Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Planket 2022 - On the 3rd of September

 

Time to exhibit some of my work again. First time since 2019, so I am a bit nervous. I have also realized that my pictures push the boundaries of convention pretty far, which makes me even more nervous.

It is, of course, perfectly okay for art to be scary. Art should make us think and feel. It does not have to make us comfortable.

Now, I'd like to emphasize here that my pictures are perfectly okay, by the standards of the 70's, 80's, and 90's. It's just that we, as a society, have changed, and become a bit narrow minded. What was perfectly normal to have on a pocket book cover in 1980, is considered risqué today.

We will see how it works out. Nervous or not, I'm looking forward to the event. A lot!

Planket is a pretty big event. About a hundred photographers exhibit their work. Each one has got a one meter wide area along a fence at Nya Allén in Gothenburg. I've got nine pictures, printed on canvas, so I can't show them all at once. Instead, I'll switch pictures once or twice an hour.

Genres range from Science-Fiction, to Horror, to folk tale-ish Fantasy, to Lost World/Cavewoman.

If you happen to be in Gothenburg on the 3rd of September, come look me up. The exhibit is on from 12 o'clock, to 6 p.m. The address is Nya Allen 1.

About the picture: The author Lennart Guldbrandsson modeled for Blind Fury. You will get to see the whole picture, and many others, at the exhibition.

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Nudity in Art: A Virtue or Vice?

A couple of years ago I came across an article by Brian Yoder with very well thought through observations about nudity in art. If you like to read this blog, you might want to read his article too:


That's it. More posts soon. I've been busy, but I'll try to get back to writing a bit more.

Monday, 7 February 2022

I'm writing a creative photography book!

 

Drawing photography inspiration from King Kong isn't a new idea. William Mortensen did it in the 1930's. I'm revisiting Skull Island with the help of 3D, and the model Cassandra Mellberg.

I'm writing a photography book! It's about creative photography, and it's shaping up to be different from any other book on photography I've seen.

Most photographers learn exclusively from other photographers. I believe that is a mistake. We should learn from each other, yes, but we also need to open up to learning from other sources: realist and imaginative realism painters, comic book artists, 3D artists, movie makers, and writers.

We need to understand our own history, because photography did not begin with the f/64 group, and there is great value in what was before. We even need to go beyond the arts, and learn from other sources, like neuroscience.

I'm striving to tie many different threads together into a coherent whole, and I'm doing my very best to make it entertaining and fun.

Left page above: I draw a lot of inspiration from comics, so I was more than delighted when Amryl Entertainment gave me permission to use a picture by Budd Root in the book. Budd Root is the author of the comic Cavewoman.

Right page above: I am storyboarding my ideas using 3D software. This allows me to plan my pictures in ways I could not do if I just picked up my camera and shot whatever was in front of my lens. This storyboard, One Afternoon in Pal-Ul-Don, draws inspiration from E.R. Burrough's Tarzan books.


I strive to have something eye-catching, and something useful, on every page spread. From time to time, I will publish a draft page spread, and check the responses to see if I am on the right track.
 various ideas on 
I expect the book project to keep me occupied for about a year. During that time, I also need to do at least a couple of photo sessions, to get material that illustrates various ideas and techniques.

I do hope you will enjoy reading the book as much as I am enjoying writing it!

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Symbolism: Slaying Raptors, Gods, and Our Most Cherished Delusions

 

Raptor Slayer

You may have noticed that there are a lot of symbols in my pictures. I also tend to stick with certain themes, though I do make the occasional deviation.

Let's have a look at two recent storyboards, and decode some of the symbols in them. We'll start with Raptor Slayer above.

At first glance, what you see is probable something like nude woman stabbing over-sized parrot with teeth. That is certainly one way to look at it, but there is a little bit more to it:

I see a woman mastering her fear, and despite her vulnerability, that's the nudity, fighting very hard to accomplish the almost impossible, i.e. killing a raptor with a bone knife.

I find that never-give-up-even-in-the-face-of-great-difficulty attitude both admirable and attractive, so yes, the nudity makes symbolic double duty.

Of course, as an observer, you will have your own way of interpreting the picture, based on your values, your experience, your knowledge of the Lost World genre of literature, movies, and art, your social context (i.e. the opinions of your friends, and other people who influence you).

Nubian Queen I: The Death of Sobek

The Death of Sobek is about the importance of critically evaluating our own beliefs, and, when those beliefs do not hold up to scrutiny, killing them off and replacing them with something new and better.

Unexamined beliefs, beliefs that are unsubstantiated by evidence, and who do not hold up to even cursory scrutiny, tend to rule our lives.

For example, you might believe that the best way to boost the economy, is cutting taxes for the rich, so they can invest more, and thus create more and better jobs. Well, according to research on tax cuts in 18 OECD countries, that is not how it works. All that happens when you lower taxes for the rich, is that they get richer:

“Our findings on the effects of growth and unemployment provide evidence against supply side theories that suggest lower taxes on the rich will induce labour supply responses from high-income individuals (more hours of work, more effort etc.) that boost economic activity. They are, in fact, more in line with recent empirical research showing that income tax holidays and windfall gains do not lead individuals to significantly alter the amount they work.”
-The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich, by David Hope, Julian Limberg

Feel free to disagree, but if you do, bring research that support your views.

The supply side economics scam has kept political parties alive, and sometimes in power, for decades, to the detriment of all of us, except the very rich people who benefit from the tax cuts.

There are plenty of other common beliefs that do not stand up to scrutiny:

For example the idea that a company can maximize its profits by having everyone work as much as possible all the time. This is an idea from Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management. The problem with it, is that if everyone works at full capacity all the time, you get enormous queues of unfinished material, so-called Work In Process (WIP), in your processes. In extreme cases, you get so much WIP, that nothing ever gets finished. This sometimes happens in software development, but it can, and does, happen in other areas too.

There are plenty of ways to reduce, or eliminate, the problem. In management, you can use Lean, Theory of Constraints, agile software development methods, the Deming Knowledge System, IOHAI, and other methods.

Most companies who implement these methods and frameworks do so, not because they understand how they can help alleviate the problems, but because it has become a fad. When you do that, you will almost certainly do things that short-circuit the new way of doing things, so that you go through the motions, but never get the benefits.

For example, agile methods, mentioned above, rely on something called vertical slicing to create work packages that can be implemented with an optimal balance between capacity cost and queueing cost. Over the past 20 years, nearly every company I have seen, has fallen into the trap of doing horizontal slicing, i.e. requirements are functional, rather than representations of something that has economic value on its own.

As a result, lead times can explode. I have seen lead times go up by a factor of 50, and more, because of this. That means you would have to wait for two years to get something that could be built and delivered in two weeks. Thus, you loose the money you could have made by using that functionality for two years.

Another favourite: You want to implement one of the methods mentioned above, and realize you need new processes, so you decide to invest in a tool for creating the new processes. Looking around for a good, safe, alternative, you decide to go with something like IBM Blueworks. Nobody gets blamed for buying from IBM!

What you do not realize, is that all of these new methods and frameworks, separate process material flow from the flow of directives, and that the flow of directives go in the opposite direction from the material flow. The reason for this, is that it is much easier to reduce the amount of WIP, and thus queueing costs, that way.

Blueworks does not allow you to design processes like that. It does not separate material flow from flow of directives. Topping it off, the economic simulation in Blueworks takes only capacity cost into account, which means you are liable to design processes with sky-high queueing costs.

Suddenly, your unexamined beliefs about tax cuts, how to write requirements, or which tool to use, has become your Sobek, your crocodile god demanding human sacrifice.

It's not just about whether you can slay it, you probably do not even know that you should, and you live in a society of Sobek worshipers that will punish you if you try.

I bet you did not think of Nubian Queen I: The Death of Sobek in those terms. Symbolism is tricky, and symbols can be open to an infinite variety of interpretations.

Because of this, the symbolism in a picture is liable to misfire if we do not talk about what it represents. Often, a picture is just a cool image, without deeper connotations, but we won't know that either, unless we talk, or write, about the picture.

So, lets talk about the pictures we see, and the pictures we create. Otherwise, their meaning can all too easily get lost.

Be seeing you!

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Learning from Julie Bell and Jamie Chase

 


Thanks to Julie Bell and Jamie Chase, both great Fantasy artists, I can show you how to draw inspiration from masters, to improve your own creativity and skill.

Both Julie Bell and Jamie chase publish their art on Facebook. 

Julie Bell: https://www.facebook.com/julie.bell.589 
Jamie Chase: https://www.facebook.com/jamiechasearts

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Getting Covid-19 in the beginning of April hit me pretty hard. I am recovering though, and I am starting to take interest in things again: Starting a new job on Monday, working on a picture or two, occasionally working on a book, working on getting my photo sessions going again... I am still a bit careful where and when I spend energy though. I expect to recover fully, but it may take quite some time.

The upshot is that I'll probably blog a bit less frequently than usual. In a few months, maybe, I'll pick up speed again.

Fortunately for me, while being sick, and throughout recovery, I've had great support from my family. It has made everything so much easier. Speaking from experience, you really do not want to get Covid-19, and you really, really, do not want to infect relatives and friends, so please be careful out there.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Surrounded! - Further adventures in storyboarding

 


I have wanted to make a picture with lizard men for several years. The project isn't finished yet, but I have a storyboard. In the video above, I talk a bit about my sources of inspiration for the picture.


Surrounded! - Storyboard version

Here is the storyboard. I'll do a photo session when the pandemic has subsided. 



Thursday, 11 February 2021

Art, Misogyny, and Weasels

 

Jungle Pickup, a.k.a. Catch of the Day

The picture above, Jungle Pickup, caused a stir when I published in in an art group on Facebook. Here is an example of the comments I got:

Well, at least one sword and sorcery trope was fulfilled: weasily, weak men using cheap shots to attack their betters.

There was plenty more like that, and several suggestions that I ought to leave the group. So, what had I done that so offended people? When I posted the picture, I wrote the following:

Jungle Pickup, a.k.a. Catch of the Day 

Much as I love Fantasy illustrations from the 60's, 70's, and 80's, there are some things I find a bit annoying.

One of those things is the trope of a huge warrior, sometimes a skulking ape-man, walking with a terrified woman slung over his shoulder. 

I do not like it because the narrative is one of horrific abuse instead of adventure, and causing pain and degradation, rather than triumphing over dangerous obstacles.

So, I decided to flip the story around. Note that who carries whom, is not the only thing I flipped.

The response for the picture was mostly positive. There were more than 70 likes, which is good for one of my pictures in that particular group.

I'd like to stress that most comments were either positive, or straightforward questions about the picture. I appreciate those a lot!

There were also several negative comments, and I found them both revealing and disturbing. Not one negative comment was about flaws in the picture itself. Instead, the comments were about misogyny, and the commenters attacked me for being against it.

Let's have a look:


The first sentence is a good example of a well known logical fallacy, the Straw Man Fallacy. I stated that I find one particular Fantasy trope annoying because it is misogynous. The commenter narrowed that down from disliking a trope to one particular artist, Frank Frazetta, and then broadened it to encompass all of Frazetta's work, and the entire Sword&Sorcery genre. He also eliminated the key part about misogyny. For good measure, he also changed "a bit annoying" to "hate".

It is clear from the second sentence that the writer believes disliking misogyny, abusive behavior towards women, to be "left wing politics", which the writer is not fond of.

In other words, the commenter defends abusive behavior towards women in Fantasy art and literature, and tries to hide what he is doing by first misrepresenting my original statement, and then associating it with political views he believes are disliked by many in the group.

There was another person who jumped in to question the above statement. I'll leave his comment out, but I will include the above commenter's reply:


Again, the straw man attack, followed by an Ad Hominem, i.e. a personal, attack.

I stated that I dislike a Fantasy art trope because the narrative is about abuse towards women. There is no attempt in the first, or the second, comment to refute the argument itself.

Let's move on.


This is a better disguised straw man attack. At first glance, it looks like there is a reasonable argument here, but it is still an argument based on the false assumption that I attacked Frazetta's art. It is still an argument that attacks my dislike of a misogynic trope, even though it is an attack in disguise. The comment is intended to obfuscate, not to present a relevant argument.

It is a bit ironic that if you really look at Frazetta's art, there are plenty of strong female characters in it. A few examples:
Frazetta had a very wide range as an artist, so you can find just about any type of human relationship in his work. The presence of strong female characters is one of the things that I have always liked about Frazetta.

Judging by the comments, the Frazetta defenders I have quoted in this post, would actually be quite upset if they saw the strong and capable women Frazetta drew and painted.

Speaking of irony, I'll include one more comment:


Frazetta is one of the greatest narrative painters ever. Not everything he did was narrative art, but if you look at his greatest works, most of them are narrative art.

If posting narrative art is a reason for leaving the group, then the Frazetta family would not be welcome to post Frazetta's narrative art in a group for Frazetta-inspired art.

The question is, why these attempts to defend a trope showing kidnapped, abused women?

I checked the home pages of some of the commenters. The first page looked fairly normal. The first post of the second page was a recommendation to see an action movie that featured two rapes at the beginning.

I really did not want to check any further.

From time to time I work with female models, and they see and hear, and experience, a lot worse things than the above. They have to be very careful when meeting an artist they haven't worked with before. When the work they have contributed to is published, they are often subjected to denigrating comments. Misogyny is quite common in the art world, both among artists, and audience.

I am very well aware that a blog post like this does very little to reduce the misogyny that exists in the art world, and our society at large. Still, it is important to talk about it, to recognize it for what it is, even though arguments are disguised, or so silly they are difficult to take seriously.

The idea that men and women have equal rights, which includes the right to be respected by, and well treated by others, has not yet taken hold as strongly as it should have.

We still need major changes in our social systems and our attitudes, but I do believe small changes matter too. Misogynists should be opposed, in small matters, as well as large.

Be seeing you!