The Curtain Rises on Half-World

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

Click Here to Enter Half-World

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.


Image Credits

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.

Soundtrack Credits

“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.

Special Thanks

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.

Half-World: The Carnival Poster Show

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. 🙂

Half-World (The Trailer)

It’s been a year in the making, but yesterday I finally finished enough images to complete this short trailer for Half-World (coming March, 2017).

As a collection of artwork blending original hand-drawn graphics and elements from thousands of photographs begun in 2015, Half-World explores the idea that magical people, places and things are around us every day… sitting in plain sight yet veiled in proportion to the openness of our minds, eyes and other senses. Since the veil tends to drop for most people each December… with the otherworldly magic of the Yuletide misting in from the skies and hills like a dream awakened… Half-World was envisioned to help the veil drop even more.

Each image in Half-World (as reflected in the main part of this trailer) is based around the idea of a carnival… coming to town to set up its tents and attractions and beckon people inside (and beyond) to discover what they may.

Soundtrack music: “Dark Spire” by Darren Leigh Purkiss adheres to all terms and conditions of royalty-free usage. Narration: Xristopher Bland

All images copyright © 2016, Xristopher Bland (abmCreative). Contact:

To preview the soundtrack to the 2017 Half-World video, click here to go to ABM on SoundCloud.


Just Realized I Forgot My BIG REVEAL!

abm-creative-ad-starlight-music-chronicles-xristopher-bland-digital-artSome months ago, I gave a sneak peek of an abmCreative ad I’d produced for the spring issue of Starlight Music Chronicles. When the issue was put on hold, I forgot to get back around to uploading the final imagine. So here it is—the BIG REVEAL! (And cue the dramatic drum roll.)  🙂

I’m really proud of this one. While I used a few photographic elements, the piece is mostly layered hand-drawn art set with original textures and tweaked with colors and shading in Photoshop.

The individual drawings took about a month, and blending everything into the final image took about the same amount time.

The Green Boy

green-children-xristopher-bland-abm-creative-half-worldAs another sneak peek at my forthcoming “Half-World” art/video project, I based this new work on the legend of the Green Children of Woolpit.

If you don’t know the legend, it’s one of those stories commonly believed to be a pure fairy tale when, in fact, the tale has its feet firmly in the historical record. Specifically, in two sources: Historia rerum Anglicarum (or, History of English Affairs by historian/monk William of Newburgh) and Chronicon Anglicanum (or, English Chronicle by historian/abbot Ralph of Coggeshall).

In the 12th century, villagers in the English town of Woolpit, Suffolk, discovered two children—a brother and sister—who’d become trapped in a wolf pit (hence the town name Woolpit), and the villagers didn’t know what to make of them. Their skin was green. They spoke an unknown language. Their clothes were unusual and sunlight seemed strange to them. So the bewildered villagers took them to the home of a local landowner named Sir Richard de Calne because… well, he was aristocracy. So they were supposed to be smarter. Yet Sir Richard didn’t have any answers, and the green children only broke down and wept more distressed than before, and refused all offerings of food until someone finally offered them some beans.

Over time as they ate more, the children eventually lost their green skin color, but this wasn’t a sign of good things to come. Right after they were bundled off to be baptized, the boy grew sickly and died. The girl eventually learned to speak English and seemed to adjust to her new life, and was eventually married to a man at King’s Lynn in the neighboring county of Norfolk. (According to some accounts, she took the name Agnes Barre.) Yet where women in the Middle Ages were expected to fall under male control regardless of class, the girl would evidently have none of that, and for her free spirit, she was branded as being “rather loose and wanton in her conduct.”

The girl eventually explained that she and her brother had come from a place called Saint Martin’s Land, an underground realm of perpetual twilight inhabited by other green-skinned people. She explained that she and her brother had been watching their father’s flock when they came upon a cave. After entering, they eventually came out on the other side, and blinded by the sunlight, they soon fell into the wolf pit.

Now, if you Google “The Green Children,” you’ll find any number of people arguing that they weren’t real, and I understand that motivation because human beings largely like life in a tidy package, where lines are in black and white. And if that’s your view, I’m certainly not here to convince you otherwise because the “truth” of the Green Children story has always been VERY CLEAR to me.

As a story rooted in history, it seems clear that the lines between “reality” and “fantasy” are NOT so clear as people would like them to be… that things are NOT black and white… and this might be useful when looking at strangers… and considering there may be more to them than we realize. It’s useful when considering our own lives… the walls we think are black and white… when really, it’s all just twilight mistaken. It’s useful when looking at the world… and why I thought the spirit of the Green Children was a perfect new addition to “Half-World.”

As a work remembering the boy who died before he could even tell people what his name was, “The Green Boy” also commemorates our own dreams… our own “unreal” visions left behind… and the hope that we’ll all have the chance to return to them before it’s too late.

“Half-World” (the first art/video project to go out under the name Theatre Xrisville) is slated for tentative release on YouTube in March, 2017.

Happy Halloween!

halloween-abm-creative-services-xristopher-blandHave you had enough of crazy killer zombies and psychopathic clowns on Halloween?

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good killer clown as much as the next person. (I suppose I’m specifically referencing Heath Ledger here as The Joker.) Yet I’ve always been more attached to the otherworldly magic and mystery of Halloween, which rolls into town each autumn like some travelling carnival. So I thought I’d wish everyone a Happy Halloween this year by creating a carnival poster that captures my general feeling toward the season.

I began with a basic close-up shot of my face, and tried to keep a blank but slightly mysterious expression like those held by Cirque characters. Next, I overlaid cutaway shots of my cat Majyn, then started blending textures, colors and dozens of other elements in Photoshop before tossing it into Illustrator. With the exception of the border elements (which are stock), all elements are original.

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

The Zoltan Video Tent—Newly Completed

Carnival Stage abm creative xristopher blandFor a while now, I’d been wanting to create a special new frame assembly so a video didn’t have to just run flat on its own but could be sandwiched between layers for the fantasy effect of watching a show on a carnival stage. For this effect, I’d been shooting different sections and angles of a rare Zoltan arcade machine restored and owned by my stepfather. Yet despite dozens of shots, I just couldn’t find the right idea to make it all work. So I abandoned the idea—until about a month ago, when fireflies gave me the inspiration I’d been needing.

Mary Beth and I were sitting around the bonfire one night at Rosewood when fireflies began appearing. We’d long had them in the area but never in the number that appeared that night… in the treetops… the fields… the pathways… all around us… then something astonishing happened. The fireflies began coming toward us.

In the magic of that, a dimension of wonder enveloped us. For the briefest of seconds, we stepped beyond ourselves… beyond this world and into the luminescence of theirs, and I imagined them leading us into the woods to a place where they gathered as strings of lights to a carnival stage that appeared and disappeared as they did.

The next day, I returned to the Zoltan pictures… cutting sections… reshaping them… blending colors… working dozens of images over weeks and hours into a carnival stage set in the woods, and everything had the aura I’d been seeking

As a multi-layer Photoshop file, the image is essentially a real stage in that the background goes behind any video footage and the stage goes on top. The final effect: Video footage doesn’t just run flat and defined by whatever happens to be in the shot. Video appears as if it’s showing as a theatre presentation, and viewers are transported to the softness of a night woodland and immersed in a more three-dimensional experience before a strange carnival stage where the show takes place.

In this image, there’s no video show happening, of course. It’s just the frame for it all, but since I’m planning to incorporate this frame assembly into my Half-World art-music-design video (currently in the works), the full effect will be plain when the Half-World show is finally ready and rolls into town.

And of course the frame isn’t purpose-built for one application only. Example: Shoot a band performing against a green screen and layer that footage into the frame and all of a sudden that band is the carnival stage’s feature attraction, complete with whatever else you might want to dance into view.

Beyond practical application, I’m just thrilled to finally be able to bring a long-held idea to life, and I hope you enjoy this image as much as I do.