Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Microsoft Paint Is My Jam

When I’m bored at work, when there’s not much going on or things are done for the day but I need to be in my office seat, I’ll work on mail-art things. Normally I design add and pass sheets, put scanned work here and there, or simply correspond to other mail-artists online. Doing this makes me feel like I’m being creatively productive during the day. And since I’m making the most out of my time, I’m being productive, productive. At the end of the day I end up having my work done and I’ve completed some creative work as well. The day is never a lost one when you’ve done both these things. Grading twenty essays by the of the day doesn’t always feel like a victory.
Microsoft Paint has become my go-to for digital editing. I get it, the service isn’t a very good one, it’s crude and silly and doesn’t have all of the ‘bells and whistles’ one would like to have. Photoshop is great, I know this, but it isn’t on my work computer so I use Paint. Stylistically I like the program, I like the crudeness, and I like the limitations. Not being able to move the text around is something I hate, which makes all of my creations painfully linear. Since I’ve been challenging myself to put more ‘movement’ in my work, this is a drawback. It’s what I have so it’s what I use.
Along with Paint, I’ve been fascinated with using black monochrome. I love it because it has no depth, it’s so flat, everything comes out looking like a punk rock show flyer and I love that. When I put something in flat black monochrome I immediately start thinking about Raymond Pettibone and all of his wonderful drawings. I try and make them as gritty as I possibly can. I do this by printing off my creation and then copying it, and then copying that copy. Doing this allows all sorts of strange lines and specs to pop up. Often I’ll go back and scan the image, mess with it digitally and then print it off again, and then I’ll copy it, and copy it, and copy it. Whatever I created in Paint then becomes a completely different creation after it goes through this rigorous process.
For no particular reason I decided to take one of my analogue tape collages (the backing comes from a book I ripped up) convert it to flat black monochrome digitally. Things that weren’t visible in the analogue collage started to pop out. I loved the mix of black and white, half words, and figures. It was exciting. Then I pulled up Paint and randomly started adding startling colors to the mix. Since Paint makes little distinction for lines, large swaths of the image would become colored…you couldn’t really control where the color went. I kept going; I kept tossing in color to see where it would go.
This is how I achieve the image above. On the left side is the analogue collage made up of a lot of torn magazine images (the tape rip method) and a friend’s child as the main focus. The message in the back of the collage, “Brightest Life of All” is still visible. Once I scanned the analogue collage, made it black monochrome, and then added bright colors in Paint, the image took on a whole new life. The image on the right felt like a record cover from the late 70’s or early 80’s, something a little punk but also a little pop oriented. Although I like both images the completed digital one, (on the right) stands out a little more to me. Once again, I have stumbled across a new method to make my collages. This is how I “came up with” the tape rip method, it just happened. This just happened and I like where I might be able to take it. I wonder how this would look printed off. The possibilities are exciting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Upstairs Makings

Now that the summer is over for me (when I go back to school then summer is over) I’ve started to shift my focus. For most of the summer I was continually looking at the yard, trying to find things to do down there. Since I was in the yard so much I wasn’t making as many things as I’d like. The summer is over so the transition to mail-art has begun.
The upstairs is coming along, it feels right. I’ve got things on the walls and have a short hand for how to work up there. Normally I start work in the evening, and often for an hour or so. It’s too hot in the middle of the day to try and be productive so I wait until it cools down. I don’t think the mobile air-conditioner is that effective in the middle of the day, maybe in the evenings? Either way, because I have the space I’m able to have a few things going at once. I work on this over here and then move to that project, it’s quite perfect. I’m up there making things with the radio on, the fan going, and materials moving around the room. I’ve made it a point to just let things happen, not worry if the space gets too messy. On a side note, all of the smells from dinner get trapped up there, so if the meal was good it’s a nice thing to be able to revisit.
On the docket for the past couple of weeks have been getting Add and Pass materials together. I wanted to make up a bunch of these for the “lean times.” You know, have something together to send to people when I’m not making more creative items. I’ve made some tape cards that I’ve used the “rip method” on and some packets of random bits of paper.
What I’ve spent the most time on were the bigger items that I’ve attached images of here. The bassoon one is for my nephew who plays that instrument, the red-haired kid is Clark, and the three of Rowdy Burns goes to Stef, Caroline in LA, and John C. Reilly. I felt I had to make something for JCR (I’m going to write more about this later on) especially considering how much my letter to him focused on Days of Thunder. Hopefully everyone likes their terrible movie themed art.
For the three Rowdy Burns items I’ve used a lighter touch. So often I’ve filled the space with too much stuff, too much color, and not enough “nothing.” For some reason I felt like every single inch needed to have color. I also felt like the space needed words, so I often put in the character’s name in stickers or in handwriting somewhere on the piece. I just didn’t want to do that this time, just focus on the main image and let the viewer find their way around it. Overall they came out pretty well even if I don’t think the three of them are equal. I decided to let chance decide which image went to which person. What came out was pretty good but I’m not there yet. It’s less cluttered and less of an eye assault but it still feels off. I like the juvenile and haphazard nature of what often comes out, but I want to try and rein it all in when I want to.
What bothers me most is the focus on the figure, it’s always there and right in the middle. For projects like these I like to stay with a figure because that’s what people enjoy. Most people want to look at a thing and then recognize that thing, nothing much past that. The more astute people will focus some attention on the mess keeping it all together but I would say they’re the exception and not the rule. I want to make sure and keep this balance between the figure everyone is going to focus on and the stuff surrounding it. I want a dynamic and colorful composition that can be enjoyed by people willing to focus and also enjoyed by people unwilling or uninterested to do so.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Makings With Central European Trash

When I went to China I was just getting started sending mail-art. Thankfully I picked up a bunch of items from newsstands and from the trash to make a nice set of cards. They came out pretty well, not great, just ok. On my recent trip to Central Europe the mail-art obsession had solidified. One of my major outings in Hungary was about mail-art. The whole time I was picking up bits of paper, sometimes thinking about how I could use it later. I didn’t actually buy anything I just took back trash. As soon as I got back I made a load of cards from what I had smuggled out. One of my trip companions collected things for me as well and left the pile on my work desk a couple weeks ago. These three images are (mostly what she gave me) out of the items she left me. I’m going to give one to her as well as a couple other folks that went on the trip. The cat one is my favorite.