Although I began doing these for dustjackets, I actually have aphantasia, ie I don’t have the ability to visualise or form images in my mind, so where most people can imagine something, I found that I need to create a visual representation to be able to “see” it. I find it interesting that while Temple Grandin & I are both on the autistic spectrum, she “thinks in pictures” to an amazing degree, and I get zilch. Nada. Nothing. But I do dream in pictures so I have no idea how that works.
Each image can take anywhere from under an hour to sometimes days or months, depending on how much adding/removing/changing I feel like I need to do before I’m happy with it. I do try to find couples with similar body types, but I don’t have my own personal doppelgangers to use, so I’ll sometimes have to manipulate the image further to make it more true to the character. While I want them to look quite realistic as fantasy/MSR fan art, I don’t want them to look real enough to be ever mistaken for a photo.
I’ve been developing my manipulation skills over the last couple of years. I discovered early on that there’s a lot more involved than putting someone’s head on someone else’s body, and I’m still learning. There are so many subtle things like getting the head/body size right (even 1mm out can be really obvious), matching skin tones and shadows, touching up things like hair, and finding the right facial expression etc that go towards making them look more realistic. My early efforts were abysmal. Making them look more artistic is a lot more challenging, but a lot more rewarding too.
I should thank the artists who came before me for their inspiration as well. The original fan artists such as Tere, Kimpa, veredgf & Fiona (to name but a few) not only inspired me to make better images, but many also shared things like photoshop brushes, overlays & textures that helped me develop my skills.
I assure you it can be quite disturbing sourcing some of the images. Sometimes I have to close my eyes and scroll quickly past images that I don’t want to see to find what I’m looking for. Sometimes it gets too much and I’ll resort to an “inspired by” image rather than one depicting the scene I want. CC0 and public domain images are used where possible.
Each image is rarely made from less than 3 sources, there are a lot of bits and pieces added from different pictures to create the finished product. I’ll sometimes put together reusable “sets”; composites of screen shots and added extras to make up backgrounds etc.
As an example, here’s Scully’s old bedroom set. It was done a couple of years back so the quality isn’t the best, and there are a lot of things i’d do differently now. It was made of a number of different shots as she walks Mulder into her room in Anasazi, and then embellished with replacement blankets, wrinkled sheets, extra pillows etc.
NOTE: I attempt to make it quite clear that the images are of the characters, not the actors playing them, and where possible I use images from the show itself. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to get some things from the show, eg Scully smiling, so in special cases I will use publicity shots or publicly released images (eg award shows). I would never use any paparazzi or cell phone shots depicting the private life of the actors for manipulation purposes. I’m big on privacy and would never want this work to impact the lives of the actors I have such admiration for.