Tag Archives: pop culture

Unusual Pin-Up Photography

The following cheeky pinup photos were taken by Australian photographer Wallyir. I am utterly fascinated and inspired by these photographs made by posing simple wooden artist mannequins, model toys, and other every day objects. Each photos is mesmerizing — and together, the series definitely tells a story!

beginning blank canvas painter and muse at the easel playing up study of a portrait portrait of a muse pinup art photography willyir cast of three wallyir

It seems the photos were taken in 2010 and at least some of them submitted as photography assignments at About.com. There we can really see the photographer’s sense of humor:

Lessons Learned

  • Fine tune D.O.F to have back ground still recognizable.
  • Any dust on such a small subject is very noticeable.
  • Lighting need not be very complicated (or expensive) for a good effect.
  • Using a kitchen bench,Freezer Top or Computer desk to stage your photography will result in those areas being needed immediately or life as I know it could cease.

Other similar works by Wallyir:

vintage motorcycle and girl wallyir

rose et noir pinup figure photography

old ladies black and white photography by willyir

Literary Art, Puns, And Bookmarks

Continuing my interview with Robin Blum, founder of In My Book® — the bookmark and greeting cards in one

Happy Ending In My Book Bookmark & Greeting Card

How do you go about getting the art for the bookmarks and cards?

I am fortunate to work with illustrator (and Brooklyn neighbor) Meredith Hamilton. I found her on a wonderful listing of artists for hire called The I Spot. I love the New Yorker-y style of her pen and ink illustrations and feel that they are perfectly suited to the slightly irreverant nature of the cards.

How do you select the images? How tied to literary themes — and puns — are they?

There are presently fifteen styles of In My Book. When we first worked together in 1999, I gave the text of the greetings to Meredith and we brainstormed what type of images would work. In My Book, you’re a classic ended up with marble busts of distinguished and scholarly types, reading books of course; you’re a mystery clearly called for one of the great wonders of world (Stonehenge) and you’re some dish was teamed up with a red-hot mamma having fun cooking up a storm. More styles are presently in the works and will be available in Spring of 2012.

Are there any designs that seem most popular? Any trends in terms of the art, or it is mainly a matter of book genres?

The most popular styles are the ones that seem to suit the greatest number of people. Who wouldn’t be flattered by the notion of being ‘rare’ or ‘a classic’?? Publishers Weekly says: “Multi-tasking as both bookmark and greeting card…illustrated with charming pen-and-ink drawings by artist Meredith Hamilton, these sentimental greetings make endearing enclosures especially when the present is a book.”

How often do you add new designs? And when you add new ones, do you discontinue any older ones?

The line began with twelve styles in 2000 and added three more styles in 2003. Next year three additional styles will be added, so there will be a total of eighteen styles. Although obviously some sell better than others, I have chosen not to discontinue the older ones. This is different than most greeting card companies who base their inventory on sales; I tend to think that book readers are more or less traditional and that “you’re a character”, “you’re a hero”, “you’re the last word” will never go out of style.

I think so too, Robin.

The cards have sold for $3.95 (including envelope) since the company started in 2000; buy them now and get a jump on holiday gift giving –and the upcoming price increase in 2012!

Of Howdy Bears, Mermaids & Punk Rock Grrls

While writing my unorthodox review of The Runaways (2010), I found Cherie Currie’s chainsaw art site.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the original Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb girl and a chainsaw, I do not think of cute country bears…

Or toucans painted on tables, for that matter.

But she did put a mosaic tile mermaid in her pool, along with a turtle, and I think that’s really cool.

Beware This Teddy Bear!

Siamese Twin Bear made of Belly Button Lint

Rachel Betty Case made another appearance on Oddities; instead of the Human Ivory works, she presented a teddy bear made of belly button lint.

(The example shown here is of her Siamese version.)

Incredibly creative? Yup.

Nice way to recycle or reuse things that exist? I suppose…

But still rather creepy? More than you probably know…

Check out just how gross belly button lint is in this article at New Scientist: Belly Button Biome Is More Than A Piece Of Fluff.

I’m guessing that’s why Rachel keeps the little teddy bears in glass vials. (I hope the vials are free of the, umm, “artist’s residues” on her hands.)

Super Girls: Life Size Female Action Figures

Super Girls is a collection of store mannequins hand painted and sprayed to look like comic book superheroes and villains. Because each life size art piece is made from a mannequin it is equal to an action figure in that it can be posed! Each art work is numbered.

An Interview With Ghosts In The Machines Creator Erika Iris Simmons

I so fell in love with the stunning art made from cassette tapes by Erika Iris Simmons that I just had to speak with her and learn more about her incredibly iconic works.

Erika Iris Simmons

Erika, I don’t like to ask a lady her age — especially right at the start! — but in this case I feel compelled to do so… Your works, especially the Ghosts In Machines, have a youthful pop culture quality, but the detail work is incredible, which lends me to believing you are older (at least in art years!) than I think. So, how old are you, when did you begin the Ghost In The Machine Series, and how long have you been working as an independent artist?

Thanks! No worries, I’m not shy, I’m 27 now but I started making this series in 2008, when I was 24 I think.

I was a waitress at Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando at the time, looking for interesting art projects. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on art supplies so I went through all the junk drawers at home, tearing up anything I could find, dabbling in composite art. I was fascinated with optical illusions and wanted to make something really different. I think going to work everyday surrounded by music memorabilia definitely had an impact! haha

One day I thought to use the cassette tapes in my art – when I started messing with the ribbon it curled up and reminded me of Jimi Hendrix’s afro, so that was the first portrait I made.

Ghost in the Machine: Jimi Hendrix, Cassette Tape On Canvas

At the time I was reading some science books about the philosophy of the mind; that’s where the “ghost in the machine” theme came from. It was great to sit there while working on these, wondering about the meaning in the data on the tapes and how by simply rearranging the tape on the board I could make it look like a face. My goal was to not cut the tape or take any away, just arrange it.

I’ve been working as a full-time independent artist for two years now.

Have you had any formal training or study, an art degree?

No formal art training; I got a ton of art books out from the library, but mostly its just been trial and error.

The Ghost In The Machine pieces are how I first found you — the amaze me because they incorporate the spirit of the medium, the tape and film, and display the iconic images we see when we experience their performances. What inspired the works?

I never wanted to be an artist until I saw the work of Ken Knowlton. He makes incredible composite portraits. My favorite is his portrait of Einstein using nothing but black dice. It blew my mind and I thought I want to make something like that, something that would resonate with people. I just kept experimenting after that.

Ghost In Machine: Madonna

They are incredibly fluid and effortless looking, as if they just spilled out that way, but I suspect there’s a lot more to them than that. 😉 Can you tell us more about the work involved, how long it takes to make a piece — how many tapes, etc. are used?

I almost always just need a single cassette, unless the work is really big. You’d be surprised how long the tape is inside.

Every piece is different, but I usually start by drawing the basic outline, focusing on the facial details first. I go about filling in the design, either gluing the tape flat and cutting away when necessary, or folding and twisting the tape into the desired shapes. This can take weeks if its very detailed. Toward the end I try to let the tape fall into really natural shapes and “capture” that movement with dots of glue. Finally, I use epoxy to permanently mount the case.

Of the works I’ve seen, you seem to use or recycle other items to create your works of art. Do you consider these altered art works? How do you feel about that term?

I call these cassette tape or film sculptures, but the term altered art works too. It falls into a lot of categories, I think. I often hear people call them “installations.” I don’t know why.

Your Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast At Tiffany’s piece is probably my favorite, so far! I love the use of 8mm film, right down to the reel!

Audrey Hepburn Work In Progress...

Audrey Hepburn Ghost In Machine, 8mm Film

Erika Iris Simmons Artwork In Progress

Working With Film To Make Ghost In Machine

"Reel" Breakfast At Tiffany's Hair

Shadow Details

Audrey Hepburn Ghost In Machine

The Graceful Ghost In The Machine

I read at your blog that the Breakfast At Tiffany’s work was the result of a woman who approached you about doing a series of collection of Audrey Hepburn pieces… Does that mean you do custom or commissioned works?

Thanks! I’ve actually made my living for the last few years making custom pieces for people; I still do sometimes, but not as my bread-and-butter like I used to.

Does doing works that way, at the direction of others, frustrate you in any way as an artist?

Yes, every single time! haha. There is no way of avoiding the pressure of “performance.” I am not a performer and I’ve found that my work is much better when it comes from the heart and not from a need to pay rent. I find myself questioning every action. Instead, I just take the commissions that I feel a spark for. I used to have a “custom work” page on my website, but I don’t solicit those offers anymore. A lot more time for experimenting.

How much do you charge for such works? And, as you currently have no originals for sale, only prints at Etsy, how much do original works cost?

Honestly every piece is different. I sell some for hundreds, some for many thousands, so its a hard question to answer… An average Ghost in the Machine piece is about $2500. The only prints I sell are letter size and A2. But the size of the originals range from 12 by 16, up to 40 by 60 inches, so there is a wide range.

Your other works, that I’ve seen at Flickr mainly, are also composite or altered works. Do you feel that will likely remain a part of your style, or do you feel that you’ll need to move on in a completely different direction at some point in time?

I don’t really define what I do by the medium. I feel like the running theme in my head is finding a story within a single object. Recursion and nested concepts are what fascinate me, so whether I’m painting or writing or doing any other creative activity I think this theme will remain.

Portrait of former Dodger's pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, made from an authentic major-league baseball, "grass stains and all."

When you are best known for a series, or when someone spots an older series, like Ghosts In Machines, how do you as an artist feel when you move onto another series, project or style of work?

It doesn’t bother me that I will probably never “out-do” the success of this series because I know the biggest thrill is the idea and execution rather than what other people think. The images will one day be played like that song on the radio that you’ve heard fifty times too many, but I will always remember what it felt like to hold something like that in my hands before the glue was even dry, having never sold a piece of artwork, knowing that I made something special.

Its nice that people are still interested though, I do appreciate it.

Bob Dylan by Erika Iris Simmons for AARP

At The Ungulate, we hear a lot about how “success” is at least partly defined as making a living in art; yet we also hear from artists who feel great frustration in the commercial aspects of that sort of success. Aside from not soliciting custom works as much as you once did, how do you plan to address or balance these issues for yourself as an artist?

I’ve never been interested in money – I threaten to quit art and go back to waiting tables any day! ha. But seriously, making art for a living is by far harder than I expected, and I feel I’m one of the lucky ones to have so much support and exposure. But some months I still barely scrape by. Don’t get me wrong; when it rains it pours. But its hard counting on the weatherman. In lieu of commissions I’m working with a stationary company for a little rolling income. The ‘m’ word: Merchandising. We’re still putting the website together – I don’t know a date it will be live…

But you’ll let us know, right?

Of course!

Until then, we can still marvel at the other works by Ericka Iris Simmons, and enjoy spotting them all sorts of places, like the Bob Dylan piece for the AARP.

The Interview With Collin David

Collin David

I’ve known Collin David for like 5-6 years now; we met when we both started writing for Collectors’ Quest. I quickly discovered his passion for comics, action figures, robots, cephalopods, etc. was entwined with something more… His art.

In the past year, Collin’s art work has been getting him more attention, respect, and, yes, money. So it seemed now was the time to sit down with him — you know, before he’s too busy for a “remember me” request for an interview. *wink*

Call me old, uncool — old and uncool, even — but I can’t seem to follow all your art news, projects, events, etc. on Facebook. (I am, after all, a Twitter girl *neener neener*) So help me out and give me a general run down about you, ResonantFish, what the heck you do as a freelancer art and design dude. You drop names like “Ninja Turtles show in Philly” and “Gallery1988”; so don’t forget those.

Well, my business cards say “Collin David makes stuff”, because that’s the most accurate phrase I could come up with.

This includes comics, sculpture, digital design (like icons, iPhone games, business cards), ink portraiture, painting, and even animation occasionally—every project calls for some new approach. I’ve never seen the merit of those artists who approach very different problems with the same approach, over and over. It’s completely marketable, but it’s transparent. There’s a way to find a balance, and it’s not by being creatively lazy.

As a freelancer, I tend to do a lot of digital art, because that’s what the freelance market wants right now. As far as my portion of the freelance market goes, a majority of it is technology-based, and people trying to make their technology pretty. While my brain is fueled by robots and meat and monsters, my bank account relies on icons for travel websites and improving old logos for businesses. Every so often, a project comes along where I serve as an art director and have total creative freedom, or I get to use real paper and ink, but those are far less common.

It all comes back to “making stuff”, for whatever purpose it may serve in the end. Every project is an education towards greater things. In my free time, I’m sometimes invited to do group art shows all around the world about things that I love: toys, Ninja Turtles, pretty girls, Star Wars. I don’t know how that happened, honestly, because that was just a natural progression.

Custom Robolucha For International Show

Ah, you sort of glossed over those art show invitations… Where have you your works, been seen recently? What’s it like to get the invite?

Right now, I have three ink pieces in Gallery1988 in California, in a show centered around Beetlejuice, Back to the Future and Bill & Ted.

Piece From 3B Show at Gallery1988

I also currently have an acrylic Ninja Turtles piece in Philly. Both of these shows are through The Autumn Society, a collection of great illustrators who just happen to do lots of shows together that seem to focus on 1980s pop culture. Recently, I was honored enough to show alongside Wallace & Grommit’s Nick Park in the UK for a group show (via a Twitter invite), an arcade in Texas, and a few other places I don’t remember. I’m horrible at keeping track, but should probably comb my e-mails in order to get my stuff back. I don’t want to say something stupid like “art is so pure that I keep it separate from business”, but 100% of my focus is on creation, and whatever happens outside of that to get it out there is fate and luck and whatever momentum gravity has granted me, or if Facebook is behaving properly.

MUMM-RA! For The Autumn Society's '80s POP!' Show

Invites always come with a sense of dread. Can I make something worthwhile? Will this show be worth my time? Will my art get destroyed by the gallery or post office again? Do I have enough time to make something? How do I approach this uniquely? I’ve had so many bad gallery experiences that it’s a process I’ve learned to hate, so I do far fewer showings than is ideal, and I don’t seek them out. I love a challenge, but I’d rather that challenge be creative over diplomatically begging for my art back for a year from an unscrupulous gallery director like Rocket Pop’s David Rodriguez or APW’s Hans Yim.

How is the invitation to group art shows “just a natural progression”?

It’s momentum. If you really do things that you love and believe in, it’s infectious. Eventually.

It’s a long, long crawl towards respect, and if you ever stop digging your nails in, you’ll slip backwards into anonymity. Some people (who I’m not going to name here) market themselves raw and have absolutely no skill to back it up, but they get a ton of work and notoriety. I’m just not the kind of person to write press releases in the third person or describe myself as “up-and-coming”. It’s one way to progress, and it’s tried and true and not invalid, but it’s not natural. There’s no foundation in that, and you don’t get a realistic perspective of yourself or your work. Some promotion, sure – but not a full-time marketing machine.

I make stuff constantly, and people see it, and sometimes they like it, and share it, and eventually, it falls onto the right eyes. And I wish it were more profitable, but I’ll take truth over an elaborate self-deception any time.

In-progress sculpt for "Into the Darkness"

"Into the Darkness @ 1:AM Gallery in SF

I’ve known you for awhile now, and there’s been a big change in the amount of work you’re now doing. I wouldn’t say this, but you recently commented to me that you somehow see this as “awful,” as if this wasn’t just one of the risks of going pro; explain to me how you see the increase in work, recognition, and, I presume, pay.

About six months ago, I was spread out everywhere, doing work-for-hire for a ton of different venues—most of it writing, and I burnt out. I decided to drop (mostly) everything and focus on seeing how far my art could get me, because that’s what really matters to me, at my core. I wouldn’t say it defines me, and I wouldn’t call myself an “artist” (because I hate that word), but it definitely made me feel the most complete.

As it turns out, the rise to credibility was faster than I expected, and it was great. I’d been doing spot illustrations for magazines and things like that since high school, just to experiment with the wide world of art publishing, but the Internet enabled me to pursue these things in earnest, at least 40 hours a week and in parallel with a full-time job. The “Artist’s Market” books never did me any good except for a rejection letter from Cricket Magazine.

The process of making art is never “awful”, but it becomes awful when other people start sticking their hot little fingers in it. As a freelancer, you’re doing work for someone else, and you’re being paid to serve. I don’t have a problem with that, at all, ever. Ideally, one would be hired on the merits of their talents, and not their ability to parrot their employer. It’s the difference between having a hard-working employee and a yes-man, and it shows in the final product.

From the VinylPulse Dragon Eats Knight Show

In terms of “awful”, I was recently hired to design a series of monsters for an iPhone game. The project started out with the client telling me that I had total creative freedom, because he liked my work. When the first drafts came around, he had changes to make : facial expressions, colors, and the like. In the freelancing world, these kinds of changes are acceptable. The employer has a vision which they weren’t able to articulate before (thought they should have probably tried harder), but now that they see the product, they can understand what they want better. A second round of changes was made, and I was sent back screencaps from Pixar films, which bore no resemblance to any prior work, and a few notes that essentially said, “Make it look like this.”

I obliged, while still giving these monsters their own uniqueness. When these monsters met his descriptions dead-on, he sent me back a picture of Spongebob Squarepants and asked me to trace it for his game, instead of all of the work I’d previously done. When I asked him to sign a contract to free me from all legal and moral responsibility when Nickelodeon came down to smite him and completely crush his business on the grounds of copyright infringement, we ended the project. I walked away with character design and consultation fees and a clean slate. He walked away with the sudden understanding that it wasn’t actually okay to plagiarize well-known cartoon characters for profit.

These are the “awful” things, and they’re pretty common, but not universal. Sometimes, you spend more time justifying yourself or explaining how “art” works than actually putting together work.

[Interviewer Aside: Check out Collin’s The Nine Circles Of Freelancing Hell for more on this; I giggled an groaned through the whole true thing.]

"The Golden Faces" for Multiple Personalities 2 @ LIFT Gallery, MI. "The Jello didn't making the trip because of last-minute damage, alas!"

And you can’t work on one project at once. Four seems to be the magic number, given the amount of time that clients can take to get back to you with revisions. You start on one project, work on a couple of others, and close out another one. This way, you generally always have something to do and a way to generate profit. It helps if your clients are in different time zones as well. Qatar is great if you work early in the morning or very late at night. It also helps to take breaks to play GoldenEye.

It’s all about momentum. Once you actually land a project or two by mastering the art of crafting a proposal, and can show these products off to other relevant jobs, the work will come.

"Something From Long Ago" by Collin David

Why do you hate the word “artist”?

The word “artist” is used like it’s an excuse for erratic behavior or a refusal to be a productive member of society. “Artists” don’t have to maintain jobs – not because they’re highly skilled, but because they’ve appointed themselves to the title of “artist”. It’s not a universal perception of the word, but it’s definitely not uncommon, and I really want no part of it.

I once had someone come up to the desk at the library where I worked who refused to pay late fees because she was an “artist”, and “artists” break all of the rules. I refrained from “artistically” punching her in the face, even though by her own definition it would have been perfectly acceptable.

I make stuff, and some of it is “art” because it’s totally impractical and self-indulgent. I don’t have any misperceptions that I’m making the world better by making pictures, but I hope I’m making tiny little parts of peoples’ lives better. Either way, it’s something I can’t stop doing, and I enjoy doing it.

APW Arts on Record Vol. 2: The Skeletron

“Sometimes, you spend more time justifying yourself or explaining how “art” works than actually putting together work.” Like this interview? 😛

Though, I imagine this sort of thing is preferable to schooling a client in the ways of intellectual property… At least it’s more fun!

I hope.

But seriously, in terms of being a guy who makes stuff, how important are interviews? First, in terms of making the stuff — do you find reading interviews inspiring or motivational or helpful at all? And second, what makes participating in an interview worth the time away from making stuff? Is it just the promotional aspects? (Links: How the internet was won!)

Interviews are fun! They force you to take a look at why you do what you do, and they open up your eyes to how others might perceive you, and every shade of this will color your work, whether you like it or not. Observing it changes the experimental results.

My favorite interviews are in Hi Fructose Magazine, because I find myself reading things I’ve been thinking for years coming from artists who I admire. It’s inspiring to know that I’m on the right path, and it’s always useful to be reminded to stay true to yourself.

I don’t think I’ve ever landed any work through an interview (yet), but the introspection makes them worthwhile to participate in. A lot of what I feel like I have to say about art may sound negative or like I don’t respect other artists, but it’s just passion for good, true creators and an impatience with the imitators – so I have to bite my tongue a lot.

Plush Custom Art Called Either "Fuckface the Fucknificent" or "You & Your Ugly Heart"

For many, making some money off a creative gig seems like the ultimate goal, the real mark of professional success; but as you’ve discussed there’s a clear divide between creative expression, making stuff for the sake of making it, and commerce, selling stuff &/or making stuff to sell. How do you best balance what can be at times such contradictory positions and determine success for yourself?

Well, I’m not yet in a place where I can turn down well-paying jobs, so they’ve taken over. About six months ago, I decided to focus on making commercially viable stuff and hunting down clients, and perfecting the skills necessary to work on the highly technical professional stuff. I’ve always done paintings on commission, and small works for small magazines, but I really needed to conduct a concentrated test about the viability of doing this kind of thing for a living. So, I dropped everything (including personal projects and writing gigs) and started researching what people want right now in the creative world, and how to do those things. Art school didn’t provide a single iota of information that was useful in finding an art-related job, so it’s a very do-it-yourself kind of education.

"The Spacemen: Burn-Up Re-Entry Model" Custom Toys, Edition of Four, by Collin David

For me, it was a solid moment of decision, so the “real” art happens between gigs. There’s never a shortage of work if you know how to ferret it out, and I’m never at a lack of ideas for personal art. I have five sketchbooks full of projects that want to be done. I don’t think I’ve found the kind of success I want just yet, but I don’t think I ever will. That’s the kind of thing that keeps you moving and evolving, so the dissatisfaction isn’t all bad.

I’d love for art to be a full-time job, but I don’t think I could do the corporate letterhead design thing for more than a few weeks at a time before losing my mind. There are too many ghosts in my head for that, and they all want to be painted.

Detail from 'Queen of the Bees', which is "about a cheating, lying ex-girlfriend."

If you had to pick one piece or project that you feel marked professional success or otherwise signified success to you, what would it be and how does it reflect success to you?

Star Wars cards. During middle school, and high school, and college, there were a few things that I held in such high creative regard that I never envisioned myself touching them, and Star Wars was way up there. Last year, I was asked to draw a whole bunch of original sketch cards which were randomly packaged with packs of Star Wars cards. They’re quirky and fun drawings of aliens, and they had to be done quickly so they’re not top quality, but I don’t think I could ever do anything cooler than official Star Wars art. Being accepted into such an established and impenetrable universe marks success for me.

Star Wars Series V Sketch Card by Collin David

Here at The Ungulate we try to focus on adding creativity and art (making and buying/owning) to your life, on inspiring people to just make stuff and to delight in stuff that’s made. One of the things we hear most often is how hard it is to just start. How do you respond to that, what advice do you have?

This is probably an answer that’s been given a hundred times, but just do it. I’ve created thousands of embarrassing drawings, and had even more terrible ideas, but you have to realize that creativity is flawed, and that’s just par for the course, like anything else. It’s not a perfect, pristine, inaccessible spirit that needs to be handled delicately. It’s a dirty, frustrating thing that you can’t be afraid to smack around. You need to throw away any delusions of preciousness.

I remember the moment in high school when I realized that I’d been holding back because I didn’t want to embarrass myself by drawing something dumb. And then I realized that no one ever had to see it but me. As long as art fits in the garbage, you’re safe, so just go for it. Also realize that no time spent creating is wasted time, because every second is an enormous education: how materials work, which lines are beautiful, which ideas are disasters, how to use color and space. These things are much more visceral when you’re doing them, and you really can’t learn them from a book without doing them.

And there you have it, good advice from an artist a busy guy who “makes stuff.”

I’d like to thank Collin for sharing all this — and encourage the rest of you to visit all the links to “all things Collin David”  in this interview.  (He’s got so much going on, if you only have time for two, it’s these two: ResonantFish and ResonantFish on Facebook.)

The Elemental Art Of Photography

In a world, a country, with dwindling art and music programs, I’m thrilled to read at History Is Elementary that students in upper elementary grades (grades 4, 5, and 6) will be taught darkroom photography and printmaking.

I’m so jealous — but mostly happy. *wink*

And I hope it starts a trend.

In the article, along with a discussion of use of photography in teaching history, there’s this:

What a terrific opportunity to teach what may be a dying art. Bob Smith, a local photographer in my neck of the woods states, “This is interesting …I guess it’s great to expose them to the way [photography] used to be done, but in ten years, they may have to buy the chemicals themselves to do the developing. I wonder what types of film will still be sold in ten years. You have to go to professional photography shops……just to buy old 120 film that went in every camera since World War II…and they have to wait on the manufacturer to produce the next allotment.”

I don’t have any statistics to back up sales of film and photography equipment, but it seems to me that film photography is on the incline. But maybe that’s just my own anecdotal experiences — which includes my 10 year old son’s intent fascination with an antique camera at our last visit at an antique shop.

Fear Of The Blank Paper

Staring down the pristine, stark-white surface of a blank page can be soooo intimidating… This phenomenon occurs with writers too. So what can you do when you’ve got your supplies all set, but that blank white page just stares back at you, taunting you, teasing you, bullying you…

Well, if you’re like Steve Thompson, maybe you carve your Crayolas into Star Wars characters.

If pencils are your tools, Dalton Ghetti‘s carved graphite works may be more inspiring to you.

If words are (supposed to be) your weapons of choice in the creative fight against the blank page, how about carving those pencil tips into letters? (Also by Dalton Ghetti.)

Take that, blank paper! We’re still getting our art on!

ISewCute Certainly Is (The Interview!)

Sometimes, when I’m interviewing someone, I’ll make them do all the work and ask them to define their work.  For the absolutely adorable artisan behind the equally charming isewcute, I asked her to define her work in just three words. I knew it would be hard, perhaps it was even unfair, but then I knew we’d have the rest of this interview to add plenty more words. So this is where we start…

Your jewelry – how would you describe it in 3 words? (Toughie, huh!)

Wicked tough! I suppose this will do: customizable, artisan-crafted, whimsical.

I see you had to cheat with a hyphen! lol I personally would have used “glittery” — but then that’s because I have a love/hate relationship with glitter. …As a girl, I’m a sucker for glitter; but as a mom, who finds that stuff more insidious than Easter grass and tinsel, I groan at the sight of it. But your stuff traps the glitter — forever shimmering, but never escaping! Which is a stroke of gleaming awesomeness.


Umm, that’s not a question… How’s this: Would your artisan superhero name include the word ‘glitter’?

You’d be safe with a finished piece… no glitter escapes!  Glitter is always a good thing — I just got done glittering my craft table last week & love how it turned out & submitted it to ikeahacker’s blog.

Yeah, my superhero name would have to include glitter on some level!

Have you ever thought of yourself as a superhero? Of your jewelry as being talismans against doom and gloom? Because I find most of them so sweet and full of kitschy goodness that whoever wears them can’t be anything but happy!

I’ve never considered myself a superhero. Not since saving a couple of elderly folks from a burning building — at 4 months old.  The house caught fire & I cried because of the smoke & woke everyone up & we all got out alright. True story!

I’m hoping my jewelry brings happiness to all who wear it.  Especially the real four leaf clover jewelry I make.  More than anything, I hope my little creations are loved & cherished. They don’t want to be hidden away in a drawer or jewelry box; they want to make the scene!

What inspires your designs?

My refusal to grow up completely & stay in touch with my inner child, my own children through which I’m reliving my childhood… An insatiable love of sparkly things… Show me something shiny & I’ll lose my train of thought. Cartoons, pinups, music, pop culture all have a hand in inspiring me along the way.

What are your most popular designs or themes?

As we discussed with the embroidery it’s the custom order type of work that’s most popular now. The possibilities are endless!

I have been making personalizeable name necklaces…hearts, and rectangles full of sprinkles, glitter, and beads spelling out names of BFF’s & boyfriends.

Also, my four leaf clover jewelry has been selling real well because there is no shop on Etsy like asluckwouldhaveit.

I find the clovers myself, with the help of my children, dry the clovers for a couple weeks, & then they’re all ready to become treasures to cherish. Nature makes the clovers & I do the rest.

FYI, if anyone friends me on Facebook through the month of November, they’ll be entered to win a four leaf clover heart pendant!

Have you ever made something you were certain would “fly off the shelves” but wasn’t well received?

Oh sure! I made a soldered glass pendant with a funny quote (or so I thought), but apparently nobody got my humor.

(I’m dying to see that!)

How would you describe your customer?

Playful & someone who likes to stand out & express themselves… Marching to their own music.

I’m pretty sure they’re skipping, not marching. And I like it more that way. But then I’m pretty biased; I’m an isewcute customer.

For more on isewcute, see my other interview — and check out the artist at her own blogs: I Sew Cute and As Luck Would Have It.

The Dollypop Guild

Paul Richmond (whose upcoming exhibit, Cheesecake, will be opening in June at the Center on Halsted in Chicago) explores the path of his own identity and sexuality in his paintings.

Prints and original paintings available at Etsy — and there’s a book of his works, with text, titled Ins & Outs: A Collection. (Via A Slip of a Girl.)

These Ain’t Your Granny’s Stitches

Dale Spender feminism quote in needlework by Rosa Martyn (of My Little Stitches) isn’t the only feminist needlework out there, but it’s a great example of something — a cause, a philosophy, a book — inspiring you into picking up a needle and thread. In this case, Martyn did her cross stitch on the back of a cotton jacket.

Motivated? Good!

See more of the modern and radical needlework out there by keeping up with the Craftivist Collective.

See Also: Sew, Whatever Happened To Learning How To Use Needle & Thread.

Hey, Me, Get Out Of My Travel Photos (Not!)

There are just about as many reasons for taking photos as there are people who take them, so it would be foolish for me to try to encompass them all in one itty-bitty blog post. But I do feel I need to respond to this blog post about travel photos by Natalia Forrest. Especially this part:

Much has been written about the modern scourge of tourists with their camera phones, roaming galleries more intent on taking photos of (or more precisely, having someone take their photo in front of) famous works of art than actually looking at the art itself. And call me a curmudgeon, but when I see this myself I give a little shiver of condemnation. It just doesn’t seem right when people are more interested in the artefact of their travels—the photograph, the trinket, the t-shirt—than they are in the actual experience.

I don’t have any data to debate claims that more people pose with art than actually look at art, but as a person who, as previously exposed, takes photos of my children with art at museums, I feel the need to defend those actions.

Forrest, and you, dear reader, may see these photos of people with objects of art — or any photos of art — as pure kitsch. And you’d be keeping company with many a scholared-sort too. But snapshots, trinkets, etc. are artefacts, facts of art, if you will, are precious mementos of the experience we had. And, if we are parents, of the experiences our children had.

Why isn’t baby’s first Monet, his first steps into art appreciation, as important as baby’s first steps walking — and so worth documenting?

And these photos are prompts for sharing the experiences in the future:

“What’s this you stand by in this photo, Bob? You have an odd expression on your face…”

“Oh, that was a majestic whatsit — did you know it was the only piece to survive the mawhozit’s war? Just being in the presence of such history would have been remarkable on its own, but there was something about it which reminded me of a thingamajig in the courtyard of this building we stayed at when I was a kid… Maybe it was the smell of sunshine… Whatever it is, it reminds me of Whosits, my favorite artist because of her use of color…”

Why should a person resist the human desire to keep a piece of something, so that they can recall, recount, and recapture something magical or important? Because other people think it’s kitschy or a scourge to condemn? We’ve keeping personal souvenirs as long as we’ve been people, including burying our dead with trinkets and pictorial images of stuff… I’m certain more than a few people have been buried with photographs.

But perhaps most offensive to me is Forrest’s post was this:

we took [photographs] because either a) we thought it would make a nice picture or b) to remember something by. The photos were for us, not to prove something to others.

Our photos are not necessarily to prove something to others — whether we are in them or not. Excuse us if we, every now and then, believe we are part of the something which would make a nice picture. Excuse us if we want to remember our experience with ourselves participating in it. After all, we travel because just looking at someone else’s photos and/or postcards is not enough.

Perhaps it’s most accurate to say that our photos of ourselves with art, scenic views, etc. are taken to prove — or reaffirm — something to ourselves.

You don’t have to look at them if you don’t want to.

John Waters Says, “Contemporary Art Hates You …And Your Family Too”

I subscribe to Modern Painters, but just now got around to reading the September ’09 issue — despite the fabulous John Waters on the cover.

Mr. Waters need not take it personally; I just have a plethora of magazines to get through, and if they aren’t in the magazine rack in the bathroom, well, it just takes that much longer.

Such reading habits, and the fact that my family refer to the bathroom as “the library,” won’t upset Waters either. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Waters. And you certainly haven’t read the magazine feature, which discusses his contemporary art collection, including:

Over the toilet in the bathroom is a Mike Kelley piece that “really pisses people off,” but Waters asks me not to say why, since he writes about it in his book. Also in the bathroom are a funny “Queer Batman” watercolor by Mark Chamberlain and “a Brigid Berlin tit painting; she painted with her tits.”

In Baltimore, he says, “I have the Michael Jackson print by Gary Hume looking through a glory hole right in my hall, which is really scary. Plus, you can see it in the mirror, which is even worse.”

But more interesting, to me, than the art John Waters collects is the art John Waters makes.

Waters calls his art conceptual and says it’s about writing and editing. “Hardly am I Ansel Adams. Or sitting around with a pottery wheel, like in Ghost. The craft is not the issue here. The idea is. And the presentation.”

And I love the ideas and the presentation. Like this piece, part of his Rear Projection series which combines parts of four film-title stills to spell out: contemporary art hates you.

The work’s title amusing title is …And Your Family Too.

In the article, Lawrence Levi describes Waters’ work this way: “Much of his work pokes fun at the art and film worlds he inhabits, allowing him to be at once an insider and a heckler.”

And if you think Levi or I are reading into the art, here’s what the artist himself has to say about it:

The art world “is a secret club,” Waters says. “It is a language; you have to learn everything. You have to learn how to dress, you have to learn how to see it, you have to learn how to talk about it, you have to learn how to read about it. All of it is impenetrable to a newcomer, and it was to me too.”

So let the art of John Waters speak to you, your insecurity over the intimidating impenetrability of the art world — go ahead and laugh, even. But don’t forget to just open your eyes too:

In his 1998 film Pecker, when the laundromat worker played by Christina Ricci tells her photographer boyfriend, played by Edward Furlong, “I don’t understand any of that art crap,” he replies sincerely, “You could if you just open your eyes.” But as his feelings about impenetrability suggest, Waters has no problem with elitism.

PS The book mentioned — which will contain the story of a Mike Kelley artwork above the toilet that “really pisses people off” — is Role Models; it’s to be published in May, 2010.

PPS I’d just like to say, that when discussing anything John Waters, you’re bound to mention bathroom artwork that piss-es people off, as well as “glory holes,” penetration issues, and the word “pecker.”  And I loved it.

What’s Kitsch?

In order to discuss the meaning of kitsch, you first need to know it’s definition. So I grabbed my copy of Kitsch, The World of Bad Taste, by Gillo Dorfles (with contributions by John McHale, Karl Pawek, Ludwig Giesz, Lotte H. Eisner, Ugo Volli, Vittorio Gregotti, and Aleksa Celebonovic; and essays by Hermann Broch and Clement Greenberg). In the book kitsch is defined as follows:

The word kitsch could derive etymologically from the English ‘sketch’ or, according to the other opinions, from the German verb ‘verkitschen (‘to make cheap’). According to Giesz (Ludwig Giesz: ‘Phanomenologie des Kitsches’ …1960) which is without doubt the most complete work on the subject, the word kitsch could approximately be said to mean ‘artistic rubbish.’

However, “artistic rubbish” is as “I know it when I see it” as porn is. To simply define something as “bad” without considering the pure subjectivity involved is nearly nonsensical.

While Dorfles et all go on at great length about how they arrive at the wrinkling of their noses, the definitions are less than satisfactory — especially as they point to a real case of monetary snobbery.

For example, posters of the great art classics are considered to be kitsch. Translation: Unless you can afford an actual Rembrandt or other Master, your taste, however classy, will be defined as bad and kitsch by virtue of simply having a thin wallet.

In fact, Dorfles really, really, not only dislikes copies or reproductions of any sort, but is not exactly happy with any sort of consumerism (he would hate today’s art museum gift shops). Nor does he limit himself only to the visual arts; along with film literature and music are judged, their medium and means of consumer acts equally under attack.

Dorfles is not an complete idiot, however; he senses the reader’s potential ire:

If anyone is not satisfied with our choice and finds some of the images artistic which we will present as pseudo-artistic, un-artistic, too bad! To us at least it will mean that our reader is really a ‘kitsch-man’ of the first water; and that the psychological test has worked properly.

What Dorfles (and anyone else who uses insulting as a judgmental intimidation tactic) fails to recognize here in such a confirmed stance of absolutes, is that a kitsch-woman of the first water (me!) will find his awareness of discord and dispute wins him no favor intellectually. The gloves are now off. Any potential shield of ignorance leaves him standing naked before me, facing a battle to the inevitable intellectual death.

If all this seems to imply that Kitsch, The World of Bad Taste is a book to avoid, please do not misunderstand. I love a good book I can sink my teeth into — even if that means I’m growling when I do it. (And I’ll likely visit this book often for argumental posts.)

But if Dorfles brings us closer to a true understanding of what kitsch really is, it is purely by accident.

This book was published in 1969 — and contains essays written up to three decades earlier. Viewed with the benefit of time, or hindsight, I find a great contextual definition of kitsch. Or maybe I should say, a definition of kitsch as a defensive reaction to the preservation of Art.

Some love this book for opening “your eyes to the avalanche of junk that makes up popular culture” and others loath it for failing to recognize the “the signifigance of the narrowing gap between high and low art,” but both sides miss the real point. Defining art as high-brow or low-brow, dismissing popular culture and ourselves as collectively low-brow, isn’t just an over-simplification; it’s a poor assessment.

Art as a form of human expression is not a static thing. It changes. Like everything else. Even removing the individual voices and processes of the creators, artworks are offered to a public which changes. Not only did we once love Rubenesque women, but Ruben himself; now, meh, not-so-much for either of them. What we value, and how we value it, changes. The conversations we have, the issues we explore, change. And, perhaps most dramatically, the ability to produce, show, and critique art has changed.

If low-barrier equals low-entry equals low-brow is the math being used, people need to reconsider. The converse certainly does not hold true. And those who, like Dorfles does with machines, blame technology for the copious amounts of kitsch ought to remember the battles for freedom of access for all. And the remarkable artworks we’ve had, strides taken, as a result.

I don’t want to be equally guilty of passing judgment on those who are quick to condemn popular culture, kitsch, etc., but the very people who “feel overwhelmed by the tasteless tides of popular culture” are not only, as they whine, so afflicted by it, but they are employing it. It’s obvious they are digging such pop culture adventures as publishing sans gatekeeper with a big spoon. Self-publishing their high-brow opinions is a low-brow, kitsch activity.

But back to the book.

Contextually, this book of essays stands as a defense against Modernism and those art movements after it which reject tradition. It’s the defensive posturing of an establishment wishing to retain authority, to rally the museums, galleys, and wealthy who must guard the integrity of Art. It’s not that these people have better taste with which to form the definitions and standards of Art, or even the right to do so; but they do have a reason to try. For you see, what they truly hope to guard so zealously are their investments in it.

But you can’t insulate your investments in art. Art is part of a living, breathing, culture which, as stated, changes. As the cultural values change, so do the monetary values of art. Not always in the art investor’s favor.

And no desperate debates designed to keep the established art status quo can thwart it.

So, the definition of kitsch…

On one hand, kitsch is purely subjective in the sense that each of us knows it when we see it and we ascribe different attributes to it. “Bad,” “atrocious,” “so bad it’s grand,” “funny,” “too funny,” “cheap,” etc. Which is why kitsch rather defies a classification. (What pleases or amuses one, insults another).

But kitsch, as it is often used in the art world, often has quite a different distinction. I see it as more than a slur, but an actual means to limit and control the art market, if not the art world.

Image credits: As all images are scanned from Kitsch, The World of Bad Taste, by Gillo Dorfles. Presented in order placed in the post, with author comments, if any.

Vintage ad, found on page 177: “An example of facile and grotesque copyfitting in this attempt to identify the inimitable blue of a painting by Cezanne with the blue of a man’s sportshirt.”

Film still, found on page 195: “The depiction of a famous painter on the screen is painful even in the hands of a director with taste. Vincente Minnelli’s film about van Gogh, Lust For Life (1956).”

Mona Lisa “kitsch,” found on page 21: “10. The Mona Lisa myth appears once more against the tiles of a shower. 11. A spectacles-case”