Turning the world inside out: How to illustrate dream landscapes
The journey of a wandering mind
I shot people for years and years. (With the camera. And with darts, duh!) But it never seemed to quite fit to the wicked, mysterious, quite sureal world in my heart… those worlds I wander in my dreams.
Don‘t get me wrong, people are not boring – but some emotions and thoughts, so it seems – can be depicted best without a human soul in it.
It started in October 2014 when I first picked up some random toys and arranged them into a landscape. The idea on it dwelled for months and years. I don’t know even how it got so attatched to my brain. Maybe while I fed some little fishes in grandpa’s fish bowl when I was 10. Maybe because I sometimes sit in my room and pretend that everything is ten times it’s size like in Wonderland.
Maybe because I want to escape so desperately to the places I feel home in.
Basically it started with cutton, strings and a my favorite toy plane… my whole room was basically a big table with cutton clouds on it. It felt like floating, just being in it. Imitation and exercise was essential to perfect illusions – like I always strive to.
Inappropriate objects replace the ‘usual’
For two reasons I soon started abusing objects, drifting farer and farer away from pure imitation of known landscapes.
First: Being a student means you cannot afford everything – I only had a broken toy mill and not many other miniature toys. Either I get creative or I will starve to death.
Second: I fell in love with a pure sureal approach to objects long ago. Combining objects, creating new contexts, questioning perception and – finally creating another realm of ‘reality’. Those unlogical combinations fill my dreams, my sense of humor and are symbols to a rather phantastical version of reality that can still be approached (due to ‘real’ objects in them.)
One of my favorite surealists: Rene Magritte – “Personal Values” (1952)
A palace of heavy work: The Heart Mill
I imagined human hearts for a long time as rumbling, rotating, whirling machines that won’t stop to produce the essentials of life: emotions, the ‘food’ that keeps a soul alive. It can break, it can be taken down by storm – and needs a lot of manpower and some skill to keep working.
The image was brilliantly clear in my mind for years. At first I tried to build a ‘normal’ mill, but soon found the center piece to be missing anyway. With my fascination for anatomy, I always keep some sheep hearts in my freezer. They look similar to human hearts.
I glued cutton balls to a bed sheet and lit it from behind to create a dramatic sky. The sky has an ugly yellow, sulfuric color – in a golden dawn. An almost war-like atmosphere, apocalyptical but still romantic landscape: with the mill towering above the hills.
The power lines are small toy train accessoires from ebay to make the whole scene more ‘real’. Like an actual, modern human lives in the mill. For some reason I could not stop to think about the tale of Krabat (A wizard keeps slaves working in his mill to sustain his black magic power. At night he turns them into raven and when they are out of use into another animal. In my childhood this tale scared me to death.)
Another scary place – out of my nightmares
While nearly drowning in my workflow, I built another desert landscape out of sand and spices. My whole room smelled like curry and paprica – and made me cry all the time. The image of a small city – or building – made out of old computer boards is old, too. I helped my dad often to repair electronic stuff when I was little – and all I saw were small cities with streets and houses.
Basically, working in a cold, uncomfortable factory is my nightmare. Black steel, towering chimneys, where no individual matters anymore.
The rocks: catalysator pieces from ebay and some of my syringes as futuristic glas towers. I reduced the clouds to create a flatter, more undramatic and unpersonal feeling.
In the end, the monocrome version helpes to remove emotion and add cold distance. In the back you can see the tape I stuck the cotton to. After a while all of it fell down because it is not so easy to keep lose cotton in place.
Always traveling: The explorer
Seriously – for this one I cannot even comprehend how I got the image. It was just there. A long time. It is my grandpa’s camera (that I never, ever used because analog is not my friend until now. I really tried. I did. I am sorry…!) – and the one eye always reminded me of cyclops.
Maybe it was the tale of Baba Yaga (with her house on chicken feet), maybe it was something else. A few weeks ago I bought a furry blanket – it reminded me of me being little and pretending on grandma’s fluffy carpet that I am in a big field with high gras. An old piece of wood and some crow feet were all it needed.
In the beginning I experimented with the utility poles (those from heart mill), but it was a struggle with my lenses to make it work. Miniature dioramas are very sensitive to perspective and with the 50mm I got the most real landscape feeling (my 80mm tele compressed too much) – but not with the utility poles since they were too small. It did not look real enough.
So the kingdom of the Heart Mill came to life.
And they lived happily ever after.