The Value of Research

2014-01-14 11.11.02My time is pretty much split evenly between creating, marketing, and research.  I’ve blogged extensively about the creating and marketing but today it’s all about the research.  Without research I’d just be making work that comes straight from my head, which would be really dull and one-note; without research I wouldn’t have a clue on how or where to market my stuff, I’d just be shooting in every direction and go nowhere.  Through research I learn how other artists’ lives really are, so I don’t go crazy when there’s a period where business or creative juices runs slow.  Research introduces me to new techniques, how to improve on what I’m already making.

Recent research includes:

lots of books from the library about the music business, sound design, artistic autobiographies, ceramics techniques, EC Comics and WW2.

listening and learning to truly educational podcasts about art, music, politics and history

trips to local museums and antique stores (for studying vintage imagery and paper techniques)

talking with a gallery rep in Prescott about what local markets are worth the time and effort

finding manga screentones online and how to actually use them

doing the entire textbook on Adobe Aftereffects so, again, I know what the fuck I’m doing

picking the brains of the employees of a ceramics stores about clay bodies, glazes, putting light bulbs in ceramics

watching sundry documentaries on Netflix, and a mostly fictional bio of Woody Guthrie (Bound For Glory)

listening to KCRW and investigating maybe 10 new music artists

watching Etsy videos on how to run your shop effectively and applying those lessons

occasionally trying out new software and techniques as recommended by magazines or the App Store

many hours researching bits of gear before I bought it (the Fuji XE1) or decided not to (the small kiln)

to the untrained eye much of this can be percieved as goofing off, time not spent marketing or creating.  The same could be said for vacations, family time, basically enjoying life.  But as I look at my list it all seems like time well spent.  The art gets better, more authentic looking or with better production values.  Money and time avoided being wasted, and money came in.  Ideas feel fresh.  The time spent actually doing the marketing and creating was better invested as a result of the research.


Inspiration + Influence: Pete Seeger

I’ve written previously about folk hero Phil Ochs, but there’d be no Phil if there wasn’t Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.  When Pete died this week I went back and listened to several interviews on youtube, NPR and Democracy Now- he was just one of those guys whose spoken words and ideas meant as much as the music itself.  What I took away from it all was:

1.  All positive changes to the world are incremental, and an artist contributes to the changing of a world.  Too many of us throw our hands up and don’t try to contribute because it feels overwhelming or hopeless, but if you don’t make the change about you, and join a movement, the world gets better.

2. politics and art are inseparable.

3. women working with children will change the world.  We no longer have to be the best killers- those generations of men before us who hunted the best, won the wars by slaying the enemy- and women and children can teach us that fame, money and power are foolish things to spend our lives chasing.

Brooke + Chess Suit

Brooke + Chess Suit

An image very deliberately about graphic design, but it still has a human quality I like. The model was Brooke Eva, and she was feeling ill that day but still showed up and her modeling was superb. Another model “texted off sick” the moment I walked into the studio and I dunno, some opinions may be “don’t show up if you are sick,” but my opinion is, even if I don’t feel 100%, I still show up. There are no reschedules in freelance, and no sick days unfortunately; the snowball of studio rental/ hmua/ designers etc. is already rolling down a hill with no way of stopping it.

The “chess suit” by designer Marcel Dejure was made for an actual giant, and was really cool in it’s largeness on Brooke. Laura Buenrostro did the hair, Brittany Moody did the makeup and the facepaint was by Jamie Graden. The pattern around her was from my obsession with anime screentones. I desperately tried to find the real graphic film screentones, but I don’t think they manufacture them anymore; everything is all computer screentones these days.

Print available on Etsy.

Body Paint + Floppy Hat


Amanda is a model I started working with in 2010 during my first model-shooting trip to Los Angeles.  Her modelling career was largely promo work rather than art photography, but we kept in touch over the years and did very low key shoots throughout 2011-2012.  Then the opportunity came up with another LA friend, body painter Jamie Graden, to do a psychedelic-inspired shoot, and it was a perfect nexus of interests for Amanda, Jamie and myself.

Hipstamatic Addict


My final bit of new tech for 2013 was an iPhone 5s.  I was all Android until I got an iPad 4 at the start of 2013, and the creative options available to the iOs user are beyond what Android has, bar none.  A particular app of interest that was only available for the iPhone was the Hipstamatic, which mimics a variety of camera lenses and film types (and flash types) in the process of shooting.  Android has a similar app called Retro Camera, which only has 6 types of “old camera” looks and aren’t really customizable; Instagram alters the photo after you take it and forces the image to be part of its social network.  Long-time blog readers have heard me rant about Instagram before, particularly the sinister undertones of parent company Facebook needing to monetize it’s billion-dollar purchase.

Hipstamatic has none of those limitations/ ominous qualities, and for once it feels like I’m actually using another camera instead of a clunky app on my phone.  I’ve been able to get a lot of very quiet moments with my kids and the quality is superb, along the lines of how I’d process raw images anyways.ImageImage

Panoramic Vingettes

Panoramic Vingettes

Panorama photography is a genre I’ve dabbled in for a long time but never really achieved any particularly grand results. Shooting multiple images and using Photoshop’s photomerge feature is one of the longer, more boring types of post production, so I’m really in love with a feature that has been around for the last few years, the “in camera panorama.” I shot these at Arcosanti north of Phoenix, and combined the panos to get a better semblance of one location in a collaged image.

Inspiration + Influence: Vik Muniz: Reflex

A book with a lot of creative ideas and soul amongst the critique.

Structurally it’s broken down by huge concepts- one chapter may be about the sky, then reference other art that is conceptually about the sky and space, and make mention of his own history either creating work that had similar themes.  It’s told in a very anecdotal way, and doesn’t shy away from any mistakes on Muniz’s part- he wants to paint European nations on the side of a cow, but can’t paint well enough on the moving beast, so he winds up with a painting of a cow on a cow.  It’s pretty standard that no matter what level one attains, some ideas aren’t going to work, and some go comically awry.

I highly recommend the book for anyone appreciating art and wanting to get a very human critique of history, concept and craft.