Archive for April, 2009

Playing with Figure/Ground Reversals and Repetition

Project 4: Figure/Ground Reversal

Project 4: Figure/Ground Reversal

Last night, my third design project was due, and it was a shape exercise where we played with a figure/ground reversal, which we then had to pattern.

We had to create a single panel with an axis of symmetry (mine goes horizontally), and on each side of the axis, the white and black areas were reversed, creating a composition with equal amounts of white and black space. We then had to repeat that image on a grid, getting smaller and smaller, by half each time, until we created a dizzying 8×8 grid.

I really struggled in choosing a concept for this piece. The assignment was so straightforward, and I created about 20 different trials, many of which I tried patterning, but I had a lot of trouble settling on just one. In some, the initial design looked too abstracted, in others, the patterned versions were too blocky or stripy or just didn’t quite look good. I finally settled on this one, which I felt was balanced, interesting and not overly complicated.

It was interesting to see how the movement of the design changed as the tiles got smaller and to see the strange sorts of optical illusions that occurred. When the design is tiled, it creates some new shapes that start pulling your gaze in different directions, but then when it gets tiled more at a smaller scale, it becomes much flatter and less active, looking quite even and flat.

In class we didn’t do a group critique — we discussed our projects at our desks with the instructor — but I could still see many students’ versions. Some people did some incredibly fanciful and complex designs, with swirling shapes, or ones that looked almost like chandeliers. Other students stuck more with flame or rose-like designs, and yet others did straight-lined square designs.

We also got to do the project digitally if we wanted, and the image above isn’t a photo of my presentation board (if only I could take a photo that accurate!) but a digital composite.

A Whirlwind Tour of Niagara Falls

The view from our hotel room

The view from our hotel room

For the weekend, Evan and I went to Niagara Falls. I’d never been there before, so I was really excited to see the falls — and to return to my homeland, Canada. We had a great room on the top floor of the Sheraton Fallsview that had an incredible view of both the Canadian and American falls. We were just glued to the window every time we were up there.

A very misty morning at the falls

A very misty morning at the falls

We of course did the requisite wander by the falls, and we rode the Maid of the Mist — a boat that takes you so close to the falls you are completely enveloped in its mist and can’t really see anything. It felt like being hit by a giant storm at sea. Everything got soaked and it was so windy it was hard to keep my eyes open. And I only realized after I was drenched that my mascara wasn’t waterproof. Oops. The ponchos they gave us helped, but our pants, shoes and sleeves still got pretty wet.

Emerging from the waterfall's "mist" completely drenched

Emerging from the waterfall's "mist" completely drenched

Once we were done with the touristy falls sights, though we ventured toward the very quaint and charming Niagara on the Lake. We stopped at the botical gardens and butterfly conservatory, which was fantastic. The gardens weren’t in bloom yet, but there were tons of butterflies flying around in the indoor garden, which just created a magical experience. I tried to capture it on video.

Evan also took some great photos of the butterflies.

ButterflyIn Niagara on the Lake, we had tea and scones at the Irish Tea Room, and the night before, we had a wonderful dinner at the Stone Road Grille. We wandered around the cute shops on the main strip, bought some cookies, and checked out Lake ontario. We could JUST make out Toronto in the background.

The view of Lake Ontario

The view of Lake Ontario

We also found out that Niagara has a wonderful wine country, so we went to the Peller and Hillebrand vineyards for some wine tasting. They both had excellent chardonnays, geverztraminers and ice wines and we bought a couple of bottles to take home — apparently you can’t get much Canadian wine in the U.S. at all.

It was a marvelous weekend, filled with new sights, good food and of course, excellent company. I really miss traveling. You can check out more photos in my Niagara galleries on Facebook (more of the photos of me and Evan) and on Flickr (more of the landscapes and butterfly photos)

A Few Days in Pittsburgh


Thursday morning, I arrived in Pittsburgh to visit Evan, who has been working there since the beginning of April. While he was working during the day, I spent my time wandering about the city, taking photos.

Thurdsay, I walked across the Smithfield Street Bridge and started exploring downtown and the Cultural District, where all Pittsburgh’s big theaters are. I also crossed the bridge into the Northside and walked around the Commons and by the Andy Warhol Museum. I also checked the few things at Station Square, where Evan is living, which mostly involved a walk through a mall and a peek into the beautiful historic train station converted into a restaurant, the Grand Concourse.

Friday, I decided to head up to Mount Washington, and took the Monongahela Incline up to the top. Then walked along the ridge of the mountain until I reached the Duquesne Incline (which is much quainter and cuter and has exhibits about the incline’s history in its top station). I rode the incline down and walked across the Fort Pitt Bridge to Point Park and walked around downtown again, this time making it all the way out to the Strip District before heading back.

Friday night, Evan and I got to explore the city together. We went to the Warhol Museum, where we saw a great collection of Andy Warhol’s work and learned a lot about his life. There was also a special exhibit: The Vader Project, which was really entertaining. We got to see 100 Darth Vader masks as interpreted by different artists. Some of the projects were really impressive artistically and others were conceptually funny. I’m not a big Star Wars fan, but I did enjoy the exhibit.

After the museum, we went for a very tasty dinner at Eleven. The service was a bit strange, but the food was delicious (see my Yelp review for more details).

Here are a few of my favorite photos from my wanders:

The Duquesne Incline, with Downtown Pittsburgh in the background

The Duquesne Incline, with Downtown Pittsburgh in the background

Crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge into Downtown

Crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge into Downtown

A Downtown office part with lots of metallic buildings -- Pittsburgh is steel city and its downtown architecture shows it

A Downtown office part with lots of metallic buildings -- Pittsburgh is steel city and its downtown architecture shows it

One of the most delightful things I cam across in Downtown Pittsburgh: A transformer/robot sculpture made of models of Pittsburgh's bridges

One of the most delightful things I cam across in Downtown Pittsburgh: A transformer/robot sculpture made of models of Pittsburgh's bridges

There are tons more photos in my Pittsburgh galleries on Flickr and Facebook

The Positive and Negative Space of a Big, Bold K

project 2 - shape relationships

For project #2 in my class, we had to create a 3-panel project. The first panel was a 10-inch tall serif letter — I chose a K — arranged in a 6×9-inch panel. The panel #2 was an arrangement of the negative space from panel #1. Panel #3 was a combination of panels #1 and #2, and had to show overlap, transparency and division between the shapes, using black, white and two colors of gray.

Since we had to do the project by hand, cutting the shapes out of Canson paper, I decided to keep things at least relatively simple by choosing a shape with straight lines. I figured I’d have enough to worry about in panel #3 without having to deal with matching up curved edges. Panels #1 and #2 came together pretty easily, though I did try out many formations for panel #2 before deciding on this one.

As expected, panel #3 was much more difficult. I started by cutting out all the shapes out of all 3 colored papers and started trying to piece together the composition like a puzzle. I quickly realized that I needed to do some more planning if I were going to achieve things like the transparencies properly. I also realized that I needed to really focus on the shape relationships first, so I could complete the assignment, and then worry about tweaking the entire composition to feel more balanced and interesting. The final composition ended up looking so straightforward — like such an obvious combination of panels #1 and #2 — that it really betrays how difficult it was to do.

Last night in class I started to worry that my composition didn’t look anything like the other students’. Almost all had chosen letters with lots of curves and with lots of negative space. There were some some very strong compositions for #3 that didn’t use anywhere near as much white space as I did and had many more intersections between the various shapes. I’m always amazed at how completely different interpretations of the same assignment can be.

When it came time for my critique, though, my piece was really well received. It was pointed out that it was sort of an obvious solution, but it did clearly show transparency, overlap and division with the shapes, and I received some nice compliments about it being well constructed and even looking digital (thank you, straight lines). I still can’t believe that I used only 2 colors of gray and black — there are some interesting optical illusions going on with how the values are perceived, especially in the light gray on light gray transparency with the bottom triangle.

Next week we’re doing a patterning exercise. I’ve already started on some mockups. It should be interesting. And I’m glad we can do it digitally since I’m off to Pittsburgh tonight until Monday, and I’ll be able to work on it while I’m there.

Order to Chaos in Lines

Order to Chaos

I’m currently taking a design fundamentals class at UCLA Extension, and today our first project was due. We had to show a progression from order to chaos, using only lines. I had this concept in my head from the start of intersecting lines on a diagonal that would bounce back at each other and slowly break down into chaos.

The critique from the class was pretty good overall. They felt the design was cohesive, it had a good transition area and it was balanced. The biggest complaint was that I didn’t push the chaos concept enough, which is something I struggled with as I was composing the piece. Maybe I should have had everything break apart at the end, with no continuous lines. I also feel that I could have made some more of the chaotic lines heavier, which would have also helped the reception from the back of the class — it was very hard to see the thinner lines when you stepped back, which made it feel more orderly than it was.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I’m excited to start tackling next week’s shape assignment. I’ve finally retrieved my drafting table from my parents’ house and pulled out my design tools. It’s great to be creating some physical pieces, which I haven’t done in a long time.

San Diego Weekend: Coronado and ‘The Cradle Will Rock’

The beach with the Hotel Del Coronado in the distance

The beach with the Hotel Del Coronado in the distance

This weekend, I went down to San Diego to see a friends’ play, The Cradle Will Rock, and my friends showed me around the city with a fun driving tour and a walk around Coronado Island.

The fun started at the beginning of my day, though, when I got to go to my favorite brunch spot, Plums, in Costa Mesa. Plums has amazing eggs, pancakes and waffles, and Evan and I were regulars when I lived in Orange County. It can be a wait, but it’s always worth it, especially for the enormous Dutch baby (a kind of baked pancake souffle). This visit, my sister Michelle and I shared the shirred eggs and a lemon meringue waffle, which were both delicious.

flowersThen we headed down to San Diego, where Michelle goes to school and where I was visiting my friends Lindsey and Sean. They took me on a driving tour through University Heights, Old Town, Downtown and plenty of other neighborhoods before we crossed over the big bridge to Coronado Island. We got out and checked out the historic and lovely Hotel Del Coronado, with its stately white wood and red roofed exterior and dark wood interior. We walked down the beach, where we watched kids jumping across rocks, and we wandered through some of the residential streets, which had beautiful houses with very pretty gardens.

We grabbed a quick dinner at the Village Pizzeria before heading downtown to see The Cradle Will Rock, a musical Lindsey directed that’s still running for a few more weeks at the Tenth Street Theater if you’d like to catch it. The play is about the Depression, unions and selling out, and it focuses on the story of corporate big-shot Mr. Mister and his cronies who put their morals aside for money, and Larry Foreman, on the other side, leading union efforts.

I didn’t know about the play before, but Lindsey filled me in on some of its history, which is just as interesting as the show itself. The initial, federally-funded run of the show in 1937 was shut down because of its pro-labor/pro-communist leanings, and the cast performed the newly banned play from the audience of another theater in an impromptu gathering. There’s a fictionalized version of the story in the Tim Robbins film Cradle Will Rock, which I’ll be adding to my Netflix queue.

The play felt very much like an impromptu performance, with a minimal set and props, actors performing multiple roles and a piano-playing narrator who also took on some small parts. There were quite a few times during the performance when the actors came right up to the edge of the audience, and it felt like they were speaking and singing directly to each of us individually.

If you’re in the area, the play is worth checking out, and tickets are $25 presale or pay-what-you-can at the door.

the cradle will rock

Check out a few more San Diego photos on Flickr.

Happy Passover

Seder Plate

Wednesday and Thursday, I went to two very different, but fun Passover Seders. The first one was at my aunt and uncle’s house. There were about 50 people there, and they always use a custom-made haggadah written by a friend, which has lots of funny asides. There were lots of young kids there, who did most of the reading, though I did take my turn, too.

Mom and Dad showing off their Carpas (greens/parsley)

Mom and Dad showing off their Carpas (greens/parsley)

Suzie and Danny were in town, and Michelle got back the next day, in time for the Thursday-night seder at my parents’ house. It was a much smaller affair, of just 8 people, but that’s still more than enough to have a successful seder. We had some new family friends over with their two young children, who were absolutely adorable, and they sang songs for us and had a blast running back and forth from the door, opening it for Elijah and checking out his cup to see the wine level was any lower.

My mom made her fantastic matzo ball soup, haroset and matzo farfel along with asparagus, latkes and other passover dishes. She also baked two cakes, and our friends brought over matzo candy — a delicious combo of matzo, chocolate, caramel and almonds. Yum!

Playing with Silly Putty (btw, this picture was taken by a 4-year-old!)

Playing with Silly Putty (btw, this picture was taken by a 4-year-old!)

We also played with Silly Putty, which was one of the Afikomen prizes for the kids. It was much more fun than just giving out cash and worked well since we were a small group. We took a bunch of funny photos, and I managed to get orange Silly Putty all over my iPhone case. That stuff sure sticks! I think I’ve finally scraped it all off.

Thanks, Mom, and everyone else who had a part in cooking all that food, setting all those tables and bringing everyone together.

Check out some more of my Passover photos on Facebook.