Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘how to’

**Before I get into the meat of this post, I am happy to announce that I will soon start holding mythic photography workshops!  We’ll go over techniques for drawing the magical and awe-inspiring out of the ordinary.  Email me at sarah@sarahallegra.com if you’re interested and I’ll keep you up to date!**

Closeups of both finished photos.

Closeups of both finished photos.

Oh my… this is one of those posts where I have so much to say I can hardly figure out where to start!

I think pretty much everyone reading this will already be familiar with my DreamWorld series, right?  The series portraying the characters and landscape of the world we visit in our sleep?   I have become quite obsessed with it, even though the photos usually demand so much more preparation and work than other photos do.  There is something incredibly therapeutic and wonderful about imagining an entire world and breathing life into it one photo at a time.

The very first character I imagined for DreamWorld was its queen (who we will meet in the future) and eventually I thought that if there is a queen, there probably should be a King  too.  And while I imagine that the queen is really the one in charge, the King is the ultimate father figure.  Warm, approachable, unfailingly kind and wise, but still powerful and majestic.  It’s a lot to ask of one person, and I mulled over who could play him for a long time.

While I contemplated that, I thought about what the King’s costume should be like.  I wanted it to be book-inspired, both literally and metaphorically.  Carl Jung’s and Joseph Campbell’s writings have had such a big influence on my life, and on this series in particular, I wanted the King to be an homage to them and their works.  So books, paper and writing would be the main themes of the costume… and as usual, I had no idea how I was going to pull it together.

While all that was happening in my head, I learned that Peter S. Beagle would be in town as part of his world-wide “The Last Unicorn” movie screenings tour (which I HIGHLY recommend!).  I suddenly pictured Peter as the King, and once I’d done that, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it.  He was absolutely perfect.  He is the King.  Every single time I’ve met him, he has exuded such warmth, wisdom and kindness that I wished I could adopt him as an uncle.  And given my recent partnership with his publisher, Conlan Press, I thought it would be the mutually beneficial to everyone.   I’m very happy that Connor, Peter’s publisher and manager, agreed and was able to loan me Peter for a few hours while they were in Los Angeles.

So, casting was settled, but that left me only about three weeks to build every prop and costume I’d be using.  Which was not nearly enough time.  I’d begun working on the King’s magic book before I even got a yes and had already spent over 30 hours just building it.  It was going to be an ugly three weeks, but very, very worth it, so I launched into creation mode.

You really have to see the book in person to understand why it took so long to make.  At this stage, it's just many, many subtle layers of paint.

You really have to see the book in person to understand why it took so long to make. At this stage, it’s just many, many subtle layers of paint.

Peter would be wearing long robes that would transition into paper scrolls at his feet, along with a crown made from folded paper.  His collar and cuffs were lace made from tissue paper, with crinkled paper accents.  A buckle portraying a tree of life would hold the robes closed, and the part I was perhaps most excited about was the collar of paper birds taking flight.  That was the end goal… how I’d get there, let alone in three weeks, I had no idea.  But I started with what I knew, making the tunic under his robe, and the fabric part of the robe itself.

sketches

Initial sketches

The tunic and robe themselves were pretty easy, standard pieces of DreamWorld wear, so they came together quickly.  The robe was made mostly from cotton muslin, since it’s inexpensive and takes tea-dying well (which I suspected would be in its future).   The yoke was made from the most beautiful metallic gold jacquard-type fabric (I purchased it as a remnant, so I’m not sure exactly what it is, other than gorgeous).  The first introduction of paper into the robe came by using long sheets of corrugated cardboard in the place of pin-tucked fabric.  I broke a needle on my sewing machine trying to get it on before finally locating my super-heavy-duty-heavier-than-duck-and-denim-together needle, which held up.

The robe with cardboard "pintucking."

The robe with cardboard “pin-tucking.”

I’ve never felt especially adept at sculpting, but I knew I was going to have to do at least some for the King, so I got some silicone clay which could be baked in an oven and a couple molds.  One mold featured different female faces on it, while another had branches, leaves and birds.  Leaves I though I could probably get away with on my own, but with the time I had, I didn’t want to have to try messing with making a beautiful face on my own.  Plus, the molds were on a 40% off sale, so I took it as a sign.  Most of the sculpting ended up on the cover of the book, which became quite symbolic all on its own, incorporating elements of Joseph Campbell, Peter Beagle and myself.

sarahallegra.com

Beginning to sculpt. You can see the shell of the unpainted book in the upper left-hand corner too.

The King’s costume incorporated keys and locks in numerous places, a metaphor for how Peter and Joseph Campbell’s writing had unlocked so much wisdom for me.  Around the large keyhole (obtained from a wonderful architectural salvage yard) I sculpted two pieces which could look like either paths or (bull’s) horns, nods to “The Last Unicorn” and the hero’s journey.  I made my own little cloven-hoof stamp by carving the end of an eraser and covered the “paths” with a smattering of hoof prints.  Between the paths/horns was a woman’s face with long white hair and a horn coming out of her forehead; an obvious reference to “The Last Unicorn,” but also to my own own identification with the story.

For added symbolism and a little more depth, I also crafted two small anatomical hearts, alluding to the “Two Hearts” story Peter wrote as a novella sequel to”The Last Unicorn.”  Though you could never accuse “The Last Unicorn” of being shallow, “Two Hearts” adds such richness and depth to it that I feel it’s really just a continuation of the same story and not two separate ones.

Stamp, hearts, unicorn girl and hoof prints.

Stamp, hearts, unicorn girl and hoof prints.

After the sculpting and baking came many coats of paint.

Painted pieces, along with a key I ended up not using for this photo (but which will be used eventually).

Painted pieces, along with a key I ended up not using for this photo (but which will be used eventually).

The keyhole and clay pieces were glued to the book cover and that prop, at least, was done!

At some point during the three weeks I was making all this, I pictured Peter with two ladies in waiting.  At first, I dismissed the idea since I already had more than enough work to do, but, to my annoyance, once I pictured it that way, I knew it would be lacking without them.  Damn.  I sighed and added two more costumes to my to-do list while I emailed frequent models Dedeker, Aly and Katie to see if they were available.  Unfortunately, Aly’s work schedule prevented her from joining us, but I was glad to have Katie and Dedeker along!

Turning my attention back to Peter’s robes, I used more of the corrugated cardboard t make wide cuffs.  I’d found some beautifully-dyed, crinkly paper, a little thicker than tissue paper, but not by much.  I had some in orange and some in purple, and I used the purple paper to edge the cuffs.  The inside of the cuffs was lined with an untold amount of tissue paper, cut to various widths and run through a paper punch on one side to create a look like lace.  I alternated white tissue paper with some beautiful, metallic silver tissue paper.  The white tissue paper went through the punch well, but the silver paper would utterly clog the punch up after 3-4 presses, no matter how few or how many pieces I put through at a time.  I even tried running it through at the same time as some nice, heavy cardstock, but the paper press just laughed at my attempts and clogged again.  In the end, I used less of the silver paper than I had planned, but was left with more of my sanity intact, so I thought it was a fair trade.

cuffs

Tissue papers, purple crinkle paper and the cuffs coming together.

I used the orange crinkle paper to make a lapel and more of it was used as a belt.  I’d wanted to give the robes a feeling of embroidery, so I used some metallic gold paint to create swirling, organic, art nouveau-like designs on the pin-tucking.

robe

Speaking of the belt, I wanted to have another Campbell reference, so I decided to use one of the most commonly recognized mythology symbols, the tree of life, on the buckle, quite literally bringing everything together.  The backing was made out of clay and painted with several layers of gold, green and bronze paints.  Some pretty green rafia made up the tree itself.  The untwisted ends made very convincing leaves, and the twisted ends made wonderful roots.  In the middle was another keyhole, continuing the motif.

Tree of life buckle.

Tree of life buckle above the paper belt.

Around this time, I started wondering how I would turn the robe ends into paper scrolls.  I spent several nights not sleeping while I contemplated it, and eventually came up with the following.  I sewed six long panels of muslin, each about two feet wide, and of varying lengths.  The sides were sewn with wire in them, and I covered both sides of the panels with torn-up paper mache.  The paper mache was made from countless pieces of tissue paper I had tea-dyed from a barely noticeable off-white to a dark cream.  I used the lightest pieces at the top and let it gradually darken toward the bottom.  I washed the panels with layers of thinned-out white glue (many, MANY thanks to my wonderful neighbor Donna for giving me a huge vat of glue!) until they were suitably stiff.  Applying paper, painting and letting them dry between took the better part of a week.  By the time they were done, it was nearly time to shoot and I didn’t know what I’d do if they didn’t work.  I breathlessly tried rolling one of them up… and it stayed.  It looked like paper!  It looked like a scroll!  I was so relieved!

I attached the panels to the end of the robe with some heavy-duty safety pins and hot glue, then added another layer of tea-dyed tissue paper, creating a gradual transition from a little below the belt of the robe with just a touch of paper, all the way to the bottom of the scrolls where it was thick paper.

scrolls

I’d had a very clear vision of how I wanted the King’s crown to look, formed primarily from folded paper, dotted with keys and old quill nibs, which I found a whole bunch of on Ebay!  While it wasn’t really hard to make, it did take a lot of trial and error.  I am not much for origami, so I ended up just cutting out different shapes and experimenting with what produced the best results.  I used a cream-colored cardstock for this, quite a relief to work with after the filmy, fragile tissue paper.

Trying out different objects as stencils.

Trying out different objects as stencils.

The crown ended up being my favorite part of the whole costume.  Geoff kindly took some BTS photos of me working on it.  The medallion in the middle of it was something I found in the jewelry-making section of the craft store, and it added the perfect finishing touch with the purple gem in the middle of it.

Making the crown.

Making the crown.

Around this time I realized I also needed to make a staff for the King.  I had actually found such a good stick while I was hiking one day that I brought it home, not even having a plan for it, just knowing it would be good for something, eventually.  I spray painted the stick bronze and gold, and used several thin washes of acrylic paint in green and gold tones on a glass Christmas tree ornament (which I have a large stock of for a future project).  A very, very thin spritz with some dazzlingly-silver spray paint finished off the ornament, which I flipped upside down and anchored to the stick with a big old blob of hot glue.  I had wanted to incorporate some more flowers into the costume anyway, and having a cluster of them under the ornament hid the transition beautifully.  A key under the ornament and flowers finished it off!

staff

Things get a little blurry as I think back on the days right before the shoot, and I honestly don’t remember the exact order of events anymore.  But in the last couple days, I sewed some easy, empire-waisted gray chiffon dresses for the girls, with long, matching chiffon sashes.  The dresses were decorated at the bustline with a fan-shaped piece of folded cardstock, tissue paper lace and flowers.

The big project for the girls, which bled over into the last of the King’s costume, were the paper birds.  Those damn, damn paper birds.  I printed untold sheets of cream and white cardstock with chains of birds (which I’d laid together in Photoshop) which then had to be cut out by hand, one by one.  I was so sick of seeing the pile of papers waiting to be cut out by the time I was done.  Days and days of cutting out birds.  So, so many birds of different sizes, shapes, angles and colors.

birds

Sheets of cardstock with birds cut out, a pile of cut birds, the king’s collar being assembled.

Obviously, many of the birds went to making the King’s bird-and-lace collar, but the majority ended up going to the two maiden’s headdresses and arm pieces.  I loved the symbolism of the birds; they were taking off from Peter’s throat (where words take flight as well), they landed and traveled down the girls’ heads, as they take the stories and information in, then they make their way down the girls’ arms to their hands as they put the lessons they have learned to work.  Just remembering it all gives me a headache, but I really loved how it turned out, even though it was nearly midnight the night before the shoot when I glued the last string of birds together, was finally done and went to bed.

Calantha helped whenever she could.

Calantha helped whenever she could.

The morning of the shoot came after not nearly enough sleep, and I knew it was going to be a very long, grueling day, but I was very excited!  Donna and John, my neighbors, had very kindly allowed me to use their dining room to shoot in, which gave me more room to move around.  I started hanging curtains and getting the set constructed while I groggily drank my tea.  Everyone helped me get the set ready, which I was very grateful for; I couldn’t have done it all on my own!  Then my lights decided they didn’t feel like working, and I had to troubleshoot that as it got closer and closer to the time of the shoot… it was quite stressful, but it all came together just in time!

Thank you, Dedeker for these adorable furbaby pics :)

Thank you, Dedeker, for these adorable furbaby pics 🙂  They are a friendly lot!

Connor pulled up and dropped off Peter and his assistant Cat, who was helping them with the tour, and then I had a most surreal moment when Peter Beagle, one of my two very favorite writers, author of “The Last Unicorn,” a story that has profoundly influenced my life, was standing in my living room.  He was just as warm and wonderful as all the other times I’d spoken to him, and he showed excellent taste in admiring Calantha and asking what kind of dog she is.

I caught Connor snuggling Maynard and made him stand there until I got a photo of it.

I caught Connor snuggling Maynard and made him stand there until I got a photo of it.

Peter told me he’d been instructed by Connor to be regal and majestic, which I agreed with, but also highlighted the King’s warmth and kindness.  Peter said, “So I should be regal and majestic, yet warm and approachable?”  I said yes, and he just said, “Got it,” and then he was all that, all at once.  I helped him get into his costume (with the help of Katie, Dedeker and Cat, it was really a several-person task).  I shot a few different setups; since this was not going to be a chance I’d have again, I wanted to cover all my bases.  And everything fit everyone, and it all worked and came together beautifully, and I knew that the last weeks had been more than worth it.  Katie very thoughtfully took some behind-the-scenes photos once her part in the shoot was over, which I’m so happy to have!

Thanks, Katie!  :)

Thanks, Katie! 🙂

Mei Mei photobomb

Mei Mei photobomb

Dedeker and Katie being beautiful.

Dedeker and Katie being beautiful.

Cat took this one for us; thanks, Cat!

Cat took this one for us; thanks, Cat!

My imagination hero.

My imagination hero and me.

After the shoot was over, we all helped Peter out of his costume and then I got to just chat with him and Cat and the girls until Connor got back from the errands he’d been running in preparation for the screening that night.  It was my first time meeting Cat; she was utterly delightful and I was honored to have them lounging in my living room.  Again I was overcome with the surreality of the situation.  Connor got back shortly, and we parted ways for the time being.  We’d all meet up again that night for the screening in Newport Beach.  The shoot was successfully checked on my list!

I have to say, though all my shoots are done on a budget, this was the most expensive one yet.  A lot of the expenses were things like the paper punch and a self-healing cutting mat (for all the damn birds) that I’ll be able to use again.  All in all, I think I spent between $100-$150; an amount that felt absolutely extravagant to me!  The total time I spent on this is really incalculable.  A couple hundred hours on pre-production, but I spent a good six weeks editing it… it’s easy to say that I spent hundreds and hundreds more on post-production.  There were many times I was cursing myself and why couldn’t I just take nice, pretty photos that edit up in an afternoon (not to mention don’t require hundreds of paper birds) but even in those moments I knew it would be worth it… and it was.  🙂

Katie was giving me a ride into Hollywood on her way home, so Geoff and I could meet up and travel in one car, so she helped me dismantle the set.  We got some lunch since we were ravenous after such an exciting morning and she left me with Geoff while she went home for a bit before also heading down to Newport Beach.

I was exhausted, but also completely wound up.  I attempted a nap in Geoff’s office, but it was pretty pointless.  It was going to be a long night though, so I thought I’d better try anyway.  With anxiety over the shoot done, I could now concentrate on being anxious about that evening.  Connor had specifically asked me to come to the Newport Beach showing and bring my portfolio with me so that he could introduce me to Peter’s fans as one of their new featured artists who will be working with them.  Gulp.

Connor under the marquee.

Connor under the marquee.

Geoff and I (and Katie, in her own car) battled the traffic from Los Angeles to Newport Beach and made it just in the nick of time.  I really wasn’t sure what “introducing” me meant, so I had lots of possible meanings to be worried about.  I was heartened when I got to the theater and was greeted as long-lost friends by Connor and Cat (Peter was somewhere else) and then entered the theater to find a bunch of my family there, which I was not expecting!  It was so sweet of them all to come out and support me.

sarahallegra.com

There was a great Q&A session before the movie started.  There were raffles, giveaways, and the mayor of Newport Beach showed up to present Peter with a plaque.  It was really quite an event; I would heartily recommend it, of course to any fan, but just to anyone in general 🙂

The mayor giving Peter his plaque.

The mayor giving Peter his plaque; thanks to my grandmother for taking this photo!

Just before the show started, Connor had some of the vendors who had come with their Unicorn wares stand up and pointed them out, and at the very end of all that, he had me stand up and introduced me to everyone, saying I’d be there after the show with my art.  Whew.  One hurdle down.

Then we all got to watch the movie itself in a theater, which no fans my age and younger have ever been able to do.  It was pretty amazing.  I cried, and not just because of what an emotional day I was having.  Seriously, if you get the chance to see it, GO.

After the movie, Peter was around to sign books, take photos with people and talk to them like they’re actual human beings and not just cattle being herded through a chute.  Cat and Connor set me up behind one of the tables where the wares were spread out, and I set out my portfolio and my cards.  Geoff and Katie both really stepped up and stayed the entire night with me.  It was so good having them both there with me since I’m so intensely uncomfortable a) in crowds, b) around strangers, and c) having attention drawn to me and people looking at me.  Hopefully this is something I will get more used to.  It was great having the two of them there to distract me and make me feel less alone.

Wearing Geoff's jacket over my pretty dress - it got quite cold!

Wearing Geoff’s jacket over my pretty dress – it got quite cold!

Peter was true to his word and stayed until every single fan who wanted to had a chance to say hello and have their book/DVD/whatever signed, then all the theater workers still there got their turn.  I’d told my mom I would have him sign a book for her (“The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche And Other Odd Acquaintances,” which contains “Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros,” the favorite short story of my mom’s, mine, Cat’s and Peter’s) and Katie and I wanted our own photos with him to cap the day off right.

Getting mom's book signed.

Getting mom’s book signed.

sarahallegra.com

Katie, Peter and me!

And then it was all over!  Months of mental planning, weeks of physical planning, all the crunching and sleepless nights and hard work… it was done.  I was relieved and disappointed, and also knew that it was going to be one of the highlights of my entire career, no matter what else happens.

We didn’t leave Newport Beach until 1:30am, and it was closer to 3 by the time I got home and went to bed.  Luckily I was so exhausted it overcame my nerves and I didn’t have too much trouble getting to sleep.  I knew the next day was going to be ugly, and it was.  You can’t throw that much work and lack of sleep at ME.  Not to mention the very long, emotional day it had been and how late I’d been up.  ME doesn’t let you get away with that kind of shit.  I planned on feeling pretty terrible, and I did.  But it was underscored by a feeling of deep satisfaction, and even more, an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything that had happened.  I was a bit emotionally fragile by then, and I burst into tears more than once that day, just out of sheer joy and thankfulness.

I am so grateful that I get to partner with Conlan and Peter.  I am so thankful they not only agreed to let me do my photo, but were enthusiastic about it.  I am blown away by what amazing people everyone at Conlan, my friends, models, family and husband are.  They have all been so immensely supportive of me and my art and my journey…especially Geoff as I ignored him night after night in my struggle to complete everything.  I am very lucky to have wonderful neighbors who will let me conduct an entire photo shoot in their home at the drop of a hat,  Everyone who reads this, who emails me, who comments on photos, who encourages me to create, thank you all.

But most of all, thank you to Peter.  Not just for creating the measuring stick by which all other fantasy will always be compared.  Not only for ripping our hearts out with his words, and returning them back to us more whole and healed.  And not just for being willing to play the King, but for being the King.  Peter simply is all those qualities that make me love the King so much.  And I got to capture it forever in two photos in my favorite, most meaningful series.  That is unbelievably wonderful to me.  Thank you for all of it.

And with that, I present to you the DreamWorld King.  Detail shots are below each main image.  Click on them to see them larger!

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Beloved Of The Crown - detail

Beloved Of The Crown – detail

Aerie

Aerie

Aerie - detail

Aerie – detail

Aerie - detail

Aerie – detail

Aerie - detail

Aerie – detail

Aerie - detail

Aerie – detail

A very quick, thankful, somewhat tear-stained selfie the day after the shoot, wearing my beautiful horn from Firefly Path, which is going to be my every day wear now.  Click here to visit their Facebook page to get your own horn!

A very quick, thankful, somewhat tear-stained selfie the day after the shoot, wearing my beautiful horn from Firefly Path, which is going to be my every day wear now. Click here to visit their Facebook page to get your own horn!

Thank you to every single person who helped make this day happen.  I will never forget it.  🙂

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It has come to my attention that there is a new drug being tested in Norway that has shown great promise so far in treating ME/CFS.  To my knowledge, this is the first drug that has shown persistent, repeatable improvement in patients – even going so far as to sending some patients into full remission.  It seems like even the most successful cases eventually needed to have the drug re-administered, by my god, even if it were something we had to have injected a few times a year, to have anything that would help, even fractionally, let alone full remission, would be an absolute miracle.

There is a fundraiser going on to try and crowd-source funding for the next phase of drug trials.  If you can at all help, please do.  Even it’s a few years before the drug trickles down to actually reaching patients, just having that in our future would make such a difference.  I’ll have a bit more to say about this in the next few days, but for now, please join me in giving what you can.   And thank you so very much!

MEpress_image1

* * * * *

I’ve noticed more and more flowers creeping into my work recently, and I’m not entirely sure why that is… or if it even matters.  Some of it certainly has a great deal to do with particular DreamWorld characters you will meet in the future, but they are cropping up in non-DreamWorld images too.  I could spend a long time analyzing why that is, but I’m not sure I need to.  Sometimes you just have to let things grow as they will.

I gave an interview recently and stated that I never shoot an image simply for the sake of taking a pretty picture.  They always have meaning to me.  This last photo was the closest I have ever come to taking a photo simply for the sake of beauty, although I knew there was some underlying meaning… I just had to figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me.  Artists need to have faith in themselves and their visions; if they don’t, who will?

I’d had a vision of a girl holding an umbrella filled with flowers pouring down on her, so I set out to make such an umbrella.  As usual, I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I got started.  I had a good umbrella, and I had flowers left over from a few other projects, including this one.  Even though I almost always manage to buy them on some kind of sale, fake flowers are one of the most expensive props I buy, so I try and mitigate the cost by using them as many times and ways as possible.

In my vision, I very, very clearly saw wisteria hanging down, perhaps because I had recently been to the garden center where I lusted after a very expensive wisteria plant.  But I did not have any fake wisteria.  It seems to grow quite rampantly around here, and I toyed with the idea of simply asking an owner of an overly enthusiastic plant if I could cut some off… but ugh.  Talking to strangers.  Talking to strangers and asking them immediately for favors.  No.  I couldn’t do it.  Have I mentioned recently how shy and introverted I am in real life?  So I buckled down and found some reasonably-priced, realistic looking fake wisteria online and ordered it.

I’d had a shoot planned already with a model who would be new to me, although I knew her a bit through other photographers she’s worked with, Katie Johnson.  (Katie is amazing, by the way.  A charming, fascinating person, an absolutely natural and dedicated model… I would highly recommend her to anyone.)   Katie had recently approached me about shooting together sometime, which I was very keen to do!  I planned a number of concepts for her, including the wisteria umbrella, we picked a day and all was set… until somehow the wisteria was delayed, and it didn’t arrive until the day after our shoot.  Oops.  We still had a great time at that first shoot, and since it had gone so well, we decided to plan another shoot soon after, and bring the umbrella concept to life then.

The cats help the only way they know how; by sleeping on things.

The cats help the only way they know how; by sleeping on things.

After my wisteria arrived, I set about attaching it to the umbrella.  I ended up sewing some directly to either the frame of he umbrella or he fabric itself, and broke out my trusty glue gun to attach the flowers along the edge.

Hanging bunches of hydrangea from he umbrella to help fill it out.

Hanging bunches of hydrangea from the umbrella to help fill it out.

Starting To Hang

Note the balancing-on-the-laundry basket move.  The damn umbrella was so awkward and lopsidedly heavy, poised on a curved handle, plus it kept shifting slightly as I moved around…. language was used.  More than once.

More Hung

More wisteria is hung, and the first bit glued to he edge is on.

Just about done!

Just about done!

Since I was working with a limited amount of flowers, I concentrated them on one side.  I knew Katie’s head would be blocking part of he umbrella, so I didn’t want to waste any flowers there.  And filling it out a little in post is fairly easy to do, if you need to.

The day of our reshoot came, and it was a gorgeously overcast morning, which was absolutely perfect for what I wanted.  Katie was, of course, a dream and we were able to shoot several different concepts before calling it a day.  But not before Katie twirled around with the flower-ful umbrella, flinging shoots of wisteria into every direction, which made both of us laugh pretty hard.

umbrella outtake 4 small

umbrella laugh 2 small

The umbrella took it all in stride, not seeming to mind being spun about.  🙂

After the whole thing was said and done, I finally realized what my subconscious was saying with these photos.  They portray a girl who is carrying hope and life, symbolized by the flowers, with her wherever she goes.  While the umbrella protects her physically from the sun and rain, its bigger role is to protect her soul by keeping these positive qualities with her.   There’s an implied symbiosis between her and the flowers; that each of them needs each other for its life, in a way that can be read both literally and metaphorically.

And as I edited these during a week when I was feeling particularly depressed and had been advised to exercise “self care,” this seemed like a perfect visual metaphor.  Keeping the gray world off my back with a layer of protection, under which heady armfulls of my own, beautiful flowers grow.  Not only was it a lovely metaphor, but working on the photo was cathartic in and of itself, so it worked for me on many levels.

Finished photos and detail shots below!

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol -detail. Katie’s extensive dance background often shows itself in little details like this, which she did all on her own.

Efflorescence

Efflorescence

sarahallegra.com

Efflorescence – detail

sarahallegra.com

Efflorescence – detail

Efflorescence - detail

Efflorescence – detail

Read Full Post »

Another set of DreamWorld photos are done; yay!  🙂

Paul trio

I had the chance to shoot Paul Telfer, who looks startlingly like you would imagine Superman would look in real life.  When I was casting the role of the Sentinel, Paul immediately came to mind.  He just looks like someone who would be more than capable of keeping you safe, in this world or DreamWorld!

You might recognize Paul from his recurring role on NCIS,  and recent appearances on Body of Proof and Vampire Diaries.  In fact, you can catch him on Vampire Diaries on their season finale on hte 16th!  Make sure to set your DVR.  🙂  He is also just the nicest person; charming, interesting and he really brought his acting skills into play for the photos.  He was a joy to shoot!

DreamWorld was going to need a protector; someone who would watch over you as you sleep and keep the nightmares at bay.  As I started thinking about how to visually portray this, I again associated one’s ego with eggs (although I actually conceived and shot this before Lauren’s photo).  It seemed very fitting; the intrinsic fragility of eggs, combined with their promise of life, growth and change… a perfect metaphor for the human soul.

For them to work in the photo, they were going to need to be much, much larger than an average egg, so I turned to the internet.  It proved really quite difficult to find suitable eggs; everything was either far too small or far too large (and also cost far too much).  Eventually though, I came across some plastic eggs at a party supply site.  They were all the wrong colors, and the package came with many more than I needed, but they would work, so I purchased them.

Once they arrived, I set about painting them.  I started with a few base coats of a pearly blue acrylic paint… I love this paint, it’s actually the same paint that I used to cover the dresser at the foot of my bed.  It’s just gorgeous.  Being covered in the paint immediately made the eggs look less like toys and much more magical.  I added in several more layers of different colors and textures, finishing them by spritzing them with water and then spraying on a light haze of silver spray paint.  The paint wouldn’t adhere where the water was, so it gave the eggs a slightly speckled appearance, which made them look like authentic eggs.

egg 2

Painting eggs

Painting eggs.

More painting eggs

Paul came over and the weather gods must have been favoring me, since it was a gorgeously overcast afternoon.  Cloudy, overcast days are my very favorite, both personally and for shooting in.  I scooped up a mess of pine needles, generously provided by the little pine grove in front of my house.  Creating a nest out of them brought back fond childhood memories of building just such nests at parks which I’d sit in, pretending to be a bird.  Happy memories!

The painted eggs got loaded into the nest, along with some moss I’d found just to give an extra little dimension of realism.  Paul posed with them and was such a pro!  Shooting all three photos probably took twenty or thirty minutes, and then we were done!

I can never shoot anything without an animal appeared unexpectedly in it, as my neighbor’s dog Mei Mei demonstrates.

Mei Mei bomb

Mei Mei bomb

I felt like I’d done a good job with the photos when I had a nightmare a few days after I’d finished them, and imagining the Sentinel guarding me in my sleep helped calm and comfort me.  Please enjoy the finished photos and detail shots from each image, and feel free to imagine the Sentinel is guarding your sleep too 🙂

Sleeper's Sentinel

Sleeper’s Sentinel

sarahallegra.com

sarahallegra.com

His Flock Of Little Birds

His Flock Of Little Birds

His Flock Of Little Birds nest

Prayer For The Frail

Prayer For The Frail

Prayer For The Frail

Smoke birds

Smoke birds

Smoke birds

Smoke birds

Smoke birds

Smoke birds

Read Full Post »

Close up of In The Lilac Forest

Close up of In The Lilac Wood

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.

sarahallegra.com

Assessing what I had to work with

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.

Gluing leaves on.

Gluing leaves on.

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.

Flowers sorted by colors.

Flowers sorted by colors.

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.  🙂

sarahallegra.com

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.

Byron did try to help several times, but that's just being polite.

Byron did try to help several times, but that’s just being polite.

Hot gluing continued until I had my whole backdrop covered!

Yay!

Yay!

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!

sarahallegra.com

You can’t really see what a pretty (and sparkly!) purple the crystal is in this photo, but I can promise you it was beautiful!

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!

My "studio."

My “studio.”

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 🙂

The butterfly, like the one in the book.

The butterfly, like the one in the book.

The finished amulet, attached with garment tape.

The finished amulet, attached with garment tape.

A red, bleeding rose over my heart, touching on the pain and heartache the unicorn endured.

A red, bleeding rose over my heart, touching on the pain and heartache the unicorn endured.

The hair wind-whipped into a horn-like shape, giving off a bit of a glow.

The hair wind-whipped into a horn-like shape, giving off a bit of a glow.

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.

In The Lilac Forest

In The Lilac Wood

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts

%d bloggers like this: