photoshop creative

Playing with food in Photoshop

Posted in:
Interviews, by Mark White
February 9, 2018

Cristian Girotto tells us how the versatility of Photoshop, his friends’ confidence in his work and time itself helped make his food-based portrait series, Organic, a hit

Most artists will probably tell you that they never thought their work would become a success, but often a lot of that can be put down to false modesty.

However, Cristian Girotto slept on Organic, a project marrying portraits with food, for two years before having the confidence to share it. Since then, it’s been viewed over 70,000 times online, and earned plaudits both from Behance and Photoshop’s online galleries. But how did Cristian create it? And what does he think of it now?

“I’m actually working on a project with some girls made of sushi at the moment,” he says. Maybe he’s taken with the idea of mixing people with food in his work…

When did you decide wanted to be a digital artist?

I studied graphic arts in Turin, and started working as an art director and graphic designer in my own agency with two friends. I could work on a website, and then create visuals for an advertising campaign, and then make a logo. During those years I realised I just wanted to deal with images, so I made the move to Paris and decided to work as a retoucher full-time.

Have you always used Photoshop?

I think the first Photoshop I ever used was the 3.0 version. I still remember the splash screen, and we didn’t have layers. My first works were of course ridiculous compositions, with friends’ faces pasted on movie posters, music albums, etc. Now everybody knows a different way to do the same thing in design, so even after decades of using Photoshop, you can still learn another way to do things. What I like the most about the program is its versatility.

As a versatile program, would you say that you try to push Photoshop to its limits?

I’m always hungry for surrealist ideas! With the boom of organic food there’s been a nutritional conscience that’s embedded itself in us, and that inspired me for this project. In my images there’s always something disturbing, a twist, and I like the idea of touching the viewer in one way or another.

What were Photoshop’s key features that you turned to for these images?

The hardest part was to match the lighting between the models and the still-life images; it wasn’t perfect all the time. I used a lot of calculations to create a bunch of selections for the models and the food. I also used the Curves adjustment a lot to lighten and darken parts of the food to match the model lighting, which worked as a more powerful dodge and burn technique.

The idea behind these images is very powerful, but simple.

I really like to stick to the simpler things. I try to keep my files as organised as possible with layers so that I can change things. I use Liquify a lot, Dodge and Burn on a grey layer, and I love the layer style blending options. I use that a lot; it’s a real life saver and not a very well-known technique.

Do you have any other tips for Photoshop users?

I’d advise them to call me and hire me instead! Honestly though, I don’t think this is the most original idea I’ve had, but I got inspired myself by stuff I’d seen around. One thing I would suggest to Photoshop users, though, is that what improves you the most is to develop an eye to see the ‘big picture’ – the overall look, the composition, the balance; that’s the hardest part, and I am still struggling with it as well. It’s something that grows with experience, I guess, and it’s what gives force to an image.

A lot of artists say they learn more with experience. But would you say you’re an artist that needs time to reflect on their work?

Well I must confess [that this project] slept in my hard drive for two years. I wasn’t convinced to show it off. I like to have plenty of projects on, so I can switch between them, and that gives me the time to see each project with new eyes when I go back to them. I wasn’t really satisfied with Organic though; I had doubts on the idea and the retouching. Friends told me I should publish it, so I did. I am never fully satisfied with a project; I guess that’s just the way I am.

Maybe confidence in your work is something that will also improve with time!

Once a project’s done, I don’t want to look at it anymore, it’s like when actors don’t watch the movies they are in! I’m more confident with the CGI projects I’m doing lately, though, as I have control over everything and I can try plenty of things that would be difficult to do in the real world. I am proud of Inner Child (a project that was viewed over 700,000 times online). I guess the simple ideas are better. Even if they’re the hardest to do.