The Blog/Diary of Novelist Sam Batterman

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to make yourself at home, look at my postings, visit my friends links and contribute your own comments. 

Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Working with Portland Studios

When I began working on my author web site during Christmas break 2008, I decided to commission the backgrounds of the web site to Portland Studios, a Design Studio based in Greenville, SC. My experience with this company was nothing short of exceptional. 

I first became familiar with Portland Studios though the incredible artwork of Justin Gerard, an amazing artist with an already legendary style and following to match. You can see some of his artwork here. Some of my favorites are To Chain the Beast, Christian and Apollyon, and Nehemiah and the Wall.

When I envisioned my web site, I knew I wanted something very different than the typical table/grid layout that most author sites follow (no offense). I wanted something that would allow a visitor to loiter and savor the art, the sounds and the atmosphere of the site.

Portland Studios has a number of web sites that inspired me, but their Beowulf site clearly impacted me the most. Alas, at the end of the day, I could only afford the art, not them doing the whole site for me. 

More on the web site development will be posted later, this post is about the development of the landing page - The Garden of Eden.

Like most things, the designs started with Justin, Matt Silver, the account manager, and I getting on the phone and discussing what I was looking for.

Upon arriving at my site (, I wanted a visitor to think about the overall theme of Wayback, which deals with the time period right before the Great Flood, approximately 1,600 years after creation. The Garden of Eden is still there, but it's overcome by the effects of the curse and off limits to human beings. The two trees are still there...The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I specifically asked Justin to stylize both the trees...and make the Tree of Life otherworldly and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil almost immortalize that fateful decision of Adam and Eve to disobey God. We played with idea of the "gardeners" placing paving stones around the trees, as if they "played" with the danger before actually committing the transgression. Something I think that I do and everyone else does as's human nature.

So, I mailed some initial sketches that I made to Portland. Here were my original ideas.

From a viewpoint perspective, I was looking for a view through the overgrowth to the center of the Garden. The effects of the curse should be very noticable. Thorns, massive trees, even lurking dinosaurs would be cool...

The trees...this sketch influenced the end product with the notion of "subtle" faces in the trunk and twisting the tree to almost frame out where the fruit was "plucked" from. Justin and I both knew that the truck and root systems would provide a lot of character.

Bonsai trees have a lot of the properties that I wanted the Tree of Life to have. In the end, the idea from Justin that the Tree of Life is a sapling, as if it is immune to the effects of the curse and impacts all the plants around it.

The design flow was rapid with the design moving from sketch to final in less than two weeks.

The initial sketch showed the angel with the sword, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil along with the overgrown garden with tones of gray.

Once this was approved they moved to a more detailed line drawing. It was here that the Tree of Life took on it's unique view and I think Justin nailed it.

Finally, the end result arrived in the style of an oil painting. More perfect than I could have hoped for.

For the web site, I added a number of particle systems in Flash to animate the Tree of Life growing fruit, leaves falling from the aging canopy and the sword of the angel flaming. I played with the idea of sinister eyes glowing in the subtle faces of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but in the end, decided it was too cutesy and obvious, so I cut it.

The final piece of icing was the addition of the background soundtrack that my friend, and college room mate nearly twenty years ago, Dan Bressler created. Dan is one of those guys who is remarkably talented-a literal savant with music. After reading the manuscript for Wayback he knocked out the soundtrack for the landing page in a night - yes, one evening. Amazing.

Hope you enjoyed the back story of the landing page.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will appear in a few hours - I have moderation turned on to avoid spam and other "badness".

Thanks for your comment.