Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rock Schlock Vintage Halloween Music

Taking a break here from personal projects... (to look at a hobby of hunting down the more alternative side of holiday audio and video - those bits belonging to the more obscure catalog of holiday kitsch and novelty). At some point I'll have to create a more defined list of these interesting links.

For a couple of years I was mixing together old Halloween-themed music from the 1920's to 1940's. (See a short post on these really old tunes at Halloween Music at 78 RPM). This was great fun to share at Halloween... and really stunned people to hear that such songs existed for the holiday. (Most of us all hear the same old standard lists when it comes to jazz or 50's music.... and I'm so glad the internet has allowed us to get less "encapsulated views" of these eras).

grim (cover photo for a mix of vintage Halloween tunes)

As I started searching the internet for more content for these mixes... searching for terms like "ghost" or "Halloween" and the years.... I think I must have stumbled across one of my now favorite radio stations WFMU. This station has some awesome playlists archived! One of my favorites for novelty Halloween music (aside from the sadly defunct Greasy Kid Stuff) is a show called Fool's Paradise:

The show hosted by Rex Doane, is awesome all year, but check out the shows dated at the end of October for Halloween rock schlock and novelty sounds from the fifties and sixties. There's a two hour show for each year from 1999 up to the present!

Seriously cool connections to this station include the WFMU Ichiban (Japanese for #1) blog:

Amd this artist and Ichiban blogger:

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Pumpkin Dream - eBook

Well, I've spent the last week finishing (mostly) a couple of production projects to wrap up "The Pumpkin Dream" book publishing for both print and digital release.

While I'm still going back and forth, and tweaking the Amazon/CreateSpace version of the book, I was very happy to make my way through my first electronic publishing venture of the book, now available on Smashwords! (No easy feat if you've ever tried to newly jump into a style guide and reformat your work for an almost unknowable layout - especially difficult for electronic books that are heavy on the images).

I may comment on this process in more detail later, and my exhausting experiences fighting with Mr. Pilcrow, but for now... I'm calling it a day... :-) In the meantime, please check out the ebook version (sample available on the site) which is set at a modest price of $2.99 and is different in its own right. (While the first edition on Blurb.com was orange/black/white, the electronic version has a black and white format).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream (Part 4) - Cautionary Vectors

A continuation from A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream (Part 3)

As the idea to illustrate "October Dreams: A Cautionary Tale" became an objective, a new problem developed: I had recently switched systems and my ancient web developer's student copy of Adobe Photoshop 5 and Illustrator 8 (from 1999...!?) would no longer work on the newer system -- and I certainly couldn't afford to buy those expensive Adobe programs and still complete this project. I was very depressed about this situation, feeling once again I was trying to take on another project beyond my means...

As I tried to figure out what to do, I thought I should at least dabble with some trial dowloads to see if it was worth the loss of funds (and touch up on some old skills). My first trial was with Illustrator CS5. And I thought it would be fun to see how well I could re-create, and accurately, some old vintage Halloween Decorations.

These cats are from a Beistle Halloween decoration from the 1950's: the top is a scan of the original and the lower image is a wacom pen trace (with some obvious color tweaks). I'm not sure I had really learned how to use the pressure sensitivity at this point - but I did appreciate Illustrator's ability to selectively drag out and increase line widths in certain areas along the line.

Jack O'Lantern Caught in a Cat Fight

Pumpkin Cat Fight (vector version)

The next images is from a frightening looking pumpkin face from 1931 by Dennison. Again, I couldn't quite figure out how to use the pressure sensitivity to achieve fatter/thinner lines. With this guy I drew the shapes and used lower layers to ink in the color areas. And I believe I was using a new ability to paint vector swaths. (The upper version is scanned - the lower version is my wacom trace vector version):

Toothy JOL (vector version)

In both instances I was happy with how accurately the images could be created into vector! This wasn't very helpful though, because Illustrator CS5 was still out of reach. (I wish Adobe would let you upgrade in installments toward having the entire suite. There was no way I was going to buy Illustrator which I needed first, then later buy each program separately and spend even more money to get needful Photoshop, Premiere, etc).

As I tried to figure out what to do - the trials continued with AI CS5 on my own work...

Mentioned previously, I had a sketchbook full of work from trying to develop a three-dimensional project. As raw material, it then seemed logical to recreate these sketches. I imagined this might then be a good way of developing and creating my illustrations for the poem. My first go was with this scarecrow sketch:

See also my additional test manually/digitally recreating pencil sketches in the first blog entry (Sketchy Beginnings that shows working with the main characters of the poem).

I really enjoyed this.. and may have been getting a tad better at using looser pen strokes and wacom tablet sensitivity with Illustrator... however, my trial period was running out.. and the money was just not there for it!

A friend noted that Painter by Corel was a good program for looser pen work, and it might cost less... and that seems like a good place to start the next entry. Part 5 will cover some testing with Painter and, after that, what became my final solution for my budget - freeware!

On a side note (6/5/11), as I was writing Part 5, it occurred to me, I had tried a test of Illustrator's automatic sketch feature. It's a pretty nifty tool. Below is my sketch followed by the Illustrator output. (Note the settings were used to recreate an image that was as simple and graphic and possible, and the output was tweaked just a bit afterward using the new vector blob brush to smooth edges, and create large areas of black).

This was an important test, because as I was also searching for the right program, I was firming up my ideas for the style of illustration - and this was starting to narrow down a goal - to create a style that was reminiscent of old 1930s cartoon animation.

A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream: Part 5 - Monsters from the Id

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Brief History of the Pumpkin Dream (Part 3) - Dimensional Trauma

A continuation from A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream (Part 2)

After finishing the handmade booklet (2006) of the poem, then called October Dreams: A Cautionary Tale, there was a sense that in some way the poem itself was generally complete. However, on occasion, when the next Halloween would roll around, as part of my seasonal tradition, I would fire up my clunky laptop (or scribble on a printed version) with tweaks of word choice or narrative... (and there were still bits of cut verses that lingered at the back of the documents, and I suppose these alone were telling me that I was not yet done: see Paragraphs of Yellowed Print).

In 2010, Halloween coming around again, I was making a fateful push to instead create 3D objects, but at the time (after much hair pulling), decided not to pursue until I had a better sense for the process. (Hopefully, I can pick some of those up again as I slowly learn from other paper casters about materials)...

Halloween Bas-Relief (2010)
Sculpey bas-relief that I had attempted to turn into paper casting of same,
(I plan to rethink those legs)...

Head amongst Heads
Is that a tear in your eye abandoned, and incomplete pumpkin-witch bobble....?

Bobble Phalanx
An army of incomplete bobble Christmas elves (plaster cast).

The result of what you see pictured above? I returned to writing and working on my standard holiday tradition of the poem, this year though determined to have it ready by May of 2011 before the next 2011 Halloween. I was boosted by the few months previous of intense sketching in my notebooks (for the aforementioned 3D projects), that with a surprising conclusion told me I needed to completely illustrate my poem.

That story could be a number of entries (of trial and error) in itself. On to part 4.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Halloween Music at 78 RPM

I love vintage Halloween and I love all types of music --- so I have a real fondness for any Halloween themed music I can find from around the 1950s and much earlier. If you can find used CD's of  Halloween Stomp or Haunted House (offering early jazz compilations from around the 1920's to 1940's), I highly recommend them! (A song listing is pretty easy to find via search engines -- click on the images to read some other folks who have blogged about these CD's):

Since hearing those compilations, I've been searching for more music from that era, and at some point I'll have to post an additional listing of desireable tunes. Today, a friend posted an exciting link to the Library of Congress Electronic Jukebox and I located a few choice spooky songs from the early 20th century. Here's a couple of links (I had hoped to embed the players but they were a bit clunky):

If you like this era of music, you'll love the CD's mentioned above. You might also like a station called Radio Dismuke on Live365 which has a general selection of music from the 20's and 30s.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Brief History of the Pumpkin Dream (Part 2) - Ghosts from the Past

A continuation from A Brief History of the Pumpkin Dream (Part 1)

By the time Halloween 2006 had rolled around, the poem had taken it's general length and narrative, and there were even a few rough illustrations created for it... this was all to correspond with a handmade version of the book, maybe about 10 total (?), that  I produced for a few close friends and for people at work, (this was when I was working as a Design Showroom Librarian - a very nurturing environment for creatives - thank you Jane!)

The packaging consisted of reclaimed cardboard envelopes (created many years ago by David and I'm still trying to use these all up...), that I attached with some printed imagery - (the lantern photographed on front was also by David; we had created papier mache pumpkins for a Halloween party a couple or so years previous).

The book itself was laborious. I printed out all the pages, cut them to size and folded, cut the plastic and incised it for what is called a living fold, and then riveted it all together). I realized, as seems to be the case with many projects for me, that this was great for a one-off event, but trying to create something like this for sell would hit my "boredom" button very quickly. I loved coming up with the design but the manufacturing part is not for me... and at the time I registered the whole item as a fun distraction.

Before heading off to Part 3, I wanted to look again into the small bit of illustrations, about 4 for this iteration (one shown above). They were mostly old photographs merged into various collages (similar to work shown here: Flickr - Haunted Visions) but desaturated, etc, for a gritty low-rez print job. Not such great work, since my focus was the poem itself, but I thought, just for yucks, I would relocate and post, although I am still a bit partial to the last image:

 Ghosts peeking through an old window. The original photo was taken through an old factory home near The Dallas Mill in Huntsville, Alabama. 

 A plastic pumpkin of fairly modern manufacturer zooms past 3 monsters. The monsters were a lifesize cardboard decoration David had created for a Halloween party.

This house was my grandfather's house in Lexington, Alabama. I got David to pose in a sheet (for the set seen in the Flickr link mentioned above), and rather shoddily superimposed a pumpkin head on it)...

And this ghoulish pumpkin head concludes Part 2. On to Part 3... or "Where did all the time go?"

A Brief History of the Pumpkin Dream (Part 1) - Halloween Fireworks

In general, near the end of 2004, I had rediscovered how fun holiday art could be, and as a personal tonic for the troubles of the world. My 2004 series of Halloween and Christmas imagery had been great fun, and from there I turned to writing (where I could be just as imaginative without trying to fund materials).

Hallowe'en #9 (2004)
(This particular image is a pier on Greenlake in Seattle, WA in infrared photography)
One of nine images I created for a series called Hallowe'en, used at the time for greeting cards.
Updates: See more at flickr and I just re-posted remaining cards for sell on Etsy

In the summer of 2005, as fireworks were going off just a few blocks away from me in the the party atmosphere of July 4th celebrations, I was sitting with my primitive little laptop, (that was "free" with some miserable card offer), in our teeny tiny apartment, working on the first few lines of what was to become The Pumpkin Dream... a fantastic distraction from the more serious tones of my own fine art, and web content (re: the disaster of the economic downturn that began for myself as money, time, and education thrown into what became the 2001 bursting of the Seattle web bubble...,  a personally disastrous economic turn)...I suppose the explains the somewhat arch yet escapist tone of the poem!

JOL 2006
Seattle Jack O'Lantern circa 2005:
(Our favorite pumpkin patch was Craven Farm in Snohomish).

Anyhow, writing, as the most inexpensive art form I could enjoy, (gave my imagination full range to dream), and so that summer I started scribbling down stories and poems in fits and starts. (Hopefully a few more of those will see the light as well)! The Pumpkin Dream originally started that summer as just a few separate small poems that over the following weeks began to huddle together in a larger narrative. From the currently finished version, those lines now seem very primitive to my senses, and this is one of the least offensive passages, that even now I couldn't resist changing a word or two as I transcribed:

this most peculiar, gruesome bunch
confirm our most suspicious hunch
that monsters of the thirty-first
must absolutely be the worst...

Ugh. Well, I can't remember how long I worked on the poem immediately following that initial period, but over the following years, as the other writings I had started during that period sat ignored, I would pick this one up as the Halloween season rolled around and fiddle with the words, trying to hammer out the story, and create strong imagery without losing the narrative... (the latter being my greatest challenge for balance in creative writing, when I really do want someone to understand what I'm trying to express).

I would say that in general the poem by October 2006 had finally taken its overall final shape with a handmade book and a handful of illustrations. And I think that's going to be full of enough content for part 2 of this little history... (Part 2)

The Pumpkin Dream Preview and Elvis

Spent this past week, reviewing, tweaking, editing, gouging, ripping, clawing, etc... to finally get this little illustrated poem it's official birth certificates and up on blurb too...

And, by the way, for those of you who may have had questions about copyrighting, especially in regards to your Elvis sighting --- don't worry, the US Copyright Office is here to clear up your questions: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html#elvis

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nine Illustrations on Zazzle

Just a quick posting here (so that I can mostly keep on track with poem revisions) is news that I have posted nine of my original images from the forthcoming book on zazzle for sale as tee-shirts:

9 Bumble Bindlegrim tee-shirts on Zazzle

I plan to create more objects -- trick of treat bags seems an obvious (?) choice -- but I haven't had a chance yet to study all their available products in depth.

In the meantime thank you for taking a look!
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