Tag Archives: conference project

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Cloudbirth

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When I signed up to take this course, I knew that I ultimately wanted to learn digital art skills that could pair with the electronic music that has been my primary artistic practice for the last couple of years. Since the theme of the class is “club visuals,” the idea to make visuals that could be projected behind me during a live performance was an obvious choice of project, and perfect for the type of music I make. Being new to digital art, I had no idea how the project would shape until I started using Photoshop and After Effects and learning what was possible. Early in the semester, I was drawn to psychedelic imagery and color palettes and thought my conference visuals might be psychedelic, and incorporate fractals and kaleidoscopes. As I worked in After Effects though, I began to think more critically about abstract shapes acting as characters, and how to build narrative that develops formally. My work shifted away from executing very literal and categorizable ideas like psychedelic imagery, and opened up to more experimentation with how the expression of color, shape, and motion can set a mood and build a work’s personality. When it was time to make my conference piece, I decided the best course of action would be to build a framework guided by the tone of the music to set the mood, and then fill in the narrative with different shape characters that I could develop formally, calling upon all the techniques that we worked on in class. The piece I used is an ambient interlude piece called “Cloudbirth Interlude,” and so the project became the three minute long video, “Cloudbirth,” an ambient visual piece for the music of “Cloudbirth Interlude.”

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The piece opens with a dark purple glitter field that connotes outer space as well as elegance, setting the tone for the piece. The piece “Cloudbirth Interlude” comes in with a “glittery” sounding synth patch, and as this sound enters, the title of the piece, Cloudbirth Interlude appears in an elegant red font over the glitter field. From here, the piece launches into glittery fractals that move across the screen as the music expands. At first, I was almost afraid to use fractals, because of their potential to limit the space and ideas of the piece, but in using them so simply and overtly, as well as in pairing them with the glitter field, I felt satisfied that I was not leaning too hard into the trope of a “fractal space.” The main character of the piece is what I grew to refer to as “the ovules,” which are gray ovular elements that appear in the space and slowly move around. In my first draft of this piece, they had a lot of motion, partially because I was afraid of them becoming stale if they weren’t very active. However, as I edited the piece, I realized the power in the ovules moving slowly, and on their own conditions, even if it felt slower than I thought I “should” have an element move, to keep the piece dynamic. They move around a bit and then rise up, as the next element, red stars are introduced to the piece.

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In keeping with the space theme, my other important character in this piece is the red star, that flashes up from the fractal field and out toward the screen. This happens for a few minutes before a particle rain comes down and the screen strobes with a red “light” that eventually takes over and becomes the new backdrop. Here, our ovule friend can return, alone this time, and express other ambient sentiments, like rippling, and slowly changing from grey to blue to purple, and slowly swelling — though not without returning to its original form just before its departure. This final section of the piece is one of my favourites because of the “eye,” formed from ovals flashing and shaking. At this point in the video, it is almost the end, but all the elements from the fractal world have found a new iteration to take on, unified by their connection to their original identities, as well as to a unifying color palette, and the grounding of the ovule’s return. As the music comes to a close, this scene “strobes out” and flashes back to the glitter field, which serves to bookend the piece, but also to be functional if I wanted to loop the piece during a live performance.

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I found the project to be largely successful, considering its intended purpose. While previous work of mine in the class sometimes had a lack of motion that made imagery too stagnant, the nature of this piece was such that motion could be slower and simpler, and my lack of rapid perpetual motion worked as a stylistic choice. In its first draft phase, I felt the need to move the ovule characters, and they ended up taking on a “cuteness” that did not serve the piece. I think the edits I made helped the characters to be confident in their slow pace, and remain true to their identities within the space. That being said, adapting to making a piece that could serve a slightly different purpose that just a video work and allowing the slow pace to live itself out was a challenge, and I think there are still places where the video would benefit from being slowed down even more. One of those places that really sticks out to me is the part where the particle system is spewing from behind the singular ovule. While I love this scene, the particle system is moving too quickly, and I could not figure out the best way to get it to slow down without changing its identity within the space. I guess in this way, the pacing is one of the most successful elements of the piece, but also one of the unsuccessful ones in the places where it did not come across exactly how I wanted, as disruptions in the flow detrimental to this type of piece.

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As I evaluate how this piece relates to my other work, I think it was one of the first works where my voice and style felt liberated to come through. Not just because of the use of my own music but because I felt justified in building a slow, ambient world, and am starting to see my elements execute themselves with confidence in their identities. The mix of purples and blues and reds and greys set a mood that suited the music and the narrative, and while it was a somewhat limited palette, I never felt like I had to hold back or constrain the ways in which I used them. Similarly, the patterns established by the elements were always interconnected, but not too tightly; the stars find their way back into the piece in a vastly different iteration, as do the ovules, and their ovular backdrop. Motion is the element that is probably the most constrained, as it is super simple, but it feels like I am now developing a sense for when and where elements need to move, in relation to the piece, in order to not become stale.

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Cloudbirth is really just a first take on visuals that I could project with my music. Until I actually use these visuals at a show, I will not know exactly what elements need to change and what can continue to be thematic in my work, but as I continue this kind of work, I plan on expanding on each of the moods set by the different scenes, playing with how slow and ambient I can let them be, while still introducing enough motion to make them interesting as a backdrop for live music. The element of the large oval with waving edges that appears in the fractal world would ideally become a kind of bright frame around my body at the live shows, with the particles and stars embellishing without detracting from me as the focal point. This project, and the wrapping up of this class tied together all the technical and conceptual skills we had worked on and forced me to start considering my own voice as a digital artist, now that I have a basic understanding of how to structure animation art. After finishing and reviewing the work I did on Cloudbirth, I feel like I have reached a point where I can start building exciting visual narratives to go with my music and other artistic projects.

Conference Project Post-Mortem:

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For this conference project, I intended to use after effects to recreate repeating scenes in my dream when I was a child. I believe most of us share the same experience of entering the same dream. When I was a child, I used to see kaleidoscopes before I went to bed and climb into and out of wells as I entered my dreams. When I had fever (even before I knew I would have a fever), I would dream of climbing on cement walls with cement balls crushing on my back. I also repeatedly dreamed of walking into a kindergarten with students and teachers with just three kinds of faces, my parents and I. Sometimes I could see two parallel worlds in my vision. These nightmare-like dreams had given me a lot of pressure, but I wanted to put them into a more joyful theme for this conference project.

After the trip to Japan during this spring break, I made several collages about color palettes I enjoyed for my printmaking class. I decided to introduce pastel colors in spring, for example, green, yellow, pink. into my video. I also picked out a song made by a Japanese musician to go with my project. This aesthetics are influenced by music I listen to on soundcloud. They are some artists from PC music, a record label, for example, Hannah Diamond and QT. I enjoyed the bright and synthetic characteristics with a hint of loneliness and disappointment of it. For my conference project, I hope to combine intimidating images with delightful colors.


I was able to recreate the kaleidoscope accurately. I took an image of traditional candy in Japan and photoshoped it so the color fit my theme. it was hard for other images since I didn’t have a specific image for other dreams and it was way more effort to put in than I planned to and more technique beyond my capability. Thus, I tried to simplify images into abstract shapes and outlines. Some of the most difficult things to make was on the 3D layers. Because I had so many layers, I had to create combine several after effect files into one in order to create animations in a faster and easier way. I was glad to pick up some new techniques (wave effect, adjustment layer, cc sphere, reversing the direction of a layer) after I followed tutorials on Youtube.

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As I was creating the animation, I kept reminding myself to limit my choices, organize the video into sections and repeat motions and form. I enjoyed the use of echo effect from background in 2d layer to foreground in a 3d layer. Same for the kaleidoscope effect, I introduced this animation twice in the beginning and the end of the video. This decision was inspired my dream: I used climb in and out of the same well as I enter and leave my dream world. I also loved the parallel layer with particles and tunnels and the next section with wave and ball form. I was inspired Ben’s amazing tunnels and Clark’s storyboard in her little robot animation (sudden zoom-in and zoom-out).

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In my conference, Angela suggested me to introduce more parallel/horizon line effect and animate the rotation of horizon line as the parallel world separates. I agree that these adjustments would make audiences more drawn into the video and make my video more cohesive, but unfortunately I did not have the time to do so. I also regret that I could not figure out the best way to make the kindergarten sections. Using just the trim line effect makes the section too plain compared to other ones. I wanted to use more specific images like pictures of my family, but I found the style contrast with other sections too much. So I decided to use outlines of images of interaction between students and teachers I found on line. In summary, I hope my video could have a more consistent story line or a clear expression in my content instead of putting together separate dream images with nothing common.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Mold and Liquid Metal

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My conference project draws inspiration from several sources. From animated films such as Hiyao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky to video games like Valve’s Portal 2, fictional media has often explored the relationship between nature and technology within futuristic, post-apocalyptic fantasy worlds. Overgrown weeds and mold attempt to retake the remains of long-abandoned high-tech societies. I’m not sure quite why I’m particularly drawn to this theme, but I find that it serves as both a central aesthetic and plot element in many of my favorite films and video games. The visual contrast between raw, colorful nature and silver steel is striking.

For my conference project, I wanted to channel this type of imagery in an animation to accompany an original piece of my music. Before I began animating or even had my vision for what would become the visual content of this piece, I composed and produced the music. In creating this track, I experimented with a variety of musical styles such as breakcore, idm, and trap. Due to its constantly and drastically evolving song structure, this piece works well as the score to an animation. As I have done with past visual accompaniments to my music, I tried to change and introduce visual elements in sync with changes in the music.

In this post-mortem, I will discuss some of the ways I channeled my inspirations into this piece, as well as the technical processes I used to create these effects. Due to the length and complexity of the piece, I am unable to discuss every aspect of the animation and the creative process behind it. I have thus chosen to discuss only the elements I found most challenging and interesting.

The “nature” influence in this piece is directly drawn from the mold-like patterns found in the 2017 film Annihilation. The following image exemplifies the imagery in reference:

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Using adobe color, I created a color palette based on this image. This palette is utilized in the first half of the final animation, until the 2:22 mark. I also used this image to create the background of this first half. In photoshop, I transformed a cropped square from this image into a tile repeated as a background. In after effects, I applied the kaleidoscope cc effect to this image, creating the floral mold pattern serving as the background of the following still:

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The black “liquid metal” layer in the forefront of this still is one element of my animation that draws influence from the technological in this dichotomy. The process of creating this effect required much experimentation, but was ultimately one of the most personally satisfying parts of this whole project. My initial goal was to create a moving “liquid metal” overlay effect similar to that used in experimental electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s recent music video Black Snow. Upon seeing that video, my first thought was of the liquid metal effect used for the T-1000 in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Still from "Black Snow"

To achieve this effect, I loosely followed instructions from youtube tutorial videos, supplementing with my own experimentation. First, I created a composition with a transparent background layer. I then created a black solid with the Fractal Noise effect. On this instance of Fractal Noise, I used the “dynamic twist” fractal type and the “soft linear” noise type, with a very high (325) contrast and a very low (-101) brightness. I then applied the Find Edges effect, with “invert” on. To create movement, I used the Turbulent Displace effect, and keyframed the evolution. At this point, I had achieved the liquid metal effect, but because it was applied to a black solid, the background was black. To make this effect applicable as an overlay, I used unmult, an effect which turns specific colors transparent. I set this effect to make the black solid transparent, thus creating a liquid metal overlay with a transparent background that could be applied over my animation.

Liquid Metal Overlay

To create the liquid metal sphere that appears at 00:11, I followed essentially the same process, but applied the cc sphere effect. The second sphere in my animation, which consists of moving lines, was also creating using this effect. To create this element, I created a composition with a shape layer. In this layer, I drew a vector shape using the pen tool. I then applied the wiggle transform, stroke, gradient fill, and repeater animation tools to this vector shape. Finally, I applied the cc sphere effect to the shape to give it its form. The following is a screenshot of this element.

Line Sphere

In conclusion, I’m very proud of the work I accomplished with this project. I successfully executed my goal of creating a visual accompaniment to a piece of my music; one which channels the dichotomy between technology and nature through the replication of visual elements from several sources of inspiration. Not only did I successfully execute this goal, my creative process taught me new skills in after effects. Through the process of creating this piece I learned how to create transparent solids using unmult, create liquid metal elements using fractal noise, and turn vector shapes into spheres using the cc sphere effect.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Let Me Delete Your Anger

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I started thinking of my project by looking at natural elements in the world around me on campus – fractal leaf shapes, clouds, the blossoms on the dogwood tree on Glen Washington Road. I was looking at the color and shape motifs in the works of Frank Stella and Yayoi Kusama. I am also very inspired by movement and performance artists, especially those who engage with earthwork. During the inception of this project, I was looking at Robert Smithson’s Yucatan Mirror Displacements. I thought about his introduction of foreign surfaces into the environment and how he used the human technology of the mirror to augment a place. I wonder how using Aftereffects can augment the textures and surfaces we experience in our lives. I became enamored with the particle effect, and so I attempted to play with the software and create something that could not exist under our current laws of gravity and motion. An initial draft sprang from a dream of watching blossoms fall upward. I animated a sequence somewhat like snow which I layered on top of a video.
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However, I received the critique that my personal interests in video art were at odds with the technical demands of the class. I realized that when making creative work, I have a habit of relying on my interests and current obsessions and allowing them to guide my workflow. I had to adjust my mindset to working consistently in small chunks of time rather than in large obsessive stretches. My hardest challenge was in stretching myself to find new ways to do things in order to create what I was imagining. After building the initial particle sequence, I felt dry of ideas for developing the sequence into a longer piece. In turning through my notes, I recalled our glitch assignment. I spent a session making .png glitches of screengrabs of my blue and white cloud.  However, although I’m really interested in glitching and would like to explore it in the future, I realized I had to make quick decisions and finish a polished project.
After converting a .png file to a .txt file, I thought the text looked really interesting and had all sorts of graphic symbols like the apple that I could use.  In the past, I have been  drawn to work that makes the text into a graphic part of the piece.  I decided making a text tunnel would be an appealing challenge that would help me practice my skills in building a tunnel and also develop my knowledge of the text animators.
I wanted to make the fog blow through the tunnel toward the viewer.  I copy and pasted sections from the long text document into the text box in Aftereffects.  However, this method stretched the text box in undesirable ways and didn’t look visually pleasing.
I watched a video for inspiration and learned to put the text into a separate composition with settings that made the comp long and skinny.  This allowed me to animate the text in three dimensions like we learned in text studio.  I then made a copy of the layer and flipped it, so that its animation would mirror the bottom layer.  This was the most challenging part of my animation, because it required such close attention to the detail of the keyframes.  I am still not completely satisfied with the symmetry; the top layer moves into frame at a faster rate for the initial 10 seconds before coming more closely into alignment with the rest of the tunnel.
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I think the simple color scheme of blue, white, and black is successful at creating the tone I wanted for this piece.  I wanted to amplify the sense of harmonious symmetry by having the video form a complete loop.  So, I doubled the length of my comp and applied a time reverse effect to the second half.
The title refers the peaceful mood that this piece evokes in me.  I like the idea of using glitching for good.  Maybe the computer is refusing to process all the stressful data it receives and instead is sending a peaceful cloud into our minds.  Or, it could be a sinister memory loss gas like the climactic scene of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer.  I leave the interpretation to the audience.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: An Exploration of Animation Techniques

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At the beginning of my final semester at Sarah Lawrence, I realized that digital animation was a form of art that I was mostly unfamiliar with. Since my sophomore year I’ve taken three oil painting classes, and one sculpture class… It was important to me to take advantage of these creative courses while I still had the time.

It took a few weeks for me to get the hang of the Adobe Creative Suite, but once I knew the ropes of the programs I took vantage of my lack of experience. Throughout the semester there wasn’t any one thing in particular that came to mind for what I wanted my conference project to be. Nor was there a specific artist that I was following with my creative method. At a certain point I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use most of the techniques I had learned in the course and explore them almost individually for my conference work. Angela and I spoke in conference and she told me to stick to the abstract, and that helped me fulfill these videos. With these final four videos, I aimed to show my growth and understanding in this class with Adobe After Effects in a minimalistic way.

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My four conference videos consisted of: a 1 minute video of a 3D tunnel centered on a vertical plain with a text fading up and out; a 2 minute video synced to the beats and happenings of an electronic song; a 1 minute video of a green square morphing into origami style shapes and animals; a 2 minute video of the masking evolution of a square. With these videos I purposefully chose not to have any specific direction, and allowed the Adobe program and my intuition to guide me alone.

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In a couple videos I struggled with the preciseness of some movements of position. In the tunnel video I really wanted the text to be perfectly centered coming into the screen and out of it, but didn’t succeed in doing so manually. One frustrating moment was when I was working on my morphing origami video… Later on in the video I had too many pen points from previous shapes that I had to delete a few to make the following shape easier to make. This resulted in those points deleting themselves from all previous keyframes. Consequently I had to go to the beginning of the video to add more points to complete the shapes I had already made. Another difficulty I faced was choosing the right color palettes. Well, “right” isn’t exactly the appropriate word. I mean to say that I like the color schemes I chose, and they pleased me, but in once instance the color contrast made it hard for the audience to see the animation well.

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I am very proud of my conference video that I synced up to a favorite song of mine (“Girl” by Jamie XX). This video was completed only after my conference critique, in which I showed two shorter videos. It was lucky that I waited to make this one, because I wouldn’t have struck such inspiration without having watched a couple other videos from the class. There were some specific effects I noticed other students had used and they were very appealing. It worked to my advantage that they went well with the animation of this video. One student used an effect called “fractal noise,” which I took to animate an otherworldly chorus in the song. I was also reminded of the use of particles, and how their constant movement would be great to animate ambient sound. I used another early technique, the repeater, to animate the bass in the beginning of the song… Making the repeater circle move from the center of the screen outwards in motion of the beat. Lastly, in the Girl video, I used the effect CC Scatterize to animated my mutated circle. With this effect, the object in question is manipulated to scatter into tiny particles, which I used to animate the final echoing beats of the song.

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Overall, I am content with how these conference videos came out. I believe that they show my creativity and growth from the class very well. In the beginning of my work on these videos, I had intended to make six individual ones consisting of a minute each to meet the conference project requirement. However, I reached a point where I realized I could show a lot more evolution of thought if I made some longer videos. Which is why two of my videos were extended to two minutes.

Conference Project Post Mortem: Space

shadow Throughout this class, I have been drawn to triangles and black & white geometric shapes. I had a bit more of a plan for this piece than I had for my other animations. I knew I wanted to use black, white, and a blue shade. I began by making the first element, triangles with a black fill and gradient stroke. I arranged them all in the positions I wanted. I planned to make them fall into the blue background, but after listening to the music repeatedly, I thought it would suit the music to make the triangles fade onto the screen and then start dancing. After making these triangles, I made the thick white line repeater. I used an element similar to this in my Space Oddity piece, but I loved it so much that I changed the skew of the white lines to create a different angle. I duplicated this layer and played around in After Effects. I continuously remembered that I only needed about 3 elements and 3 colors. I tried really hard to stick with this. I ended up creating a white line repeater that has much skinnier lines. I loved this repeater even more. I thought about just using the skinny repeater, but realized I could use both. I then made the transparent triangle that comes in on top of the white lines. I intended to keep this transparent when the white lines fade off screen, but I found a light sweep effect, that created these incredible shadows. I found that it added an element to my piece that wasn’t there before.IMG_9220 Music has been a huge challenge for me throughout this class. I began this project searching for instrumental music. I found electric guitar music that I adored, but after feedback from the class, I learned that this music was too loud and fast for the animation that I created. The music was asking too much of me and I just could not keep up. Upon, Angela’s suggestion, I switched the music to a softer jazz piece. It works better, but the problem with finding music after creating the animation is that the animation is no longer perfectly in sync with the music. However, something I have learned is that animations don’t necessarily need to be in sync with the music, but use the music as something that enhances the piece. My other challenge was with the positioning of the triangles. They ended up overlapping, but originally I wanted them to look like a tile or wallpaper. I realize now I could have created a tile in Photoshop and then brought it into After Effects, but I do appreciate the imperfect nature of how it came out. My final challenge was the speed of the software. I loved the shadowy feel of the light sweep effect, but as soon as I added it to the triangle, my software started running incredibly slow to the point that I could not work in it. I would like to make another piece using the light sweep, but I need to do it on a more durable computer. k A theme throughout this piece is the idea of using an element from earlier in the animation by changing it slightly to create a fresh image. I used the black and white triangles 3 different times; the first in their original form, the second with the fill being half white & half black, and the third against a black background instead of blue. This structure and plan before-hand did help speed up my process. I’m proud that I was able to stick to 3 different colors and a few elements. At first, I felt like my piece was boring because it repeated elements, but it’s starting to appeal to me more now. Another piece that worked well for my was my attitude while rotating and positioning the white lines. I changed various values and had so much fun seeing what I could create, rather than stressing out about how I wanted this element to look. I saw it as a chance for exploration rather than something strictly planned out. Finally, my transitions in this piece were much more effective than in previous pieces. At the beginning of this course, I made the entire piece first and then worried about transitions, but I’ve learned that doesn’t work as well. When making each element, I thought about how I would transition from each. Sticking to a few elements and three colors also made transitions much easier.l I struggled with time management for this piece, because I was working on my kinetic studio prompt simultaneously. I spend significant more amounts of time on my kinetic text piece than on this piece. Part of me wishes that I balanced my time more, but another part of me knows that my kinetic text piece is much more personal, heavy, and heartfelt, whereas this piece was pure fun to make. My critique of not only this piece but all of my pieces is that I find it hard to work with one element for an extended period of time. My inclination is instead to move from one element to the next very quickly. We did an exercise of using one square and animating it for 60 seconds. I need to do more exercises like this, because, for example, I could have had the entire animation be renditions of the white line repeaters. I could have also rotated the triangles or increased their scale, etc. to have them continuously become new.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Some things I like

Some things I like

I set out to create a self-portrait of sorts- a piece reflecting my desire for visual aesthetic, in response to a stream of consciousness on the topic of “things I like”. I wanted to implement elements of hand draw animation inspired by some of the work I created at the start of my semester in Digital Tools for Artists. Illustrations I made for the GIF assignment would be utilized both as elements for the sequence and as a source of stylistic inspiration for my piece, “Some things I like”.


“Some things I like” was inspired by Wes Anderson’s aesthetic mixed with a minimalist approach to pleasing pastels and clean design. I think I was effective in evoking a minimalist, aesthetically pleasing piece. I’m particularly happy with my use of color, font and minimalist design. Though there is a lot of work to be done in order to achieve the kind of sophistication I hope to express in the finished product, I’m happy with the place I’m at now, a kind of halfway point, as I’ve created a nice backbone for the piece and started working on some of the more intricate details. There is still plenty of work to be done in order to expand on some of the themes articulated in the piece. Specifically, I hope to implement smoother transitions, including fade ins and outs for all of the hand drawn elements. I also hope to enhance the playfullsness of the piece, to really take it all the way in terms of utilizing any and all opportunities to express my abilities as an editor, abilities I’ve acquired through out my time in Angela’s class.


The challenges I faced throughout this conference project include the issue of having big ideas that I was unable to express given the amount of time I allotted myself to complete the project. I really wanted to have my pencil and lipstick elements write out text, but I quickly realized that would require a time commitment I wasn’t able to commit to. I also would have liked to accomplish more specific animations for each element, specifically related to the movements I experimented with at the start of the piece.

My conference project remained pretty consistent from the beginning. I’d say the biggest change happened during the middle of the piece. During the creation of the middle content, the pieces that came after the intro and before the conclusion, I struggled with implementing further technique and detail. I had a similar experience to some of the challenges I’ve faced throughout this course, hitting a wall at the one-minute mark and struggling to keep up the momentum.

I’m definitely happy with the look of the piece at this point in time. I feel there is a lot to be done in order to achieve a piece I hope to include in my professional reel, but I am very happy with what I have to work with at this point. I’m specifically happy with how the piece works in relation to the body of work I have developed this semester. The Davi character I created during the GIF assignment resurfaced in my “Davi Has Problems” kinetic text piece, a piece I improved upon as a part of my conference work. Davi appears again in “Some things I like” as a sort of passive tour guide. I’m happy with the way he casually exists in the world I have created for this piece.


My goal for this semester was to create a cohesive body of work, and I feel like I have achieved that when considering the work I’ve done for conference as well as the individual assignments and studio prompts. I think “Some things I like” articulates the aesthetic I was hoping to achieve. I look forward to continuing my work on this piece, as well as “Davi Has Problems”. I think they will be great additions to my professional portfolio. I look forward to sending future drafts of both pieces to Angela for feedback in the future.


System: Beyond 184

It’s all been leading up to this. Beyond 184

Let’s have a little urban fantasy. You’re on top of a skyscraper. You look down, and you see the neon world below. It’s beautiful, it’s alive.

And I wanted to capture that.

To build a living place, just pretty neon buildings alone are not enough. After all, the buildings are nothing without the inhabitants. And so, the streets are full of life. They are filled with traffic, with people going around their lives. An entire system that simulates a small world is behind each pair of these headlights.

City in action

When I first found out about this class and interviewed for it, one of the examples of what I considered “Art from Code” was a beautiful video by baku89 that utilized cellular automata. I found it so fascinating that a mathematical model made out of a grid of cells – all using pretty simple rules that determine if a cell will be “filled” or “empty” in the next generation – could produce something so beautiful.

All the pieces ended up falling together in a way that pushed me to explore cellular automata further: this class’ final prompt being “systems”, and the discrete mathematics’ class’ exploration of logic.

Game of Life As this class progressed, I found myself exploring and implementing cellular automata rules, and even creating a few of my own, such as this automata, which generates a city grid, similar to Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Woogie Boogie: Broadway Walkie Talkie So, for my conference projects – both for Art from Code and Discrete Mathematics – I chose to work with cellular automata. Familiar

Having finally returned to New York City after spending a lot time living in suburban hell, Manhattan was all that I had on my mind.

I thought back to other generative projects I’ve seen – and one in particular stood out. Called Pixel City, this screensaver generated an entire city, full of unique buildings and even street traffic. But the traffic wasn’t really “alive”. And I wanted to fix that.

Pixel City

I decided to base my project on a cellular automata called Rule 184, expanding upon it to create a more interesting traffic simulation in two dimensions (hence, I called it “Beyond 184″). The Rule 184 cellular automata simulates vehicles moving on a one-dimensional road with a very simple set of rules:

  • If a cell is occupied, and the next (right) cell is empty, the cell becomes empty
  • If a cell is empty, and the previous (left) cell is occupied, the cell becomes occupied
  • If a cell is occupied, and the next cell is occupied, the cell stays occupied
  • If a cell is empty, and the previous cell is empty, the cell stays empty

I expanded upon these rules, adding a “cooldown” – that is, the ability of cells to stay in place for one or two generations before moving. This gave me the ability to have a city with “cars” that can move at different speeds. Along with that, I made it so that cells with a lower cooldown will not be able to come to a full stop immediately – simulating how actual vehicles in the real world will have different braking distances depending on how fast they are moving.

I brought this rule to two dimensions by creating a “source-destination” structure, which allowed for moving 1-D traffic cellular automata to two dimensions with minimal modifications. With this structure, as applied to the Rule 184 above, a “road” cell’s “source” and “destination” values dictate what a cell considers its “previous” and “next” cell. By requiring the cells to be connected to one another (that is, a cell’s destination value should be equal to the next cell’s source value for the chain to be complete), I gained the ability to control traffic flow.

I added a unique type of road cell that is called an intersection. This cell, instead of using a single “source” and “destination” value, has two of each, and with every generation, determines which values should be used, with the underlying logic attempting to move traffic from busier roads to less busy roads – after all, throwing more cars at a traffic jam doesn’t help anybody.

You can find more detailed information on how this cellular automaton was created in the paper I wrote for my Discrete Mathematics class, which, along with the source code for the simulation, are available at the GitHub repository.

Beyond 184

Believe it or not, that grid filled with squares is the very same simulation you saw at the beginning.

Doesn’t look that great, huh. That’s because it needs a home. It needs to live inside of a city.

Time to put the “art” into “Art from Code”.

The city motif was present in my creations since the very first thing I made for the class:

Scrolling city I ended up taking a more minimal approach, and before I brought the city and the traffic model together, this is what I ended up with: 3D test Once I brought the two together, it wasn’t just city-inspired creations that helped me with the process. Little bits of everything I’ve learned this semester all came together to create my neon city. Self-portrait The alternating colors that I used were obtained using the same method I used to create the random files and folders that I used for a part of my self-portrait. Continuing experimentsThe random buildings and the way I ended up having them use different colors was born from an experiment for one of my other projects – one that didn’t even make it into the final project. Yuki machi

One of the wallpapers I’ve made before gave me the idea to reduce my buildings to glowing blocks of neon.

With all that, I eventually ended up with my final result. A living neon city.

As seen from above And I think it’s pretty nice.

System: The Eisenberg

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 12.38.50 PM

Final form of the system while the background is gray

I knew going into this project that I wanted to try and create a map of a social network, based on Nicholas Christakis’ Ted Talk entitled “The hidden influence of social networks.” I decided to have a set 12 circles representing people for my map and to show the connections between people I would have them be different colors and then the circles of the same color would be connected. After some consideration of using a RGB color wheel, I decided to use a traditional red-yellow-blue color wheel for my colors because it seemed more natural, and I thought a user would be able to see what was happening with the colors more easily.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 8.42.58 PM

System with plain gray background and no lines connecting the people

The most difficult part of this project was to get the pressing of the “a” and “s” keys to complicate and simplify the system. I had to figure out how to get the colors to change at the press of the key while simultaneously having the previous circle not show up and the lines continue to change. I had difficulty having the circles change color randomly while also having the draw and undraw line functions work correctly in conjunction with the button press.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 8.42.45 PM

System in its initial state with the connections of the lines

To simplify and complicate are the main two rules of the system, and they are also the ones that the user can interact with. The other rule is to connect, which is done through the lines that connect the people of the same colors in the system. This part of writing my system was easier than I anticipated because I formed a loop that would find the color of each circle and draw a line to all other circles of the same color. The removal of the lines with each complication and change of the system was slightly more complicated but I set the lines so that they were a much higher stroke weight and were the color of the background when performing the undraw function.

Error screen of the system

Error screen of the system

I based the decision of what colors to make the backgrounds based on the reading I did by Josef Albers about the relation of colors to each other. When colors are placed on top of one another they react in such a way where sometimes one color can take away from the other, making the other color look different than it should based on the actual color value. I chose to make the “error” screen the same red of the red from my list of colors. I refer to this as the “error” screen because when the system has that color for the background the system cannot be simplified anymore. All of the circles on the error screen are also red, directly showing that the group of people cannot be simplified anymore because they are all represented by the same color. With the white pattern on top of the background color, I wanted to see how the colors of the people interacted with the color of the background when the white pattern was in between. For the “error” screen, the red circles seem to look darker than the background, and I think that the circles in contrast with the white lines cause this effect.

The system when the colors have reached their most complicated and the background is yellow

The system when the colors have reached their most complicated and the background is yellow

I had a similar thought process for choosing the yellow for the other background. I would normally never use the color yellow that I picked because it’s too bright for the type of color palette I prefer. I chose this because I thought it would perhaps make the somewhat more subdued colors of the people look even more soft and also perhaps darker. This worked out somewhat, although the colors with yellow tints became somewhat more difficult to see or tell the difference between. I think also the background yellow looks more green-tinted in relation with the colors of the people.

                                                              Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 12.38.25 PM Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 12.38.40 PM
The final version of the system with the circles slightly different sizes based on their color, changing through the different iterations and changes of the system

The final version of the system with the circles slightly different sizes based on their color, changing through the different iterations and changes of the system

I really enjoyed doing this project because this idea of the human social network is one that I think about often and have thought about since I first watched this Ted Talk two years ago. I am really intrigued by the idea of the idea of being influenced by people who are far away from me in terms of social connections, plus I really like seeing human relationships mapped out. Independent of this project I have considered drawing the relationships in my house as a map multiple times this semester. Making this piece has really been wonderful and I really enjoyed seeing this concept I’ve thought so much about come to life. I’m planning on researching force directed graphs so that I can possibly continue to make other pieces like this that are more complicated in the future.  

System: Polygons and Colors


Final – a series of separately colored polygons rotating as two flow across the screen in the front. Name: Polygons and Colors.

For this project, I did something very new—maybe not at this point because it feels like I have been repeating that statement a lot in this course… but at the time it still felt new! I began working on the polygon starter file with no real linear ideas attached to it. The most stable ideas I had included two goals: make something that could resemble deep space, and experiment with color. I also wanted to work with the snowflake sketch.js, but I left that out because I thought the piece was going in another direction and I could not find a way to fit in that felt right.

Starter Colors

Starter Colors

Starter Colors

Starter Colors

Before starting with the code, I found the starter colors. I call them starter colors because I did not end up using any of them and knew very well that I would not toward the end. A majority of the code works around what colored polygons I wanted to emphasize over the others. In a sense, I tricked myself into thinking I had found my colors and worked from there. The colors I used were very similar to the abstract clock assignment’s colors in their saturation, which, looking at them both now, is surprising. Over this semester, coding has helped me play with color theory. Just like with coding as I explored it, I learned it. But before then I did not like bright and saturated colors. They can easily over-stimulate me due to my sensory integration disorder. But in my system piece, I think I found brightness levels I am comfortable with.  
Grid and Lines and Polygons 3

Grid and Lines and Polygons 3

Grid and Lines and Polygons 2

Grid and Lines and Polygons 2

Grid and Polygon and Lines

Grid and Polygon and Lines

Lines and Polygons

Lines and Polygons

When I started out, I played with semi-randomized lines in the front to add more of the dimension that I originally sought. I also played with a turquoise grid and kept the polygons small. But it was so separate that I felt it was missing the point of the assignment and thought I had coded myself into a corner. As I worked with them, the lines, grid, and circles grew apart into their singular characterizations. The randomized lines in the front never connected to the polygons in the back or added enough depth and, to my frustration, became more out of place after each session and seemed to be the only ones that were evolving. The code itself was also set up as very separate, and toward the end of the project, I felt I had coded and colored myself into a corner. How would I get them to work together as a functioning system?

Une retrospective

Une retrospective

At first, staring at Molnar’s Une retrospective for inspiration felt counter-productive. It was still separate! Looking at it now, I know that the more I worked, the more the colors began to expand and almost blend until it arrived at the final result. And I know now that Molnar’s painting isn’t actually that divided. Or, one doesn’t have to look at it that way. In each work, she uses the implication of movement. From Lettres da ma mere (Letters from my Mother) to the one I showed above her lines and shapes always suggest that a change is occurring. I already had the polygons spinning and wanted to keep that but then I began experimenting with making them move in another way as well. The spinning along felt monotonous. Adding a loop, I made two of the cut-off and off-center polygons rotate across the screen in a recurring wrap to make it a little less expected and languid. I also changed the direction of some of the polygons, the opacity and, of course, the size. I think the turning point was when I got rid of the lines. Once I did the subtle changes were highlighted more and made room for adding smaller and less translucent polygons in the back. To conclude, I think I accomplished a lot with this piece. The process felt natural and I think the spinning sequences and imperfect interactions help to make it more entertaining to a curious audience. The colors are vibrant (for me) but do not overpower it (or myself). And the movement remained odd yet weirdly calming.   Thank you for the opportunity. Izzy Singer

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.


System: RosieRose



When I first set out to code a system, I was lacking in inspiration. I knew I wanted to create something that I could have an emotional connection with, but I was uncertain that I would be able to code a system with a narrative. As I considered the possibilities, I began playing around with the afc_25_system_01_05. I found the simplicity of the system approachable. I appreciated the ellipses and the subtle movements of the particles. As I became familiar with the code, I found myself considering systems in relation to the Internet. I considered Wi-Fi in general, and then I considered my own Wi-Fi, “RosieRose”. It became clear to me then, I would create a visual representation of a Wi-Fi I have carried with me from one apartment to the next.


Inspiration 01

My Wi-Fi, “RosieRose”, is named after my recently deceased, beloved family dog, Rosie.  My Wi-Fi, and Rosie Rose herself, inspired my system of the same name. Rosie passed away one year ago, but I like to think she lives on through the waves of my Wi-Fi. I connect with her on a daily basis, I share her with others. My RosieRose Wi-Fi is a space I have carved out for the dog I loved, so she could live on through the waves of the internet. I have created a visual representation of this space through my system. As I began to code my system, I knew I wanted to utilize a similar color scheme to the ones that I had been implementing in my pieces throughout the course of the semester. I like to experiment with different shades of pink to create a visually appealing atmosphere.  I utilized three different shades of pale to rouge pink in my system, in the effort to evoke the detail of a pink rose. After determining my color scheme, I did some research to figure out how to portray a rose through simple shapes. I decided on a circular pattern of overlapping ellipses.  I was satisfied with the design, as it would allow for further experimentation with color by utilizing different degrees of transparency.

Inspiration 02

Inspiration 02

Initial Color Scheme

Initial Color Scheme and layout

  As I continued with my code, my class suggested a wrap function would be more effective than the bounce function I had been utilizing initially. Switching from the bounce function to the wrap function allowed for my representation of falling petals to come across more effectively to the viewer. Out of all of the elements in my system, I am most pleased with the visual of the falling petals. I carefully set their speed and position to encourage a sense of density in the space. I wanted the smaller petals to fall slowly, the bigger falling faster, to give the viewer a better understanding of the environment and the delicate nature of the rose.   Throughout my experience of coding this system I experimented with utilizing visuals and text to communicate the narrative to the viewer. I considered using Rosie’s face as the center of the rose, utilizing photoshop to create a useable outline. I also considered inserting the Wi-Fi’s name into the system, but I found both of these approaches would be too obvious.

Images and Text

Images and Text

After some experimentation, I decided to incorporate Rosie’s image into just one of the falling petals.   I placed Rosie’s face inside the smallest petal to create a delicate visual, evoking the meaning of the piece. As the last petal to fall out off screen, I found this emphasized the emotion I was trying to convey.   I continue to struggle with making the code interactive. I have been trying to achieve incorporating the KeyPressed function into the system so the viewer can interact with the code, encouraging the space to be more spontaneous. I have not yet been able to successfully incorporate the KeyPressed function; I hope to get some input from my peers so that I may include this function in my final product.   Overall, I am very happy with this piece.  I am most satisfied with the color scheme and the movement.  I was initially uncertain if I would be able to capture the emotion I feel towards this intangible environment through coding, but I feel like I have accomplished just that.  My hopes for the final product would be to take it a step further with the KeyPressed function, but if I were not able to implement that function into my code, I would still be very happy with what I have created. I found the experience of coding this system, in honor of Rosie, to be very emotional, as I was finally able to create a visual representation of the space I had initially created to keep her with me.  RosieRose is a piece I thoroughly enjoyed creating and am very happy to have had the chance to do so.




System: Four Parameters

Current Realized version of "Four Parameters"

Current Realized version of “Four Parameters”

My conference ecosystem, Four Parameters, is inspired by Frieder Nake’s Matrix Multiplication, a series of mathematical solutions represented as computer art. My conference originally began with thinking about evolutionary art as I attempted to replicate the movements of ants in an art farm, but I found myself more and more compelled to follow in the footsteps of Nake and other artists who take mathematics and analytical data and find ways to transform this information into visual art. What strikes me about Nake’s work is his use of color, his ability to collage rudimentary shapes into a greater mosaic artwork, and his ability to create patterns in a digital space that appear almost woven or as if they were created from a textile. For my conference, I tried to create an ecosystem that, after being refreshed, or after input from the user, would change color and dynamism while still maintaining a sense of evolutionary similarity with the artwork prior. Errors can certainly be a roadblock, but other times my errors provided me an insight and a deeper, more profound understanding of the artist’ design, and helped to propel me forward down a new path of inspiration. Still just a beginner to art and coding, I had some assumptions about how the code prioritizes the overlapping of calls to draw shapes and translate without the use of push and pop to separate design elements in an object. I had to reconsider the placement of objects and the very order and outline of my code itself. I saw quickly that the more organized my code was, I was able to maintain and keep sigh of my goals in the distance. When my code became longer and more syntactically complex I found myself overwhelmed by the code I had just sat down and written. I had to be extra thorough when re-reading and trying to find errors in my code that would break my art.  
Frieder Nake "Untitled"

Frieder Nake “Untitled

Four Parameters replication of Nake "Untitled"

Four Parameters replication of Nake “Untitled

Nake’s work is deceivingly complex; I know this firsthand after trying to code my own Matrix. Nake’s work cares a great deal about space and composition, and so I had to reflect on those aspects as well. What I struggled with the most in my conference was manipulating the canvas and figuring out exactly where my shapes would be drawn. In my sketchpad I had an infinite amount of room to plan and layout my design, but once I started coding loops that would draw multiple shapes, the interactions of their x and y coordinates became hard to locate. That was also part of the fun, because sometimes my errors would lead me to very interesting mistakes.

Error leads to interesting patterns and inspiration

Error leads to interesting patterns and inspiration

Additionally, while working on conference I came to understand that there were multiple ways and approaches to reach my desired goal. I often had moments where I recognized the opportunity to just hard code a parameter, or make changing a variable accessible by input in the function parameters (for ex: function(x_asis,y_axis)). There were many ways I could go about my code, and finding the most effiecient solution wasn’t always apparent on the surface. I certainly gained a better respect for Nake as a pioneer of computer art at the intersection of mathematics. It was illuminating to work in his footsteps, and to consider that every process in art is intentional and mathematically understandable, and vice versa there are moments of artistic beauty in math as well.
Changes in the ecosystem

Changes in the ecosystem

My first several iterations I just worked with turning the basic shapes in objects that would be able to experience other forms of transformation (rotation, translation, change in scale). Even in the overlapping and multilayered chaos of Nake’s works, his choice of shape and specifically the color palette he chooses also the viewer to still distinguish and recognize individual shapes. Lines couldn’t be drawn on one another completely blocking out the lines below; I had to really pay attention to the opacity, saturation, and depth of field I was creating with my shapes, even if I assigned some parameters to move randomly within a given boundary. Next came rotations and finding ways to slightly alter my ecosystem every time the user refreshes. One of the other reasons I really like working with an evolutionary system in the vain of Nake’s work is the very subtle white and gray backgrounds he frames his works on top of. While someone else may say that Nake’s backgrounds don’t lend much to his artwork, I would disagree and say that all of Nake’s colors and even the materials he prints on adds to the collective composition. I love thinking about the modernity of Frieder’s cubic design and palette at a time of few graphic designers or artists, but how his design already prefigures and predated the waves of graphic design that will follow after him. Next, I changed the color scheme from the original blue, yellow, and red to rotating between several different pallets on refresh. When creating this evolutionary system and thinking about Nake’s work, I always wonder how a change in color can completely transform a work’s tone and atmosphere. Nake’s Matrix Multiplication and many of his other untitled works have a very deliberate color composition, and I wanted to follow is his footsteps.
Slightly changing rotation to achieve a new template

Slightly changing rotation to achieve a new template

Again, I struggled the most with translating and moving around the canvas, but my inspiration still burns and I have several more things to add! With additional time, I hope too the ability to take in user commands with the mouseX and mouseY values to rotate individual squares on their axes. I also want to elaborate my pattern more and on refresh and new pattern should be generated. With certain keystrokes or presses the user should also be able to change the size of some of the squares on the canvas. Overall I think my ecosystem needs some tuning up and optimization, but I am very enthusiastic with more attention I can make a very interesting ecosystem like Nake’s work that explores gradualism, pattern, collage, and color in a mathmatic vein.

System: Molnar Lines

For my conference project, I am further exploring the works of Vera Molnar. She was a pioneer in computer based artwork, having first started by using a plotter. A lot of her works represent or came out of gradualism – modifying the form of something known in very slow ways until it turns into something very unknown, and interesting. I was hooked by her works in which Vera helps a viewer imagine what a plausibly different shape could be. I also appreciated how Vera abstracts away from known legible features in our world (such as handwriting) and studies it with rigor in order to extract the most visually fundamental qualities to handwriting. This is well represented in her 1987 work, Lettres de Ma Mere:

Lettres de ma Merre (1987)

Lettres de ma Merre (1987)

The piece of hers that has been my greatest inspiration in my conference work is Interruptions (1968):

Interruptions (1968)

Interruptions (1968)

It was easy to get a straight forward replication of Molnar’s work, disregarding the empty patches in her composition. It looked something like:

an early verison of Interruptions, with some color.

an early version of Interruptions, with some color. an even earlier draft was monochrome: a simple off-white/grey background and black lines

The lines in the given picture are actually all rotating. After meeting for conference in which we talked about an earlier version of my conference work, I learned that Vera Molnar’s style of work involves thinking of a simple rule and formalizing it. The class made some simple suggestions that should theoretically have some powerful effects for the system. Thus came my first ‘formalized’ rule: adding random length to lines if they were shorter than a certain length:

adding length to certain lines The next few rules I added modified the rotation of the lines and also the color of the lines. It took me a while to figure out how to randomly assign color to each of the lines independently. While doing this, I certainly learned about the weird quirks of Processing as a library. Even though it intuitively makes sense to color a shape when you create it, you actually have to tell Processing what color to use for this shape every frame. Processing is kind of like an artist who only holds one pen, but draws very very quickly, so it needs to swap pens to draw each line, each time it draws that line. So to fix this, you instead tell the shape to remember what color it should be, and have it set the stroke() color (tell Processing what color pen to pick up) on each iteration of .display(). For the first several implementations of my sketch with the introduction of the new rules, I had coded something so that the color for all the lines was randomly assigned. It took me a while to figure out that I had to tell Processing to change colors in the .display() function of the Line object. Finally I had something that looked like this:

randomly colored individual lines

randomly colored individual lines

After learning this, I think color really went right in my system. I was able to then modify the color with more control. This also addressed one of the criticisms about my rules when she saw my work in open-studio: my rules were looking too random. The point of gradualism is for the viewers to get some intuitive sense that a systematic rule is at place. I was finally starting to get systems that look more like:

more controlled color

more controlled color

The way color is implemented is very special – it isn’t actually hard-coded into the system. Actually, the system decides for itself what colors to use for its lines (actually each line decides for itself, creating a complex system out of simple individual decisions) , and this part of the program is recursive. A line modifies its color based on the colors in the lines surrounding it. (Specifically, based on the color of the line previous to it in the array.)

Before I talk about what went ‘easy’ or ‘right’ and what went ‘difficultly’ or ‘wrong,’ I want to comment on how there isn’t always a relationship between how easy or hard something is to conceive of, imagine, and see in your head, and how easy or hard it is to code.  Some things that sounded or looked simple in the conceptualizing stages were complicated to implement in code, and it also turned out to be simple to implement some seemingly complex concepts / behaviors. For example, It was very easy to populate an array with lines. It was also easy to create a line object. Probably one of my favorite things talked about in a discussion in conference was about the point or goal of our class, which is to enable students to see visual work and feel encouraged and confident to be able to replicate it in code, or to execute one of their own imagined ideas.

For starters: I was not able to get as much visible interactivity in my system as I had hoped. In some ways, it still looks random. And in other ways, it does not look random enough. Some of this has to do with how many exact rules are turned on at a given time. Being able to set a randomSeed and to toggle the frameRate of my system have been very helpful, because it has allowed me to see what would happen to my system over time in more controlled settings. Even with all the rules turned on at once, it is easy to see with accelerated frameRate that my system seems to fall back into a mostly regular loop. That does not mean that it is not mesmerizing to look at – it definitely is, especially when you realize it is a simple system of only Line objects.

My class suggested writing my system with a randomSeed in place. This also turned out to be a lot easier than I expected or was familiar with from my previous coding experiences.

For randomSeed, I had to learn that a random number generator essentially is “only random on the outside”: inside, it deterministically creates numbers based on the given seed. So the specific sequence of numbers that it will return from the seed ’99’ is always the exact same sequence, regardless of how many times we run it. That’s why it’s called the ‘seed': ALL of the randomness grows out of just that initial seed, like how an entire tree grows out of a seed.

I will definitely continue to work on my sketch, specifically in trying to make interaction and gradualism more apparent.

Radical Games: Her Eyes Post-Mortem

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.25.13 PM

Her Eyes is a game that has been through so many iterations and pivot it’s goal is almost entirely alien from the original idea. That being said, the look of the game has remained very consistent from my end and even though I’ve had to rethink over and over the way characters and the world worked, I always felt like I was working within the safe frame of the general world I had created and the art that expressed that world.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.26.26 PM

As it stands, the game is roughly half done, maybe less. While the majority of the assets are made, a number are still planned out, and the larger meat of the game, that being encounters, has yet to be worked in. Building such meaningful encounters in the time I had is what I struggled with the most during this cycle and what I would’ve wanted to put more time and thought it.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.30.34 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.22.57 PM

What surprised me was how easily I found the art to do. In other ventures towards the visual world, I always found myself getting hung up on the details of what I drew and how they didn’t look exactly right because I was rushed or just couldn’t eyeball something well enough. With pixel art, I found the amount of precision and abstraction allowed me to make pieces of art that I truly felt proud of. While I wouldn’t say the game had any strong influences artistically, I do think my most recent play throughs of games like LISA and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery did influence certain character designs, narrative themes, world building, and NPC interaction.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.32.05 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.31.37 PM

Looking back, I feel that the two things I learned the most were exactly that. That meaningful encounters is the hard part, and art in this capacity is what I was strongest with. Know that earlier on would’ve helped me better allocate time and energy to maximize the potential of the product. Strangely, I never found the time to make music or sound for the game. The reason this is strange is that I’m a musician and one would think the music is what would come naturally. Pointing out then that I do not consider myself a visual artist, it is intriguing that the thing I found most uncomfortable at first (art) became the easiest and what I was more familiar (narrative, music) took longer and I was less pleased with the result.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.24.42 PM  Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 7.13.25 PM  

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Swimming In the Void

  Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.06.28 PM

For my conference project, I made three animated kinetic text videos which featured narratives from people who spoke about their emotional -experiences of dealing with their mental illnesses. Initially, I wanted to mimic Oskar Fischinger’s ( a German-American abstract animator) style of shape animation to mimic the emotions highlighted in the narrative. In his videos, Oscar Fischinger uses simple shapes to move in co-ordination to classical and jazz musical compositions.However, a major feature of his animated shorts which made them so appealing was the syncing of his shape animation to a Litz composition, which  I lacked the technical expertise and time to emulate.

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  Instead, I used a variety of inspirations for different scenes in each video. For instance, in the video featuring my friend’s narrative encounter with depression, one of the first few scenes has been inspired by Saul Bass’s cinematography for the opening credits of Vertigo. In order to create that, I chose to transform my ellipse into a spiral , using the “twist” animation effect. My intention was for the rotating spiral to create a hallucinatory effect and make the viewer experience a sense of dread and feel that they were getting pulled into some sort of void (a symbolic interpretation of my title). The last scene, which features a gif of a girl with a tear rolling down her cheek, has been inspired by Mitski’s “Townie” music video, which is filled with a series of hand drawn gifs that express the self destructive and discontent nature of a young adult, which is quite similar to the narrative of the video I was creating. I attempted to re-create this hand sketched gif using Gimp and my Wacom tablet, however I felt that I used too few layers, which resulted in an animated gif that was too rushed up and had a rocky transition between the frames.

For the BPD video, I was particularly inspired by Jim Goldberg’s short video for his photobook, “Raised By Wolves” which features teenage runaways in Hollywood Boulevard. The juxtaposition between the young, innocent faces of the subjects and the dreary nature of their narratives interested me and I attempted to re-create this effect in my own video, which featured a childhood photo of my cousin contrasted with lines from her narrative.

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While creating my videos, I discovered a variety of tools that complemented the nature of my narratives. For instance, I used a combination of “Bad TV” (warp, old and weak)  and “Set Channels” effects to create the damaged VCR effect with the static lines. The “Bad TV” effect was used to create the static lines while the “Set Channels” effect was used to create the glitch text at  the beginning. All three of the kinetic texts shared a common theme of the narrators describing themselves as feeling like ghosts and wishing to float away. The “Set Channels” effect proved to be a very efficient tool in helping to convey this in images and text. For instance, I created three layers of the same text and would modify the channel information in such a way that the colors in the images would get separated and created the effect of the person in the image “floating” away from herself (see picture above).

I also heavily experimented around with the “Fractal Noise” effect which helped to create the jittery effect for the text and animated shapes in the video and created a sense of heightened anxiety. I was also interested in creating a zoom in affect where it feels like a camera is panning towards infinity. I tried to convey this in the first two videos which featured the narratives about depression and BPD. This was achieved by making the text 3-D and altering the key frames for  it’s orientation. For the backdrops, I decided to create visual representations of a galaxy and glowing tunnel; both of which convey a universal sense of infinity.

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I wished I had a better understanding of key frames and transition between different scenes , as I felt that some scenes were too rushed to properly convey something impactful. I also wished I had more time to compose a musical composition for my videos, as that would have made the animations  more effective in manipulating the viewer’s emotions and would have been more engaging.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: IV

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IV is a top down RPG that tries to model the American medical industry within a video game using mythic imagery. Currently I’m at a place in the dev cycle where most every art asset is in the game, however the actual coded mechanics don’t quite work yet. The project had some major surprises, notably the coding and character animation came remarkably quick but the terrain and tile maps came much slowly. This is probably due to me using a different program (photoshop) and technique for these tiles than I did on my last game The Strength Needed. Much of the design choices came from this place of experience/need for growth. I wanted to expand my artistic skill set this semester by making the terrain far prettier than last semester. The main character had much of the same sort of art style I had cultivated before, but used some more complex shading techniques that made them seem more dimensional.

I think I surprised myself this time with how quickly the character designs came out. Initially I had many different full walk cycles for multiple different characters that didn’t make it into the final cut of the game, but I still might use these assets and the practice they afforded me in future projects. I discovered a sort of natural ability to design characters this semester which honestly surprised me as I’ve had plenty of doubts throughout the year about my ability to draw/make pixel art.

I had a lot of artistic inspiration from the game Hyper Light Drifter and used much of the articles I read interviewing the developer Alex Preston as guides for making this game. In addition, the games Lisa, Undertale, and What Now? as models for some of the things I wanted to do with odd mechanics.

I did definitely learn how to do tilesets better this semester, which overall has aided my skill set as an artist quite well. The extra practice on characters also undoubtedly will make future projects that much faster. In addition, I think my skills as a designer definitely saw some improvement. On previous projects I don’t think I would have done much to draft out a main mechanic. Really thinking about the internal logic of the game’s central mechanic became a rather good thought experiment and practice for the future. The whole process of making a mechanic that didn’t play by conventional game standards made me question how to defy typical mechanics even more. However, although I cultivated a better sense of art and design I will mention my coding still feels subpar. While I’m aware much of my strife came from a major setback in the dev cycle when my computer lost all its data and was out of commission for two weeks, the fact remains that coding takes me far more time than any other aspect of the project and I should leave more time for it on my next project. Although I thought I managed my time well, clearly I’ll have to get better at deadlines in the future.

IMG_0227   Best, Chris Haehnel (Kit)

Conference Project Post-Mortem: ADHDRPG!


My game this semester is ADHDRPG!, a semi-autobiographical depiction of what it’s like to have undiagnosed ADHD in middle school. The game as I envision it depicts a week in the life of a girl (named Claire, after myself) as she attempts to navigate home and school while dealing with her ADHD. At home, she must manage to get out the door in the morning with everything she needs, a challenge that increases in various ways as the game goes on. At school, she battles the various manifestations of her ADHD, such as homework and distractions.


I am still fairly early on in the dev cycle for this project, unfortunately.  My artwork is very involved and detailed, and I’d say that’s the most advanced aspect of my project. There are many objects that I have created art assets for but not implemented or implemented without planned interactivity. As far as coding goes, I got so far as to implement basic enemies into the game and add a system for killing them. If the game were to become fully realized, I’d say that I’m probably a quarter of the way through.


I was surprised by how easy the coding aspect of the game was. I have a small bit of experience with Javascript, and while much of the actual scripting was different, the logic carried over to a surprising degree. Most of my problems came from careless errors, which were annoying but ultimately easy to fix. The most surprisingly time consuming thing was the art — I never realized how much I could agonize over the placement of a few pixels. To my pleasant surprise, I was more talented at pixel art than I thought. However, this came with the unfortunate flip side of me often wanting to go back and redo older assets as my skill increased.


Other than a skill with art, I’d say I definitely gained more confidence in my ability to write code. In a less quantifiable sense, I feel like I have a better eye for design than I did when I had started the semester with no education on visual design and little on game design. That’s my biggest concentration in the future — improving my game design skills. I want to be a designer and a writer, and while art assets and code can always be done for me by someone else, design is absolutely necessary if I’m to lead the creation of a game. I really learned the value of feedback from my classmates, so I’ll definitely take advantage of any playtesters I can get for future games.


I was really inspired by all of the projects created by my classmates this semester. I feel like every game that each of us created had different strengths, and every creator stood out from the others in their own way. The sense of humor in David’s game, the beautiful art in Colin’s, the use of a small and detailed space to create compelling story in Chris’ are a few of the many standout examples of things that I take as inspiration for this and future games.


My one regret is that my time management absolutely could have been better than it was. I was hesitant to implement functionality into my game before making the necessary art assets, so that contributed a lot to me not having as much code and interactivity in as I could have. I learned that I need to create a stricter dev cycle and really stick to it. This summer, I plan on trying to finish my game. If I can create that structure for myself I’ll be at a huge advantage over where I was. I also hope that someday working with others on a game can keep me to task.  

Systems Aesthetics: Corporate Bliss

George Washington - Mike Brondbjerg

George Washington – Mike Brondbjerg

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Thomas Jefferson – Mike Brondbjerg

Part 1 of the sketch

Part 1 of the sketch

Bliss with a quote by Robert McChesney

Bliss with a quote by Robert McChesney

The struggle of logos maximizing profit from the media and the Internet.

The struggle of logos maximizing profit from the media and the Internet.

Proposal: My Systems Aesthetic’s conference project has truly evolved. It began with some inspiration from Mike Brondbjerg, who created a project called Dead Presidents (http://www.kultur.design/portfolio/dead-presidents/) . He worked with portraits of old presidents and beautifully “distorted” their faces. In the beginning I didn’t really have an idea with what I wanted to do. Did I want to re-create Brondbjerg’s work? Upon our first conference project, I decided that I would need to convert original images into SVG images and then learn PShape. I created my first sketch with an SVG image of Homer Simpson and Friedrich Hayek. The Homer image was easy but the Hayek image was an actual portrait I wanted to use. I was inspired by Tim Wu’s book, The Attention Merchants. Tim Wu famously coined the term “net neutrality” which advocates free access of content to all Internet users. Within the depths and depths of content found on the Internet, such a stance is necessary. Tim Wu examines how private lives have been permeated by capitalism. The lack of space to breath from advertisements has encouraged people to stay less informed politically and diminished democratic participation. The evolution of the media of mass communications is primarily driven by technological innovation.Wu suggests that one of the first stages of grabbing attention came from newspapers, with the advertisements of Jules Chéret. Advertising brought me to my final project: company logos. I was also inspired by the television show Silicon Valley’s title sequence of Uber and Lyft struggling against each other.

  Digital technology has allowed humans to advance their freedom; however, capitalism limits this freedom. Robert McChesney, author of Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning The Internet Against Democracy, compliments Wu’s book by examining how companies control the Internet. Through lobbying, the government has allowed a few companies to control and regulate the Internet for profit. Advertising traffic is monitored and sold in order to commercialize the Internet. For example, Facebook likes are monetized for advertisers. A quote from McChesney’s book prompted me to choose these specific companies: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google. However, 4 logos were not enough to take up a sketch. I looked up other corporate and media influencers and found: Twitter, Walmart, Snapchat, BP, and HP. These companies all have the power to influence public opinion.

  After the election, I was extremely angry at the media – because I spend the night at the Javits Center expecting Hillary Clinton to win. As she was losing the monitors were showing some political talk show. A political elite, either Rachel Maddow or Nicholas Kristof, stated that average Americans would blame the media for Clinton’s loss. While there are many factors behind Trump’s election, that statement angered me greatly. Between the end of November and February I stopped checking my social media accounts and by association the news. I was completely unaware of Donald Trump’s antics, the latest memes, and shopping trends. It was a blissful time but inconvenient. I had no idea about the Russia scandal. I had little to no knowledge of the officials Trump was picking. People need to know what goes on and that means sacrificing attention to advertisements. The blending of factual content and advertising in the media makes it difficult to escape. The Internet is becoming a less regulated place, in which large companies can control traffic and dictate who can see what. It is best to be aware of it.

  This project serves to show the world I think companies have the potential to take over our general day-to-day activities.

  Post-Mortem:   I learned a new concept in Processing for this project: Bounce. I also learned how to upload images and logos into an array. The system behind my project is the rules behind allowing the logos to bounce off the sides of the sketch. I also played with frame count, which I had used a lot in Pre-Frontal. I added a quote by Robert McChesney because I thought it would mean something against Microsoft’s Bliss background. All of these companies are competing against one another to see who can influence people more, and then in turn gain profit. Furthermore, the beginning of the sketch contains the drag of the logos because I felt that it created a sort of a maze. Internet users are stuck between Facebook and Google and the conflict between who can grab your attention more.

  Next semester, I do hope to learn how to take high definition screen shots of my sketches so that the movies made in MPEG Streamclip aren’t blurry. I am proud of this project because I feel that it conveys how I feel about corporations and the media. The title of this piece is “Corporate Mess”, which I think captures the struggle of companies to maximize profit from users of the Internet.     

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Liquid Light


For my conference project, I combined a digital projection of various poems I had written with a liquid light show;  dishes filled with mineral oil, water, and food dye projected on an ELMO overhead projector.


A lot of my poetry aims to simply create another world in which the reader can enter. For my conference project, I aimed to take this experience farther by using the projection to visually create a space. I felt as though I certainly created a space through the projection, but perhaps not my words, as most people didn’t really take much time reading the poetry.


At first, I originally only used two dishes for the oil, water, and dye. However, I decide to try using a third vessel, a large flat-ish plastic box top. I felt as though this made a huge improvement on the quality of the liquid light show, as it allowed me to use more colors without them mixing. If I were to do this again in the future, I would try something other than food coloring, as it didn’t quite have the vibrancy I wanted. I would also invest in clear glass clock faces or something similar as opposed to what I used. It was shockingly difficult to find a clear plastic or glass dish that didn’t have a logo or something on the bottom. Finding materials was probably my biggest frustration.


Overall, I was pleased with how this project turned out, as I felt it for the most part accomplished what I wanted it to. I will definitely be using both projection techniques for other projects in the future.