The story about the fascinating pictures of Mali Fox

"A few years ago, I didn't even know that Photoshop existed."

In the “Picture Instruments Stories” we talk about the inspiring stories of people who achieved their visions by using the “Picture Instruments Software”. Today Mali Fox talks to us about her passion for imaginative composings and the work behind her magical images. Mali has been living in Thailand with her husband for 11 years and discovered her passion for pixelating there.

PI: Hey Mali, how nice that it worked out thanks to modern communication methods. We met almost a year ago through Docma's "Stay Home and Create" contest. At that time you made 4th place and I don't think anyone would have expected that the topic would remain relevant to this day. How did you come up with the idea for your picture?
Mali: Hello, I am also glad that it worked out. When I heard about the "Stay Home and Create" contest, I immediately had two images in my head. A scene from the movie "I am Legend" where Will Smith stands with his dog on a street between ruins or the scene from the movie "World War Z" where Brad Pitt stands in the cargo door of a flying plane and looks down on all the destruction. I would have liked to put the German Chancellor, Dr. Merkel, in one of these scenes. But unfortunately, I have not been able to find the matching stock photos. So I decided to create a poster and kept it minimalist to get straight to the point. It was important to me that the viewer understands the message right away.

World War C
Mali Fox

PI: Did you have different designs for the poster?
Mali: No, I had the end result right in front of my eyes and was able to implement it exactly the same way. In most cases, however, things work differently, and the end result looks very different from the underlying idea.

PI: Why did you start to work intensely with digital art in the first place?
Mali: In a forum I came across a user's banner. The picture showed a runner and a horse with rider jumping over a hurdle at the same time. Somehow this totally fascinated me and I couldn't help wondering how the picture was created. So I wrote to the user and found out about Photoshop. I then did some googling and was captivated.

PI: Since then you have learned a lot and you are very productive. In the meantime you have put over 100 pictures online on “Foto Community.”
Mali: Yes, that's true, considering that a few years ago I didn’t know about Photoshop. But I just enjoy it and I always love to learn new things and improve myself that way. The monthly „Digiart Challenges“ motivate me immensely. I get started as soon as I have a good idea for a contest topic. But it's not about winning, I don't take it too seriously, I enjoy it and through the criticism I can get better and better.

PI: You called your poster minimalist, does that apply to your other images as well? How would you describe your style?
Mali: Compared to most of my pictures, very little happens on the poster, you just know right away what it's about. Normally my pictures are a “journey of discovery”, there is a lot to look at and discover. But the most important thing to me is that they tell a story. An image must be able to convey meaning without a title. I also want my composings to be as realistic as possible, which means that the shadows, proportions, sky and perspective have to fit. The scene has to be coherent, which is why I would never place a yellow phone booth in a fantasy landscape.

PI: You submitted 2 entries to a contest on the topic of chairs and won first place with one of them. What exactly was the task and what were the biggest obstacles for you?
Mali: The task was to integrate a stock photo, in this case an armchair, into a composing. In contests I often deliberately discard the first ideas that come to mind, because it's pretty likely that others might come up with the same ideas. With "My Home" it wasn't easy to make the mouse look like it was standing in the bottle and not glued to it from the outside.

Circus in der Stadt
My home

PI: Why would you say you won first place with “My Home” and what do you think is different to “Circus in the city”?
Mali: I don’t know why I won the first place with it, but I guess that my picture appealed to many people. The picture "Circus in the city" contains errors that you may not see at first glance, but the eye does not lie. The clown stands more on top of the grass than on it and the covered wagon could have been more in the foreground and therefore larger.

PI: Which images attracted the most attention? "The big race" is one of your top photos on “Foto Community”.
Mali: I think my most successful picture is "Battle", which I created for the "made of stone" contest. At that time there was a terrible fire in Australia and with the picture I wanted to draw attention to it. I made "The big race" for the contest "The sporty elephant". Unfortunately, I can no longer say how it came about. "Mother nature", the image that you’ve used as cover image, was once featured in Photoshop Magazine 2/2015, which made me very happy back then.

The Race

PI: In Matthias Schwaighofer's popular format "Fünf Bilder unter der Lupe" you faced public criticism. Why?
Mali: I am active in Matthias' "ART Photoshop Group" on Facebook and find the concept super interesting. Through constructive criticism you learn incredibly much, so I thought it was brilliant to be able to present my image "The Battle" on his YouTube channel.

PI: And how did your picture come off?
Mali: Matthias was the first to praise my picture, saying, " I'm thrilled with your work and I don't have much to complain about." He saw right away that there were many hours of work in the picture and went into many little things intensively. Unfortunately, I forgot to remove a line, but Matthias was able to show directly how something like that can be controlled well by darkening the image with the gradation curve. I also messed up the foot of the figure when cropping. His tip was to make the stone in front of it bigger. Anyway, I got a lot of tips that I've been following ever since.

The Battle

PI: Do you also have ideas that you haven't been able to realize yet?
Mali: There was one contest with “industrial facilities” as the topic and I immediately thought about using steampunk as the motif, but I couldn't get it right. Part of the given stock photos was something similar to a water wheel standing in a hall with many windows in the background and I wanted to make a train station out of it. With lots of people waiting and a locomotive blowing steam, a steampunk train station, but unfortunately I didn't find the right stock photos for this one either.

PI: How do you go about finding stock photos? Do you also take photos yourself?
Mali: I rarely use my own photos for my pictures, but that's also because I live here in Thailand in a village and I rarely find the motives that I need for my pictures. I find most of my stock photos on "Deviant Art" and "Pixabay". Occasionally, however, I paint motives that I then integrate into my composings.

PI: It sounds like finding the right stock photos is almost as much work as the actual work in Photoshop.
Mali: I see it as part of the work, but it can really take up a lot of time. Luckily, I won “Docma Freistellen” from you guys in the “Stay Home and Create” challenge. One of my recent images for the utopia/dystopia „Digiart Challenge“ shows a tiny village where people live together and are mobile. For this one I had to try many stock photos to see if they fit and the option to remove the background with the „1-Click Background Removal“ button was very helpful. Until then I had to painstakingly remove the background of every image that potentially fit, only to often find that the subject unfortunately doesn't fit that well after all and usually 9 out of 10 stock photos don't fit.

Tiny Village in progress
Tiny Village

PI: Are there any techniques you'd like to get better at in Photoshop?
Mali: It would be great if I wouldn’t always forget so much that I see in tutorials. Unfortunately, though, I can't remember how to make for example a light bulb transparent in Photoshop and then I have to always rewatch the tutorial. I also create litter announcements for dog breeders from time to time and I used to have a hard time removing the background of dog pictures accurately, especially if the dogs have long hair, which is the most difficult for me. With people I always roughly remove the background first and then paint the hair back in, but with a dog it's a lot of work, but again „Docma Freistellen“ is the solution to these challenges with the „1-Click Background Removal“ button and the different fur and hair brushes.

PI: It's cool that you've found a simple solution to the complex steps in Photoshop with „Docma Freistellen“ and that you use the tool regularly. We are very excited to see your next pictures and hope to hear from you again soon. Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with Photoshop, like you were back then?
Mali: Never give up and always stay curious, don't be afraid to ask for help when you get stuck, and above all, be open to criticism and don't take it personally.
PI: Thank you Mali and see you soon!

Visit Malis Fotocommunity Account, to see more pictures.

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