“The Jump” – the Process and Story
So I got into a short conversation yesterday with an artist I admire. I think her work is really unique, and I told her so. Inside the quick little back-and-forth we had, she asked what my art process was for the images of mine that she’s seen. And I’m almost able to answer that question now. For the past few months, I’ve been tinkering with how to make a visual go from one place to another.
I spent a little bit more time on this one, “The Jump”, and it’s a good example to walk through.
The Backstory of the Original Image
It has a little backstory behind it too, which might make it more memorable, knowing the history of the original photo.
I buy things thinking that I’m going to use them. I go through a little process in my head about how some item will add meaning to my life, and then I purchase it based on my conclusion.
I bought a dishwashing wand that you fill with soap. I thought it would be convenient and useful. I have not used it in three years. And I need to start getting rid of things that I don’t use. “Minimizing”. This is hard for me; I’ve spent many years in survival mode holding on to things “just in case”. I’d like to think I’m moving away from that now.
But. This was not an inexpensive item. I think maybe I can convert the useless object into a useful form. So, before I throw it away, I decide to take a picture of its replacement sponge ends and turn it into an art project.
So what now?
Time To Bend
I take the pixels and I bend them. I twist them. I shove them through mirror distortion. I add gradients. I layer on dust, noise, distortion, high definition resolution emulation. I shove versions through perspective changes, add a layer of fake emulsion. I use an app that reads color and texture and turns them into shapes and designs on top of the original image.
I erase a few things and move other pieces around. And gradually, I start seeing a story come from the pixels.
I started seeing someone jump off of the top of the building. But then the building backed away and turned into a planet. And then the person was a female. Her head was thrown back, and her face was facing the open sky. Her hair flew back behind her, and then her expression turned invisible as she started falling out toward the stars. The landscape behind her cooled on one end and heated up on another. Everything turned hard as she flew further away. All of the details of her life became clearer. All of the opportunities and regrets faded into one solid unmovable object.
And then I saw a man doing the same jump. He was not so stoic in his action though. His mouth is open and he’s yelling in anger. And the ghost behind him makes the same face as him; they carry forward into the future that won’t be anything except the same blank slate.
So as these stories form in my head, I keep making small adjustments in the colors and textures until everything is situated just enough.
All of the images that eventually make into their final form have these back stories, though not all of them are necessarily as complicated. And some of them are even deeper. One final piece I made shows a technological future smashing into a small city full of huts and telephone lines. One person at the very edge of town is trying to hold back the progress that’s coming, but he’s slowly getting pushed off of a bridge. There are dozens of little households in that scene, all of them distinct, but from a distance, it just looks like static or random scratches.
And In the End
Now that you read the backstory and the narrative I came up with, go back and look at the image again, and walk through the scene. And if you don’t see what I do, find your own story in the mix. That’s been my favorite part of sharing these projects – what other people come up with to translate the abstractions I make. It’s awesome. 😀
This is my process. And every day I work on it the techniques that I use to make it from one place to another become a little bit more concrete, and a little bit more flexible. And I just keep poking away, meditating while all of the shapes and colors morph in and out of different relationships with each other.