Before creating my self-portrait I never considered myself an artist in any dimension or medium. However, as the end of my first month in Art From Code quickly approaches, I’ve found a budding appreciation for abstract artists and art not concerned with perfection. Thus, my self portrait is very much a reflection of the personal and intellectual growth of this last month after seeing Ian Cheng’s Emissaries and Paul Klee. These two artists in particular resonated with me because I find the idea of creating art that is ‘perfect’ and without flaw daunting and discouraging. In contrast, Cheng and Klee’s artworks don’t possess a final or fixed ending to me, which is what inspired among other thing, this self-portrait.
In my self-portrait I worked primarily with animation, inspired by Emissaries and our continual work with loops. Before even writing down ideas or sketching, I was possessed with the idea of a moving, interactive face. I personally feel like my face is a canvas that changes ever day, and in that same vein of thinking about unpredictability produced from finite code, I did not want my self-portrait to keep a single colored face, but rather have a moving and constantly updated face. Animation, however, came with it’s own challenges of course.
In my process sketches many things were discarded, left behind, changed, and tinkered with until reaching this final self-portrait. That is also one of the reasons I loved this assignment, because one change in code propelled both myself and the project into a different direction. Originally, I wanted the background cells to change color with each other down the y axis to create a synchronized and smooth gradient of color from top to bottom. While I was unable to achieve that originally desired gradient in my code, by experimentation and error I found that changing the background color while retaining the proportion of rgb values produced incredible patterns that I would have never imagined possible. My own stumbling through the code led me to produce a self-portrait I liked even more than my original idea. Every time I refresh the page I come across a new pattern and color scheme I’ve never seen before, and I was pleasantly surprised how I avoided perfection but found it again through the chaos of loops and animation.
Not everything was left up to chance, of course. I wanted to also include very stationary elements about my face and identity in my self-portrait as well: specifically, my eyes, beard, and nose, and ears. If given the opportunity I would also probably add eyebrows as well. I decided to only include one ear because of Paul Klee’s Senecio in 1922, with his woman with misshapen eyes. It was that characteristic of the artwork, along with its striking colors that drew me in. I am very satisfied with my final project and how I was able to strike a balance between purpose, chaos, and infinity, much like Ian Cheng in Emissaries. For a someone who has never felt like an artist before I am very happy with my self-portrait from code.
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.
(Image 1)After getting a feel for the outline of the portrait, I quickly structured the code to fit my necessities. I decided on a static image, utilizing realism for color and basic geometry for shape. By (Image 2), I’d created a visual representing my literal portrait. I then wanted to add some more detail to further represent my “self”.
(Image 2)As a passionate dog lover and mother to three-and-a-half year old Chinese Crested Davi, I knew I must include his image in my portrait. Being that Davi is my greatest love, I wanted to represent our bond through a kind of melting image, a blurred line between where I end and where he begins.
(Image 3)As I’ve begun to experiment with coding, I find my most consistent interest lies in the use of color. Through the digital color meter tool, I colored myself and Davi using photographs as references. As I am not yet able to form exact shapes to replicate reality, I enjoy utilizing exact color temperatures. My self-portrait represents both my idea of self and my experience as a new coder. Through the consistent color palate and basic geometry, I feel I am able to express what I hope to convey, a literal portrait with blurred lines between reality and imagination.
To generate an idea of how I wanted to approach this assignment, I first glanced through the examples posted on the shared google drive. At first, it was just to figure out a template for my code but by the end, I had a pretty clear picture of what I wanted to create. I didn’t want to make a completely accurate portrait of my facial features, but rather make it a bit more abstract. This meant experimenting with unconventional shapes to create a basis for my facial structure and using different color schemes.
The first idea I had was to create a code that switched the facial expression through clicking the mousepad. Another was to create a portrait that cycled through multiple faces, with multiple facial expressions. Both of these influences derived from the examples posted on the google drive. They are the images shown below.
In the portrait on the left, the eye brows are raised and the eyes get bolder through the mousePressed function. I also like the lack of borders in the facial structure. What I found interesting from the portrait on the right was the split face and color scheme. I used that split face idea in my piece to create divided sections of the face, enhancing its abstraction. I don’t know the names of these artists or if they were past student work, but both portraits are very unique in their own right. From these portraits, I realized borders don’t necessarily need to be drawn out, the portrait can look more like a caricature or animation, and that even the slightest improvement, like making an outline bolder, can have a huge impact on the final output.
By making it interactive in this way, you can present a wide range of emotions or any representation, and create a more accurate depiction of yourself. With one picture you are limited in how you display yourself and one picture can not define a person. With multiple images appearing, you can exhibit more facial expressions or emphasize certain moods you may have. In my final portrait, I tried to show a clear change in expression that resembled aggravation, through the broken glasses and lowered eyebrows. You can also see how the lips separate and my idea was to go further and place text in between but I was having difficulty with adding that.
From this assignment, aside from the structure of the portrait, I gained a stronger appreciation for color schemes and their significance. Thats what catches my eye immediately when I look at other portraits. It makes it more interactive for the viewer because it gains attention. In past assignments I didn’t place much of an emphasis on the color scheme. I thought it was strictly about the image but from my self portrait, I realized how color schemes can drastically improve a piece. The lightness of the shades in the face go well with the light greenish background of the canvas.
What I also found useful for this assignment was the sketchbook. This is the first piece I’ve been using the sketchbook to create an outline or experiment with what I want to code. Before hand, I was making things up along the way. Obviously I still had ideas, but I never formulated them on to paper. Also, by sketching first, I had a smoother time finding the right coordinates to set my code at, and the comparable proportions of the various shapes.