I really wanted to be lazy and let my videos and photos speak for themselves but I think I owe this piece words to accompany it. For the past couple of months, I have been conceptualizing all of these “Mrs. Death” portraits and each one seems to become more and more elaborate. It’s been so much fun to create art using a halloween prop. As you may know, I bought this styrofoam skull (“Skully”) from Michaels this past August. I have been challenging myself to create with it and the results have been so amazingly unexpected (here and here). So far, “Mrs. Death Makes Her Grand Entrance” is my favorite.
I believe that in order to unleash who you truly are you cannot be afraid to be different or stand out. Granted, I realize that my extrovert self is saying that but if there is one thing that I have learned while being a marketer for a start-up real estate company is that being different WAS EXACTLY what we needed to do. Since I resigned my full-time marketing position and delved into art full-time, I have been FORCING myself to do things that are normally out of my comfort zone. You see, one of my greatest challenges is battling complacency and procrastination. It is so easy to say, “There will be a next time or I will do it tomorrow.” But tomorrow stays as tomorrow and life rides along with outcomes that are “just good enough”. So, what better way to step out of your comfort zone than by taking a skull in your carry-on bag on your next plane ride?
I must admit I was a bit terrified. What would TSA think? Would I be stopped? Would she get taken away?
I am certain that TSA has greater things to worry about than a styrofoam halloween decoration but none the less I was concerned. I almost left Skully at home but something tugged at me to bring her, so I did. Adam and I headed off to the Promoting Passion Convention in Joshua Tree, CA where we would spend three amazing days learning, creating and connecting. The second thing that was out of my comfort zone was to use smoke grenades. Knowing that carrying a smoke grenade in my checked luggage would probably be a TERRIBLE idea, I asked my fellow PPCers if someone was driving. Thankfully, my dear friend and very talented fine art photographer, Victorea Austin (be sure to check out her website) agreed to drive them for me. So, I went ahead and ordered a few from Enola Gaye and had them shipped to her house.
These smoke grenades are unlike any smoke emitter that I have ever worked with. They are like a heavenly cloud of colorful smoke. One of the reasons why I was nervous to use smoke grenades was because of their potential fire hazard. Living in Colorado, anything that sets off a spark is a BIG no-no. But I figured I was in the desert and if I was far away from anything flammable, I would be okay – so I bought the wire-pull ones thinking that they wouldn’t need fire to get them started – they still sparked a little but for the most part they just bellowed a ton of colorful smoke.
“Mrs. Death Makes Her Grand Entrance” was born out of figuring out what to do with these smoke grenades. I didn’t want to have to give them away at the end of the convention and I really wanted to do something different with them so I brainstormed away. And voila! “Mrs. Death Makes Her Grand Entrance” came to mind. I really wanted her to have this exaggerated grand entrance, with tons of smoke and swagger – it seemed very fitting for Mrs. Death to appear in such a dramatic manner.
I knew that even though my smoke grenades would last over a minute, that was technically not a lot of time to just “wing it”. So, I practiced my pose before hand. I also pre-photographed the whole pose before setting off the smoke grenade just in case I missed something while it was going off. This was a crucial part of the creation process (cover all of your bases). Originally, I wasn’t too picky on the location for this image and thought somewhere in the desert would be okay. While location scouting, I saw this amazing tree tunnel and thought that it would be the perfect spot to create this portrait. Adam and I woke up at 6am and headed over to our location. I also really appreciated that he recorded behind the scenes video while I took my portraits and he waved around the smoke grenade.
Some lessons learned from working with smoke grenades are that you need to be careful where you use them. If you set them on the ground, they will stain the ground (luckily we set it down on sand). Also, the smoke is not something you want to breathe tons of. Finally (and YES Enola Gaye DID have this in their warning labels), the grenades get really hot and can shoot off hot debris so wear fireproof gloves (sorry hubs!). DO NOT use them in areas that are highly flammable (like most of Colorado). DO have fun and create pretty images!
Because this whole photoshoot was a big deal to me, I took it as an opportunity to stretch my creativity in the video making department. While at the Promoting Passion Convention, I took Devin Schiro’s video class (he is SO talented check out his work here) and I was blown away how simple it could be to create short video clips for social media. I took what I learned, plus some of my own prior video making experiences and created a short behind the scenes clip. Secondly, I was inspired by a fellow PPCer to learn how to create a 2.5D Parallax effect video (below). WOW! How amazing.
Video is such a critical component to what we do. I know that my closest friends will look at this image and be mostly impressed but in a fast paced world of scrolling and swiping on our phones, something like “Mrs. Death Makes Her Grand Entrance” will get easily overlooked online. Plus, from personal experience at galleries, most of my work gets the good ol’ “Oh she made that in Photoshop, so it’s easy and not valuable”. To give you a good idea, “Mrs. Death Makes Her Grand Entrance” took me an hour to plan, about fifteen hours of travel time, an hour to shoot, four hours to edit (last year it would have probably taken me eight to edit but my skills have much improved through practice), four hours to compile all of the content into this blog post and hundreds of hours in education (not just for her but for everything that I am able to create). I don’t mean to come off as annoyed or mad, I just want to bring to light that this image took over 25 hours to come together into this blog that you are now reading. The value of documentation is important for these reasons: we provide our viewers with the opportunity to come into our world, we help educate other artists and these videos look amazing in galleries (if they allow you to have a video display next to your work – I have been known to bring my iPad on opening receptions).
I hope that no matter what your pursuit might be that you chose to approach it with the mindset of being different (questions like: “What is no one else doing?” or “How can I stand out?”) and having fun. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and into a world of possibilities. Bring a close friend if you must! But have the courage to try something new and amaze yourself. If you’ve ever felt, like me, that tomorrow will be the day and that day always remains as tomorrow then I challenge you to take a “now” approach. It will feel like such a big challenge in the beginning, but as you look back at all that you’ve created you will be so pleasantly surprised at what you are capable of. The road is a challenging one, but one worth taking.
How will you chose to be different today? What is on your mind that is out of your comfort zone? What have you created recently that surprised you? Please share your thoughts on any of these questions with me below:
Speed Edit Credits: Photography: Anna D Bruce Music: “Dark Rider” by Lovedrug