Author Archives: Myles Columbo

System: Germination

In one of my other classes this semester, I am working on an experiment involving seed germination. In this project, we took fungi found on Andropogon seeds and reintroduced that fungi to a different set of Andropogon seeds. The intention was to then measure the germination rate of these seeds in comparison to a control in an attempt to see if the mystery fungi were pathogenic. However, nothing in this process went correctly.
Every single one of the petri dishes we were experimenting on became contaminated, including the controls. While this had negative effects for our experiment as a whole, it did end up looking extremely interesting. Our experiment became largely more complicated than expected in terms of usable data, but much more interesting as a person interested in fungal and bacterial growth.
My original plan for this system was to try and replicate the original experiment, including the ten Andropogon seeds and the mystery fungus. I spent perhaps too long trying to set up an easy and clean system for setting up the seeds. However, I decided it got too visually complicated. I realized it would become very easily unclear exactly which seeds had germinated and which had not. So I instead opted to go for a single large seed in the center of the dish. This would make understanding the system more feasible. While making this choice made some visual issues easier, it did set me back quite a bit and made much of the work I had done useless.
Once the seeds had been taken care of, I then started work on the actual contaminants themselves.
First I wanted to go with the black dots that covered the plates and surrounded the seeds.
Then, I wanted to replicate the odd beige rings that were found around many of the seeds. The second photo is not the most successful at actually capturing how they looked, but I was looking to replicate a series of being rings that surrounded the seeds individually, in nearly the same shape as the seed itself, only larger. Finally, I wanted to find a way to recreate the look of the hyphae, a network of fungus that took root in the material we used to grow the seeds.
Right now, this is how my system looks. It is still a work in progress, held back slightly by the time spent on the initial, unused idea.
wip_petri0 (2)
From here, I need to instate the system by which the seed germinates or not. I also hope to add another contaminant in, one based on the black spheres that grew in the plates shown below. I also hope to add more detail to the seed itself.


For this assignment, I spent most of my time just experimenting. I went in with no real idea of what I was going to do, but I just wanted to explore. I really didn’t sketch much because I jumped right into the code. One of the most intriguing things we’ve worked on in the last few weeks was the pattern of small lines. I was fascinated by them and knew that I wanted to use them as the background for my wallpaper. They create visual interest without distracting from the other elements. Later in the design, I realized that the colors of the lines were being lost on an entirely black background, so I coded a loop that creates a gradient through the multiplication of the coordinates. This change came late in the design, but it let me entirely redesign my color palette into something more interesting.

The next part that I experimented with was the Riley Circles we did in class. The ability to create overlapping patterns made them ideal for the aesthetic I was going for in this piece. I decided to use different colors on the top/bottom and the sides because the shape of the canvas is already irregular. With a canvas shaped this way, I thought it would be advantageous to draw attention to the oddity instead of trying to hide it. I liked the color results of the green/blue generator more than the red/blue generator so I put that one on the area with the larger area. I eventually decided to make them slightly translucent in order to create an effect like a mosaic or a stained glass window.


This border, while pretty, presented somewhat of a problem. In order for it to have clean edges, it would have either required me to let the corners overlap or to find a way to cover it up. This lead an idea about rotating squares. The problem with rotating squares is that the edges don’t travel consistently. So in order to have a consistent edge, I filled those corners with a stationary circle. It created movement of a different kind and, while I still think it looks strange, I enjoy it for that.

In my initial plans, I didn’t have the small lines in the draw section. They were part of the set up, which made it more difficult to put moving objects on top of them. This created the idea for what I have been calling the “runners” and the “track”: the yellow circles moving along the purple shape. Putting the runners on top of the track would have allowed me to have moving objects without leaving a trail behind. Eventually, I decided to just put the lines in the draw section, but I still liked the visual of the track.


The grid was all experimentation. I went in with no plan other than I wanted the center to be a grid. I probably spent more time on the color of the shapes than on coloring any other part of this. When I changed from a black background to a gradient, it allowed me to have more fun and to put a wider variety of color without being afraid that it would get entirely lost. Additionally, one of my favorite effects is a shape whose stroke randomly changes widths. I had originally included this effect on every part of the grid, but it got very busy so I restricted it to the orange circles.

By the end of this wild exploration, I was surprised to find a clearer image than I expected. While spending hours staring at wallpaper, I managed to make a door. I think it started, again, with the shape of the canvas. As soon as I drew a shape that mirrored the canvas, I started thinking about doors. And that influence made its way into the design: the heavy frame, the squares to mimic panelling. Even the circle-square decorations at the corners of the canvas are reminiscent of the metal plates put on the corners of doors. The door theme may have been an accident. But I still think it fits.



When we got the assignment to create a collage, it took me a long time to decide what theme I wanted to work with. But after several hours of watching a playthrough of the game Cuphead, in which a queen bee is a primary boss, I became fixated on the complex and rich imagery of bees. The hexagon shape sounded like a worthwhile challenge to construct through code. The hexagonal background was the first, and most technically challenging, thing I worked on for this collage. My original plan for the hexagon was to have it flat-side up, but when I went to hang it up in class, I found that I much preferred it the other way. Which caused me to spend a few more hours reworking the hexagon. The eventual solution I found was to over a transparent outline of a hexagon and to trace the points. Then I constructed triangles to cut out that part of the canvas. This technique of using the image of a hexagon to construct one came in handy for the hexagons in the corners, too. myles_collage_background The specific imagery that I was working on was juxtaposing the modern and the ancient views of bees. In the modern day, bees are often considered a pest and something to be afraid of. Older, more specifically Greek, views associated bees with divinity and the Oracle of Delphi. I personally find bees and their hives beautiful, so I found it fun to show these two perceptions side by side. myles_collage_sketch_bigger Then I started layering images and text. I tried to use modern words in more decorative fonts and ancient words in more modern fonts. Part of how bees communicate is through movement, so I included a moving bee. The moving background both acknowledges this and creates an almost hypnotic background that also connects to the divination aspect of the Oracle. myles_collage_final


2015 Inspiration Doodle      Myles Screen Face When we first got this assignment, all I could think of is how difficult it is to sum up a person in one image. I knew that I wanted to go for both a literal and an abstract version of a portrait: both physically what I look like and also how I think of myself. My inspiration initially came from a doodle I did in the margins of my notebook back in 2015. It was a figure with a screen or a box for a face. So I started there. The doodle eventually became my head in a TV screen. It then became the issue of what to put on the screen. I decided on a few things that reminded me of myself, or that I felt emotionally close to. The easiest screen to pick was a moth, an insect that I am fascinated by (which turned out to be harder to code than expected). It took a few tries but I eventually settled on something I really liked. (The curvy one on the left was the first draft, while the sharper, striped one on the right is the final draft.) Moth First Attempt Moth Final The next screen I did was a manila folder with my name on it. For the past year-ish I’ve written a horror monologue series for Midnight Cabaret called The Myles Fyles. I’m more proud of those pieces of writing than any others I’ve ever done, and I figured a file would be a good way to preface the multiple screens to follow it. Next came the umbrella, because I always feel best when its raining. The last screen I designed was the mushrooms. I also study biology, and my main interest area is mycology. I also just think they’re interesting to look at. I don’t have in-progress photos of these because the design only went through one iteration. The final little element to my self portrait was a way to highlight the more literal picture of me. So I went with another bug: a lightning bug.  Lit Bug   Sketchbook
In my sketchbook, I mostly worked on problems that surprised me with their complexity: the moth, my hair, and the lightning bug. It turned out to be far more difficult to turn bugs and the shape of my hair into forms that I could use for this portrait. Moth’s wings are usually curved in irregular forms that were practically unattainable. The solution to this problem became forgoing the curves altogether and doing a sharper and more stylized moth. The lightning bug was complex in ways I did not expect because I wanted it to be at an angle. This, in hindsight, was a bad idea. It ended up taking a lot of pure trial and error before any of the bug looked good. The final problem was my hair, which does not follow any regular shapes and trying to sharpen it looked wrong in comparison to the rest of my head. It eventually took four arcs to finally get something even close to my actual hair.