Life, death, change, & the enduring strength of a story

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Gandalf visits Bilbo at Bag End in the Shire. The smoke rings animated giving it a magical storybook feeling.

Last spring I had the privilege of creating the illustrations for the Hedgerow Theatre’s production of Storyboard: The Hobbit which ran from April 4th through April 22nd, 2018. The production was a live staged reading of an adaptation of Tolkien’s book with projected animated original artwork in lieu of a set. The audience experience was thrilling in the way live theatre is in that it was more than the sum of its parts. The cutout animations came alive thanks to the live performers & the live performers’ performances were elevated by the projections behind them. It was an ambitious project, I had to personally illustrate & have approved 30 unique illustrations, many of them with multiple times of day, weather patterns, different characters & layers that had to be able to move & change with the action. …

Before my move to Vancouver, people warned me that the drab, rainy winters of the BC coast would make me go mad. Dire warnings about the weeks & weeks of overcast skies with chilly rain were pretty much the only warnings we heard about this otherwise lovely part of the world. My work generally has me in a dark room, either windowless or with blackout curtains for most of the day anyway, plus the cold, icy Philly winters aren’t particularly pleasant either, so I brushed off the warnings. …

*updated! 10/22/18

The other day a friend reached out to me for help with submission materials. She needed a headshot retouched among other things. I was happy to help, but it had been awhile since I’d retouched portraits & she was on a tight deadline. I looked at the picture & felt a sense of longing; it was a beautiful picture of a beautiful woman in early middle age. In many ways there was nothing wrong with it but under the circumstances, it needed a bit of finessing.

When I said it had been awhile since I’d done photo retouching, I don’t mean that much time had passed, but that a lot has changed culturally & personally since I last retouched a headshot. The quick & dirty rule, “give women a little blur, give men a little grit” felt like an ugly truth about our culture rather than a handy little guideline. I didn’t have time to rethink photo retouching in general because she needed it ASAP so I quickly softened the skin, brightened the eyes, stamped out some flyaway hairs, threw a vignette on it & sent it on back. I took a minute to accentuate the interestingly asymmetrical curve of her mouth & I chose not to blur out the creases around her eyes, both things that didn’t make her look younger or more “perfect” but did help bring out what made her a beautiful individual. That was all the time I had for rethinking my personal relationship with feminine standards of beauty. …

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