Friday, January 11, 2013

The Voice of Art

The Voice of Art

I know this place where a dog holds court as the afternoon sun pass through the sky.

I know this place where you will be born again as you dive into a cold spring fed creek swimming hole.

I know this place where the rocks really do cry out.
This place I know is a special kind of art school where students learn the voice of art. The artist do not speak through their craft, but they give their creation a voice that may sound like their own, but only how a child sounds like the parent. Long after the physical voice of the father/mother artist is gone, you hear that voice through their creations alluring new owners of the master’s craft.


This place with old jugs stacked by a door, rusty farm tools held up by oaks trees, and bird nest sitting on old cabinets is where the rocks that cry out are created by hand with clay and fired by the flames of a wood kiln. Each year I spend time taking in a private weekend vacation hidden away in the hills of the Napa valley. In the rear of the property is a large wood fired kiln. The owner, Richard Carter casts spells upon the guest with stories of how the kiln is filled with new work, carefully loaded with wood, and then slowly fired to 2500 degrees. Flames shoot high into the night from the large chimney as wood is vaporized into ash when dropped through holes into the side of the kiln. This is not a one-night fire, but a ten-day odyssey of giving clay a voice from of the flames of trees.

“The Ranch,” as Richard's friends call it, is something of a spiritual center of ceramic art of Northern California. Clay pears dulled by a sand blaster sit on a table. Custom hand thrown stoneware bowls lay out in the sun after being born from kiln.

Inside the modest ranch home, upon the walls are Richard’s massive wall sculptures to “Desire”, “Love” “Fear” and even “Hate.” 
 “They protest it you know. The Phelps know it is about them, and try to protest it when it is displayed,” Richard tells me of the panels on Hate. The Westboro Baptist Church notorious reputation now is even larger than when Richard completed the wall sculpture.

Did this shock you? I must confess that I was tempted not even to post the image of this wall sculpture, but Hate is alive well every day in our culture. The piece has a voice so loud that when people walk into a show, they can’t avoid it. Art is not always about making beautiful images to impress your friends and relatives, but about calling the heart towards self examination. Of all of Richards works, this one does not just call, but demands you examine your soul.

In between the meals, and lemonade, I have sat out on the porch stealing away an art book or two from the most overloaded bookshelf made of steel I have ever seen. Richard found his artistic voice under his mentor Ken Ferguson, an instructor at Kansas City Art Institute. I know all about the first sculpture of Richard’s back in the early days. He took a block of clay and placed nails into one side. It was radical for the class and Ken placed it at the front on the desk for everyone to comment on to Richards’s horror.

“Glaze the mother fucker red,” he bellowed. Richard did just that and has never stopped. Regardless of the color Richard uses today, his work is red with the deepest passions of life. “You need to find your voice. Too many don’t know their voice. The voice in their work is not from them most of the time.”

One day, I will own one of Richards “un-named grids,” of the ghost of nails set in a monolith of clay.

The work speaks to me. These clay tablets have a voice. Others may see only odd holes where once nails lived, but I always see these monoliths as metaphors for the AIDS epidemic, or perhaps one of our school shootings, or of some histories great heroic wars that leave the survivors asking why. It is an abstraction of carefully planned and organized loss.

I picked up a small book on Jerome Caja from that steel bookcase. On the opposite wall a canvas mural draped to the floor of “Bozo Picks a Boyfriend.” Richard knew of him. This drag queen, club owner, and radical gay artist practically came to life straight from the pages of “Tales of the City,” as Richard 
weaved in and out of the oral tradition of artist legends.

“When he died, the Smithsonian packed up his entire apartment. They took it all.” Jerome’s voice was as radical as his life. The outrageous spirit of his small little worlds made of nail polish lacquer captured my imagination. Jerome’s is not the first to haunt me.

“Did you know her, Beatrice Wood?” I asked him dinner sitting outside with the fig tree to my back.

“I picked her up once at the airport,” Richard said, flowing with motion.

“What was she like?” I asked.
 “Full of love,” he said with eyes wide and bright, “No one could glaze like her. You will see what I mean.”

I certainly need these days to find a voice of love in this world. The time had come for me to make a visit to possibly the smallest museum I have ever visited. I am known for my eclectic art fetishes. Ojai is in California, my own home state. It is just six hours drive south from Sacramento. Seemed wrong that I had not yet made the pilgrimage. I had soaked up for years the light of this northern spiritual center of art made of the earth, but I had not yet seen the work of Beatrice Wood. 

It was past time to see the vessels that glowed and listen to the voice, which still spoke through them to this day. The woman who shocked herself was calling, so I had to leave the front porch court of the noon sun dog king, to hear the voice of the "Mama of DaDa." 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Studio LeRoy: Idea to iTunes to iPad

Studio LeRoy: Idea to iTunes to iPad: On September 9 th , 2011, I launched my first E-book for children, of any age. The book was formatted using the new fixed layout ePub, e-b...

Idea to iTunes to iPad

On September 9th, 2011, I launched my first E-book for children, of any age.  The book was formatted using the new fixed layout ePub, e-book file that Apple had approved in December of 2010.  But the idea of this projected started in the summer of 2010. 

I completed a small 16x20 inch painting of an Egyptian ushering in the mighty iPhone into the world of ancient Egypt. At the time, it was nothing but cool POP Art.  I brought together the new, and old, placing them in an eternal mythical world.

 Why not?  The iPhone and iPad certainly have reached the realm of the mythic in our modern culture.  It is a magic box, which any King or Pharaoh of old would go to war for to capture its powers.  No more court seers to tell the weather, or the news, because the iPhone applications can do it all.  No more long voyages just to deliver a message back to the King.  You can just text him now instead. 

 Come on, you know the iPhone came from the god’s!  Maybe even a UFO?  That is right.  Steve Jobs was abducted by a UFO and then after they dropped him off the Alien said, “Uh, where did our phone go?”  Could you just see it, on the manifest of the UFO next to Steve Jobs named, “Caution, he steals!”  Oh, and thank the heavens for that small crime.
So, maybe all of that is a bit of a stretch of the imagination.  It is a strange little fantasy, and that is exactly what children’s books are, fantasies.  They are stories, which promise an escape of this world, to another where gods create our modern toys and drop them from the clouds. 

Just over one year later, the fantasy came alive from the painting in the form of this E-Book and then dropped from the clouds of the ITunes store for children’s picture books. 

First came the word. 

Writing a children’s book story may seem easy enough, but not so fast.  Less is more in this world!  The more words, the less room for art, and sometimes the story can be lost on young minds if it runs a little too long.  Lord of the Scribes is a Hero’s Journey using the story elements of Joseph Campbell’s work.

When I was done with my very small little tale, I handed it off to Mira Reisberg to edit.  Yes, only 500 words, yet I still need and editor.  But Mira is not just any editor, but an experienced writer and illustrator with expert knowledge of the “Hero’s Journey’s .”

Check out her classes


Second came the image.

            For artistic direction and editor, I turned to Tesia Blackburn.  She is a working artist with Golden Paints and Mediums.  Not only is she an outstanding working artist, but she knew what I was capable of producing, because she was the instructor whom I created the first painting for back in 2010. 
Acrylic Diva, Tesia Blackburn

Tesia managed me during a marathon of drawings.  I spent just about three months moving from thumbnails, to full sketches.  Each panel would be evaluated for composition, and design.  This truly was a team effort, as Tesia’s eyes would provide the fine tune tweaking and turning of my various crazy sketches.  

If you are looking for a great instructor in Acrylic painting, go no further than her website the Acrylic Diva. 

Plus, Tesia loved the original painting and the project became a huge inspiration for her to get, you know it, and iPad.   I would preach the gospel of the tablet computer, as she would point out my design flaws.   It was a great collaboration. 

Eventually, I got to the point where I could create a small mock up of the book. 

Little Paper mock up book

Then a very small mock up of the final art work.

The small mock up

Now, stop.  This is the part where you will likely look up an think, “He is crazy.!”  My goal was to create a E-Book, for the iPad, but not using Photoshop, or Animator for the illustrations.  Plus, because Egyptian artwork is already rather two dimensional, I decided not to do just paintings or watercolors.  Oh no, nothing sensible like that would be acceptable for this project. 

 Lord of the Scribes is made up of individual figures on heavy card stock paper, covered in Silver, Gold and Copper leaf, and then hand painted in acrylic.  After that, they are layered not in Photoshop, but in a multi-layer cradle of acrylic panels for depth.  The goal was to create images that appeared to be on a stage jumping out from the wall, rather than just drawn on a temple wall.  Plus, sometimes computer-generated images can have a signature to them that tells the eye of the viewer that it was done in a computer.  I really wanted to create a book of images that felt like the stage of some elaborate play.  

So, here is a larger version. 

Wonderful, but low contrast.

Ya, I am totally crazy.  NO ONE DOES THIS ANYMORE.  And if they do, it is not for some E-book for kids.  But Lord of the Scribes was not just an E-Book for me, but my body of work as an artist. This is my gallery presentation for 2011, and I had eyes on me to produce spectacular results.

I am watching you!

The inspiration for this style comes from a man in Genova Italy, (if you follow me, you know his name), Emanuel Luzzati.  He was a working craftsman and artisan who created everything from urban design murals for ocean liners, to stages sets, to children’s books, to animated movies, and sculptures.  See Luzzati's Magic mind if this is the first time to my blog.  

 Now, back to the book. 

            So, once I had created my main large-scale mock up, I had problems.  I mean I had really BIG PROBLEMS.  They had two names, COLOR AND CONTRAST.  OK, maybe also a coffee addiction and my studio thrashed, but those are personal problems. 

 So, I set out on a series of color studies.

One of Several test strips

Its Line up time. 

Nice, but too cold. 
Not enough contrast. 
Another line up folks. 

And that got a little obsessive, but hey, this has to be right!

Eventually, I understood the dynamics of color using the multiple types of metallic leafs.   I was ready to start large-scale production of the figures. 

 If you gave me the benefit of sanity before, you likely will now know just how crazy I am when you see these pictures. 

By the way, this was a lot of work.  

I got to the point where all my figures, and elements were cut out, leafed with either Gold, Silver or Copper leaf, and then painted in various acrylic colors.  No one called for an intervention.  My poor roommate had not moved out.   I was on target with my dates that my art director had established as critical milestones.  Oh, I forgot to mention this, but having a goal is worthless without a plan, and plans usually have deadlines if they are serious.

This actually might happen!

I started to photograph each panel with studio lights.

I got to the point where I could run through the entire book in about five hours of non-stop photography.  Of course, I had all my characters and stage elements organized in the other room, so all I had to do was go grab the next set and then layer them in the speed easel. 

This thing saved a lot of time; because I was able to position the figures quickly, yet not have to worry about them moving as I put them on some other easel to photograph.  They just stayed on the studio floor as I photographed them from above. 

 So, after about two weeks of photography , because I had to work with lighting experiments, I started to get some magic.
Thoth makes the book for RA. 

Thoth makes RA a computer.  

The presentation of the computer, complete with Errors

Set gives life to the Tablet

Title Page, Story Begins

Then, I sent my jpegs off to the typesetter.  I was going to do this myself, but I ended up working with another artist named Mark Phillips, out of Chicago,  He did a fantastic job, reasonable, and a true night owl.    

Title Page after Mark did his magic. 

Then hand off to E-Book artist to format the book.  If it had not been for this fine gentleman, I might never have attempted Lord of the Scribes.  When I first started considering this project, I would troll the Itunes store looking for and example of how a book was formatted and who did the work.  Ebook Artist was very professional and helpful in helping to take this book from an idea to the iPad.

Then the time had come to hand off to iTunes Connect.  Now, first you need to apply with iTunes Connect to publish.  You can go through an aggregate publisher such as Book Baby, however I choose to publish direct.  You will need an EIN from the IRS for you application with iTunes Connect.  It takes about a week for iTunes Connect to approve you application.  Then, once you upload your e-book file, it takes anywhere from two weeks to maybe a month for iTunes to review and approve the file.  What they are checking for is if the code in the file matches their standards.  Plus, they do check content to some extent, but this is not editing. 

Finally my book it went live, on Sept 9th, 2011.  I first wrote the story on March 7th.  Not bad considering the amount of effort these illustrations took to create. 

Lord of the Scribes

Lord of the Scribes is a very simple fixed layout ePub E-book.  It does not have any of the enhanced features which can be programed into this format. 

About two weeks after the book went live,  Redjumper launched a application for $6.99 called Book Creator.

Book Creator

 It allows anyone to format his or her own book in fixed layout ePub, right on the iPad.  However, it will not program into a book any enhanced features, so, for that you will still need a formatter unless you really are a computer geek and want to dive into the programing language of these ePub files. 

I download this application and started using it with my old portfolio of fine art photography to see just what I could do, and in a very short period of time I was really surprised by the number of compositional variations I was able to design.

I am an artist.  I can design, plan, and execute 17 panels of artwork, each individually painted, but, uh, ya, I need a formatter of the book.  My intelligence lies in other areas.  I recommend E-Book if you require more complex formatting of a book such as embedded audio files or read aloud features.  

Not only are they great to work with, but they are producing some really out standing cutting edge photographic e-books.  Be sure to check their latest out. 
Enhanced e-book, with video and audio
Now you know the journey from the idea to the iPad of a very curious little story.  I personally think all this touch screen application computer stuff is way too cool to just come from our planet.  It had to at least come from a UFO if not an Egyptian god.  Oh, maybe both!  Maybe Apple and Steve Jobs created it, but it is so much more fun to believe he lifted it from a UFO or it came down from the gods who dwell in the clouds.  It makes a better story and a great body of artwork.

Thoth brings the tablet to the gods to speak spells into it. 

 So, be sure to check the book out in the iTunes store, and if you do purchase the book for $1.99, be sure to leave a review.  I would appreciate your feedback.  

 As for the way this book was created, I have learned so much now about this artistic technique, I am going to use it for at least the next two projects.  I will be back with more for Studio LeRoy in 2012.  Thanks for following on blogspot, or Twitter, (@StudioLeroy or Facebook (David LeRoy) .