I’m fond of saying that good manips start with good source material. One thing I’ve always been very diligent about with my work was to find the best source material I could. Quite often, when I find images ripe for manipulation, I’ll snag a few pics from a series and then spend days trying to hunt down the full gallery. Experience has taught me that where there’s smoke there’s fire and getting my hands on all the source material for a given series often pays dividends in the final manip.

As I wrote about previously one of my more extensive animated manips, Alpha, would probably not have come about had I not stumbled across a few, key image galleries that gave me the source material to completely flesh out both the main plot and sub-plot of that story. One of the hurdles I had to leap was finding a suitable model to portray the titular character. This ended up being a far greater challenge than I’d anticipated simply because I needed to find a series of pictures depicting a woman in a corner in order to match up with my storyline. The long and short of it is I did find a series of suitable images and finished the project.

And then I came across this series of images a week or so ago.

A few times after completing a manip, I’ve come across another image from the same gallery that would’ve worked even better than the one I used or found another image entirely that struck me as being better. But during the download-session that yielded the recent Gas Mask study, I found a gallery that could have been custom-made just for my project.

I mean, come on! She’s in the corner of a room (and that tile pattern could have helped like you can’t image in lining up the photo to the virtual room I built for Alpha); sinking to her knees; clamping her hands over her ears like she’s trying to block out the delicious brainwashiness; clawing at the door as she slowly succumbs to the conditioning; kneeling in surrender as the chamber re-programs her mind. Seriously, I’m not the only one that sees this right? Which got my mind working…

Though it pains to even think about, I admit I did really consider pulling out all the source material for Alpha and seeing if I could make these images work. If there’s one project I’m really glad to have behind me its that one. And yet the temptation to ‘improve’ on it was so great. I thought maybe it would be neat to revisit, sort of an Alpha: Special Edition.

And that’s when my blood ran cold.

I suddenly realized that was the exact rational behind the second-most-spectacular fail of the twentieth century: the Star Wars: Special Edition. I imagined George Lucas sitting through an early preview of Jurassic Park and thinking to himself ‘Wow, I could make Star Wars even better if only…” That path leads to the dark side. Humbled by the lesson, I stepped away from the X-Wing and decided to go back to my training.

Now, I’m not comparing myself to Luke Skywalker or Alpha to Star Wars. Okay, actually I am, but not because I think its an apt comparison, just because Luke Skywalker is cool (not Han Solo cool, but no one’s perfect) and because I harbor no small amount of frustration with George Lucas because of his infernal meddling.

Except now you see, I understand it. I understand why a creative mind obsesses over past work and the feeling that its never good enough, the desire to get it ‘perfect.’ Except there is no ‘perfect’ and the best way to improve is to take the lessons learned yesterday and apply them to today. So I learned something. I learned to let go of my anger debilitating perfectionism and let what’s done, stay done. For once, I learned from someone else’s mistake.

There’s other manips to work on (I’ve got more than one or two that I’m working on right now) without rehashing projects I’ve already finished. In fact, I’m quite eager to show you all the new stuff I’m cooking up now. But it is fun to look at these pics and think about what might have been.

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