Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vincent takes the week off, I carry on with a Cubist -

This week, I am SO lucky to be seeing the Picasso, Black and White exhibit with my sister, Chris, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.

If you are wondering what the "painting" on your left is, read on....

Because I will be traveling, I will not be able to work on a painting, so instead  I decided to do a light, fun, dare I say throwaway blog on the greatest time waster (but perhaps not...) of my life: the online game called Draw Something.

You can see at left a screen shot of one of my drawings from the game.  Just before my trip to Houston to see the Picasso exhibit, one of my clue choices was to depict the great Spanish painter, so what else could I do but to create my own, tiny little, finger drawn, and only slightly cubist portrait of the master?

The rules of Draw Something are simple; it is basically Pictionary played over your phone or tablet.  Once you have loaded the app and set up the game, you can find a friend to play with either by typing in their DS name, finding them on Face Book, or having the DS computer elves choose a random opponent for you to play with.  You then select a clue from the choices given, and play by drawing it for your opponent on a blank screen.  The game includes some little blobs of very limited colors that you can draw with (using your finger), along with a multiple thickness line sizer and size-able eraser. Using these "tools," you try to describe, or get your opponent to guess the clue that you have chosen.  Sometimes I (and others I am playing with) have made the puzzle even more challenging by too hastily choosing which clue to draw, and then drawing a different clue that does not correspond at all to the answer that is to be guessed.  Don't let this happen to you.....

In an effort for this pastime to not eat up every moment of my entire day, I have limited my opponents to the ArtDemiGod, my sister, Chris, and my Mom.  

I usually play DS during those downtime moments of my day, like waiting at the doctor's office, when I am on the phone, or participating in the greatest (American) life consumer of all, watching TV.  Although playing Draw Something seems like a colossal time suck, I would have to say that playing the game has, in fact, improved my painting process.  At first, I drew with a thin black line and just made crude stick figures (partly because I was drawing with suddenly very fat fingers on a tiny little phone screen), but as I kept playing, I earned points which allowed me to "buy" more colors.  (I also received a tablet, thanks Steve Jobs!  Thanks, ArtDemiGod!) After I had gotten a lot more than the standard issue colors and switched to the tablet platform for production, I realized that I could use Draw Something to actually Draw Something!  At right, you can see some penguins that I drew... that drawing was a lucky accident because I initially drew their black bodies too thickly, then when I tried to erase with the eraser, I messed it up, until I realized that against the snow, with just one little thin black or yellow line here and there, I somehow got a walking, waddling, march of the penguins!  And, let me brag here - I did that one on my phone!

Not Really....

So that little exercise showed me (again!) that seeing something as a mistake was a choice - any errors in my drawing (or painting!) could either be fully erased, or perhaps incorporated into a new way of conceptualizing the work...

The game also makes you think about your composition before you draw.  The words or things that DS requires you to draw are often very silly, so the composition, and the order of the composition definitely comes into play as you consider how you want to express the idea.  You may also think about your very specific audience (if you know the person) because there may be inside jokes or memes available to exploit in the guessing process - you can take a shortcut by drawing something that only they would know.  When trying to express the word banana for Chris, I knew that she had once had a banana tree in her yard, so I started by drawing the tree (or what I thought was a banana tree... she thought it looked more like a palm).  But before I drew, I had to really think about the order of the drawing: first the background, then the tree and leaves, the "shading," bark, and veins of the leaves, then, finally the banana bunch, and the details of the individual bananas.  

Once all of that was done, I gave it a look, and concluded the bananas looked like a yellow fungus.  I decided to fix the problem by adding in a single banana.  After figuring out that the banana needed to go in the foreground, I then had to order the drawing of the banana, by drawing the fruit, then the hand, and, finally, the peel.  

I know exactly what you are thinking: It is kind of certifiably crazy to give so much thought to a stupid, mindless, and extremely ephemeral (unless you use a screen shot) game, but honestly, thinking through these little drawings made me much more aware of the domino effect that can be created in composing my own paintings.  The drawings, and the process of rendering them, help me to order my steps efficiently so there is far less backtracking.  Surprisingly, these tiny little digital paintings have made me really think about color and how to use it most effectively to set mood or express an idea.  I realized that I may be taking it all too seriously when the program started popping up (on my most beautiful "masterpieces") with a caution that I was running out of ink.  Seriously?  It's digital ink... How can you run out?

Above, you can see a little pun that I made for the ArtDemiGod.  No need to buy tickets for The Fast and the Furious 5  when you can get this kind of action on the small screen!  (I am not giving a thumbs up or down to The Fast and the Furious 5... I will be seeing 42 this weekend....)

But before the movie, allow me to prepare a little snack...



And you can't have guacamole without -

As you can see by the drawings above, it is possible, by drawing in stacked layers, to create a little animation for the person on the receiving end of the drawing.  I wish I were computer clever enough to put the actual animation in the blog, but in the meanwhile, I hope that you will settle for the still shots (1, 2, & 3) of our Friday Fiesta!  Cheers!

Here are some other "animations" - 

Once again, same clue, different answer:

And the best one I ever did:

I have also observed that after a few drawings, you start to recognize the artist behind each image.  Chris has a main character that we call triangle man/woman/child/dog, (see right, and try to guess who/what she drew by using the letters at the bottom of the screen....).  Although she says she can't draw at all, Chris' drawings are very simple, and always incredibly expressive.  Just look at the lonesome look on triangle man's face... Notice the downward cast of his body, as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Observe the shuffling feet and the vacant, defeated expression in both his body and his face.  Chris may not draw in a detailed way, but that doesn't mean that she can't really DRAW!  I love my sister's drawings because she gets to the point in just a very few lines (much like our friend, the recently observed Pablo Picasso!)

The ArtDemiGod, who still draws on a tiny iphone screen, sends drawings that are concise, direct, and to the point.  Observe his elegant renderings at your right and below.  Often, what he lacks in visual imagery, he makes up for with words.  In our house rules, we have all agreed it is cheating to just write out the word that is the clue.  There is only one exception to this rule: you can write it out only if the clue is something nonsensical to you or your audience like, for example, Skrillex, and if the clue is worth a lot of points and/or will get you a badge; but if you just write out the word clue on something like coffee cup it is blatant cheating.  House rules require you to just draw the damn cup.  It always has to still be a puzzle.  No offense to the many fans of Skrillex; I know you are loved by Duncan.

My Mom's drawings are also quite spare and to the point, but as a senior citizen, I know that the challenge of drawing each day has helped her keep sharp and focused.  She gets a little irritated if I won't respond immediately to one of her drawings with a drawing of my own.

There is also some repetition in the game; eventually, you will draw a clue that you have received, or you will receive a clue that you have already drawn.  Observe below, and see if you can guess which Drawer drew what:

different answer!
Same clue.....

Anyway, as this was supposed to be a super quick blog, I will now, in no particular order, take you to the rest of the drawings - these were all captured by doing screen shots prior to sending the drawings or just as I was at the moment of guessing the other person's drawings.

I have tried to pair the drawings in a humorous way, so I hope you enjoy!








Thanks to everybody for reading - this blog was really fun for me to write, but now I must immediately go and respond to all of the draw somethings that are waiting for me!

Have a great weekend, leave a comment if you would like, and I will report next week on my new painting and (hopefully) a little bit about Pablo.