I’ve always wanted to be an artist, even as a small child… When I was a teenager, I would go to the Uptown Art Fair with one of my friends. Even then, I knew that the Uptown Art Fair was special: It had such a high caliber of work and such variety of artists from all over the country. I knew that, someday, if I got into the Uptown Art Fair, it would really MEAN something. In 2012, when I actually DID get in, I thought, I made it; it can’t get any better than this! That same year I was awarded one of the top 10% in my medium awards and I was like, ok, NOW it can’t get any better. Wrong. 2 years later I was awarded Best of Show in Photography. Ok, ok, NOW it can’t get any better… Well, when I received the email that I was being considered as the 2017 UAF Commemorative Artist, I had to read the email twice. Well done, Uptown Association, you proved me wrong again… It can get better. And then to actually be selected as the Commemorative Artist, to say I was honored is the biggest understatement of all time.
When I started thinking about what to create for the commemorative piece, I thought about what Uptown means to me (at the time it had been my home for almost 20 years), what’s iconic and lastly, how to combine these elements. For a short period of time I thought about just having Barbie in the photo, but quickly switched it to a Barbie and Ken concept. I thought about all the times in high school Kip and I would drive into Uptown, just to walk around, see what was going on, and hang out at a coffee shop. Early on, I decided to utilize the Uptown Theater marquee as the background. It’s historic, iconic and marks the heart of the neighborhood.
As with all my Barbie photos, once I have a scene visualized in my head, I go on the hunt for all the components that need to go into the image, due to the fact I don’t add anything digitally after the fact. I only use Photoshop for color/density editing and retouching (removing dust, hairs, doll stands, plastic imperfections, etc.). Ultimately, I set up the diorama with the dolls, props, backgrounds, etc. and design studio lighting around it.
Once I decided on the concept, I needed to photograph the background, in other words, the theater. For that, I needed the right kind of light, the right kind of sky, at the right time of day. I actually ended up shooting it twice, as the actual angle for the theater I decided to use changed at a certain point. Originally, I was going to do a more “straight forward” photo utilizing the theater in the background, but it wasn’t really doing anything for me. My husband said it best: There needs to be a REASON that the theater is in the background. That’s when I decided to change the angle to more of a “selfie” angle, which I also felt tied into the “All Dolled Up Photo Contest” better. I re-shot the theater on a day that I had a nice blue sky, had it printed on a flat matte paper and hung it like a standard photo backdrop. I opted for a beauty dish for lighting and a single piece of foam core as a reflector. The lighting on the dolls had to make sense with the sun’s position when I photographed the background. Once the lighting and camera angle were finalized, I could focus on the finer details of the composition.
Despite what folks might think, even Barbie needs retouching! This particular photo required around 25 hours of Photoshop work, particular attention was required for her hair. FINALLY, I could move on to the test printing phase, which, once done, meant that I could send a file in for final printing and framing and, lastly, a file over for the poster creation! One of the added bonuses for being the commemorative artist is I got to be involved in the actual printing of the poster. Ideal Printing actually brought me back to see the big press and I got to see the initial posters coming off. It was really cool to see…
The entire experience was nothing less than a dream come true.