Author Archives: Shani Kantor

Conference Project Post-Mortem: The GIFer at the Gates of Dawn

My conference project, The GIFer at the Gates of Dawn, started out as an assignment to make six gifs with at least fifteen frames each and take inspiration from psychedelic and counterculture art from the 1960s. When the project was finished, I ended up drifting off from the original theme, creating nine pop art-esque, campy, colorful works. For the most part, I’m glad at how the images turned out. Most of my works dealt with the theme of iconography, something that has fascinated me for a long time in art (and something very prevalent in pop art). I tried experimenting with the different ways there are to revere a certain figure through their face and/or body. self portraitMy first idea was to make something with my own face. I took a couple of selfies, chose the best one, and used it as a reference for a painting on GIMP. This was very strange for me to make, as my self confidence isn’t the best and I wasn’t very used to displaying myself so boldly. I do, however, love the idea of taking some seemingly perfect picture of someone and obscuring it a bit – whether it’s drawing a mustache on the George Washington of a dollar bill, doodling a crude interpretation of genitals on some celebrity’s face, or making your own eye fall out of its socket. The GIF is 45 frames, so the falling of the eyes is very smooth. I also appreciate the pacing – a fast version of this would make you have to watch it a couple of times to see what’s going on. This project is also, in a way, a journey of me understanding colors. I love the relationships between the bold primary colors (and the purple) here. They jump out at you, but they’re extremely relaxing and just fit. I feel as if my other GIFs get better with color overtime. columns Like I said in my crit, I’m not the biggest fan of this. I feel like not much is going on and that it doesn’t fit everything else I do like the shifts in color, however. Even if it’s a bit boring, it’s very fascinating to watch. I feel like I could have made some sort of never-ending loop with this as well (shifts from warm to cool and back to warm). This had potential, but might have been better saved for another project. (This has nothing to do with iconography either.) collage The sort of iconography here is a bit different. It’s the kind you see in advertising – bold colors, bold shapes, and clear messages. I wanted to do a collage to represent several different ideas cluttered together, giving you the “everything on TV is the same” sort of message. I’m quite proud of this one, though I wonder what it would have been like if I stuck to one theme. This GIF was also inspired by the art of Slab City, an outsider colony in southern California, and most notably the incredible sculpture at its entrance, Salvation Mountain, created by the artist Leonard Knight: 800px-Salvation_Mountain_001 I admire how Salvation Mountain is also a conglomeration of several different colors and patterns that form one message. Even though my GIF is more representational in its subject matter, I took inspiration from the strong presentation of the Mountain’s message. I’m a big fan of how every smaller GIF, despite having a different color palette, eventually came together. The smaller ones on the top right don’t fit in as well to me, but everything comes together when you look at it for long enough. I’m also a big fan of the looping – this is the only GIF of mine that loops (almost) perfectly. devil For this next GIF, I used a famous scene from the movie Ugetsu as a reference. Ugetus-Monogatari-2 Ugetsu is a fairly famous, Criterion Collection-tier movie. Even if one has not actually watched it, they would probably recognize this scene. They may have a small idea of what it is, but they don’t actually know. This GIF was inspired by this ambiguity and vague familiarity about pop culture that most seem to have. I’m a fairly sheltered person – I’ve never read Harry Potter, don’t know anything about the Kardashians, and spent most of my childhood collecting boxes rather than watching TV (my family didn’t even have cable until I was a sophomore in high school – how horrible!) Most of my friends, for some reason, haven’t been able to take it, so I’ve received a lot of “How can you not know about x?!” In that way, this was a theme that’s been pretty prevalent throughout my life. It was also inspired by the short film Kachi Kachi Yama by Tadanori Yokoo, which parodied cheesy and exploitationist western films by using several (then-) popular actors to tell the story of a Japanese folktale in the most campy manner possible. AcjYN The content of the GIF has nothing to do with the movie itself – like in Kachi Kachi Yama, it’s just an abstraction that tells a different story. This is my personal favorite GIF of the bunch. The smoothness of the animation, the bold, flashing colors, the abstraction of a normal-looking scene, and the ways the palettes work together make this extremely satisfying for me. I also like how the face is half abstracted and half realistic, but enough to make the drawing look convincing and resemble the actors. This was another way that Kachi Kachi Yama inspired me – it’s not the most flattering Brigette Bardot, but it’s her! saint It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to do a rotoscope animation, and it’s finally been done! I took fifteen or sixteen pictures of myself on my phone, transferred them over to my laptop, and drew over them to put them all together. The motion I tried to create was a that of a savior or healer reaching out to the viewer to lift them up or to save them. This goes hand to hand with the Christian religious art in the back. I’m not Christian and know next to nothing about Christianity, but there was always this concept of “saving” and “revering” that I associated with it (in the sense of Jesus and the many saints that are worth worshipping in their case). The motion and the changing background go hand in hand in this way. All in all, it’s about the huge effect of religion and religious iconography, even to those outside of its influence. My favorite thing about this GIF is the collages in the background. I enjoy how all this art is muted down from its original glory and repeated to fit a common theme. I explore repetition and iconography more in the next GIF. I wish that I could’ve worked on the animation itself a bit more – it’s uneven and choppy. humansThis one is a bit more straightforward in theme. The obstruction of celebrity’s faces, turning what most people know and love into something of a monstrosity. The celebrities are, in order of appearance: British-American drag queen Charlie Hides, Singaporean-Malaysian singer and actress Saloma (Salmah Ismail), American musician Lana Del Rey (Elizabeth Grant), and Indian actress Asha Parekh. I felt like, to make the piece more effective, I should paint celebrities that I personally admire. The collaging of the celebrity’s faces also plays into the aspect of popularity and obstruction – faces of famous people are similarly plastered all over media such as television and the Internet. When the colors become darker, it’s similar to a horde of demons or something equally horrific. It scared me the first time I played back the GIF. I also love the use of color to create a very different image than what one might expect from a picture of a bunch of celebrities. the h on the hollywood sign Projector Night gave me the idea of turning a structure into something its not. The idea to do this to the H of the Hollywood sign came from a song I love, Lust for Life by Lana Del Rey (“We climbed up the H / of the Hollywood sign…”) The images – Pills, lips, the Union Jack, and Amanda Lepore are all connected by color (red/blue/yellow/green) and by the fact that they’re representative of some popular cultural ideal. They’re icons on an icon – a true statement of the effect of iconography and how some unrelated things can look so related. lips There’s not much to say about this one. I originally created this pattern for the GIF above it, but loved how the colors popped and made it change color. This feels like the most psychedelic of the GIFs, which is a strange and ironic tie in to the original theme of this project. All in all, I feel like this project was a success. I portrayed what I wanted to portray, learned more about the medium of the GIF, learned about coordinating colors, and learned a little bit about myself along the way. I didn’t stick to my original idea, but life can take you in several different directions that you may not expect. I feel like I could have made less flashing/changing color GIFs, but other than that, I’m pretty proud with how they all turned out. All that work on GIMP was ultimately worth it.      

Video Mapping: Projector Night

Projector night was an extremely nerve-wracking experience for me. This wasn’t my first time presenting my art in an exhibition, but becoming involved in the use of VPT made it seem like a new experience altogether. There was so much to take care of; from setting up my projector correctly, to making sure my map was interesting and aesthetically pleasing, to making sure my laptop didn’t fall off of the table. Ultimately, though, I believe that it was a good experience, not only to become acquainted with video mapping, but to become more acquainted with presenting my art in an exhibition in general. Due to the several mishaps I had with acquiring the proper equipment to project, I had to miss all three of the projector night rehearsals. I did, however, practice mapping on my laptop. I also intended to overlap stock footage with my After Effects creations, but didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed to use them until Angela told me later on the night of the exhibition. In all honesty, without the stock footage, I didn’t really know what to do with my maps. I mostly just stuck to two predetermined maps I had for the whole night while shifting colors. projectornight6   I really enjoyed shifting the colors of the different videos I screened and explored the different effects of combining colors. I usually went by a pattern of analogous colors, as they are, to me, more calming to look at, but used complimentary colors as well. Along with the colors, I liked overlapping different videos or different parts of the same videos over each other. It made for a surreal, almost “trippy” experience. I wanted my maps to seem as if they came from out of this world, and to also bring a sense of inner calm to the viewer. (The window on the bottom corner didn’t bother me that much.) projectornight4 Since I was in a very versatile spot of the building, I also explored with mapping in the space around me. I enjoyed seeing how different one thing can look on several different “screens”. projectornight3 projectornight5 projectornight1 My inspiration came mostly from music. I wanted to recreate the calm and the awareness of my surroundings that I feel while listening to ambient music such as that by artists Casino Versus Japan and Tim Hecker. I was also inspired by 1960s psychedelic visuals…
"For My Right Damaged Eye",  Toshio Matsumoto (1968)

“For My Right Damaged Eye”, Toshio Matsumoto (1968)

…and the surrealist 1998 video game LSD Dream Emulator. maxresdefault Even if my maps weren’t the most dynamic, I think that my goal to create surrealist, colorful, and calming visuals was a success, especially with the help of maneuvering my projector into several different places.
My mom and my friend.

My mom, my dad (not pictured), and my friend came to visit me that night and give me much-needed support.


Conference Project Proposal: The GIFer at the Gates of Dawn

My conference project proposal is six GIFs, with fifteen or more frames each, made on GIMP. My GIFS will be inspired by psychedelic art, film, and sculpture. Most of my inspirations come from the counterculture/psychedelic art movement of the late 60s-early 70s. This type of art, from its more colorful, pattern-oriented forms to its satire of contemporary culture and iconography has always inspired my artwork. I also enjoy the freedom of using GIMP, where I can create what I want and not be limited by technical or mathematical properties. I especially enjoy creating interesting, cohesive GIF animations. In my project, I plan to embrace psychedelic art in all its forms, from its most abstract to its most satirical. However, I plan to unite all of these forms into one encompassing moral of psychedelic art: there are many ways to abstract reality. When it comes to the content I will include in my GIF, I get most of my ideas by building an inspiration folder. My folder contains many different artworks from many different counterculture artists, sorted by name. Virtually collecting this artwork allows me to see the plethora of psychedelic art that is possible, identify common themes, and gain inspiration to be able to create my own artwork.
A painted collage piece by Tadanori Yooko, a graphic designer and illustrator. Yooko is one of my inspirations for this project.

Poster for the movie “Diary of a Shinjuku Burglar” (1968) by Tadanori Yooko, a Japanese counterculture graphic designer and illustrator. Yooko is one of my biggest inspirations for this project.

A concert poster for Big Brother and the Holding Company in the Avalon Ballroom (1966) by Victor Moscoso, another counterculture artist. Like in Moscoso's work, I also plan to explore the abstract elements of psychedelic art and the contrasts between bright colors.

A concert poster for Big Brother and the Holding Company in the Avalon Ballroom (1966) by Victor Moscoso, a Spanish counterculture artist. Like in Moscoso’s work, I also plan to explore the abstract elements of psychedelic art and the contrasts between bright colors.

Throughout working on my project, I plan to focus on the following aspects:
  • Animation: Working on these GIFS will be a general exploration of the threshold of computer animation. My GIFS will be an experiment in several aspects; including frame number, frame rate, and the transition of the moving images between frames in relation to the overall quality of the animation.
  • Motion: Building on my goals relative to the animation quality of the GIFs, I will experiment with frame quality, frame transition, frame timing, and shape placement in order to create the illusion of movement through my GIFs.
  • Color: Mirroring the psychedelic art of the counterculture movement, I plan to explore the relationships between bold and bright colors in my GIFS. I plan to use changes, contrasts, and comparisons between color; which includes shifting hue, saturation, and R, B, and G values in order to create different moods and thoughts throughout my pieces.
  • Pattern: Much of psychedelic artwork is made up of patterns. I plan to use symmetry, texture, and balance with shapes and colors to create moving patterns throughout my work. I also plan to experiment with irregular patterns throughout different surfaces.
One problem that I feel that I could face is the poor translation of psychedelic themes to a digital interface. Being as the counterculture took place in the late sixties to early seventies, when personal computers were not yet available, most psychedelic art was hand-drawn, painted, and created. I feel as if the brighter colors, computerized animation, and pixelated images of GIMP may not truly capture the spirit of counterculture art that was.
A 1967 concert poster by counterculture artist Bonnie MacLean. Notice the subtler lines, dimmer colors, hand-drawn lines, and paper look.

A 1967 concert poster by American counterculture artist Bonnie MacLean. Notice the dimmer colors, abstract shapes and patterns, hand-drawn lines, and paper look.

A fractal image by modern psychedelic artist Julia Set. Notice the brighter colors, lack of blending, and computer-generated lines and shapes. It is more bold and flashing than MacLean's work or the work of the previous artists that I have posted. I fear my work will look less authentic to counterculture art as I am using a computer to create it.

A fractal image by modern psychedelic artist Julia Set. Notice the brighter colors, uniform patterns, lack of blending, and computer-generated lines and shapes. It is more bold, bright, and modern-looking than MacLean’s work or the work of the previous artists that I have posted. I fear my work will look less authentic to counterculture art as I am using a computer to create it.

However, I believe that my fear of wanting to make something “genuine”, while valid, is a bit asinine. GIFs are inherently products of the digital age, and to go through with this project, I will try my best to blend the old with the new. I believe that there can be beauty and spirit in any form of art, whether traditional or digital. In addition, I have learned a lot from my time in Digital Tools for Artists that will allow me to convey my message properly. The course taught me to use the tools I have, including GIMP, to my will. I was able to learn how to manipulate the look of an image, using filters, brush types (some brushes come out looking less computer-generated than others, such as the paint brush), toolbar tools (such as smudging and airbrush) and other elements in order to make the image look as I want it to. In addition, artistic concepts that have been discussed in class, such as the different types and ways of creating patterns, proper color coordination, animation storyboarding, shape manipulation, timing, and storytelling through images will help make the messages conveyed through my GIFs not only more concise, but more authentic. The first part of this project, though not yet completely finished, is a simple, forty five-frame self-portrait. I drew a picture of myself in my sketchbook (which I was not able to find at the time of writing this), which I redrew again in GIMP, using bright, primary colors and minimal lines. Although, currently, the colors are bright and there is not as much blending as with the other images I have shown from the sixties time period, it is an experimentation with colors, the abstraction of realism, frame timing and frame rate, the illusion of movement by manipulating shapes and colors, and with unrealistic, “trippy” psychedelic imagery. I believe that I could further improve this imagery by blending the colors of my head (using the “oilify” filter). I also believe that the background could be a little bit more interesting, perhaps even moving, but I do not want to take the focus away from the falling eyeball. self portrait This particular image was inspired by the abstract, colorful portraits of the members of The Beatles by counterculture artist Andy Warhol and by the grotesque psychedelic animation in the Japanese animated feature Kanashimi no Belladonna.
 Andy Warhol's interpretation of The Beatles was a combination of psychedelia and pop art.

Andy Warhol’s interpretation of The Beatles (196-) was a combination of psychedelia and pop art.

Kanashimi no Belladonna (1973) is a staple of colorful and surreal psychedelic animation.

Kanashimi no Belladonna (1973) is a staple of colorful and surreal psychedelic animation.

Even if it is not exactly like the psychedelic art of the 60s and 70s, I hope to portray an array of this weird and wonderful genre of art. I hope that viewers of my works will see the many ways in which reality can be changed, whether colorful, uncomfortable, larger, smaller, faster, slower, or generally unconventional. I hope that, through using a modern medium, I will be able to bring this “vintage” style of art to a new, present-day audience.

Digital Tools: The Art of the GIF

(I know that this is late, but it’s been a long week…) gif 1 blotter   This one is a color-over of the pattern I did a week before. Not much thought went into it; Just phase the colors into their secondary counterparts, and copy the frames so the picture will go back to normal. The initial pattern was inspired by 60s-era LSD blotter art, or more specifically, this LSD blotter art, featuring a portrait of John Lennon by Peter Max.   gif 2 cake This one was inspired by Wayne Thiebaud, one of my favorite artists. I admire the soft, pastel colors of his confections; How, in his paintings, the sweets are the only detailed part. I like how the eerie white background works with the muted, gentle cake and tray. I also wanted to experience with ‘stop-motion’ gifs, where, although each frame is drastically different, but showing a progression. A story. In this case, a cake getting eaten. gif 3 warm Another small one. I have trouble with hand-eye coordination, so I didn’t notice that the pattern was off-center until after I finished it. Other than that, I’m quite proud of this one. It comes from the likes of seventies graphic design; cool, funky, organic shapes in warm colors. I was inspired by psychedelic art again when I decided to let the colors pool over, one by one, drowning each other out in a hypnotizing manner. Comforting, enticing, and relaxing.   test One of my goals for this project was to do at least one spinning object GIF. I was listening to some Marina and the Diamonds, hence the name (“The Family Jewels”) and the subject. I originally intended to make it 800×800, but the diamonds were too small and decided to leave it as is.