Posts Tagged ‘records’

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 »

Once upon the time, while running late for a movie and standing stuck behind a pair of large sedentary  teens on an escalator at the mall, I planned on writing a book with the above title.  In the many years that have passed, and constant observations that support the title, I have yet to pen word-one of my cynical (but true!) worldview.

So I’m starting a blog instead.

This is my blog.

It’s not just about teens intellectually lost in a world of consumerism and  illiterate text messages, I’ll also be writing about more engaging topics like art, music, books, film, and awesome toys.  I’ll also be posting about my own creative pursuits, like fine art photography and writing projects.

So there you go!  It’s my first blog entry, so I intentionally set the bar extremely low — curb level for my first step.

Next time, I may even post a picture or two.

Read Full Post »

Helen's trip to the fertility clinic dashes Walter's plans for a secret seaside rendezvous

Exciting news, folks!  On Thursday, March 4th and Saturday, March 6th, we will have an item featured in Etsy’s “Artwork for Every Room” Showcase!  The Showcase is a nifty feature on Etsy that displays the top-selling and favorite items of Etsy sellers.  Our first item, an Album Edition of Helen’s trip to the fertility clinic dashes Walter’s plans for a secret seaside rendezvous is priced at $25.00.  “Helen,” as she is affectionately known at Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares HQ, will be linked for 24 hours from a prominent banner on Etsy’s home page.  The entire Showcase will run from Monday, March 1, 2010 12 a.m. ET until Sunday, March 7, 2010, 11:59 p.m. ET.  The renewal and regrowth of of Spring inspires many of us to clean, organize, and spruce up our homes.  Adding art work to your daily life can be incredibly fulfilling, so please visit and support all the wonderful art Etsy has to offer.

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 »

Just in time for the holidays, we now offer smaller-sized editions of some of our most popular photographs!  Inspired by classic lp’s, we wanted to create photos that are the same high-quality as our limited editions, but at a lower, more affordable price. We now have 10 album editions ready for your purchasing pleasure that span work from 2006, 2007, and the Plastic Prophets series. (Some of these aren’t currently available as limited editions, so you have the chance to own a piece that is a completely new release!) Why buy another boring gift card or shower gel set when you can select something truly unique? Give something that shows you care and have excellent artistic taste. Not only will your photo arrive packaged with the utmost care, you will also receive a signed mini Certificate of Authentication and a fun Plastic Prophets photo sticker. At prices this sweet, no one will accuse you of being a Scrooge if you pick up a few for yourself. And don’t forget, all limited edition prints are still 30% off through December 31. From everyone here at Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares, Happy Holidays!

Read Full Post »

Saturday night saw the opening reception for And The Beat Goes On, the music-themed group show at New Puppy Gallery in Los Angeles that includes two of my photos, plus a three dimensional installation of records, toys, and scary religious collectibles. The reception was a lot of fun, with DJs on hand to spin very, very cool music, a live band setup inside to rock out the art, and a trio of artists painting live in the middle of the gallery’s main room.

The music motif was a perfect match for my photographic creations. Records? Albums? Pop culture? The hard part was picking just two to grace the gallery walls! I went with…

Lorraine leaps upon the red carpet to get her first delicious taste of paparazzi fame at the 1959 Grammys


Backstage pass in the ninth circle of Hell

The gallery ended up using “Backstage pass” as the desktop image on a send-a picture-email-from-the-show gizmo. It worked sort of like a photo booth with a touch screen and a camera, and a friendly voice that counted down to let you know when it was about to snap a picture. I was all prepared to send out photo postcards to all my friends, but went into email amnesia and could only remember my own email address. Sorry friends. Maybe next time…

Crowds were steady all evening and a lot of people dropped in to take in the show. The most exciting part for me was watching the delight in people’s eyes as they walked around my installation looking at the various vignettes I’d staged. Cameras were out in force, and I was happy to see people taking lots of photos; in a sense, having the opportunity to create their very own Wind-up Dreams.

The installation took about 5 hours or so to setup, spread across Friday night and Saturday morning. I covered most of a 6’ by 3’ table with album covers, 45s, toys, books, pennies, candles, booklets, statues, and various familiar yet perplexing objects. It was fun!!

Unfortunately, I — the supposed “professional photographer” — neglected to check the settings on my handy little Canon point’n’shoot, so my photos from the reception are less than impressive. Oh well. Here are a few I salvaged:

A view from the front taken Saturday morning after I’d finished the construction.

Detail view of a vignette on the left side.

Detail of one of the vignettes on the right side.  You’ll notice the return of the “coffee robot” from my 2007 Vinyl Mysteries show.

A view from the back of the installation shortly after the reception had started.

Another view from the back.

Detail on the left side…

Pennies! All hail the sacred kewpie head!

People crowding around and lusting over my toys.

Photo op!

I promise much better photos down the road. I’m planning on reshooting the installation with my dSLR, and taking a movie that travels all around the setup so you can see all of the vignettes.

Thanks for watching!

Read Full Post »

Frank and Betty get pinned without a care in the world

Behold!  Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares hereby reveals the third of five prophecies from the Plastic Prophet.  In your desire for Unity, I predict you will want to bebop with your sweetheart at the local burger joint, add some rhythm and soul to your life, mourn love lost, plot your revenge, and start the search all over again. You shall click your way over to Etsy and find the answers to these mysteries and add them to your cart with the knowledge that you have fulfilled your destiny.  You shall also return at the beginning of each month through August to discover what new Prophecy I will reveal.  Thus sayeth the Plastic Prophet.

(Fresh from a messy divorce) Kitty plots an ensemble for her next midnight prowl

The Allegory of Sanctimonious Regret

The Allegory of Sanctimonious Revenge

Leroy and his Singing Flamingos are invited to a rose garden soirée

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 »

Hear ye! Hear ye! Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares hereby reveals the first of five prophecies from the Plastic Prophet. In your quest for Self Improvement, I predict you will desire new and glorious works of art for your humble abode and that these works will provide you with the zest for  life, vibrancy, and humor you have been searching for. You shall click your way over to Etsy and find such works of art and add them to your cart with the knowledge that you have fulfilled your destiny. You shall also return at the beginning of each month from now through August to discover what new Prophecy I will reveal. Thus sayeth the Plastic Prophet.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: