Friday, November 7, 2014

People Who Need People...

A friend asked me the other day how I cope with the epic, never ending scope of this project and the answer that came out my mouth was: "I deal with it like a chronic illness. I don't expect it to go away so I'm never disappointed". It made me think later about how this project is a sort of lifestyle in the way that sewing and knitting daily used to be my lifestyle, which made me think about how all my creative energy used to go into knitting a pair of socks, for instance... a million stitches to then be worn and scuffed to shreds in the darkness of a winter boot. "Women's work"... How lucky I am to have visited and enjoyed that work but to also have the option to choose another kind of epic  - and yes, chronic - work.

I have recently announced yet another deadline for myself and watched it go by. It was for the first volume online publication. I got sidetracked by a collaborative effort with musician Aurelio Valle which will actually benefit Isness in the long run. In exchange for a music video for his new, mesmerizing song Bruised and Diffused, he will create and arrange the first song to appear in conjunction with the 1st volume of Isness. Below is the "music" spread mock-up with a floppy vinyl I bought on ebay as a stand-in.

Another thing I'm noticing lately is how important it has been to have the help and support of others in this long term effort. Some people who've come to help at one point or another have become friends... Some friends have become helpers... I think I'll give a shout out to a few right now (more later) to acknowledge how much it means to me to have them say "YES" and "CAN do!" to this yet to be born brainchild of mine.


Thanks, Mindy, for many nights of miniature work!

Thanks, Maggie, for endless scrutiny and observations!

Thanks, Alex, for fantastic ideas, for being Isness' #1 cheerleader! 
(What the heck are you doing in this pic, anyway?)

Thanks, Abbie, for jumping in with your amazing illustration skills!

Also thank you to Yunshu Chen who was my second intern to work on Isness and brought with her an excellent eye for details. (and hand!) 

So I'm noticing that there are not so many men here on this helper list and making a mental note to recruit males and stop being so sexist.

That's all for now. 
Check out my latest Kickstarter update.
Like my page please, & love each other.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Some Inspiration from Across the Atlantic

"How's your film going"?

"It's animation, right"?

"How's your video thing going, or is it a slide show"?

I get a lot of genuinely interested question about my project and I'm always surprised how few of my acquaintances have successfully wrapped their minds around what I've been doing for the better part of the last 4 years. It's amusing really, and probably my own fault for not explaining it better.
To be honest, I'm confused myself... at times.

One annoying but oddly helpful thing people tend to do (and I'm as guilty as anyone) is to immediately scrounge through their brains and try to come up with something they're familiar with that resembles what they think I may be doing... I actually take notes and look into the films/books/performances they mention and most of the time find little resemblance and no inspiration, but not so with one project that was mentioned to me several time: Woman's World by Graham Rawle.

This Crazy Brit apparently spent 5 years dissecting popular ladies' magazines of the 50's and 60's to find the words that were just right to tell the poignant and psychologically complex story of a young woman named Norma and her brother, Roy. And when I say just the right words, I mean he actually cut out and pasted them into a book and printed the collage of it all.

The book falls into the category of "graphic novel" as well as literature because of this highly visual approach. The tenderness and nostalgia with which the collage is put together infuses the story with the love and loss which are at the core of the drama. I highly recommend it. Here's more about it.

Anyway, I read the book twice and felt a kinship to it's creator and in fact took great inspiration and encouragement from it in all aspects of incorporating 60's magazine culture in my layouts.
There will be ads, illustrations, advice and game section and even a porn sections, all based on the graphics and artifacts in 60's magazines, but with my own post apocalyptic twist.

Below are a few samples from the work in progress:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shutting Down The Miniature Shop!

It's been 3 years since I launched the construction of the miniature world of Isness and I am thrilled to announce that it is now DONE DONE DONE!

To stage the finale, I lured talented hands from among my friends to come to my studio. Fueled by the buzz of conversation and excellent coffee, we covered the last few glaring omissions from the miniature rooms, such as toilet paper, clothing, jewelry, boxed supplies and much more. Here are some pics from the 2 day marathon:

Jess Nissen made tincy wincy jewelry for Nanna's extensive collection...

Ni Byrne assembles cereal boxes for the family's food stash...

Alyn Evans assembled Vietnam era military rations...

Christine Murray and Tammy Kim made dresses and aprons...

Tammy Kim made 60's inspired dresses for Nanna's closet...

Mia Bauman made a disco ball...

... and I worked on a personal favorite: the tiny toilet paper rolls.

Another step forward this summer was that I finally hired an intern to help out with the massive load of Photoshop work. 

Tammy Kim is in her final year at RISD and majoring in illustration and animation. She took a summer internship with me and was the perfect person to have as first-intern-ever because she was absolutely focused and proactive in the developing of a proper workflow for an additional person. After working for so long by myself it was somehow unclear to me how to harness the extra hand.

Tammy tackled Nanna's big hair problem. It was supposed to have a life of it's own, constantly billowing around her like "a golden storm"... To achieve this, we planned to keep a blasting hair dryer on her at all times during the shoots... This turned out to be a lost cause and Alex, bless her heart, stalked Christine with the deafening machine trying to make the best of it. It was a huge annoyance to Christine and I'm amazed she was able to keep up her performance. Long story short, most of the images will need some work to build up that fantasy hair that is so important to Nanna's character.

Below are a before/after of a shot from the bizarre sex scene in chapter two. After many experiments Tammy and I chose the best technique for solving the hair problem and she proceeded to correct as many images as her time with me allowed. She also created an easy tutorial for the next intern to follow, in order to ensure a consistent look.

Another job Tammy took on was transposing a pattern onto the previously solid fabric that draped Nanna's head during her onion-chopping scene. This required good life-drawing skills and visual extrapolation. Here's a before/after:

Although the saturation levels in the scene are not yet matched, one can see that this will work well enough.  Many of the corrections of this type, in the novel, are a result of my inexperience and the rather technically impoverished state of the production as a whole. The head cover for this scene was simply not selected in advance and was grabbed out of a pile of fabrics at the spur of the moment.

Below is a test composite in the newly finished master bedroom.

More updates and photos are on my Facebook artist page at

Ahead this winter are extensive miniature photography, Photoshop editing and page layout work but NO MORE BUILDING!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mocking It Up As I Go Along...

In order to have a more tangible relationship with my material, I've started putting together a mock-up of the graphic novel.
I print pages in their "as-is" imperfect stage of development and assemble them in order.
One can meditate on a spread in In Design forever and learn nothing. A glimpse at the physical object, and there are the answers! 
Other pluses of the mock-up:
Gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a false sense that I'm moving along in leaps and strides...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Midpoint Introspection and More

When I started this project it was going to be a short graphic novel in black and white. 
The idea was to marry my passion for comics with my passion for cinema and see where it took me. Everything about it was designed to give me a lingering experience in the less inhabited medium of sequential stills, to provide a long, meandering bridge towards cinematic storytelling.

I find myself, 3 years after the inception of the idea, mired in an undertaking of epic proportions. A 600 page, full color draft and a miniature building operation that is a black hole for money and time. I have not calculated the dollar figure sunk into the project so far but I suspect it is in the area of $50,000, most of it of my own money.

But alas, I plow on. Too late to turn back and by now I'm too curious as to how it will turn out . I'm already miles away from the original vision and still diverging...

One of the most fascinating aspects of the work, for me, is the incredible malleability of the medium. In basic filmmaking, one must rely on the "take" in which foreground, background and dialog (Not to mention weather, light and background sound), are instantly fused together into one amalgam. Here, in "Isness-world" every aspect is accessible for editing and re-editing. A character shot, say, in a green dress standing in daylight shouting, can be morphed into a sitting character in a pink dress in an indoor night scene... singing. She can be moved from foreground to background. Her expressions, eye color and hair design all can be changed. Just recently I decided to knock a tooth out of Petro's mouth to give him a little more edge. This level of control is extremely gratifying even if the price is painstaking work which is not far from the kind of work sunk into animation.

Below is a sequence of layouts I'm working on for the opening of the story. The Russian soldier that lands on the islands shore is propelled through a psychedelic time warp inspired by Stanley Kubricks Star-Gate sequence from Odyssey 2001.

The next 2 images are a demonstration of a very simple composite in which the only things changed are the background and Nanna's upper torso (holding the phone). Light, color and focus adjustments are added too to help the scene blend with it's new environment.

Below, the 3rd room finished and ready to shoot is that of Natashia/Patchouli/Blossom (Can't seem to settle on her name yet), the eldest daughter. Her room is what I imagine a post/apocalyptic teenage girl's room would look like. Still filled with the artifacts of childhood with the objects she surrounds herself pointing to her dreams and aspirations.

In the next photo, my miniature in-house model is trying on for size a few of the aprons I made. The designs were collected from online images then printed (at some risk to my inkjet printer) on fabric and carefully cut out by my friend Mindy. Later I drenched them in a water/glue solution and hung them on their miniature hooks and hangers.

A fun, side activity for the project is the research of popular products from the 60's in North America. A favorite magazine for this is The Ladies Home Journal. Did you know the first issues appeared in the late 19th century? It's a fantastic insight into an evolving  society as it is mirrored in ideas about women and the home. 
All the images below were cut out of vintage Home Journal advertisements and scanned. My favorite is the "Cope" pills for menstrual cramps with the Venus/female symbol built into the logo and it's stylish off-center opening.
Many of these products will appear in the novel, tucked away on shelves or otherwise placed. The original cutouts are being collaged onto Thank-You cards that are going out to my kickstarter backers.

Once in a while I come across odd selling strategies of the time that seem very revealing in hindsight. Below is an ad for a "feminine hygiene deodorant spray" touted as a friendly accessory for the liberated woman. 
I think it implies something like "Sure you can have free love, Babe. As long as your pussy smells like daisies!" Love it.

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