Thursday, October 30, 2014

Art a la Text

This week, we had to create text-based imagery (using photos we've taken this term) from a variety of different online applications for my Digital Media course. It was quite an interesting experience to work with these programs because I've seen text-based images that use these same techniques on many different occasions.
Created with
The three (3) above images were created with
(click to enlarge all)
The first image you see is one that I took earlier this semester as part of the Urban Landscape project. is a website that takes images and turns them into ASCII generated art. ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) is a type of encoding used by computers that represents the English alphabet. Different characters are rearranged in ASCII art to create a visual image. (for the latter 3 photos) is a website that can not only create ASCII images, but also letter-based (HTML), and matrix-style images. For this, I chose to use one photo from my Typology grid from earlier in the semester - this particular record being Purple Rain, and the text generated in the third image from a famous line in the opening song, "Let's Go Crazy".

The first image above is one that I took on my urban landscape adventure at the beginning of this term. I titled it "Color on the Walls" because of the way the black substance seems to really stand out on the background of the wall. Using the online application Tagxedo, I was able to create a Tag Cloud based on the initial image and using the title as for the words to make the image. I highly enjoyed the fact that this application allowed you to upload your own font from the computer. I used a computer font version of the text used during Prince's Sign "O" the Times era - mostly because it is a really cool looking font, but also because I deemed it a good fit for the words. I've seen images before that were tag clouds, but never thought to make one myself. It's pretty enjoyable, especially with all the features and creative freedom that the application offers.

For the third (and final) segment of this assignment, I returned to a photo from the Urban Landscape set, and then used two other photos that I've taken outside of this class that I really love. The first image is of the Fifth Third Bank glass building in downtown Toledo. Using Textorizer, I uploaded the image, typed words in the box that I thought were a good fit for the photo (Toledo, downtown, beautiful, clouds, etc.) and played around with the different options until I achieved the final product. The next image uses Textorizer 2, which has more options that you can manipulate, but keeps the text in somewhat of a straight line. This makes it more useful for writing poems or other sayings over your photo. The photo I used for this is of a few frames of a piece of black leader film strip that I removed emulsion from using an exacto knife, then colored in portions of it to spell a word (the entire film is of course much longer) and held up to the light to photograph. More about the process of creating cameraless animation with film can be found here. The words you see in the photo are a small poem I wrote for this assignment that reflects my feelings on creating scratch film. It is quite a freeing process. The film was created for Optical Printing and Animation, a class I'm taking this term. The final photo in this set is of my two lava lamps that sit atop my dresser in my room. For this, try moving toward the screen and then away from it. It may or may not appear to move! I thought this was a great effect for the lava lamps, so I played around with the effects in the application Excoffizer until I got to the point where this effect was achieved. It's a trippy sort of thing, and of course I'm all about images that play tricks on the eyes and mind.

Overall, this week's assignment was quite enjoyable for me. It was one of those assignments that didn't really feel like an assignment at all because I had so much fun with it. Second to the video/audio mashup assignment, this is one that I've had the most pleasurable time working with. Now, I'm off to rest my eyes. Sleep deprivation is making me see and hear things that I'm pretty sure are not there... pretty sure.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Digital Scribbles?

This week in Fundamentals of Digital Media, we were instructed to use three different applications that deal with Generative Art, a type of media that has been created by a source other than humans. This can range from music to visual art to even software art. For this assignment, we went in the direction of software art.

Application 1: Scribbler
Scribbler is an online application that gives you a blank canvas to draw on, followed by computer automated scribbles to complement your drawing. For the first image, I opted to draw a profile of some sort of face with black lines. I then clicked the "scribble" button and randomly changed the colors as the computer scribbled all over the face. The end result became an abstract sort of skull. The computer's work even made the skull look like some sort of bug is crawling in the mouth. This was unintended, but added a nice effect to the work.

For the second photo, I went in the direction of creating a spider. Following the initial minimal drawing, the computer proceeded to fill in the body and add what looks like webs in between the legs. I occasionally went back and forth from purple to black as the machine was drawing. The end result was a bit creepy, which fit perfectly with my feelings on spiders. Quite frankly, I am terrified of them due to the various encounters I've had with them, including finding one in my shoe after walking around with it for hours thinking it was a rock. Needless to say, there were many swear words shouted in that moment, and it only enhanced how creeped out I am by these creatures!

Application 2: Scribbler Too

Scribbler Too is a continuation of the aforementioned application (you don't say?). It is a little more advanced in composition - allowing you to save your work as a high quality file (versus taking a screenshot like you have to do with the original). The application also allows you to upload photos as a guideline to trace or mimic. Being the music lover that I am, of course I had to choose one of my favorite albums of all time to recreate using fuzz. For anyone that lives under a rock, (kidding... maybe) the above scribbles trace the outline of the prism from Pink Floyd's classic The Dark Side of the Moon album art. The original cover was designed by the late Storm Thorgerson. I enjoyed putting this together because the fuzz adds a whole new element to the album art: The Fuzzy Side of the Moon.

This piece is called Electric Eye. I've had "Moonage Daydream" stuck in my head for quite some time; so, initially drawing an eye, I moved on to add color to the sclera (white part). I chose red as the background because it seems to really make the eye pop. I could see this being the album art of some sort of weird experimental album released in the future. Maybe I just dream big!

Application 3: Flame

Flame is an online software that allows you to draw elements with different colors and textures of flame. I created the first piece in reminiscence of a dance party with crazy lights. The possibilities of creating abstract art with this application are nearly endless. The neon color of the fire really sparks an emotion of happiness for me, and makes me want to boogie down on the floor!

This second photo reminds me of a storm. I used different shades of blues and reds with Flame's gradient feature to attempt to create some sort of solar wind storm effect. This section of the assignment was even harder than the rest because there are so many possibilities with what you can do. It was very hard to try to come up with original and unique ideas.

Overall, I have been taken far out of my comfort zone using these applications. I am definitely not as proficient with using generative software as I am with other forms of digital art (video editing, audio editing, etc.). Coming up with ideas and using a computer mouse to draw were the most difficult parts of completing this assignment. I am quite terrible at drawing with my hands already, and with a mouse it wasn't much better. However, I hope I was able to create some digital art that is appealing to the eye. I definitely want to experiment even further with these applications in the future to improve my abilities.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Video Trip!

This week in Fundamentals of Digital Media, we were instructed to use the audio we mashed up a couple of weeks ago and edit various sources of video to go along with the music. This video mashup contains clips from a variety of different sources including experimental filmmakers, video artists, and some of my own work that I shot previously. The piece begins with a clip from a video art piece by Woody and Steina Vasulka entitled Noisefields. With the title of this mashup being Video Trip, I figured it’d be best to start it off with some flicker, which will certainly make the human eye see things that are not there. The films that follow include clips from the classic Fritz Lang film Metropolis, Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight, Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, a superimposition of two Andy Warhol pieces – Outer and Inner Space and Blowjob, Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and finally some footage and outtakes from my first short film – Landing in Light. I selectively chose these clips because they are among my favorite experimental art pieces. I have recently learned that films do not have to necessarily “make sense” or have a conventional narrative structure to be both visually and aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes it’s best to surrender all expectations and just enjoy the view. Many of the films in this piece do not have a typical narrative. However, they still stand as strong works of art due to their unconventional and sometimes wild imagery coupled with carefully detailed mise-en-scene. The works of Andy Warhol certainly play with the capabilities of the camera and engage the viewer to the point where they’re waiting for something else to happen in the piece… and then it doesn't. The Vasulkas are very talented in using digital video resources to create work that stimulates the mind, and, to be frank, it’s just really freaking cool to watch.

With the edits in this film, I aimed to use a lot of layered video and superimpositions, kaleidoscope effects, ghost effects, and a little bit of solarizing - all within the Adobe Premiere application. These effects allowed me to create new images from these films in a way that the eye would not normally see. I made various edits to the initial audio clip that I mashed up previously to coincide with the theme of the overall video, once the decision was made to go this route. Adding flanger and chorus effects to audio can give it a very spacey sort of feel. There are also some fantastic and FREE virtual synthesizers out there that include some amazing sounds. For the window of time that I had to complete this project, I would say that the results are certainly fitting with the title. Of course, with video editing it sometimes seems like you’re never finished. There will always be that one more thing that you need to change which turns into 50 things, which makes it difficult to meet deadlines sometimes! If I could change anything about this piece, I would go even further with effects and filters for the video clips by making more cuts and editing only a few seconds of video at a time. This way, there will be a new image for almost every beat in the song, versus going by measure. When dealing with any type of video work, the hardest part for me is always coming up with ideas on the spot. There is an assignment and a deadline. I normally work by getting ideas out of the blue and working from there. Coming up with things in a short amount of time puts me out of my comfort zone. The most important thing I've learned from this project is that being out of the comfort zone is not a bad thing at all.

Until next time, Peace & B Wild

Friday, October 3, 2014

Welcome 2 Funktopia - Is This Original?

This week in my Fundamentals of Digital Media class, we had to create a mashup using the online Digital Audio Workstation, Soundation. The site, much like DAW software for computers, is built up of hundreds of loops for the user to click into the different audio tracks, add effects, and it even comes with a few virtual instruments for those of us that like working with them. Being a little knowledgeable on digital audio from previous classes and experimentation with writing my own music, (the best teacher) I opted to use a few loops from Soundation and import them into Acoustica Mixcraft 6 (which is installed on my system) to add a wider variety of loops and some virtual instruments. My intent was to only use one or two loops, and play the other instruments myself. However, this has been one of the most stressful weeks I've had this semester, so I didn't have time to go in the direction I wanted to. This mashup was arranged over the course of one night. The only instrument I played myself is 4 notes on a polysynth played via MIDI that is looped throughout various parts of the song. For the time that I had to complete it, I'd say it came out pretty well. Feel free to leave feedback and suggestions! I'll likely be working on this further in the future, since we will be using our songs in upcoming projects for the class.

Completing this project really opened my eyes to many different things. Generally, I do not consider mashups original music. Sampling a song and adding your own additional instrumentation and lyrics is a bit different. In that case, the artist is bringing something completely new and original to the work. However, using a computer to take various different songs, rearrange them, and mesh them together is not really original. In that case, the person did not compose an original song. They simply reconstructed other people's songs. This week, we also had to watch a documentary by Brett Gaylor titled RiP: A Remix Manifesto. In the film, the themes of copyright infringement, remixing, and creating mashups are discussed throughout. The film, in part, argues that mashups are in fact creative and original works. After all, the inspiration for a lot of modern music had to come from somewhere, right? The film also says that everything created today has been built from works of the past. This made me think a lot about my views on mashups. It's very true that in almost all aspects of art, we are building on prior art. This, in addition to arranging a mashup myself this week, has forced me to rethink how I look at mashup artists. Though it does not take as much time as composing and recording an original song does, the process itself is quite time consuming. There are decisions made. The person working on the song makes the choice of which sounds go where, even though they did not create the sounds themselves. In spite of all this, it remains difficult for me to see mashups as original pieces of work. After all, someone had to learn to play the sound that is being remixed and that same someone had to come up with the idea in their head, then transfer the sound to the instrument and record it. It takes a lot to do all of that. This week has given me lots to think about on this subject matter. I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot more research on it, and hopefully it will shape my views to be more open minded. It will be difficult, seeing as though my all of my favorite artists and bands are actual musicians that compose songs and play instruments. I look up to that. But if it's easier to click a mouse than to fret an F chord, (which it is) then maybe those that like to click shouldn't be totally left out of the overwhelming joy creating music entails.

What do you think? Can mashups really be considered original art? Why or why not? I'd love to have some feedback!

Until next time, Peace & B Wild.