1. Captioning Artworks
Unless asked by a third party to do it differently, please use the following format to caption all your finished AAHP projects. Don’t forget the periods!
Title in Boldface and Italics (the project’s year inside parentheses). Medium on support. Size in metric or English units. By your name.
The Scream (1893). Oil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard. 91 cm x 73.5 cm. By Edvard Munch.
2. Photo-documenting Your Portfolio Works
Guidelines for Photo-documenting Original Works for Your Portfolio
Please use these instructions to photo-document the works that we need to consider as possible portfolio content. Please do not curate (select or not select) your preferred works on your own. Please allow us both to collaborate on that matter; do send Ana your photos of all your works.
Preparation is Everything
Make time to prepare for these two major stages of photo-documentation:
- Sufficient time to set-up, then conduct the photography, and finally clean up after your shoot
- Sufficient time to edit files, digitally archive files for yourself, and to submit digital copies to Ana.
- Collect all your works and make sure they are safe during this process. This includes AAHP studio works, works made at other studios, works generated at your high school, and works you have generated independently at home.
- Wash your hands to handle/clean/repair all works.
- Make sure every piece is properly signed and dated. Date at least with the year you completed the work, if not using a full numerical date.
- Use your best camera in the house—it could be your smart phone—to photograph finished works that have been cleaned, signed and dated.
- Do not shoot through glass if possible. Arrange for assistance from a competent adult to help you separate works from any hard frames and glass. Always handle glass carefully and on large flat working surfaces, and also while wearing protective gloves and eye protection. Keep children, pets, and visitors away during your work.
Protecting Your Work while Handling
- While photographing, safeguard your works from rain, breezes, bird droppings and insects, water drips from gutters and eaves overhead, and from standing or potted plants. Protect from accidental trampling from pets or foot traffic.
- Do not shoot your photos outdoors during wet weather, or wind.
- Keep all shadows off your work while taking your photographs. Review each photo for shadows before you get to the next work; some shadows may not be visible to the naked eye, but show up readily on review. This is especially true of telephone wire shadows dangling above.
- Wipe your camera lens with a proper lens cloth and keep finger oils off.
- Make sure to hold your camera lens parallel to the picture plane of the work or sculpture.
Using Proper Lighting
- Please do not photograph your works in rooms with excessively cool (bluish) or warm (yellowish) artificial light.
- Outdoors: Shoot under softly scattered sunlight with cover overhead, such as a porch-roof or awning. If possible, search for south-facing areas of your home to do this.
Photographing Indoors: Shoot under bright, but scattered natural sunlight
- Be careful with the temperature of the light; don’t let your shot show lighting that is too cool (bluish) or too warm (yellowish) or spotty with both cold and hot spots.
- You will probably need more than one light source; use lamps safely and have an adult helping you with the set-up.
- Compose your shot to include all edges of your work on flat supports, including your signature and date.
- Keep excess “noise” out of your picture. That is, “frame” the photograph with your lens to keep out as much of the background as possible. You will crop the rest of the “noise” during editing.
- Use the grid function in your camera viewfinder to shoot the piece as straight as possible, both vertically and horizontally, avoiding the need to heavily re-orient your image during the editing.
- Avoid showing a gap between the edge of the table where you have placed your object and the wall behind it. Try to NOT have a horizon in your image at all when possible.
- Decide whether a flat, hard surface and wall is best for photo-documenting your work, or whether it will look best in front of a clean drop-cloth, with or without folds.
- Most often, electrical wires should not show. If wires cannot be hidden, then carefully arrange wires and cables neatly, and tape them down to a surface using tape that is of the same color as that surface.
- Let nothing extraneous show on any edge or corner of your image.
- Don’t let the object get cut off (cropped) at the edge of your image.
1. Check your camera’s focus! Immediately delete improperly focused works so as to not confuse good images with poor ones.
Saving Your Files
1. If using a phone camera: create an album in your cell phone and call it My Portfolio 20___(fill in the blank for the current year). If you work on the same portfolio next year, re-date it in January.
Warning: Make sure to upload your photo files on your phone to your cloud service as a back-up; otherwise, you might lose everything if you lose or break the phone.
2. If using a digital camera (non-phone): download your SD card photo files onto your computer. Create a file called My Portfolio 20___(fill in the blank for the current year). If you work on the same portfolio next year, re-date it in January.
Warning: Make sure to upload the photo files on your computer to your cloud service as a back-up; otherwise, you might lose everything if you lose or break your computer or accidentally erase or trash files. Best to use an SD card dedicated only to your portfolio photo-documentation. Make sure to use the “lock” function on the SD card to protect against accidental erasure or re-write. Store your SD card in its protective case and store in a safe place where you will always know to find it.
Editing Your Photo Files
- Use your cell phone’s or computer’s editing functions.
- For works on paper, canvas, and other flat supports, crop your work to eliminate 100% of the “noise” around your work (noise is any part of the image that is not your art)
- With few exceptions, plan to use the “brightness” function. But do so sensitively.
- Make sure that your editing of colors (temperature, contrast, etc.) remains loyal to your work.
- Save each image of each of your works with a digital file name using this format: Your Title by Your Name P.E. (the last abbreviations will mean the following: “portfolio edited).
- Send Ana your edited pictures via email: aahpp3gmail.com, preferably as one batch, or a few batches, rather than stringing them out in individually across many emails.
- After you send any batch of images to me, somehow, back on your end, flag those same images as having been sent to me. You must do this, or develop some other means of flagging those photos. If you do not keep track of each and every photo submitted to me, you might soon have a mess of photo files like a ball of spaghetti.
Photo-documenting 3D Works
(shadowboxes, sculptures, mobiles, Artist’s Books, etc.)
Position your 3D piece against a clean backdrop and “floor” for your works.
Typically, it takes you and me only three minutes to put together backdrops/floors in live studio. It need not be a complex operation. Use a clean tablecloth, drape, bed sheet, scrap fabric, etc. Make sure it is a solid color (white, black or grey). Prop these backdrops/floors with chairs, crates, anything that will work safely.
Do not press the 3D piece against the backdrop; let air and light circulate around it.
Photograph the 3D work from all angles, even from above.
You can photograph white paper sculptures with colored lights in a dim room. These photos can turn out to be very eye-catching. Make arrangements with Ana to borrow the spotlights we use for these purposes.
If photo-documenting mobiles, do so indoors, to avoid strong breezes, but under good lighting. Hang the work, and wait for the moving parts to come to a standstill.
You may consider a short video snippet of mobiles or other types of work-in-motion, if your school’s portfolio format permits it. Consider doing this anyways, for your own records.
Photo-documenting Your Original Photographs
- All the above applies.
Photo-documenting Your Videos
We will address any videos on a case-by-case basis. Please communicate with Ana as soon as possible.
3. Sensing, Stating and Solving Problems Creatively
- Grounding Premises
- Three Roles that a Creative Solution Can Play
- Stating the Problem: A Brainstorming Strategy
- Conceptualizing Your Better Solution
- Building Your Better Solution
- Presenting Your Better Solution
- Handling Critiques, Criticism, and Counter-proposals
Use these guidelines to explore ideas about problems and problem solving. These guidelines include brainstorming strategies for sensing, stating, and solving problems creatively.
You will need three pieces of clean scrap paper, and a pencil or pen.
Avoid brainstorming on a computer or tablet, phone, or similar device, as these instruments tend to promote linear thinking. Right now, you need to engage in the dynamic, multi-dimensional thinking that underlies the plastic process of the artist and/or designer specifically, and the searching analysis of strong problem-solvers in general.
- All creative action is a form of problem-solving.
- A creative being is a problem-solver.
- Creative action is not limited to the arts and crafts; creative action is constantly defining many realms of purposeful human action.
- All artistic action is creative, but not all creative action is artistic. However, a non-artistic creative action will also have its own aesthetics.
- When an individual engages in creative action in isolation, that action is fully creative. Yet it remains a mere idiosyncrasy. It will be transformative, rewarding, and wonderful, but only for that individual. For many purposes, that suffices.
- When creative action becomes the shared concern of a smaller or larger group of individuals—and who gather together to unleash creative problem-solving through shared forms of action—then we see the emergence of a creative practice. A creative practice is what lets engineers build roads and buildings, artists build sculptures and paintings, writers build poems, essays and books, medical researchers build better medicines, and an appliance designer build a better mouse trap….
- There are two main responses to problems, whether responding individually, or as the practitioner of a creative practice, and whether you are an artist, designer, scientist, engineer, journalist, priest, politician, whatnot:
A. FEAR. Stand afraid of the problem and succumb to it, or let others succumb to it. Under this proposition, and because of the nature of society, the problem always come back to haunt everyone.
B. THRILL. Pose the problem as an opportunity for creative action, which is another term for creative problem-solving, which always entails the asking of questions and the testing of answers. This stands opposite the operational problem-solving we call trouble-shooting; in trouble-shooting, a problem is solved to keep a system running. The technician poses questions that only serve to sustain the system, not to ask whether we can look for alternative systems.
Forms of Action Under Fear:
–Stay blind to the problem:
Fear keeps you refusing to see the problem even while suffering it. This stance is characterized by statements such as:
“What problem? What are you talking about? Everything’s just fine. Stop rocking the boat. There’s no problem here at all except you, overthinking it all.”
–See the problem, but do nothing:
You suffer under the problem, and others do, too, but you choose to ignore it.
“Leave it alone, it’ll eventually fix itself.”
–Push the problem somewhere else:
You let someone else, somewhere else, suffer the problem.
“Sorry, that’s not my problem…”
Forms of Action Under the Thrill of Creative Problem-Solving:
–You formulate the problem poorly, creating yet a worsening problem, as well as additional problems. This approach leads you to use the wrong tools, in the wrong ways, at the wrong time, and under improper use of time (timing), etc.
–You formulate the problem strongly, and respond to the problem with better tools and timing, but still manage to misapply them.
–Strong, creative problem-solving starts when the problem-solver generates a viable problem statement. This clearer statement of the problem is what initiates and fully guides the search for solutions.
Three Roles that a Creative Solution Can Play
Use one of these three ways to define the role that your proposed solution to any problem will play: All three can be very useful, if used properly.
A. Simply Reveal the Problem:
The act of identifying the problem may be all that’s needed to get moving towards solutions. In this way, it’s a solution in itself. The best example of this is the little boy in the fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. While everyone is deluded, the little boy cries out, “But the Emperor has no clothes on!” Ah. He identified the problem.
Here’s another example of an act that simply reveals the problem, and, in doing so, turns out to be a solution in itself: Pablo Picasso’s painting, Guernica, is a horrific portrayal of the massacre of the women, children, old men, and the livestock of this village in Spain during that country’s civil war. The painting exposed the criminality of General Franco’s fascist regime, and the horror of all wars. Picasso’s painting helped the free world condemn the Franco regime. This denouncement, in turn, helped Spain reconstruct as a free democratic republic after its internal war, and join a modernizing Europe. So, Picasso’s painting, which showed the problem, was itself a solution. It helped undo Fascist power in Spain (at that time) by pointing to how rotten it all was.
B. Ask that Other Solutions be Found:
Another role that a creative solution can play is to show possible paths to possible solutions. An example of this is the US Constitution and its amendment functions.
C. Get the Whole Job Done, from Problem Identification to a Better Solution:
A third type of approach offers a solution from start to finish. An example of this is the creation of a spacecraft that lands on a fast-moving asteroid, takes a surface sample, analyzes it onboard, and then sends the findings back to Earth through telemetry. Another example is the invention of the better mouse trap. Some thought it could not be done. But humane approaches to product design have shown that, for some of us with different values, there was indeed a better mouse trap—one that did not kill or injure the mouse (I know. I have bought those humane gadgets).
Stating the Problem: A Brainstorming Strategy
Clearly, the relevance and viability of the solutions you might propose as a creative problem-solver fully rest on how you state, or formulate, the problem in the first place. Creativity starts with creative problem-statements.
Misstating the problem can lead you down the wrong paths. If there is no sharp statement of the problem, you create more problems without solving the first, and even end up making it worse.
Human beings have no way of escaping the fact that any individual’s problem statement will always carry that person’s unspoken values, attitudes, presumptions, beliefs, etc. The same applies to groups of people.
Use the strategy noted below, among others you may have, to help address the beautiful, naturally messy job of solving problems creatively.
Step 1. At the top of a blank sheet of paper, write out the problem that you wish to address with your art or design portfolio project. State it in plain, simple, written language. State it in less than 30 words. Have fun with this! Know that stating the problem to begin with is one of the most creative stages of creative action. Do not yet include anything about possible causes or possible solutions.
Step 2. Below your initial problem statement, hand-write the numbers 1-20 down your sheet. Now, re-state the problem in 20 different ways. Don’t stop to judge anything. Do not try to prioritize your statements in order of significance. Give each statement as much weight as the others.
Each re-statement must be different from all others, no matter how subtly. When you start to hit snags, and you feel that it’s getting more difficult to keep generating new re-statements, jump for joy! Unless you’re sick or tired, this means that you have already listed all solutions most other people may come up with. Now you are getting into those realms of mind where only you can go. The tougher it gets, the deeper you enter into truly creative spaces that none can experience like you can. Don’t wimp out just when you’re starting to hit gold!
Step. 3. Circle the top three problem-statements that best define the problem now, or that show the angle of most interest to you because it’s the one you can solve best (for any number of good reasons).
Step 4. Take your top three picks from Step 3, and toss them around. Reject parts of them, refine parts of them, combine parts of them. Try different approaches to help you to better state the problem in one new, clearer statement.
Step 5. Write the new restatement of the problem at the top of your second piece of clean scrap paper. Read your statement aloud to yourself. How does it relate to your first attempt to formulate the problem, back in Step 1? Are you missing something here, in Step 5, that you had in mind in Step 1, but that inadvertently got washed out? Or, does this step help clarify and strengthen your initial impulse at step 1?
Note that the initial problem formulation will be full of your own unspoken values and ideas for how to live a better life in a better world. Steps 2-5 will start to reveal to you those value, ideas and emotions.
This process will also help you explore how those values, ideas and emotions exist as your hidden presumptions, premises, and suppositions. Now that you can actually sense them, you can explore how all these things may help/not help address the problem.
If you don’t examine your premises, you will not be driven by the enormous force of conviction; you will not optimize your pursuit of solutions. You will not be able to present ideas clearly, and that will not let you find those who might care to see your solutions. Meanwhile, others who wish to work against your ideas will see the hidden premises that you don’t, thanks to your cluttered thinking. Your debaters and detractors will know exactly where your weaknesses are to be found. They will know where to undermine you.
You must work with both aspects of the problem statement—(1) the original raw impulse, and (2) your more expressly rational examination of possibilities. Do not move forwards until you have seen and thought about your values and some of your hidden premises.
Mapping the Problem in Space and Time
Now, situate the problem in time and space. Where does it exist? When does it exists? Some problems exist only in your mind! Some exist between siblings in the bedroom they share; some only between husband and wife inside the household; some only in the street among neighbors; some across entire neighborhoods, county/provinces, or across state lines, or across the nation or the whole planet, or beyond. Some problems exist only within professional groups, some only within certain practices, such as science, or parenting, or faith-based practices. Some problems exist in virtual space….
On your second sheet of paper, below your new problem statement, write out the problem’s location in space and time.
Once you locate the problem in space and time, you may start to see its roots. This understanding of roots will start to feed your analysis of causes. But we’re not there yet.
Identifying the Players
For your solution to work within the communities where you want it to work, you must ask yourself the following:
Who and what is behind the causes of the problem?
Who and what is being hurt directly by the problem? Indirectly?
Who is being hurt in the short-term? In the long-term?
Who is being protected from the problem? How? By whom or what?
What can each different group win? By how much?
What can each group afford to lose? By how much?
Still working on your second sheet of paper, and below your mapping statement, list all your key players. Then, circle the top three contending parties. And don’t forget to always include yourself among all actors! Which of the three contending parties do you belong in? Or can you somehow stand outside of them as yet a fourth force, as fourth kind of stakeholder?
Identifying the Causes of the Problem
Now, identify the causes of the problem. Trust your own genius, that is, your spirit. Your “take” is exceedingly important to a pluralistic society.
Step A. Still working on your second sheet of scrap paper, and under your new problem statement and list of actors, make another list of numbers down the page, 1-20. Write 20 simple statements that identify the causes of the problem, but stick to top 20. Try to atomize them for now, though, in fact, they almost always interact, or even cause each other and arise as a mess. Don’t judge. Brainstorm. Don’t attempt to prioritize the causes, or to order them in any way. Just brainstorm. Think loose, think deep, think broadly.
Step B. Now! Judge! Judge fully. Circle the top 3-5 causes you sense as being the most important causes of the problem that anyone wanting to solve it must address. Start to sense to what degree your understanding of these causes will let you see the problem in yet a brighter light.
After all this digging, you may need to go back to your problem-statement and rethink matters all over again. This is good. Scratch out your second problem-statement. Rewrite yet a third time your problem statement if you see it even clearer now.
This little bundle of 3-5 causal factors amounts to “your take” or angle on the problem you stated. Your “take” may be challenged even by those on your side who have different “takes” of their own, though you all may mostly agree on the problem statement itself. This is good. This contention will push you to test and refine your ideas and convictions.
Meanwhile, those who disagree with the problem as you have stated it will resist you vehemently. If you have no convictions, you may be taken down by your detractors. But, if you have a good sense that your solution will work, get to work. Prove it. Build the solution that could work best, or better than what we already have.
Understanding the Need for Compromises
A new problem statement and its possible solution(s) always reflect the stance of one person (or group), as distinct from others. Therefore, your solution may cause new problems for others who though that they already had the solution that worked. You choose to disagree. Arguments will arise. Compromise will be necessary. Failures to arrive at comprises will lead to paralysis, stalemates. If these quagmires can’t be solved through the legally sanctioned forms of social and political action of your club, or community, or state, or nation, or gathering of nations, violence may rear its ugly head in the guise of battles, wars, etc.
Under each player on your list of stakeholders, list what that person (or group) wins, and what they lose, under your solution.
And….what’s in it for you? What do you win? What do you lose?
Conceptualizing Your Better Solution
Now, and according to you (or your team), you have a clearer problem statement, a list of its known and key causes, its location in time and space, its known players, and the recognition that compromises will be needed. Wonderful. Now you are ready to conceptualize and build a better solution.
Sketch out your solution/s on your fourth sheet of paper. Give your preferred project a working (not final) title.
And now call me. It’s time to start to conceptualize what you will build. This means you have to start to circumscribe the project by defining what resources you need AND have, or can secure soon enough. These resources include materials, time, energy, some degree of health and strength, etc.
Building Your Better Solution
Next, after conceptualizing the solution, you now have to build it. You need to build the artifact, process or system that affords your proposed solution.
For us in an art and design studio, we build solutions through a grand method called plastic process. Plastic process lets you sense problems, state problems more clearly, conceptualize solutions, blueprint those solutions, then build, test, and re-test them, and finally apply your solutions in the world.
Remember, your solution can:
- simply identify a problem, or
- present a new or known problem and call for new solutions through these or those paths, or
- offer what seems to be the better solution yet (at least for now)
What you build can be a moving or still image (for example, a painting, an infographic, a video, a stenograph), or other type of object (say, a sculpture, or a household appliance), or a system (say, a robot), or a space (say, the next-gen port-a-potty, or a temple), or an event-as-environment (say, an artist’s room installation, or the annual Burning Man Festival in the American desert).
Presenting Your Better Solution
Each of your portfolio projects points to, or offers, the better solution that you explored deeply. Let your solution speak for itself.
The portfolio, as a whole, is a presentation of various solutions to the various problems (or problem set) that you chose to address as a problem-solver.
When asked to present the work, make sure you don’t run all over its own “voice” and muffle it. The solution has to speak for itself. And yet you are asked to present it to an audience. Whoa. This is tricky. To learn how to do it, come to our P3.O talks on “How to Present Your Portfolio.”
Handling Critiques, Criticism, and Counter-proposals
Welcome to the rest of your life! Be brave, be smart, learn from all others and from all situations, and stick to your convictions if you know them to be true. Always enrich yourself by enriching the lives of others.
4. Quick Tips for Building Infographics
An infographic is an image that assembles complex data in simple and meaningful ways, often addressing the non-experts and lay person. The infographic asks the user to be both a viewer and a reader all at once.
An infographic grants the viewer/reader easy access to data, presenting one or more variables in comparative fashion, often to illustrate relationships (such as correlations, or cause-and-effect, or the components that make up a universe of anything, organized in particularly ways, etc.)
Infographics contain both qualitative and quantitative fashion, and use principles of good design, especially good graphic design, to combine images and text with eye-catching design.
If your infographic manages to keep the user happy while exploring it, and if it manages to dispel widespread memes, mystifications, common misunderstandings, and clichés—and without creating new ones—-count it as being very successful.
A timeline is one of the most basic and most popular types of infographic. But I’m inviting you to build something quite sophisticated. Search online for other succinct ways of defining the infographic.
For your infographic, pay attention to principles of good visual design, including conceptual clarity, legibility, the play between symmetry and asymmetries, and all other features needed to keep the viewer’s eye moving, as you need it to move, across the image. And all this, while also allowing your viewer freedoms to interact with the data in original ways.
Part of your research includes an exploration of these principles of design. Start at toptal.com.
Please view my sketches on scrap paper, indicating basic structural features that your infographic should carry. These include neat lines on the inside of the paper’s margin; framing lines on the inside of those; spaces for your title and subtitle; space for the data; and a cartouche that will feature your imprint (your name as researcher/designer, your data sources, and “publishing” date).
My sketches only show the structures; do not presume that my elementary layouts are what you should use in designing your own layouts.
Your genius will be this: to come up with eye-opening plays of imagery and alphanumeric text, so as to inform your viewer in simple yet powerful ways that dispel ignorance.
Once you have your problem statement (and get my go-ahead), make sure to then carefully choose not only the theme that will present the issues at hand, but also the three or so variables you will handle. Then, determine the relationships among those variables that you believe to be important, given the information you wish to relay. Only then will you be able to start building your infographic.
Use primary sources, or your own data, and never copy another individual’s infographic.
Infographics have formal, structural elements that you must build with a layout. A layout is a rationalization of the space of the image. It’s what lets the content of the IG make sense.
The layout takes the form of grids embedded inside grids that look like “boxes” (better said, rectangles) all over your support.
You make a layout by dividing the image’s surface into these assorted “boxes”. These “text boxes” and “image boxes” may overlap and contain other shapes, such as circles, explosive bursts, blobs, etc.)
Each IG has a different layout. Making the layout is a highly creative stage—and the most critical stage—in your construction of your IG as an informational image.
This layout or grid of “boxes” contains the logic that shows:
- all parts of the IG (images, marks, such as framing lines, and alphanumeric text)
- how all these parts interact
- which parts are more important in value and/or in time, as one reads the IG. In other words, this logic clearly defines what parts are to be explored first, which will follow, which will then follow those, etc. As you already know, the user will read a title first, then the subtitle, then the major categorical labels, and so on).
Your basic layout must feature the following structural elements:
- Framing lines (to mark the edge of the image, as distinct from the edge of the support). These are usually visible in the finished product.
- Content boxes. Some of these text and image boxes will remain visible in the finished product, while some will become invisible. As designer, you decide which boxes/lines will remain visible, and which will disappear. Your decisions as to what happens to any line or box in the final product is PART OF YOUR DESIGN and reveals your organizational, analytical and communicational genius.
You will need to “box” the following.
-a main title
-informational content (usually explanatory, and may include things such as map legends, etc.)
-a cartouche. This is a small box (it may or may not remain visible in the end product) that houses your name as researcher/designer, the date of the IG (usually just the year) and your sources. Its designated area is usually at the bottom of the image.
THINGS TO AVOID:
–When making your grids, do not work from small to big; work from big to small. Start with the entire sheet and end with your tiny cartouche.
–Do not over-grid your grids. Keep your logic simple, clear and concise.
–Do not use decorative or ornamental features.
–Do not allow for dead air (areas of your IG that are empty and cause an unbalanced composition, or bore the eye and mind of the user).
–Do not let areas of in your grid become too heavy or too lightweight,
at the expense of other areas.
–Do not build a static image; arrive at a highly dynamic composition.