Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Making “The Great Library” Part 3

The Outside

Having worked out the inside of my story box (see here and here) I started thinking about the outside. Initially I thought about just using text from the excerpt but decided to continue with the idea of the box actually being a simplified physical representation of the library.

Architecture of Ancient Alexandria

An internet search failed to come up with any drawings or artists’ impressions of the building which housed the Great Library of Alexandria of antiquity. In fact, the library collection was quite possibly spread across a number of buildings. I decided to look for images of important civic buildings from the time in Alexandria to use as a guide. I was lucky enough to find this book, and to be able to borrow it via an inter-library loan. The book proved fascinating and I was sorry I was only able to have it for a fortnight.

I decided to base my library on the temples built during the reign of the Ptolemaic period. (Winterson mentions Ptolemy in our extract). The feature I was most concerned about was the column capitals. I know very little about architecture from this period, but I do know enough to know that if I made a mistake with this, someone more knowledgeable (perhaps even JW) would know!

Fortunately this reference told me all I needed to know: the columns needed to be straight (not bulbous) with “composite capitals”. This refers to the fact that more than a single plant was depicted on the capitals (e.g. not just papyrus or palm, but both).

Creating the “Cover” Image 


Edfu Temple from the time of Ptolemy III- XII (public domain image)

Above you can see a photo of a temple from the Ptolemaic period and below is my original drawing before processing and adding effects. In the end, I kept decorative details to a minimum, but it was important to me to have the basic architectural forms right.



As this image was to form the equivalent of the cover, I needed to include a title. I decided to use the “title stone” below as a layer over the whole image.


I used this online tutorial on Moe’s Realm as a guide to develop the effect of text engraved into stone. For the most part I followed it exactly, and then at the end just tweaked things a little until I was satisfied.

Below: the two images with opacities adjusted to my satisfaction.


Using Instagram 

The final step was to transfer my drawing to my iPhone so that I could process it using Instagram. Unfortunately, the Instagram app is not available for non-Apple devices, and if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch you probably already know it. However, you may not realize that you can also use Instagram to process any jpg file, just like this one of mine.

Unfortunately I’m not fluent in “Apple-talk” but as it is done in iTunes, I imagine it is very similar to the method I’ve outlined below.

The steps on a windows computer are:

  1. connect your device to your computer  
  2. open iTunes
  3. open your device
  4. click on “Photos”
  5. Tick “Sync photos from” and then select folder from the drop down menu
  6. then click on “Sync” at the bottom right of the screen
  7. once the sync is finished, open Photos on your iPhone, iPad etc and you’ll find your images in your Photo Library



And voila! special effects courtesy of Instagram.

(Also, I want to extend a BIG THANK-YOU to the talented Azirca over on Speak Without My Voice who so kindly shared this facility with me!)


  1. What a thorough and well-documented piece of work!
    Especially good that someone told you how to get around the "incompatibility."

    I'm still pretty much on training wheels for a lot of these things, but posts like this are hugely helpful. Thank you.

  2. I've added the instagram app to my mix of things but its remained unused (so far).... I'm unsure about joining yet another durn group (which is the only way that insta wants to work on my i-p..... do you do a work around? - does that question make sense?)
    lovely of you to share all the stages in the development of your art and lies baby

  3. Thanks Di! I'm always keen to help.

    Ronnie: you do have to "join" but you can go into your account (mine is labelled "@potsrme", yours is probably "@ronnie") and make your photos private. That way nobody else sees them. Or if you have friends you want to share with, they can ask you and you "allow" it. Hopefully that helps.

  4. Thanks for the fascinating description of your process. I'd never heard of Instagram. I also love reading about what other people do with Photoshop and picture editing in general. It's just endless, the possibilities. This came together so well. I also like the layering effect of your drawing with the stone title that you had constructed (good link, too!).

  5. Wonderfully informative post Amanda, like Parts 1 and 2. Like Ronnie I've had Instagram for a while but have jibbed at the idea of joining the group. Now you've explained it I'll have another look at it. Your Instagram result is great.