Posts Tagged ‘devils’

March already? Far too much time has passed between posts, but I’ve been hard at work on a new photograph and video to share.

Cha Cha Cha Cha Cha Cha — Pedro Garcia, 1958

Cha Cha Cha Cha Cha Cha — Pedro Garcia, 1958

Way back in 2012 I made an attempt at creating a photo built around a super cool album cover that featured a slinky masked dancer cavorting about beneath a cascade of streamers and balloons (seen to the right). After staging and shooting the photo, the images lingered in my computer, and as I prepped for my 2013 summer show at the Pannikin in La Jolla, I simply abandoned what I’d shot. Oh, sure, I could show you the unfinished work here and now, but the OCD in me would probably try to make a diamond from a pigs ear and I’d spend weeks and weeks trying to at least make the failed composition look presentable. Instead, let’s jump right to the brand new photo — which I like!

Madame Paparazzi's wicked danse of seductive transformation

Madame Paparazzi’s wicked danse of seductive transformation

I actually took over 30 shots of this staging, then constructed the final image from the 7 best images, layering portions of each photo one atop the next to achieve deep focus throughout the final piece.

I tend to be easily distracted while working on my creative pursuits, so rather than snap the photos, sort through the candidate images, and plow through with all the necessary image adjustments, I ended up creating a video for the photo before I actually completed the photo (and, yes, that is possible in the world of Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares). The frames for the animation were taken while I was deconstructing the stage set, and then reassembled into a free flowing pan’n’scan video using a whole bunch of software: Aperture, GraphicConverter, iDraw, and a new (to me) slideshow package called FotoMagico that allowed me to create deeper zooms than I’d used in previous animations. Nice piece of software worth checking out!

In an ideal world making one of these videos would be really simple: I’d come up with an idea, I’d choose some music, I’d shoot all the frames, and — voila! — there I’d have a finished video! Remember, though, that I begin with the finished photo, and, therefore, the last frame in the animation. The trick, then, is to conceive of the story in reverse, and begin taking things away from the scene in an order that will make some logical narrative sense once everything is reordered to run from start to finish. Oh, and without a sense of the audio that will be used.

This is… tricky.

Ah! But luckily, not impossible, and even when mistakes are made (for instance, removing objects out of order or completely reconsidering the storyboard during post production) software makes nearly anything possible.

Let’s take a look!

Read Full Post »

Hot off the digital camera presses, I have a brand new photo and accompanying video to share! And since this piece has been in development for longer than I care to mention (though I will in a moment) I won’t waste any more time with a lot of buildup and hyperbole. So, here it is!

Sensible family planning is dreamt away to the 1950s by Esmeralda — Femme Fatale of Conservative Values

So, yes, I began this piece way back in late July (yes, July), and finally wrapped up work on the photo and video in early November. That’s over three months for those of you keeping score at home. The initial work of setting up the pieces and iterating over the composition took about a month, interrupted here and there by other ongoing projects and setting up my new shop on Zazzle. I shot the final set of photos and a couple of hundred frames of animation over Labor Day weekend. Then… my dad broke his hip, I ran into censorship problems on Zazzle, opened my Fair Use store, and finallygot back to the photo in mid October.

Early concept shot in July

To the right is an early concept shot built around a vintage record player, as if the woman in the background was placing records onto the turntable. This version also filled the space to the left and right of the album cover with pulp paperbacks. As you can see looking back at the final image, both concepts were abandoned as I moved towards the finished composition (but I’m sure the pulps will show up in future photos).

The record player proved too bulky and limiting for the composition I had in mind, so it was quickly replaced by stacks of vinyl records and alphabet blocks to form the basic stage. With the records in place I had room to build five connected scenes: one in the center, and two each to the left and right atop the surface of stacks of 45s. It then became a matter of establishing the action for each scene through the placement of various characters — a process that took a couple of weeks as I wandered my way through lots of combinations of characters and story concepts. Though, to be honest, I never truly understood what the photo was about until after it was actually complete! That’s how things sometimes work in my weirdly, disconnected, make-believe world.

Fresh out of the camera — unadjusted!

To the left is the final composition as it emerged from my camera, warts and all, prior to all the post-production image adjustments you see in the final image at the top of this post. As previously mentioned, I’d decided to eliminate the paperbacks, and instead wanted the entire background to have the same mauve-ishly textured background found on the album cover. Of course, I didn’t actually have any kind of mauve-ishly textured background material handy, so I hoped, uh, planned on cloning pieces of the album’s background behind all the other figures you see on the left and right. To make this task a little easier, I placed a couple of additional albums and sheets of pink poster board inside the light tent behind the stage construction. This actually proved to be a mistake for reasons I won’t get into, but art is forever a learning experience, and I was able to work around my blunder.

The final image was actually constructed from 6 separately shot photographs using the “focus stacking” technique I wrote about in a previous post. This time around each photo was shot at a different aperture setting so that the depth of field would vary from shot to shot. I then assembled the final image by masking the in-focus portions of each photo, and layering them all together in a big digital sandwich to create one image with everything in reasonably sharp focus.

The video is another of my simple pan’n’scan slideshow with the camera seeming to zoom around the staging as figures magically materialize into view. Oooooo! It’s a fun and simple technique that’s not nearly as tedious as true stop-motion animation. This time around I chose an instrumental piece of music from Tuatara that nicely captured the drama and tension I wished to convey in the photograph.


Read Full Post »

Envy springs forth from the pious song of man, 2010

Hi there boys and girls! Gather round and let’s play a game!

Oh, aren’t you all just the sweetest things? So dressed up and well-behaved! Your parents must be very lucky to have such obedient and well-behaved children. They love you so much. God loves you too; you know that? Why, I’ll bet you never cause your parents aaaannnny grief at all! Because, as you know boys and girls, if you don’t behave…


Final frame at the Cuius Deo Optimo Open, 2006

Yes, I grew up Catholic. I went to parochial school where I was taught by nuns dressed collar to toes in black habits. I was also an altar boy, and served mass for brash Irishmen of the clergy—free drinking Jesuits, more likely to dive headlong into a bare-knuckle whiskey scrap than fall prey to modern day indiscretions. The lessons taught by the nuns and priests provided heavy doses of consequences and guilt, where punishment for potential wrong-doing was sternly described in wary terms of “or else,” rather than the vivid Bosch-esque images of torment you may imagine. Implied damnation can be so much more effective than the real thing.

Besides, the priests and nuns really didn’t need to describe the torments of hell. Not when they had effective teaching aids to scar the Holy Hell right out of your soul! One such teaching aid was a monthly magazine that parents could subscribe to for their kids.

Catholic Children’s Treasure Box – so wholesome!

The Catholic Children’s Treasure Box was published monthly by the Maryknoll Sisters, and each issue was chockfull of games, activities, and Bible stories about children who obeyed their parents and had all of the good graces of God. Just look at how happy those children are in the cover illustration above!

Issues of the Treasure Box were handed down from my oldest sister Gina, to my sister Marianne, and eventually to me and my brother. I LOVED pouring through the Treasure Box each month, and spent hours and hours engaged with their simple activities and reading the wholesome stories. There were stories about Adam and Eve, Saint Theresa, a mischievous guardian angel named Wupsy, and then….

Be good… or else! (Click for a SCARIER view!)


Encountering images of devils, demons, fallen angels and the like was not at all uncommon throughout the pages of the CCTB; the story of Adam and Eve, in particular, was like a hornets nest of demonic illustrations. But where those devils were clearly drawn with evil intent (sly prankish grins, orange skin, reptilian wings), they at least looked somewhat human. This devil was nothing of the sort. Flaming hair! Red eyes! Warted nose! Pointed tail! Spots! And scaly, sharp toenails!

This devil was far, far too much for my impressionable five year old psyche to bear, and my mind commenced to imagine this Orange Haired Devil lurking everywhere. I envisioned him not just standing behind walls, but actually living within the brick and mortar, plotting and planning, biding his time and collecting his wicked thoughts. Surely, he waited for just the right moment to reach forth a scaly hand to pull me screaming into the fiery depths below. I didn’t dare sleep with my back to the wall! How would I ever see his fingers materializing through the wallpaper if I was not duly vigilant? But to face the wall was to face his glowing red eyes emanating from the wall, watching and waiting until I drifted off to sleep. What was a kid to do except run to the protective safety of mom and dad’s room!?!

Heeeeeere… red berries… these are delicious…

Eventually I got over my fear of the spotted devil and his many minions of tempestuous troublemaking brethren. In fact, a quick perusal on my fine art photos would likely reveal that—next to my ever adorable kewpies—devils probably take second billing of recurring characters that appear throughout my work. I put them in photos; they don’t reach through my mattress and grab my ankle. Seems fair, yes?

And, to close, let’s all enjoy Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader—wholly inspired by the words that filled my adolescent imagination as I read the Catholic Children’s Treasure Box.

What terrified you as a child? Don’t worry, your disclosures won’t be shared with Satan.

Dixie’s Diabolical Decision, 2009

Read Full Post »

Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader

Exciting news in Wind-up Dreams land–we are now offering Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader (shown above) as a limited edition print! Unlike our other limited editions, Eve is printed on beautiful Fuji Pearl paper to give the image a brilliant, metallic-like finish (all the better to enhance Satan’s fiery gaze).  And priced at just $125, it is now our lowest-priced limited edition.  While it’s currently listed in the etsy shop, it won’t be available for shipment until Monday, July 26th because we’ll be attending Comic-Con this week. (!!!)  Reserve yours today and add some devilish fun to your world for a decidedly un-devilish price.

If you’re going to be in San Diego attending the Comic-Con convention as well, please swing by Pannikin Coffee & Tea in La Jolla and see the latest photo and slide show extravaganza, Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse.  It’s running through July 30, so you still have time to check it out.  Speaking of slide shows, have you seen the incredibly fun stop-motion animation video for the making of Eve?  Well what are you waiting for?!?!  Check it out here on our newly re-designed Videos page.  And if you can’t make it to Comic-Con, don’t feel left out!  We’ll be tweeting live, so follow @johnpurlia and/or @windupdreams on Twitter to see pics of the kookiest costumes and undoubtedly hilarious overheard conversations about Star Wars, Futurama, and loads of other geeky fun.

Read Full Post »

Last week at the Opening Reception for the “Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse” exhibit, people really enjoyed the stop-motion animation and time-lapse videos that were created for Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader and Financial Freewheeling and the futile pursuit of the American DreamWe didn’t want to leave anyone out, so we’ve posted them on YouTube!  In the videos, you can see how the still life dioramas that eventually become the photos are created. The Eve video was created from 2,100 separately shot and edited photographs after the actual gallery photo was shot. The action was then storyboarded and the animation was shot in reverse. The entire production required about 8 weeks of work.

The Financial Freewheeling video was created from time lapse footage showing the construction of the photo.  The video was actually created during the deconstruction of the diorama, one shot every two seconds, then played back in reverse to create the effect of “building” the final scene. You can also watch the video, “The Fantastic Plastic World,” which shows the installations that were on display as part of the exhibit “And The Beat Goes On” at the New Puppy Gallery in Los Angeles last year. The four videos also feature super fun music by Fantastic Plastic Machine, Moby, and James Brown, and Nina Simone. The last new video that’s been posted is a retrospective of select works from 2004-2010. AND, we’re also excited to announce that these videos can be found on a newly re-designed Videos page on the Wind-up Dreams site. Feel free to leave comments and let us know what you think.

Of course, you can still see the videos and photos live! in person! at Pannikin Coffee & Tea, La Jolla, CA through July 30.

Read Full Post »

Unbeknownst to her Creator, Eve longed to become a cheerleader

Seven Signs of the Kewpie Apocalypse has arrived!  Starting today, July 3rd, John’s solo exhibit show will run through July 30th at the Pannikin Coffee & Tea, La Jolla, CA. There are new photos, old favorites from the Plastic Prophets series, a room filled with our lower-priced line of framed Album Editions, and a video installation with stop motion animations, slide shows, and other delightful treats.  Installations of kewpies (some will probably be the largest you’ve ever seen. Seriously, these guys are BIG.), robots, vintage album covers, and alphabet blocks will greet you at every turn.  The Opening Reception is tonight, 5:00-7:00pm. John will be there to answer your questions and entertain you with how he manages to make the devils, babies, and saints toe the line, even in the midst of an earthquake.  Oh, and there will be free munchies! Hope to see you there!

Read Full Post »

Frank and Betty get pinned without a care in the world

If your honey sparkles with wit and sass, why buy them boring teddy bears and florist’s roses that don’t even smell good?  Show that special someone you understand who he/she really is!  In honor of Valentine’s Day, our favorite teen sweethearts, Frank and Betty get pinned without a care in the world (shown above), is 15% off.

For all you singles out there…want to gouge out the eyes of the next person who gives you a pitying look when you dine solo?  We’ve got you covered too.  Bask in the carefree glow of singledom and invest in art without having to ask anyone if it’s okay!  From now until February 14, all photos in the Heartbreak Hotel section of our Etsy shop is also 15% off.

Happy shopping!

Read Full Post »

Dixie’s Diabolical Decision, 2009

The answer to the question is, “No! I did not Photoshop that.”

People frequently confuse my photography with digital collage, which is itself a wonderful medium for art, it’s just not what I do to create the images you see in the gallery and on these web pages. So I thought it was about time I post a “How I Did It” blog entry to satisfy the curious and provide a little insight into the process I use to create a new image.

Case study…the new photo above, Dixie’s Diabolical Decision, which I created a couple of weeks back for a group show coming up at the end of May.

Let’s push aside all that mysterious “creative process” and “inspiration” jazz, and get right down to the business of shooting the photo. First, I need some source material, which — in our three dimensional world — usually involves a foreground and a background. For this photo I chose the cover of April Stevens’ album Teach Me Tiger for the background, and decided that April should be looking up at a floating grinning devil head (isn’t that obvious?), which would be the most prominent object in the foreground.

Original album cover

To the right is a picture of the original album released on Imperial Records in 1959 (my copy of the record isn’t nearly this clean, as you will see in a moment). I’d originally tried to work this album cover into one of the photos for my Plastic Prophets show, but the concept I developed at the time never quite felt right, so I abandoned the photo, but kept the cover in mind for the future. When I was presented the opportunity to contribute a photo to an upcoming group show, I again thought of April and her steady gaze into the void.

For the past year or so, I’ve staged each of my photos inside a lighting tent with big, bad, 500 watt photo floods blazing away on the outside, which fills the inside with nice even lighting. I spend a lot of time constructing the scene inside the tent — building a stage from records, setting up characters and nudging things around, until I get the composition that feels right for the photo I’m shooting.

Here’s what the stage inside the lighting tent looked like after I’d finished arranging the characters and was finally ready to start snapping photos.

Notice how the devil head is sort of suspended in space hanging above the records with a stick coming out the back of his neck? Well — duh! — how else am I going to make it appear as if the devil head is floating?

To get the devil head to stay in place I stuck putty to the inside of his nose, crammed a wooden coffee stirrer into the putty, and secured his neck to the stirrer with another glop of putty. We’ll deal with that mess in a little while. Putty and toothpicks are also used to suspend the kewpie head above April’s right ear, but that construction will be well outside the camera’s viewfinder.

Notice the reflection of the records onto the record cover? This is one of the hazards of using glossy album covers as backdrops for my photos. I spend a lot of time adjusting the lights, changing the camera angle, and placing black sheets of cardboard around the inside of the tent to minimize (but not eliminate, unfortunately) glare and reflections.

Okay, so that’s what the photo looks like from outside of the tent…but what does it look like through the viewfinder? Let’s snap the shutter and see!


There. That’s the picture. Not very exciting, is it?

The setting now shifts from the photo studio to my iMac, where the initial RAW image above will undergo all kinds of adjustments. This isn’t so different than the development process used for film photography — though I’m fine tuning pixels on a screen, rather than applying chemicals to a piece of paper.

The first adjustment is to straighten the image. After all, the wooden floor in my studio is 80 years old and my tripod cost 19 bucks, and remember how I said I choose the camera angle to minimize glare.

There. That looks straight. It wasn’t a big adjustment, but you can see how April’s body is on a horizontal plane.

Normally, I crop my photos to whatever dimensions best suit the characters and objects I’ve placed upon the stage, regardless of some fixed aspect ratio like 8 x 10” or 20 x 30”. This photo was a bit of an exception, since it was shot for a group show where all the pieces are to be 12 x 12″ squares. I chose to crop the image with the devil head floating down from the upper right corner, and with the kewpie head coming into the frame from the left. Here’s the change after cropping:

Now to adjust the image so that the elements of the photo I want to be most prominent will stand out and have a lively three dimensional quality. The image above is anything but lively. In fact, it’s kind of flat and muted.  Criticizing my talents as a photographer even more…the kewpie is overexposed, April’s dress — which should be pink — is washed out, the devil head isn’t very scary, and the foreground figures lack impact. Most importantly, I want it to seem as if the figures are all coming out of a vast blackness, as if the entire picture has popped from the subconscious mind. To accomplish this, I have to reduce any glare, make the blacks that much blacker, and accentuate all of the light tones. Basically, I have to do a lot of knob twiddling. Exposure, brightness, black point, vibrancy, definition, and other geeky photo things.

Let’s see how the image looks after I’ve complete my tweaking.

Better! But not yet quite done…I still want April to look a little “hotter” (in the photographic technical sense, as opposed to what you were thinking…and, honestly, could April be any hotter?!?!). I want both devil figures to take on a truer red hue, whereas they are both a bit too orange. Likewise, I want to bring out the pink in April’s dress, and in the cheeks of the kewpie head. Finally, I want the pocket Buddhas to take on a neon quality against the black vinyl records.

The software I use to process photos allows me to individually adjust saturation, hue and luminosity for any color I choose. Post color adjustments, here’s what we get.

What’s left? Well, remember the stick and putty that suspends the devil head above the stage construction?  Gotta get rid of that. I certainly don’t want the words “April Stevens” in the photo, and there’s an annoying reflection from the kewpie head right above April. There’s also this problem….

And this problem….

Basically, my copy of Teach Me Tiger wasn’t “mint” and was suffering from a lot of record wear. So, in addition to brushing out the text and carefully retouching the kewpie reflection, I repaired approximately 150 wear marks across the background, on April’s dress, her arms, shoulder and face.


And that was it! The final version….

If you look closely you’ll see that I left in just a little glare on the otherwise totally black background. There’s a red glare/reflection just below the devil head, which I chose to leave because it added a sense of “heat” to the floating head. There’s also a streak of glare just below the kewpie head, which again I chose to keep in the final photo, as it appears (to my eyes anyway) as the breath/voice of the kewpie speaking to April — who I renamed as Dixie once the photo was titled.

I ended up using a pearl finish for the final printed photo, which gave all of the characters a shimmering three dimensional quality — exactly what I was looking for!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at my process!

Read Full Post »

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been wanting to post an image of the photo that will be on display at the Project 57 exhibit at Distinction Gallery from August 9 through September 6, but I’d been holding off until I had the frame complete. I actually took the above photo, Casting mischief from the soul of the Illegitimate Interfaith Love Child, in late May… and, finally, my new photo is ready for public view!

First, a little about the exhibit…

Project 57, as the name implies, presents work from dozens and dozens of artists on 5×7” wood panels. The logistics went something like this:

  • The gallery sends out plain, unfinished panels
  • The artist does something creative, which in most cases means that he or she paints something really cool on the panel. Yay! Art!
  • The artist packs up their work of art and sends it back to the gallery

Notice that second step… paint. Hmmm… I don’t paint, I take photographs, which are usually framed and protected by UV safe plexiglass, so I was a little mystified about what I’d do with my panel. Do I glue the photo onto the panel? Decoupage it? Apply some kind of space age heat transfer to adhere it to the wood?

I used… paint!

Well, that’s only half true. I still wanted to protect the surface of the photo, and I found a 5×7” acrylic “box” frame that fit perfectly over the wood panel. All I needed to do is drop in the photo, slide the panel into the box, and… voila!  While this would protect the photo, the sides of the panel would still be unfinished wood, so I painted the sides of the panel black, and — to tie it into the theme of my photo a little better — I painted a light gray circle in the middle of each side and applied a “creeping devil” stamp, like so:

How very devilish!

Here are a couple of photos of the finished product.

First, from above…

And a more traditional product shot.

I’ll have more detailed views of the photo in a later post, along with some behind-the-scenes analysis.  For now, enjoy my demon baby!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: