Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Fantasy in the Forest" Creator Jamie Brick

Jamie Brick, Sculptor in his studio in South Frontenac, Ontario

To see this picture bigger click here.

Every summer on the third weekend of July sculptor Jamie Brick mounts a magical, multi-artist, multidisciplinary exhibit in the forest near his home in South Frontenac, Ontario. I first met Jamie at another art show in Toronto some years ago, and was immediately taken with his whimsical and often humourous sculptures which range in size from smaller than a finger to the size of a person. I had the good fortune to be invited to participate in his Fantasy in the Forest show when it was still on his home/studio property. It was a beautiful, inspiring and memorable weekend. Now the show has grown and moved to a new, larger spot in the forest, somewhat less far off the main road than his home, making it much more accessible for the artists and the visitors. And I cannot wait to experience it next summer.

Anyway, Jamie's show is not really what this post is about -- I just want people to know about it and go -- it's about my latest portrait of a creative person in his space, and a bit about me wondering why I keep doing these! Once again I was lucky enough that a fascinating artist was willing to go through the process of working with me in this particular way. And, in this case, given Jamie's whole fantasy theme, my kind of surreal lighting couldn't have been more appropriate. Furthermore, with my love of small and interesting spaces, I felt I pretty much hit the jackpot with Jamie's tiny magic kingdom of a studio, although it's hard to tell from this blah looking pre-shoot snap how truly magical it is:

Me standing in for Jamie during set-up while there's still light

But yes, it's true, for a brief moment my first thought upon completing the actual shoot (and prior to the all-important digital compositing part of the process) was "Why do I keep doing these?". They're stressful to do, and they don't really fulfill any identifiable purpose, other than adding to my portfolio of "pretty pictures", although they do invariably provide the subject with an unexpected and artful portrayal of themselves. They're hard on the subject who has to stay pretty much impossibly still, a great technique, however, for people who don't want to have to smile. They're also incredibly restrictive in terms of poses and expressions possible, ideal again, though,  for subjects who like the idea of the portrait photo circa fiddling around with different expressions or poses or having to engage with the photographer or the viewer. Ideally, and again almost impossibly, the whole shoot takes place during a fairly short window of time -- while there is just enough light left that it looks dark-ish outside but not totally black. And, frankly, they're kind of nerve wracking because I'm never really 100% sure I'm really capturing everything I'm going to need to make a successful final image...kind of like the old days (or even worse given the fleeting nature of the lighting) when we shot film and had to wait to get it back from the lab to really be sure we got the shot. Although, realistically, I know enough to make sure the bases are covered, not getting the shot is never an option, and I haven't screwed one up yet.

However, after the pressure of the shoot, and the tedious process of digitally puzzling together bits and pieces of all the separate exposures required, it's very satisfying when it all comes together and I have an image I like that would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to create any other way.

This shoot had the usual challenges plus a few extras...there's always something unexpected. In this case it was the candles. I needed to shoot most of the exposures without the candles lit, then light them for the final exposure. For some reason, when it came time to light them, we could not get them to burn. Over and over Jamie tried, one candle lighting just as another would snuff out. It took so long that by the time we got them lit, the light had pretty much gone, and the chandelier had spun to a completely different orientation from the one it was in during the previous exposures, meaning more Photoshop work for me. Plus, it was getting really hard to see.

Exposure for the candle chandelier

Additionally, I would have liked to move some of the bigger sculptures around but that would have been way too time consuming and invasive; I had already moved a bunch of the smaller pieces. So I just had to shoot them where they were, fitting Jamie in between them in as balanced a way as possible. Luckily, although the floor was not super solid and stable -- never a good thing when you're doing multiple exposures -- I was able to set up the tripod on another level of flooring separate from the part of the studio we were shooting, and just avoid walking on that part during exposures, so at least the tripod didn't move.

A bit more about Jamie Brick, this from his website: "When asked about his history Mr Brick responded with a straight face that he was abandoned as an infant, taken in and raised by a pack of wild medieval rabbits. This unusual upbringing reflects in this artist's eyes as he sculpts, stone, wood and mixed media into creatures from a world that lies just left of centre." Jamie produces an eclectic mix of both self-directed and commissioned art, including interior design/art like this banister in his family's home,

Hand carved banister in Jamie's home

and his more well-known body cast based work (of which you can see examples in the image at the top of this post). And yes, for those who want a really personal piece of Jamie's work, he will put your body in one of these breathtaking sculptures.

Sunrise view of Draper Lake from Jamie's studio

I hesitate to share the fact that Jamie and his wife Annette have converted his old studio into a cottage which is available for rent (during months that don't require an insulated building) along with a little boat, and that the lake is full of fish. My son would like to catch them all himself when we return next summer, so he'll be annoyed to know I'm telling the world about this beautiful secret place. Given that it's now listed on airbnb he can't really blame people's finding out about it on me.

Jamie Brick is exhibiting and selling his works at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto from Nov. 26 to December 6, 2015.

As for me, I am probably going to keep doing these portraits because they make me happy. If you know anyone who wants one...