I don't have any events, because I don't actually show my art anyplace except for on the web. A few years ago I dipped my toes into the "gallery art scene" and it was just too stressful and political; rather than deal with all the phonies I just got walked.
As far as future projects, I periodically come up with ideas that are more complicated than just a photo or two; I have several that I'm going to try to work on this summer. Mostly they're silly, or cute, and designed to be mildly annoying.
`Helewidis - Do you remember art being a big part of your childhood?
`mjranum - Yes, it was. My parents are academics and we used to travel around Europe a lot. My mom and dad took me to what seemed like every museum, church, or castle in France and England (and quite a few in Spain) - I was, of course, horribly bored a lot of the time.
`Helewidis - Who was your inspiration as you played with your finger paints?
`mjranum - The art that I loved most when I was a kid was way outside of my ability to touch. I was a huge fan of napoleonic-era military art: David, Gericault, and later Meissonier and Detaille. And I adore the light in Ingres and Caravaggio's works. But that's not something a kid can touch. Not this kid, anyhow.
`Helewidis - Were you supported by others to create?
`mjranum - My parents were always extremely supportive of whatever I did. I didn't do much art as a kid, though - I was all over the place and never really latched onto a straightforward creative avenue that could be called "art."
`Helewidis - What medium did you use as a child?
`mjranum - I got my creative kicks out of writing computer programs. Back in those days, software was written by carving your source code into a cave wall with a mammoth tusk, so it was serious work. The important thing is that - yes - I was a really creative kid but I never had a normal artistic avenue. So I didn't develop the kind of eye/hand coordination you'd get as a painter, or whatever, but I learned highly disciplined technical skills, and learned how to be very detail-oriented and exacting. A lot of people ask "why are so many computer programmers photographers?" Well, it's because we already have trained ourselves to squeeze creatively on technology - you can always tell the computer programmer because he reads the entire manual for his camera. The more "typical artist" is busy trying to figure out how to turn it on... So I guess you could say I grew up primed to fall in love with photography, and photoshop is just another computer program to me.
`Helewidis - What is Art to you?
`mjranum - Creativity applied under will.
`Helewidis - What are your aspirations regarding your art?
`mjranum - I just want to have fun. Fun, for me, is pretty broad-spectrum, though. Sometimes fun is trying to create something really beautiful. Other times fun is trying to piss off complete strangers. I think that the essence of art is creativity, and for me, creativity most often comes out as playfulness. So I guess you could say I aspire to play.
`Helewidis - What is your favorite medium?
`mjranum - Photography.
`Helewidis - If you could, you would?
`mjranum - Build my own hydrogen bomb.
`Helewidis - How did you find dA?
`mjranum - Someone had a profile on DA that was full of stolen images, including several of mine. I created my DA account so I could leave a couple of pointed comments, and contact the DA admins. I wound up posting a few of my photos and - well - I've been here ever since.
`Helewidis - Did you use other outlets for your art?
`mjranum - I have my own website with a free gallery, and I used to post at a couple of other photography-related sites. I've found that the pure photo-sites get too political or are dominated by vocal minorities; that gets boring quickly.
`Helewidis - Why dA?
`mjranum - Well, originally I thought the "deviant" in the name meant it was less likely that there would be "AUUGUUHHHH!! PORNO!!!" idiots - I mean, a site like "deviant art" you'd maybe expect a few naughty photos. I was wrong, of course - those idiots are here in force - but the site's filters work effectively enough that I seldom have to listen to their whining.
`Helewidis - What would you like to see here at dA?
`mjranum - I'd like to see a feature like amazon.com's "if you liked this... you might like X" - think about it for a second. We have all these webs of who likes whose work; it would be neat to be able to have a "I want to get lucky" page where it computes whose work is liked in common with people whose work I like, and offer me up new opportunities to browse within those categories. Of course, I can already spend all day just farting around looking at all the art - it's good to be exposed to things outside of your preferred genre.
`Helewidis - What is your favorite part of dA?
`mjranum - Looking at all the amazing stuff people come up with!
`Helewidis - Do you tell offline friends about dA?
`mjranum - Yes; I've gotten about two dozen friends hooked.
`Helewidis - If you could tell the world about dA what would you say?
`mjranum - "If you enjoy having your creative wheels lubricated, check it out." Wow - that sounds like a toothpaste ad or something! Don't hire me to do marketing.
The only aspect about working with nudes, specifically, that is challenging is the occasional cultural blockages - people sometimes say absolutely stupid things and I have to keep a straight face and try to remain polite. You know, like "let me know if you need help holding the lights" or "how do you keep your hands to yourself?" I have canned responses to those ranging from arid, acrid, to acidic - depending on my mood. It's pretty fascinating because of what it says about society's implicit assumptions.
`Helewidis - Who are your favourite Artists?
`mjranum - How's this for a wild mix??: Caravaggio, Vermeer, Frank Frazetta, John J Muth, Milo Manara, Satoshi Urushihara, Azpiri, Erwin Olaf - all of whom are artists who are notable for either portraying sexy girls or rendering amazing lighting. The list could go on and on and on, too - there is so much wonderful art-work out there it's kind of mind-blowing.
`Helewidis - How do you choose your models? What is your criteria? Why would you turn someone down, for example? and Where do you find them?
`mjranum - I choose my models simply for looks. If you look at my portfolio you'll notice that there are actually a pretty wide range of body types and features, overall. It's kind of an interesting topic to me - I had one friend comment that "you shoot so many blondes" and I went "huh?" So we went through my portfolio and concluded that it's just that he noticed the blondes. My criteria are simple: the model must be beautiful to me. That's another way of saying I'm not exactly picky. I do tend to avoid models with lots of tattoos or boob jobs. In the case of tattoos, I see it as someone else's art clashing with mine. With respect to breast implants, it's simply that it's very rare that they look natural - that makes them something to work around, for me, rather than work with. So I'm lazy and I try not to shoot models where I'm going to have to spend time worrying about anything but my own creative problems.
What inspired you to pursue this particular genre (Artistic Nude) in the first place?
`mjranum - I've always liked how girls look with their clothes off.
What is the biggest challenge you've had to face as a nude photographer?
`mjranum - The biggest challenge for any artist is first and foremost how to create art that they're happy with. Everything else is secondary. When I started out, my work was embarrassingly bad and that has driven a constant desire to improve wherever possible. I look at the stuff I was doing a couple years ago and think "ugh..." Hopefully I'll be feeling the same way ten years from now. You'll notice that has nothing to do with working with nudes or not. The only aspect about working with nudes, specifically, that is challenging is the occasional cultural blockages - people sometimes say absolutely stupid things and I have to keep a straight face and try to remain polite. You know, like "let me know if you need help holding the lights" or "how do you keep your hands to yourself?" I have canned responses to those ranging from arid, acrid, to acidic - depending on my mood. It's pretty fascinating because of what it says about society's implicit assumptions.
`Helewidis - How do you find outdoor locations without getting harassed or arrested? or, if you don't do outdoors: What is your favorite lighting setup? Why?
`mjranum - I don't shoot outdoors because I'm a control freak and the outdoors is so dirty and unpredictable. It'd be fairly easy for me to shoot without getting harrassed, if I wanted to, because I live in a very rural area and and am surrounded by deep forest. I just don't like the idea of shooting in the woods! Can't control the light! Arrgh!
With respect to favorite lighting set-up - I'm a big fan of large banks of soft light. I can't explain why I like it, I just do.
Lenses don't make as big a difference as the people who sell them will try to tell you they do. Especially if your end result is a web-resolution 800x900 jpeg.
`Helewidis - What do you answer to those intolerant people complaining about your art being only pornography? What would you tell them to open their eyes?
`mjranum - Usually I just ignore them because they're stupid and it's not my job to cure all the stupid in the world.
But, in the cases where I really want to try to get the person to think, I just start asking them questions. A lot of the time, if a person has a stupid idea, you can get them to realize it's stupid (or push them to the point of discomfort) by asking them to expose their thinking to the harsh light of day. So, good questions to ask are things like:
"How do you define « pornography»"? What do you consider acceptable?"
(Getting them to define something that has stumped 4 US Supreme Courts is fun!)
"What do you base your taboos upon? Do you think pornography is 'wrong' or 'evil'? What is the moral basis for your taboo?"
If you dig gently around those questions you can make it pretty clear that the person is simply being a dogmatist or a fundamentalist and is upset about something they cannot even adequately define. That's usually a good place to end the discussion.
`Helewidis - What do you do to make a model feel comfortable being nude in front of the camera? Do you ever have music playing to get the mood right? Could you share some ways to relax when behind the camera or giving directions to a model?
`mjranum - One of the reasons I generally like to work with experienced and professional models is that I don't have to worry about that kind of nonsense. They've done it before and they're already comfortable or they wouldn't be there. I usually put some music on in the background that's appropriate to the mood of the shoot, but that's really not important. From a "mood" standpoint the single biggest factor to keeping your shoot in a good mood is not to freeze the model. Keep the studio warm!
`Helewidis - Could you share your 10 best tips?
1) Don't worry too much about what other people think
2) The size of the light source controls the size of the reflection of the light source on the subject
3) Your equipment does not matter; it's what you do with it that counts
4) (considering #3) "Pro gear" is often a lot easier to work with. You can get "pro results" with just about anything - but it's harder and takes more skill. The single best way to catapult a beginner's skills forward is to give them access to a fully-equipped studio with pro gear and an experienced assistant. Yes, you can make a soft-box out of an aluminium roasting pan and some duct tape, but it's a pain in the neck.
5) Always experiment! Control one thing at a time and use the scientific method. If you need to, keep notes. I used to set up lighting experiments on my dining room table using a barbie doll, mag-lights and cardboard/aluminium reflectors, and a cheap digital camera. You can do a whole lot of "goofing off" for next to nothing and know what you're doing by the time you're ready to shoot. I have a plaster bust of Elvis in my studio that I use as a light target when I feel like experimenting. He works cheap, looks good, and never gets bored.
6) Everything has "been done" already - if you decide that your work needs to be unique and never make reference to anyone else's work, you'll doom yourself to eternal frustration. The entire "human experience" is derivative, and all art is rooted in the "human experience" - revel in the fact that you're grounded in such a deep foundation of culture. Don't be afraid to be part of the herd; every sheep is different even though we're all sheep.
7) Lenses don't make as big a difference as the people who sell them will try to tell you they do. Especially if your end result is a web-resolution 800x900 jpeg.
8) Digital imaging systems are now vastly superior to our eyes. That means that we're into the region of diminishing returns with respect to quality. Experiment with your output and display parameters and understand what quality you actually need. Then get what you want anyway.
9) Always do your backups. If you have 1 terabyte of images, own 2 1-tb drives. I've seen photographers spend thousands of dollars trying to recover lost files because they saved hundreds of dollars on hard drives.
10) It's always easier than it looks once you know how it's done.
`Helewidis Thank you very much for everything
You are officially invited!
Summer is here and so is the Project Educate Week for Artistic Nudes (July 14 to July 18 - you can read updates in #projecteducate and other week's info).
As of right now, besides other interviews and the ABC's (that you can check out my seraching my news), we have launched a mini-contest: [link] and the schedule is up at [link]
Today 15 is Critique-Night with many great artists from deviantart in #artnudes at 11pm GMT, see your timezone in this site: [link]
During the week there will also be more thematic articles and journals, from the community itself. If you are curious about it you can read more about it in the planning's journal: [link]
Last but not least, there will be random giveaways during the week in #artnudes and some other dA places!
Join us and please, spread the news and/or use the stamp so everyone knows about this event!!!