Sunday, November 18, 2012

Versluis | Behrens Collaborative Bugs

Yellow Jacket Digital Collage (2012) © David Versluis & Roy R. Behrens
Many months ago, coincident with the New Year 2012, my fine friend David Versluis (a Dutch Master) and I decided to try something. He has a collection of Iowa bugs (dead ones) of which he made exquisite scans at high resolution. He began to send me the scan files, one at a time, with the challenge that I should respond to them by beginning to build a digital montage, using Adobe Photoshop. I could do whatever I liked. Then I would pass that back to him, in response to which he'd make a move—and pass it back to me again. And so on, usually with five or six back-and-forth turns, until we mutually came to suspect that the work was finished. So that's how we proceeded—with a beetle, a cicada, a dragon fly, and other creatures, including (here) a hornet (which, in the end, was discovered to be not a hornet but a yellow jacket wasp). I can't recall how many of these montages we made, but in a few short weeks we ended up with a substantial and interesting series. Posted above is a gif (pronounced jiff) animation of the stages in our process for the collaborative yellow jacket (the stages are not in the order, I think, in which the piece evolved). The final stage for this montage (which was recently selected for a national juried exhibition) is posted here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Animated Currency | Dusty Kriegel

Animated Self-Portrait Currency (2012) © Dusty Kriegel

Above Teaching is so unbelievably difficult. I suppose it doesn't have to be, if you only pretend to do it (an ever present temptation), if you don't put your heart into it. If you do, there is nothing quite as devastating emotionally (when it fails) nor any greater source of joy (when it succeeds). This semester, I've been working with two groups of especially wonderful students in a beginning course in graphic design in the Department of Art at the University of Northern Iowa. When the semester started in late August, many of them had little or no experience with Adobe Photoshop or other bewildering software (increasingly bewildering with each, more frequent, update). There were some who could only do email. Now they are soaring at perilous heights that I can barely imagine at times. Most recently, for example, I asked them to design the front and back of a hypothetical banknote (paper money). To complicate the problem, I told them that it had to be "self-portrait currency." I also threw in a subsequent stage: Having designed the banknote as such, they were then required to animate the face side of it (which they did in Photoshop, using the gif animation technique). We critiqued the initial results yesterday, and a number of their pieces were utterly amazing. I was especially taken aback by this extraordinary solution (above) by Dusty Kreigel. Delights like this restore my faith in a world that I find so disturbing, in education—and in a baffling human race.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Clara Barton | Kenneth Meisner

Portrait of Clara Barton (2012) © Kenneth Meisner

Above In a class about designing digital images, I asked my students to invent "interpretive portraits" of extraordinary men or women from the past, sung or unsung. Kenneth Meisner chose to celebrate the achievements of teacher, nurse and humanitarian Clara Barton (1821-1912).


Clara Barton, The Story of My Childhood

I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.

P.G. Wodehouse | Benjamin Rendall

Portrait of P.G. Wodehouse (2012) © Benjamin Rendall

Above In a class about designing digital images, I asked my students to invent "interpretive portraits" of extraordinary men or women from the past, sung or unsung. It's not often these days that I find a student who is familiar with (much less a devoté of) British humorist Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975). But Benjamin Rendall is one of those, and this is his portrait of P.G. Wodehouse.


Sean O'Casey, Letter to the editor. The Daily Telegraph, July 1941 [referring to Wodehouse]—

If England has any dignity left in the way of literature, she will forget for ever the pitiful antics of English literature's performing flea.


P.G. Wodehouse—

There is only one cure for grey hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.


P.G. Wodehouse—

The drowsy stillness of the afternoon was shattered by what sounded to his strained senses like G.K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin.


P.G. Wodehouse—

It's a funny thing about looking for things. If you hunt for a needle in a haystack you don't find it. If you don't give a darn whether you ever see the needle or not it runs into you the first time you lean against the stack.

Emigré Online Index | Jessica Barness

Emigré Magazine Index | designed by Jessica Barness

Many years ago (okay, maybe it wasn't that many years ago), my graphic design colleagues and I at the University of Northern Iowa had the distinct pleasure of working with a young student named Jessica Barness. She earned a BA in 1999 and an MA in 2001, in the process of which she accomplished a substantial body of amazing and unforgettable work (I can still vividly picture those stark Ingmar Bergman film posters). Following graduation, she worked as a designer in Chicago, and then applied to the MFA program at the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. She embarked this year on a new career as an Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University, one of the country's leading design programs.

Above In 2011, while still in graduate school, Jessica was awarded the Joss Internship by the Goldstein Museum of Design. In completion of that, she designed an Emigré Magazine Index, an extraordinary online interface that enables us all to have access to the Goldstein Museum's collection of the full set of 69 issues (between 1984 and 2005) of that celebrated publication, a magazine that "assisted in elevating typography and graphic design to a serious and respected field of study." More >>>

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thomas Edison | Jessica Libberton

Portrait of Thomas Edison (2012) © Jessica Libberton

Above In a class about designing digital images, I asked my students to invent "interpretive portraits" of extraordinary men or women from the past, sung or unsung. This is a portrayal of genius and inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) by Jessica Libberton.


Thomas Edison—

Great music and art are earthly wonders, but I think cubist songs and paintings are hideous.


Richard Armour, It All Started with Columbus

Since Edison suffered from insomnia, he invented the electric light, so he could read at night.


Keith Ellis, Thomas Edison: Genius of Electricity

Edison was a giant. He had gigantic successes and gigantic failures. He had a giant's zest, a giant's power of recuperation, and a giant's vision.

Jesse James | Beau Heyenga

Portrait of Jesse James (2012) © Beau Heyenga

Above In a class about designing digital images, I asked my students to invent "interpretive portraits" of extraordinary men or women from the past, sung or unsung, heroic or not. Beau Heyenga chose the notorious desperado Jesse James (1847-1882).


Anon, The Ballad of Jesse James

Jesse had a wife to mourn all her life.
Two children they were brave.
'Twas a dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard
And laid Jesse James in his grave.

Susan B. Anthony | Morgan Johnson

Portrait of Susan B. Anthony (2012) © Morgan Johnson

Above In a class about designing digital images, I asked my students to invent "interpretive portraits" of extraordinary men or women from the past, sung or unsung. A number of the students chose historic civil rights leaders, as in this portrayal of suffragette Susan B. Anthony by Morgan Johnson.


Anon, in Ida Husted Harper, Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (originally published in the Denver News)—

The press sneers at Miss Anthony, men tell her she is out of her proper sphere, people call her a scold, good women call her masculine, a monstrosity in petticoats; but if one half of her sex possessed one half of her acquirements, her intellectual culture, her self-reliance and independence of character, the world would be better for it.