Bad Art by B: Star-crossed Lovers Series

Our Those People: A Love Story crowdfunding campaign was a success! I’m not supposed to be surprised, but, between you and me, I am a little bit. There were two solid weeks where it wasn’t looking promising…

But friends, family and fans came  through with cash in spectacular fashion, and now it’s time for me to pony up with my humble “incentive” offering: made-to-order depictions of movie scenes about lovers (preferably star-crossed, but I’m not going to quibble if they happened to live happily ever after).

Once my client chooses their movie (and scene, though some leave that up to me) my “artistic” process begins with a cannibalized element from another process: Each piece is drawn the flip side of a “repurposed” 3×5 index card  used to outline a movie script:

Back of Atonement

I pencil,  ink with a Sharpie and then erase the pencil. I use black and occasionally one contrast color. For digital delivery,  my husband takes a picture with an app that is supposed to keep art looking flat and not wonky.

My original plan was to work totally with stick figures, because it seemed easy and the idea of it made me laugh. This was my first attempt:

Romeo and Juliet

And this was the second: BrokebackWhile both pieces they look similarly rudimentary, you might notice that by my second attempt I had already drifted from stick figure to boxy outline, because it somehow felt easier.

My first real order was for our kind-hearted supporter, Nate, who requested Atonement. I realized I couldn’t bring myself to render the iconic image of the character in his black tuxedo only in outline, so I reached for the thicker sharpie: Atonement Framed

And somehow the thick Sharpie carried over into  Orly’s request for Annie Hall.

Annie Hall framed

A practiced artist knows how to control style and tone. I am not a practiced artist, so who knows how the next 18 drawings will turn out?  Not me!  But I assume that anyone who chose something called “Bad Art” will have appropriately low expectations, so, unlike almost everything else in my life at the moment, I am not stressed about this.  I look forward to finding out what my clients will choose, and giving it my best, “bad” shot!

Apex Triangles in Composition: Pictures and Words

Another interesting concept from my directing class is the idea that when you compose a shot, you can usually find within it a triangle.  And the point of the triangle that draws your focus is the APEX of the triangle.

When the idea was introduced in class, I was intrigued–but wondered, beyond aesthetic benefits, what is the point of recognizing triangles in my shots?  How should the presence of triangles affect the choices I make?

My internet sleuthing on the subject revealed this little article called, “How to use Triangles to Improve Your Composition.”  It had many examples of principles that I had never thought about but that totally make sense:

An image containing a fairly symmetrical triangle where the apex is at the top and the base at the bottom will feel stable –think of a an architectural photo.

But playing with the angles and/or inverting the triangle will make things seem less stable. Think of a low angle picture of a street where skyscrapers rise up on either side–you kind of feel the buildings might fall on top of you. A triangle on its point seems off-balance, destined to move or change its position, so it also seems less static-feeling.

Now I’m going to jump tracks for a minute and turn to writing.

In literature,  the way an author describes the setting helps set up expectations, both narratively and emotionally. I took a class with the inimitable Janet Fitch and can thank her for this example–the first line from Scott F. Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.”

“After dark on Saturday, one could stand on the first tee of a golf course and see the country club windows as a yellow expanse over a very black and wavy ocean.”

In class we talked about the kind of expectations this line might set up:

  • First, the idea of a country club has connotations of wealth and membership.
  • Then positioning “one” on the first golf tee, separated from the windows by a ” very black and wavy ocean” implies an outsider status.
  • However, not a complete outsider–because the speaker knows she is standing at the first tee. This is someone familiar with the golf course,  aware of her position relative to the club.
  •  Is there a yearning quality to the view of the “yellow expanse?”

So this could be a story about a person trying to get to a place that’s light and bright; and a place of belonging–and needs to make the difficult journey across a wavy black ocean in order to do it.

All this from the very first sentence. Pretty cool right?

Now I’m jumping back to the first track–which was triangles.

Do you have an image in your head when you read Fitzgerald’s sentence? I do.   The  widest part of the triangle is the  line of windows in the distance, while the point of the triangle is person in the foreground–at the bottom of the frame.

According to “triangle theory,*” this is an unstable image.  In a two-dimensional environment–which, despite three-dimensional cues, is what pictures and films are–the black ocean and bank of lights are precariously positioned over the head of the person. If she tries to move, is there safety to be reached, or will it all just collapse on top of  her? Either way there is the expectation of imminent change.

So the opening line of this story works to set up expectation and mood. The right opening image could do very similar (though not exactly the same) work.

The two tracks converge!

railroad-tracks-23521292901749uK0 See the triangle in this picture?

BONUS RANDOM THOUGHT: Thinking of an “opening” image reminds me that John August recently posted “The First and Last Thing You See,”  a montage that explores relationships between first and last images.   If  you watch it, try thinking in the back of your mind–can you find triangles? And how would you describe the images  in words?

*”triangle theory” in this context is a made up term. I think.

Favorite Project of 2013

This little multi-media art/song was my favorite piece from this year.  The lyrics pay homage to a story I remember my dad telling me when I was a kid, My brother Greg wrote and performed the music.  I made the shoe-box coffin when I was visiting Indiana over the summer and staged the picture in the back yard of my childhood home.  When I think of this, I think of my dad, of working with my brother, of painting and gluing at the kitchen table talking to my mom, digging in the dirt, and remembering that words are fun.

And I loved the way it turned out.

The Funeral of Turtle Ted

Ted Pic2

Things They Found in the Attic

I might have mentioned once or twice, that my father’s dream from a young age, was to be a comic strip artist.  The story goes that when he was in his early teens, he went to New York with his father.  While there they visited “the syndicate” where he spoke to someone, who looked at his work and told him to come back when he finished school, and they could get him a job.  But by the time he finished school (or college, or the air force–it isn’t exactly clear) the man he’d spoken to had moved on, or maybe died.
And so, instead of being a comic strip artist he went to grad school, and got married, and got his doctorate, and had kids and told them how he almost became a comic strip artist*…and for over forty years these stacks of comics lived in a large flat box in the attic. Today was the first time I’d ever seen these:

(*And with such a feeling of nostalgia and regret that I would wish for that alternate time line for him–despite the fact it would likely have negated my existence.)