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 email@example.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….
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some smaller, gold-dusted leaves, a large gold key and an amber-colored, leaf-shaped crystal finished it off.
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!
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.
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
And perhaps my favorite of them all….
Whew, still with me? I know that was a long post, but I had a lot of photos to cover!
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!
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 🙂
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
– blank greeting cards
– post cards
– shirts and hoodies
– wearable art
– throw pillows
– INTROSPECTIVE: my eight-week, on-line, course of self-discovery through photography.