the idea for this year's present came into being back in february, when girlgoth emailed me about dread maintenance & queried a barter. being familiar with & a fan of her portraiture, i responded positively, & we started sorting out the details.
i'll step you through this from my point of view; of course joe had no idea what was happening until he saw the completed, framed works.
so we got the arrangement nailed down, & in april, i performed my side of the trade with maintenance on lily's locks. joe was in attendance, which lily said always helps with drawing. he had no clue he was being studied. :D OH HI JOE
after that came two months of emails where i sent photos, we clarified ideas, & lily kept me apprised with procedurals as each piece came along. we'd decided on three 5x7"s, to be framed together - & i was even able to pick up a groupon to help with the framing costs. :) the theme was to be the core elements of our relationship: love, sex, & ridiculousness - one photo depicting each facet. (you'll see the art at the end.)
part of the awesomeness of having portraits created from photos is that i could send her multiple images to meld into one. the "ridiculousness" portrait is the one she drew first. i had a photo of the perfect dreadstyle to commemorate this, but he looked so cute-but-sad in it that i didn't want to memorialize the expression. so lily put the crazy hair on the second photo to create the piece. (the third pic is her digital mockup.)
the next portrait was for "sex". this one ended up being a huge challenge to lily, as she'd never drawn a face so small. lily had to request additional pics for this one, so she could carefully end his limbs without making him look amputated. & she was so thoughtful to make sure that she could make artistic changes like leaving out the pillow fringe (as it conflicted oddly with his dreads) without taking away from what i felt were the most important aspects of the image. i later gave her another necklace to put on him - joe tends to change his necklace somewhat seasonally, & i didn't want to "timestamp" the works. i pulled an older pic i'd taken of a necklace he made from a piece of a computer - i loved this one particularly, but it rusted on his neck & then was lost. now it's "found". :)
& the final portrait she drew, to encompass "love", became my favorite of the three. this is a photo i've posted many times before, of joe with his head against my thigh, with an unmistakable glow of pure love & trust. he was wearing the same necklace as the first pic, though, so i had lily swap that one out too. i wanted to use a necklace we'd bought on our last trip to hawaii, a cool choker thing with tiny skulls, but i didn't have any photos of it & joe was currently wearing it. i quickly found an opportunity to sneak photos of it on him, though, & my camera's 20x zoom made him none the wiser that i was nabbing close-ups.
with all of the above in mind, here are the final three panels. lily sent work-in-progress shots, & put together these spectacular animations of them, too - some WIPs & a link to the rather large animation (containing all the WIPs) follows each finished piece.
i know, right?
the amount of detail & realism she was able to impart to these pieces simply astounds me. you're seeing them in jpegs, which negates a large degree of the "holy shit, that's real?!" factor - when i first saw them in person, my brain couldn't quite grasp that she drew these with a fucking white pencil. that's IT. she doesn't even use a black pencil or a gray pencil or anything else to make this happen, as she doesn't like how dark pencils go shiny. joe's eyelashes in the "love" portrait are clearly visible - but are just negative space! look at the muscles in his forehead! look at the glint of metal in his nostrils! look at his dreads! it's absolutely mind-blowing what she can do.
&, delightfully, she drew them all with the same pencil. :)
while she was drawing, we worked out a good layout for them, & i had space to put in a "card" - a bit of work that i could do to add more "me" to the gift. my card would be a title of the set, plus our names & anniversary. i can't draw for shit, so i chose three appropriate fonts & printed my card full-size, to hand-copy onto the same matboard lily used. i made plans to take her to lunch, hang out in a coffeeshop & make the card, then go to the framer's together. she put so much into these works that i figured it was only right that she gets input on how they're displayed. the final idea was such (ignoring the copperplate, as it's a stand-in for my own handwriting):
& everything went beautifully. lily was REALLY useful, since the chick running the framing place kept pushing more expensive frames & had a vaguely conflicting aesthetic to mine. we chose a black matboard that matched lily's exactly - it was an interesting thought to choose something with a little shine or a nap, but the blacks didn't match, & no way was i giving a graver boy conflicting blacks. ;) the frame we chose is fairly simple: a wide black wood with a little ropy detail around the inner edge that complemented joe's dreads nicely. the portraits & my card were to be shadowboxed a bit off the mat.
despite the fact that lily used a UV fixative, i definitely wanted UV-protectant glass, but i didn't know how far the market had come. the framer had three types of glass, all of which were UV-safe: normal glass, which reflected normally & kind of sucked; conservation glass, which removed some of the reflection but would make the shadowboxed pieces look fuzzy; & museum glass, a fucking snazzy, non-reflective, non-fuzzy, amazing technological breakthrough i'd never seen. there was a sample frame with a slice of each glass so you could compare them, & i thought for sure the museum glass panel was missing. i couldn't tell it was in place until i got within a couple inches of the sample. it was perfectly transparent, yet somehow darkened & inverted the reflection of the lamp behind us, which would be totally necessary considering where i expected to hang the finished work. oh yeah, i totally shelled out the extra dosh to get museum glass.
lily & i made a similar date when the framing was complete, so she could be the first, with me, to see it all finished. there was a bit of drama when we showed up three minutes after closing (though i was told by the flaky hippie boss that they close at SEVEN, not SIX), but an employee happened to be stopping back in to pick up her purse & let us in anyhow. PHEW! so that worked, & the bonus was i wouldn't have to hide the pieces in our apartment at all - they went safely from lily's studio to the framer's, then back to lily's until joe's party.
OH THE PARTY
so since joe's birthday proper is on a sunday this year, which kind of sucks for everyone NOT unemployed, i decided to make joe THINK we were doing it sunday but actually do it saturday. this was the fake mail, which was bcc'd just to joe & liquordrums:
To: lish friends: ; Subject: joe birthday 7-31-11! HI KIDS! it's that time of year again, the time where i've spent PRACTICALLY A FULL YEAR TORTURING THE SHIT OUT OF JOE REGARDING A SUPER-EPIC PRESENT THAT HE HAS NO CONCEPT OF THE LEVEL OF AWESOMENESS CONTAINED THEREIN & SEEING SAME WILL PROBABLY EXPLODE HIS HEAD A LOT! SO I'LL NEED HELP CLEANING THAT UP OKAY ahem i was saying SO IT'S A BIRTHDAY PARTY! joe's birthday is on a sunday this year, july 31st, so the party element's going to be fairly low-key - just meeting at the cap hill apartment at 6pm, going out for dinner somewhere, then returning & gifting our boy. (you may remember that he was born around 9:30pm, so i never let him have his present before then. XD) i'm open to suggestions on where we eat depending on the number of RSVPs i receive. YOUR TASKS: - RSVP ASAP so i can get this thing in motion & reserve a restaurant - BRING PRESENTS! 'cause joe sure could use MORE STUFF!@ THAT'S ONLY TWO THINGS, THIS SHOULD BE PRETTY EASY FOR YOU so that's it! come celebrate THIRTY-FUCKING-FOUR YEARS OF THOK with us, & watch as i once again destroy joe's worldview with my AMAZING GIFTING SKILLS, YES YES! xoxo, lish
& then THIS was the REAL mail, sent to everyone i could think of:
To: lish friends: ; Subject: joe's birthday 2011! HI! THIS YEAR IS A BIT COMPLEX. PLEASE READ ALONG WITH ME! ok! joe THINKS that his birthday party is NON-SURPRISE & is going to be on sunday, july 31st - his actual birthday. what i want to do is have it on saturday the 30th instead. OOH TRICKY. i've even written up a second "REAL PARTY INVITE" for the 31st, which i've sent to raven so he can reply to me & joe to set up the TWIST ELEMENT. check it out: raven is going to reply to the fake 31st invite saying that he's sorry, he'll be out of town & can't make the party, but he'd like to take joe out for a beer on the 30th at around 4pm. this will get joe out of the house until 6pm, which allows me time to hang the EPIC PRESENT i got for him this year, & allows all of YOU time to come over to our apartment. the present will be on the wall, not wrapped - & hopefully joe won't notice it, because that will make telling him to GO FIND YOUR PRESENT much more hilarious since we'll all know exactly where it is. ANYHOW, after presenting, we'll all go out to dinner (i'm thinking marrakesh) & have a gay ol' time. SO THAT'S THE PLAN. what i need from each of you is: - RSVP for yourself/your SO/other people you know joe is friends with/et cetera for the surprise itself on 7-30 - RSVP for same if you want to eat at marrakesh with us (the 5-course feast is just $20 per person; let me know if you want more food details as i've got a great marrakesh write-up i can send out) - if you're willing to carpool people to marrakesh (belltown), & how many fit in your car if so you'll be expected to show up PROMPTLY at our cap hill apartment between 5-5:30pm on 7-30 so we can be sure to pull this off. the best present you could give him this year is a gift certificate to half price books or some other local bookery, or you can just chip in on his meal at marrakesh. any questions or suggestions, please email me directly. & please RSVP ASAP if you can make it since i'll need to reserve marrakesh in advance. DON'T SPOIL THE SURPRISE! :D :D :D lish
the raven emails went off without a hitch, & joe even complimented the fake party mail i "sent out", haha. it was brutal waiting for the actual event, but here's a play-by-play of saturday:
(i removed the sound because my voice, closest to the camera, is horrendously above clipping level & you can't even hear joe. so you didn't miss much - he's just muttering "well it could be on a shelf..." & then begging for hints)
joe danced with the belly dancer! yes, there's video. no, you can't have it. XD
he knows there's nothing much planned for today, his birthday proper, after the SIX MONTHS THAT CULMINATED IN EVERYTHING YESTERDAY... but i did promise him kamut waffles-in-bed in my super fancy waffle maker. so i ran to the store for eggs & milk, & the lavishing did thus [re]commence:
fuck, what a great weekend. i'll link to his write-up when it's complete. edit: haha only took him six weeks! http://gorthok.livejournal.com/667349.html
happy birthday, baby!