creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Friday, October 28, 2011

Glitter & Be Gay: The Ian MacKinnon Way

It’s Halloween week, which means the spirits are out in full force while the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. It’s a week associated with all manner of costumes, witchery, spooks, haunts, festive fabulousness AND it’s the perfect time to honor with photos and some words the artistry and friendship of Ian MacKinnon! He’s someone I'm blessed to call friend and of whom I am also a huge fan!

A trio of Nymphomancer Witches
I had the sublime honor of performing with Ian earlier this week as he led cohort Danny Hill and I as a trio of The Gayly Forward to Video Nymphomancer Witches! We performed a 20 minute set which had us casting a spell to activate gay consciousness and fight oppressive hetero-dominant forces in order to save the world from destruction and overpopulation (if you haven’t heard this Halloween marks 7 BILLION people on planet Earth)! We had a serious message, but we did it in a fiercely festive way which is very much Ian’s style.
Poster for Gay Hist-Orgy Part 2

It’s inspiring to watch Ian’s growth as both a performance artist and dedicated gay activist over the past decade. His passion for creating powerful gay-centered performance art that is psychologically engaged is exactly the kick in the pants Los Angeles has needed to wake itself up out of its oh-too-cool facade. His works are often informative and educational, but anything but boring as he adds into the mix a great deal of sexiness, camp, satirical absurdity, and gobs of glitter!

He transformed his “festish for gay history” into a romp of a ride called “Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-orgy” - with Parts 1 & 2 set to launch once more in early 2012! Ian does a great job of honoring his influences and paying respect to our past history. A must see for all card-carrying gays.

He holds space and built a community for numerous queer artists to present their work with “Queer Mondays” that occurs most months at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica on the last calendar monday. It’s a place I’ve cherished and been oh so fortunate to have developed new experimental works at and gotten to know a lot of amazing performers as a result.

Ian sings center surrounded by the band Discount Cruise to Hell
He co-founded the outrageous and macabre glittery-punk performance art band called “Discount Cruise to Hell” which for many years set sail taking audience members on a costumed ride to the underworld. I’m constantly in awe at the talent that exudes from his fingertips and vocal chords on a regular basis, writing songs that he plays on both keyboard and guitar, performing  regularly at venues like Wig-Out (a venue hosted by the amazing Jean Spinoza) and numerous other clubs across town.

We collaborated to present a full day of gloriously gay activities that honored the great gays of past history with “Gay May Day” in 2010 at my loft space at the time The Pollination Pavilion. Ian directed a group of us to perform “Rehearsal for the Destruction of Atlantis” by Jack Smith. It was definitely a highlight of the year and brought a bunch of wonderful people together I now have the pleasure of calling friends as well.

I could go on and on for my admiration, and will indeed, as time goes on and more blogs are posted about collaborations and mutual endeavors.

Check out Ian's music video featured on Halloween at:

He features “Queer Artist Centerfolds” in an ongoing manner at his blog site:

 Ian MacKinnon not only rocks, he sparkles!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Artist as Model: Julie Staub Part 2

Julie Staub writing down info from her photo subject
This week continues profiling Documentation Artist Julie Staub. We had a chance to reconnect this summer and share philosophies about our approaches to art and elements that contribute to our growth as artists. Now Julie gets to be a “model” providing us the opportunity to explore three factors in developing more creativity in your life: challenges, routines, and playful themes. 

One quick note: while I encourage the casual reader to develop more creative practices and hone their skills: ALWAYS HIRE AN EXPERT!  Photography in particular is one of those fields where having a professional document your special event or create your portrait makes a huge difference. So check out more of Julie’s professional work at and if you’re in the Iowa City region bring her artistry to your memorable occasion.

There are numerous rewards that await from each challenge we make, for each nudge that forces us outside our comfort zone.  We want to find some kind of challenge that will provoke us, something that isn’t easy, but isn’t so hard that we could feel worse for any kind of failure from it. But failure is where we truly learn. A good challenge will take us up to our edge, encouraging us to grow beyond.

One of Julie's gorgeous shots from around Iowa City
Julie took a major step earlier this year by committing to a daily practice of taking and posting photographs online for her Iowa City 365 Project. It’s a deceptively simple concept, but the long term continuation of it takes real dedication. Julie is continually challenging herself to find new and various subject matter — and from that she is forced to look her surroundings in a new way, expanding her vision and discovering different perspectives for framing life as we normally see it.

In addition to that, comes the slight pressure of the commitment to post a new photo by the end of the day, which is not an easy task to achieve 7 days a week, 52 weeks out of a year! That’s something she only truly realized after taking the plunge. She was already a remarkable photographer, but now this daily challenge has shown a commitment to being a remarkable and dedicated artist with an expanded range and body of work.

Julie in action taking a shot for the Iowa City 365 Project...

A routine flexes our creative muscles and gives us something regular to count on and to anchor us among the constantly changing and evolving landscape of creative energy.

And her pictured result
Julie carries her camera with her everywhere — whether it be her still camera or smart phone. She never knows when the opportunity for a photo will arise. But occasionally she also goes off on purposeful expeditions with the intention to explore her surroundings and take pictures along the way. It is part of her routine to take an art walk (something I have covered at great length in past posts like this one) and part of the routine to capture an image for her 365 Project.

I tagged along with her one dusk as we made our way around walking through the neighborhood so she could “find” that day’s picture. Julie was interviewed and profiled in a television feature last year about her process of taking walks and documenting her surrounding — you can view that episode online at:

Hearts abound in nature!
An artist usually develops some kind of repeated motif or subject matter that becomes a theme in their work.  Having the addition of a playful theme among your pursuits keeps the spirit of youthful energy, the spirit of fun and adventure alive and well in your artistry. It prevents us from becoming too serious or stagnate about our work.

Over time, Julie has developed several playful themes that weave into her body of work and provide her a fun and whimsical way to express herself.  Some of those include the photographing of heart shapes, thereby reflecting her “love of love” and how the symbolic heart can be found everywhere.  Julie is not alone in that pursuit, and she was able to have some of her work included into a book of similar artwork called Focus: Love.

"Is it a sign?" - noticing 222 everywhere

Another playful theme of Julie’s is the photographing of the number 222. She’s noticed that number pops up in her life continuously as she became more attuned and conscious of its presence.

Both playful themes allow Julie to feel connected to the world around her and gives her a burst of happiness and wonder when they come up.

SO... what kinds of challenges, routines, and playful themes can you find and develop in your artistic endeavors? Enlisting a Creativity Coach/Consultant (like myself) can help you keep on track. Contact me for further details - and keep enjoying the art of life!

Three factors & what mysteries wait behind these three doors by Julie?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Close Up On Documentation Artist Julie Staub

I'm thrilled to share this profile of friend and fellow artist Julie Staub, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for about 25 years since our days in junior high school. I remember Julie for her love of taking photographs, involvement in year book committees and generating cool photo collages, so seeing her develop her craft into the art form it is today is inspiring! I also admire how Julie has taken the energy of living in the bustling urban art world of New York City and used it as nourishment for her roots back in Iowa City. Her photo career is beginning to flourish among the Midwest atmosphere as she challenges herself with projects like Iowa City 365: taking and posting pictures of the city online every day.

I was blessed with the opportunity to hang out with her several times while in Iowa City this summer, tagging along for some photo shoots and talking about her creative process. I look forward to posting a part two on Julie next week with more about the importance of taking photo walks. This week, she answered the following questions:
The following pictures are all courtesy of Julie Staub Photography, except where noted.

1. How do you describe yourself as an artist?
I call myself a documentation artist. I feel like my role as a photographer is to record something that is naturally unfolding in front of me. That could be a child at play or a sunset. I am recording that moment with my camera. I don't want to be noticed as a photographer, my subjects usually don't notice me or are able to ignore me. I don't want to disrupt or manipulate the scene. Just document it.

2. How did you first get involved in photography?
I have print photos from jr. high. I was the paparazzi of my friends and was always in their face snapping away. But those were more about snapshots. I got serious about black and white film in high school from an artistic angle, took a b&w film class abroad in italy and was more than hooked! Dropped out for a while after school when I didn't have access to back into digital photography with my camera phone in 2005. Once I started to upload to flickr with my digital camera phone, I knew I needed to give the digital world a shot. After I got my first digital point and shoot in 2006, that's when I really started to document EVERYTHING!

Julie Staub
Diane Arbus

3. Who/What are some of your favorite influences/inspirations?
Diane Arbus and Annie Leibovitz stand out in my mind. I've always appreciated Diane's movie stills and Annie just has a way with portraits that stands out from anything else i've seen.

4. How would you describe an ideal or preferred artistic experience for gathering photographs?
I prefer that my camera is always on me and that if I see something that inspires me, I can shoot it. I don't like to create scenes and I don't like trying to set up a shot. Shoots for me when done are all intuitive. I put the people in a scene, say an apple orchard or a brick wall with ivy on it and have them act natural...and's always about light! You shoot WITH the light, not the other way around. Dusk is the best for beautiful light!

5. What is the most important element/condition for your artistic practice?
 LIGHT! That is what I am attracted to. That's how I see a through the use of NATURAL light. All of my shots are based off that. Plus, I love the element of weather. Fog, dew, frost, clouds, snow, etc. all add an exciting element to my shots.

6. Do you have any special routines or rituals that you incorporate into your work?
Always carry my camera. My 365 project forces me to do so, but I usually have some sort of recording device on me at all times. My iphone is a great back up!

7. Do you find challenges in your 365 Project?
Yes, but the issues have more to do with my mood than my desire to take pictures. I don't always like to carry my bulky camera with me, but I will have it in my car ready if I'm not holding it. I also am just so tired after my day job that I don't have the energy to "create" a shot. I strive on variety and interesting shots. I'm not going to take a picture just to take a picture for the day...I'm hard on myself as an artist to make my shot something I personally LOVE and if i'm not in the mood to be creative...that's a struggle. I also struggle with the fact that I like to "capture" my images rather than "create" them. Meaning, if I am not inspired by the light, I am not inspired to shoot. This gets tricky when I haven't done my shot and it's now dark out. It makes my shot for the day that much harder, but that's when I go and search for the "light" - whatever is available to me!

8. What’s next for you? What do you want in the future?
I am a creative octopus, I have my arms in so many directions and I can't execute my ideas fast enough! Right now, my focus is on generating some buzz around my 365 images. I am in talks with the Englert about doing a show before the holidays in their gallery space and also creating some cards, calendars and small prints available there and other local venues to sell for the holidays. I want to market to UI alumni and others who are nostalgic for IC. I will also make a book and sell it once the project is complete next summer. It has always been my idea to donate some of those profits to local charities and arts organizations like the Englert (Theater in Iowa City). I also want to play the technology game and develop an app using my images, perhaps a daily calendar with positive affirmations.
Oh! and a childrens book using my images as well! In the future, I would like my own studio space to house my art pieces and do product shoots. I think the penthouse of the Vetro would work just nicely! I also want to move my photoshoots into a program that lets me put the still images all together like a short movie and when played quickly, you get a sense of the story that is being told by the images. I do that now, but I want to get better at using the program. I set the images to music and burn to DVD and then you can watch it on your TV. I'd would also like to do more commercial work and be paid to travel various places for a shoot. That has always been a dream of mine!!

Based on the great body of work and dedication, those dreams are likely to soon become reality!
Check out more of Julie's documentation art at:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Fair Flair

Wow. What a weekend of being wonderfully overwhelmed by the love of words and creative peers! I received a double dose of it by attending both the West Hollywood Library's official opening on Saturday and the Book Fair on Sunday. The air was indeed charged with excitement and I'm definitely glad I was there to grab and participate in some of that energy.

In an era of online media and e-books, it's great to see a library built with great style in mind - honoring the library as a place for people to gather and share in the glory of the printed word. The book fair looked in high form with so many options - perhaps too much, but that's the world we live in with so many choices. As I wrote an performed in my song "There are so many stories / wanting to be told / everyday the new ones / join voices with the old..."

Here are some photos from the weekend experience (as per usual, click on image to enlarge):

One of many aisle of booths and books

The Library and Pacific Design Center in background

Homo-centric founder and word guru Hank Henderson with writer Travis Wood

The homo-centric booth right next to the mainstage

I'll sing away all day if needed

Ian MacKinnon thrilled audiences with selections from his Gay Hist-orgy part 1 & 2

Michael Kearns and his "Renegades" wowed audiences to close the fair
Shepard Fairey is one of several remarkable murals as part of the new Library

The views from the library second floor are so wonderful it may distract a reader...

An ornate ceiling caps the second floor and is from "green" wood material

"The Library Tree"

A little humor on the way home from a gorgeous day