How well can you visually tell a structured story?
This is the question we explored throughout the Narrative Unit. The Narrative project was all about storytelling. In English we wrote a short story and spent time exploring character development. We spent a lot of time reading the novel 1984 and we eventually related this to a current issue or topic in a presentation. Honors English students were asked to read a series of short stories and write something of their own. This unit in Digital Media we were given creative freedom within the program Adobe Illustrator to create a wide variety of projects. We also designed an album cover for our short story and recorded ourselves reading our stories. In Animation we designed a character and built a puppet of our character. We also built sets for our puppet and walk cycle to walk across.
Personally, I really enjoyed this unit. We were given a new level of creative freedom with our short stories, Illustrator projects and Narrative Animations. Designing things that were personal to me for my Illustrator project and short story cover art made learning how to use Illustrator that much more fun. Learning how to animate a walk cycle is a skill that I know will be important if I ever want to have any career in animation, and getting to animate a blue jelly bean looking character was awesome. For me I particularly enjoyed the honors english short story author study project. The book that I read explored themes that went beyond the typical school assigned books and truly interested me.
After I designed and printed out my stickers, I used a program called Silhouette Studio to tell the machine exactly where to cut.
The end goal of the Illustrator project was to create a design within Illustrator to be transferred onto some object of our choosing. The options for the project ranged from creating a Moroccan candle shade to laser engraving on our phones. I chose to design a sheet of stickers for my project. One of the things I knew going into the project was that I wanted to design stickers not just that I would enjoy, but that meant something to others in my life. I asked my family what kind of stickers they would like to have and I got a list of inside jokes and somewhat odd requests. So I chose a few of the suggestions and designed stickers around them.
My sister asked me to make her a lab test tube, she is very enthusiastic about science. I also designed a cast iron pan because one of my family members just really wanted a sticker of a cast iron pan. Another sticker I designed referenced a ridiculous phrase that will be forever quoted in our household. I made several different sizes of my SVC sticker, which stands for Silicon Valley Coalition. This is the coalilition my Youth and Government delegation is a part of. We have sweatshirts that we wear at our statewide conferences with all of the Youth and Government Coalitions so we are always looking for ways to show SVC pride. I thought a sticker would be an awesome thing to be able to give to my coalition members.
I absolutely loved this project. I had so much fun designing stickers for friends and family. The artistic license that we were given made this project one of the best projects in Digital Media yet.
Geometric Light Cover
Our final project this December was to design a series of panels that create an interlocking light cover. This project was a way to exersice the skills we had learned in Illustrator throughout the last quarter. I love to illustrate so learning how to use Illustrator was so much fun. Not to say that creating silly parodies isn’t fun, but Illustrator was more in my field of interest. I enjoyed how freeform this project was, we were given alot of creative liberty in deciding how the final outcome would appear.
On one panel I designed a series of hearts and on the other panel I designed an arrangement of stars and a moon. I chose hearts becasue I knew that these light covers would be displayed at the February Exabihtion on Valentine’s Day. Though I view some of the ideas that Valentine’s Day perpetuates, I also believe it also has redeemable qualities particularly with the appreciation of others, and a compasionate outlook.
I have always enjoyed bold shapes that mix curves and straight edges even within character design. I decided to use larger shapes that didn’t have too much detail so that the shapes would be easy to see and clean to cut out. The clean and simple cutouts are the result of my aim for a bold light.
Short Story Assignment
This unit we were challenged to write a short story of our own. We were allowed to pick our subject, plot, and general content of our stories. We also read other short stories, analyzed them and discussed character development
Right off the bat I knew I didn’t want to write about a couple or a family. What did interest me is how people are influenced by the little actions of others. So I wrote a story about two characters that only meet once but that interaction is enough to cause a shift in his mindset.
Dan walked into his cubicle, set his bag on the floor and sat down at his desk. The aroma of coffee filled the office. Dan stared at his desk for a moment: it was relatively organized, with a stack of paper full of information to digitize, an old mug stuffed with an assortment of pens, a picture of his wife and daughter, and a thermos filled with coffee.
He paused at the picture frame, sighed, and shifted his attention to the company’s annual financial report. It wasn’t like the company needed to do everything on paper, they could fully digitize everything, but the senior management were stuck in their ways – if it works don’t fix it. Their minimal usage of computers was only to catalog and backup files, maybe email occasionally. So that left Dan, whose entire job revolved around entering information into a computer. He settled into the daily monotonous process and sipped his coffee.
After he had finished with that section of the report, he got up to stretch his legs. He walked into the lounge, it was really just a few tables and chairs but a good place to eat. He sat down with a power bar.
A woman walked in, she skipped over to the table adjacent to Dan’s. She was peculiar for an office setting, her sunny yellow dress flared out from her waist, patterned with daisies and her hair was swept up into a messy bun. Dan didn’t know who she was, which wouldn’t have been completely surprising because he didn’t much socialize in the office, but he couldn’t help think he would remember her odd demeanor. She was humming the tune of a song, and he could see the beginning of some kind of colorful tattoo on her forearm. She didn’t take notice of him and set a pink thermos similar to Dan’s on the table. Dan decided to leave, he thought he’d rather be in his cubicle than listen to her incessant humming or be bombarded by the bright colors she wore. He walked back to his desk and began another section of the report.
Suddenly, Dan heard someone humming. He got up and walked to the next cubicle and there she was. With her obnoxiously happy demeanor the woman from the lounge was sitting at the desk. Her cubicle was lined with pictures of presumably her family and friends, and in each she was just as bright as she was today. She sat humming to herself while she filled in spreadsheets with her purple jeweled pen, a trace of a smile on her face as she wrote. She took no notice of him. Dan stalked back to his desk. He could still hear her, but it wasn’t as if he was going to tell her to be quiet. So he returned to his reports.
By the afternoon his annoyance had faded, replaced by a weary boredom. It wasn’t that he hated his job, he just didn’t really enjoy it. He glanced again at the photo perched next to the hefty desktop. The photo was taken at his mother-in-law’s house over the holidays the year before. His daughter sat with a toothy grin at the kitchen table, in front of her a haphazardly decorated gingerbread house of her own making. His wife sat next to her, a torn bag of gumdrops in her hands. She was looking at her daughter with an expression of amusement and maternal pride. A vague smile came across his face, remembering that day.
His wife was a writer. She had published two novels and loved every second of it. However it didn’t pay particularly well. But Dan had his steady clerical job, so they got by just fine. Even if the cataloguing wasn’t incredibly intellectually stimulating, his family needed the income to live comfortably.
He sighed, running his hands through his hair. He was tired and feeling a bit empty. He sat in the lounge and stared at his salad. Dan didn’t want a salad, but it was what he had.
Someone placed a mug down on his table. He jerked his head up and the humming girl was smiling at him with another mug in hand. He stared at her. She offered the cup to him.
“It’s peppermint hot chocolate! I brought some for the office.” He looked at her as she continued, “I’m Mandy! It’s my first day and I thought it would be nice to bring hot chocolate!” She grinned at him. “I’ve gotta go give the rest out but I hope you have a good day! It’s a pretty day!” She smiled, not bothering to wait for an answer, and with the other cup turned and promptly left.
Dan sat for a moment, confused. He looked at the mug, then took a sip. She was wrong, it was not a pretty day. It was half raining, half snowing. And yet, Dan started to feel a bit more energized, unsure if it was from the sugar or from Mandy’s bright, happy attitude. He finished the minty beverage, and walked back towards his desk. He paused at Mandy’s desk. She wasn’t there, but he noticed the colorful flowers she had pinned around, and the artwork that hung above her desk. He left, returning to his own desk. Looking at the walls of his cubicle they suddenly seemed drab and impersonal. He looked down at his desk and he heard humming again. Dan smiled a bit, and continued to work. At the end of the day Dan put on his coat. Curiously, he decided he wanted to decorate his cubicle. He also wanted to wear something other than his bland office attire. So he left the office, excited about something for the first time.
The next day Dan walked in, thermos, bag, and tucked inside, a movie poster. Mandy noticed Dan, and skipped to him, “I like your tie!” Dan grinned at her. His tie was a pattern of little dinosaurs. “Thanks Mandy. I’m Dan! It’s nice to meet you.”
Short Story Album Art Cover
In Adobe Illustrator we designed art to go on Soundcloud with our short story recordings. With my design I was able to practice using the rotation tool and experiment with symbols.
Short Story Recording
In Digital Media I recorded myself reading my short stories aloud. I then uploaded all of my audio files to Protools where I added sound effects and spliced together my audio clips. I also adjusted the volume of my different clips to create a clear sound.
Translating my story to an auditory experience is a way that I don’t typically experience literature, but getting to read my story the way I think should be read also gave a level of control to the artist. I think it was an interesting exploration of different ways to tell a story.
Honors Short Story Author Study
In this assignment we chose a book of short stories to read, and then were asked to either analyze the book’s themes or write a story of our own in which we mimic the author’s style. I read Pulse by Jullian Barnes, and decided to write a story in his style.
Allison liked Charlie. When she would ask him about what happened that day he always gave a short answer, not sharing more unless prompted. That was how he was. Charlie didn’t talk about much of consequence and when asked to summarize the contents of his day he shared only a few nondescript and ultimately unhelpful words. Which was fine. Allison liked to talk and he was happy to listen even if conversations tended to repeat.
“I’ve never seen falling snow before, you know.”
“Yes I know.”
Her memory seemed to be more consistent than his, she could remember obscure events from two, three years prior.
“How do you know that?”
“You told me.”
“Last winter, when I was at my family’s cabin for the weekend.”
“I don’t remember.”
“That’s alright. It was a while ago.”
She had looked at him, a smile flickering across her features. Allison found his confusion slightly endearing, but didn’t mention it, as she suspected he may not appreciate her amusement.
They met in college. She was two years behind him. They had sort of fallen into a relationship. She’d known him a while before they began to date a few months. They were close friends, ran in the same circles at the time. After he graduated from the University of Redlands and stayed local with a job at an analytical magazine, it was easy to slip into a relationship. They had always had some chemistry, and in the end it was just convenient, for both of them.
Charlie had invited her over for dinner one night in April. She had been before. It was small, a mother-in-law house he rented from a woman in her fifties who no longer had any need for the cottage. It was small, with a compact kitchen. His fridge was covered in postcards and old wedding invitations from three or four years ago. The tiled floor shifted to carpet in the little living space. When she arrived there was already takeout on the kitchen table, the soy sauce packets and napkins sat nearby. He didn’t know how to cook much and didn’t have any inclination to learn, so they sat in his little kitchenette eating egg rolls and rice.
“Yeah it’s really good. I like the spring rolls.”
She didn’t mind the takeout as she didn’t much care to cook herself either.
Within a few months she began keeping things at his apartment, a toothbrush, hair ties, a hoodie. They never spent much time at her apartment. She had two roommates both of which regularly invited over friends or boyfriends or girlfriends on any given night.
By October they had settled into a comfortable routine and Charlie was at least some part of her life. They would talk on the phone every few nights, have dinner twice a week. During dinners they would talk about Charlie’s job and her classes. Charlie asked her about getting a puppy one night.
“I think a dog would keep me company.”
“Well it’s your house, it’d be your puppy.”
“Well sure, but you’re over here enough I thought I should ask.”
“I don’t live here. So I don’t really care.”
He didn’t bring the topic up again, much to her relief. She didn’t really care whether or not he got a dog. But she didn’t appreciate being involved in a lasting decision. She had never thought they were permanent by any means, and it occurred to her that he may not share her perspective.
“I’m going to be done with school soon.”
“Sure, I know.”
“There aren’t many gallery jobs around here.”
“I’m sure you could find one.” She looked irritated by his comment. They didn’t usually discuss long term plans.
“I don’t think I want to stay in California.”
“I just don’t want to live here forever.”
“That’s not really a reason.”
“Well, I still don’t want to.”
They left it at that. Neither was willing to argue about location and it seemed pointless to do so. And of course the topic of moving and change in relationships always tended to bring up how committed each party was to the relationship. And confrontation was icky and neither wanted to discuss it. So they didn’t.
For Christmas Allison drove down to Corona Del Mar, where she’d grown up. Her brother had settled down there and lived there with his children, near their parents. And Charlie flew to Waitsburg, a small town in the south eastern corner of Washington where his sister and her family lived. Allison didn’t ask him to join her. He didn’t either.
Allison stayed with her family until New Years. Christmas morning her brother’s kids came pounding on the door of the guest room well before her eight oclock alarm, rousing their slightly hungover aunt. Nonetheless she was happy to see her family.
Sometime that winter, maybe January or February, it struck Allison that she and Charlie didn’t have much in common. Other than the fact that they both wanted a relationship with someone, mind you, not necessarily with each other, they didn’t share many interests. She figured it didn’t matter too much if they had enough to do together.
“Do you think we spend too much time together?”
He fussed with the napkin on his lap, a tired confusion coated his voice. It was Friday and they were both a bit annoyed at everything.
“No, not really. Why? Do you?”
“I suppose not.”
She did, sort of. Being overly reliant on someone else seemed a bit stupid to her. Or maybe she had just grown tired of him. It was difficult to know the difference between the ideas generated by an overly active imagination, and the conclusions drawn from logic and planted firmly in reality. That always seemed to be the trick with relationships didn’t it? You had to sort out the reasonable assumptions from the fears that you might project onto a relationship. But sometimes you just couldn’t tell the two apart. So you stay in the relationship because you don’t have a real reason to leave. They didn’t do anything wrong, you just worry you aren’t right for each other. She supposed it didn’t matter at this point. They were somewhere around eight months in, she thought it seemed a bit ridiculous to be second guessing now, but that didn’t stop her.
A month or so after her graduation in June she began applying for jobs. A few local positions but most were elsewhere. In Boston, New York, D.C. Within a few weeks she had an offer as a gallery manager in New Haven.
“Did you hear back from any of the galleries?”
“Yes. A few.”
“Oh. Which ones?”
She had already accepted the job in New Haven, so she had withdrawn applications from other galleries.
“I don’t know.”
“New Haven is a bit far.”
“Yeah.” She paused. “I think I’m going to go.”
“To New Haven?”
He seemed to grapple with this for a few moments. Allison knew she probably should have been the one to bring this up, but it didn’t matter now.
“Well I can’t leave.”
“Did you already accept?”
And that was that. For the last month they didn’t talk about her impending move. They kept to their normal routine and typical topics. But there was a silent knowing, when she left, they would be done. That was the fact of the matter.
Allison left for the East Coast. Charlie took her to the airport, helped her check her bags and waved to her at the security checkpoint. She took to New Haven well, adjusting quickly to the East Coast. They didn’t talk again.
When she returned to Redlands for her ten year reunion, he saw her, but she kept her head down and kept walking. The past seemed better left in the past and she saw no reason to look back.
Analysis and Explanation
It is worth noting that I found throughout reading Pulse, that Barnes utilized two distinct writing styles, one almost purely dialogue. He uses this in the four alternating stories in the first section of Pulse, titled “Phil and Joanna’s”. Though I chose not to imitate this style, they are an important part of the novel as these four stories especially, deal directly with themes found throughout the book. The dinner parties depicted touch on topics ranging from the separation of love and sex to the way people are influenced by emotions, particularly in relationships. From Phil and Joanna’s 4: One in Five, “‘Are you saying that the pool of emotions remains the same size, but pours in different directions at different times?’
‘I might me saying that.’
‘But surely we had our strongest emotions when we were young – falling in love, getting married, having children.’” [pg 116 – 117]. This passage, although we don’t know whom is saying what, still brings integral thematic questions into the story simply from the content of the discussion. This passage pushes the reader to ask themselves how they think emotions affect relationships and change over one’s life span, but does not give a conclusive answer, simply asks the questions and lets the reader come to their own conclusions. These stories are integral to the novel, but the rest of the book was written in a fashion that weighs both on dialogue and narration, creating a story easier to follow.
In Mundane Comfort I mirrored the narrative style while pulling themes from the dinner party conversations. I chose to write in this style because I thought that although it was very interesting to read, the dialogue rich writing could be difficult to follow, even for the writer.
Throughout the novel Barnes depicts a multitude of stories centered around romantic relationships, though the relationships often do not last very long, sometimes only a few months.
Mundane Comfort is a recollection of a young couple, Allison and Charlie who are in a relationship of convenience where Allison struggled with her faith in the relationship, ultimately moving away, effectively ending the relationship.
Pulse is narrated in third person, but tends to focus on one character’s emotions and inner dialogue to tie the stories into bigger thematic questions surrounding the nature of relationships. This was how I mostly attempted to mimic the style Barnes uses in Pulse. It also follows a structural pattern seen throughout the novel that I used. Narration prefaces a dialogue that fits serves either as an example of the narration or as a continuation of the plot. Then this is often followed by the thought process of the main character. In Trespass we can see the main character, Geoff, question the emotional delicacies of relationships when he confronts his girlfriend about the holidays. “‘No I don’t mean I’ve got family. Of course I’ve got family. I mean, I can’t do Christmas.’”
When Geoff was faced with what, despite principled beliefs to the contrary, he nonetheless could only regard as gross female illogicality, he tended to go silent. One minute you were steaming along a track, the weight on your shoulders barely noticeable, and then suddenly you were in a pathless scrubland with no waymarks, the mist descending and the ground boggy beneath your feet.” [pg 100]. In this passage the inner dialogue of Geoff explores the aspects involved in a relationship and how compatibility plays into that, as well as his personal frustrations. Similarly in Mundane Comfort Allison’s inner dialogue exposed what was going on at one end of the relationship, and that it largely revolved around her, and to some extent Charlie’s lack of passion for the whole relationship.
Throughout Mundane Comfort I attempted to weave in a theme of dysfunction in a relationship. In modern society the commodity we value the most is convenience, and I explored how that concept could affect aspects of a romantic relationship. The convenient nature of the relationship is clear throughout the story. Even in the beginning of the relationship, it began because it was convenient, safe, and familiar. However it was also dull and lacked a shared passion which is an issue for many long term relationships. The relationship ends up ending because it is no longer convenient, Allison moves across the country. In addition, jobs and familial responsibilities are consistently deemed more important priorities to our characters, particularly Allison, than their relationship.
I noticed in many of the shorts in Pulse, that the inner dialogue of the characters is how Barnes connects the story back to the main thematic ideas we see throughout the novel. So in Mundane Comfort I attempted to do the same, keeping the dialogue fairly insignificant in terms of content, letting the character’s insights guide the story to the larger thematic questions.
Within Pulse Barnes focuses on themes surrounding relationships. In the stories he delves into themes of communication and compatibility. Most of the relationships he depicts are not successful or they harbor some kind of dysfunctionality. Within the majority of the stories in Pulse the main character is almost always male. However I chose for Mundane Comfort, to write from the perspective of a female. The narrative of dysfunctionality is still very clear regardless of gender, and I am more familiar with a female perspective than any other. I think a female perspective makes the major themes in Pulse feel more applicable to both genders.
The first thing we did for this project was design a character and illustrate them. We then translated our character into a positionable puppet. I wanted to design a character with odd colored hair who wore something yellow and this is what I came up with.
For the set I worked with Steven Hu to create a scene that our puppets could walk across eventually. We went with a spooky effect with the dark twisted tree and eerie lighting. We tried several different lighting situations with red, yellow, and blue lights. I ended up liking the yellow and blue lighting the best.
We also spent a. good deal of time working on a digitally animated walk cycle. I animated this simple little blue jellybean like character walking across the scene to accompany my puppet.
Narrative Animation Project
This was our last project of the Narrative project in Animation. We were challenged to create a 40 – 60 second animated short without dialogue within a period of three weeks. We also worked in groups. I worked with Anna Finlay and Kira Narog on my project. We chose to animate a little girl learning how to surf.
Within my group I was in charge of all backgrounds and most of the color palate. I wanted a super soft and mellow color palate for the story that we wanted to animate.
We named the little girl in the film Kiko, I don’t really know why but it stuck with the character. We wanted this to be a very cute and endearing film.
Our group did the majority of our animating on iPads using the program Procreate. We exported each scene to Adobe After Effects to add sound effects, music and to piece all of out separate clips together. We had a ton of files by the end of the editing process.