Another Great Semester

Another Great Semester

How many hours of practice time per week would you consider excessive? How many hours would not be enough to create sophisticated work? Where are you situated?

I typically spend 2-3 hours on a project, per day. I think the most time I’ve ever spent in a day is about 5 hours, but that’s just how my schedule works. If I had nothing else to do outside of school, I’d probably spend at least 9 hours on a single project, per day. However, perhaps that would be excessive. I think a large part of determining how many hours are ample to spend on a project and the time needed to make something sophisticated are completely different. Whereas you might need to spend around 20 hours to make something amazing, maybe even 40 hours, your time is limited by your engagements.

Everyone has engagements. You walk your dog at a specific time each day, you go to bed by a specific hour, have multiple assignments that need to be completed by a specific point in time, and so on. The thing with engagements is that they often are authoritative to the extent by which we see them as flexible or dispensable. If someone has goals to make top grades or do outstandingly well in school, they may prioritize their engagements in a more precise and concrete manner. Someone who is more lax in standards (but not necessarily morals), however, may see fit to rearrange certain engagements to make room for others or prioritize some engagements more than others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be depending on what that persons goals are and if they are responsible. That is another topic, though.

When asked what I consider is excessive, I look to my engagements and goals. I am a perfectionist by habit, but not by nature; it is something I’ve learned from my mother. In that sense, my goal is to make top grades and do so in the best possible sense. Every 99 could be a 100, every 100 could be a 110. What matters is not the grades so much as the effort. It is within this philosophy that effort is paramount, implying that maximum effort is resultant of maximum reward; near perfection. In this sense, I think I tend to spend too much time on things before moving on, as I find fault in everything even once it is turned in and ‘done’. If I define what is excessive by what I do now, it would probably be around 20-28 hours a week. In that sense, the time I spend is excessive, and I should probably only be spending about 6 or 7 hours a week working on things. However, I believe that the work I create is sophisticated and thoughtful, and perhaps that’s just how long it takes. Perhaps that is different for everyone.

What does the “next level” look like? What would the next level in the designs of your maps look like?

I think that the ‘next level’ is probably more along the lines of revision than re-imagination. For instance, the finance map could use a color change for the background, or at least a lighter green. The decision map symbols could also use a little tweaking, specifically the Scrabble one. I think the navigational map was pretty perfect, but I suppose the coloring of the symbols can be redundant (although I think it reinforces the idea behind them).

Alternatively, I think that the maps are relatively finished in a very concrete manner.I think the “next level” would be implementing the maps somehow, or maybe even trying to revamp them and perhaps bring in something new. For instance, I could play with the color scheme of the decision map, or create the navigational map in a new style with a new context. The cool thing about these Illustrator projects, and really any project, is that there are countless solutions and implementations to be toyed with. What I have right now is one result of my efforts, but it could have just as easily gone any number of ways. I think exploring the numerous implementations of this assignment would be something worth entertaining as a “next level”. I think, for me, the most important thing to focus on would be adding depth to the maps, especially in the physical sense.

What was some meaningful feedback you received about the maps and what did you do with that feedback?

May I first begin by saying I received a fair amount of feedback for all my maps, but there were definitely things that I latched on to more than others, and understandably so. The first thing I really resonated with was the fact that the first map needed more buildings and probably needed less of a network. I had mapped out only a few buildings around campus, the streets, and the path I walk to get to the tabled areas I was looking at, but that’s like an information overload in terms of the network, and the streets alone sufficed. After mapping out the buildings, making my markers, and adding some physical depth and flair, I felt like including all the buildings (but only labeling major points of interest) it came together very nicely.

With the second map, the most important feedback I got was that the background should be relevant to the map itself, and that the color scheme didn’t seem to mesh with the content at all. While I didn’t change the color scheme since I thought it gave good contrast to the symbols I made, I did implement a background made up of dollar signs and coins, which was subtle enough to not be distracting, yet relevant to the context of the project. I was asked why I wanted a background and not just a white page, and my answer was a simple one, “I want it to be fun; I don’t want it to look plain.” I think the fact I even have that kind of mentality is a really great quality for me to have, since the plain, easy route isn’t the most rewarding, and what I made in the end is something interesting and fun, and I’m proud of it.

With the third map, the background also needed work, as I implemented a clock design that wasn’t instantly recognizable as a clock, and that was edited for clarity. The second thing that came up was the forced symmetry of the piece. While I didn’t use much text at all (and actually used too little in the end result) it was brought to my attention that not every single category of a choice has three sub-choices, nor does every category need sub-choices that stem from it. Sometimes, as in many flow charts, the path simply ends, and that’s okay. I ditched the symmetry a bit, reducing choices that seemed forced or redundant, and the whole map benefited from it.

Describe what level of challenge you encountered in the creation of your maps. What was the hardest part / what was the easiest part? What was the most enjoyable part of the process?

I’m at an unfair advantage here. No, I’m not necessarily a master of the arts, but I am very experienced with Illustrator and the core parts of CS6. So technically, I really didn’t have issues; it was easy for me to put things together, even when I needed to do so quickly. However, there was difficulty conceptually. I found myself staring at a blank page for almost an hour wondering where to start at times, but other times I just picked up where I left off and made it up as I went along. I think the hardest part for me is coming up with that fantastic concept that seems worth implementing. I have so many things floating around in my head nowadays (personal passion-projects, tests, relationships, hardships, regrets) that I find it hard to focus. However, against all this influence, I do sort through the mist and find what I need. I feel almost like something intrinsic is using the mouse, and I’m just along for the ride. In this sense, it makes it all the more fascinating and rewarding to see what becomes of all the effort I put in. That is truly the most enjoyable element.

Did you do anything else outside of class, extracurricular, related to art, design, or creativity?

I do a few things to get creative outside class, but they’re mostly quick things I do here and there. I like to doodle a lot, and I’ve been doodling a girl for a while now, and I’ve tried to experiment with poses, too. If you want to know more about that, feel free to inquire, but I won’t show off my doodles unless it’s in person! I’ve also been doodling magical items (swords, staffs, shields) in hopes of implementing them in a novel.

Aside from that, I think about concepts for a fantasy novel I want to pen. I’ve considered making it a kind of underdog “poor kids from a small town get way in over their heads with a big quest” kind of thing, but I’m still fleshing it out. I hope to publish it some day and maybe do my own cover art.

Additionally, I’m working on putting together a side project. I was talking with some friends, and they suggested it’d be neat for my mom to have her own “advice column” type radio show. I really like the idea, and so does my mother, so I’m going to try and produce a pilot over winter break and share it with friends to see what they think. Who knows, it could be pretty rewarding! I think the best part is being able to work with my mom on something, especially since we’re so close. I also have another project lined up with my best friend Sean, and that’ll be in the music video/short film vein, which I am totally excited about.

So, yeah, I’ve been busy.

Whether positively, negatively or neutrally, how has your life outside of school impacted your school work?

Oh boy. I’d say that my work has been impacted in many ways by my situation. On one hand, my parents divorce and my mom’s heart problems prompted me to make the book that got me into the juried art show last year, my very first semester in St. Ed’s. Additionally, I’ve felt really stressed out about the whole thing, and that’s made me feel pretty distracted lately. However, I’m trying to keep myself happy, and I’ve tried to spend time with people that make me happy, so it’s been easier. I think that the really amazing thing is how well I’ve done despite all this stuff, and I think all my professors notice that.

What does the most ideal classroom environment look/feel like to you? What does it mean to be part of a class? This semester, what was your part / role / contribution to this ideal vision? Looking back in the semester describe the physical location you think you were at your most optimum and flourished the most.

I believe the ideal classroom environment is exactly what we have right now. It’s the entire school, even. See, I’ve never done well in big schools. When I was in high school, it was a huge school. It was overflowing with students that didn’t really care where they ended up, and that made it hard for the rest of us to work, as well as promote a lot of bullying and general rudeness. However, I think I was important to that school. I became an example through my achievements, and students were proud to know me and see where I was going. I think our class is ideal because it emphasized individual merit, while also incorporating group creativity and learning. We all provide feedback, and we all have something to gain from one another. I don’t want to toot my own horn a whole bunch, but I feel like I’ve been a bit of an example in class, and perhaps that’s why I feel so pressured at times. When I show friends  my work, they’re always saying “That looks way better than what I have”, but I often don’t think as much of my own work. I think that my peers do look up to me, but I also look up to a lot of my peers! I find that there are individuals I am truly proud to know, especially Tate, Amy, Yenifer, and Julia. I think they’re all stellar artists, and have all had their share of struggles and triumphs, but I think they’ve all come far. They keep me going, and they keep me pushing. They inspire me to do more than I already am, and I appreciate that. In that sense, I’ve flourished more in my art classes than I ever have. Be it with you and Bill, Jimmy, Hollis, or even Prof. Haughey. I have loved it all, and I am in complete bewilderment that I have the opportunities I do today. I am more happy now then I have been in years, and that’s thanks to my peers and my professors.

The Cutting Room Floor

The Cutting Room Floor

Let me first start by saying that this year has been extremely challenging, not just due to school, but also due to what’s going on in my personal life. I’m witnessing an ugly divorce between my parents, and I find myself the sole provider of my household and the only caretaker my mother has. Nonetheless, I’m doing well in my studies, and I haven’t given up, not even when things were so trying I felt like there was nothing else I could do but simply quit school and work full time. I know that times are rough, but I also know that my mother has been sacrificing her entire life so I could get here today. I’m doing my absolute best, and I’m doing everything I can to ensure my future, as well as hers.

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I know that was kind of intense for anyone to see in a simply self-evaluation, but I believe that my own motivations are a huge reflection on my work ethic and the amount of effort I put into things. I recently did a whole speech for my speech class that had to do with the definition of being a hardworking person, and maybe I should share those qualities with you, albeit briefly. The three characteristics I narrowed down were (1) strong personal drive, (2) meaningful motivations, and (3) a mindset that promotes teamwork and cooperation. I believe I am a hardworking person because I have these qualities in both intrinsic and extrinsic manifestations. I believe these relate strongly to the rubric for this project, and forgive me if I’m becoming long-winded or this seems irrelevant, but I was also asked to include any additional criteria, and I do believe this is justified in its own right.

I suppose if we proceed in the same topical fashion as the criteria, the first discussion should be about practice time and expert hours. The three categories listed are Consistent, Uneven, and Sporadic. Consistent would imply a regular schedule, such as how one may practice the piano twice a week or every weekend. Uneven would suggest doing the same action, but maybe you practice more some weeks, or less on others. Sporadic would most likely be the unorganized and completely random dispersing of practice across weeks of working, which probably would result in very poor craftsmanship. I believe my practice was pretty consistent, especially since I work at campus ministry building all sorts of shapes for posters and graphic elements, which I definitely applied to my project. I also worked on my symbols the day of class and the day after, usually, as it was the best way to meet my deadlines in alignment with assignments from other classes. However, I also feel I require less practice than most, as I’m already fairly familiar with the techniques and elements of Illustrator and shape-building through my two years of Graphic Design and yearbook editing in high school. I believe if I ever had an advantage in these classes, it’d be all the time I spent practicing and learning during those two years. I learned how to take good photos and studied photojournalism, and I managed to build experience with CS6 and even working with clients within my school; all the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in my life. That being said, I’ve had plenty of practice so far, and this is only helping me refine those skills and really try to push myself. In truth, I’ve been trying to push myself more and more; really trying to see what I’m capable of when my inhibitions are erased and I am in full control of my work. Honestly, I’ve been impressed with the results, and my professors and peers alike seem to agree with that, I just want to see how far that momentum can reach.

This brings me to the subject of the sophistication of my work. For the sake of clarity, we’ll define sophistication as meaningful complexity. I believe the three categories for this section are also quite straightforward. High sophistication implies a level of discernment in the work that not only meets criteria, but resonates with a theme or some other element that makes the choices relevant and meaningful. Medium sophistication is similar to high, but only scrapes the surface, showing you are aware of your decisions, but perhaps not fully conscious of their implications. Low is the absence of any of the criteria in high or medium, and is simply the lack of any thought whatsoever. I believe I put a lot of thought into my symbols, and it was really difficult for me to come up with the more abstract ideas, as well. I wanted everything to still relate to the overall theme, and I found it really challenging to embody my own persona in these symbols while still maintaining a certain level of mystery and  in the overall shape of the abstract ones. I think for this reason, I really but a lot of thought into everything, and that resulted in a high sophistication of my work. I tried to allow myself to work with the criteria, rather than be constrained by it. I think that my symbols ended up having depth, complexity, simplicity, and were objective or nonobjective, when need be. I included varied fills and line weights, and I made sure every mark was intentional and ultimately meaningful to the work. Overall, my work was to par with the criteria, I believe, even if it needed tweaking before it came time to finalize.

Feedback was incredibly important to me, especially since I’ve never been given a project like this before (specifically making abstract symbols). In terms of these categories, Meaningful use of feedback would imply a nearly complete overhaul of the work, or at least faithful application of feedback to the extent that the work is stronger than it was before, no matter how minor the changes. Useful implies changes at the surface level, but changes that are made for the sake of changing, not so much to improve integrity. Trivial, similarly to useful, would imply the use of feedback at its most basic level, or the lack thereof any change whatsoever due to feedback. I feel that I personally took all feedback to heart, either scraping entire ideas, reworking shapes, or pushing my mentality in alignment with the feedback I received. I also constantly asked for opinions and thoughts from my peers, even if I wasn’t required to do so. I’ve always had confidence in my work, but I also wanted to make sure that my friends saw what I could see, or couldn’t see, depending on the objectivity or abstract nature of the symbol.

This assignment was a rather big challenge for me, personally. I feel like it was worthy of taking up nearly half of the semester, as it was an introduction into our own manifestations of what we deem important and what we regard as significant, on an intrinsic level, when analyzing our own work and picking our own themes. The categories of intense, medium, and mild, in any sort of arrangement, are subjective. Some tasks are more difficult for others, and with that being said, I believe I did challenge myself considerably, and put myself outside of my comfort zone in whatever way I could. Not only was the actual creation of the symbols difficult, but the application of the vinyl to the wall was EXTREMELY difficult. I persevered, though, and found myself adjusting individual letters with a tack for the majority of the night.

 

I think in terms of “other expert experiences” I’ve had a lot to keep myself busy. I’ve been building shapes outside of class time for the assignments, as well as working on creating symbols and design elements for my posters in Campus Ministry, so I’ve had plenty of time to just play with shapes and form. In terms of the categories, I feel like I’ve done “lots of extra stuff”, as I’m constantly working on art outside of class, even if some of it’s for another class. I’m an incredibly busy person, and I don’t think that “just the class assignments” meets that criteria, nor does “other ‘stuff'”, as I have not done the bare minimum and I have not been completely idle.

(some of the things I’ve done outside of class for work and other classes)

OKAY SO, here are the paragraphs I’m most excited about…

In terms of EMOTIONAL/SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, oh boy, have I had a surge of both. This entire project has sparked one of the greatest events in my school career so far, as the amount of stress and difficulty in these art classes has sparked me and some of my peers to form a support group. Not only have we all shared ideas and collaborated on symbol concepts (feedback, opinions, technical help, etc.), but we spent the entirety of tonight organizing a time to meet up and cut our vinyl as a team, then problem-solving to figure out what to do when the machine was locked away in the A121 lab, then got the door open, and helped each other to make sure everything came out as best as it could. This has been an amazing experience, and it was so cool to see how we could come together under such pressure, and really shine like the diamonds we all are. So for this section, I believe I have had strong, mature development, rooted in self-awareness and teamwork. I did not have young or adolescent development, however, as I definitely did not have a “out of control” experience, or a “remote controlled” experience, akin to that of your parents ushering you to a christian child mingling session or the act of asking friends for favors but never remembering their names.

The CONTRIBUTION TO CLASS CLIMATE is also an amazing huge part of my experience so far, as through the previously discussed team collaboration, I have gave real, meaningful feedback to my peers, as well as aid in times of need. We’ve all panicked together, but we’ve also all solved problems together, and for that I am truly grateful. I believe I’ve fostered my own little portion of the warm embers that burn in the metaphorical fireplace of friendship, and I do feel that my influence has never been “cold” or “room temp”. I’ve been more outgoing than usual, and I’ve also maintained correspondence with those I am friends with, so I feel that I am in no way being distant or having some kind of island formed around me.

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Ultimately, this experience has been totally transformative. I’ve learned a lot, cried a lot, and have really made myself a home and family within the walls of this campus and the hearts of my friends. Hopefully these developments will continue within class and outside of class, in my personal and my public life.

Current and Projected Expert Hours

Current and Projected Expert Hours

I think the last time I looked into this, it would take at least four years to master a skill according to the concept of “Expert Hours”. Being that a bachelor’s degree lasts about four years, I should be an expert by the end. Of course, this is permitting that I’m actively practicing every single day, or at least trying to dabble in a project over time. However, maybe I misspoke — it takes four years to be an expert, not a master. That’s what a master’s degree is for.

I think I have about a quarter of those 1000 hours by now, and I’d have to say that I feel like that’s the case, intrinsically. I don’t feel 100% confident in my abilities just yet, and I feel I have many questions to ask, but I also have a sense of capability. I might need help here and there, but for the most part I feel that I can hold my own, depending on the project.

I’ve started to approach co-workers and friends about graphic design services, mostly in regards to promotional material, business cards, logos, and other things like that. I’ve felt really confident in my ability at least be competent enough to work on small projects like those, and I believe I’m rather good at it, too. Yet, that is still only a small part of what I’m going to learn over the rest of these three years, and I’m excited to really add up all those hours of experience! Hopefully, by the end of this year, I should be halfway done.

Nothing to Lose

Nothing to Lose
1. Dyou become selfconscious of your ideas? 
I suppose ideas can often seem more personal than our selves, at times. I, personally, am usually very self-conscious of my ideas, and am constantly seeking approval and justification for whatever ideas I may have. I suppose it is less about needing approval and more about needing a definite path to walk; a guarantee that what I’m doing is the right thing. For instance, I’ve recently been wrestling with my degree plan, wondering if I should swap my major and minor for one another. While it seems entirely the same, I’m honestly very concerned about doing the right thing. In all honesty, job security and pay are incredibly large factors in this dilemma, but I also feel uneasy about my talent as an artist and just how happy I’ll be as a graphic design major compared to a computer science major.
Not to sound full of myself, but I am proficient in quite a few areas — specifically writing, art, math, technological applications and so on — so I find it hard to settle on a specific career path or degree that’ll let me use all of those skills to the best of my abilities. Is it best to be a programmer with art experience, or a artist with programming experience? It’s difficult and important, but I have no understanding of what is actually right. Who’s to say that Andy Warhol should have been a tap dancer? I suppose no one else is capable of saying so, except for Warhol himself. I suppose that the real goal is to be self-conscious about your ideas, but not to the point where you loose sight of your intentions and goals. Maybe that’s the missing link for me?
2. What do you think of the nothingtolose attitude?  What are its pros and cons?
I think to say you have nothing to lose is ultimately unrealistic, yet effective. It is impossible to have no consequences for the choices we make in life, but sometimes throwing caution to the wind is the best way to motivate yourself to take important risks or make life-changing decisions. However, that mentality, I believe, can snowball into a much larger tone of ignorance for one’s position. If you have no sense of consequence whatsoever, you can become and entirely irresponsible and dangerous person, and that’s a very slippery slope to walk on. I’m the kind of person who likes to play things safe, so maybe that’s a bad thing. But, on the contrary, I’ve never been in serious trouble before. Risks are okay, but even the most whimsical of risks can still benefit from being more calculated than others.

Design Noun/Verb

Design Noun/Verb
According to Paul Rand, creating a good design is never an easy task. In general, design is an incredibly laborious process and can be very stressful. However, I feel that despite the pressure that the field can bring (as well as the apparent headaches from management), the best way to be prepared for the creative process is to understand your own limits and faults. Yes, people will disagree with your designs and want you to change them, and you certainly can’t control their taste, but you have to be an incredibly patient person to be able to deal with that. I tend to be incredibly flexible with clients, especially if the person is paying me for something, as you want them to be happy with the end result. However, I think being articulate is extremely important, especially when you find yourself needing to explain that a client’s suggestion is a huge mistake. Truly, patience and communication skills are key, I believe.
As far as the actual making process goes, a good grasp on your skills (obviously linked to practice) is definitely necessary to be prepared. However, when something comes along that you don’t know, flexibility and the ability to take risks will really come into play.
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Currently, I don’t often have a lot of down time. However, I tend to make videos for my Youtube channel when I have time. I think the best part about making videos is that it incorporates a lot of different aspects of creativity for me. I can write a script, create my logo or a simple backdrop, and edit the video for timing and aesthetics. It’s honestly a lot of fun, and I’ve also started to doodle a little in my free time, mainly trying to get a grasp on drawing from a reference image.

Mad Scientists?!?

Mad Scientists?!?

Making decisions is tough. Personally, I tend to be an incredibly indecisive person; I’ll beat several ideas to death before I even figure out which one I wanted in the first place. Honestly, it’s not a good system to have. Whenever I’m making decisions for, say, 60 drawings about lines, I’m usually too afraid to just say “Okay, I’m doing this and it’s going to happen right now”, and end up saying something more along the lines of “Okay, here are twenty different ways to draw one concept, but which one is best?” In the readings, they talk a lot about how designers can borrow from other mediums or even just invent something new to accomplish a certain goal. For instance, Panton made a chair that had never really been done before, and in doing so challenged a certain status quo. However, I feel that decision often take inspiration from other situations, as well — I may have twenty-something ideas, but based on my restraints and what I’ve done in the past, I can narrow those ideas down a whole lot. Perhaps my decisions aren’t based on anything substantial, per say, but I do feel like they are definitely based on the situation I’m in and my past experiences.

 

Similarly, I find that determining whether something is “working” a rather complex action. I think, to some extent, it comes naturally to me. However, I believe that a lot of the exposure I’ve had to filmmaking, photography, and audio-video production give me a lot to go on when determining the quality of something. For instance, in my own personal projects, or even my writing, I try very hard to avoid awkward situations that can confuse the audience. I feel like if whatever I’m working on can help the audience understand my work as a whole, it’s a good idea that serves a good purpose. Similar to the biogas made by Superflex, if something is functioning as it should be, yet not a jarring eyesoar, it works.

 

When something refuses to work, I refuse to start over. I’ve never been one to go back to the drawing board when something goes awry; I power through and try to really control what’s going on in a project, rather than the other way around. If it’s something as simple as, say, audio leveling in a video, it’s easy for me to adjust the work to meet my needs. However, if it’s something complex like a sequence of events in a book that aren’t quite fitting together nicely, I try to look at the elements in the work in a different perspective. Sometimes I feel like I’m sifting through the plastic bad of edits like Lauren van Deursen, looking for anything that might reinforce my ideas and possibly could be added to the piece. All in all, I try to fix what’s superficial and meaningful without uprooting the foundation I’ve already laid down.