Venetian Spectre

If there’s an introductory course to Photoshop you better believe that there are going to be at least a few watered-down Dave McKean homages to emerge during the semester. It can’t be helped.

When asked to create a Photoshop collage this week for homework I found myself floundering. After all, I’m an accidental photographer and a scavenger of images; I don’t create them from scratch! Not since art school have I been required to generate something from nothing! Then, to my horror, I realized: I am in art school again.

Because the possibilities within Photoshop are limitless I decided to set some parameters. Firstly, I would only use imagery from my recent trip to Italy and secondly I’d create something “in the style of” the aforementioned Dave McKean. This seemed fitting considering that for many who came of age in the 90s McKean’s covers for Sandman where the first indication of the imaging power promised by Photoshop.

Furthermore, I’ve been slowly building up a repository of sketches for larger drawings inspired by the artworks and heritage of Italy. Venice left the deepest impression. It exuded an odd allure coupled with a mysterious foreboding. This underlying sense of dread was cemented by a startling nightmare I had during one night of our stay. While the image above isn’t a part of these initial sketches it does manage to capture some of the same unsettling qualities. Here is my footman for that opulent epicenter of decay. He seems a fitting guide for the quiet narrow streets and crooked, shuttered, homes.


Indy Adapted

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation might be one of the most profound cinematic experiences for a person just beginning to consider making films. An obsessive recreation of Spielberg’s classic created by three Mississippi adolescents over the course of seven years during the Eighties, The Adaptation proves that inspiration and determination are the only requisite ingredients to making a movie. Using a home video recorder, a host of friends from school, and a tremendous amount of handmade decor Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb managed to re-create nearly every shot in the film. The massive rolling boulder that chases Indy out of a South American ruin: they have it. The fire-fight amid a bar engulfed in flame: check. That crazy series of scenes where Indy wrestles a truck containing the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis and he falls down the hood, slides under the truck, and is drug along behind as he slowly crawls back on to the speeding vehicle: its in this movie, and it was done by a group of teenage boys without stuntmen! The sold-out audience at the Hollywood Theater gasped, cheered, and clapped at every iconic scene!

The Portland audience was comprised of a predictable demographic: the nerds were there, ready to bask in the achievements of fellow nerds who’d made good. The younger families were there so that parents might share a movie of their youth with their children. The hipsters were there, coiffed and hungry for another helping of elitist irony. They were perhaps the only ones disappointed. Those seeking a postmodern confirmation of a guilty pop-culture pleasure would find no support here. This was not a statement— it was an homage; and every minute of it was wonderfully sincere.

One left the theater aglow. Here was a validation that anything was possible. Life could be as large as we witness it on the big screen. We are all stars— if only we love something enough.



I returned to Timberline last weekend and spent one day being abused by the slopes and the second day contemplating their rough beauty within the lodge. There were times that first day, while sliding through the driving snow, that I felt horribly lost— there were no landmarks and there was no horizon. The sky and ground were equally cold, hard, and grey.

Whiteout. That’s how my students referred to it.

* * * *

From within the lodge it seems less menacing. Around you people laugh and chatter, oblivious to the fact that the snow presses twenty feet up every side of the lodge. The windows on the first two levels are darkened by the wall of snow, its wooly grey giving way to blue as it thins towards the third floor and the wan daylight begins to sift through. People sit by the highest bank of windows and watch as the weather is thwarted by thick glass and thicker walls.

From this vantage all the flurry is just confection. A television dribbles out the news as pop songs bounce against the timbers. A few sniffling skiers sit at the bar getting sloshed.

It seems less menacing but I can’t concentrate. The wind is still blowing. The trees are bent under a terrible weight. The white noise doesn’t warm me.

Were I to stay longer I don’t think the snow would stop. It would rise like a slow tide over the lodge and all the trees. The white would consume everything on land until there was no land left— just a vast emptiness between heaven and earth: a whiteout.



It’s open! My wife’s online store of handmade plush creations and unique fashion accessories has entered the electronic ether and I was quite pleased to use this auspicious event to guide the aesthetics of my final project in Photoshop Essentials at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA).

What’s that? You ponder how I might also be taking classes at PNCA while working full time as both artist and educator? That makes two of us. Or three of us, if I count the entire readership of this blog and myself. But it happens to be true. I’m enrolled as a Certificate Student in PNCA’s Graphic Design program (which is apparently going to be renamed the “Communication Arts” program this fall when PNCA decides to add some direction and objectives to this cash cow).

I’ve had a mixed experience with the Certificate Program thus far, having joined it (as is often my fate) in the midst of a major overhaul in structure and cost. Having had both inspiring classes and profoundly frustrating experiences I would say that the jury is still out on whether I will ever recommend it to anyone. Had I not been the product of an exceedingly rigorous and well-considered art program I might be less critical but the truth remains that OCAC will be a hard act to ever beat.

The final assignment for Photoshop Essentials required that I fashion a multi-layer image composite from a variety of images. Clean selections and believable integration into a single image seemed to be the primary criteria for the instructor. I went so far as to add a criterion of my own: the resulting image had to accurately portray the inherent charm and charisma of my wife’s creations. After all, I wanted to please this most important of clients. Isn’t that what a degree in graphic design should really emphasize— customer satisfaction.

Maybe I should let PNCA know that.