Category Archives: Work in Progress

Day Four, Blogging 101: Identify your Audience, Exploring New Elements

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This particular assignment encouraged me to examine the audience, demographic and the readers who may visit the blog. This is a very interesting exercise that involves writing for an intended audience or reader in mind, although I dedicated two days to brainstorming in order to determine, who is reading Black Calavera?

While I don’t have a particular person in mind, I hope to share the research I’ve undertaken over the past few years with the outside world. Now that I’ve switched to my focused state of mind, I would imagine the ideal reader as a skull enthusiast or an artist with a strong interest for skulls.

The second component involves introducing a new element to the blog and I wondered whether there is something new I can possibly explore that is different to what I’m familiar or comfortable with. I was intrigued to explore illustration or drawing that is something that I haven’t practised for about a year now. For two whole days, I sat beneath the heater with a pencil and an old sketch book that was recently discovered in the bottom of a cardboard box; this basically summaries the length of time I haven’t practised my sketching.

With two to three attempts, a sugar skull illustration was finally created! I can be rather picky, although the objective of the exercise involved experimenting with a different medium and the test determined that I can push beyond my comfort zone.  With additional practise and persistence, the sugar skull illustrations will improve over time. This is the starting point anyway and the sketchbook will hopefully provide new ideas for upcoming projects.

Why Sugar Skulls?

The designs are incredibly inspiring and there is a fascinating cultural association with the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival that is unbelievably admirable and highly creative. For those who are unfamiliar with the Day of the Dead, this vibrant celebration welcomes the spirits from deceased friends and relatives through decorative altars, sugar skulls and other creative events, as referenced by Regina.M.Marchi.1

The sugar skulls are highly colourful, although I’m intrigued to explore the decorative designs in black and white. Another fascinating subject, is the interpretation of death and how would one describe this ambiguous subject? This is something I’ve questioned over and over again, although death is one of those mysterious occurrences that is a natural process of life, although the thought is relatively daunting at times.

I’ve actually awakened from a good night’s rest and realised that I perceive the world through my own point of view and one day that’ll eventually disappear, when death approaches. This is actually difficult to explain, although I experienced a sudden wave of anxiety when I realised that there is an ending, there are some things in life that are unavoidable and death is one of them.

So where do we go from here? Good question, well I would love to explore how others interpret death, perhaps this’ll transform into an exciting new project, you’ll have to wait and see.

Reference

1.Regina.M.Marchi, Day of the Dead USA, The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon (USA:Rutgers University Press) p.26 


Black Calavera undertakes Blogging 101: Here We Go!

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Hey there everyone!

I’ve recently joined the WordPress blogging 101 tutorials, as a way to connect with other enthusiastic bloggers and readers out there. I’ve been writing for a while now, although I thought this would provide the perfect opportunity to expand the blog, enhance the branding and establish new contacts.

If you’re a new visitor, Welcome to Black Calavera! First all I thought I shall introduce myself. I’m Charlotte Pridding and I currently maintain a research blog known as Black Calavera: The Skulls Project that explores the growing interest in the human skull via contemporary art, design and popular culture. The blog was founded in 2012 as part of a university project, where I recognised a fascination for the contemporary representations of the skull within Melbourne’s urban landscape.This is where the story begins and my exploration into death’s unavoidable presence.

Initially, I used the blog as a form of documentation and note taking for my thesis that explored the artistic, cultural and historical depictions of the skull. To my surprise, I gradually accumulated a following and a response from the public that motivated me to continue writing articles and reviews regarding the current trends or styles involving the human skull.

The blog was initially inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration and the sugar skulls that influenced the solo exhibition in 2012 and the artistic components explored the sugar skull face painting within a European context via portraiture as well as black and white photography. The project eventually progressed into a series of self portraits that reflects my personal perceptions of death and mortality via makeup or face painting in order to reflect the contemporary depictions of the skull.

Well what’s next? I’m currently in the process of developing Black Calavera that will hopefully include new articles, projects and websites. The aim is to continue the blog as long as I can in order to examine whether the representation of the skull changes or progresses over time and I’m intrigued to determine whether my interpretations of death will change due to different life experiences.

My other interests include writing of course and event photography, although I hope to establish a separate section for my freelance photography under Black Calavera in the upcoming year. That’s me in a nutshell, I hope you enjoy reading the posts and the articles!


Black and White Skull Makeup Continued

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Yesterday, I shared one of my self portraits with the black and white skull makeup and I thought I would add the rest of the photographs from the series. Once I’ve taken the photographs in the dark laneway, I decided to take some additional photos before I started to remove the makeup. I do enjoy experimenting with the makeup, my aim is to expand or enhance the overall design.

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in my next attempt, I would create a different shape for the teeth and I would add some additional shadows around the eyes or the jaw line. In some of my previous posts, I have discussed my interpretations of death via black and white photography, I have highlighted the most crucial elements so I thought I would keep this particular post relatively short and simple. If you are interested in viewing the previous posts, just click on the link here for Death & the Photographic Image Part I and Part II

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Towards the end of the night, I smudged the makeup in order to created a distressed or deteriorated effect that did create some interesting results. When I view the images, I sometimes can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve become my own personal representation of death. This is my first attempt with the black and white skull makeup in about two or three years and the photo shoot has provided an excellent opportunity for me to practise, I intend to continually develop or enhance the design.

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The photographs are inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait, 1988 and the artist passed away in 1989 from AIDS, as referenced by the Tate Gallery Website.1 At first, I was fascinated with Mapplethorpe’s black and white self-portrait and the surrounding darkness definitely isolates the artist’s own face and his skull shaped cane; these particular elements have a profound effect in regards to my perceptions of death.

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I regularly associated death with darkness and the reduction of colour or movement, although it’s so hard to articulate the ending of life, as there are so many different explanations. I have repeatedly mentioned these thoughts over the past couple of years and it will be interesting to see if these ideas will progressively change over time.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photographs and I have a surprise that I’m really excited about! I can’t wait to share the details!

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1. Mc Ateer, Susan, Tate Gallery, “Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1989,” (Accessed 5/2/15) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mapplethorpe-self-portrait-ar00496/text-summary


New Twitter Page for Black Calavera

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Hey there everyone, I finally created a Twitter page! I have wanted to create one for a while but I just needed to find the time, now I’m just getting used to all the different settings…this is kind of fun. I’m specifically using the social media sites as a way to record / reference my inspiration for future blog posts and reviews. I discover so many different artworks and designs featuring the skull, it’s often difficult to keep up with everything.

I thought I would sneak in another photo with me experimenting with the skull makeup, I would love to create some additional patterns / designs and I’ll have all next week to devote to some experimentations, yay. I just need to work on the shadows and the shape of the teeth but I’ll release a post later in the week anyway.

You can now follow me on Twitter, just click on the link below, stay tuned!

https://twitter.com/blackcalavera22


Self Portraits become distressed and decayed

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Last Friday, I uploaded some self-portraits that I’ve taken in one of Melbourne’s deserted laneways, today I thought I would share some of the photographs that I have destroyed. I’ve undertaken a project / experiment where I’ve ripped or destroyed my own self-portraits using water and cello tape in order to determine whether these alterations increase my connection to death.

The modifications definitely provide a distressed, sinister appearance and I can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve destroyed the image of myself in order to create a different effect.I have often placed the smooth image opposite the decayed version in order to observe the process or the progression, this experiment often reminds me of a body slowly decaying into a corpse, which is something I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts and this is one particular thought that will continually reoccur when I view these images.

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The scariest thought is the realisation that  I’ll start to decay or deteriorate once I’m dead and I’ve discovered that there is a similar parallel with the images that I’ve destroyed. At first, the photograph features a smooth, polished surface until it’s destroyed into something imperfect, flawed or decayed.

This is a really challenging task for me, as I will spend a long period of time preparing the make up for the photo shoot, installing the equipment and taking the photographs of myself. I often whether death is meant to feature a smooth, flawless or polished appearance? To me personally, I am able to establish a closer association to the concept of death through my distressed images, all the imperfections elevate the context of the work, the process from life to death isn’t a perfect experience.

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The images remind me of my car accident back in 2010, where I sandwiched between two other cars, I was lucky to be alive actually. While I crumple the image in-between my hands, I continually remember the car crumpling into a square box, this was a very close encounter to death and I actually thought I would die in a matter of seconds. Destroying the images has become a reminder of my experience and the overall process has allowed me to face this memory instead of trying to forget everything all together.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with my initial photographs although I do enjoy observing the smooth or polished surface of the image progressively transforming into an element of decay or deterioration. When I’ve crumpled the image, the texture provides a very interesting effect to the overall portrait and I’ve also rubbed the paper together in order to transfer the ink to another area of the photo, this technique also creates some very intriguing results.

There was one stage, where I experienced a printing error and the default created some very interesting filters with one of my photographs. Instead of throwing the photograph away, I wondered if I could use the image somehow. I crumpled the photograph and the texture complimented the colours, I don’t normally work with colour, although I thought this would be an interesting experimentation.

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While I have established a closer connection to death through the reduction of colour, the filters as well as the uneven textures do present a level of decay or destruction. There are certain scenarios, where accidents or defaults can work in your favour, it’s interesting to utilise these mistakes and transform them into something interesting.

There is another distressed photograph that produced some very interesting colours featuring blue and orange and I purposely set the white balance incorrectly in order to determine whether the adjusted settings would create a different effect. These experimentations do create some very interesting styles that are worth exploring further or later down the track. I often reuse the same image in order to determine what I can create something interesting all together, there is just so much to explore, stay tuned!

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Photographic Self-Portraits: Death and the Photographic Image II

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In one of my previous posts, I uploaded some self-portraits / test shots that I’ve taken in a deserted laneway in North Melbourne. I painted a skull onto my face with some black and white makeup along with the Kryolan Supracolors and I visited same location for my scheduled photo shoot. I decided to assign myself with a challenge and I began to take the photographs of myself around 9pm at night, the lamp posts provided some additional lighting that successfully illuminated the dark laneway behind me.

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About a couple of weeks ago, I briefly mentioned Susan Sontag’s theories in regards death and the photographic image. Sontag explains that a photograph has the potential to capture a “person’s mortality” and these explanations have invited me to consider my own interpretations of death.1 When I am standing still in front of the camera, I become completely motionless and the experience reminded me of death, I am confronted with the idea that the living body will eventually turn into a lifeless corpse and I have wondered whether death or the end of life results in darkness or complete silence. Sometimes I’ll view the images and I can’t even recognise myself, I’ve become something entirely different, the images have become a deathly version of myself, a persona or an alter ego.

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The lamp-post created some very interesting colour combinations including blue, yellow, green and even orange, although I decided to change the images to black and white in order to establish my connection or association with death. A couple of years ago, I realised that the reduction of colour enhanced my association to death and my thoughts / opinions haven’t changed significantly during this particular time, this is quite an interesting discovery!

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There was on particular moment during the shoot when the wind lifted my black cloak that successfully produced some very interesting photographs. When I viewed the images on-screen, I discovered at least five self-portraits that appear fairly similar to one another and they do work well as a series ,this would be another interesting idea for a stop motion animation. These images would work well as a story documenting the process of death, this is another concept I intend to explore further.

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The graffiti in the background does provide a very interesting element and I intend to expand upon this project; using some other venues or locations across the city would be perfect! This is just the start anyway, I’m hoping to deconstruct or destroy these photographs in order to elicit the notion of death and decay. I hope you enjoy the photographs, stay tuned!

References

1.Susan Sontag. On Photography (USA: Penguin Group 1977), 15

http://kryolan.com.au/products/supracolor


Redbubble Page: Finally Updated

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I thought I would spend some time updating my Redbubble Page, I’ve now added some of my photographs from the Skulls Project including some of my other photographic work and they’re all for sale! Check out the link below for further details.

http://www.redbubble.com/people/charley2209