Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Folding brass luggage cart doesn't exist.

So I find myself getting some vintage luggage. The set I'm hoping to get is a beautiful tan color (leather) with brass hardware, and really will be wonderful. The only problem is that being vintage its not that easy to get around with, unless you have a hand truck available. No problem, I think.

Then I go and look at folding luggage carts. Folding luggage trucks. Folding luggage dollys (dollies?). Folding luggage whatever you want to call them, they come in: matte black and chrome, or matte black and brushed aluminum/steel, or matte black. Now while these would look fine against a boring, typical matte black suitcase ... why oh why oh why aren't there prettier options? Why am I stuck with a luggage truck that looks like it retired from warehouse duty when hotels get beautiful brass luggage carts?

There's no reason for this that I can figure. So... if some company could just go ahead and make what I'm showing in the picture (or something along these lines - the key here is BRASS and FOLDING guys!) , I'd appreciate it. And if you want, go a head and make a set thats entirely brushed metal (alum or steel) too. Oooo, and if you really want me to be happy, copper. Just not black, for heaven sake.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Total craziness

So you might not have heard, but there's some crazy stuff going on on the Internets. A group who calls themselves "Anonymous" have declared war on the Church of Scientology. I've been reading about the whole attack and its pretty bizarre to say the least. Here's a link to a summary of the events so far - but beware, its an Encyclopedia Dramatica link, so its possibly racist, sexist, homophobic, and I'm not going to say the language is clean - it isn't. You have been warned.

Anonymous vs. Scientology

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Three great movies - Juno, Persepolis, and There Will Be Blood

In the past week I've been lucky enough to see three great movies that are in theaters right now: Juno, Persepolis, and There Will Be Blood. I saw all three before the Oscar noms came out, and I gotta say that for once the Oscars seem to have gotten it mostly right (tho no nom for my favorite movie event this year, Grindhouse ... not that I'm terrible surprised, but still, LAME)

Juno is probably the most honest movie I've seen about teen pregnancy - while still managing to be funny, un-preachy, and likable (unlike the "other" pregnancy movie this year, "Knocked up", which had some of the worst female characters I've ever seen on film). Ellen Page, who takes the title role, is phenomenal - great comic timing and screen presence. If she doesn't get the award for Best Actress I'll be disappointed. Nothing really noteworthy in terms of cinematography or score, but solidly directed and superbly acted, with a great script. And even Jennifer Garner wasn't that bad.

Persepolis, tho denied a best foreign film and best picture nod, should be seen by everyone in this country. Its a beautifully animated (hooray for a old fashioned 2-d aesthetic that isn't ANIME!) film based on a graphic novel of the same title by Marjane Satrapi. It tells the true story of Marjane's childhood growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Heartbreaking and beautiful, it shows a very different perspective than Americans are used to seeing (Communism an agent of freedom?) but that is all for the good. The movie is just plain beautiful, with the majority being told in flashback, in stark black and white. I saw it in the original French with subtitles, and I recommend that everyone should see it this way if possible - the voice acting is superb and I can't imagine it has the same lyricism in english. Like I said, EVERYONE should see this film.

There Will Be Blood. That's a promise made with the beginning Biblical-style title of P.T. Anderson's latest movie, and it doesn't lie. This is a movie that has it all - Directing, Cinematography, Music, and the Best Actor of the Year (and maybe vying with Lawrence Olivier for best actor ever) Daniel Day Lewis. Loosely based on Upton Sinclair's Oil! it tells the tale of the oil magnate Daniel Plainview. It covers every theme from man's struggle with nature to family values to twisted religious figures. I'm not going to give anything more away about it, other than to say that it really was the best movie of the 2007 season, and I hope it gets the Oscar. Special note: I dearly loved the score for this film, and the constant edge of uneasiness it gave the film (see 2001 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind for other examples sort of like this). See it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ansel Adams, the grand old man of photography

Ansel Adams was a man who truly used light to create some of the most beautiful, memorable, and recognisable photographs ever. The impact he had on the photographic community was immense - to say that he changed photography forever would not be just hyperbole.

He photographed the beauty of nature so amazingly that he is forever linked with some of his favorite subjects, such as Yosemite. I love the views he captured. Many people have been brought to a greater appreciation of nature through his work.

Probably my favorite parts of his work are his understanding and use of natural form and line, and his amazing ability with light. The second is probably what he is most known for; many, if not most, of his photographs display the stunning contrast of the blackest blacks with the whitest whites. To look at an Ansel Adams photograph is to really see how light defines and delineates an object.

His use of line and composition is less thought of, but still to my mind an integral and beautiful part of his works. Some of my favorite pictures of his (like The Tetons - Snake River") - show a sinuous line contrasted with the sharp jaggy edges. All of his contours helped move the eye around the piece - like the LA Freeway shot to the left - or helped them settle on the picture and take in its tranquility, like "Autumn Moon"

If there's ever an Ansel Adams show near you, go see it! And until then, check out a book of his photographs at your local library.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mark Friedberg, production designer

COLOR. Beautiful, rich, vibrant, COLOR. Thats what I have gotten most from Mark Friedberg.

Now, I'll say right off the bat that I haven't seen all of his films. In fact, going thru the list, I haven't even seen half. But those that I have seen have made a HUGE impact on me and the way I look at color. I'm going to concentrate on two of his works that I know best (both done with director Wes Anderson) - "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and "The Darjeeling Limited."

To look and see how much "The Life Aquatic" and its colors have influenced me, just look at my design for Finned Friends. The colors in "Life Aquatic" are so brilliant, so beautiful. The blues of the water, the uniforms; the red caps; the beautifully yellow sub and helmets; the multicolored ocean life. Everything in this movie is just one step beyond real life - the set for the interior of the ship is several stories high and is esentially a bisected diagram of a boat brought to life. Even with this heightened reality (and anyone familiar with Cousteau's films will recognise at least some of the inspiration), the colors are so vivid that they stand out.

I've already gushed at length about "The Darjeeling Limited" Oranges, saffons, umbers, and ochres glow in this movie (with turquoise providing a lovely counterpoint). Speaking of painting with light - the sky in this movie frequently reflects the color palette of the film as well. (Reminder to self: do an article on Milena Canonero as well, the costume designer behind these films as well as a bunch of other AMAZING movies...) The colors of India as portrayed in the movie are vibrant, earthy, and beautiful.

Watch these (and others Mark Friedberg Production Designed, including Broken Flowers, Pollack, and Ice Storm) for a taste of what color can do for a story.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


In my opinion, almost no one uses line to move the eye around the page better than Hiroshige, master of the Japanese woodblock print known as Ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world). His landscapes are amazing to me, because they have a great sense of depth (Hiroshige incorporated western techniques of perspective) and still have a wonderfully stylized, particularly Japanese character. And his COLORS ... along with Monet he seemed to be able to capture an amazing sense of time of day and mood. "The Dyers' Street in Kanda," the picture to the right, is a perfect example of this. The colors are the perfect early-morning tones, the sense of perspective is strongly developed using both variation in tone and one point perspective, and the sinuous organic line of the cloth is perfectly contrasted with the squared-off, man-made lines of the hangers. The long bits of cloth on the right draw your eye down the page, and the ones on the left draw it back up to Mt. Fuji.

I'm in good company listing Hiroshige as one of my influences - Van Gogh and Monet did as well.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ken Adam, Hollywood God

Changing pace a bit, I'd like to talk about Ken Adam, perhaps the finest production designer to ever live. Now, I'll admit, I'm partial to James Bond flicks. The intrigue, the gadgets, the locations, the Connery. I'm totally a Connery Bond girl - no one else has quite matched the level of sophistication mixed with danger mixed with outright sexifulness (10 points for recognizing that reference). But perhaps the thing that made me love the Connery bonds more than anything else were the beautiful and amazing sets they were filmed on, all courtesy of Ken Adam.

All of Ken's sets for Bond an amazing futurism to them - yes, it was the future of the 1960's, but in my opinion it holds up amazingly. Many times, especially in the Bond series, Ken encorporated organic and man-mad materials into the same set and made something really awesome. Dr. No's underground lair was an excellent example of this - rock formations, trees, and fish juxtaposed against clean-planed wood floors, metal stairs, and plastic walls (with classical paintings and furniture thrown in for good measure). I'll admit, if I could I'd live in Dr. No's place. For more examples of this, see Goldfinger (probably my favorite Bond overall), Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, etc, etc, etc.

His non-Bond work has been just as amazing. The war room in Dr. Strangelove was so amazing and memorable that (reportedly) when President Regan took office he asked to be shown it! It also shows what I find to be a style characteristic of Ken's; the use of the circle as a prominent design element. Again, it adds a wonderful touch of futurism and fluidity to a set of sharp angles (for more examples of this see Dr. No again, and You Only Live twice). Of course he also did wonderful and amazing work on Barry Lyndon, Addams Family Values, and the Madness of King George among others.

I will always admire most his ability to combine disparate elements into a beautiful and cohesive whole. If you haven't seen at LEAST all the movies I've mentioned, you really should.

Monday, January 07, 2008

M.C. Escher, my favorite MC

I know, I know, I started off by quoting Weird Al.

Ever since I was a little kid I loved M.C.Escher. What nerd doesn't? His draftsmanship is so superb and the way he plays with space is sublime. His influence on me is most obvious in my illustration work, though I don't even get close to approaching his level of (sur)realism. My favorite works of his incorporate the line quality I love - very organic shapes - with his wonderful sense of balance. I would be hard pressed to find a work of his that felt top, bottom, right or left heavy - and many of them are very symmetrical.

The other thing that I find really interesting about his work is what appears to be a Japanese influence. Sky & Water, the famous woodcut, shows a simplicity of form and line that I particularly enjoy. Puddle, the image on the right, show forms that could have been done by Hiroshige (but the way the trees are reflected is pure Escher).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My earliest influence, Georgia O'Keefe

It'd be fair to say that Georgia O'Keefe has been one of the strongest influences on my ideas of art and design, and she's absolutely my earliest influence. I first remember seeing her painting on a PBS program when I was around five. The bright colors and simple, organic shapes entranced me then, and they continue to today. Her abstracts hint that they are not so abstract, and her still life's hint that they may be more abstract than you think. I have always loved the way her colors always seem to have a beautiful, smooth gradation from light to dark, or color to color. Her use of color contrast is amazing and beautiful. And the colors themselves - you won't find a bolder, more interesting palette except in nature.

Perhaps more than anything I love her use of line: undulating, sometimes curvy, sometimes sharp; always organic, living, wild, and beautiful. It is her sense of line that I find popping up in my favorite bits of my own work; soft curves and organic shapes. Looking at my Trillium Arts logo, its practically an ode to Georgia in both its line and subject matter.

Of course, I should also mention here that I also love Georgia for another reason - she's a woman who made it to the very top of a male-dominated field, at a time before women's lib had really taken hold. Oh yeah, and she's from Wisconsin :)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Aesthetic influences

I've been giving some thought to my favorite artists and designers and my artistic influences lately. I've come up with a list that surprised me a little bit, in just how modern and slightly eclectic it is. Off the top of my head, I was able to think of the following artists and designers that have influenced my aesthetic and the way I look at art, design, and the world: Ansel Adams, Ken Adam, Salvador Dali, M.C. Echer, Mark Friedberg, Hiroshige, Hokusai, Eiko Ishioka, Robert Mapplethorpe, Claude Monet, and Georgia O'Keefe.

I'll be going into more depth as to why I love the work of each of these individuals, but I can say that it generally falls into two categories: use of organic lines and shapes, often contrasted by strong man-made and industrial lines; and use of color and light to create beauty. Some of these artists specialize in one or the other - Ken Adam is a great example of the first, Monet of the second. Most of them fall into both categories, at least to some degree. All of them have helped make the world a more beautiful and interesting place. (And for those who may scoff at Mapplethorpe for his "unsavory" reputation - well, the flower on the right is a picture of his. Surprised?)