artistic life

All posts in the artistic life category

Influences Revisited: Remembering Brooke McCarter

Published December 22, 2017 by admin

December and I have a complicated relationship. I want to like it, I do like it, but I’m very aware of the other side of things, and things always seem to go sideways or fall apart during this month for me in some form or another.

But there’s the other side to that, too, because at a certain point, you begin to…or at least try to acknowledge the good even those moments and people have had in your life. For me, December is definitely that battle of realism vs wanting to still believe and fighting to maintain that belief.

I definitely know the agony of what it’s like to lose someone right before the holidays. The anniversary of my grandfather’s death (among a handful of other personal anniversaries I’d rather forget), always gives me pause every single year. And yet (like I said in the elf post), there are bright candle sparks in the night in those moments, too, especially if they help me remember people who touched my life and made it better. And I am extremely lucky to have met a lot of amazing people full of that positive, candle-bright glow during the course of my life.

So yeah, one of those days, and we’re going to do the revisit an old blog post thing to make it a little easier. Part of it’s practical – admittedly I always feel pressured to come up with content this time of year and that with everything else can take a toll (hence all the reposts so I don’t have to think as much). More than that, though, I just plain don’t like good people to be forgotten.

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Obviously those who inspire are important to me, and I want to touch on a special one today.

I went back and forth forever about this one.  I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to post when it happened. December is not an easy month for me anyway, and this was the thing that made me take a break this year. Also, as of a year and a half ago I’ve lost one of my best friends and mentors, two people who pretty much helped raise me, as well as one of the biggest influences of my life. I’ve been selective in what I talk about publicly because otherwise this would be the most depressing blog ever. And, there’s that little, insidious part of me that is aware that there are people who knew him way better, who were much closer, and what do my words really mean in the scheme of things anyway?

At the end of the day, though, that’s silly, and I’m also well aware that Brooke would tell me just that, so whether these words help remember him or are just for me, here they are.

So I’ve done a lot of posts on Lost Boys through the years. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about why it was a turning point for me, and that’ll happen at a later date. Let’s just say it influenced my costume design work and obviously my writing. Somewhere between those two time frames, though, Brooke McCarter became my friend.

It feels like ages, but I suppose it was only like seven years ago that I met him at a con. Meeting Brooke was like going from being completely intimidated to talking to  a good friend I hadn’t seen in forever in like twenty seconds. He has this gift to just really connect with people and I’ve always been somewhat blown away to watch that in action because it’s always genuine and from this beautiful, sincere place. We got to talking because I was near an area he’d grown up in, and I’ve got the most incongruous, out of the box collection of entertainment work experiences ever. A couple ideas were kicked around, and life went on.

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Happy Star Wars Day! or Thoughts on Leia Revisited

Published December 15, 2017 by admin

Since we’re celebrating Star Wars today, I thought I’d revisit this post, especially since Carrie Fisher is no longer with us.

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So while the world is doing their best of lists and talking about resolutions…eh, I’m just gonna do my thing. And that means talking about something near and dear to my heart.

I saw Star Wars the day after Christmas. The short version is while I get what some people are nitpicking over, I personally loved it. Having been obsessed with the franchise as a preteen, then falling out of love with it for various reasons, it’s nice to see something that feels like the universe I love again. What’s amazing to me is to also see so much inclusiveness on screen. This is huge for so many different people. From my own standpoint, if I had seen this Star Wars when I was eleven, seen women fighter pilots and First Order officers and wise aliens, and a protagonist who was confused by trying her best…yeah, I wish I had had that movie. So to that end…

woke up this morning to see Carrie Fisher firing back at accusations about her appearance in the film. Brava.  I love her so much for this, I can’t even tell you. It’s ridiculous that this is what people are focusing on, but it’s an unfortunately reality that she will always get more grief over something so silly over her male costars. Seriously? She looks great. She looks how many human women look as they get older, so way to go casting! I loved her in the movie. And to THAT end…

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Magic and Loss: Or Elfhood, Revisited

Published December 8, 2017 by admin

I did this post a few years ago, trying to explain my feelings on December. They’re many and complicated and sometimes contradictory, but I’m still really proud of this post, and long though it is, figured it deserves a second look. It gives a decent-ish summation of my world view, so there’s that. Plus, you get photographic evidence of me as an elf. You’re welcome.

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I’ve mentioned it off and on, but December is not the easiest month in the world for me. While I like the seasonal aesthetic, it seems like if anything awful, life-changing, or downright weird is going to happen, it’s likely to happen in December. Seriously, we’re talking medical-mystery grade illness with wacky false diagnoses, weather that had me hiking out of ditches and almost having to hold the door of my car closed during a snowstorm, breakups, monumental fights, family deaths, friend deaths, pet deaths, near muggings, and that time I was accidentally set on fire at Christmas Eve service. Apparently I live an active life.

It’s also traditionally been the time I’ve pulled down a lot of holiday gigs, because, eh, just because the season can be hard emotionally doesn’t mean I’m not showing up and doing what needs to be done. Obviously, sometimes the two collide in ways I could never anticipate.

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SJ Reads: Steal Like an Artist/Show Your Work

Published November 6, 2017 by admin

Since so many people are doing Nanowrimo, I thought it might be interesting to focus SJ Reads this month on books about writing and creating. I know, way to get original, amirite?

Anywho, let’s start with something light and easy.

I’d had the books of Austin Kleon recommended to me before, but because I am a stubborn beast, I put off reading them. Which I shouldn’t have, because they’re really easy to get through. Deceptively so. They’re the type of books that you can read in a sitting, then immediately have to reread so you can get the full effect.

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I really like how empowering this book is, plus his unique approach to his own art and writing is really fun to look at. Kleon discusses how he came upon his technique, plus he walks people through what it really means to be an artist with the obvious experience of someone who’s been there. There are some nuts and bolts things, but there’s also a lot of positivity and encouragement, something that artists of all types just don’t always get enough of. Based on an address to college students, this book is filled with great material that a reader can go back to over and over again. The words are also the graphics, so there’s a lot to take in visually from an actual artistic perspective, as well. This is something that’s really nice for people who are starting to get into their career, or who may need a pick-me-up.  It’s nothing to do with specific technique so much as it is helping you lay out your journey and not feel so alone. Get it here!

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This one is more about marketing (though it’s not really based around that concept). This leads with the idea that generosity and using a network trump networking. Admittedly, this one has been harder to stay with, not because I necessarily disagree with it, but either I haven’t been in the right frame of mind each time I go to read it, or it just doesn’t flow as well as the first book. It does feel like there’s a little more nitty gritty to this one, so it’s a title I plan on going back to. Definitely worth a look, as well. Get it here!

 

 

 

 

Costume-palooza: The Swedish Chef

Published November 1, 2017 by admin

What, it’s Halloweek, you really expect me to stop celebrating because it’s November? Silly reader! Sadly, I didn’t touch on all my favorite past costumes this year (gotta leave something for next year), but I definitely want to include this year’s effort. Plus, hey, how about a fun, light post while you’re waking up from your candy coma this morning, right?

One of the big influences from my growing up was the Muppets. Jim Henson was and is a big part of my life – his fantasy work got my mind working in ways it never could have without Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Storyteller. The Muppet Movie provided the optimism and idealism I needed at certain times in my life. I grew up a hardcore Sesame Street devotee. Somewhere along the way enjoying everything Henson turned into me really wanting to figure out how all of that was done, and most likely was a reason I started getting into making big character suits, complex outfits that involve rigging, and working with puppets professionally. It’s really not that hard to make the leap from point A to point B in this case. For better or worse, I’ve not gotten to work with a Henson property yet, and after this they will probably never let me near them in the future, but oh well. This costume was totally worth it.

The Swedish Chef has been a long-running inside joke for years with me – it’s one of the voices I can do really well, and he just amuses me. I love puns, love silly stuff, and the old chef sketches just make me laugh so much. Depending on how bored I am and how good of a friend you are, you may or may not have had to suffer through me serenading you with popular ballads as done by the Swedish Chef on your voicemail if you don’t pick up.

So yeah, ta-da!

 

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Or is that ‘Bork bork bork!’?

 

 

As far as difficulty level, it wasn’t so bad, just mostly finding the different pieces. Apron, tie, and pants were shopped (and the pants were a miracle find that I didn’t expect), shirt is something I own for some reason. Obviously made the head, hat, and hands. Part of me is sad I didn’t spring for the antron fleece, but part of this exercise is I wanted to see if it was absolutely necessary to use it to do something like this. Short answer is no, but I do prefer it or a fabric with a stretch to felt. I think some of the detail work might have been smoother otherwise, but this idea was happening fast and on a budget. I played around with a spray adhesive vs some of the more industrial glues I’ve used in the past, and it actually worked out because I went back and adjusted some structural things on the head several times and I don’t know if I could’ve done that with something heavier.

All in all, this was a little bit of trial and error to make, but still a ton of fun. He’s fairly comfortable to wear, and I can foresee him being part of my notorious holiday card schemes in the future.

Costume-palooza: Bring on the Weird!

Published October 27, 2017 by admin

Every so often, it seems like I feel the need to just go way over the top and do something…different. I’m not sure if this is from some subconscious need to prove myself or sheer boredom with the typical types of Halloween costumes, but this usually puts me in a really good mood until the moment everything starts falling apart and I have to make it all work. And then I love it again.

I know, it’s complicated. What can I say.

I was doing some work on an event one year and stumbled onto a French artist who does work with combining synthetic skin with fashion pieces (no, I have no idea what I googled to even find that), and it got me thinking of ways to use that concept which has led to a multitude of diverse projects – everything from a revamp of Elizabeth Bathory and a gruesome clown for the event I was designing for, to pouches and purses to spice up those late night trips to the grocery store (Okay, they’re actually for cons. I only accidentally wore one to the store once and it was completely worth it).

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And this thing. The whole killer prom queen archetype admittedly fascinates me for various reasons, and this was my take on it: cuteness on the top, party on the skirt (or however the saying goes). Originally this was made for a Simplicity Pattern design contest where you had to use one of their patterns in a new way. I’m not sure if this just wasn’t what they had in mind or it was the fact that I may have used one of their Disney patterns to base this off of, but obviously I didn’t win because people are no fun.

I’ve never quite gotten the whole look where I want it – I probably need to make a prom queen banner, and admittedly if I’m wearing it out I have no desire to dump a ton of fake blood on me because I have been there for professional reasons and I am not that invested in a look in my personal life. I’ve toyed with the idea of latex and paint up my arms to gore it up a bit, but again, I don’t really cherish the thought of doing that in a hotel bathroom. Anywho, skirt is latex over fabric with various (fake) parts ordered through the interwebz. Also molded the hand for the bag, though I’d likely try it a slightly different way if I had to do it again (also makes me wonder where I put that mold).

So that tided me over for a couple years, and then I had the need to go further, to be bolder, to be…more.

Again, I was playing with stuff professionally and a friend and co-designer and I somehow hit on the idea of delving into the world of stalkabouts, but tried to make things somewhat more user friendly for a gal – not that gals can’t wear a full suit, lord knows I have – but in this particular situation it was better to do everything possible to keep full visibility. We decided to play with a few different variations, and of course I wanted to incorporate this into my definitely not having a life crisis costume moments, so we ended up combining my fascination with Gothic Lolita street fashion and, well…weirdness.

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So what this is supposed to be is a creepy girl with her imaginary friend/demon companion/whatever – admittedly I think I can do more for it to read better, but I was literally finishing it as we were going out the door to road test it (and that, itself, had some more entertaining moments of my life that aren’t suitable for a public blog). Eventually I’d like to put a leash on Martin (that’s the demon’s name, because I was watching a lot of Doc Martin at the time) to kind of pull things together a bit. Unfortunately, poor Martin caught a hand in my car door at one point, and got dropped on his head, so I’m going to have to give him some TLC before wearing him out again – I’d also like to adjust his height because while walking through a convention hall is fine, the actual doors are not so easy. And I probably need to adjust his arm position, too, because he grabbed a lot of people’s butts and I just don’t need that problem in my life. The rigging, too, probably needs some slight re-calculating, but overall it’s actually more comfortable than it looks, just a bit hard to get into and navigate. Much to the distaste of those around me, Martin lived in my car for a while and then hung out in various rooms for my own amusement before retiring to current lair.

My friend the Amazing Larry did the initial dress, but I’ve since added things to it and adjusted the fit a bit. I did the cape, but have since swapped that bonnet out for one I was given. Obviously the bag is all me, and I did most of Martin, though I was working a lot at that point so Larry cut the basic skeleton pieces so I wouldn’t be a hazard to myself.

Like anything else, everything is in progress, and fluid, and I think that’s important to keep in mind, especially when doing big, weird things like this. It’s always how it is at the moment, or where I’m content for it to be for right now, but I fully expect for things to keep morphing and adjusting in the future – just like my life, oddly enough, so I suppose these are less reflective of some weird discontented breakdown and more reflective of me being in process. And that I am positively cool with.

Costume-palooza: Princess Leia

Published October 14, 2017 by admin

Some more Halloween costume fun for the weekend:

This was actually made for a Star Wars party, but I’ve worn it off and on for some Halloweens, so I’m counting it. I was a huge Star Wars geek growing up, and though I’ve burned out some, I’m still always going to love the originals. And Leia is always going to be one of those characters that I always love. It’s weird, because growing up I was Vader and a Jedi for Halloween, but I never really fathomed myself being Princess Leia. Somehow that felt beyond me, that I was too geeky or awkward or plain or whatever. I don’t really know why it took me so long to do this outfit, but it was a long time coming.

And no, it’s not the outfit you’re hoping for.

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This took more picture research than I would have anticipated, and the friend who helped pattern it with me and I did change it slightly. The original is done as a big giant T with the side seams sewn, but there was no way I could find white stretch jersey that had that kind of wingspan. So, we added the sleeves on separately. I also had to double up the fabric to make it opaque, and figuring out the hood attachment and the neck was a little bit of a job, too. Boots are borrowed, wig is bought, blaster is actually one of the sound effect toy storm trooper blasters that I sanded and painted and now can never take anywhere without huge disclaimers. The belt is a vinyl base, with silver vinyl over car liner and some convenient look alike buttons I found. I can’t remember the total cost of this one (it’s been a while ago), and I still need to actually buy my own set of boots for wearing this out (I’ve cheated and worn black flat boots if it’s dark out when I’m wearing it. The real versions are flat white boots and if you’ve ever tried to source those, you’ll know how fun it isn’t).

I’ve worn this one while handing out candy in the past, and I’ve gotten some great reactions over it (except the mini Vader who cried because he thought I wouldn’t give him candy when I opened the door. That was nearly a galactic emergency). I’m a little particular with this one since it’s gleaming white, but I love it and love wearing it.