Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Half of Volume One Online!

The last few months have marked a turning point for Isness. It finally has a living, growing presence in its temporary online platform.

I finally found the time to construct a monster jello mold for the upcoming cooking section. The idea behind it, is to allow my "domestic goddess", Nanna, to have a section in each volume where she can display her flamboyant post-apocalyptic/mid-century recipes. Her first featured creation is a giant jello mold, made from long-shelf-life products.
Jello mold inspiration from vintage magazines and blogs such as...
My search for an experienced helping had, brought me to The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn Victoria Belanger, and I was delighted when she agreed to step up to the challenge. The process took two days, one for making the individual molds and another, after 24 hours of setting, to stack them, add finishing touches and shoot. It was pretty intense work and I was impressed with Victoria's ability to orchestrate all the complex measuring and timing involved.

Victoria Belanger, The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn, with our completed creation
A first draft of the composite, as it will appear in this volume

This past summer's productivity was also enhanced by two talented, smart, and very personable interns from RISD. Julia Rosenfeld and Alec Stewart joined me and advanced graphics, Photoshop and illustration work. Alec focused among other things, on font design needed for the many mock-advertisements, taking logos and altering them while retaining their general look. Julia helped with Photoshop compositing and illustrated portions of a board game coming up in the children's activity section. 
Alec Stewart & Julia Rosenfeld doing great work and goofing around 

One of the tasks Alec worked on was drawing the architectural plan of the barracks-turned-home.
These will return in each volume. Each time a different room will be encircled on the floor plan and featured as an interior design spread, see example below.

Julia worked on many Photoshop images but also did some explorative illustration work for a gameboard spread, coming up later this volume, as a "children's activity".

I finally finished a very large, complex composite, placing the island diorama in the ocean. 
The raw diorama (about 10" long)

...and in the polluted, ocean off the Pacific coast, where the story takes place.

My latest page installment ends at page 114 where the fourth out of seven characters is revealed, torso first. Hunter is the oldest brother and we run into him while he's hunting on the far side of the island. Hunter carries more archetypes throughout the novel than any other character, but when we first meet him, he's in his... well, "Hunter" mode.

Some of the many garments I had Lee try on before we settled on the belt contraption.
Test shots were taken in B&W because we were planning on a B&W project...
Volume one is mostly exposition, setting the stage and introducing the characters and their predicaments. There are many hints at things to come: Objects that play a growing role as the story unfolds and dialog that plants seeds for developments ahead.

I hope that by next time I update this blog, the whole volume will be online and I'll be busy seeking a publisher and laying out Volume Two.

Thanks for stopping by,

& happy, healthy upcoming holiday season!



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Up and Running!

I'm delighted that I can finally invite viewers into the first pages of Isness. At the time of this post I have about 43 pages up and there are many more to come (page count for volume One fluctuates around 200+). It's going to be a busy summer as I race to get at least 10 more pages up every Sunday night.

The early pages, and in a way this entire volume, are an introduction to the characters, their predicaments and certainly to the particular language of this novel. Things that don't make sense yet, will come together later on as the plot thickens.

Stick around!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Very infrequent posts means that my work goes mostly into the project itself. This is how I convince myself, and hopefully you, that a sparse blog is a good thing, in my case anyway.
It's been very busy for Isness the last few months and will get even busier in the next few, as I brace myself for finally presenting Volume one online. This is one year later than I recently thought, and four years later than I initially planned when I started the project.

Below is the cover, which minus a few tweakings is pretty much done and ready.

 Isness has 8 volumes. They are designed as issues of a magazine, including advertisements, activities and visual articles about cooking and fashion.

Although I've been preparing Isness for print and have been spending a lot of time figuring out paper weight and "signatures" and "paginations" (yes, I didn't know these print terms either when I started) I never intended to self publish and would rather wait and seek out a publishing partner as I continue to work. Meanwhile people can read Volume One online, get acquainted with the characters and the format and I will have a place to direct potential publishers to, instead of printing very expensive mock-ups that may end up in the dust bin.

For this type of work, which is supposed to provide that tactile, retro experience of a magazine, online publishing is a temporary compromise. The "real deal" will have pages of different textures, gatefolds and things you can cut out like paper puzzles.

The original campbell's soup ad followed by my post-apocalyptic version, made with miniatures and quinoa seeds instead of beans.

Another aspect I've been wrapping up is the landscape diorama. After years of having the large 4'x8' diorama take up the larger portion of my studio, i have begun to dismantle it. Every possible photo of this abandoned military outpost has been taken or will be taken in the next few months. Destroying it is both sad and cathartic. As the layers are exposed, I recall the long process of turning a mound of crumpled newspapers and plaster into an imaginary home base for my characters.



The little island-diorama, however, will not be destroyed any time soon and in fact it just got an extension and a tarmac as I realized that this is how these pacific military islands were used. My research of the era is not very thorough but I do try to avoid glaring, unnecessary inaccuracies. So tarmac it is.

 The new tarmac (and snow cap!)

Testing the new addition with the surrounding ocean added.

In a couple of weeks I will be joined by two talented interns from RISD who will assist me this summer in the effort to round up all loose ends for Volume One. After a couple of semesters scrambling to pay interns a minimum wage I realized that I just couldn't pull it off anymore. As good as my intentions are, I'm an artist who's been hemorrhaging money on this project daily for many years and cannot afford to pay. For this reason I am terribly thrilled to still have fantastic people come on board and I make it a priority to address their creative interests and do a lot of teaching as we work!

So stand by to read Volume One very soon. I'll make a big splash about it on Isness FB page when it happens!

All sorts of other updates will be on Isness Kickstarter Timeline too!


Happy Summer!


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, 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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