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Creativity

The Online Harassment of Women, and One Artist’s Unique Response

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 13, 2014

This past year, the widespread abuse of women who are active online has been well documented. One artist, however, has found a unique way to own the harassment.  Lindsay Bottos, a fine arts and photography major at Maryland Institute College of Art, posts frank images of a number of subjects on her Tmblr account. Her self portraits almost exclusively attract some hateful comments. As Bottos writes, “The authority people feel they have to share their opinion on my appearance is something myself and many other girls online deal with daily.” Her response has been to take the comments and superimpose them on self portraits, which she’s collected into a project, “Anonymous.” The project photos render the comments powerless, accentuating their hostile stupidity, while the arch expression on Bottos’ face provides commentary.

For a number of women, though, online harassment goes beyond spiteful comments. A widely read article by Amanda Hess, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” was published in January in Pacific Standard. In the article, Hess, a writer for Slate, describes anonymous misogynistic attacks, culminating in threats of rape and beheading from one enraged cyberstalker. She lists several other well-documented cases of women being targeted for abuse, from feminist Caroline Criado-Perez, who affronted by suggesting that the Bank of England feature at least one woman other than the Queen on a banknote, to well-regarded technology writer Kathy Sierra, who had to put her career on temporary hiatus.

Sadly, women in technology and gaming have to deal with especially virulent attacks. Anita Sarkeesian, a gamer who started a Kickstarter Campaign to support her video project exploring the stereotypes of female characters in gaming, discovered doctored pornographic images of her posted online, as well as a web-based game which permitted players to virtually punch her. Zoe Quinn, an illustrator and game developer, twice submitted her game Depression Quest to Greenlight, the peer-review community for the online gaming platform Steam. Both times her submission generated a torrent of abuse directed towards her via social media and forums, as well as anonymous telephone calls which forced her to change her cell phone number. Both women succeeded in their ventures despite (and to an extent, because of publicity generated by) the harassment. Sarkeesian’s campaign raised more than five times the amount she originally requested, and Quinn’s game is now available on Steam.

Photo © Lindsay Bottos. Used with permission.

Photo © Linsday Bottos

GIgapixel ArtZoom: Focusing on the Seattle Art Scene

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 11, 2014

In October 2013, Microsoft teamed up with Seattle artists to create Gigapixel ArtZoom, an online panorama that shows off Seattle’s stunning vistas and vibrant art scene. Gigapixel ArtZoom was built on technology first demonstrated in 2006, when Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Oliver Deussen, and Michael Cohen at Microsoft Research improved upon existing gigapixel imaging. They figured out how to capture images of billions of pixels, and developed smoother panning and zooming technology that would permit viewers to properly explore the images.

The original image was beautiful, but stark in that the cityscape appeared to be sparsely populated. So in 2013, the team developed the Gigapixel ArtZoom, working with prominent people in the local Seattle artist scene. A plan was developed to create the panoramic shot of Seattle, and populate it with painters, fashion and costume designers, performance artists, dancers, and acrobats. On a beautiful day in October, from the top of a condominium tower in downtown Seattle, a team of photographers shot two panoramas using a Canon digital SLR camera, a professional 400 mm lens, and a Gigapan robotic tripod head. Since no single spot on the roof could yield a full panorama of Seattle, two shots were required and were later stitched together using Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor software.

During the next two weeks, the artists were posed in situ, photographed from the rooftop, and composited into the final image. Video crews also photographed and filmed the artists. The result is a stunning vista of Seattle, which viewers can pan and zoom in on from any computer or mobile device. The experience is a wonderful “Where’s Waldo” adventure; as an artist is centered in the screen, a pop-up window provides information and links to a video. The range depicts the diversity of Seattle’s art scene. Participants include landscape painter Tamara Stephas, filmmaker Wes Hurley, diva Sari Breznau, and the Kelly Lyles Art Cars, participants in the uniquely Seattle Art Car Blowout.

Gigiapixel Art is also memorable for the poignant scenes of everyday Seattle life that have been captured in the panorama. Panning across the image reveals a skateboarder mid-air, a father strolling with his infant, couples nestling by the river, and the crumpled sheets of an unmade bed, spied through a sunlit window.

Top right – GigaPixel artists from top left (going clockwise): landscape painter Tamara Stephas, actors in filmaker Wes Hurley's performance piece, opera diva Sari Breznau, and Kelly Lyles Art Cars.

Photos © Microsoft.
 

An Invitation: Intensive with Bob Gill, June 9-13

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 31, 2014

Self portrait, © Bob GillAn invitation to the first six intrepid souls to spend an intensive week with Bob Gill in his New York City studio, June 9-13. The workshop will consist of the following:

  1. A comprehensive evaluation of each designer's portfolio.
  2. A discussion of each designer's goals (attainable and unattainable).
  3. A complete description of Gill's process of changing ordinary design and illustration problems into exciting, original solutions that really work.
  4. A series of one-day assignments tailored to each designer's needs.
  5. Frank criticism of each assignment.
  6. Bagels and coffee.

Fee: $850.

Gill is in the New York Art Directors Hall of Fame and is one of the founders of Pentagram Design. His latest book is Bob Gill, So Far.

www.bobgilletc.com   |   bobgilletc@nyc.rr.com   |   (212) 460-0950

Doodle Alley: Sustain Your Creativity

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 26, 2013

Illustrator Stephen McCranie has published a wonderfully illustrated treatise on nourishing your creativity. Brick by Brick, appearing on McCranie's blog Doodle Alley, is a cartoon of advice on developing habits and practices to sustain a creative life. The publication was borne of McCranie’s desire to catalog what he had learned during his first couple years as an illustrator. He soon realized that what he was writing “… wasn’t a book about how to create, it was a book about how to be a creator.” Rather than cover the nuts and bolts of being an illustrator – practical advice on getting published, for example – Brick by Brick seeks to give artists the emotional tools they need to thrive in a difficult career.

Some of the advice is heart-warming and postive. In “Be Friends with Failure,” McCranie cautions artists against becoming harsh self critics, and encourages them to embrace failure as part of the learning process. Other advice is extremely wise: in “You Are Not Your Art,” McCranie warns the artist against deciding “…your life is your art,” cautioning that result could be “You treat the master of your craft like gods…but you could care less about people who aren’t as skilled as you.”

McCranie is working on a print edition of the book. His successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $39,000 – $30,000 more than his stated goal. The book will be a 200-page, full color comic about sustainable creativity, and will feature the cartoons on Doodle Alley. The printed publication will include three additional essays that don’t appear online: “Name it to Wield it,” “Divide and Conquer,” and “Work to Work.”

Artwork courtesy of the artist. © Stephen McCranie


Be Friends with Failure, © Stephen McCranie

Seven Years of Brain Pickings — Immeasurable Wisdom

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 26, 2013

Brain Pickings logoIn late October of 2006, Maria Popova, a college student and freelancer at an advertising agency, started sending out a periodic inspirational email. The email included links to an eclectic mix of mind teasing articles, from biomedical research to poetry. The email evolved into a blog which Popova dubbed Brain Pickings. Since then, Brain Pickings has grown to be a creative wellspring, with over 500,000 visitors per month, 150,000 subscribers to its newsletter, and over 395,000 followers of Popova's Twitter feed. Brain Pickings has also been included in the Library of Congress’ digital archive of historically relevant materials. On the seventh anniversary of Brain Pickings, Popova published an article of what she has learned from the experience. The list amply reflects the wisdom behind Brain Pickings, and provides a framework for building a relevant and productive life. We recommend reading the article in full, but to synopsize:

1) Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
2) Do nothing for prestige or status or money alone.
3) Be generous.
4) Build pockets of stillness into your life.
5) When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
6) Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.
7) “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” – Debbie Millman

Brain Pickings is ad-free, and Popova derives her primary income from voluntary subscriptions and donations to the site. A “donating = loving” link on the site recommends a subscription level of $7.00 per month. Considering the hundreds of hours of labor every month behind the blog, supporting Popova’s work is worthwhile. Consider it an investment in a creative infusion.

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