DS106 on the couch

Month: October 2014

Time passes 

Animated Gif by The DS106 Shrink for Gif it Up

Source image from the Museum of New Zealand 

The wire” a poem by Melinda Albrycht

DS106 Art on the couch – critique

When I first heard the poem on sound cloud it was the voice, the depth of the voice that stood out for me the most. I wondered how to do an art critique with audio art. So I went googling. I guessed that music might offer some constructs to comments. 

From my explorations I get that the tempo of the voice is steady and this is what brings me in. The monophonic nature of the voice has a hypnotic effect and I also notice, on hearing again, that there is a rhythm to Melinda’s voice as she read her poem, it becomes almost a song.

Is this what people refer to as a melodic voice? When she talks about the losses in the game, one can almost tap to ‘the music’ of her voice.  Repetition is used to great effect in this part of the poem to create the sense of hopelessness in playing this game.

I found it interesting to compare the written words with the performed words. ‘Look again’ says the text. ‘Look again, player.’ says Melinda’s voice. ‘Player’ added to keep the rhythm in the voice I am guessing.

The last part of the poem has a different tempo. I am not sure how to interpret that, I just noticed it. I notice the change comes when she says ‘Look again’. May be this looking again gives new information and this is shown by the change in tempo in the quality of the voice and the cadence of the words?

The voice is used to convey the emotion of the words. The contrast between the possibilities when we play a game is marked with the change in tone. As we are losing the game, the option comes up to win it. But if you think you can win it, think again. Nobody does. Can I win? Will I lose? Can I leave the game? There really is only one choice, if you play on the wire you will always lose. 

It is that dangerous.

The poem starts with ‘walking the wire’ and ends with ‘playing on the wire’. A way to bring closure to it? a kind of circle that keep going in a never ending cycle of despair?  

The poem has a realistic and expressive style.

Unless you have seen the TV series, ‘The wire’ and what the wire is is hidden from the composition. Yet it stands alone as a description of a kind of life style that leads to the destruction of life. Anyone ‘hanging by the wire’ is in danger. The poem brings up despair and hopelessness blended with a sarcastic ‘gotcha’ flavour – just think again, player.

And now for the informal critique: I thought it was so bloody good (as we say in the UK, Melinda) that I wished I had written it myself. 

If you want to know why I am doing this and how you can join in, read this post

“Sketch a Screenshot” by Lauren Brumfield

DS106 Art on the couch – critique

The similarity between the screenshot and the sketch stands out once you put the two pieces together. Yet what drew my attention to the sketch initially were the colours and the emotion it expressed. It was not until I went to see the original from our DS106 site that I learnt it was a ‘sketch a screenshot’ assignment.

The contrast between the dark hair and the green clothes say ‘extreme’ to me. The centrality of the subject and the ‘close up’ style say ‘high drama’ to me. As I keep looking the expression of the eyes jumps out at me; the stark sketching lines speak of a ‘stark’ state of mind in the subject. The stark contrast seems to be between green, white, black. This draws attention to the centre of the piece and made me wonder what is wrong with her. 

As I focus on the centre, I want to pull away from the piece. Too distressing to ‘stay’ in the artwork. Yet, there is nothing else in the sketch to focus on, the background is bare. This seems to be how tension is held – the viewer wants to pull away and yet cannot. 

A very expressive piece with lots of feeling.

The background and any sense of why the distress of the subject are hiding from this composition. Leaves viewer wondering why the distress and despair. I imagine potential titles for the artwork might be: Why? Make it stop. I can’t take this no more.

Once I saw the screenshot, I could see that it has been faithfully reproduced in the sketch. I am not familiar with the series the screenshot came from. I would be interested to learn if what I ‘took’ from the sketch is in any way connected with what was going on in the episode.

if you want to know why I am doing this and how you can join in, read this post.

Art on the DS106 couch: Veggie Tales

By Bianca Brown  Click here to go to it on Flickr.

My first critique

What caught my attention was the bright background blue. Also the contrast between the subject (the cartoon vegetables) and the background. The background seems to take up the largest area in the composition and this is quite striking. I notice the title of the composition and connect that with the subject matter – the cartoon like veggies are smiling and have been anthropomorphised and the composition is titled Veggie Tales. 

It seems the artist wants the viewer to think that there is a story behind the photo. The Veggies have many tales to tell. Once you notice the background the next thing that jumps out at you is the big smile on the subject, the Veggies. The shape of the Veggies contrasts strongly. One tall and thin and the other round and short. The red, green and blue are being contrasted to grab the attention.

The two Veggies are connected via the shared green colour. The smile is the also same so the two characters seem ‘related’ in some way. Yet the eyes are different, one round the other oval.  There is no symmetry in colour, I half expected some red in the tall Veggie but it was not added by the artist.

The over all style is naive . Like a children’s book illustration. The faces of the characters are expressive but clearly imaginary not realistic. The whole thing is very bright but colours are stark not blended. Sharp lines.  The only organic lines are in the top of the tomato which is the colour that is shared by the two characters. 

The placement of the eyes seems to suggest that they are looking at something off the scene. Whatever it is the characters are looking at is hidden from the scene but seems to be making the characters smile. So that make one interested in what might happen in the next frame.

The feelings that seem to emerge on looking are: Cheerful, light, simple kids story. What might be other titles for this composition? “The Veggies extraordinary adventures” “The Veggies find their fruit” “The happy Veggies”

Overall what draws me to it are the simple and clean lines. The shape of the frame rectangular not square, somehow adds interest.

Narrate your process

So what was my first critique experience like? Really tough. I got the random daily create and I must admit that I would not normally spend any time looking at variously shaped vegetables. I wanted to keep to my process to find some learning and go against my leanings of wanting to pick something else.

So, I looked at the submissions for this daily create and picked one that drew my attention. I wanted the process of filling in the art critique Google form to be a discovery about why it had drawn my attention. 

It worked. I followed the questions as set and kept looking at the piece to answer the questions. The more I looked the more I could see in it even when I had started with a preconception that is was a kind of ‘throwaway’ clip art type image. I would not choose it for my living room, but I understand why it got my attention.

If you want to know why I am doing this Click here

Let’s get the ball rolling

Here is the script from Sarah’s Critique episode of The Art Assignment. I said in my previous post I would post here. Mainly as a quick guide for me to work from when I write my summaries.

“This week I want to talk to you about something that’s been weighing on my mind lately. And that’s the issue of critique. If you spend any time on the Internet, it’s something you come across frequently. If you’re the victim of Internet trolls or if you are an Internet troll, listen up! There is an etiquette to critique that has been in play for a long time in art schools all over the world. Let’s see if we can learn something from that world and apply it in ours. 

So here’s how an art critique usually goes: An art student sets up their work to show their teacher, a group of teachers, their friends, their class, or an even bigger group. Then discussion ensues, questions are asked, and criticism is offered. Sometimes things do go awry. Tears are shed and expletives hurled, but it’s usually a civilized affair, and there is an etiquette to these things that I think it would be useful for us to discuss. In relation to The Art Assignment, and to the Internet community at large.

But first, let’s talk about why we should critique in the first place. Because it’s the Internet, and you can anonymously say whatever you want? I’d say no. Because you like to change the minds of the person you’re critiquing? Definitely no. Critique is often most instructive for the person offering it. In looking at other people’s work, and formulating your opinion of it, you’re learning a great deal.

I don’t often see people responding to Internet comments by saying, "Gee, thanks! I never thought about it that way! I agree with you now.” But that’s okay, because it’s still a constructive process. It can help shape your beliefs and teach you about different ways of looking and thinking. That being said, here are some important critiquing guidelines:

  1. Be attentive. The Internet has trained us to look at something for a millisecond, and to scan text quickly. Fight that urge. Let something linger on the screen for seconds or even minutes! Look at it once, and then look at it another time later in the day, or the next day, or the next week. I often have instinctual reactions when I first see something but then my opinion changes the longer I spend with it. Or, even a week late when I’m remembering it. Use your faculties and your patience and trust your reactions.
  2. Don’t be lazy. I am a terrible example to follow. When I look at all of the responses that come into The Art Assignment, my head fills with ideas, but then I get a phone call or I’m in a hurry, and I just reblog something or say something tepid, instead of saying substantive about it. I also lean way too heavily on the word “interesting.” It’s value-neutral, which is helpful, but it also says very little. For example: the history of documentary photography is interesting. But The Simpsons is also interesting. It’s not a particularly specific adjective. There are lots of lazy words, and it’s okay to use them sometimes, but try to follow them up with something that has teeth. Insteadbof saying, “This is great!” say, “This is great, because you’ve done A, B, and C, and then surprised us all by adding D!”
  3. Be generous. Try to look at each work of art for what is successful. Performance artist Matthew Goulish tells us in an essay on criticism to look for the “aspects of wonder.” We want to encourage more wonder in the world, right? So when we come across it, let’s celebrate it. Criticism can be an incredible act of empathy. What made someone make that thing? Why did they do it that way? Be sympathetic to the maker, and realize that the mere act of putting yourself and your work out there takes courage.
  4. Find your point of entry. You don’t have to have a Ph. D. in Art History to talk about art. So find your point of connection to a piece, as personal as you’d like it to be. For example, this reminds me of a bathmat, in the best possible way, because its tactility is enticing and it transports me instantly to my friend’s bathroom circa 1997, which had floral wallpaper and smelled like Garnier Fructis shampoo. As it happens, it is a bathmat, and not an artwork, but it could be an artwork. Think about what the thing in question reminds you of, whether it’s from the same discipline, something personal, or something far-flung. Think about the decisions that were made along the way. Maybe it’s the materials used, or not used. Maybe it’s the way it’s been arranged in space, or documented for us to see. Maybe it’s what the maker decided to include or exclude from the frame of the work. What are the skills on display? Maybe the artist is not an amazing draftsperson, but still ended up with a delightfully peculiar, delicately rendered drawing that communicates much more than a perfectly photo-realistic drawing might have done. Maybe the ideas behind a project outweigh the execution. Maybe the execution outweighs the ideas. And if you can’t think of anything declarative to say, ask a question.
  5. Don’t be a jerk. There is a lot you can say about something without declaring it to be good or bad. It can be a productive challenge to try to not make any value judgements while talking about a work. Most art critiques take place in a room where all the individuals have to look at each other’s faces and deal with the immediate consequences of saying something provocative. Pretend you’re in the same room with the person you’re critiquing. Pretend they’re someone you know. I’m not saying to lie or blow smoke; I’m saying don’t be a jerk!

And finally, why make yourself available for critique? Faced with the reality of all the Internet trolls in the world, it’s completely understandable to stay in your hole and not participate in Internet communities. I totally get that. But the positives of participating in this and other online projects can be real and rewarding. It’s hard to have perspective on your work. And offering it up for review means you might have the chance to see it with fresh eyes, and learn from the experience of others. But it also makes you vulnerable, which can be a miserably crappy feeling, but sometimes a liberating and empowering one.

If you can try to take your ego out of it, you can learn a great deal. “

Sound advise for talking online, about art and many other things.

(Animated by gifadog from Archive.org CC0 footage)

DS106 Art on the couch

I have been reflecting and feeling the need for a new project to keep my #4life badge in the DS106 community. It is true that one cannot keep up the intensity of experience that comes with doing the full course for the first time. Yet, I have kept involved and creating for the last year.

One of the things I notice is that I have become lazy about narrating my work and, if I am honest, lazy about giving time to the art being created by the community. This ties in for me with my other involvement in online educational communities – how do we learn/support the type of engagement that encourages people to join into the wonder that the web can be? 

And then this lands on my stream:

I follow and get inspired by The Art Assignment daily. I often adapt their assignments for our Daily Create in DS106. I have a list as long as my arm of art assignments I will try one day.  I watched Sarah talk about how to critique at a time when I was struggling with some of the dark under belly of the web – it is just not okay to threaten people’s lives and harass them because I disagree with their views. I have been shocked by what I have read and have written a post to help digital storytelling students at York College to engage with these issues. None of this felt constructive enough. 

And then this lands on my stream: The critique Assignment! Somebody called Joanna (update: who read this little post and reposted on the blog, thank you Joanna)set up a Tumblr to do the very thing that Sarah suggested in the Critique episode. Joanna is on fire and I have not been able to keep up with all her critiques – but what a great thing to do: To give time to fellow artists to explore their art. I read her manifesto for this project and wow! I have been following since day 1 and thinking about it. I could not make the commitment to publish as regularly as she does, but surely I could do something?

And this morning Art on the Couch was born. I firmly believe in the ‘show, don’t talk’ ethos of DS106, although I do use 10 words where one would suffice most of the time. (For those of you visiting from other web spaces: DS106 is a Digital Storytelling Course which run on the web and at various universities mainly in the US)

I was inspired by Joanna and Sarah, but I do not have their skill. What little I know about art critique I have picked up from learning to comment on DS106 blog posts. I am just a beginner artist and never in my life did I think of myself as a budding art critic – it takes a lifetime to learn to do this well. I am just a psychologist playing at being an artist and loving it. 

I did what I do best. Google it. 

I have a whole lot of resources to try: I have learnt about the Percy Principles of composition, found an awesome Prezzi on the process critiquing art and this incredible wiki that seems to have everything I ever needed to know about critiquing art. There are also the resources Sarah recommends and I will be publishing the transcript of her programme in the next post – it deserves study. 

My commitment to my DS106 fellow travellers

I will limit what I do to DS106 art. I have created a submission form for you to submit stuff you want critiqued knowing that I am learning as I go.

Click here to go to the form and submit.

I found the work of a wonderful man. His name is Marvin Bartel and he has a lot of material online to help people like my learn art critique. From his work I created a Google Form which I will use to do each critique. You can view it but not edit it. 

My plan:

  1. I will publish one critique per week
  2. The post will be a summary of the Google form I use to work through the piece.
  3. Comments are open and it is my hope that we can use the comments to talk about each piece with the artist as we go
  4. Each month I will publish a summary post with the critiques for that month
  5. I will tag everything to do with this project #artonthecouch you can use this URL to find all posts tagged: http://theds106shrink.tumblr.com/tagged/artonthecouch

I think if you tag any art you want critiqued this way anywhere on the web I can find it on Google eventually. Clearly easier for me if you use the submit form. 

I plan to keep reading and updating resources under that tag as I go. The Google form is laborious but it take on board something I believe in strongly enough to have written a whole book about it – engagement takes time. Sarah talks about this in her episode and Joanna is mindful of this in her manifesto when she commits to spending at least 5 minutes with the art she critiques. 

It is clearly possible that nobody will submit anything. I can live with that even if I shall cry daily into my coffee that my great project is bombing…So, initially I will take the Daily Create site, select random and pick one submission from that random daily create to work with. I will do the same with the assignment bank, pick a random assignment and select from it. (Update: jimgroom suggested I also use our DS106 in[Spire] website, where we submit art that inspires us from the whole of the community. I will select from there too).

In my ideal world other DS106 peeps will want to join in and write up critiques. I can repost anything tagged #artonthecouch here on Tumblr. if you use the same tag on twitter, I can find stuff elsewhere on the web. There is a rule if you do submit a critique you must fill in the google form for the piece of art you are critiquing. I am doing this to make sure we show we care for our art by spending time with it and reflecting on its meaning beyond ‘interesting’. 

I am borrowing the rules for this project from Tilde Club. Awesome project but that is another story.

– No drama. What constitutes drama? There is a Mary J. Blige song called “No More Drama.” If Mary J. Blige would think it was drama, it is drama.
– This is a guilt-free project and total disaster is ALWAYS a possible outcome.
– This thing is a de-facto whitey sausagefest so everyone be actively, aggressively cool and sweet and remember that the only binary that’s real is the one that we use on our microchips.

No drama, guilt-free and no binaries. Now, that is something this shrink can get behind. You? 

If this takes off in our little corner of the Internet then I can create a dedicated Tumblr for DS106 Art on The Couch. 

Happy 1000th Daily Create to all of us


With this being TDC number 1000, our odometer is rolling over to a new row of numbers. Combine, remix, collage at least three images from previous TDCs to show the POWER of the Daily Create:

Will you be around for TDC10000 ? #4life and beyond…

Thanks Tim, Brian and Zack for providing awesome art to remix today.

“Even when it rains the daily create shows us the way”

Happy 1000th Daily Create to all of us

With this being TDC number 1000, our odometer is rolling over to a new row of numbers. Combine,…

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