There are a good number of photographers who have and continue to inspire me. My father got me interested in the early years, watching B&W prints develop in the tray in the darkroom was magical! Trey Ratcliff of StuckInCustoms.com with his vivid HDR work got me back into photography with a dSLR after years of shooting film. Natalie, aka Miss Aniela, introduced me to the clone shot and layering. Teppo Moisio and his 100Strangers project got me out of my comfort zone and working with total strangers. Mark Weeks taught me a few things about lighting that became the basis for my own Expodisc differential metering technique. Mark Sayer aka ..Goose.. did many inspirational edits, sadly no longer in his photostream. Rodney aka RCKM and his acting and raw emotion in front of the lens. Drummy with his brilliant Endworld photo series went on to be the Grand Prize Winner of the global Sony make.believe competition!

Introducing Roderique Arisiaman aka “dracorubio”

Roderique has created some jaw dropping creative self portraits. Every few weeks I check his photostream on Flickr and find yet another image that’s pushed the envelope that bit further. He’s entered the “Artist Wanted – The Power Of Self” competition again this year. If like me you like this sort of art do the guy a favour and help him follow in the footsteps of Drummy. No logins needed to vote, just a click of the mouse.

Wanting to know a little more about the man I managed to catch him on Google Talk after trying in vain to get a popular alternative to work due to problems with their login servers. It turns out we’ve got a lot more in common than I’d have guessed. I could have chatted for hours, here’s some of what was said:

Mark: Hi. Good! [Talking at last] Technology eh? When it goes wrong it’s a major P.I.T.A.
Roderique:
Yep it always is, and no matter how good technology gets, it never works when you really need it
Mark: Isn’t that the truth.
Roderique: Haha I can relate, I have the same at my day-job too “have you tried turning it on and off?”
Mark: LOL. Have you seen any of a UK TV series “The IT Crowd”? I’ve had to do a lot of that. Esp’ with DEC VT320s. Stupid things with brightness and contrast controls at the bottom ready for the cleaner to move when they clean the desks. So what do you do in your day job?
Roderique: I loved that series, it’s hilarious! Actually I am an IT guy too in real life. I’m a systems administrator at the faculty of Art, Media & Technology. Mostly I try to advice and research technology for the different studies we have, concerning Audio Visual productions, animation, visual FX, and media design and keep it running…
Mark: You’re a SysAdmin?? I’m not by job title but do a load myself. We need to help get you winning that comp and doing more art less admin.
Roderique: Haha, yes I am, I sometimes feel like a regular Clark Kent, nerdy tech guy (with glasses to boot) by day and Photoshop superhero by night 😉 But hey, it pays my hobbies well, and there is no pressure yet for having to produce but winning that comp would be awesome!
Mark: I’ll quote you on that :^) So tell me, what got you into art in the first place?
Roderique: Art..yes well..ehm…it has always been a part of me. I always used to draw a lot, and make up stories and I did attend the same arts academy I now work for.
Mark: Right from your first art lessons at school or even before that? What sorts of things did you draw?
Roderique: Even before that, I’ve been drawing and building stuff ever since I could hold a pencil, I was always the guy who could draw and paint our favourite cartoon characters and come to think of it I even used to build my own awesome gadgets from common stuff, like toilet rolls, plastic trash etc. I must have constructed my first iPhone back then 😉
But it was all an outlet of my ever present imagination. Later on I attended art classes and ended up at the arts academy studying animation and media design (yes the same faculty where I still work)
Mark: My father had a HiFi business with an on-site engineer, I was into AV & electronics stuff early. I did art at school but didn’t practice enough I guess. For someone like me who wants to do more creative photography, where would you suggest they start?
Roderique: I used to be a 3D animator, visual FX guy and motion graphics artist for a few years as well. My father used to be a tech guy too, so it kind of grew together
Mark: Did you use off the shelf tools or write code to do animation? My early animation was with Cyber Sculpt on the Atari. Going back a good few years!
Roderique: If you want to be more creative, you have to dig deep into yourself and find your story…see what makes you tick. You can’t learn creativity, it’s there already, but you have to let it out. Which means you have to let go of established thoughts and step out of your comfort zone. I used to animate in 3D programs like Lightwave and Maya, which are graphical with a lot of math besides it but it was all too synthetic
Mark: Thanks. I have a few projects on the boil that will take me out of my comfort zone for sure!
Roderique: Awesome, those kind of projects are the best as they push you to look beyond yourself and that gives you even better insight in yourself and get inspired, always be inspired. By even the little things
Mark: Your current series of images, of which “Technology” is my fave, what was the seed that started things?
Roderique: well I ended my 365, and enlisted in the Teleidoscope and Soulpancake groups where we produce an image each week within a theme. So the theme is set, which gives a starting point to work from. For the Teleidscope I set my mind to creating imaginative worlds and images, where for the Soulpancake group I try to keep things more photographical.
I hardly plan ahead for the images I create, they just grow and evolve.
Mark: Cool. So you unplug from the real world and let your mind wander. My father would always tell me “Never start a job without the correct tools”. What tools do you use to get the job done? Just Photoshop or Photoshop plus others?
Roderique:
Yes, I feel that works best for me. I have a theme, I take time to play in the studio and perhaps incorporate some props and then set out to finish the image in PS. By letting things happen, you create space for an image to grow and evolve on itself. There is always some direction, but I found that if I create a complete image, mood and colour scheme in my head, I struggle too hard to get it to look like it does in my head
Mark: Shame we don’t have an interface to download the images direct from our imagination. When it comes to adding complex looking shapes in an image, like the bits in Technology [the image above] are you using stock images, shots of props or creating them in PS?
Roderique: The “Technology” image is a simple light from above photo. It’s enhaced using a lot of brushes in PS, some textures and a few vector files I bought from GoMedia. The tubes, smoke, and lights are all Photoshop brushes. The plates of my body are partially cut out pieces of the original photo, with some drop-shadows, and partially the vector files I imported from Illustrator, which are then coloured using colours from the original photo and given the same drop-shadow effect. The rest is just brushes and finally I add textures to add some grain and the decaying bits.
Mark: I like the idea of taking bits from Illustrator and recolouring them. I’m a GIMP user, thinking of making the jump to PS as I want to get more creative and there’s a lot more PS material out there. Any tips for online training?
Roderique:
Photoshop is a Mammoth program to learn, as it serves many purposes. There is a enormous amount of data on learning the app. But with the enormous amount of stuff out there, it is easy to get lost. If you want to learn PS, go and invest in it. There are some amazing paid sites that get you started, going, and growing.
Mark: True, which is why I’ve used GIMP to date, it’s done all the layering and cloning I’ve needed. Any sites that spring to mind?
Roderique: Like for instance Lynda.com, it’s paid, but very very informative. there’s also photoshoptopsecret.com which has some cool DVD’s as well and I enlist at tutsplus.com for some cool tutorials as well. Don’t go for Youtube tutorials as it’s hard to find the right ones amongst the sheer amount of trash so basically just go out and look, read and do an enormous amount of tutorials. I’ve probably seen and read the lot, but I still watch and read anything I get my hands on, as there’s always some little trick I might pick up
Mark: Just like watching a movie, you always pick up some little detail missed the first viewing.
Roderique:
Oh and go magazine, they always have some cool stuff, and freebies to play around and get inspired by
Mark: “Go Magazine”?
Roderique: haha, I meant that you should read magazines. I can’t think of any magazine title at the moment, but there are a lot out there as well.
Mark: Just Googled, “the cultural roadmap for the city girl”. Yup NOT that one :^)
Roderique:
hahahaha www.computerarts.co.uk/

We then chatted briefly about what he’d do if he won.. After talking cameras, upgrades and alternatives (we’re both Canon users) he added;

Roderique: I actually don’t care for the camera, as long as it produces good images, no noise and a lot of MP’s to play with…and yes is digital. Of course I would need a MacPro to push all those pixels around…

Nice chatting to you Roderique, best of luck! Here’s the link again. Enjoy!