bore you):
Starting out, I thought it would be a lot easier to import an entire figure into a painting than just a face or head. As it turned out, trying to nuance Frodo's head into a painting is a lot easier than insinuate an entire figure of Frodo. The main problem is matching textures. "The Hayfield", which is not in good condition, presented a challenge. The large scan I worked from was much better than the tiny files I found on the internet, but it showed clearly the network of small to large surface cracks that covered the painting's surface, especially noticeable in its lower left hand corner. How could I make the perfect Pierre Vinet photograph look more a part of the original painting?
I did a lot of experimenting, but ended up first smoothing the painting. After I had diminished the obviousness of the surface cracking, I carefully cut Frodo out of the publicity still (I worked from a high-resolution file), slapped him provisionally onto the painting, and fiddled until I got the size and position I thought looked best. Then I darkened and tinted the source scene (increasing the blue), to bring out the soft glow of the moon and deepen the dusk, adjusting the figure of Frodo to match. Then I worked a bit at trying to texture the Frodo image. I added filters in fairly translucent layers: "eggshell crackle", "film grain-rough", and "crayon-faded rub". These added character and broke up the photographic surface a bit, but did not add the crackled surface that matched the painting, a crackle pattern that nothing in my standard tools could produce. Discouraged, I decided what I had would have to do.
I saved the image as a jpg file (in which the layers can no longer be worked with separately) and, with the clone tool set at various transparencies, worked at nuancing the edges of the imported image, bringing background colour in and Frodo's colours out, painting in strands of hair, bringing strands out. Once he was well-integrated into the background, I could see that he still stood out from the painting, his texture too photographic. With a selection tool, I isolated his image and played around some more, further adjusting the colour and lighting, trying different filters to see if another combination would work, but the improvement was minor. Then it occurred to me to take a peek into the effects/filters available in Paint Shop Pro, a program I've only started to work with. Happily, after a lot of trial and error, I tried a texturing effect called "tinfoil". Adjusted, it produced the best semblance of the painting's crackle by far. I applied it, deemed the crackle it produced good, but too harsh. Thin layers of "watercolur-rain" and " watercolur-traditional" blended everything better. With a last, very light layer of "eggshell crackle" over the whole thing, I felt satisfied. Yet, like Brown himself, I still itch to tweak it. Every time I look at it I see room for improvement. With effort, I am forcing myself to let the "final draft" be final.
Frodo, in Ford Madox Brown's 'The Hayfield' (reduced approximately fifty per cent):
A Fairer Than Most Birth-day
It is my
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
in the grey,
and giving way
to a brass'd
in dips and
my feet find
of the road,
its face dark with
the wet cling
(like a drift of autumn snow-arrows)
lying upon lace-puzzle spider webs.
I shall walk
so far, I imagine,
that the stars
within the velvet catch-bowl
of the sky
I turn towards
The night air
will be sweet and heavy
the wind warm
with the slightest
salt of the Sea,
the sharpness of it
like a secret
strike of a clock.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At the last, I stand
upon the crown of
the jewel'd finery of night
captured above me,
the soft amber-gold
of tallow-fat candles
Like a friendly hand upon
a wanderer's strayed arm,
these kindly lights,
like Spring days and Summer nights,
And I turn to Home,
my feet finding the familiar way,
road-dust rising fine
and autumn-leaf scented
beneath my touch,
from hidden thistle-birds.
The round door closes behind me,
lightly heralding the season's change.
I smile and touch it,
as if it were a beloved face
I should not like to forget.
So many things to touch,
September 22, 1420, S.R.**
**this extraordinary year, in which the devastated Shire was renewed, was called "The Great Year of Plenty". It was also the last year Frodo celebrated his birthday at Bag End.
Detail of Frodo's side of the painting, slightly reduced:
Frodo's face, detail, from full-size image:
Tables of Links:
~ Frodo Art Travesty LJ entries (entries that present selected manips, which may feature notes on the paintings and manip techniques, as well as essays or poems).
~ Album of all Frodo Art Travesties (a gallery of images only—be sure to enlarge images after opening).
~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.