This photo and post was supposed to go up over a week ago, but some MAJOR computer problems which ended in having my entire operating system having to be reinstalled slowed me down considerably. (Let me briefly insert a shout out to my Computer Guy; Ara at Crown City Computer. He knows his shit and is more than reasonably priced. No one else touches my computer; I totally trust him.)
I had planned on releasing these to coincide with both Peter S. Beagle‘s birthday on April 20th, and the launch of the Last Unicorn cross-country movie screening tour! The tour is going to be amazing; not just will you get to see the fully-restored gorgeous film on a huge theater screen, but Peter will be there to do signing, a Q&A, and they’ll be selling more Unicorn merchandise than you can imagine. Check the official tour site to see if they’re coming near you; you can write to them if you’re area isn’t listed, and there are a number of ways you can help out with it too! I was very sad to have not been able to dash up to San Francisco for the inaugural night, but with any luck, the tour will find itself in Los Angeles before too long
While nasty, external, computer-virus forces made me change my plans, I’ll still release this photo in honor of Peter’s birthday and the start of the tour! Happy birthday, Peter!!
I wanted to take some of Unicorn and bring it into DreamWorld, so I decided to build a special corner just for it. The evocative first line of The Last Unicorn reads, “The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.” So, I decided to build my own lilac wood.
I pondered over ways I could do this, hopefully without spending any money, as I was quite broke. It happened that I already had a large supply of beautiful fake flowers, which I had purchased for a different DreamWorld photo, and I also had several yards of a nice gray/green fabric. The fabric would be a nice backdrop, and I could smother it in flowers.
I debated between sewing or hot gluing the flowers on, and decided on hot glue in the end. Sewing would have assured no damage would have been done to the flowers, and a very easy removal process (since they would all eventually have to come off to be used in the projects they were originally intended for) but would have been a much more labor-intensive and time consuming process. Being short on time, I went with hot glue, thinking that I’d mostly be applying it to the flower bases anyway, which you won’t see much of in this photo, or the other photos they’d appear in. With that solved, I started with gluing a healthy covering of leaves to the fabric. I wanted enough on as a base so that as little fabric would be seen as possible.
The couch became the holding area for my flowers, which I sorted roughly by color. I was trying to minimize the use of the white/creams and pinks, since it is a lilac wood, but I knew I’d end up needing at least some of them, both to cover my whole backdrop and to give it a more natural variance.
It became apparent that draping the fabric over the coffee table was just not going to work; I couldn’t see enough of it at once. I was carefully planning where the different colors of flowers would go, and being able to only see a segment of it at a time wasn’t working. So Geoff helped me move the coffee table and I took over the entire living room with leaves and flowers and fabric. Geoff is always extremely good-natured when I do things like this, which is fairly often.
I started simply placing the flowers where I thought they should go, and when I felt more confident in their placement, upgraded to hot gluing them on. I knew I wanted one side of the finished photo to be a bit lighter and pinker, and the area behind where I’d be standing to be more dark and purple, so I tried to at least roughly stick to that plan.
I also have to say, my cats both showed heroic self-restraint in not trying to eat all the flowers. They should be commended, as I’m sure it was no easy task.
Hot gluing continued until I had my whole backdrop covered!
Since the photo was going to be a self portrait, and since I do not look like a unicorn (sad, but true) I wanted to include something that would be a nod toward unicorn-ness, beyond the white hair. Taking a cue from Amalthea’s forehead mark that looks like a flower, I crafted a little flower amulet with an amethyst-colored crystal in its center. Simple, but quite pretty!
With everything created, I set out to take my self portrait the next day. I absolutely love our house, but it is small, and it can sometimes be challenging to take photos inside it. After weighing a number of factors (including the important one where the cats want to play with any backdrops) I decided to set up in the bedroom. I used masking tape to hang my flower-covered backdrop, and even with the TONS of flowers covering it, it remained light enough to stay up. The camera was perched precariously on a hardcover book in the middle of the bed, and every time I sat down to change the settings, it moved slightly, so this was far from an ideal setup, but I managed. I used my new lights and gels, using a blueish gel on one and a purple gel on my hair light. I sat on the stool, which helped keep me pretty consistently placed. Overall, it was a bit crude, but it worked!
I took several shots bringing parts of the backdrop closer to the camera, to give a greater sense of depth to the photo, holding the butterfly in various positions and flipping my white wig around.
With the how of the photo’s creation done, I’ll talk a little more about the why. I’m sure you are all very familiar with me talking about what a monumental impact The Last Unicorn has had on my life. It inspires me both in art and in life. I identify strongly with the characters, but perhaps most of all with the unicorn, feeling trapped in a dying body not her own. With my constant health battles, I often feel a prisoner of my body, that my soul must have been designed for some different kind of housing. Yet it’s through the unicorn’s entrapment in her human body that she grows and becomes greater and deeper. She learned to love, she experienced heartbreak, she knows regret. Even returned to her true, unicorn body, she carries those lessons with her… and while they have made her a better and more complete being, they were not without pain. It’s a heartening story for me to remember and think that one day, I will see how my trials and suffering have changed me into a more complete being too. I hope
I hope you enjoyed hearing more about how and why this photo came to be! And a very happy, if belated, birthday to Mr. Beagle :) I hope he realizes how many lives have not only been touched but utterly changed for the better because of his writing.