For me, the main goal of this final project was to really hone the process of creating low-polygon images from photographs; a method I attempted to teach myself through another assignment this term, but the result was far from perfect. Aside from simply learning and improving this new technique, my final project also drew inspiration from several different segments of the readings assigned over the course of the semester.
The final project, presented below, is a digital image in the fashion of a one hundred dollar bill made from thousands of individual triangles. I am really infatuated with the style and aesthetic of geometric art, so I am quite pleased with the end result and found it was a successful progression from my original attempt at making polygonal graphics from a photo.
The image was created in Photoshop CS6 using the polygon tool. I recorded an action that, after creating a precise triangle on a grid, filled the selection with an average color from the original photograph. The polygon was then moved to its own layer, which was a necessary step used to edit the triangles later and delete any major errors. Admittedly, the process was tedious and lengthy: the final product used over 2,300 layers of triangles to produce a geometric image of currency, which caused the program to run exceptionally slow—a true test of patience. However, the effort paid off and the total process was completely necessary to transform the detailed photograph into a minimalist and multifaceted graphic. With a fewer number of layers or triangles, the end result would look way too simple and even blurry.
Originally, I intended to print and hang my image in the hallway, but in the end, chose to display it on a computer monitor. This route was much more successful than printing, as the colors were more accurately reflected and no clarity was lost through the printing process; something I have learned can be mostly trial-and-error when using the on-campus printing services at the @One computer lab.
One struggle I encountered, besides working with very sluggish software, was how the end result didn’t necessarily reflect the dedication and accomplishment felt from creating such a plain image. However, I truly improved upon my own technical skills and therefore, didn’t feel it would be necessary to factor in a more visual representation of the labor required to complete this project. If hung in a gallery, a proper title and artist’s statement would help dovetail the complex process with the modest digital image.
This particular medium also makes it pretty difficult to have any inherent meaning deeper than simple geometry and form, which is why I chose a one hundred dollar bill as my inspiration. There are a range of connotations attached to currency, but many are connected to wealth and capitalism. It’s no coincidence that Benjamin Franklin, the most recognizable figure in my image, was a proponent of this economic theory and that the Situationists denounce the “unbearable demands” (Debord) associated with capitalism and modern society. While a fairly loose connection, that tension and drastically different perspective regarding currency was my motivation for choosing to alter the one hundred dollar bill into a different shape.
My graphic also draws a significant amount of inspiration from Hito Steyerl’s perspective in the article “In Defense of the Poor Image”. I chose a very high quality photograph with a recognizable design and then transformed it to a near laughable level of simplicity; however, the most basic or original form of a product or image shouldn’t detract from its overall value—an idea that led me to edit the original hundred dollar bill, rather than its updated counterpart that now includes new designs and modern anti-fraud technology. It’s also notable that physical currency is of a much different and “poorer” quality (especially after it’s been in circulation and exchanged hands a countless number of times) compared to the intangible, pristine transactions now available with modern technology, online banking, and credit cards. Printed money is quickly approaching irrelevancy, but the tangible element of currency should continue to be revered for its ability to be shared tenfold amongst people and as a recognizable symbol across cultures on a global scale.
Another reading that inspired the actual process of making my geometric art was Moyra Davey’s “Notes on Photography & Accident” where she speaks on the chance or accidental nature of things, such as writing and photography. This sort of randomness definitely occurs while creating polygons because the image is zoomed in so far that you can’t place the dotted lines or pixels as part of a recognizable photograph; it’s by chance that the image comes together as a whole once all the triangles are created. In order to emphasize this accidental image and stay true to Davey’s ideal, I didn’t color correct any of the triangles. There were quite a few instances where some blended into the background or would have benefit from more contrast, but I kept each layer as it occurred naturally. While the process doesn’t have much conceptual depth, it truly follows her “something from nothing” experience.
My final project is a piece that can be valued for its aesthetic appeal, as well as a solid measure of my progress, patience, and dedication to the process. When combined with the concepts we have learned from the artists this semester, ranging from perspectives on poor imagery to pure chance, my final geometric image is something I am proud to present. Creating low-polygon art is something I will continue to do in the future, no matter how superficial of a medium it appears to be. The process behind this image proves that it takes an enormous amount of work, practice, and proficiency to create something that looks so simple or easy, whether it is a triangle, photograph, performance piece, painting, sculpture, musical score, or graphic design. While this particular piece of art may not touch upon substantial social topics or inspire people to participate in a progressive art movement, I appreciate the multifaceted hundred dollar bill for what it is: a truly cumulative effort of skill and knowledge of digital media.