Behind the Scenes of The Gift

The Gift

The inspiration for this concept were traditional paintings of a gift being given to an emperor. The idea started out as a knife being served to an emperor on a metal plate. It then wandered off into a more futuristic direction, with aliens, and ultimately, an astronaut. During the selection and mutation process of hundreds and hundreds of images, the following key points were important:

A gift given to a person in power holds ambiguous meaning. The Trojan horse was also a gift, but it ultimately destroyed the receiver. Status is always on the power of being disrupted, which is a key element -- some say: the key element -- to many stories. In our image, the rocks on the ground express an aging, possibly crumbling empire.

Once you start to see how status change is the key of many stories, you can't unsee it. The Godfather? The mafia boss holding on to power, the son slowly taking it on. Titanic? A poor and a rich person meet, and their status becomes intertwined. Think of any Hollywood blockbuster -- or novel -- and see if you can look at it through the status change lens. Humans are fascinated by it -- maybe it teaches our brains of survival, key in evolution.

For retouching this in Photoshop, two layers were used, and elements from both were mixed. For instance, the headwear of the gift giver is an element taken from the secondary image. The gift mixes technology aspects with a magical, glowing part. Stars inside the palace were removed, the dog's snout and tail were painted over to clarify, and the second stand next to the throne was drawn out. I did not paint this picture -- the Midjourney AI did, and it did an enormously amazing job.

The picture raises questions, but does not answer them. What this world and emperor is, what the gift is, if it will be accepted, if the empire will fall and much more -- it's left to your imagination. I hope you enjoy this and that it inspires your dreams!