They Call Me Mr Pretzel - Chris Slabber

They Call Me Mr Pretzel

This is one of a series that Chris did in collaboration with Everfelt Photography in 2009 for an exhibition at Happy Place Creations. The series won him the one small seed network award for Best illustrator/artist of 2009 and got him published in the magazine. We caught up with Chris to find out about his inspiration for the work.

The inspiration behind the series was ‘Over worked and under paid’. I was in a bad place financially and emotionally at the time – I felt like I was pulled out of proportion from trying to please everyone around me.

Fascinated by how he managed to create this surreal effect in his work, we asked Chris to tell us how it was done. Well, basically I love Surrealism but my painting skills have never been top notch, so I decided to use what I know – Photography, art direction, Photoshop and my imagination. I got a friend of mine – Dirk Steenkamp from Everfelt Photography – to help me with the shoot. He has an awesome eye for model photography. We shot the model, Klein Jan Groenewald, at a another friend of mine, Wouter du Toit’s, home studio just using a black backdrop and 2 soft boxes. I find that the black backdrop creates a strange halo when deep etching the figure. Once the shoot was done I had to find the 12 best shots (I wanted to do 12 pieces in 3 days – crazy I know, but I did). Then because of time constraints I had to resource some stock images for the background environment. I came across a photographer who was kind enough to donate me some of the coolest shots ever – it never hurts to ask.

From there it was pairing the model shots with the best fitting background for each one. Now the magic started to happen. As mentioned I love surrealism. I wanted to give the figure a distorted look, but to the point where it’s just visible that something is not normal. I used the liquify tool in Photoshop to bring this across. This part is just all trial and error. The secret was in the eyes – once I got them to a convincing standard I knew these works would really freak peoples’ minds. Then after all the manipulation to the model, I added some colour flashes/halos/flares just to add some life to this static page and also adding to the surreal nature of the work.

So that’s how it’s done kids. Chris is about to get working on a new surrealist series. He has recently exhibited at The Bin’s R250 Show and is open to exhibiting more if anyone is looking for artists. Visit his flickr page here. Scroll down to view the rest of his surreal series. Chris’s latest poster work will be up on 10and5 soon so keep an eye on the site.

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