Introspection?

Face 45

The final assignment in Eli’s class was to create a self-portrait by erasing charcoal away from a large sheet of paper. The class was given approximately 2.5 weeks to complete the portrait, after which a final critique would follow.

Each student first covered an entire sheet of paper, measuring about 2.5′ x 1.5′, in charcoal dust. Using a kneaded eraser, students first began forming the shape of the nose in the center of the paper; the main stipulation was that students could not work on something not analogous to whatever they currently had on the paper. Thus, once work had begun on the nose, students had to expand outward from there.

Eli quickly took advantage of the toilet paper that was originally used to apply the charcoal, and created tiny points with which to reapply charcoal to erasures that were not satisfactory, effectively erasing the…..erasing. This method led to Eli’s workspace being far cleaner than the other students’ areas, although it was far more time-consuming. The lamps used to create a more direct light source were only as effective as the ambient lighting; while the art building is beautifully illuminated with natural light from large windows on the front of the building, on days when the weather was dreary or after sundown the lighting became inconsistent.

Initial work on the portrait was slow, and Eli began smaller than the other students, meaning that he would eventually end up doing far more of his face, including his jawline, neck, and some hair, than the rest of the students. He was most afraid of how his mouth would turn out, and even after finishing, he was unsatisfied with how pursed his lips appeared. He also made his eyes slightly bigger than they should have been in proportion to the rest of his face – as the professor would say, Eli had some difficulty ‘seeing’. The entire purpose of working at such a large scale was to reduce the tendency of symbolizing the features of the face, and instead to concentrate solely on forming the shapes of light and dark on the face.

Eli is particularly proud of the skin tone that he managed to portray in his piece, as well as the detail in the eyes. Other students, and the professor, made note of how intense Eli’s expression is in his portrait, and Eli agrees that his dead-eyed stare is rather unnerving. The eyes and eyebrows, which Eli spent a great deal of time perfecting, certainly add a touch of realism to the portrait that make it appear to stare directly back at the viewers.

The most unsatisfying part of the portrait is that Eli’s features appear far more ‘chiseled’ or contrasted than in reality; Eli’s face is softer and has gradual changes between light and dark that aren’t properly represented in his portrait. However, after all of the work dedicated to it, and the emotional attachment that he formed (seeing as it was his own face that he was creating), Eli is proud to claim the portrait as his.

To view an animation documenting the progress of the portrait, click here.

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Super Animalita

Whale IV

Eli’s super-powered animal project came to a close with the completion of his whale. It is a suspended sculpture made from recycled materials, some of which changed the direction of the project as Eli built it.

The most notable change to his whale was the method through which the whale inserted knowledge into an individual; Eli had begun with the intent to make small ear trumpets to pass knowledge on through noise, but discovered some delightful yellow parts on a circuit board that resembled electrodes. Thus, he made the two longest spines into electrodes that would rest on the temples of whoever received knowledge from the whale.

The body of the whale is constructed from a base skeleton made of stiff plastic, such as can be found on water bottles or food containers, and enclosed by clear, lightweight wrapping plastic, which can be found from various plastic bags. Through the plastic, the innards of the whale may be discerned – it contains a hodge-podge of cannibalized computer parts that form a focus for the technical aspect of the creature. Eli managed to string a wire from this central point to the front end of the creature, thus connecting the organic region of the whale to the technological area. In the mouth, Eli placed a box that resembles a wifi router, with antennae branching off in a mimicry of teeth. The tail was going to be made from the spigot off of a water fountain, but Eli was unable to remove if from its housing. He then attempted to use a large piece of metal from a computer motherboard, but it was too heavy for the sculpture, despite various attempts to suspend it, so he found a nicely-shaped piece of plastic to fit over the end instead. To complete the whale, Eli created the side fins from two metallic sheets – the light color underneath would resemble the sky if seen from below, and the dark color on top would resemble the ground.

Whale II

Whale III

In order to connect the majority of the parts, Eli resorted to hot glue. Oftentimes the glue would melt right through the plastic that he was attempting to join, which became very frustrating, as well as painful. Eli ran into problems as well when he began constructing the spiny side fins; the gold metallic strips kept peeling off, and hot glue completely melted the delicate strips while rubber cement failed regardless of the amount that he applied. However, given time and patience, the materials cooperated and joined successfully with the body of the whale; the metallic strips still threaten to peel away, but the sculpture is intact.

If he had more time, Eli would devise a different tail for the whale and create a kinetic component to the innards of the whale so that when the electrode-spines were moved, movement was triggered inside of the whale. Also, he would make the spined side finds more intricate, perhaps built out of interlocking parts rather than one long piece.

Overall, Eli is pleased with the results of his work. The whale clearly reflects its purpose, with its mechanical parts and organic shape, and the intricate components inside entice the viewer in for a closer look.

Ceti, Deferentes Scientiae: Whale, Bringer of Knowledge

Whale I

A lack of education worldwide contributes to illiteracy, unethical behavior, issues of safety, and difficulty obtaining work. Ceti, Deferentes Scientiae has the ability to insert knowledge into an individual with the aid of wifi and an organic,¬† tempered mind so that said individual may obtain an education that is not only specific to their culture, but also generalized to include international knowledge, such as mastery of foreign languages, current news, and erudition on other cultures. The whale is created from clear plastic, to portray that knowledge should be available for everyone; computer parts, to integrate the ideas that information is available due to technological advances and that the mind is nature’s computer; and cloth to signify that all knowledge must be balanced by an awareness of the environment. Ceti, Deferentes Scientiae suspends in the air in an undulating pattern to portray the gracefulness of an aquatic creature swimming through air to bring knowledge to lost entities.

Recycling

After watching the film Wast Land, Eli’s class set about working on a recycling project in which each student was tasked with creating a super-powered animal that solved a social ill.

Eli has lately been fascinated by whales, in particular the myths behind them and the fact that whales culturally transmit their mating songs across oceans and down generations. He decided to create an elongated whale that undulated through the air with the aid of side spines for forward propulsion.

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He wanted the animal to solve the problem of a lack of education by inserting knowledge into an individual’s mind. Originally, Eli had intended to have the whale accomplish this by inserting a small stinger into the base of the brain and injecting knowledge, much like a wasp or acupuncture, but it was suggested that a less invasive method be employed. Inspired by the songs that whales use to communicate, he settled on having two of the spines of the side fins insert knowledge through the auditory system by means of small trumpets.

Eli wanted to capture the movement of a sea creature undulating through water, even though the whale would fly through air, so he studied the movement of eels and sea slugs, hoping to replicate the way that they slip through the water.

Finally, Eli set about collecting old computer parts and other similar mechanical items, because he wished to join the organic idea of the whale and its ancient simplicity with the advanced, inorganic idea of technology to temper the knowledge passed into each individual; for instance, the whale would offer alternative routes for returning home if one were to be stuck in a less scrupulous part of town. The whale would incorporate wifi to aid in passing knowledge off to people.

Opposites

Coarse and Dainty

Antonyms conjure an interesting dichotomy, one which cannot easily be translated into images. Yet, this was precisely what Eli’s class had to accomplish during their most recent project.

Each student was given an antonym pair, and asked to create two black-and-white squares that represented each word. After drawing a large number of thumbnail sketches, two final designs were chosen, cut from paper, and glued onto 6″ x 6″ squares. Once the two ‘abstract’ designs were completed, the students were tasked to take photographs that adhered to the composition created within the cut-paper designs. All four 6″ x 6″ squares were then displayed on a single board in order to juxtapose the two words as images.

Eli drew the pair “coarse” and “dainty”. He imagined texture and an earth-like quality for “coarse”, and a smooth, flowing quality for “dainty”. Rugged mountains, rough cloth, and gritty sand inspired his initial thumbnail sketches for “coarse”, and water, hair, wind, and new plant growth inspired the rough designs for “dainty”. His photographs very closely followed his initial concepts – the “coarse” photograph contained a lot of texture, yet simple colors. The “dainty” photograph had a vibrant green plant against the night sky, with a treeline barely visible in the background to create a sense of depth; the photograph originally has the moon present, but it quickly distracted the viewer from the plant leaves, so Eli decided to remove it.

The process of creating the rough designs was greatly aided by the thumbnail sketches; creating so many tiny, basic drawings helped Eli easily find which designs best represented his words. Input from the rest of the class also helped him to see the merits in designs that he might have quickly scrapped, as well as test to see how well the designs communicated his words. Making abstract compositions first also proved to be extremely beneficial during his shooting – he found that following a pre-concieved design made his photographs appear much more visually appealing and clearer compositionally than having done the project in the opposite manner.

 

Bold and Shy by Julia Mayfield

A fellow classmate of Eli, Julia, was assigned the words “bold” and “shy”. The original black-and-white images are starkly different, with the representation for “shy” blending almost completely into the background, so that it is unnoticeable at first. The image for “bold” is clear, for nothing is bolder that dissecting clean, negative space with a black band that expands out. The photographs neatly accentuate the abstract designs, and yet they tie the entire work together because they both contain a soft blue background. The telephone pole stretches into a dark blue sky, and the nearly-white concrete against a deep, royal blue sky clearly communicates a sense of boldness; the pole¬†contrasts sharply against the calm, unbroken background, and appears to be leaving the square. Both of the dominant colors are vibrant and the division between them is clear, which further heightens the boldness of the photograph. However, in the “shy” photograph, the subjects are out of focus and placed in a closed, calming composition. Against a quiet blue sky, the small beige plants form a circle that drifts through the square, and yet there is a plant stalk, behind which the camera appears to be peeking from, that mirrors the telephone pole in the “bold” photograph. The gradual blue gradient in the “shy” photograph also conveys a sense of drifting towards the top of the square, or hiding, and the tiny plant bud in the top right corner follows that sense, like the abstract above it. Both photographs correspond with the abstracts to lead the viewer’s eye to the center of the four squares, completing the composition.

Waste Land

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Eli recently watched a movie, Waste Land, about an artist who seeks to bring recognition to the hardships of a group of people called ‘pickers’ in Rio de Janeiro. The story focuses on the artist, Vik Muniz, who is known for using waste to create intriguing artwork; he plans to travel to the largest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho, and create portraits, made from trash obtained from the landfill, of a few select pickers. The pickers are individuals who sort through the landfill and collect recyclable materials; they have their own organization, headed by Tiao dos Santos, which tries to improve the support that pickers receive and to increase awareness about the benefits of recycling. Most of the pickers are destitute and have little choice in taking such a job, but they feel proud of what they accomplish; Vik notices that the pickers seem content with their job, since it is better than drug trafficking or prostitution. However, some of the pickers that he chooses to work with begin to realize that their jobs are far from desirable; working with Vik and making art from the trash reveals to them another world that doesn’t involve sorting through a landfill and barely surviving day by day.Vik believes that it is far better for the pickers to recognize that there are better alternatives to picking than for them to continue their lives toiling away at the landfill with little knowledge of other opportunities. Eventually, Vik’s collaboration with the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho (ACAMJG) culminates in museum showings and the sale of prints of the portraits, raising money for the association and raising the recognition that is so desperately deserved.

 

Isis

 

Eli was especially touched by one picker, Isis, who vehemently claimed that she would not return to picking; meeting Vik and making art helped her step back from her work at the landfill and realize how much she despised her job, despite the good that pickers accomplished for recycling. Vik was able to simultaneously create art from trash and unveil the hardships that pickers face; his poor beginnings coupled with his artistic fame allowed him to drastically change the situation of the pickers’ association.

 

tiao-print

 

 

The joy that Tiao expressed when his portrait sold was the most emotional moment for Eli; he saw how much the future of the pickers meant to Tiao, and how important it was for the rest of the world to notice the horrendous situation that had developed at the landfill in Rio de Janeiro. Fueled by the hope generated in the film, Eli did further research and discovered that in 2012, the city decided to close the landfill, but all of the pickers received compensation and are still working closely with the city to improve recycling and awareness – The ACAMJG received contracts with recycling plants in the city and is slated to process recyclables from the World Series in 2014.

Drawing Without Sight

Eli’s class spent a day working on blind contour line drawing. The purpose was to open the students’ mind to seeing, ironically enough; drawing without watching one’s hands causes judgement to cease in the midst of the process, and allows the artist to focus closely on the actual subject being drawn. The first subject was whichever hand was free when the artist began; first, the class was instructed to draw with their dominant hands, and then switch to their non-dominant ones. Surprisingly, Eli found that drawing with his right (i.e. non-dominant) hand made his sketches larger and more recognizable then when he attempted to draw with his left hand. Drawings done with his left hand were cramped and rather unrecognizable as hands.

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He suspects that this is related to habits formed with his dominant hand, habits that were nonexistent with his right hand, which allowed the connection between what he was seeing and what he drew to be more accurate than when he used his left hand. In essence, Eli’s right hand ‘saw’ the subject more objectively than his left hand because there weren’t any previous movements in the muscle memory associated with drawing.

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While the class was drawing, the professor played music in the background. The purpose was for each student to discover which type of music was most compatible with their creative process; for instance, Eli found that music with lyrics caused him to draw faster. He completed 3 hands in the space of one song that contained verse, while he only managed to draw 1 while listening to a song without words. His best theory for why this occurred is that the brain is more accustomed to recognizing and paying attention to words than listening to pure music, so when songs with words played, the parts of his brain that interpret language became slightly more dominant than the portions dedicated to drawing the hand. This caused his attention to shift away from the drawing, which meant that Eli felt ‘finished’ with a drawing more quickly than when he drew to an accompanying song that didn’t have lyrics because his mind was busy processing language.

Near the end of the exercise, the class was instructed to choose subjects other than hands; Eli chose to try the various faces around him. The most recognizable one appears to be missing a nose, but Eli believes that the drawing, done with his left hand, still represents how he ‘sees’ faces subjectively, rather than objectively had he chosen to draw with his right hand.

Blind Contour I

The entire exercise wasn’t new to Eli, but the particular instance was eye-opening; Eli had done blind contours before, but he hadn’t taken the time to study how his creative process changed when he shifted his technique or surroundings. The process was still frustrating, but he did notice that as time passed, his ability to interpret the subject and draw it without watching improved and made him pay attention to why inaccuracies occurred in his drawings.

As an amusing addition, another classmate pointed out that a portion of one of Eli’s drawings resembles a cockatoo head facing to the left. Seeing as birds are Eli’s favorite animals, this came as a pleasant surprise.

Blind Contour VI