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GlamGuest Artist: Creative Illusions

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GlamModelz Magazine would like to introduce you to Creative Illusions, based in Dallas, Texas.  Michael, the modest and unassuming guy behind the camera will quickly tell you that he doesn’t consider himself nearly as accomplished as his peers. However, in the past few years, he has created an amazing body of visually stimulating work.  His images, when taken one at a time, are well thought out, imaginative and flawlessly executed.  Yet, his work when viewed in its entirety, is on the edge of extraordinary.  His modernized pinups and portraits are finely composed, thought provoking, flirty and full of life.  He consistently creates images that are clean, wholesome, and relaxed, but at the same time provocative and sexy. He makes even mediocre models look gorgeous. Their relaxed and flirtatious expressions convey the trust and rapport he obviously has with each of them.

GlamModelz Magazine: Let’s get started!  Why Pin-up and how did you get started in Pinup Art?  Michael: Honestly, I really don’t know. I never made a conscience decision to shoot pinups and probably never realized that’s where I was going.  I think it was something that just evolved over time. I’d been shooting pictures of beautiful women and doing model portfolios for years. Plus, I’d always loved the oil painted and watercolor pinup pictures from the 1940’s and 50’s and felt they were truly a special art form.  I was always intrigued with pinup artists who could accomplish so many things in a seemingly simple picture. The master pinup artists could tell a story using a wholesome and pretty girl, making her sexy and seductive without taking away her innocence. They painted idealized images of what their perfect woman would be. And doing so, they could sell a product and create a piece of art that appealed to a wide audience.  Without being vulgar or tasteless, they could gently encourage the voyeur in all of us.  Since I was not given the ability to draw or paint, the advent of digital photography and computer software gave me an avenue to express things in an artistic way. When I was shooting, I found myself combining interesting props and outfits with some of my favorite models creating images that I felt were unique and interesting. With these new tools, I began to draw on my own personal experiences, influences and imagination to create images that evolved into the pinups that you see in my portfolio today.


GlamModelz-0025GlamModelz Magazine: What and/or who inspires you as an artist?  Michael:  Although I’ve certainly been influenced by the classic pinup artists as far as style and content, I think a lot of the inspiration for the stuff I do comes from my own mind. I think that people with an artistic nature and vivid imaginations probably have an enhanced capacity to visualize and create the things that their mind can imagine. Many of the pinup ideas that I try are inspired by just observing the world around me and thinking about ways to put that into some sort of order and apply it to a photograph.

As far as artists who amaze and inspire me, I think the classic pinup masters like Gil Elgren, Alberto Vargas, Pearl Frush, Art Frahm and Bill Medcalf stand out. And although he wasn’t a pinup artist, I think Norman Rockwell had many of the same gifts as the pinup masters, in that he could tell a complex story with a seemingly simple picture. I also like the work of contemporary pinup artists Olivia De Berardinis,  Michael Mobius, Michael Landefeld and Greg Hildebrandt as well as photographer Robert Alvarado.

Although I’ve used it many times, I think the quote from Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) pretty well sums up my inspiration.  He wrote, “Every artist dips his brush into his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures” and I guess in a sense, that’s what I do.  For example, I think most of my pictures are light and happy because I’m a happy upbeat person who sees the world around me as a beautiful and friendly place.  They are probably slightly voyeuristic because they amplify scenarios most of us would enjoy seeing in real life.  I don’t think my pinups come off as creepy or perverted because I do cute sexy images that are appreciated and liked by both men and women.


GlamModelz-0015GlamModelz Magazine: While we’re on the subject of pinup photography, what makes a great pinup?  Is it the model? The vintage hair styles and makeup?  The props?  Michael: That’s an interesting question and something I never really thought about. It’s difficult to quantify what makes a pinup great because the likeability of a piece of art is so subjective. However, I do think most successful pinups share some common elements. Beyond just a pretty model, there seem to be a number of factors that work together to make a pinup “just right”. First, I think good pinups are usually simple and uncomplicated. And although it may sound overly simplistic and obvious, I think it has to do with how all the elements in the picture work together. The right combination of props, wardrobe, accessories and composition is ultimately crucial to the success of the image. The way the various elements are arranged is also important to achieve a pleasing balance. Beyond that, I think it’s important to have the right model with the right pose and expression for that particular image.  Regardless of which models a photographer may have to choose from, there are definitely models that fit a particular concept better than others. When I do a pinup, I always have a specific model “look” in mind that I think works well with my concept.  With pinups, the right model is very important since her look, expression and body language set the tone and help tell the story.  As “non-artistic” as it may sound, I think great pinups are ultimately the result of careful and thoughtful planning with good execution.


GlamModelz-0011GlamModelz Magazine: You’ve described the various elements of a pinup and how they all need to fit together. What are the steps that you personally go through to develop and shoot a new concept pinup?  And, how can other photographers incorporate those steps into their own work?  Michael:While many of my images are spontaneous ideas that happen during the shoot, most of my pinup shoots are ideas that I’ve had and have mentally stored until I was ready to shoot them. I generally have three or four variables in mind as possibilities. I’ve found that sometimes the idea you visualize doesn’t always work when you try to capture it in the camera.  I typically start with either an idea of a specific scenario or an interesting prop that suggests a story line.  Although I don’t meticulously plan an image, I essentially build the basic picture in my mind long before I ever think about shooting. On occasion, I’ll even do a crude sketch to see how the props and model might be placed. If I need props for a specific idea, I’ll sometimes build what I need and/or comb through antique stores, flea markets and junk shops, sometimes for months, looking for the right props and outfits.  And conversely, during my searches, I’ll sometimes find interesting props and outfits and then build a story line around that. When I have the props located, I try to develop the supporting elements to compliment the theme.

When I’m building the picture in my mind, I usually have a good idea of the model type that I need for that specific image.  I want her “look” and personality to reflect the theme or idea support the story line.  I generally want the pinup model to be wholesome and fresh looking, and not overtly sexy. I try to keep that balance between hot and sexy and cute and innocent. You may have noticed that I don’t utilize the glamorous vintage hair styles or makeup unless that’s the model’s everyday look. It’s not because I don’t like it or enjoy seeing the work of others who utilize fabulous hair and makeup artists to give the model that classic 40’s look. It’s simply that my pinups concepts are of modern women…. confident and comfortable with their sexuality.  Although I’m inspired by the classic pinups from yesterday along with their stylized expressions and glamorous hair styles, I don’t try to copy them.  Although my images definitely share a recognizable style, I’m constantly trying to do different things.  I don’t want people to look at my portfolio and see the same image over and over…. with just a different model and pose. I try to make my images tell a story and have some interest.

I hope other photographers who are interested in pinup art can use some of the processes that work for me.  I think each of us has to find that process that works for us and reflects our individual style and preferences.  Since everyone has their own workflows and preferences, the way I do it may not work for others. But I think the basic concepts are good and something many photographers might use to augment what they’re already doing.


GlamModelz-0020GlamModelz Magazine: What about models; how do they fit into what you do and how do you relate to them?  Michael: Wow…. I could probably write a book about my thoughts concerning models.  First of all, I think a photographer without good models is like a great singer with no songwriters.  It’s obvious to me that models and photographers have that symbiotic relationship that defines the mutual benefit and dependence we have with each other.  At every opportunity, I try to give the models the credit they deserve because I know that I could never do the pictures I do without them.  In some cases, new models and I had that immediate great chemistry the first time we ever met.  But even then, it takes time to develop a strong and trusting relationship. I value those relationships and never take them for granted. I always try to show the models I work with the respect they deserve and always let them know how much I value their contribution. In return, I have some very loyal and close models that I work with on a regular basis and I love working with them.  I guess the feeling is mutual since they’ve sent me many nice cards, messages and tags.  Several of the models I work with always remember my birthday and have treated me to some very elegant birthday dinners.    There are some that I’ve worked with since their mothers brought them to shoot with me as teenagers and I’m still working with them as they’re closing in on 30. I appreciate models who are serious about their work, who make and keep appointments, offer suggestions, and arrive on time. I have wonderful respect for them, because they respect my time and effort. And consequently, I’ll always do my best to help them.


GlamModelz-0019GlamModelz Magazine: What would you change about the modeling industry in general, if you could?  Michael: Well, that’s a very broad question that’s bound to create controversy and debate between the various factions in the industry. So I’ll try to keep this as impartial as possible. The modeling industry is full of young women (and men) who can easily enter the industry by simply posting a few photos on one of the online modeling sites. While this has opened the door for many new models, allowing them to be judged solely on their talents and get national and even international exposure, it also creates a situation where models with absolutely no experience are working with professional photographers and sometimes agencies that have been in the industry for decades. While many models are very knowledgeable and educated and/or have informed and concerned parents or advocates involved, there are many who do not.  This can create difficult situations where uninformed models are sometimes making decisions that can adversely affect them if they make the wrong decision. For example, we have models dealing with legal instruments like contracts and releases that are written by attorneys and basically designed to protect only one party.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and in fact is a necessity in the business world, it’s not the best situation for new models to find themselves dealing with. In an ideal world, I think I’d like to educate models, even those who just work occasionally, to realize that modeling and photography is a business and that each model should approach it like that.  They should all take the time to educate themselves about all facets of the industry so they can be an asset to the industry professionals they work with, as well as expanding their own opportunities and return.  While it might be easy to take a callous and cavalier attitude toward new models, I think it’s in the best interest of all of us to help educate them and do everything we can to ensure their success. I think we lose a lot of beautiful and talented models who become disenchanted with something or someone in the industry before they ever have a chance to really get started.


GlamModelz-0007GlamModelz Magazine: What equipment is essential for you as a Pin up artist/photographer to capture your “best shot”?  Michael: I think that my most important equipment is intuitive and nothing I could go buy. But that only goes so far. I’m not really obsessed with having the latest and greatest equipment and technology, but I do buy what I think I need to do the job. Needless to say, I think a good quality camera and lens certainly make a huge difference in the quality of the finished image.   Plus, a large, well focused image is much easier to edit than a lower quality one.  My pinup lighting setup is very basic in that I generally use a couple of umbrellas and a hair light. I also use a couple of lights with barn doors to control the light on the backdrop. I occasionally use soft boxes and frequently use a large diffusion screen to soften the light when shooting more glamour oriented images. I also like and use a beauty dish on occasion. One piece of equipment that I’d hate to do without is my “Pocket Wizards” simply because they give me the freedom to move around without being encumbered by a sync cord. They are absolutely one of my favorite pieces of equipment. I have Photoshop CS6 so I can edit RAW images, but I actually do most of my editing using Photoshop CS3 simply because that’s what I have loaded on my laptop.


GlamModelz Magazine: What qualities should Models/MUA’s/Stylists, etc. have to work with you?   Michael: I want the people I do business with to be honest, have good communication skills and be good team players. Although I’m very detailed oriented, I’m very easy to work with and always open to ideas, so I like individuals who bring energy, creativity and spontaneity to the shoot.  I try a lot of different ideas that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. So, I want individuals who will (patiently) help me run those ideas into a corner and either produce the desired image or go as far as we can and realize that’s the best we can do. Getting the image without having to spend a lot time editing is my goal, so the time spent working through different outfits, props and setups is important. And finally, I want everyone to have fun. If we can’t enjoy what we’re doing, maybe we should be doing something else.


GlamModelz-0021GlamModelz Magazine: What advice do you have for new/amateur photographers who want to shoot Pinup style glamour?   Michael: I think that new and amateur photographers should take every opportunity to shoot with as many different models as he/she can, trying a variety of ideas, using props and different lighting techniques. Shooting with a lot of different models will help you learn to interact with vastly different personality types and ultimately help you develop good business relationships with models. If you have the opportunity, I would shoot with models having different looks, different body shapes and different styles. I also think getting out of your comfort area and shooting things that you don’t particularly like will help you learn techniques that will help you later on. It also helps you find which model types you like and determine the right model for the concepts you’d like to shoot.  Actually, I think basic pinups are a good way for a new or amateur photographer to add to their portfolio. As a general rule, they don’t seem to require a sophisticated knowledge of lighting techniques. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to think and learn about balance and composition.  Develop your photography skills and become proficient with Photoshop. If you feel uncomfortable working with new models, work on developing your people skills so you’ll be able to effectively communicate and interact with them. And finally, treat your models like stars and appreciate what they bring to the shoot.


GlamModelz Magazine: Tell us about your biggest accomplishment to date or what makes you most proud.   Michael: I’ve done a lot of different things at this point in my life and have achieved the goals that I set for myself, so it would difficult to pinpoint my biggest accomplishment. To me, each step was a piece of my overall life plan and equally important. I’ve also been very fortunate and lucky to be able to do the things I love doing.  As far as photography, I think my greatest accomplishment was when my very conservative mother looked at my not so conservative portfolio and said she loved it and was my biggest fan. Years later, she still loves seeing my new work and only once in a while does she give me that slightly disapproving look.


GlamModelz-0002GlamModelz Magazine: What advice do you have for new models who want to shoot with you?
Be a gorgeous and dangerously seductive redhead!!  In all seriousness, when I have the time, I shoot with most anyone who wants to shoot with me.  I’ve found a lot of wonderful models shooting with new or unknown local talent or models whose portfolio didn’t really reflect who they really were or what they could look like given the right set of circumstances. Of course I’d love to have absolutely gorgeous, world class models show up at my door every day. But more realistically, I want to work with team players who are dependable, professional, friendly, patient, open minded and relatively uninhibited. I especially like models that are confident and feel good about themselves. If you feel sexy and self-confident, it will invariably be reflected in the pictures. If you are going to do trade shoots, start out being selective about who you work with. Evaluate their work and see if it seems to be consistent with the style and quality you want in your own portfolio. When you find a photographer who is willing and able to shoot the style, quality and content that you need, do your best to present yourself as well as you can. It amazes me that models who say they really love my work and want to shoot the kind of stuff that I do, don’t want to give me the artistic license to shoot them like I envision the concept, mood, pose, and outfit, etc.  I find it hard to believe that they tell me things like…. I don’t look good in that color, or let me ask my sister if she thinks my hair looks good like this or that outfit makes me look fat.   Remember, I’m not taking pictures to make you look bad, I’m doing everything I can to make you look fantastic!!!  And, to do that, I need your help.


GlamModelz-0012GlamModelz Magazine: Would you like to send a special holiday message to our young men and women serving in the armed forces? Michael: Yes, I’d love to.I’m very proud to be an American and live in a country where we have the tremendous freedoms that we do. And, I know for that,I’m forever grateful to all of you who serve and risk your lives every day to keep us safe and free. I want you to know how proud I am, and thank each of you for the protection you give us all, defending our freedom and ensuring the safety of all who cherish it.  Even though we don’t tell you as often as we should, we are indebted to each of you for the great sacrifice you and your families make every day to keep us free. None of us want to see our young Americans experience the horror of war, but it is because of you, the brave and noble warriors of the United States Military, that we are blessed with the gift of freedom.  I pray that each of you will be safe and that you will be reunited with your families soon. I wish each of you and the families that support you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a safe and Happy New Year. And to all Americans, regardless of your beliefs or political affiliation, whether you support the decision to deploy our military to foreign soil or not, please support and take every opportunity to thank our men and women in uniform who do a thankless job, that many Americans will not or could not do to keep our country free.


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GlamGuest Artist: Creative Illusions

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GlamModelz.com Magazine,The most Fabulous site on the Internet, where HOTNESS Hangs!! GlamModelz magazine offers an unbiased perspective into Glamour, Beauty and Art Photography Modeling.

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GlamModelz.com Magazine,The most Fabulous site on the Internet, where HOTNESS Hangs!! GlamModelz Magazine is a pictorial exposé geared towards working professionals in today’s glamor industry. We are internationally cultured, inspired and dedicated to showcasing the cutting edge works of today’s market, while also providing useful information for those wishing to make their break into the modeling industry. GlamModelz magazine offers an unbiased perspective into Glamour, Beauty and Art Photography Modeling. GlamModelz Magazine has published 288, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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GlamModelz Magazine Volume 8, Issue 10, July 2015

GlamModelz Magazines: GlamModelz Magazine Volume 8, Issue 10, July 2015

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