DS106 Week 4 – Design: A Sansing Sprint

Inspired by my Slaughterhouse IV bunkmate Chad Sansing, I composed a Design Assignment Sprint. I spent a lot of time in tinkering in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, which always leaves me wishing I could do more than I actually can.

Originally, I was eager to do the Minimalist Travel Poster Based on a Movie. The samples were so good. I was inspired. As I was thinking of places, I grew a little ironic and thought I would use the TARDIS from Doctor Who. While not exactly a travel destination, in and of itself, it is definitely a means to travel anywhere. That put me on a bit of a Doctor Who kick as I began playing around with different images.

I started working in Illustrator on the Minimalist Television/Movie Poster idea, working in simple block colors and trying to get essentially silhouette like blocks. To do this I snagged an full front image of the TARDIS from the web and used it to trace a series of rectangular shapes on another layer. Most of the work was using shapes occasionally switching to the pen tool for the mullions in the windows. Once I got the top third of it looking good, I was happy since I already had a layout idea.

Doctor Who Television Poster

For this piece, I wanted to keep things limited to as few colors as I could. The obvious color was the TARDIS blue, which required a little trial and error, because I wanted something a little greener with a distinctly unmistakable quality. Then I opted for a dark grey, not absolute black for the background, mostly because I thought it softened the contrast nicely.

It was at this point that I thought it would be kind of slick to have the light atop blazing. That just required some quick work with the one tool. Then I screened the opacity to make it actually look more like light projecting.

I considered adding some clever text, like “It’s bigger on the inside” or “Will take you anywhere in time and space,” but then scrapped the idea, liking the stark look like the example. Plus, I wanted it to be instantly obvious what the show was, but present in an interesting way.

From there, I completed my partial TARDIS in Illustrator so that I had a good block image of the whole thing from the front. I considered using a slightly turned view, with two visible sides, for the Travel Poster. However, that was going to be a whole lot more work, considering all multiplicity of angles that would be involved. I am sure that if I had more skills it would have been a lot faster and easier, but I am still working at that.

As you can see, I actually built a simplified Illustrator version of the poster, almost like a sketch. It also gave me a lot of the raw material that I would need to use in Photoshop. So, I kind of completed this assignment twice, as seems to be a habit of mine. It’s good practice, so I don’t mind so much.

TARDIS Travel Poster (sketch)

Once I had the completed Illustrator version, I started porting items over into Photoshop. For the Travel Poster, I wanted to have a much richer, textured quality than the stark version of the Television Poster look. To achieve the look, I started playing around with spray brush settings to splatter and dirty up the TARDIS image, which I dropped in as a primary layer. I also wanted there to be a sort of thematic visual continuity that echoed the stars.

TARDIS Travel Poster

For the background, I actually did a quick Google search for “cosmos,” grabbing a simple star-filled image. I imported it into Photoshop, stripped it of color, and tiled the image across the entire background layer. Once I had the starry look, I went back to the TARDIS and touched it up a little so that it didn’t disappear into the background. These two layers served as the primary components of the image.

This piece was definitely going to incorporate text, and I definitely took my inspiration from the Star Wars example. I tried to keep the font as clean and simple as I could, going with a sans serif like the Police Box lettering. The Police Box font was just Myriad Pro, which looked near perfect. Yet for the poster lettering at the bottom I chose Franklin Gothic Medium. It has a bolder and beefier look for the larger size I needed. I made sure that the spacing for both lines of text matched up in terms of length and used a simple horizontal line to break the text up clearly.

After pasting them from Illustrator into Photoshop, I used the wand tool to select all the letters by color so that I could use the same brush technique to splatter the letter fill. I switched between an orange and red, warmer colors to compliment the TARDIS blue I used. The coloring is even inspired by the recent show logo that was used for the newer series. The logo got a TARDIS-like makeover since Matt Smith took over the role.

One minor issue I toyed with was messing about with the background behind the lettering a little. I am not sure that it made that much difference, but I was trying to diffuse the starts and lettering some.

The last thing I did was throw off the symmetry, tilt the TARDIS to the right and arbitrary amount. I thought it was funny, in a supremely nerdy way to set the arbitrary amount at pi, 3.14.

If I count the two versions of the travel poster, that left me in need of another assignment. So I opted for more minimalism with an attempt at Iconic You.

Icon of Me

Although I have recently shaved at my daughter’s request, I generally have a beard or goatee. The goatee made for a better iconic look. Again, I used Illustrator, just some basic oval shapes and the pen tool. At this point I was getting a bit better using them. This ended up being a little more Homer-ish than I intended, but it got laughs from both my wife and daughter. My wife was the one who suggested I throw in the frown lines that are deep and seemingly permanent in my fivehead.

Chasing the Daily in DS106 Daily Create

It was a bit of a challenge, but I have successfully completed at least five Daily Create items this week. With the school year ending, I am just racing trying to finish things while still attempting to keep pace with DS106 and be a good camper. Camp Magic Macguffin has definitely been occupying a lot of my brain space. That’s for sure.

My first photograph for the week was an shot incorporating water, stone, and clouds. It wasn’t actually the most original or creative of approaches, but it was the first of the week, and I just wanted to take a first step. I shot this with an iPad on a wet morning at the end of a street where a stone wall separates a cul de sac and cemetery. It was pretty gray, so the clouds were not quite as vivid as I might have liked, but I just wanted to get the first shot quickly and easily without going to any locally exotic locations.

View From a New England Street

One day this week, my co-teacher and I took our journalism students on a walk down through the main street of town and, I brought one of our digital SLRs. I took this shot while waiting for a few students to order pizza. The camera was pretty unfamiliar and I was using a lot of automatic presets. Still, I was able to get these flowers in a flower box with only the closest in focus, although I am not sure how obvious it is. That makes this a pretty but not necessarily completely successful shot, even though most of the frame is out of focus.

DSC_0004

Just a few feet from the previous shot, I changed the angle and captured this antique storefront. While there are plenty of interesting things outside the shop, I liked the weathered sign, despite it not being all that old, especially considering how old the town is. I was trying to work with thirds in this image on a basic level. Then I started playing around some in Photoshop. I settled on the cyanotype option with a hue/saturation adjustment layer. I just liked how it wasn’t black and white or sepia, but still gave the image an old-fashioned look.

Country Store Cyanotype

Again faced with nothing but an iPad as a capture device, I snapped this image of the city hall. It might not be the oldest building, but it is definitely old. Plus, a lot of the oldest building in the old New England factory town where I live were actually made of wood. Consequently, there are a lot of buildings that are no longer extant. Plus, many just don’t always look quite as old as they actually are, either from remodeling or the simplicity of their design.

The hardest thing about this shot was getting the angle where the tower would appear without being chopped at the top. I had to flip portrait style shot, to make it fit, even though I tried landscape from a number of different angles. One of the problems is that there just isn’t enough room on the other side of the street to get the whole building in a landscape frame.

Since, it was shot on an iPad and the quality can be lacking, although the light was really strong in this shot, I decided to mess about with it to mask any weaker aspects. I used a forgotten tool on the iPad, the app Pixlromatic. With a handful of simple filters and effects, I used the Bob filter, which washed out the color a little, giving that steely, blue hue and saturated quality. Additionally, I added the scratches effect to cover any imperfections in the shooting. Lastly, I framed it with the Cornered option, which adds that roughed-out negative carrier look.

City Hall - Aged

Lastly, rope wasn’t really an easy option, but considering an everyday knot in a different context was workable. So, I chose a close-up on the knot of my Liverpool FC shoes. The Liverbird medal ended up proving a counter-balance to the knot at the top of the frame. Since rediscovering some of the cool effects of Pixlromatic, I opted to use it again to compensate for some of the low lighting and noise that can be present in iPad photography.

This time I used the Antonio filter which blackened out the edges a little, although adding the Vignette lighting effect also enhanced the central focus. Then in a contrasting effort, I framed everything with the Peri effect, which made provided a white frame with a messier print edges.

In Knots Over LFC

More than anything, this weeks photography material and the increase in Daily Create requirements has made me consider common, everyday things in a far more interesting and visual way. I am actively trying to see things in a slightly different and mindful way.

Plus, I have been trying to work with any limitations of the the original shots. If the original shot is not as great, I like the challenge of looking for solutions with some of the tools in a way that still amplify some creativity. Sometimes errors, mistakes, or imperfections can be a springboard for artistic solutions.

Messing About with Mood in Image Composites

Taking another stab at visual assignments, I opted for Switch up the Mood, mostly because I had a few photographs that I had taken with a colleague’s top-shelf digital SLR camera the other day. Consequently, shooting in RAW format, I would be able to crop with much greater ease.

In my first attempt I was really playing around with filters more than anything. I am not even sure that I really accomplished the assignment, at least how it was intended. Mood is kind of an ephemeral thing and perhaps this wasn’t the best image to use. Still, it was worth the experience of playing in Photoshop.

Four Flags Mood Composite

I started with the original image in the upper-left corner, very little adjustments made, save a few auto touch-ups correcting the color, contrast, and tone.

One of the initial problems was determining how large the final composite image would be and doing some of the basic calculations. Mat is not my strong suit, but I knew I was going to quadruple the original image size, even though I was going to do some cropping too for the additional versions of the image. This helped determine the aspect ratio that I would use in the cropped images.

At that point, I just started playing around with adjustment layers in a separate, mock-up window. In the upper-right corner, I was going for an older, darker feel with the cropped version of the two flags. So I played with the exposure settings to get darker tones and deeper contrast. I also toyed with the hue and saturation to pump up the color saturation. I even used a photo filter to enrich some of the warmer colors.

In the lower-right corner, I mostly amped up the saturation and pushed the red color as much as I could without completely distorting the image. I wanted the colors to be brighter and more vibrant, kind of overly rich reds. It was meant to be a riff of the original shot.

In the lower-left image, I had played around so much that I was kind of filtered out and wanted to drain a lot of color out of it. I didn’t really want to go black and white with a full grayscale. So I used a black and white filter, but then kept pushing out the gray until I got the stark, simple black and white look, kind of like old newspaper prints, which seemed fitting for the subject of an antique shop full of old items.

Playing around with all of the filters got a little overwhelming at some point. Without really knowing what I am doing other than trial and error, it does highlight the need to keep track of what I am doing to achieve certain effects. Otherwise, I would never be able to replicate the intended effect.

One of my original ideas was to just riff off of the red, white, and blue scheme in the flags, so I thought I would make another attempt. THe second time I simplified even further, again beginning with the original image. This time I chose to use the same cropping for the other three parts of the composite. This seemed appropriate since I was already thinking of working with three color tints.

Four Flags Mood Composite 2

This effort proved to be a lot faster and simpler. I had already been playing with the cyanotype option in the hue/saturation adjustment layer. So that produced a nice blue-tinted version. Thus, to get the red image I used the same adjustment layer with the cyanotype setting, but then adjusted the hue setting until I got the red look I wanted. The black and white image was adding the adjustment layer of the same name. Then I made a couple of minor adjustments to the contrast.

In each of these images, I had to work with each of the images on separate layers. So I would basically mock-up the look I wanted in a separate window, only to paste them into the window where the final image would be built.

In order to get all the adjustment layers and looks, I would have to flatten the mock-up version before copying and pasting into the final image window. That was a lesson re-learned for me, since I had forgotten some of those little wrinkles.

Originally, chasing some stars in the assignments, I had not at all considered doing the same assignment more than once. It just kind of worked out that way, because I don’t think I was completely satisfied with my original attempt. Also, I did want to see if I could do the red, white, and blue thing relatively easily and quickly, more as proof to myself than anything.

I know just enough about Photoshop to make me dangerous and routinely get frustrated knowing that there is definitely a way to achieve the look I have dreamt up in my head, despite not necessarily knowing which combination of options to use to make it happen.

Still, these were opportunities to explore some of the tools and options that are available. Plus, it was a great reminder of the importance of narrating the work, in part as a way of keeping track of what and how I am getting certain results, even if sometimes they are happy accidents.

The Shape of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

In the last couple of days I have been wrapping up a Shakespeare experience of Romeo & Juliet with my ninth grade students. In an effort to keep things light and entertaining when introducing students to Shakespeare, I use a host of video clips from both stage and cinematic productions that present the play in a variety of styles, as well as reading and enacting bits and pieces. Adding this video clip was an easy fit.

Since we had just finished the story, I thought an interesting and fun summative task would be to ask the students about the shape of the play. Plus, I wondered what they might think of Vonnegut’s idea about the shape of stories.

I wasn’t sure if a bunch of fifteen year-olds would like Vonnegut’s presentation or not, but figured I would try it out on one of my best sections. Almost no one in the room had ever even heard of Kurt Vonnegut, so I gave them a one minute introduction. Then somewhat surprisingly they seemed to enjoy it. Vonnegut’s initial “man in a hole” shape triggered some idle chuckling. “Boy Meets Girl” almost slipped past them without much reaction, but by the end they were all whispering “Cinderella, Cinderella” and laughed, along with the audience, in the video as he mapped out that story’s shape.

Afterwards, I asked them how we might find the shape of Romeo & Juliet. Immediately, hands rose and before you knew it we had list of over twenty key turning points in the play.

From our list, I asked them to coach me as I graphed the story across the Vonnegut’s Good/Ill Fortune and Beginning/Ending axes. It was actually great fun, as they cried out why say the balcony scene couldn’t rise higher than their wedding night together or how banishment had to dive far deeper even than Tybalt’s death. It was a low stakes way to see just how well they understood the play and some of its nuance. We even had a brief but very interesting discussion about just how high the final moment should be on the Fortune axis.

Romeo & Juliet Story Shape

Yet the best aspect of the exercise of all were the handful of observations made after we mapped out the story’s shape. One student shrewdly said it looked like a heart monitor, another emphasized just how extreme the highs and the lows were. All of that discussion proved a great way to discuss why that was the case and how the play worked on a dramatic level. Even a colleague who teaches history walked into the room, saw the graph, and asked about it. It promoted a short chat about the benefits of info graphics as a learning tool and representation of understanding.

While a slightly different application of the assignment, it was pretty effective and successful.

Remixing Some Sci-Fi Cult Classics

SyFy Troll Quote

While I am already a bit behind and feeling some self-imposed pressure to keep working in DS106, I took on my first visual assignment. I am, after all, still trying to wrap up the school year with my own students and in a bit of a grading bottleneck. Unfortunately, my full fledged Camp Magic Macguffin experience will have to wait for a couple of weeks. Right now, the best I can do is participate as a day camper, not the overnight variety.

Nevertheless, I scanned the assignments looking for something that was a little more challenging, to gather a few stars from the start, but not so tough that I would be toiling for hours on end. If I am to gather ten stars for the week, I will likely need to bang out three to five assignments.

Still, the Troll Quotes assignment was a great chance to mess about in Photoshop a little. Photoshop is one of those applications that I always wish I was better at using than I am. I have some basic skills, but I still get plenty lost and frustrated rooting around for the tool I want and likely miss a whole lot that are not even familiar. This assignment was simple enough that I could work with what I know how to do, however.

Troll Quotes Instructions:

  1. Find an image of a well-known figure.
  2. Add a famous quote by someone related in some way to the figure in the image.
  3. Attribute the quote to a third, related figure.

I think it was the Yoda quote in the assignment example that put me on the science-fiction tip. Plus, Star Wars was a natural thread to follow. So, I did a quick search for some Star Wars quotes with the hope of finding something relatively short and difficult to pin on a single character. That criteria led me to the menacing Darth Vader comment, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” In fact, I didn’t remember the line immediately, but then was certain it involved choking. I was right.

At that point, I was just kind of riffing off some cult classics of the genre that would potentially serve as clever combinations. At first, I was thinking of looking for an image of Han Solo, because I liked the irony of the line associated with him. Yet, I didn’t really want to stay in the Star Wars universe. Thus, the Harrison Ford connection prompted the mental jump to Blade Runner, which I considered for an image. Nothing jumped out at me instantly from my initial image search, but I have always been attracted to the use of light in that film, loving the way many shots were cast in neon ambient light.

Ultimately, I wanted something distinctive look that any sci-fi fan would instantly recognize and had the same cult appeal as Blade Runner. Firefly seemed a natural connection to cult classic, with its hardcore fans of the series still longing for its return. A quick image search for Firefly rendered my chosen still which jumped off the screen at me, Captain Mal leveling his retro gun at an off-screen target.

At that point, the combination kind of fell into place. I would use a color that evoked the Blade Runner look and feel, as a tint, and attribute the Vader quote to Deckard.

From that point, it became more about knocking the rust off my meager Photoshop skills. One of my challenges was trying find the right amount of space for natural placement of the words. Hoping to give it a more cinematic feel, I opted for a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. This gave me some space beyond the barrel of the gun to fit in the words.

I masked a lot of the image with blackness to really bring a cool, steely focus to Captain Mal and push the already dynamic, diagonal nature of the shot. I also felt like having him sort of emerge out of the darkness added a little menace, which I felt matched the tone of the quotation.

Playing around with the arrangement of the words on some level became the thing that made me most picky. I wanted a clean, modern sans-serif font as a contrast, especially because the image does not immediately evoke the science-fiction genre, being that Captain Mal’s gun looks like a Smith & Wesson revolver from the Old West.

Then it was all about experimenting with line breaks that I thought might enhance the tone and nature of the quotation and image combination. Initially I was just thinking visually and looking for how to break the words to fit in the space, but kept feeling unsatisfied with the different ways I tried. What freed me up a little was thinking about the quotation as a poem. Once I did that, I tried to break the lines like a poem, in a way where the line breaks enhanced the quotation’s meaning, as well as the overall effect I was trying to achieve with the mixture of the elements and the piece overall. So, I was trying to take as much advantage of the form and space as I could.

Overall, I like it a lot. It was fun, and I really tried to embrace the spirit of the task which was “Pick something close enough that a non-fan might legitimately confuse.”

Wrapping Up Some Daily Creativity for Camp

In an effort to keep pace with Week 2 of DS106‘s Camp Magic Macguffin, I jumped into The Daily Create cycle. It was a busy week, so I only got around to finishing the required three.

Also, I did create a possible logo for my camp bunkhouse, Slaughterhouse 4. We’ll see how my bunk mates like it. We definitely were riffing off the Vonnegut classic, partly because he made a YouTube appearance this week for an assignment and partly because one of our bunk counselors is Ol’ Hatchet Jack who is prone to some grizzly tendencies.

I nicked the likeness of Kurt from designer Nathan Fox, remixed it in Photoshop, and added the crossed hatchets in the background as a tribute to our beloved counselor.

TDC 139 – A Photo of Something that Represents the Moon

Photo: Meditation Representing the Moon

Meditation Representing the Moon: A full moon of foamy head against blackened concrete, including some minor tweaking.

TDC140 – A Picture that Represents Quickness or Motion

Photo: Red Sox - Ortiz Doubles

Red Sox - Ortiz Doubles: Great seats made for a great photo as Ortiz rounds first base. #tdc140

TDC 145 – Draw Bugs Bunny Just Like Chuck Jones

Image: Bugs Bunny Sketch a la Chuck Jones

Bugs Bunny Sketch a la Chuck Jones: With Chuck as my guide, thanks to YouTube, it didn't take long to sketch the wascally wabbit.

A Proposed Logo for Bunkhouse 4

Image: Bunkhouse 4 - Logo

Bunkhouse 4 - Logo: Riffing of Vonnegut, who made a YouTube camp appearance this week.

All in all it was a good week at camp, meeting new campers and getting into the challenge of the creative endeavors.

Diving into the DS106 Pool and Camping Magic Macguffin Style – Part 2

Watching Michael Wesch‘s lecture “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able” (part 1 and part 2) was a great return to some  thought provoking material for me. I had the fortune of meeting Wesch briefly and seeing an earlier version of this lecture a couple of years a go at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston.

It was the first time I got to go to the conference and Wesch was the whole reason that I fought for my district to send me. I had seen all his videos, read a lot of his work on his blog, and couldn’t wait to see what he would present. He presented what must have been an early version of this talk.

There is something heartrendingly beautiful about his story of spending time in Papua New Guinea and it being the harbinger of everything he knows about the Internet. In watching the video, the irony of his experience is what I continue to find so amazing. I sometimes believe that we live in a time of enormous paradoxes. AT&T used to have an ad campaign with the catchphrase, “In a world full of technology, people make the difference.” And they do. Wesch poignantly highlights this, as he explains how he was curled up on the floor of a remote hut coming to grips with his own identity crisis.

Yet, in true classical story form, it was only in a completely distant, foreign context that he could make the necessary discoveries to return with insight. Much that is old is indeed new again, or perhaps, paradoxically continues to remain new.

Image: Harold and the Purple CrayonOur mediated existences help form and refine our identities. For many of us, the medias we choose to engage are the contexts in which we find ourselves always, perpetually emerging. We can take up the challenge of reading and writing our world into existence, in true Harold fashion with crayon in hand, or we can allow our choices to be dictated to us without even knowing, like the fish who is unaware he lives in water.

To me these are some of the themes at the core of what Wesch describes in the pursuit of Knowledge-ability. The most heartbreaking aspect is that without mindful awareness of our choices and reconciliation of their impact on our identity, we all run the risk of looking back on what we have wrought and hating it, much like some of those individual that “reformed” that small village in Papua New Guinea that Wesch observed.