FREE Ebook Sale July 2-4

We are running a free ebook sale for all our Art & Photography ebooks this weekend, July 2-4. That includes all of my books except for Zen Arcade, Pop Life and Greatest Hits, which are available for $4.99 (ebook) and $19.99 (paperback). Heck, I just sold seven copies of those books today, which is a huge surprise.

Sales and downloads have been very good, much better than I was expecting. Immersive Van Gogh is the best seller so far, but that’s to be expected as it directly connects with the ongoing interactive art exhibit that’s touring North America. It makes for the perfect travelogue and visitor’s guide.

Much thanks to everyone who has downloaded titles. Please help to support my work by leaving a 5-star review and sharing the good word with family and friends. Here is the direct link to send you on your way.

Direct Link: Amazon Author’s Page

New Release: The Loop

The Loop is now live on Amazon for KDP Select. You can purchase the ebook for $4.99 or read for free on Kindle Unlimited Lending Library (a nice little service where most of my book revenues lie). I’ve updated the book’s page at the Books section to include product description and direct Amazon link, in addition to a sample image gallery.

I really like this one. It reminds me a lot of Pearl Jam’s fifth album Yield, which was very focused and mature, demonstrating their diverse and growing songwriting skills and demonstrating a tremendous amount of calm and self-confidence. It might be their finest work of the 1990s, and that’s really saying something. I feel The Loop shows a lot of maturity in my photography skills, especially in framing and composition and knowing just where to place people in the shots. My inspirations hail from cinema far more than the giants of street photography, as well as my own artistic indulgences on the editing and post-production side.

This completes my latest “wave” of books, bringing the grand total to 24 published titles. Can you believe such a thing? That’s hard for me to wrap my head around. Partially that’s due to being self-published and running an indie label, partly that’s due to most of these titles remaining digital exclusives (paperbacks are coming, I promise), partly that’s due to a lack of sales. At some point, somebody has to notice, I tell myself. It’s only a matter of getting the work out there and building a library large enough that it cannot be ignored. Such are the challenges for pioneers, and believe me, what I’m doing by publishing art ebooks is pioneering work.

In any event, here’s book number twenty-four. It’s great, you’ll love it. And if you’re a street photographer, you should be publishing ebooks just like it.

New Release: Lost in the COVID Winter

Lost in the COVID Winter is now live on Amazon and available for KDP Select. You can purchase the ebook for $4.99 or read for free on Kindle Unlimited Lending Library. This is Book No. 23 for me, which is a crazy accomplishment. Only one more book to go and this wave will be finished!

The COVID Winter page on the Books section has been updated with product description and Amazon link. Enjoy!

New Books Pages Added

I have just updated the Books section of this website to include the newest wave of book titles:

  • Portraits
  • Riot Act: Anthology III
  • Immersive Van Gogh
  • Lost in the COVID Winter
  • The Loop

Each page features a cover image, text description of each title and a sample gallery. Portraits is now currently available on Amazon Kindle, while the other four will shortly be released in order. My goal is for all ebooks to be published by the end of June early July. Riot Act is already “in the can” and I am halfway through Van Gogh’s post-production, with COVID Winter and The Loop following immediately.

New Release: Portraits

Portraits, my newest art & photography book, is now live on Amazon KDP Select. This is my 20th book and I’m excited to share it with you. It features 30 model sets and 280 portraits in a variety of digital art styles including Pop Art, Modernism, Abstraction and 1980s Computer Graphics. This project has been in production for the past year and is a true labor of love. You’re going to love it.

In addition, I’ll be running a FREE ebook promotion on Monday, June 21 and Tuesday, June 22. Simply visit the Amazon page and download your copy right away. Be sure to tell your family and friends as well, and don’t forget to leave that all-important five-star review as well.

Visit the Portraits page on the main Books section for direct link to Amazon, full description of the book and a sampling of images.

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.