Left to instinct, the warhorse didn’t walk toward the mud… the blood… the smoke and scattered footprints of ghosts chasing ghosts. Instead, he started back to the fields… to the greenwood and glens… because like all creatures, he knew the way home despite the reins and whippings he’d been forced to endure. And he didn’t hurry… or worry… or want. As rain spattered down to begin washing away the blood and mud and other echoes of madness, he simply walked as he’d always done, and the wind didn’t remember the sound of cannon fire as ever having existed.
Most people don’t like the idea of being lost, and I’m with them when it comes to major travel concerns like sailing across the ocean or flying across the country. Yet when your feet are firmly planted on the ground, I discovered that being lost can lead to truly magical moments.
While housesitting for friends outside of Owen Sound, Ont., Mary Beth and I were exploring the depths of the surrounding winter woods when we lost our way. As we wandered deeper into the woods, we happened across a frozen bog, and it felt like finding a door to a hidden realm.
For most of the year, the place was hidden from view behind leaves and thickets. Mosquitoes swarmed its borders to guard against intruders, and the pools and muck of the bog itself were a treacherous moat against all but the most brave and foolish. Yet in the cold of a late February afternoon, the bog appeared almost vulnerable without its concealing cloak of leaves. Without its sentinel mosquitoes, the bog seemed to be surrendering itself, however briefly. And as we stepped across frozen ground, it felt like brief permission to approach the vulnerable heart of the bog and glimpse its secrets.
Later, after finding our way home, it felt good to be back within the warm square walls of familiarity. Yet as I studied the photo I’d taken… as I found my eyes returning to the trees… and as a strange longing filled me… I understood that sometimes the most incredible moments can only be found by being lost.
After a year of work and more cups of coffee than one human being should be allowed to drink, the curtain finally rises on my short video art show called Half-World, and as I reflect on the experiences that brought it all together, it occurs to me that we’ve likely had a similar experience…
…a moment that altered our lives…
…and perhaps it still lingers with you.
Like me, someone may have once told you that you don’t have what it takes… that whatever dream you have, you’re living in a “fantasy world” and you should “get real” because you don’t have the right skills… the right education or enough money.
Maybe like me, you believed them and put your dreams away, and because of that, perhaps you have days when you feel unhappy, frustrated or a bit lost.
If this sounds like you… or even if you’ve only felt this way once or twice… then I think you’ll enjoy Half-World because, at its core, it was created to show you two things:
- Those “get real” people are wrong.
- You have everything you need right now to create whatever dream you.
To better illustrate, let me tell you a quick true story about how I created Half-World.
In 2013, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming an artist, and to many, it seemed like a foolish decision at the worst possible time in my life.
- I didn’t have any special skills.
- I didn’t have an arts education.
- I definitely didn’t have any money.
In fact, I had less than no money.
I was out of work. The bills were piling up and the only studio space I could afford was the back of an unheated garage, and believe me. If you’ve never worked in an unheated studio during a Canadian winter, it’s not an experience I would recommend for anyone.
Worse than that, I wanted to create fantasy art, which didn’t exactly promise the fast track to commercial success.
But I had three things:
- a cheap camera
- a burning desire
- the world around me
So I started taking pictures of whatever I found: trees, rocks, flowers, anything. Then I took pieces from those photos and arranged them to create the pictures I wanted.
And I didn’t know whether it would lead anywhere. So I got scared sometimes—especially about the money.
I started thinking about how they used to tell me as a kid, “You can’t make any money in the creative arts. You’d better get real or you’ll die poor and miserable,” and I definitely started thinking they might be right…
…and in a conflicted state of confusion, I lost my way.
Luckily, I had the good fortune of being reminded of something that applies directly to you and whatever you dream of doing.
When you stay focused on the passion and joy of what moves you, the rest eventually takes care of itself, like it did for me. I just focused on creating the best art I could with whatever tools I had around me. That was it.
Then I just put my work out there in the world with no attachment to outcome.
After a while, a few people contacted me to do some freelance work, and I just kept following inspiration until I was soon making a living in the creative arts.
Here’s the point:
Whether you dream of being a singer or an entrepreneur or even an astronaut, if I can do it, you can definitely do it too. That’s the message behind the short 3-minute art video called Half-World.
On the surface, the video (involving over 800 individual image elements) is a trip to a faraway forest, where glimpses of a strange carnival fantasy world come alive inside a mysterious theatre. Yet the video is really about the pieces I found and how I arranged them to create the images.
Those pieces are your reminder that you can also use whatever’s available in your own life to create the world you want to live in, and there’s a reason I called it Half-World.
The name represents a truth…
…that as long as you follow your passion and joy, you’re already halfway to where you want to be.
Enjoy the show. –Xris
P.S. – For a close-up look at individual images used in the Half-World video, you can check out the exclusive collection of Half-World art at Redbubble.
All images (photos, drawings, video clips) are original, copyright © 2017, Xristopher Bland | abmCreative. All rights reserved, with the exception of a few short royalty-free video FX clips used here and there.
“Elysium” copyright © 2016, Zero. Used and shortened with written permission from the composer per non-commercial use, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 to adapt and share.
“Mother Earth Chant” copyright © 2016, DL Sounds. Usage adheres to all royalty-free usage guidelines.
All Sound Effects are also royalty-free and adhere to all usage guidelines.
Eternal and tremendous thanks to my partner, muse and fellow Half-World explorer Mary Beth for the continual inspiration, for contributing photographs and accompanying me on countless shoots, for being in the video and for encouraging me to head into the wild where the magic still lives in forgotten places.
Eternal and tremendous thanks to my son and fellow Half-Worlder Nicholas, who showed me the way to Half-World long before I believed such places could exist.
Special thanks to my cat, Majyn, who kept me company every morning while I worked on this video (and “contributed” to the video by jumping on the laptop once or twice).
Special thanks to coffee. Without you, brain no work good.
And extra special thanks to:
- My mother for trusting me with the ABM name and for her guiding spirit throughout this.
- Trevor and Emese for letting us housesit at Snelston Maples (featured in the opening and closing of this video).
- Osie for his friendship and letting us romp around the farm with cameras, from Pond Acres to the Circle of Friends. (And all that awesome pie was pretty sweet too.)
- That wonderful unknown woman who let me into the O Theatre alone that morning at the Bellagio in Vegas, where I was able to capture some shots of public-display Cirque sculptures that would have been impossible to capture in any other circumstance.
- Rosewood Farm for being a major backdrop in this video and… well, for just being an amazingly magical place.
- Friends, family and followers for their encouragement and inspiration along the way, even if they didn’t know they were inspiring me. For every one of the 800-plus elements involved in the making of Half-World, I have 800-plus reasons to be thankful as I move forward to future creative projects and what I might find there.
Very grateful this morning to the Tweeted Times, who featured me yesterday after I tweeted my new stage for my upcoming Half-World video art show. I wonder if they know that the “stage curtains” in the image are really a photo of the lining from my mother’s old suitcase? Then again, maybe that’s what makes it avant-garde? What does avant-garde really mean anyway? I don’t know. I guess I’ll let others figure all that out. Anyway, thanks Tweeted Times. You rock. And thanks to you too for following. You really rock, and as promised, I’ll be sure to let you know first when the curtain rises on the final Half-World video.
Before I put the poster art away for good, and before I start assembling the final video and wrapping my yearlong exploration of the carnival realm called Half-World, I wanted to share three images that I couldn’t include in the Poster Show video.
The Green Man (far left) was created as a reminder to myself (and anyone else) that, beneath this endlessly swirling carnival called daily life, the soul of nature remains unsullied by our comings and goings, and is always willing to speak and share its wisdom to those who listen.
The Troll (center) represents all the outsiders—the “freaks” and outcasts and anyone who’s ever been made to feel like an outsider. In popular mythology, trolls are evil creatures who turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. Yet in Half-World, the Troll is simply guardian of the outcasts, and his only “evil” is a willingness to defend individuality with a ruthlessness born of the idea that everyone has the right to be proud of who they are.
The Watcher (far right) is not some lurking creature intent on causing harm. Rather, the Watcher is a creature who was drawn to the edges of Half-World… where the treeline stands between our world and Half-World… and his expression is simply shock and horror over what he sees in our world. Yet like many drawn to things like news feeds every day, he finds it hard to look away or discern the bad from the good.
I’ve been told by some that, overall, the Half-World images can be dark and unsettling. One person even called them Gothic. While I don’t know how I’d classify the Half-World images, I’m certainly happy that they can evoke strong emotion.
Freshly minted this morning: The Half-World Carnival Poster Show.
As a promo and prequel video for my upcoming Half-World art video, I tried to create a series of images that capture the kind of posters that carnival promoters used to tack onto telephone poles before the carnival rolled into town.
Overall, the images took about a year to create.
Each image features a character appearing in the final Half-World art video, and I went for a dark, grainy feel to evoke elements of darkness and mystery (à la “Something Wicked This Way Comes”), then mixed in lighter, more fantastical images to balance out the experience.
To segue from one image to the next, I used straight barn-door transitions. I wanted to keep it simple and almost clunky to lend the idea that there might be someone backstage simply sliding the poster panels by hand.
To properly translate the detail and complexity of the images to video, I rendered the video in HD, meaning the video may play with hiccups on some devices.
All images were created as composite images in Photoshop CS3. With the exception of a few elements like the front stage facade and a few light strings (all of which are stock and free-use), and all elements are original.
The opening and closing footage was shot at the now-defunct Candy Factory Studio.
While I appear as different characters in the video, I wasn’t looking to create a glorified selfie. Special thanks and eternal gratitude to my partner Mary Beth for letting me turn her into characters like the Gypsy, the Stormwalker and others, as well as my son Nicholas for appearing as the Sprite and the Wildboy. The Mushroom woman is a stylized picture of a Toronto busker, and some of the other characters are from pictures of Cirque sculptures taken in the lobby of the O Theatre at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
Royalty free soundtrack “Deus Ex Machina” by Darren Leigh Purkiss adheres to all usage guidelines.
All images copyright © 2017, Xristopher Bland | abmCreative.
To preview the upcoming Half-World video itself (and see some other goodies), you can always visit my new art digs on Redbubble.
If you missed the Half-World video trailer, you can check it out here.
Enjoy the show. 🙂
Hey all. I’ve just uploaded four new works of art at ABM’s new digs on Redbubble, and wanted you to be the first to know, since the works are preview images of my upcoming Half-World video and are only available on Redbubble. And they look pretty snappy in high resolution, to boot.
Be the first on your block to experience the awesome resolution-ness! 🙂