Clair

October 20th, 2013

So the good news is that since moving to Japan, I’ve been super inspired and in a great mood most of the time (which is conducive to making art for me). The bad news is that I’ve been so dang busy that I haven’t been able to make as much art as I’d like. Also, my model network here is basically nonexistent, and despite the large amount of pretty girls and handsome dudes in Nagasaki, it’s hard to find people who want to pose for fashion-type photos. That said, I’ve done a couple shoots for my friend Mai, who runs “Clair”, a dress and accessory shop!

Recently, Mai’s friend Ren posed with a bunch of different dresses. It was her first time modeling, and I think she wass stunning! There are a lot more on the gallery page for it, so click here, or on the Ren pics to see more than what I’ve posted here. Here’s a sample…

Next up, a few shots of Mai herself, rocking some fabulous dresses and jewelry. As with before, click here, or on any of the Mai pictures to see more! Mai looks quite good here too, I think :-)

Despite having to leave my big Profoto strobe set back in the states, due to size / weight / cost restrictions, I’ve not been without strobes as you see here. I bought an extra Speedlite, a wireless trigger, and some various accessories. I don’t have quite the power and consistency of light quality that I have with my Acute 1200s set, but the tradeoff is that my Speedlite setup is battery powered and super compact, so I can shoot anywhere without being tethered by a power cord. Also, if things break, it’s a lot cheaper to replace a Speedlite than a strobe head…. Stay tuned! As I get to know more people around Kyushu, as well as planning ahead for shooting when I visit other places, I’ll be posting more fashion and portraits once again!

I should add, as a post-script, that I’m still taking tons of photos. I shoot about 8-10 Gigs per week here, just in snapshots, and I’ve been doing more event photography for the schools I work for. Pretty fun!


Amethyst

October 20th, 2013

Howdy boys and girls! Here’s something I whipped up recently… The release image for my single “Amethyst”. I put it in the Illustrated-Photography gallery, even though it’s about 90% illustration, 10% photography (as opposed the roughly 50/50 split of most of that work) because I thought it fit in better thematically. Not manga-ish like a lot of my pure illustration work is…

I’m sort of fascinated by crystals, in terms of their shapes, and also with polygon graphics and early computer graphics. I decided to put these themes together for the rather surreal lady you see here. If you want to listen to the track that I made this for, check out the video below:


MACRO is back!

July 6th, 2013

Oh yes, and another thing… I finally redesigned, revamped, and REVIVED the Macro site! (Macro is my music). Click the above image or here to go visit the site. There are about 30 mp3s on there for you to download (including a whole album!), a few videos to watch, and lots of pictures! Also, I’ve been messing around with new music, of course. Here’s a new track, “Novo”, my first new song in six years!

I’m excited to come out of my music hiatus…


Panorama Island – out now!

July 6th, 2013

In other news, “Panorama Island”, a manga that Ryan Sands and I adapted into English is now available! It’s being put out by Last Gasp, and is now available to purchase in lots of different places, such as directly from Last Gasp, or via Amazon, for example. It was a dream project to work on, since it’s a Maruo comic, based off of an Edogawa Ranpo story. The book came out beautifully, and is a nice big hardcover. Here’s what Amazon has to say about the story.

On a remote and mysterious island, one man builds a playground of hedonistic excess – replete with waterfalls, grand palaces, and gardens – a backdrop for his decadent feasts, orgies, and dark secrets. Set in 1920s Japan, The Strange Tale of Panorama Island follows the twisted path of failed novelist Hitomi, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the son of a rich industrialist family. Hitomi learns of the rich man’s sudden passing and creates a desperate plan. He fakes his own death, digs up and hides the other man’s body, and then washes himself up starving on a beach near the home of the dead man’s family. After successfully impersonating the now-dead son, Hitomi takes over all aspects of the industrialist’s life, including his company, his fortune, and eventually his wife. The failed author soon redirects the family’s wealth to his own perverse aims. A graphic novel based on the revered novella by Edogawa Rampo. Rampo was the godfather of Japanese pulp mysteries. Stunning artwork by master manga artist Suehiro Maruo deftly illustrates this Japanese pulp classic in fine detail. * 13th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize for New Artist

I handled the lettering, touch-up, and book design, while Ryan handled the editing. Ryan and Kyoko Nitta did translation. Pick up a copy and enjoy it :-)


Long time no see. Here’s a bunch of art!

July 6th, 2013

Hey everyone. I’m all settled in Japan now. Er, I have been since late January, but things have been quite busy. Anyway, I’ve been feeling super inspired since moving here, and have working on lots of creative projects whenever I have time. I’ll post about some of other stuff I’ve been doing soon, but in the meantime, here are a few illustrations and collages I’ve done since getting here (you can click on them to go to their respective gallery pages if you’d like):


A new chapter

January 4th, 2013

As I type this, big changes are afoot in my life. Good changes! I’m mentioning them here because they will have an appreciable effect on my art and my workflow – I’d imagine for the better. So what’s happening?

On January 22nd, I’m moving to Japan!! A month ago, only a brief time after moving to Los Angeles, I got a surprise phone call from the JET Program, asking me if I could come to Nagasaki to fill in for one of their Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) who would be leaving the program early. Of course I said yes. I’d actually applied for JET a year prior, had interviewed back in February ‘12, and hadn’t gotten picked for the initial wave of hiring. I had thus moved on to “Plan B”. I was finally starting to get some traction going in LA with more contract work in the photography business, but the truth of the matter is, things weren’t going smoothly enough with regular enough pay for me to pass up a rare opportunity such as this. I’ve been wanting a steady paycheck, structure, health insurance, and something new for a while now, and this will fit the bill.  I’m crossing my fingers that the US economy will have rebounded a bit more by the time I get back to the states, but this new English teaching job will give me financial security for the near-future, and I’ll be living in a beautiful area of Japan!

The whole experience so far has been like what I would imagine it would feel if you spend all of your teens and early twenties trying to be an actor, but it never really happens, so you move on. Then, at the age of 32, a big movie studio calls you up to offer a leading role in a summer blockbuster. Well, that metaphor might be a bit hyperbolic, but it seems somewhat apt. I studied the Japanese language from age 13-23, at first on my own, then in after-school classes in junior high & high school, then in college. I’ve been to Japan five times thus far, in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2007. Despite my love of Japanese culture and the language, I’ve become a little distanced from it in my day-to-day. I’m 32 now, and it’s been almost ten years since my last Japanese class. I stopped studying the language due to having taken all the classes my university offered, as well as a lingering question of how the skill was really going to help me in life, especially since art was my main focus in life. I got pretty cynical about Japan, and didn’t see how I could fit into that world in a way that would also nurture my creativity. My interest in pop-culture & traditional culture used to be very Japan-centric, and in the intervening years it has become about 10%-20% of my cultural intake, with an expanded interest in the rest of the world. I no longer have the otaku tunnel-vision of my youth, and you know what? I think that makes the 32-year-old me a much better fit for living and working in Japan, than the 20-year-old wearing the rose-tinted glasses.

A few years in the workforce, having to handle the full brunt of the recession and its underemployment and insecurity, have strengthened me greatly as a person, and taught me some valuable lessons. If the overly-idealistic 20-year-old me had to deal with the ups and downs of working in a foreign country, I think I would have cracked under the pressure. For so long Japan was just a vacation / study-program destination for me, and I didn’t have to deal with the negative aspects, as I was just “sampling” the country for a while, each visit. As I’ve grown up, experience has taught me that every job sucks in some ways, even the ones you most enjoy. The trick is to use the knowledge of that occasional suckiness to help you better appreciate the good times. Also, when you live in one of your dream places, as I did in San Francisco for several years, not every day is going to be paradise. Even dream cities contain exhaustion, heartbreak, parking tickets, noisy neighbors, and worrying about paying the rent. As an adult, I can view Japan as what it is: a country with good and bad traits like any other, and not as the everything-is-perfect “nerd’s paradise” I once might have. Plus, I’m planning on using this opportunity as a way to turn around and enhance my life. I’ll finally be able to put money into savings each month, as I’ll have enough money to live on and then some. I won’t have my car with me, and with a ton of cycling, walking, and eating better, I intend to get in great shape again. I also intend on getting my Japanese ability better than ever. I used to be pretty good, and nowadays I can speak on the level of a Japanese 4 year old on a good day. Good enough to get by, but I can’t discuss deep things. When I visited in ‘07, my language ability came back quite a bit, and I imagine with living there, it’ll rebound and become much better!

So what does all of this have to do with my art, and why am I posting this blog entry on my art site, and not on a seemingly-requisite “American in Japan” blog? Well, it means a few things….

  • I’m not sure what my workflow / productivity will be on new art while I’m there. It’s hard to say because I don’t know yet if I’m going to be one of those ALTs who is very busy all the time, and has a lot of extra-curricular things going on outside of work, or if  there’s going to be a a lot of free time to make art. That said, my productivity this past 3 or so years has been a pale shadow of the pre-recession days, and maybe now that I won’t have the malaise of unemployment / money stress weighing down on me, maybe I can embrace my creativity again. Also, I traditionally get super inspired in Japan, and tend to at make art a lot when I’m there. I think that may well balance out with the potential lack of free time.
  • The kind of techniques I will have at my disposal for photography will change while I’m there. I can’t bring very much at all with me, and will only be shipping a small amount, so much of my usual supplies will be back home. For example, I won’t have my strobes with me, so that’s going to put a limit on the lighting I can do in my photography. I’m thinking at some point I’ll buy a second Speedlite, and a remote transmitter, and have sort of a lower-power, more portable strobe solution, but that’ll have to wait until I have paychecks coming in. I’ll be relying more on available light that I have been with my more recent shots, and continuing to use my Speedlite to make things “pop” a bit.  I also don’t know what the situation will be with models over there, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of my photography & illustrated-photography even includes people. It would be a nice challenge to get back into more abstract work again, or at least non-people subjects supplementing my portfolio.
  • I intend to return to some neglected kinds of art that I can make on my own, in my apartment… music, comic books, and illustration. I’ve been planning out some new comic ideas, and have been waiting for a time where things stabilize so I can dive deep into a graphic novel, or at least some short-form stuff. My illustration – my first artistic skill, sort of neglected due to my focus on photography – needs to make a more prominent return in my life. As for my music, I’ve been itching to make a new album. After making a noise album a year ago to get back into practice, I’ve been spending a lot of time, building parts of new songs. Having some new toys at my disposal, and feeding off of the inspiration I feel in Japan, I intend to return to music in a major way soon!

Okay, I’ve rattled on long enough. I’m not sure exactly yet how long I’ll be in Japan, but at least through JET, it’ll be a minimum of six months, and as long as four and a half years. I’m hoping to put in at least a solid 2-3 years, to save up a good nest-egg of money, and I don’t see myself as a “lifer”, but who knows? The future is hard to predict, and who knows who I’ll become? Anyway, thanks for reading this. Unless I manage to make some new art in the busy next couple weeks, my next update will most likely be from Japan. I don’t know exactly how long it’ll be until my next content update, but I’ll try not to let it be too long. See you soon!


Moped Girl

December 12th, 2012

Just a little tribute to all the beautiful moped riders out there and their charming rides. This girl is on a Puch Magnum Mk II, which is my favorite model. I wanted to make something fun for 12/12/12, so this is what I came up with.


REVISITED // “Automaton JDM”

November 20th, 2012

I’m on a roll right now, in terms of working on creative projects. A little over 24 hours ago, I posted my brand new illustrated-photography piece, and I just finished finished something that is both new and old at the same time.

In 2008, I made “Automaton JDM”, the image you see above. At the time, it was a personal milestone, in terms of detail, concept, and execution, and I think it blew my first Automaton piece (from 2006) out of the water. More recently, you’ve seen the third piece in the Automaton series, from last year, which is even crazier than the 2008 example. Anyway, back to 2008… After making “JDM”, as well as a couple other pieces around that time that I was quite proud of, my hard drive died and I lost the original hi-res / layered files, as well as a ton of other stuff. (PROTIP: Back your stuff up kids!) I was devastated at the time (it still stings a bit to think about), but I plugged on ahead with new work, and rebuilt / salvaged some of my older pieces. Lacking the digital files, I made high-res scans of prints that I’d previously made, redrew things, and tried my best to smooth out the colors and textures. On one particularly challenging salvage, I didn’t even have a print to scan, since I’d made the piece a few days before the crash. All I had was a tiny jpg, and an insanely difficult task of scaling it up to a decent print size, redrawing the whole thing from scratch, and doing a lot of damage control on horribly-enlarged pixels. Despite my best efforts, I was never fully happy with the results of some of these salvaged versions, as they always looked muddy and dark compared to the original digital files, but after the hard drive disaster, I didn’t have much that I could print out for art shows, so I had to make do.

Anyway, I was especially bothered by how much less vibrant Automaton JDM looked after salvaging, compared to its original form. All I had left of the original was a 750px wide jpg (which you’ll see top-right.) I salvaged that one in early 2009, but was never happy with the results. It was too dark and murky (see bottom-right.) It basically did the job for printing, but I felt a pang of guilt selling prints of it, as I knew it was not as good as it originally was, but there was certainly no way I could sell prints of a 750px wide jpg, unless I was going to go into the postage stamp business! (Actually, HMMM… new business venture?)

Since that first attempt, I happened to find a DVD with some of the layers of the original high-res 2008 file. Just the background, and the foreground ladies, but it was a start. Also, I’d purchased a better scanner since ‘09, and rescanned my original 8×10 print, getting much better results. Still not as smooth as the original file (it can’t be, given the dot-tone), but more subtle color shifts and shadows. Armed with this elements, I got to work last night making a second salvage attempt, and in the process, I decided to update / improve the piece as well, using newer techniques. Maybe it’s disingenuous to go back and do a “director’s cut” of old art, but I’ve done it before, on my comics, and I like the feeling. It’s like visiting an old friend and finding that they are doing better than ever!

The main improvements center around making the robot stand out better from the background. I simulated depth-of-field with the background, getting blurrier as it gets farther away. I also added a bit of a faint glow to the night sky, not just to make the robot stand out, but also because when you’re in a busy, electrified metropolis like Osaka, there’s a ton of light pollution in the sky. The other change I made to the background involves glow. I thought that the insanely bright neon signs of Dōtonbori were not properly represented by my original, so I added a subtle glow to the signs. I also tweaked the robot a bit to add more light reflection on its edges, to better fit it in with its brightly-lit background. The other change I made, was cropping things to make the piece as a whole fit better with my now standard dimensions. My old pieces were all over the map, which made framing a nightmare. Anyway, I think this new version is a success in that not only do I feel better about having an “Automaton JDM” that I can print without being slightly embarrassed, but I think this version’s better than the original one in multiple ways. I’ll probably do this with more of the pre-crash pieces that are in limbo, as well.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy seeing this old friend again, this time wearing a fancy new set of clothes :-)


NEW ART // “Bluebird”

November 19th, 2012

After a year’s hiatus from my illustrated-photography work, here’s a new, and quite cheerful one! A lot of my work, as you’ve maybe noticed, revolves around themes of sci-fi, horror, surreal scenes, and general dark & weird stuff. For this piece, I decided to make something cute, and loosely in tribute to the Disney movies I watched as a kid.

Thanks to the always photogenic, always creative Raven Le Faye for modeling for this. Hard to tell it’s her with the wig, huh? That makes four illustrated-photography pieces in a row featuring her (to refresh your memory, here are thepreviousthree.) If you guessed that she’s one of my favorite models to work with, you wouldn’t be wrong!

Anyway, to go to the gallery page for this piece, and check out details, click the image above, or here.


Alicia & my Fiat

November 18th, 2012

Right before I left for LA, I got a chance to do a proper shoot with Alicia Echevarria. (I’d previously posted a quick one-off shot I took of her back in August, btw.) It’s too bad that I didn’t meet her earlier in my time back in Michigan, as I would have loved to shot more, but I’m happy we managed to fit this shoot into that last week of packing and scrambling. Anyway, she’s super photogenic, so I think you’ll dig these photos! I’d been meaning to do a shoot with my beloved project car, a 1975 Fiat Spider that I’ve been working on since I got it in 2010, so I figure I’d let the green machine guest-star in this shoot.

I tried to go for a ’70s vibe for the photos, to match the car and wardrobe (especially the green dress, which was my mom’s in the late ’60s), and opted for a slightly hazy look, with selectively muted colors and sun flares. I’ve always loved the way 35mm photos from the ’60s-’80s looks, and I’ve been chasing an elusive goal to try to achieve that look via digital tricks. (I guess I could just use Instagram like everyone else, hur hurrr). Oh! Here’s a little behind-the-scenes shot:

Anyway, thanks again to Alicia for posing for the shoot, to my mom for supplying the wardrobe for the second half of the shoot (she had some killer style back in the day), and extra-special thanks to my friend Peter Stylianou, owner of Cozy Corner Coney Island, for letting me use the yard behind his super-delicious restaurant!

Click here or any of the shots in this post to see the rest of the photos (14 in all!)