Bass Horn Muse

This is a process blog for Art 106 at Agnes Scott College.

Summative Post

I am not completely satisfied with the portrait.  I wanted it to be more smooth, more realistic, cleaner.  No matter how much time I put into it, the project demanded more.  No matter how hard I worked, it was never enough.  I think I put in at least five or six hours outside of class, which is a lot considering that I had other things to do.  Ultimately, there was only so much I could put into the project of an elective in which I had already secured a good grade.  It felt unwieldy, burdensome.  It would have been soothing if I had not been worried about getting it done.  My memory of the last couple of weeks is fuzzy, but I recall realizing that something had gone wrong with the lines of the chin. 

I had measured wrong.  It all got clearer once I had the eye sockets in place.  Somehow, measuring from the nose and lips worked less well for me.  Once I had the chin fixed, it was too long and angled wrong, everything else looked more proportional.  That happened outside of class.  I drew lines to mark it.  I was not supposed to do that, but I needed to know where the chin was.  The due date was looming.  At a certain point, most of the rules fell away.

I added charcoal to draw in the eyebrows.  I knew I was not supposed to do that, but I wanted to pay attention to how the forehead worked, get everything in the right place, before I tried to deal with hair on it.  I had trouble getting the eraser thin enough to create the appearance of individual hairs and was too pressed for time to make a specialized tool.  It was what it was.  I gave the impression of fuzzy eyebrows as best I could.

I worked hard on the shadows, but that gave the face a choppy, dis-unified, impressionistic feel.  The skin was a patchwork of varying values, not smooth flesh.  I tried to fix that, but I ultimately had to turn it in.  I worked hard on making the lines of the eyes right, but that made their edges fuzzy and confused.  From a distance, my efforts to draw the bottom of my glasses on one side are invisible.  As hard as I tried, the width of the nose and the placement of one eye never looked right.  However, I feel like I did well with the hair.  I captured an expression that made the face mine.  Patches of light and shadow clash, rather than flowing smoothly, but they are mostly in the right places.  The forehead is too dark, but the highlights are correctly positioned given the expression.  I am proud of the time and effort I put in, especially with everything else going on.  I am proud of my decision to take an extra hour to give it an expression on the last night of the project with exams looming and other things due.  However, this was a difficult project, more interesting than the form blocks but frustrating to the end, nerve-wracking at times as I worried about how to get it done.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage 

The WiFi Bird (Summative)

My animal is meant to address the problem of low income communities’ lack of Internet access.  It projects a high-speed, unsecured, censorship-free network to anyone in range.  I was careful with form because I wanted it to be a plausible bird, something that could evolve if humankind were exceptionally lucky.  I combined the artificial, glowing-screen look of gum wrappers with a careful study of wing anatomy to get that effect.

Doing the research was easy.  It was not hard to find pictures of bird anatomy online.  Figuring out how to make the materials do it was more difficult.  I felt that the gum wrappers were too wide to be feathers, so I tore them in half and folded them.  I left some of the rough edges showing intentionally.  Falcons’ wings are often flecked with white.  The wings were time-consuming to make but not hard.  Things went well once I figured out that I needed to use rubber cement to hold the feathers together while I sewed.  I found a piece of pipe that was a good base for the plump, rounded shape of a nightingale’s body.  The lines of the wings and body were very different.  Making them look natural together was hard.  The falcon’s lines are straighter, and, where they curve, more sweeping.  I did the best I could by trying to set the structure of the wings up the way the bones are on a bird.  I feel like it worked.  The feet were a challenge.  I stuck wire to the branch with hot glue, covered it with gum wrapper and cloth feathers and claws, and stuck the body, which I had filled with hot glue and packing peanuts, on the legs.  I was surprised when my first thought held together.  I used a lot more copper to balance the branch.  The bird looks light, as if it could fly.  I am proud of that because it means I captured an important attribute of the form of birds.  However, it is made mostly of metal.  It is fairly heavy.  After I thought I had finished, I went back and added more weight to the other end of the stick to make it more stable.   This project took time, but it was fun.  I think it went well.

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The WiFi Bird

Unequal access to the Internet has always struck me as an important issue.  I never needed to see the sources about how much educational inequality it creates.  I saw that play out in high school.  Here is an article on that:

Lack of Internet access, or even lack of a high-speed connection, can cut off rural and low-income people and communities from opportunities in learning and trade.  I have been online at least since I was five, made friends and enemies, garnered attention, scraped a student’s income, and gotten in and out of an amazing amount of trouble there.  I have met people around shared identities there.  Everyone deserves access to those kinds of experiences.  My bird will give a high-speed connection to people who live without it.  It will have the wings of a falcon:


It needs to be fast.  Falcons are incredibly so.  Their body structures have inspired war plane design:

Access is a powerful thing, so it will have owl claws.  Of all the flying birds I have seen, owls have the scariest claws.  Information can inspire people to take on their problems with the ferocity of newly-minted hope.

The body needs to be as fragile and precious as the continuously threatened free Internet, something that sometimes us to protect it.  I chose the nightingale:


I liked the documentary.  I found it interesting, though not particularly surprising, that it was so transformative for the people involved.  I was glad the lives of the pickers involved seemed to improve.  The artist’s project was especially timely given the closing of the dump.  It was good that there was money to give the people who had lived and worked in the favela skills.  I wanted to know more about ties between the places they lived, violence, and the drug trade.  That seemed to lurk on the edge of every frame, but I was never quite sure how it connected.  Are the favelas just under-policed places that become drug dealer hideouts by convenience?  I liked the self-help aspect of the project.  That has to be good for the people involved.  There is nothing more empowering than doing things for oneself.  The only question I have about this is how much it applies to people outside of the art world.  The project practically helped them because the artist could sell it.  Could someone who is not a hot commodity at auction solve a real problem with art?

Peer Review (Cautious and Reckless)


This is a great visual expression of these words.  on the ‘reckless’ side, a spiral of triangles gives the impression of sharp things in motion.  Some are poised to collide.  There is enough of a spiral here to convey a sense of motion, but some of the points break it.  They display recklessness by breaking the rules.  The form of the triangles also calls up the shape of broken glass, a possible result of reckless behavior and connection with the image below it.

On the ‘cautious’ side, the circle is never fully in the frame.  It is trying to sneak in, not quite willing to commit.  It is hiding.  Placing it at one side, sneaking in right to left against the flow of English text, was a good idea.  It looks wary and out of place.  It may even be wondering whether it is allowed to be where it is going.  It looks like someone wandering onto stage awkwardly, maybe at the wrong time or against stage directions by mistake.  Since more of it is in the frame in the photo than the cut paper image, the two are connected.  Together, they show the movement of the same object.  It continues to look cautious because it never comes fully into view.  This is a very strong antonym project.

Project Recap

Of everything we have done in this class, I found the Antonym Project most frustrating.  No amount of time I could put into it was enough.  It was more stressful than work I do for 300 level courses in my major.  So many parts of it had to be redone multiple times.  At a certain point, I had to abandon each stage because I am taking more than one class, and the project was using too much of my time.  No stage really felt complete.

I started in the drawing phase:



I worked hard to figure out what would look restrained.  There were certain numbers with orderly connotations I wanted involved.  The whole thing needed a clamped down, systematized look.  I tried several iterations.  Everything that was even remotely satisfying had grid-like elements.  Ultimately, I chose one of those designs.  Creating something uncontrollable was harder.  I wrote my design statements, and made my initial drawings, before I knew that we had to do the assignment in cut paper.  Things might have gone better if I could have stayed in pencil or marker.


I had a hard time translating them.  My uncontrollable circles gradually morphed into blobs because that broke more rules.  Over spring break, I started cutting paper:



This was the most frustrating part.  I changed blades often and still could never get ‘restrained’ perfectly neat.  I measured again and again.  Things were usually still just slightly off.  That mattered less in ‘uncontrollable.’  As I cut the lightning bolts, I made them in various shapes.  That probably improved the effect.  I visited the studio almost every day over break.  When my time ran out, there was always more to do.

Something similar happened after break as I glued the pieces down.  There was always something to do.  If not, there was something that had gone wrong earlier to fix.  I was never really finished with the gluing.  I glued, peeled up, and re-glued when things I had put down so carefully somehow adhered out of place.  Again, ‘restrained’ was especially hard.  The pieces were so small and thin that they broke when I tried to get the excess glue off of the dried pieces.  Most of ‘uncontrollable’ was thick enough to stand up to the pressure.  With the due date looming, I abandoned this imperfectly-finished phase and moved on.

Over break, I had also taken pictures for the photographic portion:



As always, ‘restrained’ was harder to come up with.  ‘Uncontrollable’ was more difficult to execute.  ‘Restrained’ was one cropped snapshot, while ‘uncontrollable’ had to be edited until it turned into this:


With the gluing done, I moved on to mounting the pieces on the mat board the weekend before the project was due.  I worked outside of class on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  I barely finished in time.  From uneven cuts as I shaved them down to size to difficulties with the iron, there was trouble every step of the way.  I had apparently not absorbed the trick of making the two sheets of adhesive paper stick neatly with the iron.  They seemed to wrinkle and warp when heated, which made the finished product slightly uneven.  My cut paper ‘restrained’ square was off-center.  No amount of cutting could completely fix it.  I was annoyed because I had measured very carefully.  The press was not hot enough.  I probably left my finished board inside it for a total of over five minutes.  I took it out every two minutes or so to check it.  The panels never completely adhered.  I heard later that we should have turned up the heat, but we were reasonably wary of messing with big, probably-expensive machines that may be slightly dangerous and had already blown fuses.  We were not doing anything more with them than what we had been told.


Despite everything, the finished product came out looking passable.  I was one of two students who chose a landscape orientation for the board.  I never considered anything else.  I thought it was a good way to break things up.  Large blocks of space at the top and bottom seem to draw the eye more than the same thing at the sides.  I wanted to push my empty space aside, sweep it under the rug as much as possible, and draw the viewer into the important part: the realms of positive and negative space inside the squares rather than the board outside the blocks.  changed my mind about arranging the squares at the last minute, turning the ‘restrained’ photo ninety degrees because that made its vertical lines a continuation of the ones in the cut paper square above it.  I also placed ‘uncontrollable’ cautiously.  I wanted the blob on the cut paper one coming out of the top.  That seemed more uncontrollable than any other orientation.  It stuck up higher than anything else, really broke the rules.  I tried to match the layout of the big branches in the photo to the shape of its lines.

Overall, this was the least pleasant project.  It was stressful, took time away from my other schoolwork, and went wrong at every stage.  I spent far more time managing logistical difficulties than doing the cool part: figuring out where everything should go and why.  Nothing worked the first time.  There were complications everywhere.  I am glad that I allowed more than enough time for everything.  It was still close.  I wish I had thought to make the photo version of ‘uncontrollable’ stick out of its box.  It could, and should, have broken more rules.  By the time I was making those decisions, I was so harried that it did not occur to me until I had already committed to cuts.  In the paper version, I think breaking the box in places broke more rules and was a good choice.

I decided on a line and dot pattern, like a grid, for ‘restrained.’  ‘Uncontrollable’ is orbs shooting lightning at each other.  Now that I have a working phone, I can take pictures more easily.  I plan to cut the paper tomorrow but am still thinking about how to do the photos.

Uncontrollable: Depict a sense of random, implacable movement and power.

When I brainstormed, words came together in clumps on the uncontrollable side. I thought about violence, nature, asymmetry, upheavals. I had a harder time drawing disorder. I threw a lot at the wall to see what sticks. Ultimately, I came up with the idea of round-ish things shooting lightning at each other. Classmates advised me to make sure the lightning broke the frame. They also told me to round out the ovals. Having almost random, rounded shapes added one too many element. It reduced the power of the image by distracting the observer’s eye with too many things. I started shading them. We all agreed that it looked better. I decided to make them spheres, but I put the highlights and shadows in random places. I made the image impossible, vaguely nonsensical, in a subtle way by giving every dot a different light source. The scene looks uncontrollable.