From surfer to digital artist: The photo-composite work of Gary Irving

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Please tell us about your start. what got you interested in Photography?

In the mid 80’s I started using a film camera while living in a small town in Wales, where I grew up and studied art in college. I would take pictures of my friends surfing and skating. Nothing serious, really—that's probably why they kicked me out!

What led you to digital compositing as a main medium?

I started using digital compositing to make my images because I had photographed a lot of landscapes and portraits and always felt that there was something more I wanted to say. I didn’t want to be confined to the scene in front of me. I wanted to tell stories that were fictional, to create images unrestricted by reality. It was when I began putting together parts into a photo composite that I started the quest to create my own style.

Tell us about your creative process, what inspires you?

I'm a visual person so looking at art inspires me a lot. But, inspiration comes to me in many different forms. It could come from a quick pencil sketch I've drawn, all types of music (especially heavy metal), conversations with a old friends at the pub, etc. The internet bombards you with so much information these days its hard not to find something that inspires you. I’d say a lot of my inspiration comes from just talking to people. Why just this morning at the local coffeeshop I had a great conversation about this great town I live in (Santa Cruz, California). It has inspired yet another piece.

What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?

I would have to say that the biggest challenge for me is getting the ideas that are in my mind put down on paper (the light source, the composition and the colors) and have the final piece look just how I imagined it. I want the viewer to look at my work and get it and to see what I was thinking. Looking at my images should be like looking into my head. Now, please get out of it, I have work to do. LOL

Do you have any words of wisdom for other photographers who want to get into digital compositing?

Have fun! But also, stay active. There’s a lot of sitting involved with photogaphy these days, so get up and move around! Look for your own sources to composite. Don’t just grab stuff from the web. A lot of the fun for me comes from scouting for the locations I use as my backgrounds and in working with the models who pose for me. There are a bunch of websites to learn from, the one that works best for me is Now go out and make some art!

Santa Cruz based photographer Gary Irving is a multimedia artist who is known for his highly stylized narrative photo-composites. Irving uses Photoshop to combine subjects from different frames within a background to create a story in the manner of a painter. Starting with the concept, he photographs the subjects in his studio and then places them digitally into a background. See more of his work at his website:

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