Grand Slam Tennis on Nintendo Wii

I finally got around to playing EA’s Grand Slam Tennis for Wii. I’ve had this in my collection for at least two years, but never actually played it, probably out of worry that it would be terrible or low-grade shovelware. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here–this is a really great videogame.

You can play with basic Wiimote, Wii Remote Plus or nunchuck, each option offering greater precision and control. I played with the Wiimote Plus alone and was very, very impressed. The controls are very accurate and the ball goes exactly where you want it to go. Movements are very natural and don’t require any real thought. Just swing like you would with a tennis racket, twist the controller to add spin, making sure you angle your shots correctly. Compared to Wii Sports tennis, you have far more control which allows for more realistic volleys. I believe I was also able to make the player move more quickly by aiming the Wiimote, desperately catching up to that far corner at the last second, but I might just be fooling myself. I’ll need to play and experiment more to be sure.

Graphics are a little cartoony, and I will admit that this turned me off when this game was released. Wii was pegged as the “kiddie console,” and so everything had to have simple cartoon graphics with the exact same caricatures: spindly arms and legs, giant hands and feet, bulbous head. That is the case here, but it’s not too extreme and the colors are smooth and balanced with minimal details and textures. It’s not as garish as the hyper-cartoon look of Madden NFL 10 & 11, closer to the more balanced look of Madden 12 & 13 (assuming anybody here played Madden on the Wii…probably zero, I’ll bet, but whatever). In any case, everything looks very good, color design is very solid and the motion capture animations are superb.

Virtua Tennis on Sega Dreamcast remains my gold standard for the genre, and Grand Slam Tennis compares very favorably. Indeed, it might play better. I haven’t yet played Sega’s Virtua Tennis games on Wii, nor have I played 2K’s Top Spin series (despite only recently picking up Top Spin 3), but EA Sports’ effort is widely considered the best. At this point, I would have to agree. It’s just as good as NHL Slapshot and NBA Jam, two of my absolute favorite sports games for the Wii.

I bought this game from Gamestop for five dollars, which was an absolute steal. Its going price on Ebay now is ten dollars, still pretty cheap, but expect those numbers to rise.

While EA is today widely regarded as the Sith Lords of the videogame realm–and there certainly is good reason for that–it should be noted that they did an excellent job with Nintendo Wii. They really did put in an effort to exploit the new motion controls and appeal to the expanding mainstream audience. They are one of the most dependable third parties on the system and it really does feel like a golden age for them, or at least a silver age for those of us who remember the 1980s home computer and 1990s Sega Genesis days.

My only question at this point: Why hasn’t EA brought Grand Slam Tennis to the Nintendo Switch? That console is starving for sports games, and the only EA Sports title available is FIFA. What gives?! You’d think 2K Sports would leap at the chance to bring back NFL2K, albeit without official licenses–but when did that ever stop the first four Madden games on Genesis? Ugh, what a crooked mess. Thanks for nothing, Sith Lords.

Art Gallery: A Few Unused Photos

As it often happens, I find myself with photographs that don’t find their way onto finished books. Either the material didn’t fit the themes of various projects, or they were experiments that didn’t continue into the future. So these are essentially sketches or practice works that would influence later albums.

If memory serves, I captured these photos of a nearby Lao Sze Chuan restaurant in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood in early April. I was just goofing around with “Biotracer” pop art variations, thinking of how I could use it for a future project. Wasn’t exactly sure where it could go, but I was thinking of visiting more locations and doing something in that style.

A week later, I dusted off my Portraits project that had been in a holding pattern since last summer and created a set of photos. That sparked a full revival and within four weeks, I had 30 model sets and 270 digital artworks. Needless to say, all the energy for my pop art obsessions were already expended here, and so there’s no space left for anything else at the moment.

Looking forward, I honestly don’t see any use for these photos, as the rest of my year is already committed to a large number of book projects. And given the way my creative inspiration saunters along, my mind could be in an entirely different space by this time next year. I’m not sure if I’d even be interested in making a series or a book out of these photos. What are the ongoing themes? What am I trying to say? How does it relate to my previous work? How does it show an evolution of my art?

So, whatever. I’ll just post them here and let everyone enjoy them right here and now. Beyond that, I wouldn’t count on seeing them again. As always, if that ever changes, you’ll be the first to know.

New Book: The Loop

I’ve finished the photos and sequencing for book number 24: The Loop. This is a photography book that features 170 monochrome photos of various locations around the downtown Chicago neighborhood known as “the loop,” named so because of the elevated train lines that circle around several blocks just south of the Chicago River. The photos were assembled from five or six sessions in April and May and everything went very smoothly.

I wanted to revisited downtown Chicago once again, as well as assemble another black-and-white album, so this was a good opportunity. The look of this album is different. Blacklight and Farewell, Chicago Tribune aimed for a classic film noir look, but this time I wanted something different. After some experimentation, I found something that works: high exposure, high contrast, heavy color saturation that balances things out when converted to silvertone monochrome. The images have a dreamlike quality similar to the flashback scenes in Isao Takahata’s 1991 masterpiece, Omohide Poro Poro, but also a cold industrial feel to textures and details. Finally, I added in a fading filter effect along the edges of the frame to give a vintage look. I wanted these photos to look like they were taken in the 1920s.

As always, there are sights that you want to capture in a project like this, such as the elevated train tracks and the iconic skyscrapers, but there’s also a concerted effort to avoid cliches. Only a single photo shows the city’s iconic “bean” sculpture, which is nestled in the background. I preferred to shoot along State Street instead of the more popular Michigan Avenue. Some streets and locations are a little off the beaten path, which is always more interesting than the tourist traps. Of course, the large Picasso sculpture has to be shot, and I was supremely lucky to find a massive swarm of pigeons on the day I was shooting there, thanks to one person who was feeding the birds.

Everything is sequenced out of order, which adds to this sense of being lost in a vast urban jungle. I’ve lived in Chicago for over three years now and still find myself feeling disoriented now and then, and I wanted to convey that sense of confusion and adventure. It’s a fun area to wander around and explore and kill a few hours. The final six shots of the subway ride home came from the third session, I believe, and I always wanted those to close out the book. There always has to be at least some form of narrative flow, a sense of a story that begins and ends, although I wasn’t nearly as obsessed over this as I was when making Lost in the Long COVID Summer.

I think my skills as a photographer have improved nicely over the years. The compositions are just the way I want them, complex and packed with lots of geometric angles inspired by classic cinema and early 20th Century art and a general disdain for 1) linear perspective and 2) the “rule of thirds.” There are some shots that use mirrors or glass to create a surreal multiple-exposure look. And I made sure to include more shots of people on the streets. You’d think America’s third-largest city would have crowded downtown streets, but I find that Chicago is very often sparsely populated, especially when dealing such a cold spring as this year’s, where temperatures hover in the upper 30s long past their due date.

A sampling of photos appears after the jump. The book now moves along to the Scribus book layout phase, the long and grinding part of the job that’s never much fun. But it was a lot of fun creating these photos. I can’t wait for you to see them.

Continue reading “New Book: The Loop”

Updates on Upcoming Books

I wanted to share a quick update on all the upcoming book projects that are currently working their way through the pipeline. I have been working furiously these past few weeks to complete the next wave of titles, as well as moving the following waves forward. At present, this is the publishing schedule that I have committed myself for the next 12 months. We will see how well that prediction holds.

Upcoming Book Projects

Book 20: Portraits – This art/photography book features 30 models and 270 pieces. All of the artwork has been completed and are ready for the page layout stage in Scribus. I have told myself that this would be the first entry in an ongoing series, but any future volumes will be largely dependent on sales and the public’s reaction.

Book 21: Anthology III – This art book features 102 works in pop art, graffiti and zine style, created at various points from 1998-2017, plus a mirrored set of 102 “remixed” pieces created exclusively for this release. All artwork has been completed and is awaiting the Scribus page layout stage. I still need a formal title and have been tempted to use “Graffiti Bridge” or something similar.

Update (5/10): I came up with a good title for this book: Riot Act: Anthology III. A nice nod to my current “favorite” Pearl Jam album, which I recently purchased on vinyl LP. I think it fits nicely. As for future anthology books, I still have a number of digital artworks created in 2004-05 and the 2007-2017 “desk calendar” series. Not entirely sure how to proceed with the former, and the latter will prove a great challenge for the digital version, as I would need a large enough resolution for the calendars to be seen properly on mobile devices. We’ll see how things go.

Book 22: Immersive Van Gogh – This photography book is based on the interactive art exhibit currently running in Chicago. I am currently working on the mastering and editing of photos. It will take readers through the journey of the show, as well as a look at the gift shop. Once that has been completed, we will move on to page creation on Scribus.

Book 23: Lost in the Long COVID Winter – This photography book features 150 color photos that were taken from January-April 2021. Mastering and editing is now complete, awaiting the page layout stage.

Book 24: The Loop – This photography book features monochrome images of downtown Chicago, specifically the area known as “the loop” south of the Chicago River. Two photo sessions have been completed and another one or two will be needed to capture more locations and landmarks. I am aiming for a final photo count of 150. Once that has been completed, we will move on to the page layout stage.

Future Book Projects

University of Chicago – This photo project will feature shots taken around the University of Illinois-Chicago campus located on the city’s south side. One photo session has been completed but several more will be needed. Final image count and mastering choices have yet to be determined.

The Misadventures of Mattie Rose – This photo project features photos of my baby daughter, nicknamed “Shark.” This will be the first of an ongoing series, as we will capture her life growing up into adulthood. This first volume will cover her birth in July 2020 to April 2021. Photos need to be pruned down and edited, and final mastering decisions have yet to be made, although I would prefer to keep the pictures as close to “raw” as possible. The title is still tentative and is subject to change.

Sega Genesis: 500 Greatest Video Games – This nonfiction book will feature a collection of the 500 most popular videogames for Sega Genesis, based on comprehensive polling of players, industry insiders, magazines, websites and social media influencers. It will feature full color screenshots, most likely captured from actual hardware. The database has been completed and properly ordered, and the next stage will involve writing the essays and capturing screenshots.

Conversations on Ghibli: The Works of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata – This nonfiction book will examine the careers of Japanese animation filmmakers Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, whose iconic works include Horus, Prince of the Sun, Heidi, Girl of the Alps and Studio Ghibli. This project has been long in production but frequently stalled. I just need to sit down and write chapters, and I tell myself to finish one or two essays per week.

Adventures in Laserdiscs – This nonfiction book will offer film essays based on the titles in my personal laserdisc collection, which includes beloved classics, modern (1980s-1990s) movies and over a dozen titles published by Criterion Collection. This project has not formally started, beyond my stated intention, but I’ve wanted to write another movie book for quite some time and this feels like the perfect hook. As with the Ghibli book, I just need to sit down and write something every week. Baby steps. That’s how you achieve any major goal in life. Baby steps.

How to Make Art & Photography Ebooks – This tutorial book will show readers how to create art/photo ebooks that are optimized for mobile devices and affordable for Amazon and consumers. In other words, I share all my secrets, and at this time, it appears to be a genuine secret. There ought to be hundreds, if not thousands of art and photo gallery ebooks available on Amazon today for five dollars or less. I may make this title Book 25, if just for the milestone, and the length should be pretty short and simple.

What Killed Sega Dreamcast? A Few Thoughts

Sega Dreamcast, released in Japan in 1998 and the US/PAL regions in 1999, discontinued in 2001.

What killed Dreamcast? In a single word, hype. Massive, staggering, bewildering hype for Sony’s Playstation 2.

From my own experience in Minneapolis, Dreamcast was really popular in 1999. Sega appeared to achieve a successful comeback after five years of fading away. Most kids never knew the Saturn even existed and simply stopped caring after the Genesis days were over. DC was bright, stylish, the console looked terrific, and most importantly, Sonic was back and US Football was back. I cannot emphasize how important that was. Add in excellent show-off hits like NFL/NBA2K, Ready 2 Rumble, Power Stone, Hydro Thunder and especially Soul Calibur, and Sega was back in the groove. The future looked bright.

Then the year 2000 rolled in and everything just dropped dead.

Sony were masters of hype. They did a great job overselling the original Playstation (500k polygons, the dinosaur demo) and they steamrolled into overdrive on Playstation 2. Just take a look at their famous 1999 tech demo that drove gamers into a frenzy.

We were told that these were actual games that were coming out for PS2, that these were the kind of graphics you would get, not pre-rendered, but in-game. How’s that for a bullpucky sales pitch? And then we were told the system could generate 88 million polygons per second. By comparison, gaming magazines were constantly telling you that Dreamcast could only draw 3 million. “Only three million” became the DC’s “can’t doo three dee.”

My favorite line was when Sony claimed that they might not be able to bring PS2 to the USA, because the machine would have to be classified as a “supercomputer.” The PS2 was so powerful, in fact, there were rumors that Saddam Hussein wanted to steal the technology for use in his secret nuclear weapons program. These things that actually happened.

When PS2 finally launched, supplies were low and it was hard to find one. That only added to the frenzy, as the console became this almost-legendary relic. One night, somebody brought their newly-bought PS2 to the Dinkytown Pizza Hut where I worked and the guys were just crowded around it, like those apes with the monolith in 2001. It didn’t matter that there were only three games available at launch, while Dremcast had a large and growing software library. Aside from NFL2K1, Virtua Tennis and Crazy Taxi, Sega was already tossed aside and forgotten.

And, of course, let’s not forget Sony’s secret weapon: DVD. This was a massive win, as the new format was just beginning to take off and PS2 was the cheapest player on the market. You can thank The Matrix for making that happen. “Does this thing play DVD?” the kids would ask of Dreamcast. The answer was no. “Sorry, not interested.” 

Moving along for other subjects to blame…

The question of Electronic Arts has long been debated, and while we cannot prove that their withholding support from Dreamcast killed the console, that perception immediately took hold and it had long-reaching repercussions. According to Peter Moore, the sticking point was Visual Concepts. EA wanted to have exclusivity on all sports titles and specifically demanded that NFL2K and NBA2K be cancelled. Sega refused and EA walked away from negotiations. Two years later, DC is cancelled, Sega bows out of the hardware market and EA earned a reputation as stone-cold killers. Within a few years, Sony and Microsoft killed their own sports franchises in order to keep the mobsters happy. After all, you saw what those guys did to Sega. And let’s not get into that whole 2005 NFL licensing catastrophe, which killed off the NFL2K series for good.

Piracy is another controversial issue surrouding Dreamcast, and it’s one with a very deep irony, as the very thing that caused piracy to explode on the system–the lack of any copy protection–is what created the console’s post-2001 indie gaming scene that flourishes to this day. Indeed, in the last two decades, new videogames are created for nearly every classic console and home computer format. The idea of playing new games for “old” or “obsolete” systems was unimaginable before Dreamcast. Today, it’s as common as snow on Christmas Day, and nobody even bats an eye when they learn of an indie programmer or software team publishing games on older formats.

In 2000, software piracy exploded on Dreamcast as someone (whose name I’ve long since forgotten) learned how to rip the original discs and compress the files to fit onto a CD-R. This quickly spread like wildfire and there were many websites where you could download everything. And this was happening just as Napster was spreading like wildfire across college campuses, so we all had this new idea that we could get literally anything we wanted off the internet for free. That had to have impacted software sales, if only a little.

Peter Moore once remarked that Dreamcast was actually selling pretty well by the start of 2001, around 50K units per week. It just wasn’t enough to cover the staggering losses suffered in Japan, where the console pretty much tanked. For that, you can definitely blame Sega of Japan’s bosses, who clearly learned nothing from the Saturn era and made the exact same mistakes: to few launch games, nothing in popular genres like RPGs (you’d think they’d port over Shining Force 3, Wachenroeder or Panzer Saga), an over-reliance on Virtua Fighter 3 to save the day. Sonic Adventure was rushed to market and plagued with glitches and bugs, Virtua Fighter 3 didn’t even have a proper two-player mode (or any modes at all). Honestly, if I were living in Japan in 1998-99, I wouldn’t have bothered with Dreamcast. Saturn had all the best videogames.

Another notable issue: Sega’s toxic reputation with gamers. Magazines and websites were convinced that Dreamcast was about to be dumped at any minute. “Sega’s going to quit the hardware business!” “They’re going to release a Dreamcast 2!” And can you blame gamers for feeling paranoid? After Sega CD, CDX, Menacer, Activator, Pico, Game Gear, 32X and Saturn, anyone would feel a bit skittish about buying a Sega system. The 32X especially left players feeling burned and betrayed and although it seems a bit overblown in retrospect, it caused a real and lasting grudge at the time.

Finally, I will offer one more culprit for Dreamcast’s demise: the hardware. Compared to PS2, Gamecube and Xbox, Sega’s console is the weakest of Generation 6, and it’s not even close. In fact, the system could almost be classified as Gen 5.5, and if you really want to be brutal, you could say the machine was built for upgraded PSX and N64 ports. Which is precisely what we got. Yes, Soul Calibur looks fantastic, as does Skies of Arcadia, Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, Ferrari F355, Crazy Taxi, Test Drive Le Mans and Phantasy Star Online. But look how quickly Playstation 2 surpassed them with Madden 2000, SSX, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Gran Turismo 3. Gamecube was still further ahead. And Xbox was in another league entirely.

Dreamcast just couldn’t compete. That was obvious by the end of 2000, and when you look at what followed several years later, well…have you seen Shadows of the Colossus, Halo 2 or Zelda: Twilight Princess lately?

Here’s my own controversial pet theory: Dreamcast was never meant to last for more than a couple years. Sega was hoping to put their finances in order, repair their damaged reputation and–most importantly–find a buyer. The videogame industry was becoming too expensive and they simply didn’t have the chips to remain in the poker match. The success of Sony, the threat of Masushita and I’ll bet a million dollars they were looking for Microsoft to buy them out, and I’ll bet another million dollars that MS today wishes they made that purchase 20 years ago. You sell the Xbox in Japan under the Sega banner, with exclusive access to their vast software library? That would have been a game changer.

New Book: Lost in the Long COVID Winter

I wanted to show a sample of one of my upcoming photography books. Titled “Lost in the Long COVID Winter,” this album features 150 color photos taken around Chicago during the first four months of this year. Its mood captures the feelings of enduring a long cold winter, but also the weariness of struggling to survive the COVID-19 plague throughout the past year. Compared to last year’s The White Album, this book is more austere, focused and precise. I kept the mastering/post-production simple and direct, avoiding the wild swings in style and mood. It follows a story told in images about loneliness, despair, loss and longing, but ending on a hopeful spirit of renewal, rebirth and new possibilities.

Working on this project, I was keenly aware of the idea that I’m artist who creates “albums” instead of “singles.” That means, I’m not merely assembling photos or artwork for a single project or gallery show, not something to be simply thrown onto Instagram for immediate consumption (only to feed the digital methadone addiction), but as a fully self-containted work, like a record album or a novel. Music and publishing have always been my twin obsessions, dating back to teenage fanzine adventures, and it continues today. This means that my work always must serve a greater narrative purpose, that there must be overlaying themes and ideas behind the images. I’m not simply tossing together a stack of photos at random (even The White Album had a precise function behind its seemingly random chaos).

My first photo books were about discovering the city of Chicago, to which I had migrated from Minnesota. Farewell, Chicago Tribune, Blacklight and Trinitron Euphoria were all, in their own way, about the death of my unborn child Panda in 2018. Biotracer was about the sense of renewal and rediscovering my own voice a year after that horrible tragedy. The White Album was about examining America in the year 2020 as a parallel to 1968, seen through the lens of The Beatles’ most eclectic masterwork. And Lost in the COVID Winter is about suffering, endurance and the fear of loss, inspired by the whole miserable, rotten Trump trash factory and COVID and other things. These are all personal works, reflections on life without and life within.

Visually, there is still a variety of color schemes present, and I am particularly impressed by how the evening shots came together. Many photos were taken along the north shore of Lake Michigan, where I walk my dog on most evenings. The sequencing is mostly chronological from January to April, with a lot of photos moved around to ensure proper “cinematic flow” for the reader. I don’t know if anyone is aware that this is a thing I do, but it is. Everything was captured on an Apple iPhone Xr, which is still a very good and underrated camera and works very well with the 4:3 portrait frame, which is ideal for viewing on mobile devices.

I don’t have a release date yet. The current plan is to complete the arranging and mastering of photos for Portraits, Anthology III (still need a title), Immersive Van Gogh and COVID Winter, then create the pages on Scribus, then the final post-production work that results in a finished .epub ebook file. As always, I do plan on creating a paperback edition, but that will require use of Adobe InDesign, which I am currently studying.

A gallery of 30 photos from Lost in the Long COVID Winter follows just after the jump:

Continue reading “New Book: Lost in the Long COVID Winter”

Pearl Jam’s Backspacer: An Essay That Reveals Absolutely Nothing About the New Album or Why it’s Great

(Note: This essay was originally written in 2009 and appears in the 2017 anthology book Pop Life.)

Pearl Jam’s newest album, Backspacer, has been released this week. I waited until today to get the vinyl LP version, where the cover design truly shines. Tom Tomorrow’s surreal pop collage design perfectly evokes the spirit of Vitalogy and No Code, and that’s where the heart of the music lies.

Back in 1991, I owned only two CD albums: Van Halen’s live album, Right Here, Right Now, and Pearl Jam’s debut Ten. I’ve been a devoted fan ever since the beginning, and Pearl Jam has always been the greatest rock band of my generation. Yes, even more than Saint Cobain, but had he lived, everything would have been different. You see, it’s really Cobain’s fault that Eddie Vedder hurled his band into the wilderness for a decade. Had April 8, 1994 passed by without incident, the incendiary and masterful Vitalogy–Pearl Jam’s true masterpiece–would never have happened. It certainly would have been a very different beast, and maybe Vedder and crew would have continued their uneasy alliance with rock stardom. It’s impossible to say, really. That direction points towards an alternate universe.

Saint Cobain took one last fix, pulled the trigger, and we have felt the shock waves ever since. Pearl Jam rebelled with shock and horror, then escaped into the wilderness. I still remember how truly shocking No Code sounded in 1996, the band’s first major work since the tragedy. It took me several years to finally accept it on its own terms. A masterful collection of songs, true. There’s brilliance in its confusion, brilliance, and sense of discovery. The kings renounced the throne and entered exile–now what do we do?! That question haunted their next three albums, Yield, Binaural, Riot Act. All three are uneven, confused, yet occasionally brilliant.

Perhaps this is a challenge only time can solve. Wait for middle age to settle in. Wait for the musical tides to roll everything away once or twice. Of course, their 2006 album had to be simply called Pearl Jam. Like that other great mid-career eponymous album, Metallica, the Great Rock Band of My Generation renewed and rediscovered itself. Pearl Jam finally came back home. When you reach a certain age, you truly love and appreciate the miraculous power in these comebacks. Most of your youthful idols have withered away, grown fat or lazy, drifted away into “respectable work” or died. When you’re old enough to say you’ve outlived your best friends, everything changes.

That’s why Pearl Jam’s 2006 “Blue Avocado” album is so powerful. That, and the fact that it totally kicks. It’s a spectacular rock album by any stretch, and it’s the kind that seasoned veterans must conjure to prove to the kids who’s really in charge. Have I mentioned how much this album kicks? Hoo boy, three years later and Pearl Jam 2006 has never sounded better. It’s intense, angry, emotive, and fiercely passionate. It’s such a rush to hear Eddie Vedder sing with his mouth open again, no longer mumbling within the shadows of his early greatness.

On my best days, I’ll argue that Pearl Jam 2006 is the band’s greatest album, or certainly deserving to sit alongside the first three, which were deified into a Grunge Era Holy Trinity long, long ago. That first album, Ten, is simply untouchable, and there simply won’t ever be another rock album that topples it from the minds of Generation X. That’s just the way these things roll. But I always thought Vitalogy was better, and I think Pearl Jam 2006 rivals it in its best moments.

Which brings us to the end of this lost decade, a decade when America was gang raped by criminal vampires who now howl about the black man named Obama who usurped their unholy throne. This was the decade when the music business we once knew died, murdered by their own short-sighted greed and a computer revolution quietly initiated by ’60s computer nerds. This was the decade when turntables became fashionable again. Remember when Pearl Jam released Vitalogy on vinyl two weeks before the CD? That was an act of anarchic rebellion, wasn’t it? What the heck happened to the “aughts” decade in the new century? Where did history become all bent, skewered?

I’m rambling, excuse me. So what does any of this have to do with the brand-new Pearl Jam album, Backspacer? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Other than this is a smashing fantastic album by the Great Rock Band of My Generation. Eddie Vedder once feared that he’d meet the same end as Saint Cobain. Now he’s lived long enough to bury all the Nirvana Wannabes, all the poseurs, all the fakers. He’s lived long enough to bury the music industry itself. Buy the black t-shirt at your nearby Target and download the songs to your iPod. Or pick up the vinyl LP and really mess with your parents.

The moral of this story: Just get Backspacer, already. Get with the program.

Art Gallery: A Look at The Loop

I’m currently winding down to the final models for my upcoming Portraits book and have finished compiling and mastering the artwork for the upcoming Anthology III book (still need a proper title), as the photos from the Immersive Van Gogh sessions are making their way through mastering/post-production. So, as these things go, I find myself with a crazy idea for the next street photography book: The Loop.

Mind you, these are only photos that I captured today and yesterday while making the rounds to Chicago’s massive library on the South Loop. But I am impressed with how these shots turned out and am especially impressed by the monochrome look that I achieved in the mastering stage. I’d like to return to black-and-white photos, but in a style that’s different from the heavy dark noir tones of Blacklight, Farewell Chicago Tribune and Lincoln Park Zoo. I’m still in a weird, abstract painterly mood and I think I found something that works.

Looking back at my published works thus far, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really need is more volume. I’ve received some attention from Kindle Unlimited’s lending library and have sold a few ebooks here and there, but the nature of the medium means that readers’ appetites are insatiable. They need more art & photography ebooks, and I need to publish more books that capture the many moods and locations around Chicago. It’s pretty wild to think so, but I still feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface, as though every landmark and neighborhood needs its own street photography album.

Anyway, that’s the plan for now: capture some great shots around the city’s Downtown and South Loop and assemble them into stylized monochrome photos. This should be pretty easy.

The photo gallery lies just beyond the break.

Continue reading “Art Gallery: A Look at The Loop”

Art Gallery: A Look at Portraits

I wanted to share a few more pieces from my upcoming art/photography book, Portraits. This will feature 30 sets and approximately 300 photos, and I’m nearly finished. I only have four more sets to complete, which could be completed as early as Monday but might run a little longer, depending on the quality of the artwork.

I’m really looking forward to seeing this project finished. It began last July and I created number of pop art inspired pieces taken from digital photographs and edited on my iPhone Xr. It continues the heavy Pop Art style as seen in Biotracer, Fire Shark and The White Album, so if you enjoyed those volumes, you will enjoy this one as well. I felt I was long overdue for some portraits and faces, as nearly everything I do is either abstract art, landscapes or architecture photos.

I honestly hadn’t planned on yet another massively large book, especially after The White Album’s mammoth collection of 320 photographs. I really would like to return to the smaller travelogues of my earlier publications, but when inspiration strikes you just have to go with it. Additionally, I felt that an art book with only a dozen or so models would feel a bit lightweight, even though there are 4-15 shots for each model. The readers should get enough value for their money, and if that means another double album, so be it. Miles Davis released nothing but double albums in the 1970s, so if he could do it, I can do it.

Here is a sampling of the entire collection so far. As you can see, the art styles range wildly from painterly to abstract and employ a wide variety of digital techniques. As always, the goal is create digital art that doesn’t look like digital art, or certainly what passes as digital these days. I want something that is more painterly, something that feels hand-drawn with pens and paintbrushes. What I find especially fascinating is how all of these can be created on a stock iPhone photo app. That tool is far more powerful and versatile than most anyone would expect, and I hope this upcoming book will help make the case for other artists and photographers to flex their creative muscles and push the medium forward.

Am really looking forward to releasing this volume and hearing your thoughts. Stay tuned.

Continue reading “Art Gallery: A Look at Portraits”