Sunday, February 3, 2013

Fashionista Madness: The Art of Achieving

Art classes can be fun. But don't make the mistake in thinking they are a cakewalk. If a person only does the bare minimum required, it will be much easier. But what do we learn in the process if we take the easy road? I'm an achiever so I tackle things head on.

Of course, there are times one becomes tired of pushing the bar but still, it has to be done. The homework assignment for this week was an exceptional challenge in that manner. I worked almost the entire weekend (excluding the hours I was onsite at a business for a contract) on the different aspects.

One of the main reasons I'm sharing posts like this is to show people what goes into creating a piece, regardless of whether it is for homework or personal artistic expression. While not exactly a journal, enough clues are provided to my approach to show how the progression moves from idea to implementation. The bulk of what you will see is a lot of blue-sky time is spent thinking, looking and searching out other works to use as seed ideas. Finding enough source material to recombine is important but so is roaming around looking for materials to work with, at least when you are working with media other than things like paint or pen and ink.

Let's dive into the homework. We were given a series of font typeface to choose from. From the font we selected, we then needed to pick a letter which we would use as our focal point for thumbnails. The thumbnails would then alter the form of the letter using a set of constraints from the following list:
  • Internal variation (alter the internal part of the letter)
  • External variation (alter the edges of the letter)
  • Extension (expand the letter)
  • Superimposition (place something over the letter but don't obliterate the letter)
  • Dislocation (break the letter apart then reassemble it)
  • Distortion (warp the image using graph paper)
  • Three-dimensional manipulation (provide the illusion of volume for the image)
For each category, we needed to sketch five different thumbnails. From those seven groups, we needed to select six of the best images and realize them in larger format. Instead of 2 by 2 inch (5 x 5 cm) thumbnails, we had to make the letter no less than 7 x 7 inches (18 x 18 cm).

To most people, I'm this probably sounds boring. Surprisingly, it was not only a challenge but somewhat fun at times as we were allowed to indulge ourselves by using recognizable forms. Subject matter can add some interesting twists which I leveraged heavily as we shall soon see.

Enough of my blabbing. Let's take a look at my final six selections:

First we start off with internal variation. I wanted to do something with texture so I opted for sandpaper. The H was cut from a sheet of red 220 grit sandpaper. I cut from the back side of the sandpaper so as not to prematurely dull my cutting blade. I choose red sandpaper because I wanted the H to symbolically represent the potential to rub people the wrong way. Red implies anger or frustration typically, yes? I also choose green for the background since it is a complementary color and symbolically  it stands for green envy. To add some variation, I included hostile words which started with H such as "Hate" or "Hypocrisy" but left the "H" off since these are internal extensions of the letter. This was probably the easiest to do and took around an hour and half to implement.

Next up we have extension:

This little beast took a while. What you see is a series of strings (yarn to be precise) that are threaded through the paper. Since the paper is relatively thin, I had to reinforce it so the yarn didn't tear through easily. To do this, I backed the paper with... drum roll... duct tape. Yes, good old duct tape works for nearly everything. Let me tell ya though, that stuff sticks to everything and if you put it down on the wrong spot on the paper, it's there permanently. Nonetheless, I managed to provide a good backer and it worked like a champ. Threading the yarn through involved placing the paper on top of a Styrofoam block and punching through a hole with a very small precision screwdriver. After several hours of snipping yarn and threading, I ended up with this little critter.

On to the next image, dislocation:

This little fellas took some thinking. I wanted something humorous in nature so I went for a cartoon-like look. My friend Kat has talked with me about providing illustrations for kiddie story-books. She works with many young students and has ideas for stories, but does not have time to develop the art skills to place those thoughts onto paper. I understand all to well which is why I'm taking art classes, to learn to express my internal visions with pen, ink, paint, stone, wire or what have you. With that said, this particular image makes me think of a child's story book. Perhaps a lesson in the form of an unhappy Siamese twin who will learn about what life, togetherness and lonesomeness are all about. Ah, but I digress again. Hulk bad. Back on track. So, to provide the right cartoon-like feel for this, I used colored foam. One thing I want to add is that like many things, this is a combination of ideas I've perused. The original seed for the idea came from a pair of letters over on drawception which resemble Tetris-like images. I did what every good creator does, I re-used things I've seen by combining enough of my own idea to make it something new. I tip my hat to drawception for giving me a core idea to work with.

Next up, superimposition:

This has what I call a peek-a-book style to it. Basically it's like a pop-up story. The idea is to obscure enough of the underlying image to make the viewer curious about what is hidden behind all the little doors. In retrospect, I would have made the doors/windows slightly different. I would have finished the cutout areas so they were open and would have added a hinge mechanism made from paper and tape to provide a door that slightly overlapped the cutout perimeter. I suspect the hinge would have worked better that way. Either way, the idea works nicely in my opinion. Needless to say, this took a while to make a suitable set of window patterns as well as to then cut them out. On to the next image.

This time we have a tricky one, distortion:

While it might not look like distortion, it is. The center of the H has been folded so to speak. Without demonstrating via a piece of graph paper, it's sort of hard to describe. Needless to say, the H is compressed on the inner portion. This was the second most complicated piece to create. I had to think for quite a while to come up with how to do the webbing. This has to remain low profile so it will fit in a portfolio so nails could not be used as anchor points against a wood background. Instead, I took paperclips, bent the tips of them in a vice and made a small loop for the thread to anchor to. I taped the long part of the paperclip to the back of the paper and made and outer anchors at various points around the paper's perimeter. For the internal anchor pivot, I bent a paperclip in unimaginable ways. Don't ask as it become a contortionist's nightmare. I also managed to separate part of the quick on my left thumb but such is life. Okay, back to the process. Next, I had to think like a spider. I had to lay drag lines, and anchor from outer edge to center. Afterward, I brought out the hot melt glue gun and started "spinning" the sticky part of the web. Talk about a job. Let's just hope no flies get stuck in it because I don't want to do any repairs. Finally, I cut the spider "H" out from paper and gave it a few stripes like a garden spider. I suspect that was about five hours of actual implementation time, not including blue-sky time to think up the idea and the amount of time I spent roaming around a hardware store looking for things that might help with the solution. On a side note: when looking for things, I will typically wander around a variety of stores like Home Depot, Office Max or even RadioShack. Let me tell ya, weird looks and store detectives are sure to follow after conversations like this:

RadioShack worker: "What are you looking for."
Dale: "I don't know"
RadioShack worker: "Huh?"
Dale: "I'll know it when I see it."
RadioShack worker scowls and keeps a vigilant eye on me.

Okay, back to the main topic again. On to the biggy, three-dimensional manipulation:

I don't even want to think about how much effort this seemingly simple image took. I originally hatched this idea for "The Block Heads" while I was browsing the web looking for source material. I stumbled across a video on Youtube (by accident because it was presented as an advertisement) that was a video for "Electric Run". Take a peek because the video is actually kind of cool. Notice the person with the cardboard box head around one minute and fourteen seconds. That was my seed idea.

Okay, so what took time on this was scaling. I went through three iterations before I got it right. Like Goldilocks, the first one was too thin. The second one was too wide by a mere 1/2 of an inch and overran the border. Curses, a half inch! The third time was a charm with just right and this is the result. And it only took six hours of work. Sigh! I'm exhausted.

Yeah, this might not be the most alpha-male like project, but it's teaching me a lot. For that matter, art shouldn't be influenced by concerns of what others think so out the window those thoughts go. Time for me to go study. I have a mid-term this week and my contract scheduled something major during the same time... there goes the rest of my hair. Double sigh. Oh art, save my sanity, er take it way, er, well you get what I mean. :)