DS106 on the couch

Tag: art appreciation

Art on the couch rides again!

Inspired by John Johnston’s post last week, I dusted the #artonthecouch tag and decided to do an art critique on one of the gifs I liked the most since Western 106 started. You can view more detail about the questions  and read the original post if this is your first encounter with  #artonthecouch. You can always submit art for us to put on the couch if you want to!

Essentially, a few of us are trying to learn how to pay attention to art in a more informed way. The questions are from Marvin Bartel and our frame for it comes from the Art Assignment:

“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”

and that is that. 

Mark’s second animated gif –  #artonthecouch answers

I had to edit gif to load on Tumblr. Please see original on Mark’s blog.

I was really struck by Mark’s animated gif. I kept looking at it and enjoying it, I could not explain why as snakes are not my favourite creatures. I wanted to spend more time with it to explore my response to Mark’s art more deeply.

1. What stands out the most when you first see it?

The tail of the snake almost dancing out of the picture is what stood out for me most. 

2. Explain the reason you notice the thing you mention in number 1.

I was also struck by the uniformity of colour, it is as if you are not supposed to see anything moving at all and then suddenly the tail jumps out at you. The snake blends into the rocks which is what it does in real life, the gif portrays this well with colour and cropping.

3. As you keep looking, what else seems important?

The rhythm of breathing of the snake mirrored in frame speed and I was drawn to breathing and tongue coming out, the only thing that is a different colour. 

4. Why does the thing you mention in number 3 seem important?

The black tongue says ‘danger’ and stands out of the frame in a different direction to the tail, and I can see it is a forked tongue! I imagine the artist wanted to convey the sense of danger of a snake of this type.

5. How has contrast been used?

In a way it is the lack of contrast that gives it power, it is as if it surprises the viewer as one looks at a uniform colour and what seems like just rocks on first viewing.

6. What leads your eye around from place to place?

The snake and the rocks are connected by the same colour and markings this makes the viewer look and look again. Is something moving? Is it just rocks? 

7. What tells you about the style used by this artist?

The sharpness, close framing speaks to realism. Making me almost feel the dry heat as if I was walking on a path and had actually seen it as I walk.

8.What seems to be hiding in this composition and why?

As I keep looking I notice the dry grass is moving too. I had initially thought the snake was the only thing moving and the rest had been masked as if a cinemagraph. The why may be about meaning: the grass moving helps the sense of the snake hiding in the rocks or it may be about technique, this is Mark’s second gif and masking may be something he has to play with yet.

9. Imagine the feelings and meanings this artwork represents?

‘DANGER! Keep out!’ What is interesting is that it catches a moment before anything happens and gives the viewer a sense of danger pending. We can run away…only if we are quick enough.  

10. What other titles could you give this artwork?

’Just hanging out in the sun’ ‘Now you see me, now you don’t’ ‘The west that is’

11. What other things interest you about this artwork?

I wonder about masking the grass so only snake moves, would it reduce or add to sense of danger? I also wonder about panning out so we can see more of the environment, would it detract or add to the surprise that the snake is moving in the image?

I have been making gif art for a long time now, a key thing for me is always this idea of ‘catching a moment’ – the frame selection is so precise and clean, the timing of the frames just so, this is what I see as its most powerful pull for us as viewers. Thank you, Mark.  

Of graffiti, rats and talent lost

Graffiti Wars 2011 – King Robbo vs Banksy by alxka

As ever in DS106 land, it started with a tweet.

I hade never heard of King Robbo but I had seen Banksy’s work around the UK. Meh. I follow Ryan Seslow  here on Tumblr and like his art, sometimes. Yet I never got (until yesterday) the recurrent aerosol can in his art, forgive my ignorance Ryan. 

I clicked to watch with a view to ‘scan and go’ as so much of what goes through a daily feed. I never ‘went’. The video was such an education, then Google filled in the holes of my ignorance. Graffiti vs Street art, free hand vs stencil, what legitimises graffiti as art, passion vs economics….yet, what stayed was as deep sadness for a talent lost.

Some people, I learnt as I read, did not approve of the documentary. Yet, I found it compelling. It opened up a world I knew nothing about and showed me people passionate about their art. Blek le rat saying he was a little bit miffed (as we say in the UK) that Bansky had used him as ‘inspiration’. It takes time to find a style, he said. And when you do, you want it to be yours. It takes time to find a style, noted. I will keep trying. 

I learnt content, I learnt useful strategies to help with inner struggles about what the heck is it I am making since I joined DS106 – art, artefacts, or just shit – but once again, the deep sadness for King Robbo’s life. On the edge of getting the recognition he craved, his life destroyed by some random act of life. Deep sadness. Also striking to me was how Robbo thanked Banksy and the their war for bringing him out of retirement and getting him motivated to make the transition to the art gallery. Something I imagine some might condemn as breaking some deep Graffiti art rules. Yet, nobody got the chance to condemn him. As he felt inspired to create again, he left this life. In a coma for 3 years, before dying this week. 

Well, in true DS106 style. I was curious about the art. I never thought twice about this type of art. The film made me think. The Google obliged with a lovely little project to help students create graffiti. I was not tempted to go to my nearest train depot to use one of their trains as my canvas, I must be getting old. 

So here it is. I was curious about the distinction between free hand and stencil. Here is the stencil attempt,


And here is the free hand,


I loved that the site offers a digital aerosol can with sound to go with it!

Okay, so it was missing the smell, but sound helped a lot to simulate the experience. 

I only did one attempt as I imagine that that is the point of the free hand lettering, you do not get a second chance – though the digital version did have ‘undo’. The stencil version has many options, I am sure somebody who knows what they are doing could make something awesome.

My modest attempt showed me that free hand looks worse but feels more creative. And that may be if you make your own stencils then the creativity shifts to that and you can also reuse it. There is a pragmatic stench to that learning, but if you want to make money doing what you love it makes a lot of sense. Such rich distinctions in this video for the places my thought vectors are meandering at the moment. Thanks Andrew for posting, thanks Ryan for engaging as the story evolved for me last night. 

My favourite for better or worse, was neither Banksy’s work not King Robbo’s. It was Blek le rat narrating his work and (relatively) chilled about who may or may not have copied his work through the years. The rat rocks in my view. 


A journey through the Graffiti wars as my evening entertainment. The magic of Twitter for learning, right there. 

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