Pixelogy Arts | Interview: Greg Agee Guru Award Winner

Interview: Greg Agee Guru Award Winner

May 24, 2013  •  1 Comment


My name is Greg Agee and I get to live in the paradise of Ft. Myers, Florida with my wife of 15 years, son of 11 years and puppy of 1.5 years.

I own and run Pixelogy Arts, a creative high-end post-production studio that provides image compositing and retouching services for photographers, ad agencies, design firms and creative professionals. I officially launched Pixelogy Arts in December of 2012 and am currently in the joyful process of marketing and finding work, which all creatives know is the best part of being an artist! Yes, that’s sarcasm.

I was a Navy brat from the moment of conception and spent my formative years living and traveling (aka dragged) around the world, experiencing first-hand all the great art and architecture of the Old World. Unaware at the time, that there was no greater creative education for budding artist like myself then being surrounded by centuries of great art. As I got older, I began flexing my artistic curiosity and sought to experience all the art forms I could get my hands on, relishing in the act of creating something from nothing and feeling a unique and proud bond with all the great artists who came before me.

First attending the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston and then graduating in 92’ from the Maine College of Art with a BFA in Sculpture, I set my sights high and launched into a journey of artistic experiences that included Traditional Sign Painter, Architectural Stone Carver, Inlaid Exotic Wood Floor Artist, Gravestone and Monument Artisan, Ornamental and Decorative Blacksmith, Stained Glass and Mosaic Business Owner, Graphic Designer and lastly Photographer and Digital Artist.

And that brings me to today and my life as a Pixelogist (aka Retoucher). I’ve been using Photoshop off and on since version 6, but didn’t really start buckling down and taking it seriously until CS. Now, I eat, sleep and breathe Photoshop and find that there is always something new to learn if you’re willing to listen, watch and read. I love looking for those little “Gold Nuggets” of information that makes me say, “Man, I didn’t know that!”

You recently won a Guru award, what was that like?

Quite surreal! I know Academy Award nominees say it’s an honor just to be nominated, but it’s true. Win or not, it was awesome to know that I had been selected as one of the Guru Award finalists. This was also my first Photoshop World, so the Guru Award made the whole experience that much better. The lights, the anticipation and the electricity in the atmosphere really made it special moment and a great way to kick off the week! I highly recommend it!

What made you decide to enter? 

Since starting my business, Pixelogy Arts in December, I’ve been doing my best to get my name and work out there as much as possible and one of the ways I thought to do that is to start entering as many contests as possible.

I’ve recently entered numerous local Salon Competitions through the Professional Photographers of Southwest Florida (PPSWF), a regional competition through the Southeast Professional Photographers Association (SEPPA) where I received 4 “Seals of Approval” and most recently the PPA’s International Photographic Competition (still waiting).

Viewbug, an online photo contest site was also recently holding a Photoshop World photo contest where the Grand Prize winner would be awarded an all expense paid trip to the Orlando Photoshop World Conference. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the Grand Prize, but I was one of three first place winners that received an awesome one-year subscription renewal for both NAPP and Kelby Training. Both of which I needed badly since my subscriptions were about to expire.

So, once I knew I was going to the 2013 Photoshop World in Orlando, it was a no brainer, I had to enter. I felt the worse thing that could happen was that I didn’t take the unique opportunity to enter.

Tell me about the image. How and why you created it. What tools did you use? Photoshop, computer, etc…

The name of the image is “Fistful of Bullets” and is a take on the cowboy movie genre. I love movie posters and how they summarize the mood and character of entire movie through a single composited image. Most titles for Cowboy movies exude machismo, grit and danger and I wanted my title to be recognizable as well as sounding dangerous. So I based it off of Clint Eastwood’s “Fistful of Dollars”, but instead the dollars were going to be flying bullets. My ultimate goal for the image was to capture a moment in time of these characters lives and allow the viewer to get a feel for their predicament.

My first issue was the orientation of the image. Normally movie posters are longer vertically, but the way I eventually wanted to use the ghost town in the background, the image was going to have to be more horizontal then vertical. Doing some research I came across some “Bollywood” Action movie posters that really fit the style I was I was going for horizontally, so invoked artistic license to make the image horizontally.

Believe it or not, the entire image was made up of elements from stock photography. Using stock photography can be a real lesson in patience when trying to find images that portray everything you’re looking for like pose, expression, lighting, perspective and focus. However, in the same breath, stock photography can also be a beneficial avenue to access hard to acquire images because someone else out there has already invested the time and money to get those photos, So I say, why not take advantage of that?

I’m definitely a Mac person. I use a Mac Pro with 16GB of memory, two Apple monitors (one really old, one new), a Wacom Intous 5 tablet, a recently upgraded subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud CS6 and a variety of plug-ins, such as Topaz, Red Giant, and Mister Retro. The one plug-in I use 95% of the time for making difficult selections is Topaz’s Remask. Love it! Smoke, dirt, hair…it can do it all.

Are there any special techniques you used in creating this image that our members might find interesting?

I find that no matter how much you think you know in Photoshop or how well you have a favorite technique mastered, it never works out exactly the same way when working from one image to the next. A lot of things in Photoshop are just trial and error and experimentation.

I really wanted the bullets flying by the two cowboys to look alive. Like they were breaking the sound barrier and creating pulsating shock waves as they punched through the air. I mean who’s threatened by slow bullets, right? So, I came up with a plan of attack and then quickly watched the plan fall flat on it’s face as the results weren’t what I wanted. Regrouping, I analyzed what I had and where I wanted to go and then tried again.

So the real question was, how do you make bullets look like their busting through the air?

Since all the bullets in the final image came from a single image of a bullet, I had to use the “warp” tool to shift, scrunch, move and warp the shape of each main bullet to adjust for the perspective that would match the vanishing point lines of the gunslinger in the background. Next, I duplicated the bullet layer and sized it down to be slightly smaller then the original bullet. I did this 3 more times with each new bullet getting slightly smaller and going behind the previous layers (Fig. 1). I then merged these four duplicated layers together and transformed them using the perspective option to make them look like they were receding into the distance slightly. Once merged, I applied a motion blur to create a bit more movement in the bullets (Fig. 2). I was getting closer, but this look still wasn’t what I was going for, so I then lowered the opacity of the merged bullets layers and began messing around with the lightening blend modes and found that the “Screen” blend mode took away the solidity of the bullets and left behind a transparent effect, which was in the right direction I was shooting for (Fig.3). No pun intended.  Well, maybe it was! I then created a layer mask and applied a black to white gradient fill so I could make the bullet trail fade away from the main bullet. At this point the bullet trail was still a little weak, so I duplicated the “screened” layer to beef up the transparent bullet trail. Then on a separate layer I added some more ghosting effects to help make the bullet look like it was interacting and creating the shock wave. Once I was satisfied with the result from the first one, I just copied the bullet trail for each of the other bullets and sized and/or warped to fit.

Do you have any other images similar that you would be willing to show us as well?

I’ve included two other images that involved a lot of compositing work, one is called Sunday Drive (Fig. 4) and shows a Toyota FJ Cruiser driving over a treacherous mountain pass in pretty crappy weather. The whole image is made up of various composited elements, but the part that I’m most proud of are the rain drops I created bouncing off the road. That was not an easy task, but it really helped to make the scene believable.

The second image is movie poster called “Ship of Fools” (Fig. 5) which is a humorous take on the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny to have real pirates who dressed like clowns, but not because they wanted to be funny birthday clowns for kids, but because they were just an odd band of pirates who’s captain had a fetish for silly costumes and make-up.

Where would you like your work to take you in the future? Vocationally or Artistically.

I really just want to continually get better. Learning is really important to me and I find myself constantly observing and questioning the world around me, wondering why things behave the way they do and then attempting to incorporate those observations into my art work.

I was 10 years old when I saw Star Wars for the first time. Leaving the theater, drool dribbled from the corner of my mouth and my imagination was in overdrive. I instantly became fascinated with movies and special effects and the art of faking reality by making the unreal look real. Traditional techniques like the painting style Trompe l’oeil and miniature model building fueled my curiosity, so once I discovered Photoshop and realized the potential that it offered, it became a creative outlet for me to help explore my fascination with replicating reality through digital imagery.

Being involved with something like Photoshop that’s always evolving and becoming more capable after each new release is extremely exciting, because the reality is, the learning never ends. I find there is no better avenue for flexing my creative muscles and realizing my artistic potential then through Photoshop

I also just recently had the opportunity to teach my first Photoshop shop class on Selections and Compositing and loved it. I think being able to give back to a community that is so passionate about learning Photoshop is an awesome opportunity for me! I definitely plan on teaching more.


Link to article on NAPP website.




Lydia Vargas(non-registered)
What an interesting article, Greg. I had no idea that you had such and interesting background in art. I've always admired your work but being nationally recognized is proof positive of your talent. Thanks for sharing your tips.
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