Octopodes

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Use any technological method/apparatus to create a visual image in the style of one of the art movements discussed in [MAS.110]. Write a 6-8 page essay on what you were trying to do and on the process by which you did it (and how you discovered/developed the process). Is there a relationship between the technology and the message? Explain why you used the particular style you chose.

Given my enduring fondness for (and fascination with) the work of MC Escher, it was almost inevitable that I’d pick surrealism.
20121230-155047.jpgI started with a few ideas — a chess game played on the Giant’s Causeway, a ballroom with chandeliers rising from the floor, a gargoyle suspended upside-down on a flying buttress — but eventually narrowed it down to my favorite, an idea inspired by Escher’s Stars: a sinuous blue-and-green octopus draped over the waterless Earth, with polyhedron stars hanging in the distance.20121228-163548.jpgThe general design was easy enough; I knew I wanted the octopus’ tentacles to coil down into space, fluid and organic, in contrast to rocky grey Earth. To add to the contrast in the piece, I decided to ink the octopus digitally and print it onto watercolor paper, then add blue and green ink washes by hand, slowly layering the color until it was as rich and deep as I could get it.

The biggest difficulty was in printing the line-art. I couldn’t get watercolor paper into the printer, so I ended up using the highly-technical method I learned in grade school: printing out the image on computer paper, then shading in the back side with graphite and tracing it onto watercolor paper. I also had some trouble getting all eight of the octopus’ tentacles in the painting without overwhelming the earth, even with lots of sketching to test placement. As it stands, the octopus only has seven tentacles.
20121230-155422.jpgOnce I was happy with the pencilled tracing, I inked it with a 005 black Micron pen. The size of the nib compared to the size of the piece as a whole allowed me to very precisely control how the lines looked — it wasn’t quite the degree of control I had on the computer, but close enough.

I added the washes of color to the octopus in between rounds of studying for a calc midterm, using thinned-down Higgins ink in green and blue. Once I had the color to a richly shaded cobalt, I dug out a bottle of gold calligraphy ink I’ve had for years, and added a few textured spots to the octopus’ mantle.
20121230-165028.jpgI would have preferred to get a little more green onto the octopus, but after the first few washes it was looking more teal-and-purple than blue-and-green, so I overcompensated on the blue.

I didn’t see it as “art” enough for a title, but at the suggestion of the writing instructor for the class, I found a surrealist title for the piece: this is “The Fall of Every Sparrow,” a fragment pulled from a Carl Sagan quote.

I may end up cross-hatching the background and adding shading to the sphere of the Earth eventually, to put the Earth and stars in higher contrast, but for now I’m extremely happy with how it turned out — especially considering it was a technique I’d never tried before. I succeeded both in getting a good score on the project and in my own goal, which was to make a piece of art I liked enough that I’d want to hang it in my room.20121230-171059.jpg

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