(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Myths and Legends...

Humankind has always shown creative imagination. Cave paintings can be found in Europe, Africa, Australia and many parts of the world. They tell stories about past lives and possibly the hopes of those who created these works of art. When humans started questioning their lives and the Universe, the communicated this via their art as well; Australian Aboriginal art tells stories of the Dreamland. Even before writing, humans were telling stories, weaving words to create myths and legends, many of which echo through many continents. We all share heroes and heroines, adventures of daring do, strange lands and fantastical creatures. 

My favourite is the dragon. They are large, beautiful, strong, powerful and intelligent; testosterone with wings, beauty and wiles. All of humanities strengths wrapped up in glistening armour-hard scales and (in my early-childhood-Tolkein-influenced view) encrusted with sparkling, precious jewels. Gob-smackingly beautiful. With wing-spans almost as big as a house, their muscles have to be powerful and just about every story has a dragon who outwits its attackers. Beauty, brawn and brains too!

Artistically, this has always caused me a problem. Just one day, I would love to draw a butch dragon however, when I try to draw terrifying dragons, they always end up looking cutsey. Not good unless they are aiming for lulling adventurers into a false sense of superiority. (hmm... could be an idea...) Solution: Draw just a fraction of one... Dragons are so large that we would rarely see all of it in one glance - plus I love drawing eyes... 
Roleplayer series #3 Dragons eye at Redbubble (also in print and direct sale badges and Portable Art)

While looking for a second creature drawing, for this series, I was reminded of the Cockatrice. These are interesting creatures; part chicken/Rooster and (guess what!) part Dragon! Maybe I could make this look a little more menacing? Big sharp beak and curved claws are menacing. (Have you ever been chased by an angry, territorial Rooster? Trust me - scary, painful stuff). Still not sure if it is nasty though. Maybe it was having a good day? Available at Redbubble - Roleplayer series#4 Cockatrice.

So, from pre-historic art, to myths, to cockatrice, to t-shirts; that is the segue for today. Happy Adventuring!

(and don't eat too many Easter eggs)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Badges, badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges... oh Yes you do!!!

A much lighter and shorter post today as I have a touch of gastro and having problems concentrating. I have been working on another tshirt design, with some inking done and have been finalising some colour. At the same time, I have been jotting down some more notes on a story idea and should spend some writing time, on these ideas, in the near future...

Something new I am now doing: Many of my original artworks will be available as badges for AUS$4 each (+plus postage). This is perfect for those who want artwork and are on a budget.
Add them to your badge collection!

At the moment, I can only direct debits and overseas buyers would have a fee... might have to look at etsy or ebay??? For now, information is available on my FB page Karen Carlisle Creations. This is also useful for those with FB, who just wish to know when, where and what is for sale, or where I will be. My webpage is in the process of upgrading.
Some badges now available for your perusal. Portable Art: Carry it with you!

Tomorrow I am hoping to be more hydrated and more loquacious..

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sacrifices and Blessings.

Today is Easter Friday - Good Friday or Black Friday. All names are valid. Today, I am thinking about sacrifice. Sacrifice of oneself for others, for beliefs, values or for art. This does not have to be a big gesture. Yesterday, I held a gate open for a little old lady and let her pass through first. I even smiled when I did it. I think I surprised her (manners seem to be a dying art, these days); she smiled and thanked me. I felt great. For all I know, she could have been having a terrible day and this could have lifted her spirits. I won't ever know it that was true, but what if it was. 

A little while back, there was a talkback radio discussion on depression and suicide awareness. The girl being interviewed explained that she was considering suicide. On the same day, a complete stranger smiled at her and told her that everything will be alright. Simple, seemingly useless but the girl went on to explain how this stopped her committing suicide. Useless gesture? I think not. Major sacrifice? Not really, but that stranger saved a life.

When I grew up, I had basic good manners drummed into me. (I still give my seat to pregnant women or older people. I also open doors for people). Does this make me old fashioned? I hope not. I would like to think this makes me a thoughtful person who is looking out for other members of our community. For it is a community that we live in. We are not hermits. (Though some people could step away from their computers and socialize a little.. just a thought..) I don't consider this a sacrifice. I consider it just being polite.

Then there are others, living in countries where they have to sacrifice their physical freedom or their religious freedom. The rebellious Celt in me screams in rage at this! An individual should have the right to freedom of thought, freedom of belief, physical freedom and the freedom to say so! My local church helps sponsor refugees from war torn parts of Africa where freedom is their sacrifice. 

Here I sit, in a comfortable house in Australia where I have the freedom to just be able to say that! I am so blessed. I am even blessed enough to have friends who value my right and freedom to have my beliefs, even if the don't agree with them. Would I sacrifice my freedom? That would be the hardest sacrifice for me, I think. 

On a much less serious note, there are others that sacrifice themselves for their art or writing. They sacrifice their time and usually a decent income  as well. Realistically, there are not many artists that make a fortune in following their urge to create. Luck, fame, knowing the right person or being at the right place at the right time can lead to it but, as a rule, most artists will never reach those heights. Even some of the most skilled, lauded or respected artists aren't rolling in it. Some don't achieve those heights until after they have died. Fame is probably a good selling point but it does not help the artist much once they are gone. So do I choose to sacrifice a well-paying profession for the full-time life of an artist? So far, I have only managed enough courage for part-time and plan out a 2-5 year plan on viability... but I will always consider myself an artist first.

These days, we have the two-edged sword of the internet. It promises to make artists' and writers' work known to a wider audience (a good thing here in Australia as our population is so small) but it also threatens to cut our hearts out - potentially destroying any chance of making a 'decent living' as it makes it so much easier to steal creative work, flouting copyright and making a quick buck... usually not for the artist. (That is a whole new rant for me at a later stage). This should not be a sacrifice that any artist should have to make. 

So again, I sit in my lounge room, typing on my laptop, pontificating. But you don't know the real sacrifices I have made to get here. I don't know the sacrifices you make in reading this. No one can know the life of others', their history, the sacrifices they make to be able to live the lives they want, or the sacrifices they have had to endure to live the life they are right now. The one thing I know for certain is that I am lucky enough to be able to decide what I sacrifice for my beliefs and my art/writing. Others are not as lucky. What I do know, is that I can strive to  be respectful and caring to others.  Maybe they are not as lucky as me. Maybe if more of us thought of others, the world would be a better place.

So on this Good Friday, remember don't just be good to one another, be excellent to one another!

(recreation of Russian Icon: in acrylics and gold leaf; copyright Karen Carlisle)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Inspirations this week

It has been a funny week. I have been battling an 'almost migraine' all week... but through the sickening pain, I have had some out-of-the-blue ideas for some artwork and writing. I have a germ of an idea for a steampunk story/novel set a bit earlier than is the 'traditional' Victoriana setting. Currently, I am doing some fact checking for some historical references; I have written down some ideas and will see if this grows into something more.

While doodling, I did a quick pencil sketch with quite pleasing curves so I decided to ink it up. I am reasonably happy with this one which seemed to flow from the pen, so easily...

My inspiration was actually Marie Antionette with the tall, white wigs and the beauty spot (the Octopus has a mirrored beauty spot too). I was reminded of the outrageous wigs that were reported: with actual bird's nests and model ships. I even read about one that had a model ship that had working cannons! So adding an octopus, in place of a wig, did not actually seem that outrageous.  Maybe it would also help to keep the all-pervasive lice numbers down (that were common in that era); yet again the octopus is a helpful friend to those in need!

Colours? The wigs were often powdered, pale whites, pinks etc. So I was thinking pale whites with pinks and maybe a touch of red for the 'octo-wig'. Back to GIMP and learning how to add highlights, this time. I would really love a Wacom Cintiq to do this but really can't afford that right now so am researching my options. My wrist is not happy with using a mouse to 'draw' on the computer.

Opinions sort: I did the first with pale pink to mimic the wigs, but it was too pale. The second is blue which I think contrasts better with the face. It is obviously a girly pic, so I wanted to keep it pale. What do you think?
In the end, I decided to use the blue one, as there was more contrast with the face. I think the pink was just too pale, especially if it was on a white t-shirt. You can find #5 in Octopus/Kraken series: Marie Octonette at Redbubble.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First month successfully completed.

Diaries and blogs have always had the benefit of the "I have said it, therefore I have to deliver" factor. This has definately been true with writing this blog over the past 32 days - over 2000 words, just on the blog. It has made me practice, practice, practice. I think it has helped with my writing; I have written a new character for my current story. It has given me a new idea for another, unrelated story and prompted me to read more about writing techniques.

One disadvantage is that I have to stare at a blank page, every day, and try to find something to write about; something that will be interesting, creative and not repetitive. But, with this daily practice, I am finding it easier to write 300-800 words on a subject. Slowly, I am finding that any subject that has surfaced during the day, could become fodder for my writing. I am gaining a routine of starting to write the night before, review my scribblings the next morning, with a fresh eye to mistakes, editing or ideas. Sometimes I find myself writing a completely different post, leaving the previous one to the 'in case I need it later' pile. 

Regular practice has helped to boost confidence in my writing (and most of all, in letting others read my writing!) I mustn't be too boring, as my regular daily reading numbers have doubled, during the month. I even have some followers! *waves*  

My drawing has also benefited. Writing about my  thought processes and plans have helped my ideas to coalesce, giving birth to new themes, such as the Octopus/Kraken series (now 4 in number and with the fifth almost finished). It led me to fossiking through my old files and finding some old D&D artwork, thus re-fuelling an old passion. Another series was born - the Roleplayer chararcter series (now up to #2, not including the 'creatures'.  I have also had the gumption to start learning to do some work on the computer. 

My old art mojo is back. The pencil is behaving and the ink flowing. I made the decision to concentrate on original work and not base my work solely on the fandom, television or movie genre, mainly to avoid any un-intentional copyright issues and there are already plenty others going down that road. So, though I would love dearly to go down the Doctor Who/Star Wars/Star Trek etc path, I decided I wanted to 'be my own girl' as it were. 

Finally, my photography has also benefited. I have a small gallery of photos at a shop - Bullina China Shop, at North Park. I see photo opportunities almost everywhere I go. I am getting 'my eye' back in. I have done more photo shoots and  been asked to do two different shoots, giving me more experience with location work.. I have found I now have a passion for location work and prefer it over studio work. I have gained confidence in using only available lighting without apologising for being different; I have often been told that studio lighting is the 'thing to do'. 

Overall, starting this blog has been beneficial to ensuring I practice my writing, photography and art regularly. It has made me think about the processes of my work and critique myself. Most importantly, it has improved my confidence in allowing others to view my work (which is the scariest of all!)  Lastly, dear Reader, I hope you have enjoyed the ride and will continue to follow my journey with me. Feel free to share my blog, my links, invite others to join. Please take a look at my works on Redbubble. Follow my work if you like it. 

Thank you for sticking around and reading!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Steam Trek tshirt results

Thanks to the feedback, from here, Livejournal and Facebook... was there has already been an overwelming 'vote' for the blue, blingy background. I am happy, as that was my favourite... sort of starry nightish. I think it is a bit more positive, more interesting and leaves me with a happier feeling. Colour me happy, again.

I have uploaded it to Redbubble... #4 in the Octopus/Kraken series: Steam Trek.

Sneak preview of new artwork

Drawing mojo is back online and I have been doodling again. It is amazing how often, I start drawing one thing and it metamorphises itself into something completely different. I must be channeling octopi again...

This started as a purely Steampunk styled drawing of a space ship and I just had to put an ocotpus in. But, of course, they can't breathe in space, can they? So I added a little ship attatchment for him as well, with porthole-like windows for him to be able to see. His job? A stand-in for the articulated claws, extending from the space ship for manipulations and for repairs, of course!

Initially, it looked more like an airship or a metallic balloon. As I had already drawn a Deep Sea Ballooning Octopus, I wanted this to look more like a space ship. I added some planetoids (could end up being more moon-like) and a wibbly, wobbly, spacey, wacey bit of atmosphere that will end up with a starry night feel, if my GIMP-foo works out and I learn how to do some starry add-ons later.

Just as I was about to ink, I had an urge to add a Victorian-Steampunk astronaut doing a space walk... to retrieve his top hat. Leaving it at that, there was now more nib work. This one took a little longer than usual as I could not decide on the final positions of the octopus's legs and I changed the shape of the bell at the bottom.

While waiting for the main image to dry, I could still not decide whether I wanted to keep the spacey background...
I know I have mentioned how computers and I have a love-hate relationship. I doubt this will ever really change. Can't teach an old dog new trick, my mum used to say... though my old cat seems to be quite wily and often surprises us....

Layers, layers, layers. I had to use layers for this image. One for the spacescape and another for the main subject. I must admit that one advantage of the computer, over hand-colouring, is the ease in which it can be altered, erased or changed without having to redraw the inkwork. In this case, it also allowed me to ink the main subject and then ink the spacey background separately. In this way, I could add the layers, then decide whether to keep the background, or leave it off. Much easier than trying to remove the ink afterwards!

I have three versions now and can't make up my mind which to make as the final t-shirt version. Which do you prefer?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Is intelligent humour too much to ask for? (warning: some coarse language)

(Apologies to some... I don't know how to change the setting for just one post).

Drawing mojo was not happening. This has not been helped by a stressful week, last week. So, we watched a movie. The blurb had promised me a science fiction comedy. (Just what I  needed!). I love a well written, cleverly plotted out storyline that either challenges the 'little grey cells' or, in the case of a comedy, evokes a snicker (or even better - a belly laugh).  However, this was not to be. What it actually offered was boredom and crassness that was more tasteless than comedic. How many times can you call someone a 'dick', say 'shit' and f*** and think it is funny? Ten minutes discussing male masturbation is funny? Am I getting too old for what is considered humour, these days and am I wrong to lament the decline of witty writing?

Then there was the script, if you could call it that. However, it was in serious need of editing. Honestly, could it have moved any slower? My eleven year old writes better constructed and faster-paced storylines than this! Seventy minutes into the movie, and we had seen the alien three times and implied once, for a possible of ten minutes all up. Then finally we hear about the alien invasion (about time) and the story gets moving. The last twenty minutes were more interesting and faster paced than the rest of the entire movie. Even if the jokes were so drawn out that they induced boredom (You remember that kid at school that just kept milking a joke for all it was worth? Then explaining it. Then trying the same joke over and over again.... )

Instead of advancing the plot with witty, quick and intelligent gags or one-liners, every second word seemed to be an expletive and any excuse to mention reproductive body parts was used with vigour. Personally, I found it very uncomfortable and boring as hell. The only time this much swearing was ever funny was when Billy Connolly does his comedy routines. But Billy Connolly did it with style and intelligence. I shouldn't have been surprised when I later looked up the movie information and found out that Seth Rogan was one of the writers. Serves me right for not finding out more information about it before hand.

Shall I compare this movie to Cowboys vs Aliens? Though not a comedy, it had one similar feature - the aliens were not featured til well into the story. But... the editing was slicker, the script much better written and characters better developed in their relationships (and other than Clint Eastwood movies, I don't like westerns as a rule). But wait, you say, 'this is a comedy'. 'Yes', I reply. 'Since when does that mean the characters must remain one-dimensional and scenes not actually work towards furthering the plot?'.

Shall I compare this movie to Evolution? This was billed as a science fiction comedy as well. The plot advanced quickly, jokes actually served a purpose and added information and plot to the storyline (even the fart and bottom jokes). The characters were more entertaining and, though stereotypical, were more rounded in personality and didn't make me feel like I wanted to punch their lights out. 

The only forgiving quality of this 'science fiction comedy' was the soundtrack. For example: Sounds of Silence (in Spanish) and People are Strange. I don't often fast forward through a movie with such gusto, but honestly this improved the movie in my opinion.

I don't know about you, but I usually watch comedies and feel better at the end. Even such dark comedies as Death becomes Her and War of the Roses left me with a better feeling, when the movies ended. 

Won't be recommending this movie... ever...

Yibbitta, yibbitta... That's all folks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Board games in the dark...

Last night was Earth Hour. This means we turned our power off (except for the fridge) from 8.30 pm til 9.30pm.  Not a big deal really. We listened to the crickets and played board games, as a family. One of my freinds says it is a crock, as the power stations still supply power and nothing is saved. I disagree and I don't apologise. I have been harping on about renewable energy, and water wastage since the 1980s. (Possibly something to do with being a farm girl, with generated power and water tanks)

Earth hour started, in Sydney Australia, seven years ago. (We have participated every year, so far). It is  meant to help raise awareness about climate change, the environment. Last year, over 7000 cities and 152 countries took part in Earth Hour.  Earth Hour is not just about using less power; this year the main slant was to get people thinking about alternative, renewable energy and think seriously about changing the household to solar power. I have had solar power, at home, for almost four years now. When I was in high school, we were the only people we knew that had solar hot water.

Earth hour also brings me some peace and quiet and solace from an ever-quickening world. The television is off. The computers are shut down. There is no music. Just the family, usually a board game and the crickets outside. Some years we read books, by candlelight. (Not the electronic kind; they use power!). It is a hour of conversation, free of electronic garble and always recharges my batteries (pardon the pun). Why are some people so scared of just an hour without electronic devices?

mobile phone pic as we began ....

It is not just households that join in. Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State building, the Great Pyramids at Giza and even Las Vagas strip have taken part, all turning the power off for Earth Hour. This is more monumental than you think. People will see the lights go off, at these very prominent places, and maybe they will wonder if they can do it too! Pledges are made to turn off; if power companies are on the ball, they will not have to produce so much power and energy is conserved. 

If nothing else, Earth Hour serves to make us aware of how much power we overuse, or waste, every day. How can you make a difference? Turn power switches off at the wall when you are not using an appliance. We have remote control power boards; with one press all of the electrical equipment gets turned off at night. If you use an airconditioner; keep it no cooler/hotter than 23 degC. The larger the difference you try to cool or heat to, the more power is used. Use rechargable batteries, especially if they are solar rechargable. Sweep instead of vacuuming. Sun dry clothes instead of using a dryer. Read a book. A real one! 

So, as you can probably guess, I do not think it is a crock and it is definately not a waste of time. There are a lot of things you can do with the lights off. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gearing up for a new adventure

As I have previously mentioned, we have a new D&D adventure starting up soon; I am in the middle of creating a new character and am forming her picture in my head, so I can do a character drawing. For the past fortnight, I have been trawling though my old roleplaying folders.  Some I have not seen for over twenty years!  I had a vague memory of some character drawings that I had done for a role-playing tournament in 1988! These were shaded in pencil, as the tournament adventure book was photocopied in black and white... I am talking 1988 here; no computer scanning or cheap colour photocopies were available. It was all cut and past back then. Finally, I found them and, as an added bonus, I also found some old original drawings of mine that I did for Australian Realms (a now defunct Australian Role Playing magazine) that I did some articles and artwork for. Some of these I had thought were lost forever. Colour me happy!

One reason why I had gone searching was to satisfy my burning curiosity to see if I still had the drawings, or if they had been lost over the years, and because I wanted to revamp some of them for my Roleplaying series of t-shirts. Yes, I could (and will) draw some new characters but I wanted to use 'classic' drawings I had done, back in the days when we would (tabletop) roleplay for days on end... literally!! Ah, the days of youth!

Looking though the old drawings, I also found character sketch of a thief (or now more commonly known as a rogue, in D&D). This is one of my thief characters, from 1991. She had been a member of a (celtic-like) tribe. If I remember rightly, she may have been the character who kept telling the party that the newcomer was a doppleganger and should not be trusted. No one believed her... until it was too late. She was the only character of mine that ever died; she was killed by the doppleganger but she died knowing that she was right. When the rest of the party were eventually killed, they finally acknowledged that she had been correct about the doppleganger. Sigh.

Unfortunately, this was one of the drawings that I had shaded in pencil, making it a more difficult task for me to revamp it. Honestly, it would have been quicker if I had redrawn it! However, it would not have been the same drawing with the same atmosphere. On the upside, I got a lot of practice in using GIMP and learnt a new feature. 

I scanned the original drawing, tried to remove the pencil work with no luck. Finally, I decided to manually erase most of the shading before I coloured it. Some of the shading was left to give more texture to the drawing... and because I was getting exhausted erasing bits! I learnt a lot about colouring in layers, with this project.

Many people draw traditional thieves in black and browns only. My thieves were usually female and liked a bit of colour. Not too bright though. The colours still need to be able to blend in shadows when needed. 

Finally, the next t-shirt in the Roleplayer series:
#2 in the Rogue/ Thief is now available on Redbubble. 
Also available in prints.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Grass is Always Greener...

Sometimes I think I have my fingers in too many pies, as they say. I am torn between drawing, photography, writing and costuming. Each pulls at me to be the centre of my attention. Who wins depends on my mood or whim of the day. Sometimes I will decide 'today, I am going to take pictures of the old car up the street' or 'today I am going to write a short story'. 

Often, I work better to a deadline. If I know that a drawing or costume is due by the end of the month, then I can no longer procrastinate. Why do I procrasinate? I have often thought about this very question. If I love creating things so much, why do I sometimes put off completing it? I have asked myself that question many times, with varying excuses but usually only one answer. What if I am not good enough? 

I have been cursed with good grades, at school and university. Though I am blessed with abilities and I can usually learn new creative skills to a reasonable level, I say cursed because I have rarely had to deal with extreme failure in my work. It always works out in the end, to a satisfactory degree at least. It took me til well into my adulthood, and one failed marriage, to realise that my biggest fear is not needles, but the fear of failure. This is not a good thing. It is very hard to deal with and not a pleasant one to discover. It can be debilitating. 

We often hear the phrase The grass is always greener on the other side. I experience that regularly.  with my art, with my writing or with my costuming. Walking around artist's row, at the convention the other weekend, reminded me of this saying. It even came up in a conversation with one of the artists. I was admiring their work (and yes, there was a bit of envy... why do my dragons always end up looking cute and not fiery and menacing... argh!!!) and we got talking about technical stuff. It was a great conversation.. and I was reminded of something most important. I am not the only artist who wishes I could draw like 'x'. I am not the only person who looks at the work of others' and wishes that I could draw like that (or costume like that)! 

Each artist, or writer, is unique. We have our own abilities. We have our vision. Sometimes we struggle to share it in the way we want. Sometimes we envy others or strive to be like them. But, in the end, we are all individuals with differing lives, differing struggles and differing muses. This is why we are not all the same. This is why our work has to be different. 

It has taken me years, after my realisation, to even attempt to quell my fear of failure. I have developed many techniques to help me. I practice more; writing this blog (letting people actually read my work!), writing short stories (and more importantly, trying to finish them), randomly sketching for fun (trying to quench the impluse to overdo it or take it too seriously), taking more time to finish my costumes and enjoy the process (rather than hurriedly finishing it up... just in case it is not good enough). Even if I can see all the mistakes and the myriad of things I am not satisfied with, I can at least enjoy the process.

I still admire the work of others but am slowly learning that I am my own person, with my own creations and the only person who I really have to satisfy is myself... then I am not a failure. Stopping doing my art would be the failure.It is just and added bonus, if others like it too...

at least, that is what I keep telling myself.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Talent vs Popularity?

While spending way too much time on the computer (It was another hot day out), I was forwarded a link to this article: The Pursuit of Cosplay Fame. It is worth a read.

Just last weekend, some friends and I had been discussing a very similar topic in regards to cooking/talent and reality shows. Even  in 'cooking' competition shows, there are contestants (not so) subtly back stabbing and sewing seeds of disharmony, dissent and digusting lies, in some cases. (I watched an episode as an acquaintance loves  the show and recommended I watch it. I was hoping for some cooking tips and recipes... um... no). 

As a rule, I don't watch reality shows where contestants are 'voted off'. I can't stand the Machiavellian machinations and the bitching that that is associated with it. Unfortunately this seems to be engendering a culture of popularity contests vs admiration for ability or talent; this constant fodder from the television has the ability to reshape viewer thinking, over a period of time. Just like advertisements shape our buying and eating habits. Rather than being judged on  ability and talent, success is being judged by popularity instead, whether engineered or not.  This is not just in costuming... 

Before I go any further, I am letting you know that I am an old school costumer and the following is not a judgement on any costumers, but my personal outlook on costuming. Not everyone has the skills to make their own costume. They may buy it or have it made for them. I have no problem with that. As long, as they acknowledge the artist who made the costume. What is surprising, and a little disappointing,  in changing costuming practices, is the eye opener on how many costumers did not actually make any of their costumes, but claim they have. I feel for the tailor who made the costume should be acknowledged for their work; the model is lauded for how well it is worn. It is a bit like stealing the copyright of a artist or photographer by claiming the work. 

I digress.. sorry.. 

Talent and skill should be recognised! Some costumers are bloody brilliant at their work and their skills could rival professionals in theatre or film. But they don't get the time of day, by many, because they are not a perfect model, or don't have the numbers praising their blog. They should be judged on their skills, not just how popular they are, how many 'likes' or 'followers' they have or how drop-dead-gorgeous they are. If you truly like their work and skill, then they deserve your praise for costuming, whether they have better glamorous photos on the web or not. 

Next time you see someone in costume, don't just check out how sexy they look, how many groupies they have, how professional their photos look, how spiffy their website or blog is or whether you recognise the name or not. Check out their costume, the work involved and the skill required to make it - no matter what size they are, or how popular their character is. And please, don't criticize them because they don't live up to the media's expectation of 'beauty' or if they don't have the minimum requisite likes  that some consider the pinnacle of fame.

This also goes for artists or writers, in fandom or no.

Popularity is just a concept. Talent actually produces something. The popularity will fade, but their skills can only improve if they are fostered and encouraged.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In the Shade of Octopus

Is that a ambiguous enough title for you? Nothing too complicated, I assure you. I was tempted to say something along the lines of Eight Shades of Octopus, to get your attention, but that was a bit silly really. Some of you will guess that I have been working on a new t-shirt, for my Octopus/Kraken series. If not, read my post Wibbly, Wobbly, Octopussy t-shirty stuff. #1 was a chestbuster Kraken, #2 was Deep Sea Ballooning. But what for #3?

Ideas sometimes flow easily, sometimes not. So, I put my thinking cap on. What shapes can octopi form and for what functions can they be of service? This series has a steampunk/ Victorian feel, so nothing too modern but something that is practical. What else but a Victorian woman having a picnic? She would not want to damage her delicate skin, so would need her parasol. Yep, the shade refers to that of an umbrella or parasol...

#1 had browns and orange/yellow/ #2 had red/yellow/brown;I wanted different colours, this time around. Blue/purple/greys? I had seen some pictures of live octopi with gorgeous, almost luminescent rings. That was something I wanted to create. The original drawing was pencilled and then inked with my nib. After scanning, I added colours via GIMP.

I decided to use this as an experiment on trying to learn to make layers of colours, on the computer. Firstly I coloured the woman, then coloured the octopus in shades of blue. I then created a second layer and coloured just the octopus, this time in purples. Once I worked out how to add the two layers together, I lined them up with the blue layer underneath the main picture. I used the eraser, to 'draw' circles on the octopus for a multi-coloured effect.

Voila! In the Shade of Octopus- protection for the skin and ready to carry all essentials! Available on Redbubble.

I am planning some more artwork, along the Victorian/steampunk styling, so am off to do some more doodling.

What sort of steampunk images are people interested in? People, mechanicals? Let me know what sort of things you are interested in.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Walking on shattered glass would be easier

Stress and anxiety are like a blanket that wraps and constricts - familiar but uncomfortable at first, gradually twisting and tightening until it has a stranglehold. Too late, is the discovery that it has become too familiar and now almost impossible to untangle and escape. it is suffocating, exhausting and so terrifying that the heart races, pounding painfully in the chest. The sharp breaths quickening beyond control.

The senses are highlighted, with the slightest, sudden movement capable of skyrocketing the blood pressure. Muscles are primed, like coils, ready to spring at the slightest unexpected noise. Apologies follow; the object knocked over, the drink spilled or the explosive expletive uttered in the most inappropriate circumstances.

Live in the moment. Breathe from the stomach. Slow down the heart rate. Relax. Easy said, seldom achieved. What was the thinking behind that? Is it really likely to happen? Think of the positives, deal with the negatives. So much to ponder, while simultaneously trying to avoid thoughts of the cause. A contradiction in concepts with no short term relief. 

Live in the moment. Find my bliss. So simple sounding but so difficult to achieve. Time is spent in an attempt to indulge hobbies, pursuits, passions that may comfort. For a time this appears to work. The nerves apparently unwind, the hands shake less. But unexpected shards pierce the newly grown armour, exposing the charade and the nerves snap. Like an overstretched elastic band, the resulting collapse is painful. There is less enthusiasm for beginning... yet again... on the long road back to that familiar point.

How many times must this same road be traveled before that safe place is reached? How long will all this last? Like Pavlov's dogs, it is apparenlty a learned reponse of flight rather than fight; the fight is all gone and the will is almost broken.  I long to fly free.

In the mean time, I will continue on this unsure path. The vocation that promised me security, has broken me, leaving me with insecurity. The thought of it terrifies me beyond words. My prose is cathartic. My art consoles me. Mr faith comforts me. My family support and love me. My books inspire me.

I am stressed but I am blessed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Anatomy of a Fun Costumed Photoshoot

Yesterday, I was asked to do a small photoshoot for the Stargate costumers (I really can't get used to the term cosplay). It was great to work with people, who have worked so hard to get their costume looking so 'realistic' (if you can call it realistic as it is based on a television show). 

We shot the pictures outside on a bright sunny day. The best thing to do, in this situation, is to seek out some shade, to reduce the harsh lighting which creates hard edged shadows. We were at the showgrounds, for the convention, so we found shade near the buildings, then on the grass area which was in the mottled shade of the nearby trees. Fortunately, it was the latter half  of the afternoon, so the sun was not directly overhead so the trees were casting long shadows. 

Shooting outside can still have its issues. It was more important, in this case, that the subjects were exposed and leave the background to be overexposed, as it was difficult to control. A fill in flash would have worked great for individual or smaller groups but did not really cut the mustard for the depth of the picture here. The back subjects were too far away, in this case. If I had a full on lighting set up, this would have provided more lighting and a fill in flash. In this case, not being an official convention photographer, anything but a single on/off camera slave flash was a possibility. Tip: work with what you have to make the best image at the time!  Being a Stargate shoot, the blown out background washes out the mundane backgrounds and gives a more 'otherworldly, sun or sand blasted feel'. The most important thing is produce images that the 'client' is happy with (while indulging my artistic muse)

Though hardly ever with perfect lighting conditions or equipment, nor controllable surroundings, I really enjoy outdoor or impromptu photo shoots and candid portrait shots. There is the challenge of finding the most appropriate surroundings (without too much cluttering up the background), combined with the optimum (not always achieved) lighting conditions to give the most flattering lighting for the subjects. Often the background has to be manipulated, either with creative blur (minimizing depth of field), or overexposing the background on purpose. Many textbooks may discourage this, but my philosophy is that photography is about art and the subject. Exposure is, to a certain extent, a matter of personal preference and sometimes can be overexposed, sacrificing it for the benefit of the subject.  

On the subject of background: I was constantly moving bags and covering up pots (for the planters below) to removed unwanted items in the background. Always keep a lookout for items (or passersby) in the background. In this image, I had to wait for the dear little old lady with the walker to pass by (walking between the subjects and the plant pots) so there were not extra legs or a head growing out of a shoulder or arm! Patience, patience (remember to explain the delay to the subjects) Even then, you can't always move the rubbish bins.. but hopefully they were less noticeable!

Finally, what really makes a photo shoot, is when the subject(s) trust the photographer. I do know what we are doing. I have a vision. I have done this before.  But this vision is usually tempered with consultation, in a structured photo shoot. I asked the group what sort of pictures they wanted; communication is crucial - especially if you are not the one initiating the shoot. They left most of it up to me but did request we have some images shot the grass area. This group were wonderful to work with! I wish all my subjects were like them! Though they had ideas, they were willing to be positioned, re-positioned and instructed. 

As a photographer, I am expected to have imaginative, flattering (and hopefully not too run of the mill) ideas. My biggest tip: listen to the subjects (but with a photographer's eye. You do not have to do all of their ideas but be diplomatic about it.). Some will have an idea that I had not seen; 'Daniel' saw the phone booth and decided to dial home as the DHD was not working... Being quick to seize an opportunity can give some unexpected and fun pictures. No time to fiddle with the technicalities - just shoot. Usually, a candid shot cannot be recreated. Asking to 'redo it', will rarely give the same expression or naturalness.. One way of capturing this 'naturalness' is to set up the pic, take the formal one, then get ready to shoot quickly as they relax afterwards. Sometimes I call out random instructions. In this case, it was "Incoming!" this worked well as the group were into their characters ... loved the reactions!

I had a great time doing this shoot. The group had their own ideas, were willing to listen to my ideas and were patient when I had to set up the technical stuff... 
Together we created some fun images. That is how it works: teamwork between myself and the subjects...

Be excellent to each other...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Portrait of a convention

Today, is the second day of a pop culture convention here. Day 2 of taking more photos! I decided to try to restrict myself to only my prime 50mm lens so I could concentrate on composition and have the added bonus of a larger aperture; there would be a lot of people, in the background, and the smaller depth of focus meant that the subject would 'pop' with clarity, leaving a more unfocused background so the viewers' attention is less distracted. 

This lens also seems to be a favourite for portrait photography and I can see why. It has become my favourite, as I have mentioned in previous posts. As you may also be suspecting, I love getting in close and personal, with a lot of my photos. This lens is perfect for this. However, occasionally I want a full length shot, I have to take several (and then a few more) steps away from the subject. This is interesting as much that I have read, about this lens, usually mentions that the photographer has to be willing to step in closer for a shot. 

I have been attending SF conventions, since the 1980s. I love meeting up with friends, dressing up as my favourite characters (and the buzz and satisfaction of creating the costume myself). Secondary, but I cannot deny a big part, is meeting the actors that create my favourite characters. We used to attend fan cons, with any (usually little) profit being given to charity. We had fun and interesting panels, often with the GOH (guest of honour) participatining, discussions on scripts, characters, sometimes even philosophy and metaphysics! And the charity auction, often with momentos donated by the GOH. These days, the panels are now just 'talks' by the guests, with some questions. While entertaining, is not really the same intellectual fodder. (oops, that is sounding really old and grumpy)... I do miss those smaller, more personal conventions, I must admit. What I don't like now, is the commercialism of it all. Large lines that take hours to get to meet/see the actor for 3-5 seconds. 

Conventions have changed. I cannot do anything about that. I can just sigh heavily and reminisce about the past.  What I can do is try to find other things to enjoy about them. Yesterday, Richard Dean Anderson greeted us to the photo session, with open arms "Welcome to the Carlisles!" (my thought was how the... then realised our SGU uniforms had our names on them. Duh!) J G Hertzler (General Martok, Star Trek), in full Klingon regalia (it was so cool, I have always wanted a Klingon costume of that calibre!), passed us in the hall. I had my hair in a long braid. He stopped, smiled and asked it was my own hair. I confirmed the fact. He gently tugged it and told me about his sister used to have braids and he would pull them.  I have also found that the larger conventions can provide a smorgasbord of photo opportunities. So many people, so many costumes, so many colours! 
... and just occasionally a brilliant shot that I will treasure. Just like the new memories I collect.

Some photos from today

from Oz Comic Con today, as compensation