May 012013

Access to content is ever-broadening. Current social trends present any participant of the internet with the tools to create and share text, image, video, audio, and other media content. “…the Internet’s newest new thing. Every new social platform, social app, social page,… becoming a piece of this new social media world –(Kemp 9)  The challenge for readers becomes not paying for content but finding the tree of interesting content in the dense forest. The issue for authors is the lack of compensation. In the digital world where content can be viewed, copied, and shared, less payment compensates the creator’s efforts. The broadening connectivity of internet communication seems to adversely affect the revenue of content creators. Unpaid creators sharing on the internet must divide their time resources between developing the skills of their passion, cultivating an audience, and working a job to support their family. Open access is changing the culture of creation, and the methods by which creators can earn a living by their skills. To be fiscally successful from openly sharing content, the creator must publicize in an efficient manner and eventually produce physical goods.

Before the social revolution spurred by the internet, content was shared by gatekeepers. In the media now so accessible: text, image, video, audio; there was a limiting structure for its proliferation. Trained and proficient individuals: writers, painters, photographers, filmographers, musicians; each creator had an industry in which to participate. Writers submitted texts to publishing houses. Painters participated in juried exhibitions. Musicians had record companies. In his 14th April, 2013 keynote at the London Book Fair, Neil Gaiman used the metaphor of gatekeeping to illustrate this change in content, specifically music, proliferation.

In the conclusion he states,

“These days the gates being guarded, the gates where there are fewer and fewer actual walls. In music, the walls have long since fallen along with the sale of physical objects. Home taping didn’t really kill music. Music’s out there doing just fine. More of it’s actually being made than ever, but the trick is becoming to find the good stuff. And for people who make the music to figure out how to monetize what they’re doing.”

This content was transcribed by a fan and authorized by Gaiman.  And this is where social networking has an impact. Both on- and off-line a recommendation from a trusted friend, especially one with similar interests, is more influential than a paid advertisement from a stranger or corporation. (Nielson)

It is free to be loaned a book, listen to a borrowed CD, or watch a movie with friends. This is not referred to as piracy. The initial purchase of the physical container of the content sent money through the publisher to the creator. However, when the content is digital and duplicated, the identical copy does not support the publisher, which is why corporations wage war against piracy, but piracy does not harm individual artists. (Vinik) The analog publisher’s role was to bring the creator’s content to consumers though the creation of physical copies (which are expensive to make) and through marketing support (Swinnerton 73). In a digital arena, both of these roles are taken by social networking. The proliferation of digital copies which are shared (either through duplication or simultaneous viewing) replaces both marketing and publishing. However, it does so without creating any revenue for purchases of the content, as the publishing model did. This is referred to as Open Access, not to be confused with Open Source.  With open access, creators share their content without charge to reach a wider audience. (Suber 4).  In Open Source, the exact methods and plans for creating (usu. a physical object or product) are shared so that consumers capable of constructing the product and improving upon it may do so without purchase.  For independent creators with open access content on the internet, revenue comes most from the sale of quality physical objects, which give fans a reason to fiscally contribute.

The collection of objects relevant to purchase-worthy experiences brings revenue to the creator of those experiences. A concert T-shirt and the print edition of a webcomic are both meaningful, physical souvenirs of an experience that began online, with the sharing of free content. The band, endeavoring to gain an audience shared their music on YouTube or as free downloads on their website. The artist wanted accountability and motivation in the form of followers over the arduous journey of independent comic creation. Though these creators want eventually to make money from their endeavors, it is not from the desire to monetize the content, but from the desire to have their living derive from their passion. This would enable them to spend more time creating better content and networking with other creators.

Demanding payment for content before it is consumed does not cultivate a new audience. Instead, consumers of shared content are more likely to share alike and publicize the content. This is described by both Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow in a dandelion analogy. An example of how offline ideas can propagate through the internet, this metaphor was described in Doctorow’s essay “Think Like a Dandelion included in 2011 Context (35) which started as a column in Locus Magazine in 2008, his 2013 novel Homeland (161), and in Gaiman’s keynote (15:20) due to the fact they discussed it in person before Doctorow’s first internet mention of the subject. Networking and sharing content happens both online and offline. In the novel, the main characters are posed with the issue of how best to share information quickly and efficiently, as they have limited time.

“Well, we’re mammals, so we tend to think of reproduction as being expensive and precious. When we want to copy ourselves, we take ourselves out of commission for months, then commit years of more-or-less full-time work to making sure our copies survive.” I wasn’t sure if I liked being talked about as a “copy” of my parents, but I couldn’t deny the underlying truth. “But look at a dandelion: by the time it’s seeding, it’s made thousands of potential copies of itself, all those little bits of fluff that make up the puffball. When a gust of wind comes along, the dandelion doesn’t follow all its children to make sure they get steered in the right direction and have their mittens and a packed lunch with them. Almost every seed a dandelion tosses into the wind is going to die without taking root, but that’s not what matters to a dandelion. Dandelions don’t care that every seed survives: they care that every opportunity to take root is exploited. A successful dandelion is one that colonizes every crack in the sidewalk, not one that successfully plants all its seeds.”

Homeland’s explanation of the metaphor is the most thorough and succinct of the instances of mention documented above. This low-cost low-time method of dandelion marketing involves use of free social networking tools and a reliance on fans to publicize creator-shared content. “Now, in the world of open access reading, personal interest forms a bond, at a basic level…” (159 Willinsky) Involved in the process of proliferation, fans are more invested in the content and its creator, leading to the success of crowd-sourcing platforms such as Kickstarter. This enables individuals to incrementally fund a creative project and receive a product of the project, usually in a physical form.

The use of social networking and crowd-sourced funding helps to separate the forest from the trees when consuming content on the internet. Consumers don’t simply stumble through the expanse of open access user-generated content, but are pointed toward good things by trusted members of their network, both on- and offline. Kickstarter is structured to help fund promising projects by showing staff-picked, FaceBook friend-backed, and popular projects to visitors of their front page. Through the efficient and judicious use of dandelion marketing, as well as the eventual production of a collectible physical project, creators and consumers can form a healthy and mutually beneficial bond.

Works Cited

Doctorow, Cory.  “Think Like A Dandelion”.  Context.  2011.

Doctorow, Cory.  Homeland. 2013.

Doctorow, Cory.  “Think Like A Dandelion: reproductive strategies for the internet era” Blog.  6 May 2008.  http://craphound.com/?p=2051 accessed 28 April 2013.

Falls, Jenn.  Neil Gaiman Speech London Book Fair Full Transcription. 23 April 2013. FallsIntoWriting.com.  Web.  http://fallsintowriting.com/2013/04/23/neil-gaiman-speech-full-transcription/

Gaiman, Niel. Digital Minds Conference 2013 Keynote.  London Book Fair.  QEII Conference Centre, Westminster, London 13 April 2013

Keen, Andrew.  Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us. St. Martin’s Press. New York.  2012.

The Nielson Company.  “Global Advertising Consumers Trust Real Friends and Virtual Strangers the Most” 07 June 2009. Web.  http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2009/global-advertising-consumers-trust-real-friends-and-virtual-strangers-the-most.html accessed 30 April 2013.

Suber, Peter.  Open Access.  The MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series.  Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2012.

Swinnerton, Frank.  Authors and the Book Trade.  Knoph. New York.  1932.

Vinik, Danny.  “Online Piracy Isn’t a Problem”. Washington Monthly. 4 August 2012.  Web.  http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ten-miles-square/2012/08/online_piracy_isnt_a_problem039015.php  accessed 30 April 2013.

Willinsky, John.  The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship.  The MIT Press.  Cambridge, Massachusetts.  2006

 May 1, 2013  Posted by on May 1, 2013 Featured! No Responses »
Apr 072013

As with any artistic endeavor, this comic was fueled by time and passion, and as a result, began to take on a life of its own. After two weeks of steady work, the first deadline was looming abruptly – I lost all hope that the entirety of the first episode would be ready for the first update. This was, in fact, a structural blessing in disguise – the page break between the first and second halves of the episode creates a pause and some suspense.

A major facet of the learning experience of creating this episode was joining the ranks of the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople. This hardworking clan was founded by independent comic artist Nate Simpson, in his blog post Cracking the Code, describes the method he found by which he can be more productive. Simple, elegant, and incredible: waking up at 4 in the morning to work on your personal project.  Instead of waiting until after a burning-out day at a full-time job, working on a passion in the wee hours of the morning can create better results and a happier you at work. Upon reading his blog, I realized that I’d used this technique successfully several years ago; Every morning my senior year of high school I woke up at around 5 to give myself at least an hour to hand-sew a quilt. I did this because handsewing was very soothing and it was a way to fool myself into looking forward to waking up in the morning. I relished getting up early because I loved the small achievement of at least 10 inches of seam, instead of dragging myself out of bed dreading a long, stressful day at school. Obviously this creative technique is not for everyone. I found out the hard way on episode two when I fell off the #HOVD boat – going to bed early enough to be relatively or well rested at 4 in the morning is a challenge. Working on a comic is rather different from sewing – when I worked on the quilt, all the design issues were decided early in the process, and the rest of the time was spent following through with simple, careful labor. In working on Shadow of Ragnarok, every work session posed design issues and color choices. The difference is obvious, however. Most of the work for the first half of Episode 1 was done in 2-3 hour sessions over a two week period as a member of HOVD; the second half was done mostly in one long, late evening. This week for episode II I’m going to get back on the boat. Even though it is difficult to get up every day, even though it is cold and lonely*, the results are worth the extra effort. It is easy to forget the creative potential when one is embroiled in monotonous homework that easily causes one to stay up late. It is even easier to choose to go back to sleep when the early alarm does go off.

However, when I did get up at four and work for an hour or two or three, I went back to sleep at six or seven, for a nap until eight, I forgot most everything that I accomplished; it felt like a creative dream. Then that afternoon or the next morning I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. I haven’t done HOVD in an MRI (for several obvious reasons) but I’d hazard a hypothesis that abruptly waking from sleep at that time and working in a quiet, mostly dark, distraction-free environment makes it easier for the brain to enter into higher states of concentration.


*the Holy Order of Viking Draftspeople is meant to provide comradare between other artists using the same method. However, it originates on the west coast, so here by the Chesapeake Bay this aspect is slightly less effective for me.

<-Color and Composition (part 3)

 April 7, 2013  Posted by on April 7, 2013 Visual Story Tagged with:  No Responses »
Apr 072013

At first, I intended to have a more traditional comic style in just black and white. Collaborative communication issues had decreased the amount of time available for me to work, and I thought that black and white could be simpler. It would have been if I was working physically with ink on bristol board, in the traditional manner of comic book artists. After working for several days refining my sketches, however, I realized that achieving the epic emotional impact of this apocalyptic battle demanded the use of color. This did not change the working duration, however – the expected time for drawing detailed inks was instead spent digitally painting. The result is much more cohesive than color behind inks would have been.

There’s no way that I can describe the use of color in one post – Color Theory is a fascinating subject encompassing several disagreeing schools of thought – but it’s also a very instinctual process that relates to the key properties of composition. Effective composition involves guiding the viewer through the visual space in such a way that their interest is piqued. This is achieved through a variety of principles guiding the elements of design. Color is one of the most subtle of these elements. Other elements include line (both implicit and explicit), shape/form, value (closely knit with color, if there is chromatic content) and space.

Here’s a brief low-down on these conceptual tools:

3-25 SHADOW of RAGNAROK first episode 3

Line – it’s everywhere. Drawings are replete with marks usually in the form of lines. Edges of representational things are often the most powerful lines in a composition – the most potent are the implicit lines created by the gaze. A viewer will follow that line to the target just as faithfully as a best friend wanting to know what you’re looking at out the window.

Shape/Form – The presence of some THING within the picture plane – shape refers to apparent 2-dimensional things, and form to illusionistic 3-dimensional things. Shape/Form has a yin-yang relationship with Space, which is the presence of absence.

Value – lightness and darkness, everything in between. Crucial in creating an illusion of reality – value contributes to illusionistic depth and form. Value exists by itself in black-and-white, sepia, and monochromatic arenas, but otherwise has a very close relationship with Color, as each color has its own natural value. For instance, yellow is naturally a light-value color, while purple is a predominantly darker color. Infinite variations exist, limited only by the physical human capacity to register differences in color and value. Other species see color differently – some creatures can see infrared or ultraviolet, which completely changes human ideas of color and contrast.

The simple Itten color wheel.
Munsell’s theory of color creates a solid!

There’s several schools of color theory – likely the most familiar one is Itten, who purports three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue. Practically useful when learning how to paint, as his theories are based off the properties of pigment mixing. An important aspect of his theory is Temperature: the apparent warmth/coolness of colors, which has emotional impact. Warm colors (yellow, orange, and red) advance (they appear closer) and have associations with physical warmth, welcoming, and friendship, as well as the emotional spectrum of pleasant comfort (yellow/sunshine) to anger (blood/red). Human skin tones are all warm colors. Warm colors contrast with cool colors (most greens, blue, purple). These colors recede (appear farther away). They resonate with ideas of the natural world – sky, trees, flowers. Purple especially is associated with majesty, because historically deep blues and violets were the most difficult dye colors to achieve – consequently very expensive. There is a great deal of study into how colors affect emotion, especially in advertising and psychology.

Color can be very practical and instinctual. To set the tone for the beginning of the comic, I chose a stormy medium-dark grey-violet. There is an entire layer of this color behind all other colors. The focal areas of the comic I knew would involve ships and people, which are warm variations of brown. Consequently to create visual texture in the waves, I used translucent layers with blue and blue-green cool colors. So that the comic have a consistent feeling of environment, All the layers of color are partly translucent – a little bit of the violet comes through, darkening and cooling the color. Without this subtle change, the yellows and browns are too strident – contrasting too strongly with their cool environment, they seem out of place.  Examine the difference in color between the railing and the ship above – they are the same color, but the fully-painted ship is slightly translucent.

<-Starting with a Sketch (Part 2)



Viking Draftsperson: Firsthand Experience (Part 4)->


 April 7, 2013  Posted by on April 7, 2013 Visual Story Tagged with:  No Responses »
Apr 072013

3-17 SHADOW of RAGNAROK episode 1

A fun aspect of working digitally is the ability to easily save progress. While working on Episode 1 of The Shadow of Ragnarök (if you haven’t read it, warning: these sketches have spoilers) , every time I opened my document to draw, I saved it as a new file with the date. The result is a timeline of all the compositional decisions made.

I started out with a sketch. My very first sketches were humble scribbles on paper. There I realized the experimental potential of the infinite comic format. “Infinite Canvas” is a term coined by Scott McCloud in his book Reinventing Comics. He uses it to refer to several experimental comic formats that make use of the internet interface, including Zoom Comics, Slide Comics, and Scroll comics. I am very influenced by The Wormworld Saga, by Daniel Lieske which is in the Scroll format. Like any webpage where there is more information than can fit on the screen at one time, it is necessary to scroll downwards. I was drawn to this format because it is mostly distraction-free. Unlike other comics that are in paged format, which require patience to load a new browser page for each unit of comic, the infinite comic requires loading only between chapters, instead scrolling for new information. The viewing screen acts as a window on the story. The context of the content can be controlled by the creator in this manner.

As this was the first time I’ve worked in the format of a long digital story, I ran across some surprises. Firstly, the amount of physical space necessary to create an effect equivalent to panel gutters while scrolling. In recognizing that the screen restricted the viewing area, I thought that aspect-to-aspect panel borders could be achieved by manipulating the space viewed, and not by linear differentiation. As I developed the compositional sketch, I realized that I’d crammed my moments too closely. Repeatedly when viewing the comic full-size and scrolling, I had to revise and add more space, then even more space. When sketching, I zoomed out a great deal to draw the overall flow of the composition, but the change in perspective to the actual size always required tweaks in timing. As I worked to refine the sketches, I applied this revelation by working as much as possible at the actual size.

3-19 SHADOW of RAGNAROK episode 1

Another realization was that the low resolution prevented me from over-detailing. When zooming in, it became pixelated at about 250%. For scale reference, the dialogue lettering is one pixel wide. When working at a print-ready resolution, it is incredibly easy to zoom in and keep on zooming, creating fine detail that is impractical working on a physical scale. Some physical comic artists such as Jeremy A. Bastian actually achieve that level of detail – if you’re hungry for a detail feast, head over to (insert preferred book vendor) and nab a copy of Cursed Pirate Girl (use the preview to see some pages!). Whenever I need humbling as an artist, I open that book up and remind myself he drew it at-scale with a tiny brush and pen. Equally awe-inspiring is the converse: an example of digital detail-density is Nonplayer by Nate Simpson. He has few, if any, impatient fans – I think anyone appreciating his work acknowledges that drawing all those leaves take forever, and is willing to wait.

This is the first project I’ve created in which the initial sketching was done digitally. Previously, I’ve planned things and refined composition with physical sketches which were then scanned in and used as the lower-level framework for a digital drawing. Developing the framework digitally was even more freeing, because semi-detailed elements could be moved around without being re-drawn. Not only moved, but also scaled, rotated, and turned off if necessary. Layers and select tools are so fun, especially in tandem. I’d worked in layers before, but not in sketching – At first, I drew everything roughly on one layer and used the select tool to move bits about. Then, in a face-palming moment, I realized I could put each different element on a separate layer, each ship, each group of people – so that it would be easier to reselect and manipulate. The greatest advantage of this working method was in the refinement of the sketch once the structure was established. On a new layer, I zoomed in and re-drew each element with greater precision and detail. After redrawing, the layer with the sketch of that area could be turned off, leaving only the refined version in view. This is roughly akin to inking pencils in the industrial comic-making method and erasing the original pencil marks – however, there’s no chance of having pencil smudges left over!


<- Tools of the Trade (Part 1)


Composition and Color (Part 3) ->



 April 7, 2013  Posted by on April 7, 2013 Visual Story Tagged with:  No Responses »
Apr 072013

“What role does design play in the Norse end of days?”, you may ask. This is the first in a series of blog posts on the making of The Shadow of Ragnarök, a collaborative webcomic. I’m Watkins, the artist of our group. As such, I have a leading role in the presentation of our story.

I’ve studied artist-driven comics for several years. A movement gaining momentum in the comic/graphic novel storytelling medium involves independent artist/writers sharing their stories online, and building a fan base, before moving to a print format. Two significant inspirations for me in this area are Jason Brubaker and Daniel Lieske. Both they and other artists have blogs where they post progress updates and information about their working methods. I always find it fascinating when the behind-the-scenes of creating artwork is revealed. Unlike magicians sharing their secrets, artists sharing their art-making methods doesn’t decrease the mystique – repeating the methods does not ensure the same results. Learning from the successes of others allows artists to positively change their own methods.

I use SketchBook Pro 5.5 (I haven’t upgraded to the new version 6, my OS is too old), which is the most distraction-free drawing program I’ve found. It was designed by Autodesk for use with tablets either touch-screen tablets and external graphic tablets. I use a huge old Intuos3 graphic tablet. The working area on the tablet 31x 24 cm, approximately the same as my 2009 MacBook Pro screen. Each point on the tablet corresponds to a point on the screen, so it creates a very natural drawing experience, unlike a mouse or touchpad. My wrist and arm never get cramped drawing digitally because there’s the same amount of space as working in a physical medium, and my hand is well-used to manipulating a pen.

An example of an Intuos3 – much smaller, less scuffed and battered than my well-loved tablet.

Working digitally allowed for very easy uploading for the comic image. Unlike previous digital drawing/painting projects I’ve worked on, where the final result was intended for print, for The Shadow of Ragnarök I could work in poorer resolution. Print resolution is 300dpi, while screen is about 75dpi. Consequently, the print size of the comic is about 3×10 cm. This, however, made it possible to work in the long infinite-comic format as one image – if it was higher resolution, my computer couldn’t handle the long save time. Armed with this knowledge ahead of time, I was able to plan for the comic viewing size. The image is not resized as it is viewed on the website, so the entire time I was working I could check to see that the level of detail was appropriate.

An advantage of working in SketchbookPro (which is available for students inexpensively on the Autodesk website) is that it saves in Tiff files, which are about 1/3 the bytes of the photoshop format. To use certain tools I have to save the file in photoshop format and open it with Elements – SketchBook doesn’t have a tool that allows for moving two or more layers in tandem, which is useful for adjusting the relationship of elements in a composition. SketchBook Pro handles a great deal of layers without complaint or extra-long saving time (unless saving as a psd), which is a definite advantage of the program.

When working digitally I like to have each part of a drawing on a separate layer so that it can be moved, scaled, or made translucent as necessary. Watercolor is one of my preferred physical media, so being able to work digitally in layers of adjustable transparency is a pleasure. When painting in watercolor, effects are achieved by manipulating the transparency of the paint as it is applied to the paper. Color is built up in translucent layers, and each decision is made carefully and mindful of the intended final result. Working in layers digitally can be much more impulsive and slapdash, as no choice is permanent and transparency can be adjusted on the fly. If you’re curious about watercolor, James Gurney’s blog is an excellent resource. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you probably know of his Dinotopia:

Starting with a Sketch (part 2) ->

 April 7, 2013  Posted by on April 7, 2013 Visual Story Tagged with:  No Responses »
Feb 282013

Dear Konrad,

We’ve been partners for a year: I’ve never thanked you for your love and support.  You tolerate me and are privy to my most personal thoughts even though I treat you as a tool.  I only take care of you when you run dry, giving you fuel, like coffee, so that you may continue to serve my purpose.

You are starting to show wear from my use: scars and wrinkles, a testament to stories told and time endured.  You are much more durable than I, will last beyond my years, perhaps to be manipulated by my heirs.

Beauteous Konrad, your physique is unmatched in your peers.  My fellow humans do not all have partners such as yourself, but treat their servants like trash.  Without culture or style, these disposables are an insult to nature.  Konrad, you will never kill a sea turtle or be ingested by hungry aquatic life.  You will always be my right hand.

Your deep blue hue and chrome detailing make me feel that I’m driving an antique convertible.  With you, Konrad, the pleasure stems not from the destination, but the journey.  Every journey you record brilliantly, allowing me to look back on our adventures.

Thank you Konrad Flex, Blue Tortoise Noodler extraodinare, you’re always the piston-fill fountain pen for me!


 February 28, 2013  Posted by on February 28, 2013 musings No Responses »
Feb 252013

Waking up at precisely 9:30 on a Sunday morning without an alarm: I feel that I’ve transitioned into adulthood. No more college late-night/late-mornings for this hardworking student. In two days I’ll be handing over 1K of money earned with part-time jobs this semester and signing an apartment lease. My soon-to-be housemates will be having a little help from their parents with money as they get up on their feet, but the help I had from my dear Dad was finding the fantastic, perfectly-suited place.
To be honest, I’m slightly dreading spring break. Instead of a thoughtless respite from school, there’s at least two large-scale group projects (and possibly a partnered presentation) to keep tabs on, and I must gallavant from one childhood home to the next, collecting furnishings for the newly-leased residence we will share. And whilst wrestling with feng shui, orchestrating heaps of laundry, as the laundry facilities at the apartment complex are $3.00 less expensive per load than those at school. I have to recoup rent expenses somehow. I’m also a little nervous about working some full-time days at my parts finishing job: I’m having nightmares about my fingers falling off and not being hired full-time for the summer (because obviously, one cannot sand quickly, efficiently, and accurately without a full 10-finger quota).

Not only has there been an excess of activity mentally, but this week has been eventful: the AFTERPIECE opening was this Wednesday evening! It was overwhelming. I took off work because I needed to spend the afternoon making baked goods. After morning classes, I realized that in the previous weeks’ grocery preparations for baking, I’d forgotten the requisite pound of butter. I hustled over to Giant, completing a quick round of goods collection (including bread and ramen) in less time than a good shower. I then had the first face-to-face group meeting for another class, which, though productive, cut into my cookie-making time. After repeated rounds of card games while waiting for baking, I had a sinking feeling and checked the time: it was 30 minutes until the opening, only 3/4 of the double batch of cookies was baked, and I wasn’t dressed formally. I was, in fact, quite floury. But we got there OK, and on time, glad that the clear pyrex mixing bowl looked the part of a fancy serving dish when mixed in with the other platters.

My parents surprised me by bringing my Nana to the opening! I spent the evening introducing my friends and professors to my #1 art fans. I even got a hug from Carole, my Sculpture professor who introduced my to the MakerBot 3d printer, and helped me get a grant through the school to buy the one I used in creating my Individual Study project:

Ceremonial Garment (plastic age)

Ceremonial Garment (Plastic Age)
Alice Watkins
Thermoextruded Modules

It’s the culmination of my senior-level work as a Studio Art major, and I worked on it continuously for the entirety of the Fall2012 semester. Each module, the visible feather-like units as well as the hidden linking modules took ten minutes to print on the MakerBot. Constructing the garment from the plastic units was inspired by Scale mail, a pre-firearm variety of protective vestment.

I’m so relieved its all done. The senior show was the last requirement for the major I need to graduate. Now I can focus more on just passing my five electives to fulfill credit requirements. I’ll not miss the extensive hoop-jumping required for getting a degree. And I’ll still be close enough to appreciate the natural beauty of this area, one of my reasons for choosing the University of Mary Washington four years ago.

The second life-changing event this week was Friday’s arrival of the much-anticipated bluetooth keyboard. As soon as I had it functioning, I blogged about the experience in a post entitled Fairy Tale Moment. It’s rocking my world. I type now, using said keyboard and my iPhone nestled in a 3D printed stand so I can easily see the low- distraction Rich Notes app interface. Rich Notes is superior to the standard Notes app, which has three ugly fonts to choose from and an uncompromising lined yellow background. I can type in a serif font in Rich Notes, and adjust the font size with a pinch and swipe. It has a very clean interface, and no ads even though it’s an independently developed free app. The only drawbacks I’ve encountered are it’s tendencies to forget the last five characters or so if the app is left abruptly (it autosaves the content at predetermined content intervals, it seems) and the app’s ability to absorb additional full-steam typing slows down when a note gets approximately 500 words long- as if the note’s file size gets too large. The former issue made me worry about content backups, but content is easily backed up by sending the note as an e-mail but holding it in drafts; the latter issue also easily solved by saving the original note and starting a new one, entitled ‘…part (n+1)’. It’s nice to be able to have a simple, clean word processor in a portable package that is compatible with an external human interface device.

This morning I had a serious realization: I’ve been coming to DS106 work with the perspective of a senior-level studio art major. It seems simple: that’s part of who I am. But I realized that the mindset gained from the training I’ve been through has impeded my full engagement in the class. Even before college, I’ve trained to create clean, fully-realized objects. Also, in critiques I’ve learned how to critically examine the fruits of creative endeavors and talk succinctly about visual communication. DS106 is a different take on art-making. This is not training to become a professional, 106 is opening us to the world of creative possibility. We are all beginners here, and my ego and unreasonable standards have gotten in the way my learning new things.

In this fresh new perspective on DS106 I have done my first 3 simple Daily Creates. No time-consuming inspired-by Daily Create time lapse drawings or comics. The first DC, take a picture of something you made is shown above: the photo of my individual study shown in duPont gallery. I took the picture for my own records, but can also proudly present it as a Daily Create this week with my newfound simple knowledge of creating.

This week I also reimagined myself as a pastry in the if you were a _ pastry why are you the best? daily create challenge. I don’t have a favorite baked good, so I created a fictional one, the Traditional Watkins Pastry that would encapsulate the outgoing side of my character. Pastries are sociable, even if I’m not usually. I endeavored to be brief, but also create a thorough description filled with tasty imagery, as well as juicy context to make a good digital story.

Exhausted from the unceasing effort demanded by my self-inflicted schedule, packed with work, classes, and group project meetings, I was happy to hire a friend to take the photos for my third DC. Caught snoozing in the early hours of Saturday afternoon, I completed the snuggled up in a blanket daily create.

Snuggly Daily Create

After my nap, I worked on design assignments. (If you didn’t know already, DS106 Week 6 is all about Design. Check out the great talk I helped cohost Thursday afternoon!

By cutting out the middleman this week, I’ve been more productive with assignments. Instead of physically hooking up my phone to my mildly dinosaurific Macbook Pro, then downloading photos, sorting through them, then using the slow Flickr website to upload images one at a time. On the computer, the internet is always slow – not only because I’m on the inconstant Apogee, but I have a habit of keeping too many tabs open. I multitask and I leave things open to remind me of tasks. But with a the Flickr app, as well as other new free apps this week (and a human interface device), I can move created content directly from my phone to the internet. Often I go back to it on the computer and edit details – for instance, on the Flickr app I haven’t found the settings toggle for putting an image under the category of drawing instead of photography, a change easily made on the desktop internet interface.

The first task this week undergone in this manner was designing a logo for my Radio Show group.

Team Radio Show Unite!

I’m in an incredible group: @bellekid invited me soon after the necessity for group formation was announced, and I enthusiastically agreed, having seen her frequent and well-crafted contributions to DS106 via twitter. I then invited Crafty Dayesee, a dedicated and cheerfully enthusiastic studio art comrade with whom I’ve previously collaborated. @foxylee13(sp?) I’m not as familiar with, though I’m enjoying the Ponies theme of her Ds106 blog, especially the inInsane Twilight trading card @chachachelsea I’m also not familiar with, but I’ll get to know her soon enough through collaboration and reading her blog.

"Insanity Twilight" MLP Trading Card

I have the Google Drive app now, though not completely happy with the interface (it doesn’t allow for typing in landscape view, it has a tendency to select text while scrolling, which could lead to an autosaved catastrophic deletion of content) its very useful for collaborating with groups, as it allows for recorded discussion that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. I’m using it to collaborate with Digital Dynamite as well as group projects for other classes. We each use a different color to establish who is contributing. It can be a little confusing at times – it would be fantastic if there was a collaboration app that automatically attributed and notified other members through alerts or emails. But the Google Doc is working OK. This week Digital Dynamite established its theme – we decided to do an interview format where we each talk about a DYNAMITE moment, an anecdote about personal change and motivation. I haven’t decided on what to talk about yet – I’m not sure if I should talk about something fresh and recent or really nostalgic and semi-fictional (as memories so often are). Unsurprisingly, each of our individual logo submissions to the Doc involved some kind of TNT/explosion theme, with red. After a few days of discussion, ??? created a logo that summarized each of our individual designs into a very legible logo statement:

Tuesday I created my first response to a design assignment. I had “Just Glue Some Gears on It (and call it Steampunk)” by Sir Reginald Pikedevant, Esquire, stuck in my head.

In outlining my work for the week, I picked design a tattoo as one of the assignments to do. Realizing, though I love steampunk (and making fun of steampunk), I’ve never drawn anything with a cool gear motif. I intentionally didn’t use a reference, realizing that my recollection of what gears actually look like is imperfect – just as steampunk is a selective interpretation of the Victorian/Steam era.

Ink Gears Steampunk Tattoo

As with the logo, I drew this in my thought journal – my physical multipurpose idea organizer. I first sketched the circles out in pencil, and where some of the teeth should be. As this was to be a black-on-skin tattoo design, It needed some strong areas of black, some areas of just line, and some scale changes for levels of detail so that it would be intriguing and legible whether it was viewed close up or at a distance.
Another way I’m embracing my imperfections this week is not cleaning up my designs. The presentation-conscious professional artist internal voice is driving me to take both designs into SketchBook and clean up the white areas with the eraser tool – take out distractions such as the smudges from erasing before the ink was completely dry and some text showing through from the page before. The realist in me realizes that this time-consuming activity contributes little to my DS106 experience, and would be better spent completing other assignments.

Carole has told students in various contexts: Be friends with the artist you want to be, but be the artist you are. I want to be a very clean artist, that creates beautiful objects that bear themselves with the mystique of unknown creation process. Objects so well-designed they seem born, not made. But I am not that artist. My objects always have the touch of imperfection, but I have learned that it adds appropriate humanity and additional beauty, so I can embrace these apparent flaws.

For the Learning by Design visual note-taking, I took notes on this week’s DS106 objectives Week 6: It’s All Designed.

Part 1 of Visual Notes

Part 2 Visual Notes

Part 3 Visual Notes

I had fun, even though I didn’t use as many pictures as the examples. I hope this outline will help future week six students or serve as a design reference on which to look back.

Embedded in this outline is my take on One Story/Four Icons This is not exactly an outline for a story, because I think very literally – I haven’t been able to guess any of my peers’ symbol stories.

Four Symbol Story

This is a visual translation of my favorite quote from a supernatural TV show I watched recently on Netflix.

Six Word Memoir

It doesn’t make much sense to me to write a memoir (six words or not) when my life beyond university is only threatening to begin. I know something for sure, though: DS106 has changed my life forever. I’ve never before been an active participant on the internet in this manner. I love all the new tools I’m learning with which to share and create. I’m definitely going to continue developing my proficiency in these areas.

 February 25, 2013  Posted by on February 25, 2013 Week in Review No Responses »
Feb 232013

If I were a pastry, I’d be too sweet to eat, and so cute it would be hard not to take a nibble.

Rich, dark chocolate ice cream oozes into your mouth as you bite into a white fluffy clear-glazed doughnut. A dollop of swirled maple-flavored whipped cream sits atop your Watkins and will always stick to your nose as you bite into the gooey center. The most addictive aspect of the Watkins is its diminutive size; it is little more than two bites, so it is necessary to get a platterful to share with friends, laughing at creamy noses all afternoon.

These sweet treats are the traditional food of the summer solstice, as the ice cream center will cool you off, and being covered in flaking donut sugar will have you running to the swimming hole to clean up, especially after hot waiting in long lines as you would for fresh funnelcakes.


 February 23, 2013  Posted by on February 23, 2013 musings No Responses »