Creative Influences

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One of my personal creative influences which has informed and changed my work is video and installation artist Tony Oursler, of New York. His art covers a range of mediums working with video, sculpture, installation, performance and painting. He usually deals with fractured narrative, which is a major difference in my work however, as I personally am very interested in storytelling and the importance of narrative. My content tends to be the small storied which are often overlooked, and these stories are something I tend to value heavily.

 

For more information on Tony Oursler’s work, visit his website at http://tonyoursler.com/

 

Another big influence on my work is the UK street artist Banksy. His work is known the world over for being well informed, politically motivated satire on world events or local politics. I have always admired his work for being so cleverly subversive while expertly executed, while still being illegal, unsanctioned work and remaining entirely anonymous. The fact that he gets so motivated to make these works, in the public, illegally is what is so impressive to me. His work differs from mine however, in that my work is definitely not on the street, and usually isn’t in the “low art” sector, or easily and sometimes overtly, presented to the masses. Another is that while I always attempt to have a clearly outlined and important commentary on one thing or another, very rarely is it politically motivated.

For more information on Banky visit his website at http://www.banksy.co.uk/

– Dean

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Artist Interview: DJ Alejo

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Today we had the opportunity to sit down with Alex Hinger a.k.a. DJ Alejo and talk to him about his start in the music career and plans for the future:

When did you first start producing? 

“I started playing music and being interested in art ever since I was a young kid. The first instrument I played was a viola in 4th grade which lead to an acoustic guitar in 5th. From there I primarily played stringed instruments including the bass guitar. It wasn’t until fall/winter of 2011 that I started producing electronic music with Alex Thocker (Athockalypse) under the name Kronik Dub Crew. Currently I am producing solo with collaboration from other producers” 

What is your favorite part of producing music?

“Being an artist my entire life, this is the newest outlet for me to express myself. When I played soccer for school I was a striker. This required fancy footwork and always being on top of the situation. I was also in the schools art program where I was excelling above other students. After high school ended, I needed a new outlet to let my artistic side be fully in use. Music production found its way into my life and was able to fill that void and once again bring out the flow of inspiration that art produces.” 

What inspires you?

“Emotions. When I’m in a really good mood, my ability just shines through and I am able to create upbeat tempos and melodies. On the other side, when I am angry or upset this still drives me to create music, however the style will be downbeat and slower in comparison. Every emotion can drive me in a different direction and can create really ‘weird’ music, but I enjoy weird music so that’s what I produce.” 

Where do you want to be?

“This is always a question I don’t like to answer. I don’t like to set restrictions for the future. Some people say you can rise above expectations but everything’s still a learning process at this stage. Everyday is something new so I need to focus on whats happening now where I have control. Tomorrow I could be the biggest success touring the world or I could have no plays and be off the map. Its a gamble so I just keep moving forward and stay strong.”

What to do you need to get there? 

“Right now I need to continue releasing original music and mastering my skill. Practice makes perfect. I also need to keep in mind that the music industry is a business and I need to treat myself as its own business. This includes promotions, marketing, new artwork and always trying to get more shows. If I can keep this running like a well oiled machine then more people will start noticing my talent bringing in fans who will share the music and I can keep moving up. I can’t wait to see where all of this takes me.”

Make sure you check out DJ Alejo’s newest release ‘The Notorious EP’ out for free download now on his Band Camp site! (We also had the pleasure of designing the album artwork for this amazing tribute to a hip-hop icon.)notorious

Convert Your Images into Sound

Today I am going to give a quick how to tutorial on what I like to call ‘Image Sampling’ which is converting an image to sound and then editing the glitched mess into a track or playing it on its own. Converting an image will create sounds that many cannot make with standard synths adding a nice touch to any electronic production:

1. Download Audacity freeware. Operates for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

2. Convert the image into an uncompressed format such as .bmp or .tif. As jpgs are compressed data there’s always more chance of completely breaking a picture rather than glitching it. This can be done is photoshop or any other image editing software.

3. Open audacity go to File > Import > Raw data and choose your uncompressed image for glitching. Under encoding use either U-Law or A-Law but remember which one you picked. Using U/A law simply imports the data while bending or glitching the image. When you are finished click import!

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4. Now press play and listen to your creation!
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What you are seeing is the image data displayed as a sound file. From here you can play around with different effects to tweak and edit your glitchy goodness.
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5. When you are done, simply go to File > Export and choose AIFF (Mac) or WAV (Windows) then export into a folder you will remember.

6. More advanced steps from this stage include importing your new glitched sample into a sound editor such as Garage Band (Mac free), Ableton (Paid), Fruity Loops (Paid) and creating a track from it. Here is an example of what can be done with adding a drum beat and a synth sound:

Have fun glitching!

Speaking with ArtWorks Director Tamara Harkavy

Tamara Harkavy is the CEO and Artistic Director of Cincinnati based ArtWorks, a job-training and employment program for local teens. She founded the company in 1996 in order to help and educate teens in the community. Over the years, with events like The Big Pig Gig in 2000 and 2012, and the public mural projects decorating the city, ArtWorks has made a large impact on the face of the Queen City.

We took a small group “field trip” to ArtWorks to speak with Tamara in person, and to understand running a non-profit. She gave us her entire story of how the company was founded, and how she has always been there to educate teens, and be a real problem-solver, utilizing art. Talking to her and getting an inside direct account with running, managing, and maintaing a successful business was fascinating, as well as learning some of things ArtWorks did, like traveling to Chicago and Philadelphia, in order to better reach children and solve problems in the community.

The main thing I think I learned and took away from meeting with Tamara Harkavy was that to be an artist, you really need to be able to think on your feet and be able to use your creativity to solve problems and get things done, be it for yourself, a client, or a community of people all relying on you. This is a good piece of advice I think I’ll hang on to.

For more information about this wonderful non-profit or to contact Tamara Harkavy visit the ArtWorks Website here.

Technical Process Explained

A technical process I’ll use often in Photoshop is utilizing the Blending Modes for layers, and layering these blending modes to create an atmosphere and a mode. For instance I’ll show you a simple walkthrough of this process.

First off I’ll need an image, I’ll use one of a praying mantis I took a while ago.

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So first I’ll load the image in Photoshop, then I’ll open up a nice textured image such as a scan of some wrinkled paper, or an image of some rusted metal. I’ll drag and drop into the window, with the paper texture on top of the original layer.

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Now this is the blend modes option for the layers.

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It is located in the layers palette, here:

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From this menu, you can choose from these blend modes playing around with the six sections of the menu. These sections are separated by their functions, the first section, being Normal and Dissolve are normal blend options, then section two is the Darkening modes, or Additive Modes, then the Lightening or Subtractive Modes, then Contrast Modes, followed by Comparative modes, and lastly the Composite modes such as hue, saturation, and luminosity.

These differing modes have subtler effects between the modes, however they all act in one of these methods. For instance, “Multiply” will darken the image, while the “Screen” blend option will lighten the images.

I will play around with a blend option until I find one I like which creates contrast and a nice texture.

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Note the nice texture created in the background of the image. I choose the Overlay blend mode for this initial layer.

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Now I will add the rust photograph to add another layer of depth to the image.

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Here’s the image after applying the “Darken” blend option to the image at 59% opacity.

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And now the final image after a little more manipulation.

You can really see how adding different layers of images with blend options can layer to create an interesting effect.

How To: Reduce the File Size of a Video / Compress Video for Mac

Often times I’ll export an HD video from Adobe Premiere Pro and the file size will be hundreds of megabytes in size, or even gigs of data. This is great for a perfect picture and great resolution, however sometimes it’s nice to be able to reduce the file size for easier uploading to the web, or putting on a thumb drive for quick transport. In this guide I’ll tell you how to do this, specifically for a Mac.

I’ll be using a free software titled MPEG Streamclip which is compatible with and requires:

“at least Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar) and QuickTime 6. It is also compatible with Mac OS X 10.3.x (Panther), Mac OS X 10.4.x (Tiger), Mac OS X 10.5.x (Leopard), Mac OS X 10.6.x (Snow Leopard), OS X Lion, OS X Mountain Lion, and QuickTime 7. It works with PowerPC and Intel based Macs.”

This is nice because it’s compatible with basically every system.

Simply follow the link to download and install to your system. Once you’ve opened up the program you’ll be greeted with this simple interface.

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For this guide I’ll be converting this video, an .mp4 file that is 529MB.

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You simply drag and drop the video from any folder or your desktop to the box with the five blue dots to load the video into the program.

Once the video is loaded you’ll be able to scrub through If you choose by the bottom playhead.

ImageOnce you’re ready, navigate to the Menu bar and choose an export option. For this application I’ll choose “Export to QuickTime”

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which will then bring up another, more confusing menu. Don’t be worried though, this isn’t too hard to navigate, as most of these setting don’t need to be manipulated, although they’re very convenient for more advanced users.

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First you’ll need to choose your compression codec, there are quite a lot to choose from, however since we’re going for maximum compression with minimal quality degradation I like to use H.264.

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After this, the big question is how much compression you want. On the one hand you can compress the video a lot, and get a very small video with terrible resolution. Or on the other hand, you can do the least amount of compression, and have a big, pretty, file. The choice is yours, however for me, I find that 75-80% is my sweet spot for minimal loss of quality. So I’ll go for something in that range.

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Next you’ll want to choose a sound compression, I like the following, with the following settings, because again, while they compress the data, the quality is usually not degraded. If however you do feel like you’ve muddied the sound, you can always go back and skip over the audio portion to leave it uncompressed altogether.

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If you’d like to scale the video down, to further reduce the file size, you can do so with the next section. Usually I’ll leave the video unscaled for maximum resolution. If however you decide to scale, be sure to know if your video is 4:3 or 16:9 and follow that.

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Again, usually I don’t need to manipulate the rest of these options, as these are more a case-by-case basis, not every day use per se.

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After you’ve set your parameters you’re ready to go. Hit “Make Movie”

You’ll be greated with a save prompt, select the title and where to save it, and the program will do it’s thing for you after that.

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Shortly afterward you’ll have a new video in the destination folder with a reduced file size.

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From 529 MB to 83.6 MB, with no noticeable quality loss.

Done. Thanks MPEG Streamclip!

Visiting Artist: Cedric Michael Cox

Cedric Michael Cox is a 1999 University of DAAP graduate who has been making a living in the art community as a visual artist with a medium of paint, graphite, charcoal and various other drawing utensils. Cedric spoke about becoming an artist and making it in the real world. Throughout College this has been the only formal talk informing me about selling art and becoming successful as a working artist. Cedric spoke in a friendly manor throwing in occasional jokes to keep the audience in his attention. This kept me involved the whole time learning every tip he was able to share.

The biggest thing that stuck out in my mind was when he said, “position yourself around successful people.” For some, this might seem like common sense, however it can be easily overlooked. Creating art and then hanging out with your buddies all day will not sell any art, (unless your buddies are successful working artists, musicians, business owners, etc). Becoming friends with successful people will put you in the right mindset to want to succeed and become the working artist you set out to be. 

Cedric obtained his first gallery showing by simply walking into the building and showing them his art. Walking in that door he had a 50/50 shot at winning them over. It is the fact that he showed up in person with knowledge and interest to show at this gallery that he was able to get his foot in the door. Clients and Gallery owners will not come to you, you have to go out there and jump into the water trying every outlet possible. At worst you can a decline and then you try again next year. Eventually someone will take interest in your art which will get that ‘foot’ leading to other possibilities. 

To find more information about Cedric Michael Cox and to view his personal portfolios you can view his WordPress site or his Facebook page. I encourage everyone to at least take two minutes from their day to view his beautiful paintings and drawings. 

-Kris