Archive for March, 2011

Retouching. I can has it – sort of.

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

My job needed some nice-ish pictures of Heineken bottles for a project we’re working on, so I went and picked up a six-pack and photographed them in a variety of positions (“Okay, lean a little in, nice, smile a bit, good…”) in a conference room while my co-worker held up a large white piece of paper behind them. When I finished, I realized that unretouched photos, even ones of bottles, look, well, not great. So I spent the five hours makin’ ’em look purty. Take into account that I don’t really know how to retouch things, so I was making it up as I went along.

First of all, retouching is really hard. Every time you fix something, you notice something else that doesn’t look right. It’s an ouroboros of annoying. The main problem I came across (aside from having to edit out dirt flecks and light flares for what seemed like forever) is that Heineken’s bottle is darkish green and their beer is tea-colored. However, they like to give the impression that their bottle is bright green and their beer is golden and lit from the inside with a heavenly light, like an angel accidentally dropped a halo into it. I’m not going to get that effect taking photos in a conference room with natural light. So I did the best I could lightening and greening-up the beer, while not modifying the label or the cap, which didn’t need greening. I reiterate, a colossal pain in the patoot. Mad props to my retouching friends who do this for a living. My hat goes off to you.


Monday, March 28th, 2011

I’ve spent this entire week both working and prepping for a big family get-together, so I have nothing particularly interesting to share. However, I do have charts for you to enjoy. And I’m working on some creative things that hopefully I will share soon. In the meantime, charts.


Friday, March 18th, 2011

Last weekend I saw the move Exit Through The Gift Shop and I feel a need to talk about it. First of all, it’s an excellent documentary. It got great reviews and is well-worth watching, and it’s streaming right now on Netflix, so go see it. That being said, I was infuriated by the last third or so of it. Here’s the basic plot summary (don’t read this next paragraph if you want the film to be a surprise):

There are street artists. No one has ever documented their actions. There is a crazy French vintage-clothing-store-owner named Thierry (Terry) living in Los Angeles who is obsessed with videotaping everything. His cousin is Space Invader, a well-known street artist. Thierry films his actions and is introduced to other street artists, including Shepherd Fairey. Shepherd introduces Thierry to Bansky, the most famous street artist ever. Other stuff happens. In order to edit Thierry’s heaps of footage of both Banksy and other street artists into a film without Thierry being involved, Bansky tells Thierry to make some art and have a small show, basically to get him out of Bansky’s hair. Here’s where I start to fill with rage. Thierry, who has no artistic training or skill or experience, rents a gigantic building in L.A. and hires a massive staff to make his “art”. He is clearly crazy, his artwork is utter pointless crap, but he understands hype, so he hypes the hell out of his show. When his show opens, tons of people show up, people who are desperate to be “cool”, Thierry sells all his crap art and rakes in a million dollars. Jessica bursts into flames. The end.

Here’s the deal, people. Artists aren’t the people who come up with the ideas, okay? We all come up with ideas, all the time. Good ones, dumb ones, weird ones, etc. “What if blah blah was a blah blah blah?” The artists are the people who pluck ideas, theirs or others, out of the ether and make them into something we can see and touch and feel. They are inspired by something and the make something in the hopes that you will feel the same way they do about that thing. I’ll give you an example from my own life. I worked with a guy named Jd at BBDO, and he mentioned to me that every time he went to a new job, shortly after he started everyone else was fired, a whole new staff was hired and everything started anew. Apparently this seemed to happen every time he switched jobs. It was a joke with him and his friends that he was like Kali, the Hindu God of Destruction and Rebirth. I thought that was a funny idea, so I made a ink drawing of him as Kali.

I did not have the idea. I heard it, I liked it, I executed it. Who’s the artist in this situation, Jd or me? So when you (and when I say “you”, I mean you, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst) hire a big ole staff and you wander in and say, “Wouldn’t it be cool to cover a skull with diamonds?” or “I think a giant sculpture of a balloon animal would be neat,” and then you leave the building while your staff actually makes the thing and you touch nothing, but then you go and take credit for all the work, that doesn’t make you an artist. That makes you a hype machine. Your staff is the artist. And I hate you.

By the way, I love the skull covered with diamonds and the giant balloon dog. That’s not the point.

I made a thing.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

We here at Publicis New York have a window case that is two feet high and nineteen feet long, and living in it presently is a timeline of the company. It’s been the same timeline in the same design for at least three years now, and my boss (the CMO) has grown weary of it. He asked me to redesign it, so I promptly starting rummaging through my research books. A while back I saw an article called “Cutthroat Capitalism” in Wired Magazine and I thought it was a terrific marriage of positive and negative space, so I cut it out and put it in my book.

I wanted little ornate headers and footers to incorporate into the document. I remembered B. had recently sent me a link to the calligraphy on the bottoms of maps that was fascinating, so I looked at that as well.

So, combining some of the elements from both of those documents, I spent three days redesigning the timeline. The beginning part looks like this:

Here are some details where you can really see the things I pulled from my research.

Some of the pictures given to me were really low-res and pixelated, so I converted them into art. Like the radio announcer guy, I made him into stripes where the thickness depended on the amount of light and dark, and then for the bus, I traced it in Illustrator and made decisions about what I wanted knocked out and what I wanted solid. See, solutions to problems. When God gives you lemons (or low-res images), you make lemonade (or graphic icons). We’ll see if my boss likes it and I can continue on in this style.

Addendum: Alas, it was shot down. Too “wacky and dark”. But I don’t care. After shrieking into a pillow, I decided I’m going to keep working on it and add it into my portfolio. Always with the lemons / lemonade thing, I am.

Addendum to the previous addendum: It’s back! The head person likes it! She wants a deep red background, but other than that, I’m good! Hurrah!

Iceland and The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I had lunch yesterday with B. who is going to Berlin this summer. On his way home he plans to stop off in Iceland just in time for puffling-rescue season. Brace yourself, this is a lot of cute coming up. Puffins live in Iceland, and they all have babies around the same time. Near the end of summer the parental puffins are done with the parenting thing, so they leave. The baby puffins, called pufflings, emerge and try to fly off into the North Atlantic. Unfortunately, the lights of people nearby throw them off their game, and many of them fly into town. Since they need water to take off from, they are hopelessly landlocked and would most likely die, either from starvation or being eaten by a cat or dog. However, for many generations now people go into the nooks and crannies of their villages, collect the pufflings and bring them home for the night. The next day, they are released into the ocean to fly or swim away as intended. It’s a whole lotta cute. Here’s a video about it.

So B. might get to fling ornery baby waterbirds into the ocean like a quarterback. I am envious.

Now, The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I go every year. Here’s a previous blog entry I’ve done. The dogs, as always, were spectacular. The owners/handlers were, as always, extremely weird. If your dog needs to gain more weight, there are online shops that offer effective and safe weight gainer for dogs.

Here are some of the pictures I took.

Here is my favorite breed of dog, the Borzoi (or Russian Wolfhound). So pretty, like a giant hairy cloud.

In order to keep the long-haired and/or long-eared dogs from getting shmutz on their fur-ends, the groomers have come up with a myriad of preventative devices and techniques. This is a Yorkshire Terrier getting its fur wrapped up in plastic bags and rubber bands.

And this is an Afghan wearing a snood.

I’m not a big Chihuahua fan. I’m not opposed to them either, I just don’t care very much one way or the other. This particular chihuahua, however, was extremely sweet. I could learn to love him.

Aside from the actual judging of the beasties, the other main activity is grooming. I’ve been in Supercuts that had less equipment than this event. There’s the dogs that should have smooth, straight fur:

And then there are the dogs that should have floofy, puffy fur.

The most astonishing thing to most people is how the dogs don’t bite or nip or anything. Mostly they just lay there and take it.

The most impressive example of this was the woman who, with a flashlight and an electric razor, was carefully shaving a Boston Terrier’s genitals. I am not making that up.

This groomer was great. She was grooming her Shih-Tzu in the middle of Madison Square Garden in her petticoat and bra. I guess she didn’t want to get her show outfit dirty, but have we learned nothing from The Jersey Shore? This is the ideal time to wear the shirt before the shirt.

There was also people-grooming stations. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.

The dogs have a lot of time to kill, so they nap, and play with small squeaky toys, but these two Shelties just stood there. Occasionally they would say something to each other. They were like the twins in The Shining.

And here’s a plethora of shots I found around the internet taken by other people.

Completed Beetle and Cicada. Booyah!

Friday, March 4th, 2011

I’m done! The complex background is done. The beasties are done. They have come together in a beautiful medley of weird art that makes me so happy. Gaze upon on the gloriousness.

I spray-painted the pattern after I weeded out the vinyl stencil. Then I painted highlights with some sparkles on some of the thicker areas of the lines. The spray-paint bled a little into the wood grain on the beetle board, but I think it looks cool, so I ain’t sweatin’ it.

Then I drilled a hole in the center of the board and affixed the insects into place. And voila! Months of toil comes to an end. I am super-pleased with how they turned out.