Raja Ravi Varma mural
One of the most interesting mural projects I’ve had was to create a ceiling mural for a client in Sri Lanka. The client wanted a view looking up at a circular balcony with various people looking down. The problem I had was that the client wanted specific figures from paintings by the 19th century artist Raja Ravi Varma. I couldn’t paint straight reproductions of these murals as the viewer would be looking up at them and this would radically change the perspective of the figures. And if I did paint them as from the same viewpoint as the paintings they would appear to be falling over the balcony!
The only solution was to find models suitable for the poses, source the clothes (or as close as I could get) and photograph them from the same viewpoint they would be seen in the finished mural. This was a bit tricky for several reasons. The viewpoint was from 3 meters below and 2.5 metres in front of the model. And I needed an external location, preferably without a balcony (this would partially obscure the model) and with the sun coming from the correct side. Bearing in mind that this was in the middle of an English winter – days would be short and the angle of the sun very low. Not to mention the models would be freezing to death having to dress for the tropics.
Luckily I managed to find some brilliant models and took some fantastic shots in the correct poses. For the reference I have here you can see the drastic difference in perspective compared to the original. The saree was the wrong colour and I didn’t source the jug until after the shot was taken, but I’d got the shot I wanted. The pose was a mirror too but I think I managed to get something of the feel for the original which is really what I was after. The veena player in the mural was also taken from a famous Ravi Varma painting. Not being able to afford a real veena for the painting, I built a dummy one myself for the purposes of the photoshoot. It was essential to have this really to get the dynamics of the figure correct.