Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three States in One!

Well, the wheels are churning as spring approaches. The GOP Primary Paint Swatch© set grows and grows by the week, and I fall behind on blog posts as I come up with new ideas on what to make in the studio.

There were no major surprises or upsets in the primaries in Maine, Arizona, and Michigan. So this blog post doesn't need to drag on and on or anything.

The colors you're seeing come from images from February 8th (Maine), still images from the Arizona debate on February 22nd (Arizona), and color samples from the candidates' websites' "DONATE" buttons (Michigan). The latter swatch provides nice, GOP-ey red tones to coordinate with the mucky flesh tones of many of the previous swatches.

Have fun coordinating the colors. After a brief stop (and swatch) in Washington state, it's on to Super Tuesday, March 6th, where ten swatches will debut at once.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Aram - 8/23/11

The Continuing Saga of the UFCK Photo Project: the Aram

With four or five or six photo shoots under my belt, the summer months of 2011 were a frenzy of logistical emails and postings. In the beginning of the year, when the project funding was announced, I made plans to travel during the early summer, around the fourth of July.

Then, I bought a house. It was a good step towards normal, adult, decorum, but that ordeal set me back several weeks, and before I knew it, the end of August, Labor Day, and the beginning of my academic year were all staring me in the face and I had to get on the road for the project.

More emails. More planning. More spreadsheets. I used maps and the Internet to try to figure out the best routes to take. I would be shipping my equipment to my parents' house in Michigan, fly out of Boise, pick up and go. By mid-August, I had a crude plan in place to follow a big loop from Michigan through Chicago, down to Tennessee, back up through the DC area to New York before heading home through Philadelphia.

Sorting through the schedules of almost two dozen people was one thing. Stepping off a plane and meeting someone you'd never met before was another. The first person on my list of subjects, and the main focus of the entire project from its inception, was Aram.

Let me tell you a little bit about Aram.

He's a character. A relatively normal character, but a character nonetheless. On he is easily the the site's most recognizable members, both because of his appearance and his personality. His loves include the Beatles, vinyl records, the University of Michigan (and especially its Marching Band), Michigan beer, soul music, playing on a vintage baseball team, his Armenian heritage, and his academic studies, among others.

For whatever reason–most likely because Aram has been around since its inception and the inception of its predecessors, which has resulted in a more extensive reputation than someone just joining the boards–Aram gets picked on. A lot. Oftentimes, it's in good fun, and he takes it in jest. It's schoolyard teasing among friends. Sometimes, though, it's, well, rougher than that. He's opinionated, sure, but his opinions resonate across this online community oftentimes like wildfire. He's different, and I knew that before I even met him in person. He's emotional, which rarely serves one well in an online forum as sarcastic and caustic as can be. But his specific emotions somehow help him stay afloat and keep a level head through all of the derision and nitpicking.

His penchant for oddball comments, photogenic tendencies–which lend themselves quite well to an almost innumerable catalog of animated .gif images–and general demeanor and reputation as this sort of online forum celebrity were what initiated this project in the first place. In my eyes, he was this walking, living, breathing meme, and I had to investigate what it was that made Aram the Aram.

Because I had shipped my photographic equipment to my parents' house, it put the camera out of reach when I landed at Detroit Metro Airport. So I split my photo shoot with Aram into two parts: the first would be a sit-down visit where we talked about anything and everything pertaining to the message board. Then I would return the following day for the photo shoot once I had my gear with me.

This means that I spent the better part of a day traveling from Oregon to Detroit, picked up my luggage and my rental car, and was driving to a stranger's house to sit and chat about who-knows-what. For the first time in my photographic life, I was nervous, and it had nothing to do with standing in front of a classroom of strangers.

I had a notebook, a tape recorder, and a water bottle. No plan, no questions, no getaway plan if Aram turned homicidal and started throwing vintage 45's at me.

Aram answered the door in a Fat Possum Records t-shirt. If that doesn't say anything about what kind of guy Aram is, then this blog post–and maybe the entire photo project–is a giant waste of time.º

My conversation with Aram, and the photo shoot the next day, went almost too well to describe. He was jovial and welcoming and more than willing to talk. He had a hard time believing his life–or online life–was somehow worthy of interest from an artist, let alone photographic documentation. We met for over an hour and a half that first day, and I learned about Aram's fascination with the city of Detroit, how he managed to survive a year-long grad school program in Chicago (and what he was actually studying), and what he was doing back home in his parents' basement.

The following day we continued the conversation while shooting and over lunch. Aram recounted, as best he could remember, his hilarious and eventful night at his first State Champion concert, why he wanted to take a trip to Israel, and what the deal is with his giant beard.

It turns out that Aram is a normal guy like he insists all the time online. The difference between him and many of the other people who post at is that he rarely holds back. He's truthful to his ideals in a way that sets off a lot of people. Hence, the poking fun, the comments.

Aram is probably the person that is most comfortable being himself when he's online. And it's strange, since this whole project started with him and how we're all different–we have to be, right?–online compared to our real lives. For Aram, there isn't really a line between those two worlds for him. He's a bit younger, he's been posting online since he was in high school. (I, for instance,  didn't discover the world of online message boards until I was a junior in college.)

While the story about Aram and our visit could go on and on (and will; see the footnote below), the fact that it was my first stop on a long photographic journey was, in retrospect, one of the best things about the entire project. Everyone who agreed to be photographed was more than cordial and welcoming, sure, but there was something about Aram's demeanorª–and the fact of knowing there are people like him out there–that makes me realize that this project has merit, whether or not the in-depth stories of the characters involved ever get told.

º Aram is by no means an indie music expert, but the fact that he was wearing a Fat Possum Records shirt–celebrating the small record label operating out of Water Valley (Oxford), Mississippi says loads about his personality.

ª He would be the first to comment: tl;dr

Thursday, February 9, 2012

All In: The GOP Primary Race

So the candidates have been squaring off in debate after debate after debate. There were 18 debates before the first GOP primary in Iowa on January 3.

Up until Tuesday night, the paint swatches were simple in that I had video footage from which to sample flesh tones. Everything was operating to the tune of one debate per primary. Tuesday night threw a wrench in the proceedings, in that there were three primaries being held with no debates in between.

I had to scrounge. In this new TRIPLE SWATCH™ from the GOP Primary Paint Swatch Series©, color selections come from Nevada Caucus results images, NY Times results page thumbnail images, and, in the case of Missouri, high school yearbook photos of the candidates.

Because of the increasing paucity of debates, the palettes are increasing and will become more variegated as the race continues. Expect colors from alma maters, house photos, automobile images (if I can ever find a pic of whatever Rick Santorum drives), and more.

Like some of the more stubborn candidates, I've gone all in with this project. In the weeks to come–I can't even think about Super Tuesday right now: 10 primaries in one night on March 6–this project will grow into something I didn't even begin imagine when it all started. I'm optimistic about the results.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Nevada Caucus: Hey Ladies!

The latest Paint Swatch from the 2012 GOP Primary Series© comes from Nevada, that hotbed of scandal and sex and ho-hum election results. (Mitt Romney won again! Yay!)

Because there wasn't a debate between the most recent primary and this one, colors are taken from images of each candidate's wife's skin tone.

The array of colors from the entire process is starting to form an interesting–if not bland–spectrum. Colors deepen or desaturate but the general monochrome is there on nearly every swatch.

Upcoming elections pose the same problem as the Nevada contest; there are no debates scheduled until the candidates meet in Arizona on February 22nd. Until then, new and interesting ways of representing the candidates' fleshy tones will have to be sought. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sunday Art #4

I'm back of the regularly scheduled art schnide with this piece I did for good friend and La Grande-ite Gregory Rawlins. He approached me a few weeks ago to do a poster for his upcoming concert at Union's LG Brewskis pub.

Lots of pen and ink on paper I found in a stack near the west wall of the studio. If you'd like a high quality version for printing, please let me know. I'm sure Greg would love extra hands hanging them around town.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Once Again, Florida Messes Up

After a week in which Newt's campaign seemed to be running on endless energy, with babble about moon colonies and free stuffed animals for everyone in America, Floridians decided to ignore the awesome and choose cyborg-esque Mitt Romney in their GOP Primary election last night.


Things were beginning to get interesting, with debates deteriorating to petty accusations between Mitt and Newt while the seemingly real politicians–Rick Santorum and Ron Paul–stood idly by and watched the circus.

This official Florida GOP™ Primary Paint Swatch© features Newt at his pinkest yet, thanks to the cameras of NBC; colors for this swatch were taken from their coverage of the debate on January 23rd.

In other random news, my good buddy Kieran Johnson has been ramping up his photographic output, and his work hasn't looked better. Check out his blog here. You can follow him on Twitter, too, just like you can follow me, if you like.