Feeling Exposed.

There’s a small window of time each month when the gazes of Sol and Luna are at rest, allowing me to become particularly mischievous.

Cover image for coachellamagazine.com interview. Photography by Jorge Perezchica

Cover image for coachellamagazine.com interview. Photography by Jorge Perezchica

This season’s solo exhibit has provided me with a strong dose of exposure, both outward and inward.

Outwardly, I’ve connected with a great many like minded and creative people. So refreshing, so illuminating. Four articles came out discussing my work, amplifying my voice to be heard within my community. In the month running up to the opening of the exhibit, Linda Stoddard graciously wrote an article for our local newspaper, The Desert Sun, allowing me a chance to entice people to come see the work of a local artist they had likely never heard of before. Shortly afterward, Christine Lang volunteered a similar article for The La Quinta Arts Foundation to help broaden awareness of my work and the exhibit.

Imagine my excitement when another very talented local artist, Luna Fora, filmed, edited and featured a video interview of me and The Suboken Project on coachellamagazine.com (somewhat surreal to watch myself in that format). One of the most satisfying experiences this opportunity gave me was participating in an interview with Kate Buckley for her blog on palmsprings.com. Kate really dug in to uncover the philosophy and inspirations that fuel my creativity.

And the exhibit isn’t even over yet! My heartfelt gratitude to Deborah for your enthusiasm and championing of my artwork.

Looking inward, the exhibit afforded me a chance to explore how The Suboken Project has influenced my creativity and productivity, and what it might offer me moving forward. For the first time, I sought out curious and enthusiastic individuals to participate in creating art. To Calista, Micheal, Brenda, Chris and Kannon, working along side you, I was able to explore my process, and explore the dilemma of authorial intent from a more objective perspective. I can only hope that the experience enriched your lives as well. Thank you for jumping into the chaos. You are welcome to come art with me anytime.

To the universe I say, there is much more to come. I hope you’ll join me.

Hello 2014, can you come out and play today?

Hanging The Exhibit

Today was the second day hanging the show. I knew I had dropped off a good number of art pieces for the exhibit, forty-two pieces to be exact. (I’ll steal a smile with Douglas fans, and don’t forget to bring a towel.) But walking into the space this afternoon with almost everything now hung on the walls made this whole adventure all the more real.

The moment that shifted my perspective was when these letters were revealed on the wall.

ImageThe show opens tomorrow, but here’s a sneak peek at some of the work featured in the exhibit.

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If you noticed that The Cartographer’s Dilemma is mysteriously absent from this post, there’s a reason. It’s in the show, but there’s something additional involved in its presentation. I’ll leave you with a coy hint, an update is long over due for The Cartographer’s Dilemma page on the website.

Speaking of web updates, our local newspaper wrote up an article on yours truly. You can give it a read online at: http://www.mydesert.com/article/20131114/LIFESTYLES0104/311140006/

Updates from the Studio

The Suboken Project has been producing in full force over the past couple months. An eagerness to get things back on track after the loss of the Drobo hard drives has fueled my efforts in finishing up current projects as well as creating new work. So, shall we visit with an update on what Suboken has been doing?

The November gallery show at the Palm Desert City Hall is right around the corner. There’s a healthy amount of work left to get ready for the show, but I’m on schedule, and that’s a huge comfort for Calista and me. The show will feature pieces from The Cartographer’s Dilemma sculpture series, as well as the entire collection from In A Place: Series Two.
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Letting Go.

For the past month, I’ve been hoping I wouldn’t find myself writing this post. However, after four weeks of technical consultation, today I received a text message that made my heart sink.

All of my digital media has been lost.

A major component to my digital studio is my external storage device. I use a product called Drobo.

Drobo
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A Suboken Project Special Report

We hope you can join us on November 25th, 2013, at the Palm Desert Community Gallery for the opening reception of a two month solo exhibit featuring The Suboken Project’s: The Cartographer’s Dilemma and In A Place: Coachella Valley.

The exhibition runs from November 25th through January 21st. Gallery hours will be from 8:00am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Calista and I are hoping to organize a couple of artist talks during the show’s run for anyone interested in touring the exhibit with Suboken (that would be me), and share in a conversation about the process and themes featured in both projects.
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There’s A Man Down, In A Place!

 

This past weekend, Calista and I went out to capture a few new images for In A Place. Little did we know just what sort of experience the weekend had in store for us.

Over the past two months, I’ve been testing the new camera, taking updated and new In A Place photos. Part of this process was about comparing some of my older lenses and lens attachments with the new camera. My excitement was centered on the large increase in megapixels the model has compared to my older camera. Outside my never ending curiosity in exploring the IAP concept, there’s a new development for the project that calls for new images, a development that will be detailed in a future post.

In_A_PlaceThe first location we visited was Big Bear, California. The days were sunny and the snow was clean. I had shot in the snow a couple times before, Mammoth Lakes and Mt. San Jacinto, but wasn’t very excited with how the images turned out. I think only one of those images ended up in the art book. With the new camera, I was determined to land some better shots.

In_A_PlaceDuring this shoot, I noticed a change in how I was addressing the picnic table scenes. I tried to focus on taking images right at the miniature level. As proud as I am on how the older collection of IAP images have turned out, quite a few photos look like aerial photography. This time around, I was eager to get right down on the ground (in this case, the snow) and create/capture the illusion of a full scale picnic table.

Once we arrived back home, I didn’t hesitate to transfer the images to the computer. I was extremely pleased with the results, not to mention relieved with the quality of the higher resolution.

In_A_PlaceNext stop on my list, San Francisco. Calista and I spent a week in the city, visiting many of the original locations of IAP as well as discovering a couple new scenes. This trip also allowed Calista and I to tour some print houses and get a better handle on how to print and display a select group of IAP images for gallery and home spaces.

In_A_PlaceAs usual, the San Francisco trip was a huge success in capturing some great IAP images. We have tentative plans to return to the city in September to take more pictures.

Back in the desert, I started seeking out specific places that I wanted to return to, re-shoot some older shots with the new camera. As it has been during the entire project, some of those locations no longer exist. These situations remind me to pay attention and appreciate the little everyday moments, for “the now” may be ephemeral. So soak up as much of it as you can.

In_A_PlaceIAP locations that are the most susceptible to severe change are places where the images relied heavily on blooming plant life. As mentioned in earlier posts, we live in a resort centric community and landscaping is an ever changing aesthetic. When new plants and flowers are planted along the streets and sidewalks, it is best to take advantage of those scenes for IAP as quickly as possible.

This past weekend, some strikingly vibrant flowers were on display along a stretch of Highway 111 in Indian Wells. This length of the highway cuts between two large resorts, and there are no commercial buildings in the area. The highway is also flanked on both sides by long winding sidewalks and lots of trees. In regards to the IAP color palette, natural blues and purples are rare to come across in settings fit for miniature picnic tables. These flowers along the highway were the perfect answer to fill in the lack of those two colors.

So, Sunday morning, Calista and I set out to get some shots of those flowers, turn them into official IAP scenes.

After surveying several flower beds, I found the perfect location for the shoot. Calista and I compared several tables to decide which would fit in best with the landscape. After selecting the old weathered red and white table, I cleared the spot of debris, placed the table, laid down and started snapping shots.

Calista stood nearby, looking for alternative IAP locations. The sun was warm. The traffic on the highway was steady but not heavy. And, after about five minutes, a car pulled up and parked next to us. Keep in mind that there are no designated places to park along this section of the highway, although there is a bike lane. We had to park down the street in the city hall parking lot. I didn’t feel like I was on display, but it was odd that the car chose to park right next to us. The only concern that I had in that moment was whether or not the car would be in the shot I was taking.

The car then pulled away, but was almost instantly replaced with a new car parking next to us. Realizing how unusual this situation was becoming, Calista walked closer to where I was. The passenger rolled down her window and held out two bottles of water. She was concerned that I had passed out on the ground! She asked if I was okay, and offered to call for help.

I quickly explained that I was simply taking pictures of the flowers, and Calista thanked them for stopping to see if we were in trouble. With a smile of relief, the passenger said goodbye, and the car pulled away.

Calista and I realized that the first car was probably equally concerned, and chances were that many of the cars driving by might also assume that I was in need of medical assistance, laying there on the ground.

I laid back down to try and quickly land the shot, but it was already too late. Just as I adjusted the focus on my camera, Calista let out an “Uh oh. Here comes a cop car.”

The officer pulled up and got out of his car. A friendly yet concerned Officer Colsari of the Indian Wells Police Department walked over to check on us to see what the situation was. I stood up, dusted off my shorts and Calista and I explained what we were working on. Officer Colsari informed us that someone had called in and reported that a man was on the ground and that someone was giving him CPR! He added that the paramedics were already in route. No sooner had he said it, a fire engine and ambulance drove up on the other side of the street. Officer Colsari waved them on, and Calista and I apologized for all the confusion. I formally introduced myself and shared some of the details of the IAP project. Calista even handed him a business card and invited him to check out suboken.com.

Satisfied that all was well, Officer Colsari drove off. I returned to getting the picture, although my diligence in quickly getting the shot was certainly heightened.

Our faith in humanity restored, confident that I had taken some great images for IAP, we wrapped up the photo shoot and walked back to the car. Of course, as we approached the car, I had my traditional IAP face palm moment. I should have asked Officer Colsari to pose with me for a blog picture!

IMG_1943s IMG_1945s In_A_Place

Osteodontokeratic What?

The term Osteodontokeratic (ODK) was coined by Raymond Dart (1893-1988), an Australian anatomist and anthropologist, best known for his involvement in the 1924 discovery of the first fossil ever found of Australopithecus africanus. During his field research in South Africa, he theorized that pre-stone age humans, more specifically Australopithecines, may have utilized a tool tradition referred in part as the osteodontokeratic tool culture; a culture based upon tools made of bone, teeth, and horn.

The idea to mash-up this ODK concept with modern day tools was too exciting for me to pass up. Within fifteen minutes I had sketched up a set of variations on how a common hammer would look if grown from materials derived from human anatomy. The first of these versions still looked like a standard hammer with rigid 90∘ angles. I soon realized that the whole idea called for something more organic. In the next set of sketches, I left out any and all straight lines.

 
After the sketches narrowed down the design, I started testing different sculpting materials to render the final product. I was experimenting heavily with polymer clays. I had constructed several toy concepts using Sculpey and was satisfied with working with the product throughout the entire process, from sculpting, to baking, to assembling the pieces, and finally painting the final builds. However, I wasn’t sure if I could simulate skin and horn with the polymer medium.

Allow me to rewind the clock a bit to provide some personal history.

When I was growing up, I LOVED science fiction movies and television shows. I was enthralled by the craftwork that went into creating the special effects. This was long before computers became the industry standard. Miniature photography of model sets and props, stop motion animation, foam latex and gelatin prosthetics, I wanted to learn and master them all.

One of my fondest memories from childhood was my family’s annual trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA. This was before the park started using Warner Bros. licensed characters. Instead, the mascots were a group of fur covered trolls named Bleep, Bloop, and Troll King plus a random Wizard (I can’t recall the wizard having a name). Sure, I loved the roller coasters. But, there used to be a store toward the back side of the park that was truly magical. The store sold these FX makeup kits produced by Imagineering. The kits contained amazing foam latex prosthetics that could be cut down to fit the wearer. Also included was a small makeup palette, an adhesive, a container of fake skin that looked like wax and cotton, and the best part, lots of fake blood.

One such Imagineering kit my parents bought me included a prosthetic thumb with the tip severed off. (by the way, it is thoroughly appropriate to blame my parents for all of this) So, one day, proud of what I could do with the makeup kit, I prepared the thumb to share with the kids at school. I hid it in my Star Wars Thermos lunch pail, and when the day’s first recess started, I quickly glued it on over my thumb and blended in the seams. With the utmost eagerness to impress, I began showing it off to my friends on the playground. Well, that didn’t go over as well as I had imagined it would while getting ready for school that morning. However, the praise from those willing enough to closely examine my handiwork gave me the confidence to continue with FX makeup as a hobby, and eventually a career.

I would watch every special on TV about movie special effects. Mom bought me a brick of plasticine modeling clay and I began sculpting prosthetics for my Halloween costumes. I “mastered” a technique using plaster molds with liquid latex. The latex was an industrial grade liquid rubber purchased at the local hardware store. It was intended to be used for the backing on rugs. So sure, why not on my face?

One TV special specifically covered monster makeup effects. It was during this show that I learned about alginate, a compound used by dentist to make near perfect dental impressions. That goop the dental assistant puts in your mouth that tastes like bubble gum or mint; that’s alginate. The makeup artists used it to make accurate and detailed molds of an actor’s head and body. Finally, something beneficial to come from having to wear braces. During my next small talk session with the orthodontist adjusting the hardware in my mouth, I asked about alginate. He told me how it worked and as a bonus, sold a pound to my mom for me to use! I’m withholding his name for obvious reasons.

I’ll skip ahead now, and happily report that I’ve been producing makeup effects as a freelance artist for most of my adult life.

Which brings us back to figuring out how to make the ODK hammer look real. I thought about using gelatin to simulate the skin. Gelatin doesn’t last very long though. It looks amazing and is reusable, but it breaks down quickly after being exposed to heat and moisture. I wanted the ODK hammer to be a lasting art piece. I ran a few test in using molds to produce a foam latex skin, but again, it would be vulnerable to damage if not stored in a sealed display case. Foam latex can look fantastic on camera. In person and up close, on the other hand, it can easily look flat and merely painted. I eventually decided to give the polymer clay a try.

The first hammer was a solid piece made entirely from a brick of white Sculpey. After the baking process, I used Kryolan theater makeup to set the color. It looked fine, but it didn’t have any inherent translucent quality. Even though I had built up the layers of the makeup to simulate the effect of translucency, it just wasn’t working. I knew I could come up with a better solution.

More research was conducted. This time I searched the outer-webs for possible answers. And low and behold, I found a blog entry from an artist named Andrew Scott who at the time was making trilobite sculptures out of what he referred to as PVC gel. His sculptures looked amazing and some of them had that translucent quality I was looking for. PVC gel? I need to try this medium. Who makes this gel? Where do I buy it? I couldn’t find any reference to PVC gel beyond Scott’s blog. Then, after scrutinizing over his blog for more clues, the mystery was solved. In a production photo illustrating his process, a box of Super Sculpey is sitting on his table. SCULPEY! The very same product I was using, except the version of Sculpey he was using was already translucent, not solid white. Admittedly, the fact that a box of Sculpey is in a picture next to a sculpture doesn’t mean the sculpture is actually made out of Sculpey. But I had already loved working with Sculpey, so why not try a different version of their product and see how would it turn out.

Every hammer since then has been crafted using Super Sculpey as the final layer of detail.

In our next episode of The Chronicles of The ODK Hammer, we’ll briefly walk through the building process of an ODK Hammer; with pictures! Plus, I’ll show more detailed images of the three different versions of the sculptures.

ODK_Hammer_402ODK_Hammer_518starwarslunchbox

Pushing Forward With New Places

Here’s the latest on In A Place.

I’ve been hunting near and far for a photo lab who can offer great quality digital prints while complimenting the In A Place project’s budget. And, I’m excited to say that I think I’ve found a great lab to help produce the limited 8 x 10 first series prints. Bay Photo Lab in Santa Cruz California is a name that has popped up from several different sources, and I’ve ordered an evaluation print to see how my images fare with their services. If the test print meets the quality I’m looking for, expect to see the first 24 prints available around mid January. My plan is to only produce a small run on the prints though, 15 copies of each image, numbered and signed.

Sheila Menzies, one of the outstanding supporters of my In A Place Kickstarter campaign, has been incredibly helpful in finding an alternative solution for self publishing my book. One of the leads she sent my way may turn out to be an excellent solution! ArtBookbindery.com has put together an appealing quote in producing an exclusive 50 book run of In A Place at a great price. There will have to be some minor format adjustments, but all of the content will remain intact. Once Calista and I iron out the budget details, I’ll post an update on the book’s availability. I would love for the book to go on sale at the same time the prints do, but we’ll have to wait see. At this time, there are no plans to run another Kickstarter campaign for the book.

Yes, it’s true. I now have a brand new camera! I’ve been pouring over the owner’s manual and testing out the different lenses. Over the next four weeks, I’ll be taking the camera and the family of miniature tables out to hunt for some new images. Some of these images may even make it into the book! I expect that some will certainly be added to the print series.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve decided to produce four acrylic paintings based on In A Place scenes, taking me back to how the whole project was first conceived. I’ve already pulled the four images that I think will be satisfying to render with paint on canvas, and will post images as soon as the paint dries.

Now, if I can just remember where I stored my painter’s cap…

Palm Springs Life: Art + Culture Article

A huge thank you to Janice Kleinschmidt from Palm Springs Life: Art + Culture magazine for including me in her article on Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree artist turning to Kickstarter to help fund their projects.

Kickstarting the Arts by Janice Kleinschmidt

I have an update on the In A Place project that I will post in a few days. I will hint that the update will involve canvases, paints, frames, prints, brushes and most importantly, a new camera!