Jackson’s combination of minimalist colors and poetic language in my body remind me of the work of graphic artist Julian Peters. Peters takes classic works of poetry and translates them into graphic novels. He uses the same black and white color scheme to add contrast while creating detailed visualizations of the language of the poems, some of which are very abstract.
This is taken from his rendering of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which is my favorite poem. When I was reading this, I noticed the similarities between Jackson’s and Peters’s translation of images into words (Jackson) and words into images (Peters). This is exactly what Calvino describes in his definition of the two types of imaginative processes. In both cases, the visual aspect of the work greatly enhances the linguistic component. Peters’s illustrations greatly added to my enjoyment of the poem, and I look forward to his completion of the Prufrock project.
Follow the link to explore more of Peters’s work:
My emblem of multiplicity is a Sierpinski triangle. It is a fractal, or self-similar geometric figure, which was first described by Polish mathematician Waclaw Sierpinski in 1915. Basically, the pattern of triangles keeps replicating itself no matter how far you zoom in. The pattern continues into infinity.
I first learned about the Sierpinski triangle in my Java programming class, where I had to write a program that drew some type of fractal art. This project relates to Calvino’s encyclopedic novel, which is by definition incomplete, not because it is unfinished, but because it extends into infinity. Fractals such as the Sierpinski triangle are a good visual example of this.
My emblem of exactitude is The Nightmare Before Christmas, a 1993 claymation film by Tim Burton. To produce a claymation film, the filmmakers have to create movable characters out of clay, then film each small adjustment of the character’s body to create the illusion of continuous motion. This ties in perfectly with my examination of the relationship between literature and animation in the E-Lit Example and Graphic posts.
A claymation film depends a lot on precision, skilled craftsmen, and quality storytelling. The individual frames all add up to one continuous piece which flows smoothly and entertains. Just as Calvino says that literature is the fulfillment of language, so too is film the fulfillment of the static image.
“I prefer to see with closed eyes.” –Josef Albers
Color and visibility go hand in hand when it comes to creating art and literature. The picture above shows a sequence of Albers squares, which were developed by Josef Albers as part of his scientific study of colors and the relationships between them.
Lupton and Philips state that “Color can convey a mood, describe reality, or codify information. Words like “gloomy,” “drab,” and “glittering” each bring to mind a general climate of colors, a palette of relationships. Designers use color to make some things stand out (warning signs) and to make other things disappear (camouflage). Color serves to differentiate and connect, to highlight and to hide.”
This is precisely what Albers desired to illustrate through his study of color. Originally, the use of color in graphic design was considered fantastic, while black and white designs were seen as realistic. A good example of this is the movie The Wizard of Oz: during the “real” parts of the movie when Dorothy is in Kansas, the film is shot in black and white, but once she reaches Oz, the film switches to Technicolor to denote magic and fantasy. Over time, these modes of representation switched places. Color came to denote realism, while black and white is now employed to place an artwork in a particular historical period (think of how the movie Schindler’s List is shot in black and white) or to create an aesthetic effect.
The minimalist color scheme in my body creates contrast, and the starkness of the artwork parallels Jackson’s honest, forthright language. Her choice of colors helps to set the tone for the work even before we have begun reading her story. Once again, it is the image, rather than the word, which enters the imagination first.
I noticed a connection between quickness and layering in graphic design. Just as the words in Ah appeared on the screen in layers, so do artists create layers in space (in a collage, for instance) and time (as in a piece of music). Layers indicate simultaneity and complexity in a composition: a choral work will produce a much richer sound if written in four part harmony instead of unison.
Another good example of layering in everyday life is a city map. A map consists of many different representations of data all superimposed on one another. For instance, this map of London includes graphs of the landscape, highways, railroad tracks, roads, Metro stations, and other buildings of interest. Layering allows cartographers to represent this information simultaneously in a condensed format that is easily accessible to readers.
Lupton and Phillips state that “Modularity is a special kind of constraint. A module is a fixed element used within a larger system or structure. For example, a pixel is a module that builds a digital image. . . . A nine-by-nine grid of pixels can yield an infinite number of different typefaces. Likewise, a tiny handful of LEGO bricks contains an astonishing number of possible combinations. The endless variety of forms occurs, however, within the strict parameters of the system, which permits just one basic kind of connection.”
This relates to multiplicity in art because although humans are pretty much the same biologically, each human being has a different experience and attitude toward the world. This is what enables us to create such a stunning variety of art and literature; each of us has something unique to bring to the creative process, allowing for many facets of experience across one human “kind.”
“The form of an object is not more important than the form of the space surrounding it. All all things exist in interaction with other things.” –Malcom Grear
As I have said before, lightness is not a mode of escape, but a way of looking at the world. I related this to the concept of figure and ground in graphic design. What you “see” is often a question of perspective: in the photograph, the sky, which we would normally think of as a background to the buildings, actually forms letters when we look more closely. This connects to the two, ultimately converging perspectives in Flight Paths: in the fourth episode, we’re not sure at first whether Yacub is flying or falling to his death. It is only after he gets up off the car that our mental perspective “adjusts” to the fact that he is not dead after all.
Our eyes do a similar thing when we look at these letters; this lightness in design challenges us to reframe our way of seeing the world. It also encourages us to be on the lookout for new perspectives, in art and in life, which both surprise us and make the work more interesting and engaging.
I related Calvino’s exactitude to time and motion in graphic design. This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I see a connection between exactitude and animation in Soundpoems. Lupton and Phillips say that “Film is a visual art. Designers of motion graphics must think both like painters and typographers and like animators and filmmakers.”
Furthermore, they state that “animation uses sequences of still images to create the optical illusion of movement. The brain retains images for a split-second longer than the images are actually before us, resulting in the illusion of movement when numerous images appear in rapid succession. This phenomenon is called persistence of vision.”
This relates to exactitude because a work of literature, like a book or a film, is composed of smaller elements, like letters or frames, carefully arranged to produce exactly the right kind of effect. Creating such a work of art takes a great deal of finesse and attention to detail, which Calvino would call exactitude.