Feeds:
Posts
Comments

It feels great to finally bring the Oracle to life!  She was one of the very first DreamWorld characters I thought of; I’ve been mentally planning her for over a year.  Part of what held her up was finding the right objects to build her canopy, and then by the time I’d done that, it was winter.  Even though California winters are pretty weak by most standards, I still didn’t want my model to have to lay half-submerged in water that was more freezing than it had to be.  I make my models to odd and uncomfortable things, but I do try to make it as painless as possible for them.

Let’s see, should we cover the making-of first, or the meaning of the images?  Things will probably make more sense if I explain the Oracle first, so let’s do that.

 

Glade

Glade – a sneak peek at what’s to come

The real-life kernel of inspiration for the Oracle came from the idea of having precognitive dreams; ie, dreams about events which have not yet happened.  Though this sounds quite mystical, I know quite a lot of people personally who have them on a semi-regular basis as well as having them myself.   Modern science has no good explanation for how this happens, but I know from my own experiences that it does, and it cannot be explained by deja vu, coincidence, a self-fulfilling prophecy, etc.  There are some very interesting papers written on the subject for anyone who cares to read them, but I’ll stick with talking about my own experiences as much as possible.

For me, I rarely note the dreams as precognitive when I’m having them, although this seems to be uncommon; the majority of people recognize them as precognitive when they wake up.  Mine are almost always about very mundane things.  It’s not anything I can control; it happens on its own.  I’ll have dreams about working at a job before I have the job, before I’ve started looking or even considered that job as a career choice.  And while there is some overlap with deja vu, they are completely different things.  I experience deja vu like anyone else, but I never confuse it with the dreams.  They feel quite different.

Seeing a precognitive dream come to life does start out feeling odd and familiar, in a similar way to deja vu, but as the seconds pass and more and more details match up exactly with how you remembered them from your dream, it transcends deja vu.  It’s like you watched a home video of the event before the event occurred, and now you’re watching it play out in real time.  The best evidence I have for the validity of the experience is that occasionally, I can remember enough of my dream to get a few seconds ahead of reality and know exactly what someone is going to say or do before they say or do it.

People will believe me or not, and while I’d rather people assume I’m telling the truth (since I am) I know there will be others who will refuse to believe no matter what I say.  And that’s fine.  That’s not the point of this post, or of these photos.  I’m relating this to you to give you an understanding of how these images came to be, not to convince you of the validity of my weird dreams.  Though I would encourage you to keep an open mind about the unexplained.  At one point, every new idea was unexplained.  Obviously, it helps my belief that it happens to me, and that I know numerous people whom it also happens to.  If you feel so inclined, you might try asking people in your own group of friends and family if they’ve ever experienced something like this.  Some studies show that over 50% of people have had at least one precognitive dream, so you might be surprised at what you find!

Back to the images.  DreamWorld was a perfect place for the Oracle, who is in charge of distributing precognitive dreams.  She lays half-submerged in the water to indicate the duality of her nature.  She sees the future with one eye and the present with the other, she has a foot in each world, she is a bridge.  Spanning the two worlds is a heavy burden, but one she is uniquely equipped to bear; this is her purpose.  She lives off in the wild on her own with nature as her main companion.  Pilgrims may make a journey to ask her to peer into the future for them, and the devout has erected a beautiful canopy around her.  The canopy offers her a little shelter, helps other pilgrims to find her and is an extension the people’s love for her; a lovely tribute to honor her.

Obviously, the main prop for this shoot was going to be the canopy.  I doodled different designs for it endlessly until I finally settled on this one.  I knew I wanted dramatic fabric framing her, but the “chandelier” of glass ornaments was something I tinkered with a lot until it finally felt right.  They feel like bubbles to me, rising up from the Oracle’s body; fragile, shatterable encapsulations of dreams.

Originally, I set out on the internet, searching for clear, iridescent Christmas ornaments.  Surely, I thought, somewhere on the endless internet, I will find exactly what I want!  I did not.  Everything I saw was wrong in some way.  And I looked for MONTHS, both around the holidays and not.  Then I thought I’d buy clear, round ornaments and paint them with iridescent paint; because that has to exist, doesn’t it?  It turns out that it used to, but the one and only maker I could find for such a pain no longer made it.  After many frustrating months of almost finding what I wanted, I changed my plans.  I would buy clear Christmas ornaments, with tops that came off easily from the craft store (which I bought just after Christmas when they were all about half price!), fill them with iridescent Easter grass and give them the lightest kiss of silver and gold spray paint.

Supplies laid out upon the bed.

Supplies laid out upon the bed.

Stuff that sucker

Stuff that sucker

Make a clothesline out of any old rope you can find.  Since the balls are meant to hang, they make this part pretty easy!

Make a clothesline out of any old rope you can find. Since the balls are meant to hang, they make this part pretty easy!

I added multiple very light layers of gold and silver spray paint after first spritzing all the balls with plain water.  The water acts as a barrier, so even if you go totally crazy with the spray paint, the ball itself won’t pick up much paint.  Pat it dry and repeat as desired.

balls2

The paint gives them just a tiny bit of opacity and adds to their magical feeling

Ok, bubbles are ready to hang, better get the canopy ready!  I started with a fabric canopy meant to go over a bed, which I purchased for about $5 on Ebay.

canopy

Very typical work layout for me: something hung in front of the closet, supplies strewn about the bed, TV on so I don’t lose my mind from boredom.

The nice thing about buying the canopy like this was that it was already designed to be hung and had a nice big ring at the top.  In this case, I just put a clotheshanger through it and hung it in front of the closet, which was the only place remotely tall/deep enough to make it workable for me.

I started by draping layers of lavender organza on the inside of the plain, boring, white canopy.  This organza was especially lovely, with pink undertones and a shimmery surface.  It was also inexpensive which made like like it even more!

canopy2

Sides are tacked up to make a pleasing, framing opening for the Oracle

Maynard LOVED that I was working with lots of fabric and sparkly things.  He parked himself right in the middle where he could be of most help.

Maynard LOVED that I was working with lots of fabric and sparkly things. He parked himself right in the middle where he could be of most help.

Next I started hanging the finished balls, along with some long strings of little iridescent balls, which also came from the Christmas decoration section of the craft store (and I think were also on sale).  The canopy came with its own very sturdy circular frame for the fabric to hang from, and I added a second, smaller inner ring made from plastic corset boning.  It was pretty filmsy but I tied it securely enough to the outer ring that it held up.  It added another dimension for all the hanging things to fall from and drape over.

canopy4

 

Done!  After months and months of research and work and about $40 worth of supplies, it was done.  It was a weird, fragile mess, but it was done.  It was at this point that I texted Geoff a cell phone photo of the finished canopy and he said that it looked like “a serial killer Christmas tree.”  I had no idea what that meant.  He clarified that he didn’t mean, as I first thought, that it looked like a Christmas tree which belonged to a serial killer, but a Christmas tree which was itself a serial killer.  Ah.  Yes, of course.  I’m going to keep teasing him about that for a long time :)

A few days later and I was shooting with Dedeker Winston on a bright, early morning.  We made out way to a location where I knew there was usually a stream; I’d scouted it recently and decided it would work for this shoot.  I needed a very specific location for this shot; the water couldn’t be too deep or too shallow, it had to be green and pretty, ideally, shaded from the sun, and most importantly, it needed to have something in it which I could hang the canopy from, and in the correct position for the composition for the image.  I’m really quite surprised that we found it as easily as we did!  That Reiki comes in handy.

hung up

These branches hung over the creek and were in the perfect to hang the canopy from!

I gave Dedeker two vintage nightgowns to slip on, a nude one with a sheer purple one over top, a few more balls which were attached to elastic straps around her hands and she bravely sunk half her body into the water.  I gave her a minute to adjust to the cold, she got her model face on and we went to work.

I tried to work very quickly since I knew this was not at all comfortable for Dedeker, but I also wanted to be thorough and make sure that we had gotten everything, especially since it was uncomfortable.  Our location happened to be quite near a well-traveled path in the woods and even though it was early and a weekday, people kept coming along and exclaiming over what we were doing.  I gave my card to the first couple of people, before Dedeker was in the water, but after that I just smiled at them, kept working and told them we were doing a photo shoot.  People will accept that as the explanation for almost anything they come across.

Not too long after I’d made her dunk in the cold water, I released Dedeker from her watery prison with a successful shoot under our belts!  I knew the images would be wonderful; I’d gotten everything I wanted.  I gave Dedeker a pile of towels, she dried off and we untied the canopy.  I’d carried it to our location in a large black garbage bag and I carried it out the same way; much heavier now with the weight of water, leaves and muck in it.  I knew that the canopy was not something that  I would save as a whole piece; there was no way to suitably clean it from the mud and water.  I let it dry in the yard, cut the fabric off it, cut all the ornaments free and I’ll reuse them in other ways.

A blurry selfie right after we finished

A blurry selfie right after we finished

Now that you’ve heard all about how these images came to be, let’s have the finished photos!  Detail shots, as always, are under the main images.  Thank you, Dedeker, for being such a trooper!

The Oracle

The Oracle

The Oracle - detail

The Oracle – detail

The Oracle - detail

The Oracle – detail

The Oracle - detail

The Oracle – detail

The Oracle - detail

The Oracle – detail

 

Divination's Riddle

Divination’s Riddle

Divination's Riddle - detail

Divination’s Riddle – detail

 

The Two Worlds

The Two Worlds

The Two Worlds - detail

The Two Worlds – detail

Skin and Bones

Here’s something I’ve never done before: create an image intending for it to be black and white!  I have one other image that was converted for a magazine which required it to be black and white to print it.  I LOVE me some color.  I like using color strategically and thoughtfully.  But something made me think about doing this most recent image in black and white and I loved the idea.  It would be a bit of a challenge and a stretch for me and that’s a good thing.

This image came to be through two sources.  One was a way to help me deal with the grief I was still feeling.  The other was this astonishingly beautiful solo by Ricky Ubeda for the show So You Think You Can Dance, and the gorgeous music and poetic lyrics by David J. Roch.

Don’t lose your soul as your eyes roll shut
Don’t worry, it will be over

You know what’s to come to not accept this
Don’t lose your soul, you must fight for each breath
Don’t go quietly

My soul has flown and I am what is left
I am skin and bones

Who else can look exactly like a leaf being blown across the stage??

When I first watched this dance, it was on a day when I was heavily grieving and I started weeping uncontrollably as I watched it… and was still compelled to rewind the DVR and watch it over and over.  I’ve probably seen it 20 times now in about a week.  I immediately tracked the song down, downloaded it on Itunes and have been listening to it on repeat in the car since then.

I can’t quite verbalize what it is about this performance that moves me so much, which is part of why art exists; to give voice to that which we can’t say.  Though it brought so many tears out of me, there was a hopeful, soothing quality to it within the darkness.  And since I can’t tell you exactly how it makes me feel, the next best thing I could do was create a self portrait.

With Ricky’s evocative dance, David J. Roch’s sober lyrics and Andrew’s death rolling around inside my head, I shot a self portrait which was, as it usually is, very healing to do.  I felt lighter after it.

The “I am skin and bones” refrain immediately made me think of black and white; the visual equivalent of being reduced to simple skin and bones.  The door and handle are holding my body up, and my face is mostly in shadows to reflect both the dark lyrics and my dark emotional state.

I purposely left on my metal bracelet, which I wear every day.  It was made by a lovely person on Etsy who will hammer whatever phrase you’d like onto your bracelet.  Mine reads “That’s what heroes are for.”  A daily reminder to be brave, to continue striving, to be ready to sacrifice for that which is important.  And to me, it was vitally important to include it within this self portrait.  Though its meaning will only be known to me and those reading this, it is a flash of hope and strength at a time when it was most needed.

And that is all I can verbalize about the meaning of this image.  Editing in black and white definitely used different artistic muscles.  I enjoyed the change of pace, but I don’t see myself becoming solely a black and white photographer; I love color too much.

I hope you enjoy this experiment down the black and white lane!  And I also hope that you will vote for Ricky Ubeda in the upcoming weeks of So You Think You Can Dance; I already believe (and hope) he could win the whole contest!  Thank you to Ricky and David J. Roch for providing the art that I needed just when I needed it.  Full song lyrics are below the photo!

Skin and Bones

Skin and Bones

 

Skin and Bones - detail

Skin and Bones – detail

Skin and bones, by David J Roch:

Don’t lose your soul as your eyes roll shut
Don’t worry, it will be over
Hold on though, you’re alone, I am there with you
That much at least I can promise

You know what’s to come to not accept this
Don’t lose your soul, you must fight for each breath
Don’t go quietly

Don’t cry out for God
Just breathe in and out
Don’t cry out for God
Just breathe in and out

We are but lambs to the slaughter now
I have no fear of death itself
So don’t try and save me and please, God, forsake me
I’ll suffer alone, I just want to be left

My soul has flown and I am what is left
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones
I am skin and bones

Interviews

I wanted to save these until after yesterday’s anniversary of the Granite Mountain Hotshots’ death, but several interviews and online posts all went live during the last week.  It felt disrespectful to the Hotshots to interrupt their week of honor, so I’m just posting them now.

So, in no particular order…

Millennial Magazine Self Portrait of the Week Feature

Guest Post 2 of 2 for Robin McKinley’s blog

And lastly, a very in-depth interview with Ezra Magazine!

 

Thank you to all of these people and sites for having me!  Hope you guys enjoy reading them :)

In The Lilac Wood

In The Lilac Wood

 

“A wall of flames 40 feet high was sweeping its way up the canyon, 400 yards away. At that point, they would have had about a minute. Since they couldn’t get to the safety zone, they had to make one of their own. Andrew Ashcraft and Travis Turbyfill, the two sawyers, started attacking the brush with their chain saws, while the rest of the guys swung their Pulaskis, frantically doing what they were trained to do: move dirt, and move dirt faster.  They dumped fuel from their drip cans around the zone they’d created, then set the chain saws at the outer perimeter, so that when they exploded no one would get hurt.

[The team's leader,] Eric, got on the radio. The Hotshots’ escape route had been cut off, he said, and they were deploying their emergency shelters.

Eric’s voice was calm – some said the calmest they’d ever heard him. At 4:47, he radioed his last transmission: ‘Deploying.’ And then, just like they’d practiced, the Granite Mountain Hotshots climbed into their shelters.

Finally, at 6:30 – an agonizing 103 minutes later – the helicopter was able to get on the ground. The onboard medic hurried to the site where they’d seen the shelters. As he approached, he spotted the metal blade from a chain saw and a pickax with the handle burned away. The ranch house was unscathed. Everything else was a smoldering moonscape.

Experts estimate that the fire burned between 3,000 and 5,000 degrees. In the end, there wasn’t much left. But what there was told a story.

The 19 Hotshots were all together. No one panicked, no one ran. Travis Turbyfill and Andrew Ashcraft, the sawyers, were at the edge of the group, closest to the flames. They were cutting lines up until the end.

When Juliann [ed - Andrew's wife] got Andrew’s effects back, his boots and clothes were gone. His metal belt buckle didn’t make it. His pocketknife. The journals that he kept. There was a piece of Velcro from his watchband but not the watch itself. Even the metal plate and eight screws in his leg, from when he shattered it in a rappelling accident a few years back, had disappeared.

Two things, she discovered, had somehow survived the fire. One was Andrew’s wedding ring, titanium. The other, shrunken and black, was the rubber wristband that said: be better.”

–Excerpt from an excellent and comprehensive article The Last Battle of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, by Josh Eells, for Men’s Journal.

 

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

I initially created today’s image to be a companion piece for this photo of Katie and I, honoring the fallen firemen in Yarnell, Arizona almost a year ago.

To The Lost

To The Lost

A childhood friend of mine, Andrew Ashcraft, had been one of the lost.  As I do with most painful things, I channeled my grief into my art.

Though it always makes me cry to think about it, there is such beauty in the men’s calm acceptance of their sacrifice, their solidarity, that they were a complete, solid unit until the very end. Josh Eell’s article says it so wonderfully.  They stuck together.  In the face of immediate, certain death, they did what they could and then turned to each other for comfort.  Shoulder to shoulder, they stuck together until the horrific last.

That unity, that love, that solidarity and bravery touched me more deeply than I could, or can, express.  The only chance I had at touching on it was through art.  I set up a shoot with Katie and Bryce to portray the doomed but brave men.  It happened that some tree branches and very tall bushes in my yard had just been cut down, forming what appeared to be a huge, natural nest.  Thinking of the Hotshots as birds with broken, burned wings helped me find the metaphor I wanted to use, a way into the truth I was trying to get at.

It was an easy shoot, what with all the branches having been set up for me by the workmen.  I lit a few smoke bombs, snapped the frames and it was done.  I loved what I had gotten from this shoot as I looked at the images later.  All the same, I found I couldn’t face editing the image.  It took many, many months before I felt like I could emotionally handle editing working it up.

I didn’t consciously realize we were coming up on the anniversary of their deaths, but I must have felt it subconsciously.  I’ve been haunted by memories of Andrew recently and finally felt that it was time, urgently time, to finish this piece.  As I finally brought the files into Photoshop and started working on them, more memories flooded my brain.  Like how Andrew, as a young child, had always said “Jee Jie Joes” instead of “GI Joes” and frequently got tripped up between “brought” and “brung.”  The trip our families took to Mount Shasta together.  Their shelties, who seem huge in my mind, but who I know were actually smallish dogs.  Drawing together, playing in the sprinklers, going to the beach, sharing snacks, going to the park, getting into fights, crying and making up again… all the things children do.

I’ve said before that one of the things I mourn in this is that I missed out on getting to know Andrew as an adult.  I’ve tried to remember that lesson and have made a point to stay in touch, or get back in touch, with people in my life.  I won’t get another chance at Andrew, but I can try and apply the lesson to other friendships.

None of these men deserved their fate.  They were true heroes, actively running into the worst, most dangerous situations.  That is what the Hotshots were there for; an elite team of firefighters comparable to Navy Seals or Spartans.  The only thing I can try and do about it is make an attempt to honor them and their sacrifice.  I know that I will always fall short in this goal, but it’s important to try nonetheless.  I am also keenly aware that this is not about me or my pain.  The pain of Andrew’s family and loved ones is something I can only imagine.

The Hotshots were trapped; birds unable to fly away.  There was no escape from the flames.  But what remained was love. Love triumphing over the flames by preserving Andrew’s wedding ring and bracelet with his personal motto.  Love for the people they were protecting, though they would never meet them.  Love for their families, though they left them behind in the line of their duty.  Love for each other.  Love for humanity.  Just love.

That love is what I wanted most to capture in this image and I hope it shines through.

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

Singed Wings - detail One of the three smokey roses scattered through the photo.  I used an image I had taken of beautifully carved roses on a tombstone, which felt so fitting.  The delicacy and beauty they add are still tinged with sorrow.

Singed Wings – detail
One of the three smokey roses scattered through the photo. I used a photo I had taken of beautifully carved roses on a tombstone, which felt so fitting. The delicacy and beauty they add are still tinged with sorrow.

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

My heart goes out to the family and friends of all 19 fallen heroes especially as we approach the anniversary of this tragedy.  I’m sure it’s an extremely difficult time for all of them.

Just a quick note here for you guys to direct you to the guest blog post I wrote for Robin McKinley!  You know Robin McKinley, author of Deerskin and The Hero and the Crown, two of the most defining books of my life (along with The Last Unicorn).  I’ll be talking in the posts about art, ME and most specifically about creating DreamWorld.

Isn't this just the MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK COVER EVER?? The cover was what got my attention when I was 19 and first read it. My childhood dog had also recently been put to sleep and I saw my mom reading it not long after that event. I guess I asked her why she was reading it because I remember her saying that there were lots of dogs in the book, and the way that Robin McKinley wrote about them made my mom think that she would understand how devastated we both were by his loss. I can only say that as I've had the truly delightful pleasure of getting to know Robin a bit personally, I am 100% sure my mother is right.

Isn’t this just the MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK COVER EVER?? The cover was what got my attention when I was 19 and first read it. My childhood dog had also recently been put to sleep and I saw my mom reading it not long after that event. I guess I asked her why she was reading it because I remember her saying that there were lots of dogs in the book, and the way that Robin McKinley wrote about them made my mom think that she would understand how devastated we both were by his loss. I can only say that as I’ve had the truly delightful pleasure of getting to know Robin a bit personally, I am 100% sure my mother is right.

The article I turned in to her was SO LONG that she was able to break it up into three chunks, so I’ll link to them as they go up!

In the meantime, enjoy this post!  Have a look at the rest of her blog too; it’s WELL worth subscribing to!  It’s one of the few blogs which, if I get behind on emails and they pile up in my inbox, I actually save and read them all instead of scrapping the old ones and tuning in to just the recent ones.  Plus, she loves sighthounds as much as I do.  In fact, Deerskin is a big part of why I love sighthounds so much.

Anyway, here’s a link; enjoy!

Creating DreamWorld, Part I – guest post by Sarah Allegra

 

*****

I actually shot the images for this self portrait back in 2012 sometime, as I recall, and it just kept getting pushed down on my list of photos to edit.  I generally prioritize images which have other people modeling in them, since they took the time and energy to come model for me, so sometimes my self portraits get a little forgotten.  This was one which I definitely did not want to let get completely forgotten though, so as soon as I had the time, I eagerly jumped into editing it!

I don’t think many of you will be surprised when I say I’ve had my share of troubles with clinical depression.  Even as a teenager, the seeds were being sewn.  It’s something I’ve struggled with on and off for most of my life.  I’ve been to many therapists, tried countless treatments, medications, alternative therapies, read books, talked it out, journaled, and, of course, done art therapy.  Art therapy and submerging myself in nature, with animals and my friends and loved ones are the things that seem to work best for me, but everyone is different.  I have mostly accepted that it will probably be with me to some degree for most of my life, which is an easier future for me to face than one where I’m constantly disappointed by finding myself under its shadow again.

***Side note: ME/CFS/fibro are often tried to dismiss as simply depression or other mental health problems.  They are absolutely NOT the same thing.  I have experienced both and they are completely different.  Where it gets tricky is that people with ME/CFS and fibro often develop depression secondarily to their physical illness, but it’s usually because they feel terrible every day, many people refuse to believe they’re actually sick and they suddenly lose huge, important parts of their life to their illness.  I challenge anyone to not become depressed in those conditions.  What drives me crazy is that no one suggests that patients with cancer, for example, who develop secondary depression are “simply” mentally ill, but it’s an extremely common conclusion for doctors to jump to regarding ME/CFS and fibro patients.  I’ve had doctors tell me the problems were all in my head.

None of this is to say that mental health problems are somehow less important or real than physical health problems, they are simply two distinct things and require completely different treatments.  The simplest explanation I’ve come across to illustrate the differences between the two is this: ask a person with depression what she would want to do the next day if she woke up feeling completely well.  She’d probably have trouble answering you.  Depression robs you of all joy and motivation.  Ask someone with ME/CFS or fibro the same question and they’d give you an entire list of things they’d like to do.  ME robs your body of the ability to do things, but doesn’t take away the desire to do them.***

Since the severity of my depression waxes and wanes, I tend to think of it as an entity which I am periodically under the attack of.  Sometimes I imagine it as a malevolent cloud, sometimes a huge dragon; something which is dark and dangerous and can completely envelop me.  When I find myself thus enveloped, I repeat a mantra over and over to myself; “The clouds will lift.  The clouds will lift.”  It might be hours, days, weeks or months, but I know that at some point this battle will be over and I’ll have made it through to the other side.

I’ve written about him before, but Andrew Soloman’s incredible Ted Talk on depression bears repeating.  It’s beautifully insightful, hopeful, even when I’m under the darkest cloud and most importantly, lets me know I’m not alone in how I feel.  It’s also supremely excellent at explaining clinical depression to those who have never experienced it firsthand; an invaluable gift.  As Mr. Soloman states, “half the purpose of art is to describe [depression.]”  I could not agree more.

I don’t know whether we’re friends because we all share the same demons, or if I just happen to have a large percentage of good friends who have their own mental health struggles, but I wanted to create this image to show not just my battle, but theirs… and indeed, the battle everyone with depression finds themselves flung into.

When you’re in the throws of it, you don’t feel strong or brave, but I know that we are.  We bear terrible burdens which can break the human soul and every time we don’t succumb to it, we should celebrate.  But mental health is still greatly stigmatized in our culture, so there is rarely any celebration; there is rarely any acknowledgement of the battle that rages at all.  I feel it’s important and part of my job as an artist to discuss these issues which we would like to pretend don’t exist.  If we deny depression, then we will lose the battle.  The only way you can fight it is by first saying that yes, it exists; yes, I am under its cloud; no, that does not me a less worthy person; yes, I am brave and strong even though I don’t feel like it right now.

So this image is dedicated to all my dear friends who have been under that same cloud.  To my friends who have not experienced the cloud themselves, but support us when we’re in the throws of it.  Who love us, accept us and keep us going.  Shame and secrecy feeds the depression monster.  Truth and soul baring disarm it, love and strength defeats it.   Many, many thanks to my dear friends and loved ones who help me through these battles.  I just hope I can do the same for them.

Let’s take a step toward making the world a better place.  Let’s finally let the stigma around mental illness die.  No one would ever, ever choose to be like this.  We fight unimaginable battles to overcome it.  Instead of shaming those covered in battle scars, let’s celebrate their success.  They made it through.  There may be more fights, but they will make it through them too.  They will if we start supporting them instead of shaming them.

To everyone who knows this malevolent cloud firsthand, you are beautiful and strong.  And the clouds will lift.

The Clouds Will Lift

The Clouds Will Lift

The Clouds Will Lift - detail

The Clouds Will Lift – detail

The Clouds Will Lift - detail

The Clouds Will Lift – detail – I made custom bat wing brushes to construct the clouds

The Clouds Will Lift - detail

The Clouds Will Lift – detail

If anyone would like to share stories of their own mental health struggles, please share it in a comment!  Talking openly about these problems is the first step to erasing the stigma.

*****

Just a few more days!!

For the month of May, I am donating 50 percent of profits from all my sales to The Microbe Discovery Project, a group working to solve the mystery of ME and find a cure for those afflicted.  And what do I sell?  Well, what do you want?  Because my images come from the frameable to the wearable and in every price range.
- museum-quality, fine art prints
- iPad/iPhone/iPod covers
- stickers
- blank greeting cards
- post cards
- shirts and hoodies
- wearable art
- throw pillows
- INTROSPECTIVE: my eight-week, on-line, course of self-discovery through photography.

First things first: the light.  Let’s get to the winner of The Blue Ribbon!  Drum roll please…

Congratulations, Brittany D. Perkins!!!  You have won a beautiful, 10″ x 15″ print of  The Blue Ribbon!.  Your print will come on beautiful, shimmering, pearlized, archival paper and will be hand-signed.  Please send an email to me at sarah@sarahallegra.com with your mailing address and I’ll get it to you!

What do you guys think?  Was that fun?  Something we should do again?  Did the tweeting format work for you?  Let me know your thoughts and I can fine-tune my contest process to make it better for everyone!  Don’t forget that my fundraising will continue for the entire month of May, so stock up on your art purchases now while they’ll do the most good!

Now, onto the shadows of this post….

The Exiled King Preview

The Exiled King Preview

You remember how I hinted that DreamWorld‘s first dark character was coming to life?  He has arrived.

I think I was telling you guys about the evolution of this character.  I’ve always had a thing for horns and antlers on people (see my very first self portrait as proof) and wanted to work them into DreamWorld from the beginning.  As with most mythologies, I felt there was room for a Puckish, trickster character, which is what I had in mind when I started constructing this creature.  The beginning of my work on him coincided with the beginning of True Detective, a pure coincidence, but True Detective’s ominous Yellow King bled into my concept, and before I knew it my trickster had transformed beyond a mere Puck or even Loki into the DreamWorld version of The King In Yellow.

DreamWorld is an ever-evolving place, and while this King is the first sinister character to be portrayed, there are other forces at work.  We will meet them eventually.  For now, I think it is enough to know that the King in Yellow has been sent into exile by DreamWorld’s true King for trying to usurp the throne and plunge DreamWorld into darkness.  He has been foiled for now, and is thus known as they Exiled King, though some still whisper of the King in Yellow and restoring him to his rightful, dark glory along with those who seek the same goals… but I don’t worry.  The King is strong and benevolent.  And we haven’t even met the Queen yet, though we will soon.  She also rules for good, and is not to be taken lightly.

Let the whispers and secrets travel where they will.  The King in Yellow has been sent into exile as a merciful punishment, but I doubt a second grab for the throne would be met with such leniency.

Now that you know about the Exiled King, want to see how he came to life?

My initial inspiration for the antlers was the Makhor goat’s horns, such as seen in this stock image:

© Erinpackardphotography | Dreamstime.com

 

Horns are always tricky to build for human heads.  Making them stable but light, keeping them balanced on the head while trying to appear that there’s no supporting structure at all… they’re always a nightmare to make.  And I knew these ones were going to be the largest pair I’d made yet.  As usual, I dove in without a real plan and figured it out as I went.

I started with a regular headband and some strong but light wire, wrapped around itself and twisted generously onto the headband.  I began introducing the twisted shape by wrapping it around my arm a few times.

horns1

I wrapped a thin layer of newspaper over each wire frame, adding a layer of masking tape on top to help it hold its shape and smooth it.

horns 2

Looking very lop-sided at the moment

I initially tried spraying the antlers with spray adhesive to try to help smooth the antlers further, but all it really did was make it tacky, even after it had dried.  I sighed and decided I’d try and use it to my advantage by covering the antlers with a layer of metallic gold tissue paper (which smells really weird, by the way).  I filled in some of the larger dips and gaps with hot glue and added a little more tissue paper, but I knew I’d end up having to do a little smoothing to them in post production.  I don’t remember why now, but I ended up getting these finished just the evening before my morning shoot, so I didn’t have more time to tinker with them and make them absolutely perfect.

horns 4

mantle 1

You can see here the careful support structure I created literally with toothpicks and popsicle sticks broken into smaller strips.  Sometimes the most straight-forward way is the best way :)  They’re also reinforced with a little bit of monofilament line to help them not bow away from each other.

mantle 2

With the antlers done, I moved onto the leaf mantle.  I used approximately a billion fake leaves for this which I’d collected over several years and a number of projects.  I still found myself nearly running out by the end and had to ration them carefully.  I concentrated on the leaves around the face first, which also conveniently covered the antler’s headband and support structures.

mantle 4

A full mantle of leaves

vest

I’ve had this one vest in my “costume” supplies for a very long time and I just love it.  It looks very rugged and home-spun and fits a very wide variety of looks and styles.  I’m pretty sure it was made for someone closer to my size than Dan’s, so I quickly added extra length to it by cutting straight through the shoulder seem and building a new shoulder strap with leaves hot glued to each other.  The yard provided a wealth of beautiful acorns to choose from and use as buttons.  And don’t worry, the squirrels still had more to eat than they ever could.

leaf1

Next was the big leaf amulet.  I’d gotten this pack of huge, very realistic leaves probably two years ago and had been holding on to them, waiting for them to become useful.  Now was their time!  This heavy chain was also in my stash for similar reasons, and became a lovely chain for what would be a leaf amulet.

amulet 3

Some smaller, gold-dusted leaves, a large gold key and an amber-colored, leaf-shaped crystal finished it off.

amulet 2

Almost done!

foot 1

Leaf slipper tops

The very last thing I made were “leaf slippers,” for lack of a better word.  They were just several leaves glued together with elastic straps to help keep them on Dan’s feet; super easy!

Leaf slipper bottoms

Leaf slipper bottoms

I also cut up some strips of a golden-brown, rustic-looking cotton to tie around Dan’s sleeves and pant legs, but that would be assembled the day of.  As far as my prep work went, I was done!  I honestly can’t remember exactly how long the whole costume took to make… several days of solid work, no sleep?  Eight weeks?  I have no idea, but it was long.  When I’m deeply involved in a project like this, time melts away for any practical use.

Before I get more into this, let me back up and tell you about Dan Donohue, who so beautifully brought my character to life.   Dan is celebrated actor, best known for his extensive theater work.  He played Scar in Disney’s Broadway version of The Lion King and left for Oregon almost immediately after our shoot to go play Henry the III at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s version of Henry the III, as well as the father in their production of A Wrinkle In Time.  You would never believe from meeting him that he does evil and sinister so well; he is truly one of the kindest, most enthusiastic and genuinely lovely people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.  But the moment I told him to be a villain, it all fell away and for a second I had to catch my breath because he so completely embodied The King In Yellow.  Dan is a muse if I’ve ever met one and a pure delight to work with!  He’s also very creative and funny, as I’ll get into more later.

The morning of the shoot came quickly, Dan and I found our location and the entire shoot was easy and felt effortless.  There may have been a bit more effort on Dan’s part trying to keep his antlers and mantle from toppling over if he moved his head too far in any direction, but it seemed that his theater experience really paid off and helped him manage this probably cumbersome bit of costume beautifully.

Antler wrangling

Antler wrangling

Generally when I shoot new DreamWorld characters, I edit one or two images; maybe three if I feel they’re all really compelling, but in this instance I edited five.  This is almost unprecedented.  The only other time I’ve edited more photos from a single concept, with no costume or location changes was for the Katie’s World set.  That says quite a lot about how perfectly Dan was able to become the Exiled King.  But enough talking about them.  You want to see the images, right?

You’ve seen this first one already since I used it to tease the series, but I’m posting it again so the whole set can be seen together as intended.  To set the mood, here are the two quotes which most directly influenced how I took the set, one from Robert W. Chamber’s book The King In Yellow and one from True Detective.

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.
–Cassilda’s Song, The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
“Him who eats time.  Him robes; it’s a wind of invisible voices.  Rejoice, death is not the end!  Rejoice, death is not the end!  Rejoice, Carcosa!”
– Miss Delores, True Detective episode 7, After You’ve Gone
The Shadows Lengthen

The Shadows Lengthen

 

The Shadows Lengthen

The Shadows Lengthen – detail

The Shadows Lengthen

The Shadows Lengthen – detail.  Dan’s hand here kills me every time, it’s SO PERFECT.  I never knew a single hand could be so expressive, yet it is.

 

Pliable Reality

Pliable Reality – shot using a home-made “Lensbaby” which was the top of a water bottle

Pliable Reality - detail

Pliable Reality – detail

Pliable Reality - detail

Pliable Reality – detail

Pliable Reality - detail

Pliable Reality – detail

 

Where Black Stars Rise

Where Black Stars Rise

Where Black Stars Rise - detail

Where Black Stars Rise – detail

Where Black Stars Rise - detail

Where Black Stars Rise – detail

Where Black Stars Rise - detail

Where Black Stars Rise – detail

The Tatters Of The King

The Tatters Of The King

The Tatters Of The King - detail

The Tatters Of The King – detail

The Tatters Of The King - detail

The Tatters Of The King – detail

And perhaps my favorite of them all….

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices - detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices – detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices - detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices – detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices - detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices – detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices - detail

His Robe Is A Wind of Invisible Voices – detail

 

Whew, still with me?  I know that was a long post, but I had a lot of photos to cover!

He's not REALLY evil, he just pretends really well!

He’s not REALLY evil, he just pretends really well!

The only sad thing is that we never got to see how well Dan managed his leaf slippers, but trust me, he killed it like everything else.

The only sad thing is that we never got to see how well Dan managed his leaf slippers, but trust me, he killed it like everything else.

To wrap up, I’ll leave you with a couple fun things.  Dan does these really fun recreations of scenes from movies, hunting down the original locations and taking photos!  Dan’s spoof of Anthony Hopkin’s letter to Bryan Cranston about Breaking Bad (read the original letter here).  Doesn’t Dan sound exactly like Anthony Hopkins?  And lastly, if you have a chance to go see him perform at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, do it!  You won’t be disappointed!

Dan as Richard the III - Copyright Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Dan as Richard the III – Copyright Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Thank you so much to Dan for being the perfect King in Yellow and furthermore being extremely patient as I slowly edited all of these!!  Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to see the Exiled King’s companions and cohorts!  Dan has been invited back again whenever he returns to California, so he may pop up in more photos; I hope so  :)

 

Us

 

*****

 

For the month of May, I am donating 50 percent of profits from all my sales to The Microbe Discovery Project, a group working to solve the mystery of ME and find a cure for those afflicted.  And what do I sell?  Well, what do you want?  Because my images come from the frameable to the wearable and in every price range.
- museum-quality, fine art prints
- iPad/iPhone/iPod covers
- stickers
- blank greeting cards
- post cards
- shirts and hoodies
- wearable art
- throw pillows
- INTROSPECTIVE: my eight-week, on-line, course of self-discovery through photography.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 77 other followers