Saturday, July 11, 2015

Day of the Dead

This week's chapter in Lankshear & Knobel's New Literacies was about blogs, so I thought I'd take a look at the little blogosphere that my wife and I occupy. In particular, I will critique a blog entry that I created for my wife's painting blog, a blog post about her painting called Day of the Dead.

Emily Lisker is a professional painter and illustrator. Her paintings are brightly colored surreal images, emotional and psychological commentaries on life and relationship. The imagery could be called narratives, stories told with a single image, like photographs from another planet. Lisker's paintings almost always present a theater stage, with characters, props, costumes, backdrops, theater lighting and perspective, a sense of drama, and quite often red stage curtains. Her body of work is clearly the product of remix practices. Certain characters appear and reappear as do certain objects, shapes, and colors. As is the case with many artists, Lisker seems obsessed with certain themes and emotional settings, so her compositions often feel like rearrangements of a basic set of elements. These elements often reference the work of other artists. Lisker exemplifies Lessig's idea that cultural artifacts, and culture itself, are made from the practice of mixing and remixing (Lankshear and Knobel, p. 97).

Lisker's blog is designed to be a gallery of her work. Usually a blog entry consists of the painting title, a photograph of the painting, short commentary by me, and details about the painting, including purchase price. There is a page that summarizes information on all the paintings using thumbnail photos and links to the appropriate blog entry. I had the idea one year that I wanted to document the evolution of one of Lisker's paintings. Knowing Lisker's work habits, I knew this would have to be a multi-year project, and that I would have to catch just the right moments. This project resulted in two additional blog posts; one summarizing the painting's evolution using an animated GIF image (An Emily Painting Comes to Life), and another detailing Lisker's process and how the animated GIF was produced.

I referred to Lankshear & Knobel's appendix to Chapter 4 in New Literacies about remix practices to examine both Lisker's and my own literacy practices.

The animated GIF shows Lisker's literacy practices as a painter. The practices start with Lisker collecting images that appeal to her. These images inform and inspire Lisker's daily practice of sketching and drawing. A sketch may be transferred to a canvas, sometimes interacting with a pre-existing sketch on the same canvas. Lisker then refines the image, enhancing some details and eliminating others, while adding and changing color. Lisker enters a process of refining and finishing, with an eye toward a finished product. This is primarily a projective configuration with proprietary possibilities. The participatory configuration consists of a dialogue Lisker has with herself and her own body of work, with the works of artists which influence her, and with commentary (both live and via email) from the small audience that sees the work as it progresses.

The animated GIF is itself a story of how a painting evolves. My literacy practice began with photographs I took over time. These photographs were imported into Photoshop and prepared for eventual inclusion as frames in an animation. The preparation made use of typical Photoshop literacy practices. Of special note was the distortion I introduced into the first two images so that the spatial relationship of the elements would correspond with the painting's elements. I added a transition between frames that allowed one to briefly see how the images looked overlapped - a mashup practice. I paced the animation so it would proceed in a stately manner, not rushing the viewer.


  1. Hi Bill-
    I really like how the selections of artwork animate to show the progression of the design. I am really impressed with the way your work so clearly conveys a message. Thank you for sharing the animation with carefully selected images of artwork. I appreciate clear audio/narration, flow/timing, and animation of your First Design story and other work from previous courses.

  2. Hi Bill- I love Day of the Dead art. Thanks for sharing this critique on such a personal note. There are so many levels of "new literacies" presented in your blog post. As we keep moving along in our coursework it's becoming more obvious to me digital stories are all around us! I like how you brought a more traditional method of storytelling to life through the GIF and then blog post.

    You mention this was a multi-year project so I'm curious, how long did it take? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comments Emily. I actually forget how long it took, but I'll try to remember. The original image was pinned to her "picture wall" for maybe a decade. The sketch she made from it only took a day to make, but it sat on her drafting table for months. Then she made the canvas sketch, working on it for a week or so, and then it sat for about three years. Once it went back up on the easel, it was slow going at first, but the pace accelerated, and she finished it in under a year.