There is so much to love about Misselthwaite's winning entry of the Ghosts of Christmas Past Contest.
It's a ghostly render that's reminiscent of days gone by. From the ghostly angel in the foreground to the children in the snow, Misselthwaite wows us with her rendition of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
My favorite is how the path of light flows like a river of time, moving life forward, and how it ties the layers together beautifully.
She used Daz 4.10, 3Delight, to render the layers and composed the layers in Photoshop to create a stunning winning entry.
I reached out to Misslethwaite, and she was more than happy to share with us her inspiration and her process.
What inspired your elegant ghostly render of Christmas past? Did you draw from your own life experiences and childhood memories? Share with us your favorite memory you have incorporated into the image.
Misslethwaite: As a child, I loved Christmas, largely because my grandmother put all her heart into making it wonderful. She was always as excited as we were, and was up before us (usually to get the turkey in the oven). The stockings were always my favorite; we were allowed to open the presents there before the adults got up (I know now they would have done anything to sleep in!) and those whispered exclamations of anticipation still fill my ears. As an adult, and parent, I love seeing the expression on my own children's faces - those ephemeral moments of excitement and delight. The older I get, the more I believe those moments are something to be paid attention to, observed with your whole heart and held there. Remembered, joy sustains you and gives you the impetus to try to create more of those times.
The render is quite intricate. There's a lot going on between the ghostly effects, the snow, and the people. It looks like it was a complicated process. What was the most difficult thing to accomplish?
Misslethwaite: The render itself. It was my own fault; I have a hard time telling myself - oh, it's in the distance, you can slap any old texture on it, no one's going to notice... I work on each aspect individually, making each one to my liking. By the time I put all my pieces together, my computer came to a grinding, shuddering halt. Even after I tuned off reflections, and simplified textures, it was excruciatingly slow. I learned a lot about minimizing my scene, though - I turned all the children into props. I also learned that geoshells with snow are apparently memory intensive... I couldn't bear to turn them off, though.
You used Daz Studio & Photoshop to create your image. There are so many things to love about your image. Once you stripped the image into sections that were manageable render-wise, how long did it take to render each layer and could you give us a breakdown of what was rendered on each layer?
Misslethwaite: I kept it pretty simple, because I'm not used to compositing and everything had to fit back together, and, truthfully, I was beginning to panic a little. I did background (trees and snow) with the three light sources. Those were fast, about half an hour each. Then I did the children in sets of two with the two front lights - those were an hour or two, I think. The props were ridiculously long, and I was slow to figure out why, so I just let them run for hours. Those snow geoshells were coming back to haunt me... The final one was the Ghost herself and the two lights... I added in another light at the end just so I'd have the option of bringing in a little more illumination. Those took ages, she was very slow to render, at least five hours.
How long did it take you in Photoshop to get the layers just right for the final composition?
Misslethwaite: Slowly, I began smashing it together in Photoshop, which is still a new sandbox for me. I'd made some mistakes in my choices for layers, so I had to do a lot more work to make it look right without going back and re-rendering. I know more savvy users could have done it faster. Time was my mistress, and her lash stung! It probably took a full day just to get everything into place, cursing myself roundly the whole time. In the end, it was all about getting the layers to play nicely together so everything overlapped the way it should. It was the most maddening decoupage project, and I hate scrapbooking! The only other postwork was some blurring where the 'edges' of some things ran together too hard, some glow on the candles, and a little sparkle on the snow... because my reflections there had to get turned off for the render.
The ghost and snow effects are wonderful. What effects and shaders did you use in DAZ Studio and what was created in Photoshop? Could you share with us how you accomplished it?
Misslethwaite: In the end, the snow was probably more like half Daz and half PS, even though the final result looks very similar to my Daz test renders. I added a little more sparkle to the snow and a little frost texture in places, but the icicles on the table were in Daz and I didn't have to change anything about them. The snow caps on things were the geoshells. The Ghost's was all Daz - nothing was retouched there - I used Ubersurface and made her skirts nearly transparent, and used both spec channels and reflection. I had initially turned off her legs because I was minimizing everything, and liked how it looked.
How did you feel when the winners were announced?
Misslethwaite: My husband and best friend were awake before I was - they knew and didn't say anything until I booted up my computer and saw the notification for myself. I spent the rest of the day making random 'squee!' noises - fair to say I was elated!
You've been a member since 2013, have you participated in our contests before?
Misslethwaite: The Beauty Pageant contest a few years ago was what started me off, actually. I managed to get to the second round, and it was exciting and challenging, and I was hooked! I even posted some pictures in my gallery after that... otherwise I would have probably just muddled in my own puddle of the world in silence. After actually winning the ones last year, I made a conscious effort to try to learn new things, to justify the lovely prizes. We're building a house, though, so time is often not what I have a lot of!
What introduced you to 3D art and how long have you been an artist?
Misslethwaite: My friend, Sue introduced me to Daz Studio. We were talking about a writing project, and how nice it would be to have some pictures. She said, "There's this neat program called Daz - and it's free!" This is all her fault, and she knows it! I had done a little bit of drawing and painting as a young adult (mostly because I was mad that I failed pointillism in high school) but gave it up when I had children (paints and paper and little grabby hands - oh, my!) This was the perfect hobby, nothing to spill or shred. Then I burned through two laptops (literally, one started smoking, it was impressive). So now it's not free, but it's still a lot of fun! My husband and children are very supportive, and don't chide when I fall into my computer for hours at a time, and I forget to make supper until I have to turn lights on to see my keyboard. I even sometimes try to explain to people in town what 3D art is (my mother still doesn't get it at all, but she likes the pig picture), and I hung a couple of pieces at work. I'm not sure I'm an artist... but sometimes I manage to make something that gets close to art.