Cross-Media Concepts #1 – Medusa

“Cross Media Concepts” is my new category of post where I show how I obsess over a concept enough hat I do it more than one art outlet- as a photo and a song or a drawing or sculpture.  I visited the Salvador Dali Museum in Paris in 2011 and was surprised that he repeated his “hit” concepts like melting clocks in several paintings, sculptures, etc.  Then I started looking at other artists and it didn’t seem so unusual- our deep interests express themselves in multiple ways it seems.

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Angel My Darling as Medusa, bodypaint by Jamie Graden

One of my earliest interests was mythology, introduced to me by the film The Clash of The Titans.  The recently departed Ray Harryhausen’s model of Medusa has stayed with me as one of the most terrifying creatures on screen, who turned brave warriors to stone and shattered them with arrows.  I recently youtube’d the recent “Titans” remake’s Medusa scene and it was more like a Gap model in a video game cutscene, nothing terrifying whatsoever.

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My Medusa photo was a true collaboration with model Angel My Darling, bodypainter Jamie Graden and my wife Vesna.  Angel did her hair using rubber snakes and green spray I’d picked up from Wal-Mart, Jamie designed and executed the paint, and Vesna made a snakelike toga.  We caught a hapless passerby in the hall and turned him to stone.

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unfired Medusa mask sculpted June 2013

I recently made a Medusa clay mask and it’s likely I’ll work Medusa into a song or comic.  She’s a classic monster character and one of the most amazing designs in human history.

Stolen From Cinema

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Lacheln in Dan Richters’ alien wear, adapted from various “alien babe” sci fi films, with a dash of “E.T.” I haven’t seen the latter film in 15 years but I always think about it for some reason.

It’s so tempting to borrow liberally from movies. With high production values and highly trained cinematographers, movies are chockful of amazingly inspiring moments- and it doesn’t hurt that movies are the most popular form of art around. When we steal, we should steal big!

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Sierra Mckenzie with eye makeup similar to something Johnny Depp wore in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film.

I get many of my cues from films, and because the circumstances/ personalities/ players/ effects/ etc. are so different my images don’t look exactly like the original inspiration. I think the most boring cinema-influenced images are the ones that are a direct parroting of the movie.  Still- interesting visuals are interesting visuals, and it’s worth keeping a notepad alongside oneself when watching a good movie.

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A couple in a Kill Bill inspired shot.

Locations: Pillar Box Studios in LA

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Glass Olive in 2011, wardrobe by Runaway Couture, hair by Victoria Buge, makeup by Claudia Aguilera

I’ve shot in a few studios around LA but only one has the Mt. Rushmore of studio requirements:

1. a cool, helpful owner

2. a ton of sets

3. good lighting gear

4. affordable price

I’ve used Pillar Box 4 times now and I’m surprised by the versatility of the place.  The first shoot, in early 2011, made use of the various sets that leant themselves to gothic atmospheres.  I’d actually seen these sets frequently on various model images, so during visit two in Feb 2012, I actively avoided shooting those same areas, working a lot in the kitchen and with my own backdrop.  The studio owner, Sylva “Scar Hattington,” let us use her unique hat designs during the shoot and jumped in when she was intrigued by my goofy 4×5 Graphlex.

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model Alexandra Mathews wearing headdress by Bubbles and Frown, the company of designer/ studio owner Sylva “Scar” Hattington. Hair by Laura Buenrostro

Visit #3 was to shoot more of Scar and make use of the growing assortment of lights at the studio.  No actual concept of any sort, but when you put two creative people in the same space and have an hour all kinds of cool stuff can happen.

The most recent shoot was May 25th, with a local designer who I met at a gallery open a few months previous.

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Rivi Madison wearing Marcel Dejure jacket, hair by Laura Buenrostro
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Sophie Nova wearing Marcel Dejure jacket, hair by Laura Buenrostro

Creative Spaces Pt. 1

Studios, cooperatives, coffee shops, libraries, artists are at work everywhere.  The comfort level of our creative spaces are so important to the quality of what we produce, not to mention how frequently we produce.

In part one of a blog on creative spaces, I want to take you on a tour of my house.  We have 3 rooms that are dedicated creative spaces, an outdoor workshop and some space in the backyard.

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My primary workspace is a small desk with an ultrabook and ipad. Any larger desk just fills up with junk.
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To the left of my main workspace are guitars and art from the X Files and Futurama, to the right is a framed poster of E from the Eels, a painting of Bossk, several pieces of pottery and inspirational books, and more manchild memorabilia.
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Our outdoor workshop for dangerous stuff like glass cutting and welding. Also storage for ceramic pieces until they get fired.
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Maggie’s workspace so she can “work” alongside her parents.
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Wife Vesna has a separate room for her crafting/ sewing/ clothes design.
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Our backyard picnic table is where most of the ceramic masks are made. I painted a section of my back fence white and it’s appeared in numerous backyard photo shoots.
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The actual computer room gets less use as the desktop computer nears a decade of existence and has been mostly phased out in favor of the mobile tech. It gets used when I need to do scanner stuff or mix music.

Part 2 will feature all the spaces I work in that ain’t in my house!

Probably the Worst Thing A Creative Can Do

…is compare themselves to others.  That’s a wasted day, or week, or lots of weeks.  These are the inner questions we ask that completely derail us in our creativity.

“Why am I not as popular as that person whose work sucks?”

“Why does so-and-so get hired and not me?”

“Is my writing as good as Alan Moore?  No?  Ah I better quit then.”

It is really, really hard to get excited about creating when you’re swirling in negativity.  And it usually isn’t other people who force you to compare yourself- it’s you,

The reality is, there are so many factors that go into success, some controllable and some not so much, that comparisons are useless.

Maybe this guy got the job because he’s an old friend of the person hiring him, or had good recommendations, or excellent people skills.

Maybe some deal was cut that no one knows the details of.

It’s annoying but ageism, racism, sexism, preference for particular bra sizes, and all the rest factor in the success of an artist.

Right time, right place, family ties, mob ties.

The alignment of the planets, the phases of the moon.

Your zip code.

Years of hard work.

A college eductaion.

A positive mentor.

Anything could make a project succeed, an artist stand out.  The only controllable factor is yourself- how driven are you?  How do you present yourself?  What do you want to make and what do you end up making?  One thing successful creatives have in common is they don’t waste time and energy comparing themselves unfavorably, they push through to the next project.

Sierra in Seattle

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Sierra Mckenzie in a postcard pastiche shot in May 2013.

Every artist has their favorite collaborators and whenever I get a chance to shoot one, I am excited knowing I’m about to get something good, and relieved that I’m not dealing with an unknown quantity.  Though I do work with a variety of people, I think my ideas and style work best with models who:

1. have a timeless look – nothing too modern like heavy tattooing, body modifications or strange hairstyles

2. pose using muscles as opposed to “lounging”

3. have some acting ability

4. have curves and do nudes if the concept calls for it

5. can do their own hair and makeup

and perhaps most important…

6. understand what I need in a photo without me asking for it.  I’m definitely not the best at verbal communication.

Sierra Mckenzie in Seattle fits all of those criteria and I was lucky enough to shoot with her in May.  As with all Repeat Offenders, we get to do something different each time and this time we were at a tourist destination, the Seattle Center.  The location was chosen because A. it’s where I was going anyways, with son Patrick in tow, and B. Sierra had been making postcards and I enjoy old touristy postcards as images.

Model Sierra Mckenzie shot May 2013
Model Sierra Mckenzie shot May 2013

Interview Excerpt: “Deserted”

I recently did an interview for a photography blog called PhotoWhoa and they asked me about a variety of my work as it is on my site. This is an excerpt from the interview focusing on the non-model photography.

Q: For your “Deserted” series you found what seems like abandoned town to photograph. What was your process for exploring/scouting the town for spots to document? Did any pattern keep catching your eye?

A: I live in Arizona and spend a lot of time in New Mexico, and there’s a long tradition of large format photography of an idealized Southwest. What I actually see is a lot of tourism traps, military history, Native American history, WPA stuff, and there’s a lot of weirdness where those things intersect. Some of it is very beautiful and inspiring, some of it is very negative or creepy, and some of it is plain goofy, so Deserted is my casting off of the Ansel Adams interpretation. It’s very straight 4×5 view camera kind of imagery, except the only human representations are in caricatures of cowboys and Indians and paintings of Jesus and mannequins hanging from gallows or a stuff Yosemite Sam.

Q: Most of the photographs in “Deserted” rely on thoughtful composition to reveal the story behind the image. What advice would you give to other photographers that know they have a special object/location but can’t find a way of conveying it through the frame?

A: For the Deserted material I’m usually stuck on a tripod with a big 4×5 camera and maybe only 12 shots of film on me, so the whole nature of that process forces you to compose in a deliberate manner. What you see is maybe the only shot I took of that object or location with the view camera, but rest assured I have my DSLR and my phone and maybe a polaroid or plastic lomography camera with me. If you aren’t sure of how to shoot something, try multiple ways- do a pano with your digital, get intimate details with your phone. I remember visiting the Eiffel Tower and shooting the same stuff on 3 cameras because I wasn’t sure what I really wanted when I visited.