Inspiration + Influence: Chuck Jones and “Duck Amuck”

With two young kids I spend a lot of time consuming children’s entertainment, and thinking about what made an impression on me as a kid.  Around age 10 I recieved a book on Looney Toons animation that had a very in-depth view into the making of the cartoons.  It was then I realized some directors were better than others, and some cartoons were actual ground breaking milestones.  The single best cartoon of all Looney Toons was, in my mind, Chuck Jones’ 4th-wall-breaking torture of Daffy Duck in “Duck Amuck.”

It’s still very much taken for granted that subject, background and sound combine to communicate a singular concept in a video sequence (the same goes for photography, but minus the sound).  “Duck Amuck” takes those segments apart and reassembles them so when Daffy opens his beak, strange animals sounds spill out, and he notices it but clearly doesn’t have control over his own body.  A few minutes later, the film frame splits, creating two Daffys who are instantly antagonistic to each other.  Maurice Noble’s background art styles use sometimes realistic paintings, sometimes flat shapes with sketchy lines that evoke smoke the way my 5 year old draws them.  Writer Michael Maltese and voice actor Mel Blanc ranges Daffy’s emotions from rage, fear, frustration to reasoned bargaining to pure joy and back within a few minutes.  Tie this tour de force with director Chuck Jones’ immaculate sense of timing and camera techniques and it’s such a tour de force I want to watch it over and over.

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model Angel Lin in Marcel Dejure wardrobe, additional styling by Laura Buenrostro and Jamie Graden

I look back at my photography from the last 3 years and see the huge impact this cartoon had on it.  People are shredded and reassembled, unreal elements are added to prints (like paint and embroidery) that interact with the “real” elements.  Sometimes there’s literal cartoons within the images.  Odd juxtapositions, like a very dark element in a light scenario, or vice versa are common.  I’ve even gone for flatter, more graphic design type of backgrounds in the last few months instead of 3 dimensional environments.

Alysha Grid

Alysha Grid
Alysha Nett from 2011

I shot these photos over 2 years ago with model Alysha Nett, and I didn’t do much with them at the time. It was part of a set I shot with a designer, Jacci Jaye, and 3 other models, but the other 3 got shot in a studio in a cleaner environment, so that became the basis of the image series and these ones of Alysha around my friend’s apartment got left on a hard drive.

Cut to January 2014 and after selling a polaroid of Alysha on Etsy, I spent about 5 minutes in Lightroom and knocked out some simple versions I really liked. Then I made the photo grid presented here for my Instagram, and (as of the time of this writing) I like the grid even more than the individual images.

What makes the difference in two years? Why do photographers and other artists see something new in material that is not new and fresh? Alan Moore talks about how critical we can be of our creative selves, and it’s pretty common for creative people to despise what we create as soon as we make it. More mature eyes can look kindly at our previous work and think, “that wasn’t actually that bad.” At this moment in time I don’t owe anyone involved in the making of this photo anything, and the pressure of pleasing other people is gone.

Anyways, some of this set will be getting the bigger mixed media treatment soon!

Artificial Human + Lacheln + Glass Olive: Play Dead

I’ve spent close to 2 years making tunes as Artificial Human with Luxbot Lacheln, and we’ve made enough quality tunes that it’s moving on to the next phase- video and performance. Because it’s generally electronic, the performance has to be more “performance art” than “live performance.” “Play Dead” is a taste of our most recent stuff (featuring Glass Olive on backing vocals):

New Sculptural Masks

january 2014 set A_01

In a rush to get product for January’s Comicon table, I spent a month building up my series of Pop Sculpture pieces.  As it turned out it was completely the wrong product for a convention where teenagers buy chotskies, rather than dropping $60 on a sculpture.  But it’s still work that will find a home via Etsy or the Chandler Art Walk, where I sell most of my masks.  They are somewhat different from previous sculptural masks in that they were fired at a store called Marjon in Phoenix, rather than my usual haunt Mesa Arts Center.  It was completely a time crunch decision (MAC wasn’t even open until the week of the convention), and Marjon only takes a few days to complete an order.

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The real difference is that firing Amador (a Cone 10 clay) at Cone 5 results in a much lighter color, a sort of yellowy orange complexion.  The red oxide embellishment really contrasted to the lighter clay, and as a result lines look more like “drawn” lines.  Human characters more obviously resembled humans.

january 2014 set A_21

Inspiration + Influence: Yellow Submarine

Every few years I dig deep into the Beatles, the songs, the culture around them and their legacy.  It’s stunning how many aspects to 4 creative guys one can find.  After 15 years of this cycle I still hadn’t watched any of their actual movies.  I’d seen snippets via the Anthology documentaries, and one of my group home clients used to like “Help!” and had a VHS tape he watched of it, but I suppose I wasn’t interested in seeing musicians act (which is the same way I approach all musicians I love who dabble in acting or screenwriting- something like Bono’s “Million Dollar Hotel” is unwatchable).

The “Yellow Submarine” cartoon is something of a different animal, a super-focused period specific work of animation that the Beatles had next to nothing to do with.  It’s really an interpretation of an era in the same way the great music videos of the 90s were.  It also seemed like a good way to interest my kids in the Beatles, and we already had 2 of the action figures (John and Paul) that they had been playing with.

When we finally got around to seeing the cartoon last November, I found it was something special that has stuck with me enough to make art and video pieces taken straight from it.  I’ve researched the Beatles enough to have drugs, cheating, and band in-fighting as things I think about when listening to the songs, and it really shouldn’t be that way.  The salacious details are intriguing but they overlook the main points- songs about love and peace, extraordinary creative measures in the studio, solid songwriting.  I can enjoy the Yellow Submarine film because it distills all the bad and leaves only the good in this highly visually appealing freebase of color and love.

Lauren as National Ethnographic

Lauren as National Ethnographic

In January I got to shoot with model Lauren Ashley and the styling was done by my good buddy Lacheln. We built upon a series I had started with Lacheln involving paper head dresses and body paint, and borrowed some influence from the early National Geographic photos that had a very “studio portrait” approach to ethnography.