I completely started over.
First, I took some more photos of my white model and picked one that had a clearer, larger image of the whole space.
This of course meant that I had to do everything over from the beginning, but considering that I wasn't really happy with even the minor details, that worked out fine.
I knew I wanted the scene to look like it was taking place on a patio set into a cliff- but I had some trouble showing the perspective properly. I looked around for some decorative railings that might give some indication of the boundaries of the space.
When I found one with grapes, I knew I had to use it. It it Italy, after all.
Even now that I know about color selection, removing objects from their surrounding pixels takes approximately forever.
I was never able to quite find the perfect picture of the ocean, but I did find one I liked much better than my previous image. There's some architecture in the background, so you know it's not completely isolated.
Then I started looking for some patio furniture.
I was trying to find something sleek and "futuristic" looking, to contrast with the old-fashionedness of the rest of the set. The furniture I found was okay, but then I had the idea that I could add another surprising element- instead of just futuristic looking table and chairs, what about a futuristic looking cocktail bar? Obviously there's nothing new about alcohol, but I find it hard to picture a home bar on a truly old-fashioned Italian terrace.
The last image was perfect. It exactly fit my goal of making the space look old, but all the stuff in it looking like it came from a spaceship.
Instead of just cutting and pasting a whole house into the image and hoping it remotely meshed with the rest of the picture, I sort of constructed my own, with some patio doors, an old-fashioned, very Italian window, and generous use of the clone stamp tool.
I had a really, really hard time finding the texture I wanted for the floor. None of the dozens of red bricks and terra cotta I found really fit the mental image I had. It finally turned out that the best picture came from the picture of...well, what appears to be someone's laundry room floor.
I used those tiles and had them in the image for weeks and was never totally satisfied- until the final touch of adjusting the color balance more towards red did the trick, and transformed them into very nearly the exact bricks I had in mind.
Sticking with the theme of "pictures from random people's basements," this staircase was the most useful of all the images I found:
Again, adjusting towards the red made the stairs blend in pretty well with the tiles, even though the images are of vastly different materials.
And one of my personal favorite touches on the whole thing: the sudden strike of inspiration about the piano.
In FAO Schwarz in New York City (an enormous toy store for absurdly rich people), there's a giant keyboard on the floor that actually plays music as you step on the keys.
In a play as physical as Big Love, I can't think a better way for the characters to play the piano than to jump and dance around on it. It fits in so seemlessly with the rest of the action.
For ideas of how it might look, or just to keep yourself entertained for a few minutes, check out some truly awesome YouTube clips:
In the end, I didn't really have time to add as much "stuff" (props, lighting, etc) as I wanted, but I definitely accomplished my main goal, a classical, traditional, very Italian scene
full of all kinds of surprising stuff that tips you off to just how crazy the whole play is
And, just to refresh your memory as to how far the model came in the intervening time when I learned how to use Photoshop:
I'm so happy with the outcome of this project- making such visible progress on a skill is incredibly satisfying.