Storyboards and Editing

Enough treacly posts about holiday decorations. . . you're undoubtedly hoping for something a bit more stimulating. After all, treacly is in abundance during the holiday season, and my being seduced by its jingles and bows distracts from the task at hand which, as you undoubtedly know, is editing a short film.

I'd like to think that the editing thus far could be described as intuitive, but that would be erroneous, because I have pages upon pages of storyboards, notes, and (while often ignored by the powers that be in Hollywood) the script itself to reference as decisions are made about cuts and establishing shots. Thus far, all that neurotic referencing of past ideation has netted a rather relaxed editing atmosphere.

Thus far. . .

I've put up two pages from my stack of storyboards and you can click on them for a larger view. As a person who grew up with a love for both comics and films, I found the storyboarding process to be the simplest aspect in the project so far. Text and image in a linear narrative have a logical presentation, and that predictability allows for more energy to be put into the composition of each section (as well as ruminations about the symmetry of the whole).

However, I must confess that the planning stages would have been smoother if I'd had the good fortune to score some of the books Ariana and I gave Brandon for Christmas. . .

The Storyboard Book is a small chapbook with a frame at the top conveniently sized to match the golden ratio of digital film-making (16:9) set atop quad ruled paper. It is made by the good folks at www.thestoryboardbook.com and printed by Portland printshop darlings Pinball Publishing.

If I'd been armed with these instead of the bond paper versos of my script when storyboarding the film I'd now have three precious chapbooks to bequeath to the children I might someday have (instead of a bunch of loose paper crudely stapled together and shoved between reference books on the history of math).

More editing updates to come. . .


More Seasonal Cuteness!

Just thought I'd share a few images of the seasonal still life created by Ariana on the day we put up our Christmas tree. It features a pipe cleaner skunk found at an antique store, trimmed patterned curtains from IKEA, some white lights, a few charming red bears from Ariana's youth, and an assortment of fabric trees she created a couple of years ago.

I especially like the organic feel of the fabric trees. Perhaps someday we'll work together to create an entire plush forest . . . I would love to have a Spring set-up as well.


Oh, Christmas Tree!

I was a tad disgruntled about not getting a Christmas tree. In the past few years I'd been able to fulfill the need for a fresh pine smell and white lights by creating swag for all of our doorways, but this year swag had been deemed out of the question (primarily due to the time it consumed to fashion, and the mess it left in its wake). As an adult, a Christmas tree had always been out of the question because it, well, killed a tree. And we couldn't afford a live one. Living in Portland, it is common for such environmentally goody-goody ideas to infect many of the simple enjoyments you had as a child— all the wholesome traditions of youth become suspects in the case against mankind's longevity.

But then Ariana came home one afternoon and told me that the good fellows down at St. Vincent DePaul were selling trees for ten bucks. Such a price acted as a balm for our leftist guilt and I was down there in a flash with a handful of our laundry money to get a tree. I can safely say that bringing home that tree has been the brightest point in the season thus far.

The only trouble with our lovely tree was that we had nothing to adorn it with. Yes, we had a collection of white lights, but no ornaments to speak of and no time to make any either. We went out to look for a few ornament sets, vowing to spend no more than twenty dollars.

At a local shop we found two sets of glitter dusted pine cone ornaments which weren't too ostentatious, and this wonderful owl, which we just couldn't pass up.

Even after getting the lights and ornaments up the tree still felt quite sparse. We then started hunting about the house for other items that might temporarily serve as holiday decor. We ran across a box or ribbons, some artificial nests, a bit of wool roving, and a collection of golden walnuts that St. Nicholas has delivered to me for the past few years.*

Ariana wrapped the tree in ribbons tied together to create one long garland and the nests became beds for the golden walnuts. The tips of branches received little white bows from excess bits of ribbon and lace and, after an hour or so, we had a tree that was quite festive, in a shabby chic sort of way. I don't know if Martha Stewart would approve but as she's not slated to visit our house this Christmas I don't think it much matters whether she'd give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

The only thing left to consider was the tree-topper. We had no angel and our thrifted Mexican yarn dolls didn't quite have the right feel. Then I remembered this vintage puppet that Ariana had found at Goodwill during our fated Black Friday outing. She had purchased it because it looked like our dear kitty Tilou and was constructed most carefully from some very nice mohair. We put it at the top of the tree and placed the end of the ribbon garland in her paws. . . the effect is so sweet its almost maudlin. Almost.

*A story that is really far too complicated to get into here.


Imagine a Guiltless Creative Life

I stumbled upon this talk while looking at a few different opinions about why America, in large part, seems to be suppressing creativity among its children to favor rote memorization and the standardized testing industry. But before you decide to click through my moralizing post, let me assure you that this TED talk is not about national failures in education, it's about the failure of Western Humanist ideals to serve those brave souls who opt to undertake a creative life.

I have not read Elizabeth Gilbert's "freakishly successful" book Eat, Pray, Love so I have no idea about her proclivities or preoccupations. I do know that I have now watched this TED talk twice in the past two months and found oddly coincidental connections between the ideas it presents and my own fleeting forays into culture that I'm periodically allowed on a weekend afternoon. I'm also willing to grant her a modicum of instant respect for flawlessly pulling off the use of the word "odious" without sounding at all pretentious.

Her summary of the antiquity's perception of the creative spirit came just as I embarked on teaching Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass to my class. For those of you unfamiliar with this brilliant amalgam of fantasy, geography, and quantum physics I will simply say that the relationship between man and daemon is the crux of the plot. Furthermore, the notion of Roman 'genius' adds another level of complexity to my mixed-bag of feelings for ancient Roman culture. Feelings which I've recently been revisiting through HBO's hyper-sensationalized (and short lived) ROME.

* * * * *

Can you imagine a time before creativity was solely the burden of the creative? A time when we could share responsibility for our successes and failures? Think of the culture of gratitude and humility that might result from an ego-less perception of brilliance. . . that might just be the enlightened world the Humanists were hoping for.


The Self Absorbed Chronicle

Severed Serpent — Boise, ID
October 9, 2009
Click on image for larger view.

The difficulty with obeying the self-imposed obligation of preserving life is that it can get in the way of my living it.

I've slowly begun to organize all things visual over at Flickr with the hope of offering a more complete picture of my past year (or, to be honest, the past few years, as there are many projects that haven't ever made it off of my desktop until now). Allowing Flickr to sort my life into trifling categories seems far easier at this point than building a web site. Ambitious projects of that nature should only be undertaken if there's an audience for it, and by audience I mean something a little grander than my own ego.


Cloudy with a Chance of Dreary

I love seeing generally credible news sources occasionally succumb to some completely subjective language use.*

Dreary? Really? Can such a word be reasonably employed to quantify precipitation, cloud cover, and temperature?

Not that I can disagree with the pithy poetics of CNN's meteorological assessment: I expect that it will be quite dreary indeed.

*It's worth noting that this forecast lasted only a few hours before replacing "Dreary" with "Showers"— perhaps someone took greater umbrage than yours truly. . .


Black Friday

While still an unconfirmed diagnosis, all signs point towards H1N1 as the reason for my being bed-ridden these past five days. It was the most peculiar flu I've ever had, bypassing the stomach almost entirely to attack my lungs. After days of near-delirium, abysmal body aches, and a roller coaster of sweats and chills, I felt I had just enough energy today to do something a little bit more challenging than drinking tepid water and walking to the bathroom.

So naturally I decided to go shopping.

If I didn't go shopping then I would be part of the very reason that my Roth IRA resembles the collection of change wedged between my couch cushions.

Now, don't be fooled, I didn't arise at 2am to get in line at a suburban box-store. In fact, Ariana and I didn't even bother to leave for the store until 6pm tonight so as to avoid any possibility of being trampled by raving-mad electronics bargain hunters. And the store we chose to patronize with our hard-earned cash: Goodwill.

While Goodwill might not be offering the same screaming deals as other places I'm pretty sure that giving them money also helps the economy: albeit in some leftist, bleeding-heart, capitalist-light sort of way. And at Goodwill we can be done with our Christmas shopping in one hour because it is truly one-stop shopping.

It was while at Goodwill that we fell prey to that most pitiful of Black Friday practices: buying things for ourselves. But, as happens from time to time, the donated CD selection was just too good to pass up. Check out these finds for $4.00 a pop:

Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herran Band— A Special EP
The Cinematic Orchestra— Ma Fleur
Caleb Klauder— sings out
Depeche Mode— Black Celebration
The Decemberists— The Crane Wife
Cat Stevens— Catch Bull at Four


Rip, Mix, Burn

Earlier this year, after completing my reading of Lawrence Lessig's Remix, I began to look more closely at the Creative Commons licenses, as well as some of the online creative collectives he used as case studies in Remix. In doing so, I stumbled upon a feature in Wired magazine from 2004 that investigated the idea of contemporary musical culture being absolutely complicit in the remix/file-sharing/sampling inclinations that the corporate music industry was fighting so vehemently to bury.

Like most Wired articles it was cautiously optimistic (seasoned pessimism does not tend to promote ad revenue) and more than a touch self-congratulatory. Along with the issue a CD featuring tracks from a number of formidable talents who were offering up a bit of their oeuvre was included. What made these tracks unique was that they were released under one of two Creative Commons licenses, thereby making them fair game for legal file sharing, mash-ups, and sampling into whatever prosaic Garage Band techno track you could muster in your off hours. There are some big names on this CD, and the tracks they've given over to the masses aren't just the pan drippings from a decade of better musical offerings— they are legitimate efforts.

Having said that, they aren't all good either. Below is the list of tracks that make my cut. If your cloth is cut with a similar cut as mine, then you might want to download these freebies and allow your iPod to give them a whirl:

Track 01— Beastie Boys/ Now Get Busy

Much more Hello Nasty than Paul's Boutique, but the sampled directive lends a refreshing pause to a pretty predictable back beat. Straight up middle-aged Beasties which means more fun than FRESSSHHHH.

Track 02— David Byrne/ My Fair Lady

No plains or rains or Spain, but a seriously cinematic sound to build up a modern reflection of the classic Pygmalion tale. I think that this is easily the best offering of the bunch and makes U2's similarly-themed Babyface (from Zooropa) sound simply insipid.

Track 03— Zap Mama/ Wadidyusay?

Hand claps. French. A cappella-esque world music syrup with a drum machine.

Track 04— My Morning Jacket/ One Big Holiday

Yeah indie rock! I don't own one of their albums so I can't be classified as anything like a fan, but there is something pure American rock about this in both sound (straight up drums and electric guitars) and sentiment (references to escaping dead end towns, California, and records). Serve with pick-up trucks and whatever indie brew is currently considered both hip and cheap.

Track 05— Spoon/Revenge!

This is a track by Spoon. It is catchy. It is smart. It is made in the USA but sounds like its imported from England. Extra points are awarded for painting analogies.

Track 09— Le Tigre/Fake French

"I've got. . . site specificity." I mean, come on, what is not to like about a band that has extensive bibliographies, flow disruption, and wildlife metaphors? Furthermore, their Fake French is way hotter than any real French I've heard lately.

* * * * *

And then there are the two tracks that I'm a bit torn over. Not jaw-dropping and not mediocre, but somewhere just this side of catchy, which is often all I require. And easy to rip (pun intended).

Track 10— Paul Westerberg/ Looking Up in Heaven

Feeble drug references and buoyant melancholy— two of my least favorite popular music conventions. And yet, this is one of those tracks that I would never seek out but also would never skip through if it were to pop up in the Shuffle. There's something so unapologetic about Westerberg's delivery that a touch of gravitas manages to sneak in. As far as I can tell from this one data point, if Bob Dylan were margarine he'd be Paul Westerberg.

Track 12— The Rapture/ Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix)

Hhmmmm. . . I think I'll put some KMFDM, Kraftwerk, and Depeche Mode in a blender with cheap red wine and squid-ink pasta. Whoa! How did I manage this smoothie of blips, bleeps, and laughably echoey lyrics about hobo dreams?

Decide for yourself. . .


Veteran's Memorial

Veteran's Memorial — Eagle, ID
October 9, 2009


The Caravel With Four Fine Masts and Lateen Sails

Caravel Chalkboard Drawing, October 2009
Click on image for larger view.

For weeks I've been adrift in the fears, follies, and dreams of the European age of exploration (roughly 1400-1600).* After tasking my 7th/8th grade class to develop a sailing vessel that could harness the wind** from multiple directions and carry 2000 grams of cargo on stormy seas I followed up our days of damp tests in a plastic wading pool with this chalkboard illustration. The class hardly needed explanations of the intent behind the keel, rudder, or lateen sail after all of the trial-and-error work that they'd poured into their own boats, but I felt it important to illustrate a caravel as it figured so prominently in many of the biographies I was sharing with them.

* * * * *

It is odd how your mind can drift away, even when you are called upon to be most present: this little song by Joanna Newsom*** has been in my head ever since I spent an hour embedding the above illustration on the 8' expanse of darkness that dominates my room.

Bridges and Balloons (excerpt) by Joanna Newsom

We sailed away on a winter's day
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades

And I can recall our caravel:
a little wicker beetle shell
with four fine masts and lateen sails,
its bearings on Cair Paravel

O my love,
O it was a funny little thing
to be the ones to've seen.

*Unless, of course, you start with Marco Polo, as I do when beginning this course of study. In that case you can tack on another 150 years at the outset.

**conveniently produced with a box fan

***who I swore was a former Waldorf student after seeing this video for Sprout and the Bean

And for those of you who are up for a challenge: How many nautical puns are part of this post?


Be the Bread

Fiber Optic Spook— Boise, ID
October 9, 2009

I asked my four year old neighbor what I she was going to be for Halloween.

She shrugged her shoulders.

So I asked her what I should be for Halloween.

"A piece of bread!" she said with great exuberance, rocking forward on her toes and clapping her hands together.

A piece of bread. . . that's the best costume idea I've heard in some time.



Bottle Brush at the Veteran's Memorial— Eagle, Idaho
October 9, 2009
Click on image for larger view.

Further evidence that the light in Idaho can be every bit as crisp and theatrical as the light of the Willamette Valley.


Confusion will be My Epitaph

For those of you concerned about post-modernism's effect on your immortal soul (or transient corporeal life) there is an intriguing lecture at Grace Memorial Episcopal Church this week. I've cribbed the press release for you to peruse. . .

* * * * *

Confusion will be My Epitaph: Cultural Disorientation, Social Fragmentation and the Post-Modern Experience— What Does Christianity Have to Offer?

In this inaugural lecture of Grace's Seminary-for-a-Night, Steve Clarke will take us on a journey beginning with the thoughts of 18th century moral philosopher Andrew Fletcher and 1960's rock band, King Crimson, through contemporary film and art, to pause before the canvasses of Edvard Munch, Andy Warhol, and Rembrandt van Rijn. Focusing on the signs of post-modern cultural disorientation and the resultant confusion experienced by many, particularly young people, Steve will explore ways in which the Christian story speaks to our time.

The Rev. Steve Clarke is currently the Ministry Development Officer in the Anglican Diocese of Willochra (Australia), Senior Lecturer of Theology and Mission at Flinders University, South Australia, and Visiting Fellow at St John's College, Durham University (UK)

* * * * *

Grace Seminary-for-a-Night
Wednesday, October 28, 7:00-8:30pm
Grace House, 1511 NE 17th Ave.
Portland, Oregon


Ryan Pierce at Elizabeth Leach

Ryan Pierce, Blue Rooster, 2008
acrylic on canvas over panel
Represented by Elizabeth Leach Gallery*

I graduated in a hail storm with Ryan Pierce a little over six years ago. Both Ryan and I received BFA's in Craft with an emphasis on drawing and painting. Over the course of four years we took many classes together, and I remember thinking then that Ryan Pierce already had what so many of us did not: a direction. His passions and proclivities, while inchoate, were in place.

I tell you all this as means of disclaimer— I respect and admire Ryan Pierce. I have for years; and while that doesn't make me uniquely qualified to review his solo exhibit at Elizabeth Leach Gallery (on display through the end of this month), it does offer me an extra layer of personal presumption about understanding his technical tendencies and allegorical preoccupations. Some art critics write reviews with far less. . .

* * * * *

The first thing that struck me about the work in Written from Exile was that Ryan has pushed himself to become a far more painterly painter. Many of his stylistic tendencies from years ago are still very much in effect: saturated complementary colors (the blues and oranges of Blue Rooster), crisp graphic shapes (the furrowed ground upon which said Blue Rooster stands), and the outlining of select shapes with a tidy line of darker tone (as evidenced in the rocks clutched by the blisteringly orange talons of the aforementioned Blue Rooster)— but they are tempered by a newer acquiescence for allowing the nature of the paint to run a bit wild.

Carefully selected areas of textured under-painting are allowed to contribute to the overall melange of color, and they contrast well with Pierce's very crisp, albeit periodically fussy, draftsmanship. There are rag wiped waves of glaze-infused pigment in Sea Oats (After Cormic McCarthy) and suminagashi-like tree trunks that dominate the landscape in The Fog Collectors (After Ival Lackovic Croata). This acceptance of the process of painting allows the drips and stains of the developing work to contribute to the palimpsest of imagery, and resonate well with Pierce's themes of environmental shift and the marginaliazation of human existence within a world both fecund and wasted.

Ryan Pierce, Havasu, 2009
acrylic on canvas over panel

When considering Pierce's subject matter, it is hard to not be struck by the oddly blasé view of mankind's future that he presents. In Havasu a wrecked motor boat has been consumed by desert and surrounded by equal parts cacti and plastic water bottles. Arizona's aquatic playground has become naught but sand and refuse. Only a fire pit outside of the capsized boat and a sleeping bag (which may or may not be inhabited) grant any evidence of continued human existence. The boat has been draped to provide the sleeper an escape from the sun, but the drape is more a funerary shroud for the former Havasu than it is an expression of human survival.

In fact, most of the references to humanity in the show are references by way of necessity; by which I mean that Pierce wishes to convey to the viewer that some semblance of humanity will survive the impending environmental upheaval, but he does so only to point out that our role will be that of any other creature trying to scratch out survival in an ultimately ambivalent environment. We'll have no divine spark. We'll feel no sense of entitlement. We will not recognize the tools of our own fall.

Ryan Pierce, Umpqua, 2009
acrylic on canvas over panel

Umpqua, which is hung next to Havasu, is even more overtly narrative, depicting a wood paneled trophy room that has been attacked by the very woods it used to victimize. Deer graze off grass growing atop the floor and the trophy heads of boars mounted to the wall leeringly sprout tufts of green. Books slide off hardwood shelving and a snag has fallen through the ceiling to crush the wooden dining table. The deer have accessed this former interior through broken plate glass windows that are now simply reminders of the former separation between inside and out. The narrative is clear— so clear as to be almost patronizing, and therefore, in my mind, the least successful work in the exhibit.

Ryan Pierce, Comet, 2009
acrylic on canvas over panel

If you contrast Umpqua with the magnificently painted, and far less pontific, Comet (which hangs on the opposite wall of the gallery) a sense of how Pierce is also working towards a much more subtle exploration of Nature's intrinsic power can be gleaned. There is no evidence of the human figure in this turquoise lagoon, no sleeping bag amidst the massive blue pumpkins or abnormally green ferns. Comet dangles a smoldering oil drum over cereleun blue water. The drum is lashed to a tree limb that looks as if, at any moment, it will lever forward and extinguish the flame in the lagoon below. The surrounding environment may already look irradiated; it may suffer even more from that final infusion of burning chemical, but ultimately it continues to put forth life. The vines adorn the tree limbs and the ground cover works its way around the remnants of a barbed wire fence. The eradication of man's folly is inevitable. Mother Nature, through dent of her longevity and our extinction, is granted the TKO.

It is not without cause that Pierce's most arresting paintings are the ones that show the least evidence of human activity. The apocryphal presence of the roosters pull far more conceptual weight than the allegorical thicket that makes up Easter Island (pictured on the show card for the exhibit). Easter Island's cautionary tale about capitalism, fascism, religious dogma and environmental control, while beautifully rendered, just feels too similar in its over-loaded presentation to the inane quantities of goods, ideas, and beliefs being critiqued.

Despite the few ups and downs I encountered in Written from Exile, I feel that Ryan Pierce delivers an impressive show. It is for good reason that he is one of the more talked about artists in Portland right now. As was true all those years ago in our painting classes, he is at his most poignant when he's pursuing his themes without resorting to the explicit narrative. In the future, I hope that Pierce treats his paintings as the stenography of environmental possibility, not the moralizing indictment of an irredeemable mankind. That doesn't necessitate that he dilute his direction, only that he question when enough is truly enough.

*Written from Exile will be on display at Elizabeth Leach Gallery through October 31, 2009. All images copyright Ryan Pierce.


The Seductive Properties of Beauty as Rationalized Through an Unsanctioned Reference to an Undeniably Greater Photographer

Veteran's Memorial— Eagle, Idaho
October 9, 2009
Click on image for larger view.

I read an interview with Keith Carter many years ago that percolates to the front of my mind every time I take a picture like this. In that interview he relates how, one day, he was out looking for images to photograph when he happened upon an old grave yard. Knowing full well that it was impossible to enter a graveyard with a camera and not leave without a roll of cliches he stopped himself at the gate.

And then he went inside and shot some film anyway.


Mormon Cricket

Mormon Cricket, Hulls Gulch Reserve, Boise, ID
October 9, 2009

Most of these massive insects had long since swarmed their last in Boise's Hulls Gulch. As we hiked we primarily found them chewed up and expelled in great piles of desiccated coyote scat. My brother-in-law snagged this dark lady from the trail side as we meandered back through the sage and bottle brush.

It is easy to imagine how horrifying it would be to experience them in the thousands: swarming over every surface, always on the move to avoid being bitten and consumed by the hundreds of thousands that are behind: the hundreds of thousands that are anxious to devour the weak and the slow. . .


It started over the ridge.

It started over the ridge. 2009
acrylic, leafing, toner, and wax on panel
10.5" x 10.5"
Click on image for larger view.

I used to hike to this small canyon near our house in La Canada and, on the ridges that surrounded the shaded glen, there stood some monumental electrical towers. When I hiked beneath them my body would quiver from the buzz of electric current coursing through the cables far overhead. You could tell from the lack of scat underneath them that the deer had an aversion to the power lines. I suppose, had I more sense, I would have heeded such a sign and steered clear of them myself.

But one cloudy day I stood below a tower with the seed of a headache forming and the hair on my arms being coaxed upward by the electricity. In the distance stood this bleak little tree silhouetted against the dismal sky. And it struck me that to a person standing off some distance from me, I would be no more than a silhouette as well. Just the form of a man standing on a ridge that could hide anything on the other side of the slope.


Week, Tweet Week

4T Hiking Trail Map, Portland, OR*

I want to understand the culture I live in. Really, I do. But it seems to grow faster and simpler just as my life grows slower and more complex— which puts us, if not at odds, certainly on opposite ends of a continuum.

I was mentally reviewing my week today as I hiked along Portland's new 4T trail; so named because it is an urban excursion that requires a tram, train, trolley, and trail to complete the loop. In doing so I realized that truncated Twitter-like statements about events do lend them a profundity (or at least mystery) they might otherwise lack if I employed a bunch of useless context. So, in a little deviation from the norm here, I decided to share the highlights of my week as they might have been depicted had they been tweeted. . .
  • Running through a deluge of hail, blue tarp blowing out behind me, in a brave attempt to save the carcass of a dragon killed earlier that day.
  • The Weasley's busting Harry out of solitary using a flying car they "borrowed" from their father. Don't scoff because I'm only getting to the second book now— I teach children for a living, and don't have much time for reading the pop culture sensations that shaped their lives.
  • Party banners from discarded upholstery fabric. . . Martha would be so proud.
  • A business man on the MAX reading "The Portable Thoreau" while rocking out on his portable music device.
  • Deciding that towns which insist upon one-way grids in their three block downtown area are deluding themselves in some pretty profound ways. That's right, I'm talking about you Hillsboro.
  • Sliding along at 22mph 500 feet above Portland in a silver pea pod on wires. The Jetsons' theme song rattles against my skull as I stare at rooftop gardens and the glistening line of the Willamette River.
  • Being told that I should be selling $60,000 worth of artwork out of every show if I want them to be successful. So that's what I'm doing wrong. . .
  • Along with that whole lack of capitalistic vision comes the pleasure I had at giving two lovely works to Brandon as thanks for sacrificing weeks of summer to ensure I had two shows that came nowhere near $60,000 sales.
  • Scolded! As an adult! By another adult! Insanity.

*Note that this is a different map than that provided by Portland Metro. It also depicts the slightly longer scenic route through Marquam Nature Park. This route has less time on roadways, but also leaves you wondering where to go when you find yourself below OHSU at the Marquam Shelter. Perhaps I just missed a sign, which is great, as it forces me to do the whole thing over again soon.


That's A Wrap

Elizabeth Garrett as Brady
Click on image for larger view.

Filming effectively ended this weekend. We closed with the climax of the movie, which was heart-wrenching to witness. It also left the whole house infused with an air of desperation and anger. I've considered smudging the place clean but am concerned that some unforeseen pick-up shot will be immediately needed should I attempt to reclaim my environs too soon.

But I'm getting ahead of things. Perhaps a bit of background is in order.

* * * * *

Months ago Amy presented The Company with a script. Like all things Amy produces it was alarmingly good, and honored all of the edicts we'd set down after learning what we did producing Fine Arts. Namely, that we don't have any sort of budget and should only write in locations that are ours to access. Furthermore, actors and actresses prefer to have lines to speak when they act. It seems to be part of their craft— this memorization and convincing delivery of lines.

So this new script was talky, which meant Director Brandon wasn't going to be the Director, preferring the quieter screenplays as he does, and it would take place in my apartment, seeing as how I live next door to some other folks Amy and Brandon are quite chummy with and we needed a place for the creepy neighbor in the script to live.

Which meant my home became a movie set. A movie set that Ariana and I had to live in, always questioning whether or not we could use a certain glass ("Is this part of the set?") or throw away the soap dispenser when it emptied ("How can I dress the set for scene 18 if the soap dispenser from scene 17 is now in the landfill?"). All sorts of frustration ensued. Ariana nearly lost a lung to a melting plastic spatula and the cat started to neurotically scratch holes in her skin.

I lost sleep. I lost my keys. I lost my checkbook. At times, I must admit, I lost my cool.

* * * * *

Nevertheless, as the Director, I've been privy to the dailies (movie parlance for the footage shot thus far, or on that day, or something like that) and I can say that all of this trouble may just net one awesome short film. The two leads (Elizabeth Garrett and Raj Patel) were accommodating, committed, and exceedingly skilled at realizing a script that was anything but simple. I found myself watching them storm through a scene and thinking, "Where do actors find all of the extra energy to live all these other lives?" There were moments when I found it difficult to watch, what with the emotions flying about being so raw, and that speaks volumes about the efficacy of their performances.

* * * * *

There's plenty more I could say, but I'm sure that editing the footage for the next three months will provide countless opportunities for Blogger-powered reflection. . .

In the meantime I tried to grab a few screenshots from the rough footage for this post— which turns out to be more difficult than I thought (undoubtedly due to some silly copyright infringement fear on the part of Apple) so please forgive the rather choppy images displayed here. I can assure you that the actual footage is not only much crisper, but far more saturated as well.

Crisper and more saturated— words to live by.

Raj Patel as Jacob
Click on image for larger view.


Active, Adventurous, and Beautiful

Compass at the Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, Oregon

I've returned from a week long trip through the geological wonders of Central Oregon. This is the third time I've taken this trip, and the second outing with students in tow.

For those of you who grew up with a public school education the idea of setting out with your teacher for a week long camping trip probably seems incomprehensible. The organization, money requirements, and liability complications would render such a trip impossible. Yet, I would argue, that it is just such thoughts and limitations that have neutered our public schools in the past three decades. Ultimately, I believe our inability as adults to free ourselves from such fears will contribute greatly to a dramatically diminished economic and cultural output in America.

The fact of the matter is, there is no better way to instill in a child the magnificent power of nature than to let them experience it first hand. Hiking to the top of cinder cone volcanoes in 98 degree weather only to descend through a 6000' lava cave that is 40 degrees on the same afternoon does more to nurture a child's imagination than any classroom demonstration or diagram. In order for education to be lasting and meaningful to a child, it must be composed of experiences that inspire and enliven— it must be active, adventurous, and beautiful— in short, it must be all the things that we believe our children to be.



Resistance, 2009
acrylic, toner, graphite, and wax on panel
10.5" x 10.5"
Click on image for larger view.

There are a good number of things in life right now that are providing a bit of resistance. I'd like to think that I'm standing as stoic and strong as these evergreens, but the truth is quite different. I have fewer years, less pith, and a great deal more awareness of discomfort; which I suppose are the hallmarks of consciousness, but do not necessarily yield humanity a more enviable path in the natural world.

* * * * *

I remember witnessing this stand in the snow atop Mt. Hood during a snow flurry and feeling very small. These trees had already lost ten feet to an accumulation of wind and moisture that would have consumed me in a matter of hours if I opted to stand still.

Winter has long been portrayed as a season of death, but ultimately this is a great simplification. Winter, like modern life, is merely a catalyst and punisher of inertia.


Spoiler Alert!

Photo by Edwin Aldrin, Apollo 11, July 16-24, 1969
Hasselblad 70mm transparency

Ariana and I went with high hopes to see Moon the other night. Our hopes were dashed.

Here's what I hoped would not be part of a movie about the moon that had been billed as quiet, contemplative, and spiritual:

1. a talking computer with questionable motives— Talking computers may be the future, but after HAL, there's really no way to cast a computer without it being an obvious play on HAL, and that means that everyone will assume the computer is evil, heartless (if you have a hard time with the word evil), or susceptible to devastatingly literal programming by emotionally stunted programmers. Unless of course some clever auteur were to subvert our expectation of a HAL-like computer and give it a heart, hmmmm. . . didn't see that one coming.

Happy and sad face computer displays as an empathy device don't go over so well either; especially in a mostly monochrome movie of moon dust and plastic surroundings.

2. another clone movie that explores what it means to be human— Let me just say that there is not one moment in this film that comes close to the emotional resonance of Rutgur Hauer's justification for his right to life in the final scene of Blade Runner. Which isn't to say that Sam Rockwell does a bad job, because he doesn't. But he has a hard time really getting to a the low we would expect of a man left alone to die— a man whose whole world view has been shattered— because there's another, more vivacious him, to play off of. This ends up making it more of a surreal buddy movie rather than a reflection of selfhood.

Or, as my wife put it: it's hard not to just get Weird Al's "I Think I'm a Clone Now" on a loop in your head for the last hour of the movie.

3. lots of talking and even a few jokes— Clearly somebody didn't read their Making of an Epic Space Tale 101 Handbook. If the objective is to make a profound film set in space make sure everyone says very little.

Sure, Moon has the weird unexplainable visions part nailed. And it was adapted from a short story into a long feature length film, so those are some instant credibility points. But ultimately, the movie is awfully heavy on dialogue and woefully light on sweeping desolate vistas to truly enter the ranks of the memorable space epic.

So let me offer a suggestion for round two, because the sequel to this film could be awesome. In the final shot of Moon there is a bit of voice over that alludes to the reaction on Earth after Mr. Rockwell returns to tell his tale of clone woe. If you want to make a truly good science fiction movie, how about a genre-bending court room drama about a clone who falls to earth and explodes an international debate about what makes a human being human, coupled with an exploration about how immigration policy must be reconsidered in light of the cloning capacity of nefarious mining corporations.

I'll write it for any studio in Hollywood for, say, half a million dollars.

Call me.


The Lost Statement

Click on image for larger view.

This quick Photoshop collage is not a part of my recent exhibitions. I put together this comp to compare the different looks of some daguerreotype textures provided by Caleb Kimbrough at Lost and Taken. Nevertheless, I think it proves to be a fitting accompaniment to the short artist statement I drafted for my current show at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro, OR.

It turns out that the Arts Center didn't have a designated location to post statements so this brief composition will find its only home here.

* * * * *

I spend a good deal of time longing to be outdoors.

This wasn’t always true. Much of my life played out in the suburbs and cities of Southern California where there are no true seasons— everything blooms and grows unchecked if you water it enough. Leaves don’t turn vibrant colors. Snow never blankets the ground. The sky is perpetually laden with heat and the particulate offerings of tailpipes. In such a place there was little incentive to be outdoors, and I had no real conception of the breadth and majesty of the natural world until I moved to the Willamette Valley.

That first year in Oregon I would drive around the farmlands outside of Salem, or up into the coastal range to the West, and I would witness a nature more magnificent than I’d ever imagined. Who knew the moon could be so large? How is it possible to have concentric rainbows? Isn’t it incongruous how the combines are so loud but create a dusty film that filters the setting sun into a splash of shadowy purple across the fields? In that year I discovered a sublime beauty and, quite by coincidence, I also discovered photography.

Well, I discovered pinhole photography anyway, which is a very primitive sort of way to take a picture; the camera being nothing more than a cardboard box with a hole to allow in some light like a lens would on a “real” camera. To be honest, the pinhole cameras I constructed did a poor job of capturing any of the sublime moments I witnessed, but in their indistinct and blurry compositions I discovered something equally beautiful. These crude images conveyed something about the underlying shape of nature; about nature in motion. A picture postcard of a vista doesn’t tend to do that, it just boasts about being somewhere. An image like that is about conquering a bit of landscape, whereas the pinhole image that takes minutes (or even hours) to expose is about experiencing a place.

Eventually, I began to supplement my collection of muzzy pinhole images with antique photos that had similar properties. I would hunt through flea markets and junk shops for damaged and discarded impressions of nature. Then I would transform both my images, and the found images, into drawings like the ones you see exhibited here. These drawings allow me to adjust the scale of the images and to perhaps even improve upon the original negative by adjusting the composition or contrast of the subject as I draw it.

I suppose I could outline that drawing process here, but it is complicated, and the only important thing to understand is that the process allows me to devote time to each image— more time than one person ever really devotes to a picture these days when imagery in ubiquitous and, quite frankly, exhausting.

The way we spend our time says a great deal about what we value. When I consider these landscapes that I’ve drawn, whether they are places I photographed or places some anonymous photographer felt compelled to record, I realize how important these moments that cause us to stop in wonder- to stop in awe- actually are, and I feel a great longing to step outside and discover everything all over.

August 2009, Portland, OR


Another Opening Tomorrow Night

Click on image for larger view.

After an unforeseen nine-day visit to Southern California I've made it back to Portland just in time to install another exhibition of the landscape work I completed in July. This exhibit is about twenty miles outside of Portland at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro, Oregon. An opening reception will take place tomorrow evening (Tuesday, September 1st) at six o'clock. For those of you with the time and inclination the particulars are below:

Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center
527 East Main Street
Hillsboro, OR 97123

This is a three person exhibit (it also includes the work of Janette Cavecche and Robynn Fulfs) and it will run through September. Following the closing of this show I plan on taking a break from exhibiting for a while to focus on:
  • finishing the second movie (more on that in a bit)
  • beginning a new series of work (a bestiary— 'nuff said)
  • a motley assortment of design projects meant to sharpen my Adobe skills
  • finding a sense of balance and harmony in life


The desert was all gold and heat.

The desert was all gold and heat. 2009
acrylic, leafing, toner, and wax on panel
10.5" x 10.5"
Click on image for larger view.

I recognize that I've been a bit lax with regard to blogging of late— there has just been so much to do to prepare for shooting the upcoming film that I've felt a bit overwhelmed. In the past I would have sprinkled a few liberal promises about posting more frequently to make up for my silence, but I'm not in a position to fully honor such vows, so the most I can say is that I haven't forsaken blogging regularly; I'm simply in the process of redefining "regularly."

* * * * *

The desert was all gold and heat. is an utter fabrication. It is an amalgam of a found image and the texture of an old daguerreotype plate. At the MKAC opening one of the other photographers exhibiting there told me it had the quality of an Edward Curtis, which made me glow with a golden sheen not at all dissimilar to that displayed in the work.

I don't belong anywhere near the same breath that would utter Curtis' name; he being a master photographer and me being something of a photographic imposter. But I could see how the color of the image might elicit a comparison.

Curtis, Edward Sheriff (American, 1868-1952)
The Morning Bath—Apache
from The North American Indian (published between 1907-1930)


Divination Rod

Divination Rod, 2009
acrylic, leafing, toner, ink, and wax on panel
7.375" x 7.375"
Click on image for larger view.

Forgive my absence. I've been away for about two weeks on a silent meditation retreat in Washington. Ever since my return friends and family have all been asking the same sorts of questions:

What was it like? Was it worth it? Did it help? Why did I do it?

The answers to these questions are neither short nor simple, so I will wait until more time has passed before I share more about that particular experience. Needless to say, it has been difficult to return to the bustle and frustration of a city after ten days of silence on a 40-acre parcel of wheat fields and evergreens.

* * * * *

Divination Rod derives from an image of a spray-painted branch I discovered on Bainbridge Island this past Spring. For some reason or another this branch, along with a scattering of stumps and leaves, had been sprayed a metallic blue color that looked most incongruous among the deep browns and greens of the woodland. A contented squirrel sat a few feet away from me gnawing on a nut as I searched for the right angle to capture this knobby wooden talon. It looked in every way like an object with some mystical power, glowing as it was under the overcast sky of the Puget Sound.

Months later, when the image was transferred atop the silver leaf, I was pleased to see that the same sort of luminosity that had been a by-product of the spray paint was evident in this little waxed panel.


D is for Durable

M is for Muir, 2009
acrylic, leafing, toner, tea, and wax on panel
7.375" x 7.375"
Click on image for larger view.

When I'm on field trips with my class I don't get too many opportunities to take photographs. The reasons for this should be obvious. However, and here is the great irony, the only times I tend to travel are when I take field trips with my class. Oh wicked conundrum!

* * * * *

I learned very quickly that only the most durable camera will survive a road-trip with a class of adolescents. That fancy new DSLR would certainly be the most versatile camera, but it would hardly hold up to falling out of the back of the van when the cooler lid is thrown open carelessly in the pursuit of snacks. So, I opt for indestructible over versatile, and always bring my trusty manual Nikon FE with a first-gen Lensbaby. The Lensbaby, while exceedingly limited in what it can do, has no glass components. That means that 70lbs. of lumpy duffle bag can be thrown on top of it and nothing much will happen to the simple plastic bellows.

* * * * *

M is for Muir was taken in the California Redwoods as we wound our way down to San Francisco. The students were completely immersed in ensuring that the quiet majesty of the Redwoods was anything but quiet so I took a moment to fixate on a few of the fallen giants that bordered the path. As usual, some yahoo had felt the need to deface the soft orange bark of a 200' long nurse log and that is what I ended up photographing. I'm still a bit unsure as to why I compile so many images of initials carved into trees— I suppose because defacing a tree is not all that different an act from taking a picture. Both claim that one tiny presence shared a moment with something much greater.


A Fit of Absolutely Warranted Panic

Pressing Through — before waxing

Earlier this month I promised I'd share a studio disaster with you, so here it goes. Above is a depiction of a naked tree pressing through the fog. Below is the same panel after being varnished with two layers of cold wax medium.

Pressing Through — after waxing

When much of my white pastel disappeared under the first pass of cold wax I wanted to cry. Cry in a most unmanly sort of way. Cry in the way that only a month of ten-hour days in the studio can bring about.

I had counted on the cold wax to seal 3/4 of the works I'd created for the upcoming show, but suddenly I was confronted with the possibility that this technique would irrevocably alter the appearance of all my drawings. And there was no way I could frame everything behind glass in time.

But I didn't cry. Instead, I did what any artist would do in a similar situation. I ran to my former drawing teacher for help.

Luckily her studio is only three doors down from mine. She graciously stopped everything she was doing to come and see the source of my distress. A distress, she informed me, that could have been prevented with a few layers of permanent fixative prior to the application of cold wax.

To be fair, I had used fixative. Workable fixative. One layer.

I thanked her profusely. She just smiled and remarked that she didn't know what all the fuss was about. "It's a lovely image Jeffrey."

After a few hours I came around to seeing things her way.


60" On Center

Maude Kerns Installation— North Wall

While there is nothing conceptually radical in my approach to hanging the show at Maude Kerns Art Center(MKAC) I thought it might be worth taking a moment to discuss why everything was not simply hung on a center line at eye level.

Having worked in a gallery before the prevailing wisdom for hanging an art exhibition is that 2D work should be hung so that the center of the work is in line with an imaginary line 60" from the ground. This rather arbitrary measurement is derived from the idea that 60" is "eye-level" for the average person. It is an appropriate de facto placement when the gallery wants to safely represent the work of an artist; i.e. doesn't want to go out on a limb and attempt to artificially establish or suggest heirarchies of importance among the body of work.

Maude Kerns Installation— West Wall

Is this sounding obtuse? OK. Let me clarify. When you hang some images higher or lower than others you risk subconsciously affecting how a viewer values the work. Images that are centered might seem more important than those that are lower on the wall, and those that are higher might ultimately be regarded as inaccessable or aloof. These assumptions about how height affects the viewing experience have led to some fairly radical approaches to staging an exhibition in the past fifty or sixty years, although I doubt that anything can seem more radical than the salon style presentation of images favored throughout Europe from the Renaissance until the mid-20th century.

Heim, Francois-Joseph (French, 1787-1865)
Charles X Distributing Awards to Artists Exhibiting at the Salon of 1824 at the Louvre, 1827
Musée du Louvre, Paris

I have been intrigued by salon style picture hanging for a long time and, in considering the installation at MKAC I knew that I wanted to incorporate the idea of images being displayed near each other so as to create implied narratives. I wanted the viewer to not just focus on one work, and then another work, and then another work; giving each one only a few seconds before stepping a couple (evenly spaced) feet over to the next. Rather, it seemed more effective to imply that there might be a continuity, or relationship, between different pieces. An entire wall might make up a short story with the variably sized white space between works reading as pauses. Taken as an entirety, the exhibition would display a gentle rhythm of movement as the hanging height of the works quietly rose and fell in a wave-like pattern around the room.

My hope was to imply a passage of time within space: to draw a connection between the antiquated and the contemporary. To state that all of this image making that we are doing today is simply a continuation of the long held desire to trap and preserve the transitory.


MKAC Installation Views

Opening Reception at Maude Kerns— July 17, 2009

The opening of my solo show at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene this past Friday was both warm and (contrary to what you see in the pictures below) well attended. Many folks from Eugene braved blistering heat to come out and see new works by Yours Truly. I had the opportunity to answer a number of really insightful questions and I was pleased to see that different pieces really spoke to different people.

Installation View

I imagine that some artists dread openings, but I really enjoy the chance to experience the reactions of others to the work. After all, the art is meant to have a life outside of my studio and my life; exhibitions are the first step into a wider world. Selling work continues that process as it takes the artwork from my hands entirely and allows it to build an entirely new context.

Installation View

I couldn't have succeeded in realizing this show without the assistance, support, and guidance of the following people: my wife (for putting up with it all), Brandon "the Director" Spradling (for priming and leafing), Matt McCalmont (for an abundance of custom frames), Paul "the Mentor" Gentry (who provided both a couch and the photos you see here), Dena Brown at MKAC (for organizing and installing the show), Kevin Burrus (for additional framing support and cutting panels), and the Edwards family for ongoing support.

My sincerest thanks to you all.

Installation View