Thursday, March 31, 2005

One Woman, One Hundred Hats

I declared today to be my deadline, even though it could have been tomorrow but not a day later if we wanted the product in time for the N.O. Jazz and Heritage Festival and our record release event. Knowing my last-minute proclivities and my heavy Thursday workload, this was a wise decision. I made it to DHL with the CD master and the artwork files for overnight shipping to the manufacturer at 7:59 PM. They close at 8:00PM. If I had been a minute later and they'd have already locked the doors, I would have performed dramatic interpretations of 52 forms of suicide, including male autoerotic asphyxiation, until they relented and let me in. (Thank God that wasn't necessary, but I guarantee, it would have been quite a show.) Now that my hands have stopped shaking, my heart has stopped pounding, and I am no longer panting, I think I can write.

Today's hat is that of the graphic artist/designer, one hanging in a little girl's costume closet. The difference between the costume closet and the work-garb closet is that the former is for occasional play, the latter for serious work. Another difference is the degree of training one has for the role. She who wears the hat from the costume closet has no formal training in the profession and does what she does for the creative fun of it, with some of the fun coming from the challenge, as well. It's not that she can't play the part, though. But usually, it's low-stakes stuff. A major difference between the two hat-wearers may be not in vision, but in efficiency; in knowing and using the tricks of the trade. The self-taught, costume-hatted girl knows only the tricks she's figured out on her own, through intuition and ingenuity, and perhaps, (with a little luck), a few useful ones shared by those who get to wear the professional version of the hat. At some point, the hat may be moved from the costume closet to the work closet, but not without great toil, many lessons, and even more bonafide successes.

My costume wardrobe is full to the brim. Tonight I have left the graphic designer's hat on the floor in the hall. We'll have to see in which of the two closets it ends up being put away.

The graphic of the front cover of the CD (above) as well as the ones that follow below, are the layout versions of the artwork, complete with registrations and crop marks, etc. The graphic above is an "artified" (that's a word I made up) version a photograph I took of some actual street signs in Kirk Joseph's backyard . (There were really only two, but I do have a Photoshop skill or two sitting on the easy-to-reach shelves of my brain.) The photographic part of this endeavor was a piece of cake. Wrangling with InDesign -an effort soon aborted -and subsequently Illustrator, was another story. Things I know how to do easily in Photoshop were not so intuitive in these programs. But because of the nature of the printing process, Photoshop was not an option for layout.

The jewelcase for the CD is completely clear, with no black plastic disc spindle to obscure the back panel of the tray card. The following graphic is that back panel, and it's what you see when you open the case and remove the disc. No, the puppy isn't trained to leap through the sousaphone...yet. I was shooting randomly in the back yard and caught her in mid-leap as she lunged at another dog. I decided to add it, as it brought more interest to the image of the instrument. This image is also printed on the disc itself, but as a blue duotone with white type. Picture it round, in black and white -or more properly put, in grayscale- with a dark blue-gray cast and a hole in the middle. I guess it makes the statement, "this is what the disc would have looked like if we'd have sprung the extra few-hundred dollars for full-color, on-disc printing." But maybe that contrast will make it more interesting. Okay, lets all pretend that is was a creative maneuver and not an economic consideration.

Two things kept me hung up on this project: typography and preparing a screen-friendly, spot color graphic for on-disc printing. Blame it on my crummy vision, but I hate being subjected to 4, 5 and 6 point type on a CD and jacket and I refuse subject anyone else to it either. (And as I always preach, "know thy audience!" Not all, but the bulk of the market for this CD will be holding small print way out to focus on it or reaching for those damned reading glasses, the newly-acquired bane of the 40-something crowd.) Some information had to be sacrificed, but I'll put it on Kirk's website (as soon as I have the time to put it up). I did have room for the site's URL on the package. Anyway, without experience, it's hard to tell by looking at a computer screen what small type will really look like coming off a good printer. This fact drove me NUTS.

The whole screen-print-friendly, spot color thing is more than I can stand to write about. Suffice it to say that I think I kind of figured it out. In any event, I did the best I could, considering the fact that I have never, ever had to deal with anything of this sort before. (For those in the know, I could use three colors and I could only figure out how to execute this well using overprinting, which was discouraged. This didn't work well with the graphic I wanted to use. A three color blended screen could have produced something magnificent.)

Above is the back of the CD, with the spine print going vertically up both sides. Hopefully, you can see that Kirk and Venessa's puppy is standing beside the sousaphone bell, sort of like the image of Nipper the dog in the Barraud painting, "His Master's Voice," the one we associate with RCA Victor. It's "artified" too, (they all are), but I did not Photoshop the puppy in. She posed for me.

This (above) is the inside of the booklet. I photographed the band in the backyard also. Well, all but the two guys standing up in the back, because they weren't there that day. I shot them in the French Quarter after an in-store performance and Photoshopped them in. Notice the leaping puppy at the bottom? Her, too. She's the repeating motif. I hope that the "Backyard Groove" is captured in all the artwork, which is what I set out to do. I want it to send the right message and to be as vibrant, upbeat and attention-getting as the music is.

Well. it's time for me to go to the work-garb closet to put the mortarboard on my head. I've gotten virtually no sleep in the last couple of days and I have to write a test to give to tomorrow night's advertising class. I can't wait until it's playtime again.

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Audible Vision Becomes a Reality. I really should explain what all this means, because, essentially, I'm getting the chance to test-drive a dream I've had for a long time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Post With Updates, Long Overdue.

Richard, you've uncovered the secret to pushing me to action. All you had to do was tell me that it was time for another post for me to do it. Please remember this because I will likely need that kind of prod again.
I owe what's left of my readership an update on many things, so here I go:

Item #1- The Exodus
I was dead serious and rediculously cryptic about this way back when, when I posted about the post-election departure. I invested an inordinate amount of time to research and analysis of the possibility of moving to New Zealand. Though challenging, it proved doable, but it caused such upset and consternation, and in some cases, outright ire among friends, family and loved ones, not to mention the emotional toll it was taking on me, that I bagged it.

The degree of upset I was experiencing over the whole thing, election included, was taking me too far away from my preferred state of life, that state of irreverent and defiant happiness -the kind that doesn't shake off easily, no matter what the situation; that state that, when life does manage to jar it loose, allows me to restore it in little or no time. So, I've reverted back to my devil-may-care attitude of faith and trust that has served me well through all kinds of difficulties so far. Faith and trust in what, you ask? In whatever it is or whatever you want to call it that has allowed me to survive life's slings and arrows with the ability to restore myself to wholeness; that thing that allows me to always see things differently and to remember that I am never without that choice; that thing that lets me only take the love and the lessons from life's experiences and leave the rest behind.

#2 Little Things
Alex is not a little thing, though he once was my little boy and neither were the problems we were having. Happily, he's doing much better with everything now. An acknowledgement and heartfelt apology from his dad for being a weak imitation of a father, karate lessons, and therapy are among the things making a difference -and even one of those old 1950's social guidance films at the Prelinger Archives, a site I found via one of Richard's blogs, The Pedantic Pundit, may have helped.

#3 Sick Things
All of us, on and off, still. I have managed to bring the latest bout of respiratory woe to the point of pneumonia and I am still recovering. I can't remember the last time I was this sick or this weak. I have never missed a class as the result of any germ until this one. To top it off, New Orleans has a zillion old oak trees and everything everywhere is dusted with a pale green coat of oak pollen. It's so warm and humid here right now (not yet hot, but it was cold a couple of days ago and just as likely will be again before long), that I've resorted to opening the windows and running the huge attic fan. So, now the fan is sucking all of the pollen from the huge oak tree that looms over the house, into it for us to breathe. This is not making respiratory health an easier achievement, by any means. So, we all continue to cough and sneeze and blow while we wait for it all to blow over.

#4 Big Things
Well, I have managed to break my solemn vow to never again take on another full-scale management client. I got a call from Sheik Rasheed, the bandleader of Unit One (the now defunct combo with which I used to sing), who all but got on his knees and begged me to take on Kirk Joseph. (That link goes to the Google search results for now, until I get the site up.) Because I love Rasheed so much, because I actually know the market for this music, because Kirk, his band and his material are truly (in my humble opinion) great, and because I'm so weak-willed when it comes to saying no to requests for help, I said yes.

What makes this not just a big thing, but a huge thing is the fact that he came to me at the beginning of a solo career, with an impressive resume and lots of dues paid, an almost-finished CD, and absolutely nothing in place to get the ship built and launched. This means, all at once, I'm charged with the tasks of:

1) Creating all the promotional materials
2) Culling together all the press, photos, quotes, etc. together from the ends of the earth
3) Photographing Kirk and band (there are lots of photographs of just Kirk by himself or with other groups out there) in various settings and then photo-shopping in the band members who couldn't make it when the pictures were taken
4) Finding the right booking agent
5) Negotiating the local gigs and the works in progress, such as other recording sessions and a production deal in the works for Kirk
6) Doing the cover design for the CD
7) Obtaining licensing for the two non-original songs on the CD
8) Getting the co-writers in the band who are not set up with BMI or ASCAP taken care of
9) Working out all the CD manufacturing details, including financing
10) Arranging promotion for the CD release
11) Creating band agreements to define the relationship between Kirk and the group as it relates to revenue from live gigs, CDs, merchandise, etc. (He wants to be fair and cut them in).
12) Setting up the accounting system for all of the above
13) Taking care of all the details of getting a website up and running for him
14) Taking care of a zillion other small details, too numerous to mention
To say it's a mind-boggling array of tasks is a huge understatement. Plus, I am teaching and will have a full load this summer. It's critical that I get everything set up to run smoothly now.

I have an intern who is just as busy as I am, it seems. But, working best under pressure, I'll get it done.

And with all that, I will sign off for now, but I'll be back soon. And if I'm not, you know what to do.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Why I Have Not Been Posting: An Explanation...or, more appropriately, A Pathetic Confession

Okay. I've been around hanging around these parts, I've been reading, I occasionally comment. Why not post?

Well, first there is the usual reason: that I've been busy and have had lots of work to do. (I'll tell more about what's been going on in a future post). And that's pretty much always been the case. But when I've done as much work as I can stand and I do settle down here with the mighty machine on my lap, I have had an ugly competitor vying for my time. Let me explain.

You see, typing, for me, is work. (I'm of the two-fingered variety, and though I'm rather swift with these fingers, it's still work.) And now, on my bookmark bar there reside links to my blogging demise. And I must choose: Blog or play? Type or play? Work or play? (I owe that last one to Richard. I love it for the thinking required! I made it to 22 in a row after about 30 minutes.)

Yes, I'm ashamed to admit that my hand selects play rather than post. It's pathetic but true. I suspect that this, too, shall pass and I'll be back to my old blog habits before long. I have voice dictation software, but it's just not the same as writing/typing. If only they could come up with software that would type what I think, since I blog in my head all the time. (This entails thinking in "blog prose," which is different than speaking.) Well, I'd still have to give up playing for that, too.

Oh, there's another reason that I've not been doing my thing here: my inability to come up with anything that's not completely inane, like this post.

How to Blog While in Slacker Mode (Or Blog-Blocked, or whatever...)

Lesson #1. Post quiz results that you find posted on other blogs you read. For example, I got this one from pi22seven who cleverly employed it in a similar manner. By the way, (for any of my students that may have wandered over here), this would not be considered blog plagiarism I cited it!

So, what random phallic object are you?

Which random phallic object are you?
Quiz by Andrea.

By the way, Richard, I did laugh at your high nerd score on the previous quiz, but probably because you started with, "don't laugh, but..." Then I started feeling a little jealous, then very confused about all that... (???) :-O Either I'm that competitive or I value nerdhood more than I realize. (Probably the latter.)