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On the challenges of recreating faces and bodies using stock imagery

The original painting on the left, and the recreated version
The original painting on the left, and the recreated version

CR: Did you have to pitch for this project or was it a direct commission?

JC: It was a direct commission. The team in charge of this project had spotted some of my work on my Behance account and they got in touch with me directly. I didn’t need much convincing!

Images used to recreate the figure of St.Matthew
Images used to recreate the figure of St.Matthew

CR: What sort of research did you have to do about the painting before you started? 

JC: I watched documentaries about Carravagio’s life, which I found incredibly interesting because he was a painter with a dynamic career. Plus, I read a few things on Wikipedia. These didn’t really influence the work per say, but definitely satisfied my curiosity. 

Images used to recreate the angel
Images used to recreate the angel

CR: How did you find the right stock images to use? How long did you have to make the image?

I began with the characters’ faces. For me these were the most difficult parts of the picture. I knew that if I succeed in recreating the faces, the rest of the picture would come easily.

Once I was satisfied with the faces, I looked for body parts. I wanted to collect a large number of credible sources, so I could combine them in different ways. It was quite challenging to find bodies with the same posture as those in the painting, nobody really poses like that in real life. It was like putting together pieces of a puzzle, after you had selected those pieces out of the millions available! 

Piecing together the face of St.Mathew
Piecing together the face of St.Mathew

I finally used about 45 stock images to recreate the painting, and spent about three weeks on the project. I had to keep taking breaks though, to get some distance and perspective on the work. People have asked how many layers the final image has. I didn’t actually count, but I’d guess about 600.

Fitting together pieces of the puzzle
Fitting together pieces of the puzzle

CR: What were your favourite parts of the final image?

JC: I am very satisfied of the Saint Matthew’s face, I wanted to make it expressive and impish. I think it’s the most successful part of the picture. 

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