resting fire face

Spinurn 09/07/16

I’m deeply amused whenever anyone complains about how they’re never smiling in their Spinurn pictures. “I always look so serious, y’know?”

Dude, you’re playing with FIRE! I get it.

Spinurn 08/23/17

Don’t get me wrong, as a photographer I love it when someone plays to the camera or looks like they’re having a blast. But as a fellow flow… person… thing… I also understand how hard it can be to relax enough to look at the audience or a photographer or, say, anything but the BALL OF FLAMING MATERIAL YOU’RE SPINNING PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO YOUR FACE!!!!!

Because, trust me, no matter how familiar you are with your prop, no matter the safety training you’ve done, it’s fire and I think our hind brains will never stop reacting to it as such, because to do otherwise would be potentially perilous.

Spinurn 11/08/17

So yeah, I’m happy for the pictures of people having fun and laughing. But if they’re not expressive…

Don’t we all kind of get why?

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too many bricks

I love Lego.

I hate Lego.

I love Lego for the opportunities in story telling, the ways I can mix and match and build narrative. I love it for the times when people tell me I managed to show an emotion in the interaction of two minifigures. It’s marvelous and I think it’s safe to say that this is going to be in my wheelhouse for quite some time.

I hate Lego any time I try to build anything on my own. Because dammit there are just too many bricks!

I’m not a builder. I love a kit, I love the instructions and whenever I buy something new, I have a blast putting things together and seeing how I can use the finished product in a photo.

But I’m never really inspired to make the USS Enterprise out of twelve bricks or a scale model of the London Eye or whatever. I’m envious of the people who can do that and I’ll stare in wide wonder at BrickCon but I don’t feel that passion.

When I do feel inspired to design something on my own, that’s when I’m screwed. Not because of technical limitations or not having enough bricks on hand. Trust me, BrickLink is your friend when you’re searching out parts and minifigs. And their Stud.io design software is a game changer. Instead of thinking that maybe there’s a brick that’ll work like so you can pull its digital copy out and play.

That band idea I wrote about last time? Well I went to play with it in Stud.io and I came up with this:

The Band

Even as the pedant in me would like to point out that this is missing and that’s incorrect, I’m well pleased with this. It’ll work perfectly for The Outsiders.

So I upload it to BrickLink, get a shopping list and immediately hit a brick wall… built of 2×4 bricks in red and dark bluish grey.

Here’s the thing, folks. Lego bricks look simple and easily sorted. You’ve got bricks (self-explanatory), plates (flat pieces with studs), tiles (flat pieces without studs), slopes, arches and so on and so forth. But for every particular brick that exists as its own holotype, its own platonic ideal, there are countless others that exist with subtle variations that probably only matter to the keepers of the database.

Because those little grille pieces that make up the keys on the keyboard exist in three different forms, depending on whether or not there’s a “lip” on the bottom. One variation was used sparingly, the other is dominant. Pick the wrong one and the system will be looking for a needle in a haystack. Pick the right one and you’re done shopping in thirty seconds.

And this is what always messes me up. Always. This piece? Not available in dark bluish grey but it’s readily available in light bluish grey. This piece? Available with a lip or without a lip. Are you feeling lucky?

It’s a minor frustration, probably something I’d internalize if I actually built larger scenes and MOCs, but as a small time, small-scale dabbler I’ll just keep gritting my teeth and work through the missing bits by hand.

Stay tuned. I think this is going to be a really fun shot.

my brain on Lego

one night only....

Where do I get my ideas? Jesus, I wish I knew.

The obvious ones are kind of obvious… obviously. A knight and a dragon. The Doctor and a Dalek. Batman and Robin. While I’ll take credit for an original staging or unique take on the subject, the idea itself is pretty self explanatory.

When you get in to the realm of this shot, however… yeah I wish I had an easy answer. It’s an idea that started with a joke, evolved with a few more minifigs and now I’m actually working on building up a band. All because someone in the hierarchy of Lego devised that glam Batman that’s lurking in the right hand of this picture.

That first wave of Lego Batman minifigs included the glam figure and it was wacky. Silly. I used it in a couple of pictures and it probably would have languished in the bottom of that box.

The second wave of Lego Batman minifigs included that Black Canary figure, with a microphone stand and a dual printed head that had her screaming (or singing) on one side.

Well that’s a rock band… right?

BLACK CANARY! LIVE IN CONCERT!

Well, mostly. Kind of. Decent duo. But not a band.

Have you ever had the experience where an idea just lands in your head, unbidden? Like your subconscious had been chewing on something for a couple days and there it is?

Some of the other figures in this wave were in the Superfriends, but that was too obvious. But Black Canary was in The Outsiders. With Green Arrow. So he’s on drums, Apache Chief is on bass, Black Lightning is on keyboards.

And that “tour poster”? Well that’s the first attempt at doing something artsy with it. I really wanted something more like the cover for “With The Beatles”, but it’s hard to get that kind of detail with plastic cylinders, so it became what it is now and I kind of love it all the more for not being “perfect” but the best that I could do with a bunch of minifigures and two flashlights.

I think there’s more to come with this. I don’t know what, exactly, but it’s been a lot of fun to think about.

by the pound

What’s the last thing you bought by the pound? Vegetables or meat are probably the most likely. Bulk food. Deli meat.

How about larger measures? Five pounds. Ten pounds. Potatoes, likely. A roast. Apples.

According to the shipping manifest, this picture shows roughly ten pounds worth of greeting cards. Over three hundred cards with envelopes.

Gah!

Believe it or not, that’s not what trips me up, though. Given that I’ve actually gotten a vending date or two coming up, I’m happy for the inventory.

No, what’s really messing with my head is the fact that almost all of these are from my Lego Kink “line” and, unless I’m misreading the email or something equally weird happens, more than half of these are earmarked for a local shop to carry.

And that blows my mind. And that gives me hope.

I’m not about to threaten Hallmark any time soon, but it’s really heartening.

belong

Well, today I got the news from SEAF. Of the five photos I submitted, they accepted four.

My silly little minifigs are going to be hanging in a show of “erotica” and I couldn’t be more chuffed! And shocked, actually. I was expecting that they might want one. Maybe. Four? Holy hell…

And the one they rejected? Honestly, I threw that in as a lark without really expecting anything so I’m doubly thrilled.

It teminded me of an argument I got into on a toy photography forum a while back. It was about where toy photos “fit” in the grand scheme of photography and the author was of the opinion that, nope, we could slot our photos anywhere we believed they fit. We should think outside the limitations of “just” toy photography.

Now, I agree with that to a point, but the examples given weren’t thought through. According to them a picture of a surfing Lego minifig surely belongs in a sports photography group, as does a picture of a Terminator action figure belong in a celebrity photography group since it’s clearly a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And if you had a bunch of minifigs posed around a building, that’s street photography.

Which is where I really got into it because those parallels are sketchy at best and insulting at worst. I mean, have you seen what photographers will do to get the best surfing photos? Jesus! And as nice as it is to have someone praise my dinosaur photos as being almost realistic…

good hit

I really like it, but let’s be real. The only way you’d see this image in National Geographic (or wherever) is if they did a special toy issue in the same way that Hasbro and LucasFilms will hold contests for the best toy photography featuring their action figures.

Sure, street photography is “just” candid shots of people, but there’s more to it. It’s about moments and humanity. Hell, I’ve been in groups that forbade any pictures taken indoors since clearly the mandate was photography on the streets. Strict, but fair.

It all ended in a damp squib of being told that if I didn’t believe my art belonged anywhere but Instagram, that was my problem…

Here’s the thing: I think my toy photography belongs in galleries. Absolutely, one hundred percent, some of my best work should be blown up to some ridiculous sized print and hung in a white walled cube for patrons to walk by in wide eyed wonder (at the prices). I want to see it in stores for sale. I want a book deal.

Between this and my studio work, I want to take over the world.

But some of that is knowing where the work doesn’t belong. I’m a straight white male photographer, my work does not belong in a space devoted to Japanese printmakers. Simple.

After that, though? It’s finding where I can slot my ideas in, maybe even without them knowing they wanted it. Like the places that are selling my Lego cards, both mundane and kink. Like the places I’ve shown my work.

Like SEAF.

The show’s in April. I’m vending in Tacoma in March. I’m sending line sheets to shops up and down the west coast this week, including Kink.com because why the fuck not.

And I’ll show you exactly where my work belongs.

pieces of change

All together now!

meet the team

According to the schedule, I should be hearing from the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival about whether my submissions made the cut… tonight? Tomorrow? Cynically, I’d be amazed to hear anything, but I remain quietly optimistic.

Because dammit, my Lego kink should be appreciated by more people!

Yes, Lego kink. Because I saw some of the figures in this picture and I just knew what I could do with them. The ideas came in a torrent and I’ve been doing my damnedest to get them out of my head and into the world.

Why? Because I think so much of the kink art out there is too serious and too grim. I’ve been jokingly calling it the “GrrNyar” school of kink because it tends to be grim faced men or sharp edged women being very intimidating while standing over some hapless fool who’s had the misfortune to be tied up like a side of beef. I want to see something more. I want to see a comedy of errors or two people who are deeply into each other as well as their scene. I know it happens, I’ve seen it. So why is all the art grim and shadowy?

So I submitted some to SEAF. I’m still not a fan of the event and I think it’s a little stuck on its own reputation and history to grow beyond lowest common denominator “sexy”, but if I can offer something that flies in the face of that expectation, fantastic. Even better to do something that’s silly or sweet or comedic. Or all three. Hell, when my friend Maddie told me I got more emotional content with minifigs than she’d seen in some of the SEAF catalogs…

I’ve also been making cards of these little figures and finding places to sell them. First there was my Etsy store (along with my more mundane Lego cards) but in addition to getting them into a local sex shop, I’ve been sending out emails and line sheets and the responses have been mostly positive. Including a leather shop in town that wants a couple dozen and a queer sex shop up in Vancouver, BC.

And more to come? Unless something goes horribly awry, I’ll be vending down in Tacoma at the end of March. Quoi?

So in this I’m going to be the change I want to see. I’m going to offer the weird in my head and see what the response is. Weirdly enough, I think this may have a bit more momentum than some of my other projects. We’ll see…

anatomy of a comic

names matter

The reason I love toy photography is that it appeals to my desire to tell stories. Sometimes it’s as simple as sticking two figures in a scene, whether they’re dinosaurs fighting or superheroes. There’s enough in the picture that what’s happening is either clear as day or offers enough clues that you can find your own interpretation.

Sometimes, that’s not enough and you have to bring in panels and word balloons. Which is where the real fun begins because now it’s more than just a picture. It combines my favorite parts of writing (I love dialogue, can’t stand writing all the descriptive bits and “he said excitedly” and whatnot), photography, composition and design into one usually quick and dirty project.

So I figured I’d discuss how this comic came together, from concept to completion.

The idea first came together when I saw that there would be a Clock King in the next wave of Lego Batman figures.

That’s how I look at most Lego, as a story telling tool. Whether it inspires on its own or gets filtered through my ever expanding collection, that determines my interest in buying a kit. I mean, as cool as the mondo-uber-deluxe Millennium Falcom is, it doesn’t do much for me. But the Lego book that came with Emperor Palpatine? Oh I can work with that.

Same thing with the Clock King.

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, so I already had the TARDIS set from a couple years ago, which is all about Time Lords and… well that’s the first glimmer. Throw in the Calendar Man minifig that came out last year and there’s definitely something there. I hit Bricklink for the Calendar Man figure, waited for the new wave to come out and then waited for a semi-nice day to pull something together.

Which happened to be today.

Next up: I have my characters and a rough “setting”. What’s the story?

Two villains, one Doctor. Probably nothing good. Did I want to show that? Have an “unconscious” Doctor in the scene? Not especially. I want these comics to be relatively streamlined, especially when they’re gags.

So they’re driving the TARDIS? I like the interior set, but I’d done something like that recently. And it was a really nice day today.

There’s still a lot of room here. I wanted a narrative so something more than the two of them standing outside the TARDIS with a caption about the “real” time lords. So a walk and talk (sorry Mr. Sorkin!).

What are they walking and talking about? One of them got the TARDIS, the other is impressed and… then… magic?

Calendar Man. Clock King. Such seriously ridiculous names. Nothing cool as the Time Lords I liked… like… there you go.

I do my comics in an iPhone app called Halftone 2. It’s a funky little program that was clearly designed to be used for tourist pictures and wacky captions of your dog. I figured this out when I contacted them about a glitch involving a comic of some twenty odd pages and they responded with mild shock. So there you go. But it’s super easy. Drop in your images, throw in some speech bubble “stickers” and some sound effects and you’re set.

Before I got to the park I threw some speech bubbles on the layout, which established the pictures I’d need. I took a couple pictures against the low angle of the winter sun, pasted them in, adjusted tails, cropped the images and, lo, I was done. A month of spitballing, fifteen minutes of photography, five minutes of editing.

I dig the hell out of this system. There are some serious limitations, beyond the tendency towards smaller file sizes. Most importantly, while the layouts are varied and you can make your own layouts in a related app, this is not really good at making super complex pages like Art Spiegelman or Alan Moore. I mean, there are options in the app, but I’ve never made them work for anything.

The learning curve on this app is less about learning the app itself and more about figuring out how to make it work for your vision. Or, to put it in a more visual form:
"Tutorial"Yep, that’s the long and short of it. You can have a big clear picture or a lot of words, but not both. Not really.

So yeah. My brain and welcome to it. And maybe you should try it yourself? Tell a dad joke in two panels. Recreate a Far Side strip in minifigures. Go nuts!

And, hey, Juicy Bits software? Call me. I’ve got some notes.