I’ve made a post about some of my visual influences for this work, citing pretty well known media as a way to help people understand my intentions. But there is a load of smaller things that have heavily influenced this project, and my thinking on writing and visuals, and how they interact.
It’s a me… Wario?
So around the time I started working on this project a game called WarioWare: Get it Together! came out. From my count it’s the ninth installment in the series, that features Mario’s arch nemesis Wario, and revolves around completing what the developers call “microgames”, these are tine 3-20 second games that are meant to be ran through at a fast pace.
You can see a sample here of some of the microgames. What I really took from this game though was how the visual styles were mashed together so chaotically, but somehow it still works. Moving at break neck pace between cartoon, to photo realistic, to 3d rendered, but never loosing sense of the visual aesthetic the game aims for.
In the same realm as this is Katamari Damacy which I played recently, this has a more consistent art style, but this strange way of repeating the same objects in tight clusters around the map. It’s a really unique aesthetic, it really understands that even more than a visual experience, its a tactile experience. The soundtrack consists of high energy jazz fusion arcane magic that is chaotic, but oh so catchy.
Todd Dillard is a poet who I know mainly through twitter. I decided a while ago that the only people I would follow on twitter are those I know personally, or people who post at least 80% jokes. Todd is the later, he post mainly witty comments on the state of lit twitter, the poetry industry, and what it’s like to be sad AND funny.
One poem in particular that he posted recently really spoke to what I hope to achieve with my work. Mixing together meta references, bizarre humor and a sense of melancholy.
The way Todd leads the reader in this poem is really interesting to me, I feel like when I read a new line it’s like Todd is waiting for me, and he’s describing my journey to me. He has a fantastic economy of words, saying a lot with just enough.
Mos Def as Ford Prefect was outstanding
On the subject of literature I should talk about The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Recently I read this to my partner, and it was interesting to read out loud at a slower pace. I would actually say this is how the book was meant to be read. You really get an appreciation for the absurdity when you’re sitting on a porch, in full view of passers by, spouting pure nonsense.
After finishing the book, I half remember having a conversation about the point of the book. I explained that I’d heard there were sequels, but that it wasn’t really about that I don’t think. Hitchhikers guide is odd when compared to modern media, finishing the book isn’t the point, reading the chapters in order isn’t the point, it’s a meditation on joy, it’s a meal you don’t want to finish, nor one you should.
The Narcissist’s Guide to Himself
I want my work to feel like the Gobstopers we used to buy at the local milk bar when I was 10. We would collect our change and ride two blocks through the dry Townsville heat, collecting our treats, and heading to the nearby hill. We would spend hours trying to work through these sugary monstrosities, taking breaks to play our favorite game “ride down a really steep hill and try not to die”.
I’ve lost the point I was trying to make here, It’s almost 2am and this is the last piece of writing for my 2nd year of a fine art bachelor. This last six months has been intense, wonderful, sad and just truly heartbreaking. I’m so filled with emotions they seem to have all balanced out, I think I might have worked myself up so much that I’ve come full circle to some sort of Zen state?
In conclusion I rented a domain with my own name, paid for WordPress, and have written around 10000 words almost exclusively about myself.
This project has been an interesting one, you can go back and read the proposal here, and my early development here if you like. But I will be doing a quick summary of my inspiration and initial methods when building this project up here, so if you’re a bit lazy like I am, I got you.
This project was born of necessity in some ways. This semester has been like no other, I deferred school during the 2020 lockdown, so this was my first experience with total online schooling. While later on in the semester we would get some access to the studios back, for the most part I approached this semester and this project assuming I wouldn’t be back in the studios before the submission date. My plan was to create something totally online, an engaging experience, and something that could be built upon for years to come.
During the conceptualizing of this project, I tried to think about how a completely online art practice could uphold similar principles to traditional printmaking . A few principles stand out in particular, in reproduction, accessibility, and versatility.
Reproduction is easy to comprehend, if you frame your original digital work as the matrix, an arrangement of information that describes your image, much like a lino block describes your image. Each your website or hosted spaces becomes your press, for taking your original matrix and multiplying it as many times as it is called upon. Finally the end viewers screen becomes the paper the image is ‘printed’ on, each time a new instance is shown on a unique screen.
Accessibility was one of the aspects that originally drew me to print, while you can obviously create thirteen layer reduction woodcuts and run them through a three thousand dollar press with the finest inks and papers, you could just as easily cut some lino at home with cheap tools and hand print them on printer paper. I remember as a young man running a tumblr page, posting MSPaint drawings of my silly jokes that ended up reaching thousands of people, with work on the internet time invested and quality is not always what brings attention, it’s having a keen sense of the ever changing digital zeitgeist. This accessibility also applies to how prints are accessed, where paintings are usually unique objects, a print can be repeated almost indefinitely, meaning it is an artform for the masses, something the internet does almost too well.
Finally versatility, in the adobe suite alone there are dozens of programs we can use to make work, for this project alone I’ve used several programs, and taking the work online the amount of options can be dizzying. In the before times, I was a big fan of screen-printing and fine art digital prints, but have also enjoyed using lino, wood blocks and copper to create work. I think letting the work dictate the medium is the most enjoyable way to work, rather that tunnel visioning on a single medium, and I don’t think this project could be done any other way.
This all might seem like a stretch, or maybe even a bit trite, but I really think framing my work this way has helped me see the value in online digital work. A common hurdle in making work I think is not so much justifying it to an audience, but justifying the effort and time commitment to yourself.
Originally I was planning for this project to be a lampoon of cooperate art styles, the site even takes its name from the term Alegria, an art style companies often employ to make themselves seem more human and less like dystopian nightmare factories. But as is often the case, anger fades, you see flaws in your approach, and the project shifts. By the time I started working on the project, very little of this original inspiration remained, I no longer wanted to give my time and energy to talking about these obviously shitty companies and their practices. I wanted to make something that would reflect me and the world I live in, I wanted to make all those weird artworks I thought wouldn’t be acceptable in a fine art setting, to create without a sense of ego, or expectation.
So what’s left after you take out this lampooning? Basically an empty world ready to be filled! I started working without any real plan for how I was going to present my work online, except for the vague intent to have it function as a website. I started building each room as a single image, trying to account for the fact that I might want to revisit them. I did this by keeping my layer structure as clean as possible, something I think I only mastered with my latest work. Keeping everything separate and self contained allows me to rearrange items in the room, and even come back to this original linework file and add more items.
After the line work is done, I then move on to coloring. I’ve been using my own photos and free stock images as sources for my textures. It’s a nice throw back to working with collage, but also an art style that I find really appealing, like a kind of digital kitsch. The first way I started doing this was through illustrator itself, there are tools to combine the entire image and use a paint bucket with tilled textures. This is a really convenient way of working, but with my earlier rooms file layout, it became messy and unmanageable. I decided to take the finished linework into photoshop and finish it there, this is an environment more suited for this non-graphic work, but it does have the downside of being rasterized and therefore you really need to be sure on the layout before you commit.
These close ups give a better impression of how the textures interact with the linework, the project essentially becomes a coloring book for me to play around with, creating mask layers for each object and then testing several textures until I’m happy. Sometimes, as with the fern and books, adding straight up photographic images to the scene, creating a weird contrast between graphic and reality.
After having created several rooms, it became time to start putting the whole website together. From the start I had envisioned sort of a monkey island style point and click adventure, though very rudimentary, it was nothing I couldn’t learn. As I began looking into hosting a website and building something from scratch, I realized the time and financial investment would be just far too much. Luckily, I already had this WordPress site!
I decided to transition from a point and click to more of a text based adventure with accompanying images, videos and gifs. After deciding this as the avenue I wanted to go down, creating the layout only took a matter of hours, creating descriptions links and connections between the images, to give the impression of venturing through a strange world. Upon arranging the three main images I had made, I realized there was a lot of room for variations. For some pages I added zoomed in portions so people could get a closer look at certain items that are too small to see, especially on mobile. For the library shelf I used a whole stock image with slight variations to represent my writing, and for the hive I decided to quickly make some gifs as a fun little way to expand the world.
Not only is using WordPress easier, It’s also more accessible and recognizable. It already scales for mobile, works on every browser, is recognizable as a trustworthy site. I’m already trying to direct traffic there (here) to my blog, so win win! All in all it feels like an elegant solution, and allows me to test out this format/medium before committing hundreds of dollars in hosting fees.
Like a lot of people who spend a lot of time online, I have many complaints. I never expected to be a legitimate “back in my day” person, but when it comes to the internet, I was really just at the right age when it’s culture was being formed. In my late teens, thousands of bespoke websites catered too all kinds of weird and wacky things, you spent less time on centralized social media sites, and more time hopping from link to link on recommendations. In some ways, even though there were a lot less people using it, it felt a lot bigger. I know though that this is really just looking back at it with rose tinted glasses, it was also a horrible place that fostered some really terrible ideas, and if not for some good IRL experiences and people, I might have fallen down into some dark corners of the web.
Part of this project for me is bringing back that feeling of stumbling across something unique online, an organic experience not perfected or refined, but something as close to handmade as you can in a digital landscape. Another equally important part is my obsession with that scene in Jurassic park where the girl is hacking the dinosaur mainframe through that bizarre 3d interface.
Streaming has been part of this project from the point I began actually making the rooms, though I did all the busy work of connecting the pages offline. Below I’m going to post a video of my most recent stream, you can skip through and get the vibe, the whole stream is 3 hours with a handful of breaks, some light conversation and a bit of me being flustered when someone called me handsome.
Creating work with an audience is something I’ve talked about in previous posts, but since then I’ve had some more populated streams, and have been able to talk to strangers while working. I’ve found it is not only really comforting, but also increases the amount of time I’m able to stream and the speed at which I make work. It really is like a simulation of the studio environment, albeit one narcissistically revolving around me. I can absolutely see how some people would dislike having people pull apart their work, give advice on how something should look, or talking about unrelated topics as a distraction. For me it’s the perfect environment for my mind to let get into that flow state of creating.
Do blog posts have conclusions?
I’ve said in other posts that I don’t really like to describe a lot of my thoughts behind the imagery in my work, I think once you do you kind of ‘solve’ it for people, and it becomes less interesting. What I will say, is some of the content is very silly, and some of it very serious, but I’m not going to tell you which is which. This project is a reflection of my life, and I hope to build on it for years to come.
In conclusion I did it, I finished a semester during the largest, strictest lockdown in the world, and I didn’t go insane 🥚
I have a love hate relationship with visual art diary’s. I understand completely why they are a useful tool for teachers when trying to grade the work of an art student. It’s kind of like showing the working with a math equation, it helps the teacher understand how the student got there, and what their thinking was.
Above is a photo of my visual diary from the second year of my advanced diploma, it’s filled to the brim with work, trimmings, theory, assignments and it looks pretty impressive. Below are the total 7 pages of visual diary I’ve used this semester.
Firstly it’s easy to point to the pandemic and schooling from home as the most obvious answer for why this has happened. Without the constant walking into class with my visual diary, I don’t have that reminder to document my work, its easy to forget you’re working in a school system and being graded when you’re attending class from your bedroom. Often on my studio desk at RMIT there would be a pile of source images printed off, work scrawled on loose paper, and test works laying all around. Towards the end of a project I would collect all these scraps up and arrange and annotate them in my diary. At home this becomes a bit more difficult, I don’t want piles of documents and scribbles laying around my room, or else my partner might think I’ve finally snapped and gone full Ted Kaczynski.
Reason number two is in front of you right now, this website. I started this blog about 6 months ago, thinking it would be a convenient way to present my work from home, and far more legible than my usual scribbling in the margins. While this is a really convenient way to catalogue thought processes and work progress, it suffers from a dilemma of quality. Putting something out on the internet for everyone to see is quite different from scribbling in your mostly private diary, I find myself being very picky about what I put up on this blog. The further this website project goes on, the more protective I become of how I present myself, and the work. I’ve went from writing and presenting in a style suited more for the school, and teachers who would mark my work, to something more representative of myself. This is a constant balancing act between the writing being informative of my work from an academic perspective, but also interesting for any interested third party to read.
It’s easy to think about a visual diary as something you do for your institution instead of for yourself. Looking back at my old diaries I can pick apart what I put in because it meant something to me, and what I did to fill space or meet a rubric. I’m filled with a weird melancholy going back through them, like that feeling you get thinking about your teenage years, imagining this tiny human not really knowing who they are or what direction they’re heading.
I’m more proud of the writing I’ve done on this site than anything I’ve put in my diaries, maybe because it’s more recent and I’m more confident in what I want to say, but also this blogging gives a feeling of honesty and transparency that is really freeing. This whole process feels more like I’m taking ownership over my identity and art practice, but also less like I’m making something just for people to browse through and say “that was cute”. Ultimately I would love to continue working with visual diaries, but with more and more of my practice moving online through blogging and streaming, I don’t really see how it fits into the equation.
Wolfman museum is an interactive online gallery, it is located in outer space floating just near a red dwarf star. The museum contains a combination of traditional art gallery exhibitions, live streams, archived media, interactive tools and other oddity’s such as a hike to the top of MT Wolfman and MT Jazz.
The architecture is confusing and convoluted, though there are several guides and links to help you navigate your way around the installation. One of the driving principles for the creators Robert and Peter Hopkins was re-creating a traditional website experience, much like the archived content, the very interface is drenched in old internet nostalgia.
Jazz cat serves as a guide during your visit, how exactly a cat manages to relax in zero gravity is beyond me, but Jazz seems to have it all figured out. Walking around the gallery, what impresses and engages me more isn’t the art hanging on the walls, but the gallery space itself. I’m going to post below a few images from my trip that I felt most impressed by, and I really implore anyone reading this to go experience it for yourself.
Searching for good interactive online gallery’s for this project was rough, so many aimed to replicate the constraints of a real life gallery, white walls with images hung up at eye level. Why, with the boundless power of the information age, would you restrain yourself to the conventions of the art world as we know it. I think that’s the real beauty of the Wolfman Museum, it’s ability to challenge what a gallery is, and how we interact with it.
Having just went on a bit of a rant about traditional gallery spaces being translated into the digital world, here is a more traditional gallery space translated into the digital world. You can download the experience through the indie games platform itch.io here, or watch the guided tour down below, you won’t need access to a VR headset for either, but it seems that the video was shot in a VR environment.
One aspect of this showing I really enjoyed was how much care went into recreating the artwork in a digital environment. Jem Wollidge’s work right of the bat has an amazing 3d quality, and a brilliant use of textures to recreate almost a knitted texture. Similary Diedrick Brackens’s work sits off the wall and actually wowed me when I first saw it, something I’ve never had a still image in a digital gallery do before.
Some rooms have stylistic accents which compliment the art being shown, as with Jared Olsever, whose work features mechanical humans. We can see pipes and cables running up the walls and into the ground, the room also has a unique colour pallet on the walls, with a deep, warm orange. Alkarim Jadavji also has themed his room, with pitch black walls accentuating the vibrant colour’s in his animated images. This coupled with the red curtains that appear on both entry and exit as you enter, creates a sense of being hidden or taboo, but also comfort and excitement.
This last gallery is one that commits one hundred percent to it’s theme and aesthetic, the aim of the project was to be a central exhibit for pixel artists all around the world, to bring them together and hopefully to new audiences. Again this project can be accessed through itch.io, where you can also find a list of all the artists involved and their Instagram links.
The opening page is a map of the world with an arcade style cursor, allowing you to mouse over countries, and click through to find what artists have submitted work to the gallery. The actual gallery portion of the show is a very simple slideshow, and a link to find out more about the artist. There is also a quiz section that runs through a series of images from the show and has you guess what country the work is from.
I have to say I was most impressed with Australia’s entrant Michael Blake, his work Doppelganger (2020) and Doppelganger Too (2020) can be seen above. A lot of the other work resembles video game art, or involves small animations. There is a very mixed bag, the quality level varies from artist to artist, but it achieves its goal of being a showcase for artists in a niche artform.
I’m going to talk a bit more about some influences for my latest project Halls of Galeria in this post, I aluded to a few of these artists and concepts in my proposal. Depending on the page layout you might be able to see the first thumbnail, so you might already know things are about to get weird, so consider this your content warning!
@Cool3dworlds / Brian Tessler and Jon Baken
Cool 3d Worlds is a project by Brian Tessler and Jon Baken, both 2d artists and musicians who make in 2015 started making bizarre animations on the platform Vine. Since then they have gained massive popularity with their recognizable style, doing work for MTV, Nike, and Adult Swim.
I can’t remember when I first saw their work, but i remember being obsessed with it! Around the same time I was still obsessed with anything that had a counter cultural spin to it, bizarre content like Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job, and Aqua teen hunger force. there is definitely an element of “this is so weird and only I can understand it” happening here with young Jake, but the work definitely has merits beyond it’s oddity.
Something that really sticks out in all their videos is the freedom with which the ‘camera’ moves between vastly different scenes, like waking up from a dream only to find that you’re in another dream. The worlds all have a strange sense of structure, while hard to follow, there is usually a diving into a specific element, only to pull back and reveal all these odd creatures inhabiting the same space.
@Flesh_Dozer / Jess Johnson
New Zealand born artist Jess Johnson’s work is highly recognizable, and takes full advantage of modern technologies. Johnson talks about being the master of her own world, and that building these digital realms is a source of control for her. Visually there are obviously similarities between my current work and her style, but I feel with Johnson her images focus on a very visceral experience of pattern and movement, what I am aiming for is a more discordant world with more organic feeling experiences.
Above is a great artist profile on Johnson, and it also features Simon Ward, who has been animating Johnsons work.
Anor Londo / Dark Souls
For anyone from the art world, this is probably where I should bid you farewell, I’m going full nerd right now.
Before the release of Dark Souls 3 I got really into the souls community through lore videos and playthroughs. Content creators like EpicNameBro and VatiVidya made videos that were so earnest and loving towards this game series, attempting to explain a world that gives very little away through narrative means. They relied on item descriptions, cryptic dialogue, and illusions to religion and architecture to understand how the world was formed and persists.
It’s hard to describe the feeling that playing these games gives, but there is a profound sense of emptiness, but also importance. It’s hard to know though, if I hadn’t got caught in the hype of the community would I still feel the same about the games? They’re amazing simply for their gameplay, but the mythology surrounding the digital world you inhabit is really what transforms the games from simple media to an experience.
This lockdown has been the worst of all the lockdowns, and it took me a while to pinpoint why exactly. We headed into lockdown six of the back of the short-lived lockdown 5, imbued with a confidence that it would be a cheeky two, maybe three week lockdown, some time at home away from work and stress, totally manageable! Yet here we are some months later, with protests and a government in turmoil, as we simply try to eek whatever little joy we can from each day. It’s taken a heavy toll on my mental health, impacted my relationship, and drained my will to study, but I’ll have a sick vaccine card in a few days, so that’s something?
Maybe this is where the obsession with creating a digital fantasy world has come from? In these lockdowns I have reverted to my teenage self as have a lot of people. For me this has meant a lot of video games, and immersing myself in gaming culture. I want my own place, a city, a temple, a kingdom that is all mine, disconnected from tech giants and social medias.
I can’t remember exactly what made me want to return to illustrator, my current theory is some part of my brain didn’t want to waste all those years studying design. I made the image above, thinking a lot about how we interface online, in this latest lockdown I’ve been very into twitter and political streamers / content creators. I wanted to go about making a world that represented my image of what the online world would be if it was physical. I wrote a proposal for this project, so if you want to hear me say this with 50x the words you can read that here!
I made these next three images, just really trying to flesh out the world, and the aesthetics. I don’t honestly have much interest in explaining my intent with the imagery, not that it’s personal or complex, just that part of the joy with this kind of work is building the universe in your own mind. There’s more that a few articles talking about how the video game franchise Dark Souls conveys it’s story through more subtle methods, and this is something I want to embrace. The story in the viewers mind is more impressive than anything I could create.
So what actually am I building?
The goal is to create a world, this world will live online at www.hallsofgaleria.com, and will be expanded over time. I want the world to move deeper and deeper with each update, and never really try to be resolved, to be more of an experimental playground. When someone arrives on the site they will be greeted with an entrance to a building, and they can then move through the world through a simple point and click system.
The second half of this project is the real world component, tickets, flyers and posters that serve as entry points to this digital world. Above you’ll see the templates for these posters, which I then transferred onto lino, and printed at home. Thankfully QR technology is forgiving and the codes still read perfectly fine!
To print the lino block I used a machine called a cold press laminator, something @witch_print put me onto. Basically they’re used to adhere things together under pressure, so sticking photos to backing boards, or stickers on flat surfaces, probably even laminating?? But I don’t use it for any of that, a blog post by artist Alexia Wibler describes how it can be used in a similar fashion to a regular printing press, and I have to say it really does do the trick! It’s very forgiving, though can feel a little clunky at times, but I think that’s just part of the charm.
I’ve chosen to print on cheap recyclable printer paper, as these are meant to be pasted up on the street instead of hanging on a wall. I want to print of a hundred of these, and once the website is complete distribute them as a way of entering the Halls of Galeria.
My plan now is to focus on building up the Halls of Galeria over the next month, and to make it worthwhile visiting!
Before outlining what this project will entail, I think it’s important to consider the current social climate we find ourselves in, and the restrictions placed upon us. When approaching this project, due to the uncertainty brought into our lives these past two years, I won’t provide a clear-cut output. Instead I want to spend the proposal outlining my initial image creation, my principles and my thoughts, heading into this project.
As a child I lived my life online, racing home from school everyday to spend my time in digital worlds, video games, chat rooms, and forums. As Australians have become more digitally literate, acceptance of internet culture has been growing, and with everyone locked down for the last two years, the concept of inhabiting digital spaces is now secondary to most people.
As I’ve spent more time online as an adult, I find myself increasingly divided on the benefits and dangers of having access to everyone, all of the time. I find myself enamored with the thousands of career options it presents, the endless wells of knowledge I can draw from, and that I have been able to exhibit my work to people all around the globe. This constant global connection though also leads to endless, cyclical arguments, and we can see them play out in real time, on twitter, in youtube comment sections, and in endless forums. It has also led to the polarization of political opinions, as well as giving extremist ideals space to take root and grow.
I am taking inspiration from modern interactive entertainment, and traditional tapestry storytelling methods for my designs. My intent is to personify online interactions we experience every day, using an aesthetic that harkens back to what we thought the internet could look like in the late nineties. Mixing this with the alegria design sensibilities, those blocky, gangly, flat figures set as the representatives for many a tech company. A grim take on corporate memphis and the utopian ideals fed to us by Silicon valley.
My intent though isn’t necessarily to skewer or parody these companies, or this particular artstyle. I intend to harness it’s ubiquity to create work that toes the line between familiar and unsettling. I want to take this style of corporate memphis, or Alegria as it is known in the industry, and use it as a tool for art, repurposing an overused commercial tool for a more meaningful artistic purpose.
Designs will be created in adobe illustrator, using the same tools as designers gives a sense of authenticity to the work. Illustrator also lends itself to a very specific art making process, and works well whether remaining digital or being screen printed, allowing flexibility. I studied graphic design in my early twenties and had a great love for Illustrator, but it is something I haven’t touched since I began studying fine art.
My work will be digital first, physical second. These are works that are born from internet culture, and as such belong to it. I want to appreciate the internet for what it can be at its best, when it embodies the ideals of print. While commenting on the more toxic behaviors and ideals the internet can harbour.
Artists who will influence my work include Jess Johnson, or @flesh_dozer as she is known online, her work creates digital worlds, full of fractal repetition and fleshy depictions of human bodies. Brian Tessler or @cool3dworlds also creates 3d worlds, but with a more disturbed, distorted approach. Both these artists have created living worlds through their images, attempting to capture the absurd reality of the internet, and digital space.