Saturday, March 30, 2013

Steampunk Ray Gun

Finished Steampunk Gun

Though this has nothing to do with magic, it was created as a prop for an upcoming photoshoot. It also acted as an exercise in creativity. It started out simply enough as a squirt gun that I found for $1.
I initially painted in in a flat black and then added the brass, copper and brown accents. The unfortunate thing was that the brass paint did not really cover as well as I would have liked, so the search is on for another brand of brass paint that will work. The copper was fantastic, though it too was my second attempt at copper.
the original squirt gun

The accessories that I added to it were just odds and ends that I had laying around. The front piece was made from the cap of a marker, along with beads and a nail. The back piece was an attachment to a broken hair trimming device and the gauge at the top was actually a kid's plastic ring that I took apart, painted and added the gauge image on the inside. All in all, I thought it turned out fairly well.

I'm working on a second steam punk gun which should be done later today or tomorrow at the latest. It too began as a squirt gun that cost $1.50 from a party store and was painted and had some accessories added to it. That gun is below along with the before image.

UPDATED: I just finished two more Rayguns based on the first one. They are the lower most picture.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My First Steampunked Prop

I guess you could say I started out easy. I took a Ring Grinder made by Wolf's Magic and repainted it and altered the front slightly to give more of a steampunk genre look. I had actually purchased a gauge to mount on the top of it but it was too heavy and bulky. So instead I hand made the gauge that is now mounted where the old black knob used to be.

I have to give the majority of the credit to the folks at Wolfs Magic though because the prop already had somewhat of a steampunk look to start with. I sure admire their workmanship because I had to take the entire thing apart to do the work I wanted to do. What a well thought out and designed prop. My contribution was altering the original paint job, so that included painted the top, sides and front metal pieces bronze, changing the front faceplate color from yellow to brown, and removing the knob on the front and putting in the gauge. I also repainted the red knob on the side brown.

I'm posting this for people to see, NOT so that they can copy what I just did. :)

By the way, if you're interested in what the effect is, in my version it is a teleportation device and any small object placed inside the box can be teleported to a different location, and for the sake of magical performance, it's an 'impossible location'. The original prop was made for borrowing rings, however I use something different in my presentation that allows for a slight twist on the end of the trick.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Galvanized Iron Can Escape

In January 27th, 1908 Harry Houdini debuted his Milk Can Escape at the Columbia Theatre in St. Louis. He called it the Galvanized Iron Can Escape and added "Failure Means a Drowning Death". To read more about Houdini's escape please visit my magic history blog here.

I have a special affinity for the Milk Can Escape that goes back to my very early days learning magic. The first biography I got on Houdini was called Houdini The Untold Story. The first photograph in that book is of the Milk Can Poster. I must have looked at that image a million times in my youth.

I grew up on a farm with no neighbors, magic was about the only thing I had to do. When I got my first set of handcuffs, I kind of went wild with escapes. One day I had an idea, that I would eventually do many times. I would clean out the water troughs we had for cows and horses to drink from. I mean I'd really scrub them clean and then refill them with water. They were made of a galvanized metal and I would practice underwater handcuff escapes. It was safe because if I got in trouble all I had to do was stand up, the water was only about 3 ft deep. It always reminded me of the Milk Can Escape, I guess from being surrounded by water and galvanized metal.

Today the Milk Can Escape is out of date. IF Houdini were around today he would not be presenting this but instead be escaping from steel drums and similar devices. Still the Milk Can does have an iconic image to it and in the right setting could thrill audiences once again. I'm not saying the routine or escape are out of date, what I'm referring to are 'milk cans'. It doesn't have a connection to the 21st Century. Now, having said that, with my new steampunk approach, the old milk can would actually work for me. But I would still have to alter the look of the can. Many years ago now, I made a sketch of what I thought the 'Milk Can' should look like. I based it on the look of the Nautilus from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Fast forward to the present and I understand what I had drawn was a steampunk version of the can.

I suppose my brain has always been in a steampunk world, it just took me all this time to make the connections. But that doesn't mean I'll be doing the Milk Can. I think I'd rather create something different than duplicate what Houdini had done...(but then again, who knows). 

Finding the Right Fit for My Magic

In the entertainment world, (magic world specifically) there is a big push for folks to find out who they are, who their character is and so forth. The reason given for this is that it becomes much easier to put together an act if you know who you are. The selection of material and the way you would present it becomes much easier.

Let's start with Houdini for example. He popularized escapes and the challenge format. He knew who he was and it made his selection of material that much stronger. In his later years he went to presenting a 3 In 1 Show, in which the first part of the show was magic, the second was escapes and the third was the exposure of Spirit Mediums. I have read that the weakest part of the show was the straight magic, but that the rest of the show was great. Now it could have been that the escapes and spirit stuff was so strong it overshadowed the straight magic. Or it could have been that Houdini was presenting the magic 'as a magician' and not as Houdini.

David Copperfield has a distinct style and way of presenting things. He now probably holds the honor of being the most copied act in the history of magic. Magicians and illusionists stole his patter, his way of dress, his delivery, his routines, everything. The only thing they couldn't steal was his success. But because he had such a distinctive style and character it was easy to turn any routine into a Copperfield routine.

Aldo Richiardi was one of the great illusionists of the 20th Century. He too inspired many other performers and was also copied by countless magicians. His style was so unique to him, that it was easy to tell a Richiardi routine from that of another magician. And when another magician copied his style, it was clear where it originated.

Doug Henning was a magician who came around in the 1970s. He changed the face of magic at the time by going against type. Rather than wear a tuxedo, he wore jeans and a tshirt. Later he changed to jeans and brightly colored shirts. He had a style all his own and his props and scenery all matched his style. If you saw a prop with rainbows or blue skies and clouds painted on it, it was a Doug Henning prop! His actual character was very contemporary. He was enthusiastic and gave the impression that he really believed in his own magic. It was easy for Doug to know what tricks were Henning tricks and those that were not.

I have been trying to create an act that was ME. My interests include art, history, sci-fi, magic and magic history. But try as I might I was never quite able to put together a program that perfectly defined me. Then two years ago I had an idea, but because I discovered another act doing the same thing I passed on it. Well, that act has since vanished into the night, so I gave some thought to trying it out. I gave it a lot of thought and talked to some other people about it. Those I talked too agreed the concept fit me like a glove. Then without any effort, routines and trick ideas just started forming in my brain. The idea was to create a Steampunk Magic Show.

Now I am aware of a few others who have used this same approach. In fact, more than just a few others. But though there are a number of magicians using the concept it's such broad subject matter that it's actually easy for me to carve out my own niche. So the character is an exaggeration of my real personality wrapped in the world of Victorian age Sci-Fi. Think H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh and Harry Houdini all wrapped into one. And I have one big thing to add that will make my new act very different from anyone else doing steampunk magic, it's the one thing that made me realize this was the perfect direction for me. What is that one thing? You'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Name Contemplation

Old Poster based on a Germain Poster
Along with the new concept is a possible name change. NO, I'm not changing Carnegie, but I am considering changing 'Artist of Mystery' to a more simple word, WIZARD. It's an interesting word really. There was a time when the word wizard brought up images of an old man in the conical hat and long flowing robes with zodiac patterns printed on it, a Merlin type character.

Then in recent times the word WIZARD brought about images of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. And there is the connection to the famous character from the L.Frank Baum novel and movies "The Wonderful Wizard of OZ".

But in Victorian times there were a number of magicians who used the moniker Wizard over magician. John Wyman was known as Wyman the Wizard. John Henry Anderson was known as The Great Wizard of the North. And finally, Germain the Wizard whose career would begin near the end of the Victorian era and move into the 20th Century. There were likely many more, but I did notice that as the 20th Century progressed, the moniker Wizard died out.

So I have, for now, chosen Wizard. Actually, it sort of chose me. A few years ago I made a poster for myself based on an old Germain poster and rather than have it say 'Germain the Wizard', it said 'Carnegie the Wizard'. Though I had never used that moniker, it made a nice poster. But it kind of stuck in my head. And now that  I've decided to completely change my image,  I will also add a big re-branding campaign as well. Below is one of the early versions of a new may change again, but work is underway!

Potential New Logo

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Carnegie: Phase 2 Has Begun

In January of 2011, I stumbled upon an idea for a themed magic act that excited me, until I discovered that someone else was doing it. A show in  Las Vegas had invested a great deal of money into a venture with the same theme. I chose to pass on the idea. Their show closed in two months time.

Here we are in 2013 and a friend brings up the concept again to me. I begin to think on it, study it, research it and I come to a new conclusion, this is the idea that I have been searching for most of my career. This concept is the thing that incorporates parts of my life and interests into the show and makes it relevant to me. It puts all the magic into context for me. I instantly understood who my character was, what I want to accomplish and how I want to proceed. At this point the act is writing itself. I can hardly keep up with the new ideas and routines. I will tell you that I'm aware of several others doing an act with a similar theme but their ideas and mine are quite different. No one, is approaching this in the way that I intend to.

My interests include: Magic History, American History, Art, Literature, Science Fiction, and of course performing. I'm spend more time mentally in other time periods trying to understand the magic of that time and figuring out a way to make things of the past relevant for today. But try as I might I could never find the one thing that brought all my interests together under thing...until now.

It's time for a reboot and a rebranding. In December of 2012 I uploaded a teaser video that CARNEGIE would be making a come-back in 2013. Indeed, soon  you'll see a whole new act! Until then enjoy the teaser...