Tuesday, October 10, 2017

HTML Reflection - Week 6

With the inspiration of jodi.org in the back of our minds, I think we tacked this unit on HTML in a different way than we did Photoshop. Coding is much different from photo editing or montaging; it's an active process that requires attention to detail and lots of forethought due to the way that HTML works. I've spent many years familiarizing myself with the tag system in HTML, in the form of bbCoding on internet forums where I personalized and decorated my posts and profiles. That being said, these practice pages were still a fun exercise in web design, and I learned a lot about what else is possible through the use of HTML.

My pages don't have a singular theme connecting them, and this was partly inspired by jodi and the seemingly nonsensical nature of the site. I wanted to play with the code, the tags, and the styles--really familiarize myself with them in preparation for the project to come. I love the collection of hex codes, and text is a heavy characteristic of these pages simply because I wanted to write what I could and play with it. In the future, I want to make more use of graphics and the manipulation of actual page elements. Looking at a website is a lot like looking at an art piece; there are elements similar to each, like composition, color/contrast, and scale.

The most satisfying part of this assignment was the actual code at the end, in Brackets' interface. Knowing that I'd crafted an entire web page from scratch was worth it, and being able to see each keystroke in that effort was a super cool touch.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

GIF Response

The GIF format is perhaps one of the most prolific and useful means of expressing oneself other than the written word, in today’s age of social media and instant messaging communication. Worried about a final? There’s a GIF for that. Mad about that barista spelling your name wrong even after you’ve been there three days in a row because your life is falling apart and pumpkin spice is the only answer? There’s a GIF for that. Is your favorite scene or line from X show something you REALLY need to share with your friends? There’s a GIF for that. The usage of GIFs captures those moments that cannot be expressed through even emoji, a format that, while it allows for the inclusion of information about an event or idea, is less specific than, say, a GIF of Michelle from Full House throwing her hands into the air in frustration.

This is the social nature of the GIF; it allows for expansion in conversation and doubles as a means of explanation. In addition, it reflects a continued desire to project moving images onto a screen—not as videos, but pieces of media that require less effort on the part of the viewer. The same movement is often required for both—click, view, return. But I believe that a reliance and longstanding fascination with animation also partially motivates the development and continued use of the GIF format. Video editing differs from GIF creation in that it limits the editor’s ability to create meaning from scratch.

The GIF format also permits users to continue lightning-speed communications without interruption. As social media sites have adapted their messaging and commenting systems to include GIF usage, the speed of sharing hasn’t slowed down. Click, click, GIF. Conversation continues. Because of their small file size, websites have no issue incorporating the format’s minimal requirements into their systems, improving the user experience by keeping up with demand.

The low-tech nature of the GIF format represents a desire for simplicity that still exists in today’s communication. While users are constantly demanding improvements in the fields of speed and utility, particularly in things like apps and productivity trackers, they also want minimal interfaces and simple organization that doesn’t make using the technology difficult. Communication today is streamlined, and works with a focus on practicality and a desire to share as much information as possible in a way that doesn’t demand excessive efforts. This isn’t a statement meant to insult social media users today, many of which are younger and currently experiencing an incredible boom in the ease of communication that’s unlike any seen before—it’s a truth that reflects our adaptation to a technological world. Ever changing and constantly updating and improving, this world is always waiting for the next leap or trend.

Despite this, however, GIFs remain part of that world and in use because of the principles that originally made them popular. Small, fast, and with far more meaning and customizable aspects than regular images or even video, GIFs are a staple of modern communication that provide the mainstream Web with its own collection of reactions and responses.

Word Count: 522


Androids were built to love. (These ones were.) Machines intended to erase the intricacies of attraction and emotional attachment and provide only an outlet for affection and lovemaking. Generations of these things had spawned across the earth, and each one had proved to be a better fit for humanity, which had grown bored of its own procreation and now desperately needed something exciting and new. But that demanded progress, ceaseless development and improvement. No issue for the greatest computer scientists and programmers on the planet, but decidedly an issue for the androids, male and female, who were constantly replaced and destroyed when the new model had better curves, softer skin, and processors that made getting to third base much easier and faster than before. Eventually, however, it had to happen, and it began with one--Belva became aware. She breathed, she broke, and she, out of all them--was the only one to escape.

This print started with an 11x16" image with half of the face blurred by white light. I made use of the magic wand's inability to select all pixels smoothly, and mirrored the original image for two asymmetrical sides of the same face. A search for transparent reptile scales to clip onto the base layers led to the accidental discovery of a pile of binary code, and thus Belva was created. Layer styles and lots of hue/saturation adjustment layers created the green glow of the code, and the smudge tool was useful for creating a "corrupted" effect in all of the 1's and 0's. Two gradients on either side of the document (the right clipped to the mirrored side) and a Filter > Render > Fibers effect made for the blood-like texture in the middle, representing Belva's inevitable thirst for justice. I also made use of the eraser tools for the "burns" in the mirror image, and transparency for the pink heart painted just so across her humanoid lips.

The photographer lifts his camera like a rifle, poised on the trigger to capture the perfect instance of underwater aesthetic. The scenery is clear, calm, and the waters above and around him occasionally break their stillness with the passing of a large fish or wind-thrown current. Around his eyes is the frame of his goggles, bright yellow in contrast to the murky grays and beige that litter the ocean floor. The water stills again, but this time all at once, and the sound of his beating heart suddenly becomes increasingly unnerving. And then it comes. Pink flesh borders on the edge of the yellow frame, painted with a streak of black that seems to emanate the very evil it might represent. Panicked, the photographer lifts the camera and snaps a photo just as one of the creature's massive tentacles slams into the device and breaks it, flooding the lens and his career with saltwater, inhabited by the creature that will swallow him whole--

For this print, I started with a background image and decided to add layers on top. The tentacles and collar of this beast were quick-selected from other images (an octopus and frilled lizard, respectively) and then placed into the background document. I used the burn tool and adjustment layers to desaturate the flesh and emphasize the darkness of the monster's maw, and worked with clipping masks to take a zebra stripe vector and place it haphazardly on top of the monster. My favorite part of this print is the crack in the glass, hinted at being the photographer's camera and a violation of the viewer's space. Another adjustment layer turned it white, and I use the transformation tools+shift to bring it to approximate size with the rest of the image. A gradient from high above the original document gives this image an unsettling feeling, in addition to the recoloring of the clear water background.

He is painted with the sin of the absorption, the permittance of the demon to enter his body and taint him for eternity. He often cannot think, he cannot feel. All he knows is the mental weight of the demon upon his brain, the lingering stress of carrying this phantom and protecting the rest of the world from its horror. It taunts him incessantly, calls to him, and makes every attempt to seduce him behind the black curtain that separates it from what remains of himself, his sanity, and into a darkness from which he is not likely to ever escape. It weakens him, strips away the remnants of his strength, and so on occasion, in his moments of greatest humanity, he nearly succumbs to temptation.

But then he recalls the faces of his friends, finally softened and accepting of his sacrifice, but eternally painted with shades of endless pity. He remembers why he did this, why he permitted his foolish inner heroics to persuade him to throw away the rest of his lifespan, and he raises his head, defiant of that guilt, and proud of the scars he bears. The demon quiets, frightened by the courage that runs rampant throughout his veins, alongside the flesh and blood passed to him by his greatest ancestors, and closes its jaws—if only for now. It will return soon, he knows; and it will coo to him yet again.

This is my favorite print. I wanted something to commemorate my Zandr, and I nailed it. Background here is text from a personal writing piece I did based on him finally giving in to his emotions and the realization of his curse. When the demon escapes, it does so with the appearance of "ink drops" in water, which is the primary image for this print. I copied this layer multiple times and adjusted the saturation of each of them, and added the text between said layers so as to make it appear less blocky. Bright yellow borders around the ink and the stripes represent transformations undergone by the elf when he uses the monster's power, which were done with layer styles (Outer Glow + color burn/blending options) and the brush tool. Adjusting the transparency of the ink layers gave this print depth and created a kind of ethereal effect that I think works well with the idea I wanted to create.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Philip Gefter: "Icons as Fact, Fiction, and Metaphor" (Response)

Today’s digital photography processes are forever experiments in the making. They can be considered mostly “hands-off,” requiring less intensive effort on the part of the photographer than traditional photo editing once did. Instead of hours spent in the wet-or darkroom waiting for the outcome, a photographer can achieve the same effects with a working computer and a variety of powerful programs made specifically for editing. Because of this, and in addition to the development of companies like Adobe, digital editing has produced a myriad of distinctive differences between itself and traditional development processes. However, I believe the most significant contrast between old and new photography is the perception placed upon it by the era in which it thrives.

In modern digital editing, the photo itself is a canvas that can not only be tweaked, but also reproduced and repurposed. Often, this is the expectation. Modernity has brought with it an incessant desire to fix and perfect, so the idea of a “’shopped image” (referring of course to Photoshop) is incredibly common, and reflects a perception of falseness in modern photography. In contrast, as an example, historical photography (as Philip Gefter eloquently explains in his essay) brings with it the assumption that each image is a facet of the past—unedited/able, pure, and representative of the truth of the moment it was taken. While Gefter’s assertion is that this belief is not always true, it is difficult to change such a longstanding impression.

The accuracy of this claim is debatable, as is the context and evidence of the photographs Gefter presents us with. Photographers were just as capable of producing staged images and certain types of photographs in the early 1900s as they are now, but what may have influenced the idea of old photography being a strictly truthful endeavor may have been the lack of proliferation among photo editing technologies and the dispersal of effective historical photographs. Today, with purchase of the program and an email address, combined with expertise in said program and time, anyone can be a photographer of sorts, and can create images that are meant to inspire or persuade or be simply viewed as a nice piece of art. And in a similar way to how images are manipulated today through a screen, photographers before Photoshop could manipulate subjects and scenery to produce similar intentional effects.

Beyond the speculation over implication, we can list some of the real changes between modern and older styles of photography and editing (“styles” meaning darkroom production vs. digital) as speed, simplicity, and spread. Photography today (when produced/corrected through digital processes) is faster, cleaner, and more available. It allows for greater creative exploration as well as a larger audience, with the advent and inclusion of the internet as an additional means through which photographers can share their work. Previously, photography was published in materials like newspapers and magazines, limiting their reach to those who diligently read or happened across the issue; now, photography is an art form that lends itself to the masses because it is no longer limited in either its production or reach.

Word Count: 514

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

PROJECT 1 - Chimeras, hybrids, and monsters, oh my!

Much of my creative work and the focus or concern of my personal characters revolves around the idea of the inhuman, and about the purity and sanctity of humanity as it stands alone from all other obscuring factors. Although, this does not necessarily imply that all who wonder about their mortality are lost. Seidhe, the Witcher, longs to be completely human, fearing that his mutations will forever condemn him to a life of solitude; in the end he discovers that his strengths are not in his dreams, but in fact with him every day, in the form of that which previously disgusted him. On the contrary, however, Zandr, the elf, believed in childlike naivety, and convinced himself that absorbing a dark spirit would be the key to saving the world from future evils, only to drown for the rest of his life in misery as he reveled in the loss of his purity, and learned that a shared mind was not necessarily a stronger one.

Many more examples could follow, but these are the most closely related to the (relatively loose, considering) constraints of this project. Literature also provides a stage where similar topics can thrive, most notably in my memory Bram Stoker's Dracula, where the underlying greatest fear of the main character is that the Count feeds off of the "purity" of other humans, and that the protagonist may very well be next in line. Suffice to say that the artistic approach I'm being asked to take for this particular work is interesting, and incredibly fitting for someone who enjoys playing with the boundaries of what it means to be "human" or "pure." (Additionally exciting is the fact that PS is not the only medium permitted for this. I create personal traditional artwork and have therefore been granted the opportunity to include other talents, which makes my eagerness to begin this project ever greater.)

These things being said, with three different pieces to create, here's what I have in mind:


Most importantly, I want to create a piece framing my Zandr. In the canon (D&D campaign, really) in which I’ve created him, the moment of his absorption of the spirit destroyed and rebirthed the world anew, and afterwards, he came to be hunted/pursued by a greater, military-like force intent on the destruction of all magic and magical creatures. This one in particular, who had literally recreated the realm in its entirety, is known as the Hybrid, which I think plays beautifully into the title of this project and its expectations.


For the second print, I’m thinking something along the lines of a mid-transformation, maybe your typical werewolf or scaly dragon being released from its human form. Simple, but complicated in that it would require (at least somewhat) extensive knowledge of PS, which, luckily, is something I already have.


Perhaps as a last idea, I want to create a creature made up of an amalgam of parts--not quite Frankenstein, but something that may one day understandably appear within the guidebooks of fantasy games and novels. Something like an anatomical guide, with proper burnt/aged paper texture, that details a monster with all of the makings of something truly horrifying if not at least uncomfortable to approach: a tentacled beast with a raven's beak, or a lion's head and the slithering frame and slime of a serpent.

For now, these are what I have settled on. They may very well change depending on the nature and inspiration that I have available, but regardless, I am eager to start work and brainstorm other possibilities.

Week 1 - Photomontages

HTML Reflection - Week 6

With the inspiration of jodi.org in the back of our minds, I think we tacked this unit on HTML in a different way than we did Photoshop. Cod...