Giant Skull on Arizona Highway

Giant skull on desert highway in Arizona, surreal artwork by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Cranius Arizonus. I basically Latinized a two-word phrase in which one of the words was already Latin (cranium). So pretty light-hearted intention here.

This is a tricky composition. I had to do a fair bit of playing with the position and size of the skull to balance it.

Things like that often happen with my imagery. I have an idea that seems like it will obviously work, but when executed it’s more awkward than originally intuited (or doesn’t work at all).

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Skull-Shaped Island in Green Ocean

Skull-shaped island in green ocean, surreal artwork by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Strata Mouth. Literal and descriptive, but appealingly poetic to me, too.

The base shot is Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia. The island is one of The Twelve Apostles, which are “limestone stacks” off the shore, by the Great Ocean Road. A very remarkable piece of shoreline, incidentally. Definitely worth the journey out to see.

As usual this picture is the result of a lot of experimentation. It took three tries to get something I was happy with—there are two other similar versions, both of the same island, but very different overall compositions. This one was zoomed in and centered on the island the most. I eventually decided the others, which had far more ocean in them, were too awkward.

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Skull Hanging From Cloud by String

Skull hanging from a cloud by string. Surreal art photograph by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Connected. Quite a descriptive title, but it still has aesthetic appeal to me. As with all artwork names, I think it’s important to take into account the artwork itself, and the effect on perception the words of the title exert. They’ll always influence the experience to some degree, which is why I think artwork names are important.

This image is made up of quite a few photos, and getting the tonal balance of the individual elements right was tricky. There’s no right or wrong way with art, but as a work is created, you go on a journey of possibilities. Each choice you make is an experiment to see what meshes best with your aesthetic taste.

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Skull Impaled on Needle

Skull impaled on a needle and hanging by a thread. Surreal art by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: By a Thread, fairly literal title on this. As with most of my titles I like the poetry of the words in and of themselves, but further when paired with the image.

The idea for this stemmed from a previous image of a skull impaled on a pole. I wanted to start exploring a more quirky, fun, and surreal direction, and playing with scale seemed like a good start.

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Skull on Bokeh Background

Skull on bokeh background, art photograph by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Levity

This actually emerged from Godseye. After completing that image, I thought enlarging the area around the skull might work.

It’s actually not simply a direct enlargement, doing that didn’t work. But I played around with it till I got the blurred background looking more interesting. I also added texture to the skull, which somehow looked too shiny and boring as it was.

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Giant Skull Floating Over NZ Road

Giant skull floating over NZ road. Surreal art photograph by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Cranium Volito. Another light hearted Latin-inspired title. Cranium: skull, volito: to fly about, or hover.

As with Cranium Impedimentum, the base image is the Paekakariki Hill Road in New Zealand.

The most difficult thing about this image was creating the shadow. Getting it to look at all realistic means closely examining the rest of the image to get clues—direction of the sunlight, hardness of shadow edges, tone and darkness.

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Giant Skull Hovering Over NZ Road

Giant skull hovering over NZ road, surreal photograph by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Cranium Impedimentum. This was a fun one. The phrase is faux Latin—cranium meaning skull (actual Latin), and impedimentum, a Latinized version of impediment, being that the skull’s blocking the road.

(I didn’t think impedimentum was a real Latin word, but I just googled and saw a few results. However, the definition seems to be “luggage”, so I think I’m safe.)

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Skull Hovering Over River in Florence – Black and White

Skull hovering over the Arno river in Florence, Italy. Surreal black and white art photo by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Interloping, Florence II. I did three images with this title format, a color version of this, plus Interloping, Vietnam. Nothing too profound about the title, I just like the narrative overtone the word interloping adds.

Here’s the funny thing about black and white imagery. Intuitively you’d think you’d just take a successful image and drain the color. There you go, a great variation of the original, job done.

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Skull Impaled on Pole – Sepia and Red

Skull impaled on pole, surreal sepia and red art photo by Joseph Westrupp.

Title: Nostalgia. Obviously not descriptive, rather a poetic juxtaposition.

A skull impaled on a pole, what could be prettier? I jest, and granted, not a concept traditionally thought of as aesthetically pleasing, but to me skulls are genuinely beautiful. Perhaps the metal pole adds a more brutal element, but I love what it does for the geometry of the composition, too.

Maybe I should also make it clear that it’s a digital manipulation—the original skull doesn’t have a pole through it.

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