Monday, October 29, 2012

Picture Perfect and Then Some

Look at the mess in here! Can you believe that slob? Where does she get off exploding all over my clean kitchen? She didn’t even ask me if I wanted a glass! The nerve of some people, at least I snapped some evidence before she randomly combusted, no one’s going to believe this…

…which they shouldn’t because it didn’t happen. Thankfully there have been no recent attacks by literal blonde bombshells in my neighborhood. But the picture above is an excellent example of photomanipulation – that is, when photographs are “manipulated” by computer or technological programs. It could simply be use to touch up photos, like digital zit creams and concealers (this is often called photoshoppingsince it’s something Adobe Photoshop is commonly known for). It can also, unfortunately, be used to erase people from photos as part of a bigger attempt to erase them from history itself. On a less nefarious note however, photomanipulation is now a popular form of artistic expression.

I feel like the artistic aspect should be emphasized. Some people presently, like I used to in the past, write off photomanipulation as just snapping the picture and letting whichever program do all the work. It’s hardly the case in real life, why else would aspiring photo – manipulators need tutorial after tutorial to make these pictures? It takes knowing which buttons to press and how much should they be pressed, how much to edit and how much to leave alone.  While the water cycle only has four steps in nature, making rain has 11 steps with Photoshop

Web Designer Depot also agrees that photomanipulation “requires a very creative set of skills” and “[is] a great source for inspiration, generally because designers are able to express their creativity through various aspects of design.” The latter part of the sentence is definitely true, considering the picture of Hayden Panettiere blowing up managed to inspire the wacky incident that began this post. 

*The photo above was edited by  Marco Escobedo

Friday, October 26, 2012

Form, Function, Fabulous - Web Design

Click here please. Stare at the page for at least a full two minutes.
What that hard? If it was then that’s probably because the page had hardly anything to keep our interest. The background is blindingly blah-toned white, the text is 12pt black Times New Roman – one of the only fonts boring enough to be used for school essays– and the blue hyperlinks were exciting breathes of fresh air in a sea of drabness.
Thus you can see why web design has been introduced to the Internet. Why would you want the above page when you can have something like this? Or maybe this one?
Preview of the First
Preview of the Second
Even the most formal, stuffiest of sites on the internet have some kind of design to increase its appeal.

Preview of the First
Preview of the Second
It might seem strange, but web design is undeniably a new form of art. It's not what you usually hear when people think"Art" - especially because of the HTML and codes that are needed to make the design - but even still web design:

  • (Like other forms of art) tells us something without “telling” us anything – For example, if a homepage is structured, has many ways to get people to the links they need, but also has a crop of photos that show young teens either doing something fun or doing something studious – chances are it’s for a school like FIU. You can understand that purely from the design of their site, even if you didn’t know what the “U” in FIU meant beforehand. 
  •  (Like other forms of arts) shows personality and creativity – As it takes much time and a couple codes to make even the first page mentioned above, I would expect the maker of this site to be hard – working in other aspects of their life too.  Plus the bright pink broadcasts her appreciation of the color and a potential girly girl.
  •  (Like other forms of art) makes people stop and look - They draw your eye like a moth to a flame, or rather a web surfer to a gorgeously made page.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fanning the Art Flames

A while back, a lawyer from deviantArt – a social networking site devoted to showcasing the art of its members – discussed the possible consequences of making fan art. neatly summarized a very tedious speech: the lawyer spoke about “fair use and other public rights in copyright, generally downplaying them and omitting the de minimis exemption to copyright (the idea that it's not infringement if you take a small enough piece, for reasons that are separate from fair use) altogether.”

I’m not going to pretend I’m a legal expert here but I know about copyright. Plus, I am an expert in fangirling, so I can explain some things.

Fan art is exactly what it says on the tin, art not made by the original creator of the work – but presumably a fan – that showcases some character, setting, or other aspect of a work made by the original creator. In writing form, it’s fan fiction instead.

Just typing the words “fan art” in a search of deviantArt yields 1,174,570 results, adding in the amounts from other art sharing sites like Pixiv and Elfwood (minus the repeats on both sites) and the number gets even more staggering. It’s not hard to see why fan art is popular: What better way to show your love for a series than posting a drawing of your favorite character for the world to see? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery isn’t it? Thanks to the internet, you can now display your artistic devotion to everyone within a computer’s reach.

So why’s that bad?

Well for some authors and artists it’s not bad at all. JK Rowling for one is usually a supporter of those who write Harry Potter fan fiction.

But even she wasn't too thrilled with the Harry Potter Lexicon website when they tried to sell a written form their site's Harry Potter info.

And there’s the rub. Fan art can’t escape that legal hole either. DeviantArt has a system where people can pay for a “deviant’s” works (called deviations) and some have tried to do this with fan art. Sure, the artist drew that picture of Sailor Moon and they slaved over it for hours. But they're also not Naoko Takeuchi, and they used her character to make money.  

And that’s not even getting into the problems when the fanart in question is taken directly from the original artist and then expanded by a fan in some way. For instance the picture above is an original drawing by ryohukekei, the creator of Black Rock Shooter. The picture below is the same, only edited by someone else to be wallpaper for a computer. As mentioned above de minimis means that if its a small piece it’s not infringement to use, but that’s a pretty big piece so the legal gray area grows.


Yet for authors and artists, fan art and fan fiction can sometimes be a blessing. Fanart does introduce new people to the fandom sometimes. I only started reading Touhou and Kuroko No Basket mangas after seeing fan art on zerochan and I got curious about the two series. What made them so great that they have thousands upon thousands of pictures made by thousands upon thousands of fans?

I learnt eventually, but I would've never found two series I enjoy so much now if it weren't for the work of fans.

Friday, October 12, 2012

When Life Gives You #FFFACD, You Paint That S**t Gold

Now, do you want to learn how to paint with pixels?

Tough. You need to get some things in your head before you start. First off: Digital art, broadly speaking, is artwork made using computer programs and technology as a opposed to pencils, clay, paints, chalk and such – labeled traditional. Remember the strange picture I put on the first post? It’s actually a mix of two pictures.  The drawing below was made solely with pencils so it’s traditional.

But I used the pencil outline to make a second version, this time using Paint Shop Pro to color and shade it. The result is below and it’s considered digital.

It’s not perfect but that was my first time doing a purely digital “painting” (which the rest of this post will focus on). And it also illustrates – no pun intended – something you need to know about before you think about downloading GIMP and scribbling with the brush tool. Some people seem have a couple of wrong ideas of how digital painting works, as Sarah Payne notes. One is that if you put enough monkeys in a room with a computer, you’ll get a good digital painting.

Completely wrong. 

To do the second painting, it took several days – and admittedly, part of it was because I gave up from time to time. It takes a patient person to finish a masterpiece, computer or no computer. Just so you don’t think it’s a hobbyist’s/beginner’s problem writer and artist for the digital urban fantasy webcomic dream*scar (seen below) Heather Meade also says it takes “probably 8-12 hours or something, over many days.

Not only does it take patience, it takes skill – at least if you want to make nice digital paintings – you still have to know shading, lighting, proportion, perspective, and the other things that make art tedious for everyone except artists (and sometimes even them).  

Color usage is actually harder for the digital world. If you (traditionally) draw a pink sweater and that drawing is put in a gallery somewhere, for the most part everyone would see that same shade of pink. Not so when it comes to web colors: that pink – if it’s not one of the 216 web-safe colors – on your computer might turn to magenta when someone else views it on theirs, and then red-purple on another browser. Imagine you think you’ve found the perfect shade of forest green to color your majestic jungle landscape with and then you get a comment on deviantArt by someone who says it looks like dried throw up. 

*#FFFFACD is the hexdecimal triplet HTML code for Lemon-Chiffon, I couldn't find lemon, sorry

Friday, October 5, 2012

And the show goes on?

Sorry to harp on music one last time…
…but since last week I went on about the Vocaloid’s a thought it’d be only fair to bring up something interesting I found. In 2011 Ueki-loid was annouced. This Vocaloid uses the late singer, Hitoshi Ueki, as a voice provider. Contrary to what you might think, the YAMAHA didn’t have to a séance so they could raise the man’s spirit and record him – they simply recreated his voice from old recorded songs.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned before this year’s Coachella Music Festival had Tupac Shakur perform using a 3D projection. Afterwards, it was rumored that very-much-alive rappers Snoop Dogg and Doctor Dre would go on tour with “Tupac” using the same projection technique. The tour never happened but Dre does suggest that it could happen.
Some fans would love the prospect: “I would die if I can’t see dat n***a just once more. I remember when I went to see him at marin city festival back in 1989” - cody
But some isn’t everyone: “Tupac never consented to this - probably never even considered that this could become a possibility. By creating a realistic CG Tupac, they're able to turn a dead man into a money-making puppet.” – Kathryn Kramer
Either way, the fact that we can make performers sing and dance for us long after their singing and dancing days are over does raise a pretty big moral question: Should we? On the one hand, you could say that the fans would appreciate hearing the voices they’d never thought they’d hear again, that it would be a good way to introduce to the younger generation to music of the past, and that it’s no different that listening to the Beastie Boys or Michael Jackson on Spotify.
But you could also argue – and I’m going to argue – that it is fundamentally different in other ways. First, like Kramer states, no one can ask the dead permission to do anything. We have no idea if Tupac would’ve wanted his image used like it was at Coachella, or on a tour, or doing anything else like that where he's simply a manipulable computer program. But the cheering of old fans and the potential cash flow going to producers drowns out this question whenever it’s asked.

Next, I’m not sure if the copy can compete with the real thing. If you click the video above you'll hear comparisons between some of the Vocaloids and their voice providers. Sometimes it’s a miracle how the former came from the latter. You better believe they’ll be flame war after flame war in the Twitterverse if Aaliyah sounds even a decibel higher “live” than on her old tracks.
All and all, maybe some shows shouldn’t go on.