Author Archives: Kam McNair

Little Big Lines

Learning to code this semester has been one hell of a journey. I’m not that proud to say I’ve cried about coding, but I have. There are witnesses. But it has been a worthy experience, and an important one. 

My first lines

  I have trouble with depth perception. Which is kind of funny because I’m a softball player, but a problem nonetheless. My mom says it’s because she let me play computer games before my brain was finished developing that section. Needless to say, this has affected what I thought I could do in terms of art. I see things and I think I can paint that and then I put paint to canvas and his nose is between his eyebrows. But in growing and developing my art, I eventually learned that I can adjust to my depth perception issue by looking at lines. I started thinking about how subjects are made up of a configuration of lines.   All that being said, I was drawn to the snowflake starter code because the shapes based in clear straight lines that make sense in the part of my brain. I always wanted to draw animals, but I had a lot of trouble with their natural shapes. When looking for tattoo ideas I came across these images of animals created from triangles. I love the interpretation because it looks natural and geometric at the same time.  

My fave Mondrian

This is much of why I liked Mondrian. He uses lines to create these interesting and engaging pieces and I wanted to do something in that vein. Though mine is much more chaotic than most of his. Coding this was easy because I learned early on that I like working with triangles in a system. Their shape is so dynamic to me and they have such a practicality in them. So I decided to code this elephant triangle by triangle in code. And I decided I wanted to tie it into my system. I thought the movement that came with the manipulations I made to the original code gave the system a unique and exciting texture. It gives the piece movement which it should have. I found the elephant tedious to code mostly. It was a lot of copy and pasting points and connecting the dots, but also making sure to keep track of which points are where, how long each line, what angle?


I never thought I was going to code a system. I know I didn’t do it myself but even just fixing it and make it do what I want it to do was kind of surprising, at least when I thought about it a few weeks ago. I’m still working on the movement of the lines, but I like the kind of static-ness that makes it more like a background. The elephant was a natural decision for me. My grandmother collects elephants and she passed on her adoration of the creature to me. I am enamored with their grace, their intelligence, and their might. But they’re also proven to be afraid of mice. I think maybe for me coding was the mouse. I had no reason to be afraid of it, I’m kinda smart, and figuring out how to work a code wasn’t going to hurt me but it terrified me. The prospect of coding a system made me want to quit before I even started. But I’ve made it work for me and I’m proud of what it’s going to be.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 9.06.32 AM

A little chaos never hurt nobody!

Nice to Look At

Okay, so loops have kicked my ass. Well, coding is kicking my ass, but here I am, trying. And not trying hard enough, but trying nonetheless. This project seemed like a fun idea, but when introduced to all the new ways to code things, I was second-guessing.

In trying to understand concepts, I recalled struggling in math when I was in high school. I eventually came to a realization that I was trying to memorize formulas rather than understand why they work. I wish I could give a concrete example of this, but I have blocked all memories of math after my second year in geometry.

Anyway, with the prompt, I immediately thought about my summer job at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. Their summer show featured artist, Robert Zakanitch, and pulled from the museum’s archives to produce a collection of pieces with the theme of flowers. Zakanitch is a little obsessed with floral patterns, and more broadly the idea of patterns.

Zakanitch's Soaring Gardens Grow

Zakanitch’s Soaring Gardens Grow

He is a founder of the Pattern and Decoration movement, actually, and he talked about how he was inspired by things like the floral linoleum pattern of his kitchen floor. This has little to do with what I actually produced, but I had in my head that I wanted to do something floral-like. I never for a second thought I could code a flower, I have to be realistic with myself. What I did come up with draws inspiration more from Bridget Riley in that her designs like Natajara are simple shapes turned into a more complex pattern. So when I sat down to code this thing, I realized I don’t know what I’m doing. I have a starting idea, and maybe that’s all I really finished with, but I struggled, needless to say.

I couldn't communicate what I was trying to achieve to my friend, but here is a rough rough sketch

I couldn’t communicate what I was trying to achieve to my friend, but here is a rough rough sketch

I got my software engineer friend on FaceTime to try to help me, and he kind of helped. I don’t know what I’m missing, besides time and practice and patience. What I ended up producing is a cop out. I’m pretty sure there was a much easier way to code what I did, but I wanted to produce something that if nothing else is nice to look at, and I did that.

Something Nice to Look At

Something Nice to Look At

I haven’t given up exactly, but I have hit a wall, and I’m trying to motivate myself to push through it. What I like about this is its simplicity, and that’s not a cop-out. I like the vintage colors, that I can’t even take credit for. It reminds me of Thanksgiving and birds.  I can do better.

Danger Zone

What is finished (for now)

My first instinct with this assignment was to write “this is a collage” and turn that in, in true Rauschenberg style. But then I decided to give it a shot and see what I could come up with.

The assignment came right after the country’s biggest modern mass shooting in Las Vegas, so I was thinking about gun control and mass shootings and terrorism and things, and it made me consider fear and danger, and that was the theme I went with.

Playing around with some ideas

It’s a weird time to be an American. I suppose it’s kind of a weird time to be anyone or anything because we have so much stuff. We have more information at our fingertips than ever. Technology is insane. Politics are absurd. But we still have time to think about Kim Kardashian’s butt?

When I think about fear, this week I’ve thought about coding (haha). And assignments, and the future, and relationships, and money, and and and++. Then I thought about what other people are afraid of and how big of a spectrum that is. People are afraid of spiders sometimes, and sometimes they’re afraid of nuclear warfare. There’s so many different tiers too. I suppose it’s all psychological, but in a sense I think they’re a difference between being afraid of a constant thing like a spider, and being afraid of the dangers of cultural appropriation (hence, Kim K’s butt).

  There’s a lot going on in my piece, because there’s a lot to be afraid of. However, there are images on there that people shouldn’t be afraid of or think are dangerous. But that points out a larger discussion about who’s to say who can be afraid of what?


Finished Product!

Finished Product!

I should start by saying when we were assigned this project I wanted to throw up a little bit. I was still trying to figure out how to open Atom correctly, and now I had to code a self portrait? It seemed impossible. Nevertheless, she persisted! I went into the assignment thinking, I just have to get something on the page, essentially. I wanted to be representational mostly because I think if I went the abstract route, I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it. Of course, I could have gotten as elaborately abstract as some of the student work I’ve seen in class, but I wanted to have a very clear goal in mind when creating my portrait, and for me it was best for that goal to be a representation of my self.
Hair Optional

Hair Optional

I am admittedly vain. I take a lot of selfies, so the idea of a self-portrait was not new to me, but coding one of course, was. So my aim was to get as close to a semblance of my face as possible in the given time and while still trying to figure things out. I had a thought while I was doing the Response exercises that an ellipse that tracks the mouse kind of resembles the shape of my naturally curly hair. I had thought about my portrait before that point, and mostly avoided thinking about how I was going to represent my hair.  
Playing with Response from the Ch. 5 Exercises

Playing with Response from the Ch. 5 Exercises

My hair, like coding, has and is taking a long time to figure out. I have played with many variables over the years—different products, brushes, tactics—and figured out what is best to keep my hair healthy and looking decent. Hair tangent aside, I took the idea of response and applied it to my hair both to mimic the shape and the idea that it is going to be different every day, but follow the natural curl pattern. With my portrait, it will look different based on the viewer’s interaction, but will follow the pattern of working with my ellipse. In terms of artists, I looked in the direction of Mondrian. I think his self-portrait is fairly straight forward, and his lines are pretty defined. That’s the same approach I took, half from a learning point, and half because that’s how my brain thinks whenever I go to draw something. I think in defined lines and shapes rather before I consider things like depth and perception. And again, I avoided abstraction. The interaction with my portrait is very expressive. Viewers are able to play with my hair and imagine what it’s like playing with my actual hair. In my reality, my hair is often an indicator of how my day or week is going, and you can take that approach when interacting with my portrait. You can try to make controlled movements, or you can just scribble and throw it around. Another aspect I thought about was my eyebrows. They probably took the longest to code because I was doing a lot of trial and error with my vertexes. I would move one one way, and get an eyebrow that I thought made my face look too sad. Or I would bring it up too high, and it would be too inquisitive. I went for a mostly neutral face, so the eyebrows had to be kind of perfect.  
Too expressive—I'm not the Rock

Too expressive—I’m not the Rock

I think the most surprising thing honestly was that I did it. I struggled a lot with coding at the beginning, and I’m still struggling, but I was surprised with my growth in this project alone. I tried some new techniques, and I’m pleased with the outcome. I think it wasn’t as hard and scary as I thought it was going to be, so that was a happy surprise. Maybe next time I’ll try the abstract route!