Sunday, March 24, 2013

Archiving, in hardcover

Part of the 2013 downsize and reorganization is being able to say farewell old art projects, both physically and emotionally. Back in the 80's I wrote plays and novels, now interred in a drawer somewhere. They have a digital life, but no digital after-life. (someday I may try to self-publish, who knows.) My artwork and photography, however, has a much richer life. They were born digital and live, in many incarnations, in many versions, on various compact discs, flash drives, and on my portfolio website(s). I also use Shutterfly for archiving purposes, not just for creating photobooks and making posters. But sometimes having a "hard" version of artwork can - besides weathering a post-apoco scenario involving the power grid - provide another avenue for presentation. Sometimes whipping out an iPad and linking to my Behance or Coroflot portfolio doesn't have the same panache as ink on paper.

Of equal importance for this year's downsizing is saying goodbye to old projects. Not just because I've moved on, gotten better, switched my style. Older artwork no longer best represents my talent and experience, so it needs to be curated, much like I change the artwork on the walls of my house. I am by no means giving this art an interment, merely a retirement from the limelight. Current portfolio website wisdom claims that having too much "product" can overwhelm those sensitive viewers, much like shoppers who cannot wrap their minds around too many choices. So, much as I switch out old for new on Refrakted's website, I can give an older era of creation the eulogy and memorial it deserves.

Click here to view this photo book larger

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dead tree media, eulogized

Part of my 2013 reconstruction is to thin out the herd of space and mind-controlling media. Not just to supplement my pea-sized income, but to curb my enthusiasm for acquisition for acquisition's sake. I just listed my entire collection of Disney's commemorative D23 magazines on If you haven't seen them, they're these ultra-ultra-glossy 11-something by 12-something delicacies with "Life"-sized photos all Laura-Palmered in cellophane (the super-strong print ink smell that makes me swoon is hopefully disney-fied non-toxic). The mag is a treasure for collectors: one part history, one part sell-the-parks, one part sell-the-new-movies. Compared to trolling for news on the internet, the magazine experience, for me, was always more intoxicating.

I didn't start subscribing to magazines until I returned to Tampa Bay back in '98. Before that, magazines were the little stacks of love that I scooped up during my weekly excursions to book and record stores. Barnes & Noble remains the last vestige of the awe-inspiring wall of magazines - but  I accept they are but a dim reflection of what they used to be. Back in the day, even Borders could sometimes be counted on, in some cities, to provide a cornucopia, a cavalcade of glossy goodness from all over the world, for every stereotype and inclination. Quasi-counterculture digs like Tower Records always had such interesting and controversial rags in their stacks, some looking like they'd been mimeographed in the backroom earlier in the day. 

As a grand aside: one of the perks of being in New York City in the '80s was the ever-present newsstands that sat like sentinels on many major thoroughfares. Just like in the movies, the newsstand guy never claimed to be a library and gave you the stinkeye if you perused for too long. Melody Maker, NME and all those cool Brit music rags were hysterically expensive, but mine for the peeking.

Ultimately, sadly, with the advent of digitized media, the allure of magazines has certainly diminished. It has helped, of course, that 99% of them have folded up or reinvented themselves online, where - arguably - it is function over form and the eye candy has been sorely neglected due to concerns about downloading speeds and how much of one's dataplan is being sucked up. Stupid internet.

The last two journals I subscribed to filled a specific niche, allowing me to lull myself to sleep over their instructive but beautiful photos: Coral Magazine, for the days when I intensely cultivated a saltwater reef tank and a late lamented curated enclave called Backyard Living with great recipes for tropical container gardens and pond fountains with koi. When it blew out of existence in the middle of my subscription, the publisher gamely tried to soften the blow by replacing the magazine with their apparently more successful birds-and-birdbath mag. I declined just as softly.

So here's the cortege of dead tree media, my elegy to days at the racks:

Like most hip youths, I quickly figured out how Rolling Stone was pandering to a wide range top40 audience, and although I admired their political reportage, I spent most of the '90s hunkered down with Spin, reading Dennis Cooper interviews and believing I was alternative...but not as alternative as dumping Spin for being too mainstream and hooking up with Alternative Press, until they, too, covered too many "radio" acts and I ended the '90s devoted to Outburn (when they were goth/synth friendly, not death metal as they eventually evolved). Ravaged as I was to get the latest new music releases, I admit I did sometimes empty my pockets for issues of Billboard and Ice.

Honorable memoriam: CMJ New Music Magazine - with a sampler cd! I was loyal for at least a decade and wish there was a way to discover cool to music like that again. (Yes, I have diddled with Pitchfork, whose attempt at pushing mainly independent singer/songwriters with guitars got way too predictable. Where's the electronica!? Where's the industrial?!)

As a film-o-philiac, I was less interested in celebrity gob than interviews with directors and FX guys. Premiere and Movieline satisfied those needs for a good long while, along with the occasional free Entertainment Weekly year subscription. The real artistry came when I was able to dive deeply into genre with jewels like Cinemascape and the great experiment that was the encyclopedic Star Trek magazine.

Finally, there were a few design magazines worth mentioning because I enjoy step-by-step tutorials much more than annoying how-to youtubes: Photoshop User, Layers, maybe Print (never How or Comm. Arts, unless it was an office subscription).

I currently subscribe to only one magazine, both for the utter joy of discovering it rolled into my p.o. box a few times a year and its distinction of being "the Southern magazine of Good Writing": The Oxford American. I can't praise it highly enough.

Color me an adult with a tiny, defiantly analog, streak.