The Muse by Kris Anderson
My style of illustrative photography often expresses insecurities or anxieties; sometimes I’m telling someone else’s story, very often I’m exploring my own concerns or limitations. This results in work that is dark or sad or a little unpleasant. I’m always entranced when other artists create fun, uplifting work. I was discussing this with an artist friend, asking them about how they managed to consistently create work that was uplifting and hopeful. Their answer surprised me – The work they create to sell is like that; the work they make for themselves is very different.
For The Muse, I wanted to capture that tension that artists often feel – the competition between the need to express and communicate your own feelings, versus the need to create work that is commercially successful so you can make a living.
My work generally goes through several stages, starting with pre-visualisation using sketches to design the piece and work out composition and image flow, followed by photographic mock-ups to refine composition and lighting. The goal is that by the time you begin work on the real piece you’ve identified and designed around any issues or problems so you can execute quickly. Everything about the image – composition, elements, styling, subject, post-production, little nuances – exists for one purpose only, to communicate that message, and you need to be diligent about culling things that don't help to deliver that message. You need to tell the viewer where to look and guide them around the image, letting them discover the narrative. For The Muse, the first few iterations didn't hit the nail on the head, which meant having to throw away a completed image and starting pretty much from scratch.
There are basically two agents in this composition – the artist with their natural artistic momentum, and some force compelling the artist to do as it wants. The image should be littered with elements showing the effects of that conflict. As the work evolved, that second force took many forms – a gallery with items for sale, an ominous presence lurking behind the artist, or crates of work demanding to be filled and shipped off for sale. The first iteration had the gallery next door, but the gallery was quite dominating and captured your eye more than I wanted, so it didn't last. The next iteration, worked to "completion", used crates to represent the demand for new work… but the composition just wasn’t impactful enough, the message not clear enough, so time to start again.
The final iteration of this image leaned even more heavily on some original art created by my collaborator and friend, Sean Dowling, a graphic designer and illustrator - we both work in the Brisbane theatre space. Sean sketched and painted each of the faces of The Muse for the canvases and loose papers. His attention to detail was crazy; in each image, the character is missing a chunk out of the left horn, which for an observant viewer helps to tie it all together.
Using Sean's art as the template for the face on the back wall, the final version of The Muse used individual papers and sketches to create that ominous presence compelling the artist to work, with endless stacks of blank canvases representing all the work left to do. And while the artist is wearing leg irons... they're not attached to anything, so in truth he's free to leave when he likes... but he keeps working.
About the artist
Kris Anderson is an internationally award-winning theatre and performance photographer from Brisbane, Australia. He is well known for his illustrative personal projects, creating pieces with an uncanny ability to engage viewers by sparking recognition and empathy. He frequently explores narratives concerned with modern life, mental health, and the impact of technology on people and relationships. A Master Photographer with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography, he was recognised as the 2017 AIPP Australian Professional Illustrative Photographer of the Year.
Sean Dowling: seandowling.com.au
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