Caught Between Heaven and Hell

I know this couple’s story.

The guy is really nice, despite his appearance – responsible, a hard worker, kind to children and animals. He and the girl hang out and have lighthearted innocent fun together, watching movies and dancing around in the clouds. However, there are religious differences and the girl’s stepmother seizes on them. The woman is increasingly unhappy in her marriage, so she takes her frustration out on the girl. She asks obnoxious questions about the guy’s sexual history, says nasty, angry things about him, and tries her best to break the couple up. When the guy brings the girl roses, the stepmother accuses the girl of sleeping with him, because of course no guy would give a girl flowers unless she’d done that. 

In the end, the woman wears the girl down, and the girl’s father doesn’t do a damned thing to stop her. Who knows; maybe he’s just happy because his daughter is being targeted, not him. The girl has a breakdown, dumps the guy, and does some idiotic things things to escape “home”. She regrets all of it for years, and doesn’t feel whole until she and the guy get back together. He’s turned out great and is much respected in his career jabbing people with pitchforks. He even stepped in as a surrogate father to put a nephew through pitchfork-jabbing school.

When the girl’s stepmother finds out, she shows signs of wanting a second go at busting them up, but this time the girl has wised up. She won’t put up with it. When things escalate some more, this time targeting  her young mutant spawn, she realizes the price of staying in contact with her family is too high.

Oh. Wait. That isn’t the couple in the picture. That’s my story.

The picture was actually inspired by an Artuš Scheiner illustration published in a 1901 edition of the magazine Lustige Blätter. One can see a facsimile of the magazine in online archives hosted by the University of Heidelberg, along with enough grotesque racial stereotypes to make a Klansman get a hate boner.

I think the picture is titled The Fugitive Saint, but I can’t swear to that. I also know nothing about the backstory of the drawing or the events Scheiner was trying to illustrate. However, I found the juxtaposition of opposites intriguing, inspiring enough to want to rip it off create my own version.

I began by posing some digital models on my computer, more or less reproducing Scheiner’s composition. I soon found the positioning of the tail unsatisfactory. In Scheiner’s picture the tail wraps around the angel, embracing her as effectively as his arms. That was the object of merriment and ribaldry in an online group I follow, with commenters identifying the tail as a symbolic phallus. I don’t think they were wrong.

Four or five work versions later I elected to go full circle – or spiral, rather – posing the tail in front of the demon’s personal area so that it would form a more obvious symbolic phallus. Thanks to the lighting, we can’t actually tell the nature of his real anatomy. Given the fallout from the movie The Shape of Water, which involved some wag marketing a personal aid inspired by the sea creature’s privates, perhaps that’s just as well.

I didn’t care for the color of the angel’s dress, so I made a new texture. White is probably traditional for angels, but it looked monotonous. I put her in ice blue instead.

With the major design issues squared away, my attention turned to minor issues such as the shape of the demon’s ears and facial features and the fact that his tail was so dark it could barely be seen. I also found the angel’s hair growing right through his fingers, the feathers of her wings jabbing through each other, and concluded that her halo looked dumb.

With those issues resolved, it was time to give the happy couple a backdrop. This setting is straight from the tradition of ripping off Alphonse Mucha, although someone better able to keep a straight face might call it an homage or use the phrase “inspired by”.

The phases of the moon are from NASA’s “dial a moon” utility.  The planet and the starry backdrop were created in Filter Forge. The final image uses a couple of Photoshop brushes, Ron Deviney’s clouds and Lily Fox’s halos. As usual, everything was composited and retouched in Photoshop.

And that, as they say, is that.

One Response to “Caught Between Heaven and Hell”

  1. Caitlin O’Connor says:

    Love the story, love the image!

Leave a Reply