Florida photographer, Wick Beaver, had a problem. He was working on creating an updated version of Jesus’ Ascension for one of his clients but was having trouble getting the nail wounds in Jesus’ hands just right.

That was when Wick sent me the image looking to see what solutions I could see for his problem. While I’m not a trained illustrator working as a digital artist for nearly 18 years has taught me to look at images with an illustrator’s approach. And that experience proved to be just what I needed to create the ‘holes’ Wick needed.

Beginning with the idea of the hole itself I added an adjustment layer set to Multiply blending to create the illusion of depth. Then I thought about how the skin would look around the hole and added another adjustment layer to desaturate giving it just the right ‘deadness’. Some illustrated highlights around the edges helped a lot. This was followed by another adjustment layer that was painted in to create the bruises surrounding the wound.

After all that I felt something was still needed. Then I realized, it needed the right texture and shadow detail to really finish pulling off the effect. I grabbed a ‘comp shot’ of some meat and placed that into the holes using a layer mask to control how much detail was apparent in the wound.

Finally I sent a layered file back to Wick with the suggestion that he replace my rough shot of the meat. Rushing out to his compost pile Wick tells me he found some days old chicken breast and some bow tie pasta which he quickly shot and dropped in to finish off the image.

Here’s what Wick had to say about the collaboration:
“I had the great fortune and real honor of having Dennis Dunbar out in LA work the nail holes in the hands of Christ in my Ascension of Christ Ft Lauderdale photo. He immediately grasped the illustrative and kitsch nature of the task and returned me his 15+ layers, masks and adjustments to “get” the rotting, splayed back, bruised nature of the nail holes. Below is a close up of the forward hand. I attach a copy of the final full image as well for a look at the whole image. He left me a single layer he titled “MEAT”, for which I shot week old chicken bones and bowtie pasta dug out of our nice compost pile. Yes, gross to the max, but worth the effort in the end!”

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