Project 1: Final Product

That’s all, folks!

My final three images for the typographic portraits:



For information about how these images were made, check out my updates:


Illustrator Tutorial Notes and Critique Notes

Weekend Update

Illustrator Files:




(Link to Google Drive require account)

Project-1: Weekend Update

I’ve taken the criticisms into careful consideration, and here are the latest image updates:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.17.35 PM

I spent a lot of time figuring out how to use perspective to give the blood spatter a solid “floor,” but the letters felt too flat against that perspective surface. Carl had some input on this, and the end solution was to include a 3D Extrude stylization filter to give depth and dimension to the letter “A”. There is a nice contrast with the flat letters in the background, and a slightly more gray value is applied to the background letters to emphasize this.The blood was given more detail by using the Wrinkle Tool. Overall, this is a pleasing change and I’m much happier with the results than earlier versions.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.17.53 PM

What kind of magician would I be without a rabbit? The peer critique included an earlier, rougher version of this critter, but I’ve refined it to a point where it is a welcome distraction and not just a proof of concept. The sparse grayscale image really Pops thanks to the included red bowtie. This was created as a series of shape (Rectangle Tool) and a thicker brush setting for the outline. A heavy use of Gradient was applied to multiple Layers of the top-hat to give it a more three-dimensional appearance. Abracadabra!

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.18.07 PM

The lion’s share of time went into this third image. Carl had an interesting suggestion to give the background a crumpled paper appearance. I scoured the web for a few options on how to do this. One suggested using a gradient tool in Photoshop and importing that image into Illustrator like so:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 4.58.38 PM

This wasn’t a bad approach, but it didn’t really “look right” in Illustrator. The better solution I found came from a multistep approach involving actual crumpled paper (Read here). I started by crumpling a folded piece of paper, and then scanning a highDPI image of it and saving the PNG for use in Illustrator. I then used the Image Trace tool to assign shapes their corresponding values (4 shades of gray). The end effect was more convincing because it was derived from the genuine object. Next, I created improved letter “clippings” for the ransom note stylization by choosing a variety of fonts and color combinations, grouped with rectangles that were altered using Transform to give them a more natural appearance.

The final steps involved creating a severed finger – because just one pool of blood in a project is never enough. I started with the Rectangle tool and created two segments, for the third segment (the fingertip), I used a pair of Ellipse tool shapes (fingertip and fingernail), which I altered with the Pen Tool. I then used a gradient fill to give the nail some depth, but struggled to find a gradient to give the finger segments an illusion of depth. I decided to hold off on that detail and used a regular color fill from the Skin Tone Library (color swatch). I then rotated the segments to give the finger a more curled appearance, and the Pen Tool to create the creases in the skin.

Solution for creating depth: I layered four stacks of cloned finger (object groups) on top of one another and then used the Eraser to create a gradation of shadows (Stylization and Drop Shadow) to create a rounder appearance. The end effect is consistently cartoonish with the rest of the image.

Finally, I created a “blood soaked paper” effect by changing the fill color of the surrounding Image Trace generated shapes and the Wrinkle Tool to give it a more distressed appearance. The one effect I want but haven’t been able to figure out is how to “crinkle” the ransom note letters themselves. They feel a bit too flat, and out of place, but after a few failed attempts with the Knife Tool to create segments I’ve decided to error on the side of caution. If I come up with a solution by Monday, I’ll be sure to update the results here.

Project 1 Update

Minimal Realism:

” When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures…”

Illustrator Demo

Type Text “CARL”

Object -> Make Outline

DON’T FORGET TO: Ungroup Text

Knife Tool -> Cut “waves” through the text.

Color the top half “Fill” Brown

Color the bottom half “Fill” Blue

Brush Pallet (icon looks like books on a shelf (i.e., library))

            Using the brush tool change the outline of the letters to give a more “watery” look. Change stroke size to amplify effect.

Texture Pallet

            Just like the brush library, you can fill an object with a variety of textures.

Command: Paste in place

This creates a copy of an object directly on top of the original; useful because you do not need to align the new object.

How to make triangles:

Use the Polygon tool, and then rightclick for a menu to select “sides”, change to: 3


Create object from center:

Hold down the option key

How to create “Distressing” shapes

Use the “Warp Tools”. The Icon looks somewhat like a tulip.


PNG Export: (For blog)

            Use Artboard

            300 DPI (High)

Background color: White

Critique Notes:

As of Wednesday evening this was the status of my three images:


Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 4.56.24 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-10 at 4.57.24 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-10 at 4.58.02 PM

My peers had some excellent suggestions.

Image one (accident-prone), is too flat. Consider moving the other letters of the text “back” into the image to create more depth

Image two (magician), needs more color. Black and white images are less interesting in this context, and more stylization of the letters would really help. Just as adding a gradient to the “wand tips” gave greater depth, consider adding more depth to this image as well.

Image three (hostage). This is an early start, and needs more work. Particularly, the texture on the letter “A” isn’t working well. The concept is interesting, but more details will make this a successful piece.


Project 1: Typographic Portrait

The first day of the week and we’ve hit the ground running on this first project. It’s almost the end of class and I’m just now getting to the 2nd (of three) portraits. I asked for help on my first iteration, because it seemed like something was missing. I had followed the basic draft pretty closely, but it felt bare and uninteresting.

Typography - Accident

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.36.42 PM.png

After talking with the professor, it was clear that I needed to express a greater range of tools. This was my second iteration:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 7.39.53 PM

Better, but not great. I added an organic shape and used the gradient tool to create a shadow effect. Still, the image felt a little too flat. One more tweak:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.29.31 PM

This simple vertical offset creates a bit more motion and surprise. I’m not sure what more I could add or subtract at this point. On to my second portrait…

In order to create a three-dimensional “floor” I used the perspective grid tool:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.29.56 PM


Typography Magic


Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.29.03 PM

It isn’t really easy to see what I’m experimenting with just by looking at the image, but I have several elements that are grouped into logical objects. The “wand tips”are made using the rectangle Shape Tool, arranged above the Text and then individually grouped with their respective “T”s. Same for the “shirt buttons” on the “M”, as well as the top-hat. I’m not sure if this one would benefit from color or not. Perhaps I can use the gradient tool to give the “wand” more of a cylindrical appearance?

Adobe Illustrator Reading Response – Art 119

Over the weekend I had a chance to sit down and read over the first two chapters of Adobe Illustrator guide. I think I may have just confused myself. One of the key challenges is the fact that I have very little experience with Adobe’s Creative Suite. It’s like a whole new language. Furthermore, I do not have this software at home, and thus cannot easily relate to these new sets of terms. It is hard to apply knowledge when everything about it is purely theoretical. Last but not least: this was just a ton of new information.

At least there were pictures.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 5.24.11 PM

Clear as mud, but at least you can see it. Page 33 (Artboard printing)

Illustrator is a massive heap of skeuomorphisms, and this only makes sense for those who began their careers in print making prior to the advent of computers in Graphics Design. This can be a huge challenge for newcomers, but this challenge is hardly unique to Illustrator. True story: a seventeen-year-old in one of my freshmen courses once described the save button in MS Word as a “purple truck”.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 5.34.38 PM

Beep! Beep! I’m a truck!

See, the thing was, she’d never even seen a floppy disk before. This graphic held no contextual meaning for her. She never experienced the joy of inserting a 3.5-inch piece of plastic into a clunky (yet essential) device to save her document. By the time she was old enough for K-12, the iMac was standard, and those computers (controversially) never shipped with a floppy drive.


“No floppy, no problem! You’ve got the World-Wide Web, son!” source:

She accepted the function (saving her document was important, after all), but couldn’t make the connection between function and form. I’m not telling this story because it is funny (I still laugh when I think about her), but because I can now relate to her better after reading about Adobe Illustrator’s Tool Bar and Control Panel. Some of the symbols are easy to recognize, despite the fact that I’ve never actually used them in real life:

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 5.48.09 PM

Page 3 – The tearoff toolbar

I’ve never used a fountain pen. I’ve had a classmate spatter ink on me accidentally with one, but that’s really about it. Generically speaking I “get” pens. I’m fond of needlepoint over ballpoint, but that’s not the graphic here. What if I’d never seen a fountain pen before? How’d I ever hope to recognize the function?

I’m sure I’ll catch up, and with enough practice become proficient with this tool set. I just wonder how many “purple truck” moments I’ll have along the way.



Project 1: Typographic Portrait

Our first project in Digital Media / Time Design is a “Typographic Portrait.” What is a typographic portrait? It’s a combination of visual communication through stylization, combining graphical and textual elements. Here is the professor’s example:


Image by Carl Diehl,

As you can see from the above example, the name represents visual elements implying both “land” and “water”. The earth-tone brown is combined with wavy aquamarine/teal. Since amphibians are able to live both underwater and on dry land, this graphical representation is appropriate.

Our first step is to select from six options and perform a similar stylization on our own name:

Hello my name is Matt … I’m a magician

Typography Magic

I’m accident-prone

Typography - Accident

I’m losing my temper

Typography - Temper

I’m visiting Portland

Typography - Bird

I’m afraid of the dark

Typography - DarkTypography - Dark 2

Hello my name is _________ (fill in the blank)

Typography - ElectricTypography - ShooterTypography - Hostage

Each image has some advantage. I tend to think that it is better to make work that is provocative than safe. The “ransom note” lettering is fun, but includes a dark humor component, the “magician” is playful but a bit on the nose, the “marksman” is very literal, but exists within the context of America’s gun violence epidemic (a controversial subject, to say the least), and the “Portland” is a bit more esoteric, and depends on a person’s familiarity with the sketch comedy of Portlandia‘s “Put a bird on it”. We’ll see what the professor has to say during today’s lab.

Open House Event – ART119


Wednesday night there was an Open House event at Portland State University. After leaving my Digital Media studio class, I walked down to the art building to check out the work in the MFA studios. I spent last quarter in this building and the TA was kind enough to show us the studio space back in January. What was particularly nice was the before-and-after perspective of in-studio work. In some cases it was due to refinement (painting studio space) of earlier work, in others it was in the form of additional iterations (animation and film). Finally, it was time to visit my former TA, Emily.


Her graphic novel was printed up (half of it, anyway), and the level of detail was stunning. The subject matter was particularly dark (child abuse, unwanted children, alcohol, isolation, etc.) and this was complimented by the heavy use of black filling in the positive space of each and every frame. The ink budget would be substantial on a mass-volume production. In addition to the printed work, there was also a running stop-motion animation, and a diorama of a future installation, as well as full-scale production materials.

As I consider my own future, it is good to see people in the process of developing their professional skills and realizing their own dreams. This work space is being put to good use and every MFA student seems genuinely proud of their work. There was a fair amount of discussion about the costs of education, and some of this may be reflective of the relatively higher tuition costs of grad school and the fact that we are in an election year, but overall it was a cheerful environment.

On my way out there were two elderly women who shared some of their print work with Emily and me. Clearly for some, art is a lifelong passion. I hope this is true for me as well.




Intro to Adobe Illustrator

Week 1 – Day 2

Introduction to Adobe Illustrator and Vector Graphics


Illustrator is part of Adobe’s Creative software suite (now “Creative Cloud”). The primary focus of Illustrator is the use of and creation of vector graphics. Most graphics are rasterized (a grid of pixels with assigned values); vectors are “drawn” by software (or hardware, if supported) and are not limited by resolution. At our university’s Mac lab, we have preloaded versions of Illustrator, here’s a quick run-through:

There are lots of ways to launch the program. My preferred method is to use Spotlight search.


This will open a search box (this is like Google for your computer), just start typing “illustrator” and you’ll get an auto-complete before you finish typing it. Just hit Enter when it fills in the remaining characters. BAM! You’re in.

Next, we need to create a new project:

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 6.13.40 PM

File -> New ->

Name: Lastname-Intro [Geiger-Intro ART119]

Profile: Web

Size: 960 x 560

Units: Pixels

Orientation: Landscape

After creating this new document, save it.

File -> Save ->

Save as: []

Default settings -> OK



Working area


Shape Tool

Used to create a vector object


Vector object

            Vector Objects are defined with Paths and Points



            Defines the thickness of lines (vectors)



            Defines the “filling” of an object (like Twinkies)



            Illustrator “stacks” objects in the order they were created. To change this order, go to the top menu:

Object -> Arrange -> Send to…(back/front) Bring to (back/front)


            Like with a text editor, aligns an object to different orientations (objects, Artboard, etc.)


Keyboard Shortcuts:

Option+LeftClick(on object)+drag

            Drag to new area to create a duplicate

LeftClick+drag(over objects)

            Bounding box selects multiple items


            Save current progress

In-class exercise: practice drawing your name. I wrote mine in cyrillic:

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 7.00.47 PM

The letter “а” is tricky, and I didn’t quite get it right on the first try (“Матвей Гайгер” The first “a” looks like an “o”). This was all done with the pen tool, but switching back and forth between the curve and straight pen.

Project 1: Typographic Portraits


Mar 30: Project Intro, sketch ideas for next class (blog)

Apr 05: Work time in class following demonstrations

Apr 07: Work Time in class, following demonstrations

Apr 11: Review Typographic Portraits


Example: “Eruption” “Tilt-A-Whirl” “Balloon Darts” “Roller Bowler” “Cock Clock” “Exit” “Copernicus”.


Choose 3 of 6 provided character prompts. Use your name, first and/or last or nickname. Along with typographic and design…


“Hello my name is______ and I’m…”


Due Monday:

Sketches and ideas for project

Reflection on Open House (Blog)

Reflection on reading (Adobe Illustrator (Blog))