A Little Slice of the Starry Night

Using Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting The Starry Night, I did the visual assignment Adapt an Artist’s Work for my final project story. The assignment asks us to:

Adapt a famous artist’s work to change or reinforce its possible message.

Here’s what I did:

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I incorporated it partly because I couldn’t photograph the moon in the right phase on such short notice, and partly because the painting style goes nicely with the surreal aesthetic of my story.

This is the original painting.

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I found it on the Wikipedia page for the painting.

If you click on the image, it tells you the copyright info. In this case, its available for any use.

Tutorial

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With that, you should be able to take any image of a piece of art and adapt it with a Drawing in Google Drive.

Decided to Not be Dark for Once

I started off thinking I would take a darker take on this Digital Storytelling class assignment, a visual assignment called the “Make Your Own Spubble”. I took an old photo of myself, taken by my friend Dil a couple years ago (during which she had an obsession with so-called “emo” culture), which she had turned into greyscale for dramatic effect. As you may have noticed, I love black and white photography for this very reason.

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However, I was in a great mood, so I decided to do a different take and follow the suggestion to make the “spubble” (a portmanteau of “speech” and “bubble” in this case, not the Urban Dictionary definition) add humor to the photo, which was obviously especially challenging in this case. I first decided a splash of color would help lift the aesthetic mood, so I selected an intense red outline for the spubble, then overlayed one of the rather limited options for spubbles available on Google Drawings. I thought the curly edges, usually indicative of thought, made sense in this case since the photo shows me not speaking.

I didn’t like the way it looked with a solid white background, but a transparent bubble wouldn’t look right either, for the letters would not have been visible in black or white against the many greys of the background…I learned that this is an advantage of black and white when words need to be superimposed on an image. I resolved this issue by making the bubble semi-transparent white, just light enough to see the black letters.

Overall I think it went surprisingly well. I may recreate this photo later, but with greater attention to detail than in the original, and with consideration of the photography tips we’re currently learning. In particular, I may want to do this photo from a different angle, giving more power to the perspective, as recommended by David duChemin, or use Jason Eskenazi’s photography in WONDERLAND: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith and analysis in Storytelling and Visual Literacy as inspiration for a more geometric composition of the figure.

I Need Vitamin Sea: Whining and Collage-Making

Summer always worsens my persistent cabin fever and wanderlust, especially for the seaside with its unique charm. I don’t know if I can wait until August for my “Vitamin Sea” after scrolling through all these beautiful pictures on Pinterest! But at the moment I am trapped inside, working on my projects for Digital Storytelling. Which is why I immediately chose the “You In Collage Form” Assignment from the Visual Assignment Bank, thinking of the vacation ideas I was pinning earlier (to see some, check out my travel-themed Pinterest board “Dream Passport”).

I was inspired by the casual layout that Pinterest provides to structure each board, arranging the different sized Pins so that they snap into preset spaces of varying standard sizes. However, after trying five different online collage makers, I could not recreate that effect. So I found that my best approximation was making a “PowerPoint” (actually using the Google Drive software’s Google Slides, free online with a Gmail account) that is sized to be a 3′ x 4′ poster so  I could fit everything in. If printing posters weren’t so expensive, I would actually love to print it. Then I simply added photos via url, which works seamlessly with Google Chrome’s menu option “Copy link address” and probably just as well with other browsers. I resized photos to optimize their clarity, as well as based on the importance they had, and arranged them around the frame of the background. The only involved photo-editing was turning the picture I chose for the center black and white, and cutting it into the shape of a heart, so it would stand out from the rest and break the block-y appearance it had. Finally, to make the background a little more subdued, I increased the transparency of the background image 10%, centered it, and made the slide color dark blue. And voila, a fun collage that tells you something about me.

Still wish I was going to the beach though.

King of the Dogs

My take (no pun intended) on the Selfie With Your Pet Assignment from the Digital Storytelling Assignment Bank  involves my gorgeous hunk of dog, Arthur. Originally he was named for the lovable aardvark Arthur from a children’s book and TV series of the same name. But almost every time I mention his name, someone suggests he must be named for the legendary King Arthur.

To be fair, he is pretty royal. At about 200 lbs., he is twice the upper size limit for his breed, the Alaskan Malamute. They are all supposed to be known for being loyal, friendly, and sweet-tempered creatures, bred for centuries by the Alaska’s indigenous peoples as sled dogs, and yes, quite possibly bred back with wolves, hence the appearance and tendency to howl. Unlike Huskies, they are known for being larger and more muscular, as well as for superior endurance as opposed to speed. But they were not just kept for dog sledding! Malamutes also kept watch over Inuit children while parents hunted and traveled. I wasn’t surprised to find that out, considering my dog loves children. He also has royal tastes. He won’t drink water without ice cubes and cream added (yes, we tried, but there’s only so long you can let your dog go without water). Arthur will also take his food outside and lay out a full picnic before actually eating. I still can’t think of any other reason he would be carrying his food outside and arranging it.

And, of course, he’s more popular than most dogs, especially in the neighborhood. And especially with the lady dogs!

I wanted to capture him as an equal partner in the selfie, so I tried my best to take the photo from his eye level instead of my own with my phone. He looked right into the camera the first time, but lost patience afterward, so I decided to just go with the blurry but otherwise perfect first shot. I decided not to alter anything because I liked the way it turned out so much. Its not often that one manages a candid selfie, and one with a unique perspective. I think I’ll try more selfies from unusual perspectives and angles, as per the photography suggestions in TEN: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft. None of Them Involve Buying Gear, an ebook by David duChemin. Its a great resource, available here at Craft & Vision.

I also have this up on Flickr of course.

Rock counts as poetry, right?

I made this for my first visual assignment of Digital Storytelling, called Poetry Art, which can be found here in the ds106 Assignment Bank, in which you make a posters of a poem you like. 

I started to conceive of the idea when I saw this example of the assignment, which can be found at http://janellegelino.com/assignments/visual-assignment-poetry-art-3-pts-do-not-stand-at-my-grave-and-weep-sebastian-crane-and-lawrence-spitler/. The black and white color scheme caught my eye instantly. I knew that I wanted to do the same. I went rifling through favorite poems of mine (conveniently listed in an old journal), but to no avail. Then I stumbled onto the page of favorite lyrics, and I suddenly knew what to do. 

The way I see it, songs are just poems with music, while poems are merely songs that don’t have music yet. After all, our generation turns to the rhythms of music the same way those in past sought the rhythms of poetry, both following the tendency of contemporary works toward free form and individual expression, and our rock stars hold the same status that poets of the past held in society. Not to say that music has replaced poetry, but I certainly find them close enough to use lyrics for this purpose.

I quoted a few lines from Lithium (see full lyrics here via AZLyrics), a song by the ‘90s rock band Nirvana. They epitomize the sub-genre of grunge, music that (according to Wikipedia) has lyrics that are often “angst-filled, often addressing themes such as social alienationapathy, confinement, and a desire for freedom.” Which in turn means that grunge lyrics are often a perfect background to the way I have viewed life since middle school or so, just as other people’s poems and poets of choice speak to how their perspective. 

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I made the background with a free stock photo from Pexels, under the tag depressed; they offer some excellent photos here, many of which I may use for my next assignment if I can incorporate them, or just Pin on my Pinterest boards for art and human expressions.

But I clearly didn’t think it was depressing enough by itself, so I shrunk it and recolored it with the “Black & White” theme via Google Drawings on Google Drive (the free word processing, presentation, and image editing service that goes with every Google email account). Then I overlayed the lyrics that inspired me in the first place, in the kind of font that felt appropriate for the words. It took a lot of adjusting to get the words to be fairly visible and positioned in a way that made sense, but finally I got it to the point where it looked perfect. I just love that I got “…I’m so ugly” to trail after the man’s image, suggesting that the thought naturally completes what he was saying earlier when he looks at his reflection. Just like Kurt did when he said “I’m so happy, ’cause today I found my friends, they’re in my head…I’m so ugly, but that’s okay ’cause so are you. We broke our mirrors.”

But of course, there’s nothing like the song itself. Listen here on Soundcloud or below.