November 1, 2012

Seth Williams headshots, Seth and Andy Metz sketch portraits

Last week I did another sketch portrait, this time of my friends Seth Williams and Andy Metz, based on a photo I took while shooting a music video with them:

SA

SA

This is the music video I made with them, which was the first music video I ever shot and directed. I still love the song and I think the video is pretty cute:



Then last week I did some headshots with Seth, which also turned out pretty great:

Seth Williams by Elizabeth McQuern

Seth Williams by Elizabeth McQuern

Seth Williams by Elizabeth McQuern

Seth Williams by Elizabeth McQuern


October 20, 2012

Sketch Portraits By Elizabeth McQuern

I'm wrapping up a small project wherein I used my own photography to learn how to do sketch portraits with Photoshop. The first few I did were quite terrible, to be honest, but I just kept at it, and I'm actually really pleased with some of them. Here are a few, in order of their completion.

Jill Howe
Jill Howe sketches by Elizabeth McQuern

Erica Reid
Erica Reid sketch portrait

Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby sketch portrait by Elizabeth McQuern

Sarah Gallagher
Sarah Gallagher sketch portrait by Elizabeth McQuern

Bryan Bowden
Bryan Bowden as Timekeeper Willis sketch portrait

Elizabeth McQuern
Elizabeth McQuern sketch portrait

October 6, 2012

Thumbs Up For Thumbs!

Okay, let’s just get this part out of the way: in this piece, I touch on Honey Boo Boo. The person, the show, the whole fam damily. We’ve all had at least a peek of this familial circus, and apparently America is in the throes of a sweaty love/hate relationship with the entire family. We indulge in a bit of classism as their perceived backwardness makes us feel better about our own inadequacies/we pat ourselves on the back for being above criticizing them/we note that their acceptance - of themselves and others - is something we could all learn from. The eternal waves loop and lap at the cosmic shore again and again. Whatever.

Recently, snarky pop culture writers have been referring to the matriarch of the Honey Boo Boo family, June Shannon, as a “human thumb,” which is most certainly meant to refer to her somewhat stalactite-like cascading series of chins, and most certainly meant to be an insult.

At the height of country music juggernaut Garth Brooks’ fame, critic Ken Tucker said Brooks “has a face like a thumb with a hat on it.” This was perhaps a criticism of the aggressively bland nature of Brooks' brand of entertainment as much as his looks, but still. A thumb insult.

(And let’s not even talk about the internet’s first famous human thumb, this poor guy at a party who earned digital infamy for this unfortunate party shot.)

But before we bulletpoint ourselves too far away from my thesis: why has calling someone a thumb become the go-to insult? Is "thumb" the new "fat?"
What’s so terrible about thumbs? Not a thing! You owe everything you love about life to thumbs, and I’m here to make their case.


Thumbs, as it happens, are quite marvelous and advantageous, biomechanically. Opposable thumbs enable precision grip, therefore sophisticated tool use. Thumbs are how Homo erectus struck flint against steel and sparked fire.
Thumbs are the reason we can eat corn on the cob with dignity, using the smooth spinning motions of our deft, be-thumbed meat grabbers. Ever seen a New World monkey try to eat corn on the cob? Nothing but flying splats of melting butter, and yowling, hungry despair. Take my word for it, marmosets and lemurs are no threat to a pudding can or a gym lock.


Opposable thumbs are what led our primal ancestors to go from wildly swinging branches at each other to more accurately assaulting each other with refined clubs. Anthropologists speculate that when our distant forebears moved from quadrapedal to bipedal locomotion, and our hands were suddenly free to carry things, we developed the psychological need for devices that would eventually be cornerstones of modern material culture,
like car keys, 
cell phones, and Zima bottles. To use the broadest possible and least plausible metaphor, civilization was built on thumbs.

Without thumbs there would be no hitchhiking, no neatly-applied eyeliner, no decent handjobs, no calligraphy, no Siskel and Ebert, no snapping-while-awkward-white-girl-dancing, no wordlessly letting your waiter know that your dinner is a-okay while you churn a hot bite of panini in the evolved gill opening that is your mouth, no Joaquin Phoenix deciding the fate of Russell Crowe with one impetuous turn of his imperial Roman thumb. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a barren, cold, joyless existence to me.

In fact, thumbs are so awesome, it’s a good thing humans are the only species possessing both opposable thumbs and self-awareness. Old World monkeys and great apes have thumbs (though they're considerably less useful than the human model) and if granted self-awareness, they would soon dominate the planet with primate culture and ape-shaped civilizations. How much banana skin couture do you want to see sashaying down the runways every Fashion Week? 
How many poo-flinging splatter painting retrospectives do you want to buy tickets for at the Apenheim Museum of Modern Art? Let’s count our blessings.



Calling someone a "thumb" is calling someone awesome. Thumbs are the reason we can text while driving, ineffectively adjust the spray from the garden hose, and order hotel porn with one hand via television remote control. 

Thumbs are a sign of superior evolution, and keep us in the upper echelon of the taxonomy of life on Earth, which brings up a point: Honey Boo Boo’s mother, June “The Human Thumb” Shannon, recently became the grandmother of Kaitlyn Elizabeth, a baby who has two thumbs on her left hand. Make of that what you will.

-Elizabeth McQuern

Sources:
1. Montaigne, Michel de. “Of thumbs.
2. Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs: 'Oh, Shit,' Says Humanity (The Onion.)
3. Random “facts” I pulled out of my ass.

October 5, 2012

Briette Madrid headshots!

Briette Madrid is a makeup artist who does gorgeous work. She's also studying philosophy at UIC, because she's brainy as well as babelicious. (Her sister Monique Madrid is a comic actress and a hair/makeup/stylist whiz as well.) These are the gorgeous photos we got of Briette last night. I'm figuring out how to light for the black background, and I think I'm doing pretty well!

Briette Madrid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Briette Madrid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Briette Madrid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Briette Madrid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Briette Madrid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Briette Madrid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Erica Reid headshots!

This was a fun night! Erica Reid is fantastic. (Need a choreographer? Hire her!)

Erica Reid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Erica Reid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Erica Reid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Erica Reid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

Erica Reid headshots by Elizabeth McQuern

September 3, 2012

Chicago Underground Comedy title tests by Elizabeth McQuern

Guess who spent Labor Day learning how to make cooler-looking video titles? This girl!

August 5, 2012

Promo pix for Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby's Guts and Glory by Elizabeth McQuern

Guts and Glory, a new literary reading show from Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby! Coming soon. In the meantime, check out these cute promo photos we shot in front of one of my favorite murals in Uptown this morning.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

Keith Ecker and Samantha Irby - Guts and Glory - photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

August 3, 2012

My new short comedy film: Morpheriod

Sort of "Tampax commercial meets Weekend At Bernie's." Morpheriod - the birth control that knocks you unconscious. Life's a Beach! Birth control commercial spoof. Starring Katey Selix, Caitlin Bergh, Sarah Gallagher, Sonia Denis, Kristin Clifford, Kelsie Huff, Erica Reid, and Bryan Bowden. A short film by Elizabeth McQuern.

July 28, 2012

Daycare and other baby portraits

This week I had a gig doing portraits at a daycare, crawling around in the grass with five babies, and having a blast. This came about because someone saw my recent batch of photos on Facebook of a two year old I know, who was the first person I trained my camera on when I got my new portrait lens. (50 mm is the way to go!) I don't have permission yet to share the daycare photos online, but here are some of the first baby shoot that I did. Pretty sweet, huh?


RBC portraits by Elizabeth McQuern

RBC portraits by Elizabeth McQuern

RBC portraits by Elizabeth McQuern

RBC portraits by Elizabeth McQuern

RBC portraits by Elizabeth McQuern

RBC portraits by Elizabeth McQuern


The "Boobs Are Awesome Foundation: Take Back Our Breasts short comedy film

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to blog about this! Last month I debuted my short comedy film “The Boobs Are Awesome Foundation: Take Back Our Breasts,” starring several dozen Chicago comedy ladies, at the Just For Laughs Festival-opening show at the Beat Kitchen. (Chicago comedy ladies are like donuts to me, I count them by the dozen.) This is the first time one of my films has been in a festival, so yay!

For the third year running, the show where I'm a producer and castmember, Chicago Underground Comedy, hosted the festival's opening show, "Chicago Underground Comedy's Secret Big-Time Local Comedy Showcase." This year's show was pretty great, hosted by our pal Mike Lebovitz, and featuring local superstars Dave Stinton, Mike Stanley, Dan Telfer, and Ever Mainard. And, if you can believe it, our list of mega superstar drop-ins included Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm!), Eddie Pepitone, Kyle Kinane, Pete Holmes, and Hannibal Buress! All for our usual $5, which is insane.

The show was absolutely stellar, well-received and praised in the media. Our usual Tuesday night showcase is ninety minutes, but this one clocked in at three hours, and I'm proud to say that a very full audience, mostly standing room only, and quite steamy in the summer heat, stayed put and maintained their enthusiasm for the whole show.

Partway through the show we screened four comedy shorts made specifically for the show. Filmmakers included Paul Thomas, Daniel Kibblesmith, Sam Mechling/Sean Flannery, and Elizabeth McQuern. (Hey, that's me!)

My contribution was called "The Boobs Are Awesome Foundation: Take Back Our Breasts," which was my excuse to cram as many of Chicago's funny ladies into one video as possible. How many did that end up being? Forty-seven! I had to do this in about three weeks, by the way. I made it easy on myself by reaching out to Chicago comedy ladies on social media, putting a spreadsheet on Google, and letting them sign themselves up for half-hour slots on shooting nights. I scheduled shooting for evenings when my boyfriend Bryan would be teaching at Second City, allowing me to shoot the whole thing in my home studio with minimal disruption to the usual household schedule.

Anyway, here's the final product, starring Chaya Carey, Thea Lux, Renée Schultz, Jennifer Baird, Kristen Toomey, Cynthia Levin, Kris Simmons, Kristin Clifford, Meredith Kachel, Kelsey Gruebnau, Alicia Sowisdral, Lisa Laureta, Sarah Gallagher, Dana Norris, Caryn Ruby, Amy Sumpter, Sital Shah, Erica Reid, Samantha Irby, Chloe Ditzel, Maggie Ednie, Annie Taylor, April Kaprelian, Jeanie Doogan, Alyson Lyon, Andrea Wallace, Patty Vaccarella, Chevy Debbie, Angela Vela, Monique Madrid, Emily Lake, Stephanie Hoerner, Kendra Stevens, Jessica Antes, Ever Mainard, Katey Selix, Mary Hollis Inboden, Clare Kelly, Liz Bell, Julie Hardesty, Katie McVay, Mollie Merkel, Larissa Zageris, Kelsie Huff, Leah Eva, Rebecca O'Neal and Sonia Denis.

This is a lovely, fantastic, funny group of women - and yet a list of women I wanted in the video but who couldn't participate because of scheduling would also be at least forty-seven people long. It was a lot of work but ten times as much fun, including making new friends, as I'd never met some of the ladies until they came in my front door. Chicago comedy is funny that way, you can see people in shows and connect with them on social media and "know" each other a little bit before you meet. (See? All that tweeting wasn't a waste of time after all!)



Since the video was screened at the show and then shared online, I've been cracking up hearing various participants tell me about people's reactions. One girl had a lady on the street recognize her and compliment her performance, the video, and her boobs.

Another friend who was in the video told me a friend said "Hey, I saw Kris Simmons do stand-up, she's so funny!" She said "Oh yeah? I don't think I've met her yet." The friend said "But you were in that boobs video with her," which leads me to picture all forty-seven of my actresses crammed into my studio apartment at one time (which I'm pretty sure is impossible), forty-six of them silently waiting for their turn in front of the camera. Wait - I think I just got an idea for a fun photography project! (Just kidding. Too busy.)

Right now I'm editing a new short comedy film I shot a few weekends ago at Foster Beach. It's a birth control commercial parody, featuring a product that, whenever you experience cramps or mood swings, knocks you unconscious. Voilà, no more cramps! Once again, I wanted to use as many people as possible without it being ridiculous, but in the end, with schedules and other considerations, my stars were Katey Selix, Erica Reid, Sonia Denis, Sarah Gallagher, Caitlin Bergh, Kristin Clifford, and Kelsie Huff.

Below is a still of Caitlin Bergh, demonstrating her emotional state before using the new birth control. (The unlucky man had the misfortune of gesturing for her to go ahead at an intersection when they both stopped their bikes at the same time.)



Other photos from the shoot can be found here. Unfortunately there aren't photos of everyone, because once the last few people arrived, I stopped shooting photos and started shooting video. Stay tuned for the final product, coming soon.



My Impress These Apes photos printed in Chicago Tribune, Redeye, NewCity Chicago

I've been busy this summer with comedy, video and photo work, and some of my stuff has been published in the last few weeks in various Chicago publications, thanks to the gang at Blewt, and their current show, Impress These Apes. (The first official show of the season was last Monday, which means you can see Impress These Apes live for the next seven Mondays at ComedySportz Chicago at 8 PM.) Below, check out clips of my photos in the Chicago Tribune, the Trib's Redeye, and NewCity Chicago. And below that, some of my favorite photos from this season's, and past season's Apes shows. Woo hoo!





Seth Dodson:
Impress These Apes 7-16-12
Monique Madrid:
Impress These Apes Live Callbacks July 9, 2012
Clay Goodpasture:
Impress These Apes Live Callbacks July 9, 2012
Meredith Katchel (and fellow contestants):
Impress These Apes Live Callbacks July 9, 2012
Erin Johnson:
Impress These Apes Live Callbacks July 9, 2012
Chelsea Devantez:
Impress These Apes Show 1 Season 4 - Lyrical Karaoke
Danielle Puterbaugh:
Impress These Apes 3 - Week 8 (Finale)
Season Three contestants:
Impress These Apes Season 3 Show 7 - Beauty Pageant
James Asmus:
Impress These Apes Season 3 Show 7 - Beauty Pageant
Seth Dodson:
Impress These Apes Season 3 Show 4 - Karaoke with a live band
Becky Eldridge and an unidentified angel:
IMG_5222
Peter Kremidas:
IMG_4806
And one more of James Asmus (don't ask...)
IMG_4617