Monday, 17 October 2011

Glitch Art: Birthday Card

Digital image from digital photograph

I have recently been exploring the Glitch Art movement, a term used for the creation of artwork through inducing "glitches" while reading digital files. For James Allard's birthday card I began with the photograph he uses for his profile picture (taken by Mark Hurrell), opened the JPEG in a text editor then copied and pasted text from his Facebook profile into the code that made up the image. This was the result of opening it in the image preview software of Windows 7. I had to save it again in order for other software to recognise it as a valid rather than corrupt file.

The interesting thing about this is that what you see above is not the glitch itself, but a documentary record of the glitch - like a photograph of an event. The glitch occurs during the act of opening the file, and the result will vary depending on the software and operating system of the computer etc.

A glitch also serves as a reminder of the fact that you are not looking at a landscape with figures and an electricity pylon, but a collection of different coloured pixels on a computer screen which have been arranged in a certain way, and could be laid out in a totally different way. A bit like Magritte's painting "The Treachery of Images".

For more on Glitch Art I recommend Rosa Menkman's blog, Sunshine in my Throat.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Frame of Reference / Violent Universe

These are concept art pieces for Magnetic Foragers, the audio-visual collaboration I am working on with James Allard. Watercolour, charcoal and permanent marker on board, digitally manipulated.

 Frame of Reference

 Frame of Reference (Detail)

 Violent Universe 1

Violent Universe 2

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Sorcerer's Cave: A game of exploration, magic, adventure and men called Nigel

While clearing out a lot of old books from one room of our house this evening my brother and I came across some long-forgotten treasure, bought from some boot sale or other. The Sorcerer's Cave is a board game created in 1978 by someone called Terence Donnelly. The players (in our case myself and my two brothers) each chose a party of very basic characters (man, woman, dwarf, wizard etc), shuffled a pack of postcard-sized cards and took turns laying them down on the floor.
The Gateway, the players' introduction to the dungeon

The Viper Pit, note the stylish portcullis drawn in biro - we'll come back to this later.

The cards were a way of randomly generating a dungeon like in modern computer games like Diablo. Some had tunnel sections printed on them and some had chambers where the players would encounter treasure, traps, monsters and other characters. This continued until the Sorcerer himself would turn up, randomly drawn from the deck and needing to be killed. It was essentially a very basic version of Dungeons and Dragons from around the same time. Due to the random nature of the thing, games could start off in one corner of the living room floor on a Saturday morning and grow until half the room was covered in cards.

I don't know exactly when we lost the Sorcerer card but I think it was soon after we bought the game. Rather than giving up on the now un-winnable game we started "modding" it with various bright ideas. See exhibit A:
Translation: A pub room. Roll a six to have a drink. If you do, gain a health point.

That one wasn't one of mine. I do remember coming up with the idea of adding magic spells to the game however. I think I spent a whole day hunched over my typewriter making the cards. These are a small sample of them:
"Teleport", "Curse", "Black Lightning" and "Web" spell cards

These extended the gameplay quite a bit, and then at some point it seems Al (then known as Aley) started naming individual character cards:

Here we have:
  • Nigel the man: I'm not quite sure how a man named Nigel ended up exploring a dungeon, but he's holding a pretty mean-looking dagger so it would be best not to make fun of him.
  • Father Abbot the priest: Priests were a bit annoying really, they weren't very powerful and could only lug around 25kg of loot for you.
  • Gandalf the wizard: Not very original but shows he was quite an advanced reader - this was years before the Lord of the Rings films.
  • Jenny the woman: Women were even worse than priests, and the "Special Scenarios" suggested at the end of the rulebook all involved rescuing them. This one was called Jenny, and I found another one called Sarah, both of whom are named after two of our aunts.
  • Hector the spectre: He deserves to have a picture book written about him.
  • A unicorn with an eye for the ladies.
  • Some loot.
Additionally Al added locked doors and portcullises to some cards just to punish us further. This was how we spent our weekends back then. So, I thought I'd share this on here with anyone who might be interested as we're chucking the whole thing in the recycling bin now.

I still don't know why we didn't just make a new Sorcerer card.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Caves: Artwork For Music

Caves is one musical identity of James Allard, the other half of our Magnetic Foragers audio/visual duo. Recently he asked me to design some artwork for a few of his tracks, which I was happy to do as music has always provided a lot of inspiration for me. I used some photos I took in America last year to make a collage for each one.

Red Faces - Not currently online

Monday, 14 February 2011

Book Cover: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

One homework for my Interim Graphics evening class at Central St Martin's College was to design a book cover for an existing novel. Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is about a bounty hunter tracking down androids in post World War 3 Los Angeles. Themes include religion, identity, slavery, consciousness and what it means to be human.

After some brainstorming I knew I wanted to include an eye in the artwork: Eyes are "Windows to the soul" and the book is about whether robots could ever gain a consciousness that would render them human, or as good as. The iris and pupil are circular which is sometimes used to represent infinity, and it's also a nice basic shape. In the story the eye is important as pupil dilation is something monitored in the Voigt-Kampff test, used for unmasking androids by provoking empathetic responses - although highly intelligent they are unable to fake empathy - most of them anyway.

In the end I chose a stock photo of a partial face rather than a sole eye, because in context the dramatic angle is a lot more interesting. It also suits the "fugitives" aspect of the plot and could represent one of the female androids, perhaps Rachael or Pris.

The city is Los Angeles (again a free stock photo from stock.xchng). I'd originally imagined it contained in the darkness of the pupil but it blends quite well with the face. I liked the idea of the city itself as a sprawling artificial creature produced by humans, much like the androids and synthetic animals.
The two blue bars complement the yellow image quite well I think, and the font I chose as it looks like a cross between old and new technology - a typewriter and a distorted video screen perhaps. Fitting for the dirty cyberpunk setting. The font is called WBX Flack and was designed by Vigilante Typeface Corporation.

I don't usually design for print, and as a result the image came out extremely dark and needed a lot of brightening up.