Category Archives: Inspiriation

Things that inspire me to create

Getting To The Core Of Who Your Subject Is

It’s been a couple of weeks since I have been able to write or post a new blog.  I have been super busy lately working on more commercial work that needed priority.  One of the projects I work on this time of year is the promotional images for The Montana Rep Theater Company’s national tour that goes out at the end of January.  So much of my work has a theatrical quality to it.  I worked in theater for so long that it still sticks with me.  I guess it is just a part of my nature.  I love the idea of tapping into the emotional resonance of an image.  One of the things that most people first learn when working with me on images is how quickly I connect to others.  I once read an interview with Robert Mapplethorpe where he talked about the importance of establishing a relationship with his subjects.  Meeting, talking, getting to know, and sharing with the person you are about to create images with.  He would never shoot anyone cold that he didn’t know.  This stuck me at the time and I have modeled my own approach to photography in this manner.  It shows in the image how strongly the subject connects to the photographer.  I mean in a sense we are all photogenic.  But I see so many young or beginning photographer’s images and it feels they are only revealing the surface of the subject, because the subject seems distant or aloof.  Yes the image may be pretty and technically good, but that is only a small fraction of creating an image.  Establishing the working relationship first breaks down some of those barriers and creates more of an intimacy in the final image.  Somehow people trust photographers in ways they don’t trust others.  At my first meeting with a subject that I will possibly photograph nude, often revealing insights that are intimate and personal.   Perhaps I know the right questions to ask, perhaps they know and trust my eye and body of work, perhaps I have a reputation that whatever they say or reveal will not leave the walls of my studio.  I am not sure, but it gets me closer to the core of identifying who they are.  The actual photographic process can often be distracting due to all the technical elements involved in creating the right exposure and adjusting the lighting as I begin to discover what works best with their skin and personality.  The subject somehow trusts this.  My focus always remains on them, discovering the nuance of who they are.  I shoot a lot of images during a shoot, but with each shot I try to discover more about who they are.  I never work on the surface.  Part of my theatrical training is the ability to constantly coax out their best, each image becoming a step further.  I guess this is what I really love about the process.  To me, my segue from working in theater to photography was just a natural progression.  In a sense it’s still staged, but I have just moved from the box of the proscenium arch of the theater to the box contained within the frame of camera.

When Artistic Passion Ignites Into Fire

This past week, partly because the temperature dropped into the teens, I have retreated back into this project.  In fact, it has renewed my obsession with The Naked Man Project.  It’s almost like I have to completely deconstruct it to bring it back into existence.  God what was I doing before to create such a hodge-podge of a mess. I’m actually quite surprised it even functioned for as long as it did, but I’m having a blast revitalizing it.  In fact I feel on fire with it.  Working on it from the moment I get up and then late into the evening on my laptop in bed.  I have never believed in something as much as I have this project.

So many people have reached out to me via texting, Facebook, and email in response to the project this past week, it just continues to fuel me.  It is finally becoming the project I envisioned when I started it back in 2011.  In a greater sense destined to become a global collective of other peoples obsessions with the male nude as a higher form of artistic expression.  I have always wanted to feature the drawings of David Vanderpool and I managed to complete that this week.  In fact it became the model for the new guest artist project that I have reworked the others toward visually.  In reworking this section I have been in contact with all the other artists to clean up and relink their images.  I feel like I am part of a greater global artistic community.  I didn’t realize how much I missed all these conversations.  Living and being in Montana, and not generally recognized as a creative individual is very easy to become reclusive.  But this site still remains strong!  Thank goodness for the Internet in this regard.  This project began with the subheading of “One man’s exploration In finding himself and his search for light, beauty, desire and art.”  When I began the project I really was searching for some sort of acceptance for my “alternative” creative expressions.  A way to link to a new found community dealing with their one vision.  Now I see how many people have been touched by this endeavor.  In the beginning I did not see my own work as very interesting, but just a means of expressing my feelings and emotions as I examined my connection to the culture around me.  I remember how shocked I was the first time I posted some of my images on a site called ManArt, which collapsed shortly there after due to censorship issues.  I now see how much I have grown since those days and now nothing no longer seems taboo. I am on fire again and it feels great to feel alive once again.

Today’s image was the very first attempt I had at creating male nude art.  It was of my friend Daren Eastwold, who was a dancer with a body to kill for.  We went into his apartment and I had a single incandescent light fixture.  We rolled up the carpets, and removed everything from the walls.   The place was on the verge of collapse, in fact condemned, and later torn down.  I was nervous as hell as we began to shoot because I had no experience at this sort of photography.  This was back in the predigital days and I was shooting actual film. That meant I was limited on how many exposures I could take, and that I really wouldn’t know the results until I could process the film and print the contact sheets a couple days later.  Those contact sheets turned out so dark I could hardly see them and thought I had completely botched the shoot.  But there was one image that stuck out that even looked remotely worth working on.  Just one.  I put it into the enlarger and began to print and this beautiful piece began to emerge.  To me that was the defining moment of so wanting to become an artist.  I remember becoming on fire then, the same as I am on fire now.  Life is about passion.  Not being afraid to embrace it.  And from that moment forward to this moment hence I have followed that dream.

Paul Richmond: New Featured Artist on the Project

Paul Richmond is an artist I always adore and admire.  I finally connected with him earlier this week, mostly just to say howdy.  We spent most of the morning exchanging message.  It turns out the publishing company he works for was looking for photographic work as cover art for some of their publications and I was very interested in featuring him as one of the artist in this project.  By the end of the day he had sent me a selection of his images and I was able to create a gallery of his work.  I love his images, they are filled with so much color and the concepts are hysterically funny.  He plays on images we are all familiar with and twists to fit within our on gay mythology.  I know growing up in Montana there were no iconic images that even hinted at anything gay, it what kept so many of us in the closet and fearful of coming out.  Now Paul has taken those marketing concepts and fashioned them into what I think are brilliant gay iconic art.  They are playful, they hint at the naughty and they are revealing, often exposing men’s bare bums.  The subject’s faces often filled with shock in a feigned innocent compromising vulnerability.
Paul’s history has been primarily as an illustrator.  He illustrated comic books as well as probably hundreds of pulp fiction style book covers.  Paul now live in Columbus, Ohio with his partner Dennis Niekro and teaches painting classes.  I wish I didn’t live so far away I would love to take a class from a master like Paul.  Last summer Paul had a show with friend and other featured artist Tom Acevedo in P Town.
This morning I feel I am getting back on track now with this project.  It has always been my vision to create a community of like-minded artists and begin showcasing their amazing talents.

The Moment Of Vision

I often see a vision that becomes quite sensual to me, a beautiful man, standing naked, in the shadows of the room. I watch the light play on his skin in the darkness as only the shape of his figure is outlined by the highlights across his sensuous skin as he moves about in that darkness, lit only by a streetlight, faint, dim, dappled with emotion, spilling through the window. He subtly moves to expose the youthful shape of his abs, not well defined, but in the darkness I have felt their tightness, another shift and I recognize the powerful contour of his arms filled with tension. As he turns toward the window I recognize the flatness of his chest muscles as they ripple from the darkness yet the highlights expose a supple softness of his skin that I want to reach out, touch, caress. It transports me to a timeless place when I was young and suddenly the vitality of my own youth comes flooding back. He is unaware I am watching him so intently as I am inspired by this remarkable moment as if suspended in time. How do I bring this into the studio? How do I reveal my own thoughts, feelings and the emotions that overwhelm me? I am utterly entranced by the sensation of this remarkable beauty and merely desire to bask in it for an eternity, but know this moment is fleeting, and soon he will dress and go home. The essence of that moment lingers on however fleeting it may have been, savoring it, reliving it, playing it over in my head as it dances through my thoughts for days to come.

Gilbert M: A Lust For Life

Today I wanted to write about a man to which I owe much of my creative life. His name was Gilbert Millikan, probably one of the greatest champions for arts in the state of Montana. Gilbert passed away in 2003 from brain tumor and I cannot let this year’s project pass without paying a tribute to him.

Gilbert was born, raised and spent the greatest portion of his life in Missoula. His father was a smart businessman who invested in properties and owned the original Bitterroot Market, which is now where the Bitterroot Flower Shop is located. Gilbert’s mother was involved in many social organizations throughout the valley so Gilbert inherited the best of both those worlds. He is probably the kindest, most generous man I have ever known. He was somewhat of a philanthropist toward the creative process, the creation of art, and artists of all sorts. There were two sides to Gilbert, one his outgoing social butterfly, and the very reclusive man who often chose to remain hidden. He lived in an old Victorian Mansion, with his two little yappy dogs Sunny and Happy. He was passionate about gardening and developed the grounds of his Victorian Estate into the most extraordinary gardens. This is how I sort of got to know Gilbert. I was a student in college and rented an old carriage house on the property that had been converted into a self-contained guesthouse. I would occasionally help him with the upkeep and planting of those gardens. Movies were another passion we both shared and every Saturday afternoon we would go off to see whatever was new. His passion for movies so astonishing that he bought a video rental business that he grew to become one of the biggest and best in town outlasting any franchise that would dare enter our small community.

Probably the deepest level Gilbert and I bonded was that we were both gay. Though he was much older then I was, he was fascinated by how open I was and how the culture around us was becoming more open and the world seemingly more tolerant. The reclusive side of Gilbert’s stemmed from a certain amount of shame he felt from being gay and the difficulty he was having with his own acceptance of his sexuality. He had a long time partner, but they had become estranged and lived in separate houses in the same block. Anyone who would meet Gilbert would instantly recognize he was gay, as much as he tired to conceal it. I worked off and on for Gilbert for many years whenever I was in town, eventually becoming his personal assistant until his untimely death. I nursed him through his final months as he struggled with the tumor taking command of his life. Upon his passing, he endowed everything he had owned, properties, massive art collections, and estate to four arts charities in the state of Montana, which were considerably under funded at the time.

All those years with Gilbert I learned to face a lot of my own fears and anxieties. Gilbert had instilled in me a passion for what was beautiful and that all creation comes from the soul weather you are photographing, gardening, or cooking. He was a man of amazing means that lead a humble life. Everything was done and approached with as much enthusiasm one could muster with no expectation of an end result. Though he was not an artist himself, he was fearless in his approach for cultivating other artists and brought humanity to the creative process and instilled a passion for others to create. He became a great patron for many artists in the region, filling his house with the works of others. He believed in me when I couldn’t see it within myself. He believed that we had to earn everything, and didn’t hand it to me, but always created an exchange. The honor of artistry was something that had to be earned, like any other business and that anything was possible with a lot of hard work. This instilled an ethic in me for my own creation that seems to drive my passion deeper.

My dear friend, though it has been many years since your passing I wish you could see the seeds you have laid in my heart for what I have become this year. You would ever be so proud of what I have been able to accomplish. The best of everything you ever were I now carry forward. I have now become that artist you had always believed in as a young man. My compassion, honestly, lust for life, and ability to see into the humanity of others I owe to you. Thank you for the gift of such a precious life.