The UnAnimated

I sure haven’t written very much lately, have I?

I’ve been putting most of my current thoughts and ideas into the book I’ve been writing instead of this blog. Even though I finished the first draft about a month ago and haven’t yet begun the process of re-writing, I’ve been memorializing things in my re-write notes.

The fourth section of the book has been especially challenging – it deals with the aftermath of my North American Road Trip, from August 2017 to present. I’ve been trying to boil away all of the irrelevancies from the stream-of-consciousness that has been the majority of my blog entries during that time period. It’s incredibly difficult to decide what is relevant and what is irrelevant, because I’m still not sure what my future will look like.

Future Uncertain

On top of that, this book is meant to close the chapter of my life that has been the past 3+ years so that I can feel free to move on with the next chapter of my life. But with so much uncertainty about my future, it’s hard to close the books on my past.

When you strip away all of my various options regarding where to live, how to live, and how to earn a living… the debate I’m struggling with comes down to two things: freedom and sacrifice.

I’ve been preaching about freedom ever since the trip ended in August 2017. I’ve always known how exploitative and predatory our system of capitalism is. But it wasn’t until I started working this retail job where all of those emotions got dialed up to eleven. These days, I have an incredible desire to divorce myself – as much as possible – from this economic system.

Becoming a leather tramp seems to be the best way to become as economically-independent as possible. Get rid of the rent expense. Get rid of the vehicle and all of its many expenses. Live a simple life where my only expenses are food and the occasional bar of soap. There are even ways to obtain those things without money, but I have enough money saved up to sustain me in such a lifestyle for several years.

Most days, I crave this lifestyle so bad, that very little hardship would be necessary to propel me down this path. But absent that trigger, I’ve so far been reluctant to commit to this lifestyle because of all of the sacrifices it would require.

I can’t possibly enumerate all of the sacrifices and considerations I’ve thought of. Some of the big ones include a lack of privacy and unreliable access to clean and hot water. I would also lack a good way to secure my belongings (including Remy herself) any time I need to go into a store for provisions. I’ve asked Zombie and Cricket for advice on how they handle their gear and dogs, but I wasn’t exactly satisfied with their solutions.

The biggest sacrifices to life as a leather tramp, of course, are the loss of my friends and the inability to do my haunt craft. I’ve been lamenting these issues for almost two years now. So the question is – do I become a leather tramp or try to find some compromise lifestyle that I can live with? And if so, what does that compromise look like?

And while I rack my brains trying to solve the riddle of this compromise lifestyle, two quotes haunt me continuously…

“Better to sleep in an uncomfortable bed free, than sleep in a comfortable bed unfree.”

Jack Kerouac
The Dharma Bums (1958)

“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

– Aunt Frances
Practical Magic (1998)

I feel like if I settle on a compromise solution, I’d be a coward and a sell-out.

Corpsing

Completing the first draft of my book has given me license to resume corpsing. Since my last portfolio entry, I have created one “ripped-spine” corpse, a second pair of necrophilia corpses, and have begun work on a third pair of necrophilia corpses. I will create portfolio entries for all of these later.

Beyond these three projects, I have three more projects queued: a fourth and final pair of necrophilia corpses, a full-size Tarzan corpse, and a full-sized “Captain” corpse. In spite of what I’m about to describe below, I remain committed to finishing these projects.

However – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I’m not enjoying corpsing like I used to. This feels almost as devastating to me as the day I realized I wasn’t “passionate” about writing.

When I first began corpsing, I would lose myself for hours in the tranquil beauty of softly sculpting the plastic flesh with the heat gun. It was a soothing and relaxing experience that routinely caused me to neglect other duties. But that’s not the case anymore. Nowadays, corpsing feels more like a chore.

There are a lot of reasons why this might be the case.

I’ve been designing more complex and challenging corpses lately. It’s entirely possible that the frustrations associated with these difficult designs is making the experience less enjoyable.

On the other hand, I’ve built so many corpses and tried so many different techniques, maybe I just feel like I’ve reached a limit on how far I can grow as an artist with this particular medium.

It could be that I’m less comfortable in my current (and smaller) workshop than I was in the basement of my old house.

But I think the most likely explanation is my job. I spend so much time either asleep or at work that trying to cram corpsing work into the few hours I’m home and awake is stressful and I always feel rushed. I can’t afford to lose track of time like I used to.

So I’m going to take a hiatus once I complete all of the corpses in my queue. Maybe I just need a breather from corpsing. Or maybe I’ll never build another corpse again. It’s hard to say at this point. But if I am done with corpsing, then at least there is a silver lining. Corpsing was never compatible with the mobility I crave. If I’m not so eager to continue with this craft, then that makes some of the decisions I have to make about my future a little easier.

The Future of My Haunt Craft

While I may have lost my passion for corpsing, I have not lost my passion for horror. If I give up corpsing, I will need a new creative outlet.

Horror theatricals has been on my mind ever since I worked Wrecked at the Weidner. If I were able to move forward with horror theatricals, I’m reasonably confident that such a project would keep me challenged, satisfied, fulfilled, and entertained for years. I’ve got enough experience in theatricals to know that this could be a passion of mine.

Unfortunately, such a project would require substantial investment capital, a clever marketing strategy to counteract the declining popularity of theatre, and the commitment of reliable and equally-enthusiastic partners. I’m not going to give up on this dream, but I’m not inclined to waste a whole lot of time chasing it (unless and until I find partners to work with).

Another project I’ve been contemplating is making a haunted model old-west ghost town. I will probably do this some day. But even if I do it, it would be a one-off project – not a sustained hobby. It would be a fun collaboration project, though.

Spray Paint Art

One possible form of haunt crafting that I’m strongly considering is spray paint art. YouTube is full of videos of street artists in New York City creating gorgeous paintings, often depicting stellar bodies and phenomena. I’ve been thinking of trying to use these techniques to create horror paintings.

This is – by no means – foolproof. I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it. Historically, I’ve not been very good at painting, though I haven’t really tried my hand at spray paint art, yet.

Also, you can’t really force an interest or a curiosity to become a passion, unless you’re stupid lucky. Most passions are discovered – by accident. I discovered my passion for corpsing incidentally and in the course of building Dad’s Cabin.

spray paint art

However, if I’m good at it and if I develop a passion for it, spray paint art could be an excellent replacement for corpsing. I will still need some tools and supplies, but not nearly as much as I do for corpsing. Spray paint art could be far more friendly to a nomadic lifestyle.

Furthermore, it could be a lot easier to make money from this sort of art. Most of the NYC artists sell their paintings for $20 a pop. I did some quick math and calculated that a single painting can’t cost more than $6 to make. At $20, I could eat for a day as a leather tramp for each painting I sell. It would be much easier to sell a relatively cheap piece of art like a painting rather than a more expensive corpse where my profit margin would be considerably less.

I’d like to finish my current corpsing projects before I begin working on spray paint art, but I’d like to get moving on it as soon as possible. I’d like to get good enough at it that I could set up a table during haunt season this year.

Street Art

You may have noticed from a number of recent blog posts that I’m somewhat obsessed by the notion of “street art” or “guerrilla art”, be it in the form of the spray paint art I just described, street performances, street theatre, or urbex haunting.

You’re right. I am obsessed with street art. Not only is street art more compatible with my nomadic ambitions (though that certainly is the biggest and most important consideration), but it’s also relatively inexpensive.

There is one other reason I like street art. With haunted house attractions, you’re dealing with customers who want to be frightened, who expect to be frightened, and who have even paid to be frightened.

That’s not fun.

I feel that haunting is more effective when it is carried out amidst the general public. I’d rather scare people who didn’t ask to be scared, and who certainly haven’t paid to be scared. I feel it’s a more authentic expression of the art.

UrbEx Haunt Trip

Speaking of street art and urbex haunting… I decided to return to North Dakota this summer to revisit some of the ghost towns I visited last year. I deeply regretted not sharing the experience with Bones and Morgan, so I decided to invite them this time. Then I decided to invite Kyle and Brittani. Plus a few other haunters whom I haven’t mentioned in this blog before: Smurf and her boyfriend, Troy, and Skitz. Then I decided that we’d do some impromptu haunting while we’re there.

urbex haunting

Basically, this trip is an embodiment of an idea I floated last year, but never managed to get any traction with. To my pleasant surprise, everyone I invited seems to be on board and excited about this trip. I’ve been full of self-doubt about it, but recent conversations have revealed to me that at least most of these guys have been prepping for this trip more than I previously realized.

In fact, I’m really beginning to appreciate the advantage of initiative. I’ve often felt a lot of doubt about how I am perceived by my friends given the infrequency with which I’m invited out. But when I started issuing invitations myself, I’ve been somewhat surprised by the enthusiastic responses I’ve been getting. Could it be that everyone is more shy and introverted than I give them credit for? Is everyone sitting around at home waiting to be invited out somewhere? Has a lack of initiative been holding me back all this time?

In any event, I’m super excited about this trip to North Dakota.

I’ve been saying over and over again to any haunter who will listen to me that there is more to being a haunter than working at commercial haunted house attractions. There are a vast number of untapped venues, mediums, art forms being ignored because most haunters are mono-manically focused on haunted houses. Don’t get me wrong – I love haunted house attractions. But there are more creative ways to bring horror to the people. I believe they will show up for something novel and different from the same ol’ humdrum haunted house attraction.

I’ve grown pretty fed up by haunt owners that refuse to pay their staff or even invest in their own attractions. The greed is staggering, and really inhibits artistic expression. I think haunters would welcome less traditional opportunities that provide greater artistic liberties.

When I first conceived of this trip to the ghost towns of North Dakota, it was not my intention to use it as a demonstration of haunted street art or to further advocate my “more to being a haunter” speech. But I think that might be the result. There’s already at least one person in the group who is beginning to echo my sentiments, and that gives me hope. If I can lead this group on a good trip, ensure that everyone has fun, and ensure that we do some good haunt work during the trip – I think the demo will have a much greater impact than my preaching ever will.

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