ASCII art on the beach

I was at a conference the last few days, but managed to get a couple of daily creates in for the June 2017 daily create challenge–do 30 daily creates in June! Well, I was late with one of the first two, and will be late with today’s too…that will come tomorrow. But I plan to do all 30 even if not on the right days!

Since I did the creates for June 1 and 2 on the same day, I ended up combining them.

The daily create for June 1 was:

Make this uncreative skinny kid a blossoming portrait of creative prowess! Show us your creative muscle, your photographic bicep, your video burpee (for the love of our eyes, do not take this literally, think metaphorically!)

Image provided at daily create site for June 1, 2017 (linked above)

For June 2, the daily create was: “Take your own portrait rendered in ASCII Art (image made of text characters). Try the ASCII camera.”

Here is my ASCII selfie:

I took a few, and used this one because it didn’t have any background and so could look better in the image below, as if it were on a computer screen (I managed the white background by standing in a bright patch of sunlight against a white wall).

And here is what I made combining both daily creates:


Well, the ASCII selfie was easy with the ASCII camera linked to in the June 2 daily create.

Here is what I did in GIMP to make the two panel comic above.

  1. I opened the original image in the June 1 daily create and got rid of the text in the speech bubble:

I did this by using a paintbrush with white to colour over the text from the original image.

2. I made a copy of this new image with no text so I had two layers in GIMP that both had this same image.

3. In the first version of this image I made my own text, which is in the left panel of the two panel comic above. I used the text tool, which creates a new “text layer.” Comic sans seemed the right font choice!

4. In the second version of the image that I created in step 2, on a second layer, I “erased” the two guys. For the parts of them that had a white background I painted over them in white like in step 1.

For the parts of them that were in front of another background like the water or the beach ball, I used the “clone” tool to cover them with something that resembled those backgrounds. I ended up getting rid of the umbrella, because it looked weird sitting there all by itself on the right, with no bottom part to it.

The beach ball was hard to do with the clone tool … I couldn’t get it very round. And then I just gave up after awhile b/c it was good enough and this is the daily create and I was already spending too much time on it!

4. I found an icon of a computer on The Noun Project. I purchased a subscription to the site so I don’t have to pay for icons individually, though you can use icons for free with attribution. I used the Mac app to find the icon which doesn’t allow me to easily find a link to it on the web. Not so good for sharing with others, sorry. I used “open as layer” to add it to the image in GIMP.

5. I had to paint white into the middle of the computer icon b/c icons have a transparent background when you download them from Noun Project.

6. I used the transform tool in GIMP to change the perspective of the computer so it looked a little like it was facing the woman.

7. I opened the ASCII selfie pic “as layer” and also used the transform tool to make it fit onto the computer screen.

8. I drew my own speech bubble on the second panel (as you can tell…it looks kinda not so great but whatever) and added text.


All told, this probably took me an hour rather than 15 minutes per daily create. But it was fun!


Planning to do two again tomorrow…

Frankenstein, Agrippa, and Magic

close up of spider web with water drops on it
Beaded, by Myriams-Fotos, licensed CC0 on Pixabay


Though the upcoming term is promising to be one of my most busy, I have high hopes for participating in Networked Narratives, a new online course (?… or more like an event, a happening, a creation?) organized by Alan Levine and Mia Zamora.

According to the description of the course, we will be looking at questions like:

How have networks transformed our ability to tell, share, and participate in stories in the digital age?

How can we design for narrative emergence in an open network?

So what I’m getting from this is that we’ll be telling stories, designing narratives, or maybe one big one, and seeing what happens when we do that in an open, networked way.

But also:

In pursuing these source elements of networked narratives, we take cues from the age of alchemy.

Well, this piqued my interest. So does the collaborative storytelling, mind you, but the connection to alchemy really sparked something for me. That’s because it’s something that I’ve learned just a little about here and there, and want to know more.

Hoffmann & Shelley

In the Arts One course I am part of, this past term we read E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman,” in which alchemy plays an important, but obscured role (fittingly). The father of the main character dies in some kind of fire, after working mysteriously for years with someone named Coppelius, who brings with him a dark foreboding every time he visits. Later, the fiancée of the main character tells him that his father probably died in an accident involving alchemy. The whole story is purposefully shrouded in uncertainty, so we aren’t really sure if that is what happened, or if the father and Coppelius were doing other nefarious activities (see my students’ blog posts on this story for more!).

picture of the character Victor Frankenstein leaving a room in which he has just created his creature
Frontispiece to 1831 edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, public domain on Wikimedia Commons

In addition, in past years in Arts One we have read Shelley’s Frankenstein, and there too there are hints but not much substance about alchemy and magic. Victor Frankenstein is said to have studied works by Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus (whose original, very excellent name was Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) when he was a teenager. Then when he went off to university he dropped all that and studied more “respectable” scientific works and processes. But when it comes to having created his creature, it is suggested that his earlier studies of alchemy and magic were related.

So I have had little brushes with alchemy over the years in teaching this course, but I really don’t know anything about it. So, to take a cue from Laura Gibbs, who is using this course as an opportunity to learn more about alchemy, I’m going to at least start investigating more about some of these people I’ve read about, but only have a tiny, obscure, mysterious sense of what they were up to.

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535)

I’m going to start with Agrippa, though I don’t have a lot of time today to write about him and will have to put this into a couple of parts, probably. I started by looking at the entry on him in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is an amazing resource that is free, though not openly licensed.

engraving of profile of Agrippa with his name written around the frame of the engraving
Image of Agrippa, public domain on Wikimedia Commons

According to the SEP, Agrippa was “the author of the most comprehensive and most widely known book on magic and all occult arts, De occulta philosophia libri tres / Three Books of Occult Philosophy”, the first draft of which was published in 1510, and the completed work in 1533. Several things strike me about what Agrippa was trying to do, including that he was connecting religion and magic. He thought that God had given secret knowledge to a few people in various societies in antiquity, according to the SEP article, and that medieval scholars had distorted this knowledge. Thus, what was needed was to get back to what these select ancient scholars had learned from God:

Mastery of this ancient wisdom would grant a select company of wise men power to reform corrupt religion, to reshape an unjust society, and to gain control over themselves and all of nature. A reformed magic would endow those who truly understood it with power to achieve things that seem miraculous and beyond the ability of ordinary human beings. (SEP on Agrippa)

Magic, then, was just wisdom about the nature of the world given by God to a select few, who would then be able to do things that to those who don’t have that knowledge seem “magical.” In his own work, Agrippa was careful not to reveal the secret knowledge to just anyone reading; he wanted to make sure that it was accessible only those with the intelligence to understand and the moral goodness to use the knowledge for the good of humanity. Thus, according to the SEP:

Agrippa cautioned his readers that he had written in such a way that the prudent and intelligent would understand but the corrupt and unbelieving would not; underneath his own text there was a “scattered meaning” (dispersa intentio) that the wise would be able to extract and put together, finding in one place the principles that would reveal the true meaning of another passage where the significance was not evident (OP 3: 65). [OP is the Occulta Philosophia text]

What is really interesting to me here is that for Agrippa, magic is simply knowledge that only a few have, and it is that which is provided by God. At least, that’s what I’m getting from my relatively quick reading of part of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article. I guess in a way I still think of magic sort of like this, though I don’t connect it to religion: magic is that which we don’t quite understand, which seems mysterious, but which isn’t actually mysterious–it’s based on knowledge that some people have that allows them to fool us into thinking they’re doing something unbelievable. We just aren’t initiated into the knowledge required.


This reveals a somewhat troubling aspect of this view of magic, though: it is highly elitist and exclusive. Only those with a particular level of intelligence, or morality, or who have been chosen by those already in the know, get to be in the know.

Which is precisely not how I’d like to think of my participation in this course; I don’t want it to end up being exclusive, that people who know others in the course or who know something about alchemy or digital storytelling are the only ones who feel welcomed. And knowing the people involved, I think we will try our hardest not to let that happen, though sometimes it just happens given how much we already know each other and enjoy each other and already speak a common language.

To me, this is something to be continually aware of, to reflect on, and to be on the lookout for how it might feel closed-off to newcomers …



Map of today

Today’s #ds106 daily create was:

Draw your path on a map. Stop being a slave to GPS trackers! Get out a real map (or even a digitized on), find yourself, and show us where you traveled today.

I really don’t want to put any information about my daily whereabouts on a map, unless it’s just my work–that information is public. But anything that reveals where I live, or what parts of town I tend to frequent…I’d rather that not be readily available online, for safety reasons.

So instead I drew a kind of emotional map of today, on a background of mountains and water because that’s what I’m surrounded by here in Vancouver. The mountains go right down into the water. Sea-to-sky they call it here. And this background seemed to fit the shape of the movement of my moods today.

Map of today

Today was difficult. I spent a good deal of time last night looking at the news about the attack on Bastille Day in Nice, and today I started off this morning still feeling awful and outraged. At a certain point I just crumpled in a heap in my office, unable to do any work. For some reason this particular attack hit me hard. Maybe it was because it had been a family holiday with kids–something I and my family do all the time. Maybe it was just on top of everything else in the past few months. I don’t know, but I really couldn’t take it. There were brief moments of despair in there.

Then I started doing some connections/collaborations with people in #clmooc, and I started to feel better. Something about joining with others to create something gave me a renewed sense of hope and I was able to face the day. That’s something I’ve experienced many times in ds106, and I thought it might work for this otherwise very difficult day. It did.

Here’s a blog post about how connecting and making things helped me through.

So when it came time to think about a map of today, an emotional map was the first thing that came to mind…

And I’ve been playing around with actual pencil and paper drawing lately, just because I’ve mostly been doing so much digitally that I wanted a change for a little bit. And I want to get better at drawing. I keep thinking “I can’t draw,” and though that, like so much of what I thought I “couldn’t” do before #ds106, is bullshit, it’s also true that I’ll only get better with practice. Here’s some practice.

Not quite #ds106

Not Quite #DS106


DS106 Daily Create for June 2, 2016: You look for a representation of DS106 in the world, and you find something close, but not quite it. Find something like that. (You had one ds106 job!).

I went for a walk yesterday while thinking about what to do for this daily create, and came across the following sign:Private road

That’s when it hit me: there are many, many things I love about #ds106:

  • the amazing people in the community!
  • the amazing learning opportunities that I’ve had that allow me to create art
  • the amazing people in the community that helped me to get over my fear that I wasn’t any good at art
  • the laughs, the supportive comments, the fun…yeah, you get it…the people!

And it is all possible because DS106 is an open course. People who are not officially registered in it can still see what’s going on with those who are, can see what they create, can engage with them and with those who are not officially registered and are doing it as “open” participants. I have learned so much and met so many wonderful people (many of whom I haven’t actually met in person but feel like I have), and this would not have been possible if it hadn’t been available to “open traffic.”

So I decided to create an image that says: you can get close, but not quite it if it’s not open.

My original image was pretty wise-ass, substituting “BS” for “DS” (as in, you know, bull****).

But I thought, well, sometimes it might be important to run a ds106-like course but keep it closed, only for registrants (and I thought of someone I know who did just that). And I decided I was being too nasty with my “BS,” b/c such a course wouldn’t really be “B.S.”

So I changed it to more like “close but not quite” as DS105. Almost there.


The process

I did this in GIMP. That’s what I first learned on in ds106, and it’s still my first love. I have access to photoshop now through my job, but I haven’t taken the time to work with it. And I can still do all I want (so far!) in GIMP.

  1. Upload original image and add “DS105” to the top, inside the red circle. I searched for a font on that looked somewhat like the DS106 logo, but it was okay if it didn’t really fit b/c, well, this was not quite it! I used “Plane Crash.”
  2. Use “clone” tool to erase the “Road” under “Private.” This image worked really well for this sort of thing, because there was so much white space I could use to clone.
  3. Find a font that looks pretty close to the font used for “Private” and add “Course” where “Road” was. Here I started by just looking through the fonts I already have installed. Font Book on the Mac lets you easily flip through them and see what they look like, so I just did the tedious thing of going through a bunch of fonts and seeing what matched more or less. The Consolas font did well.
  4. Adjust the colour of the new text “Course” to match the colour of “Private.”
  5. Adding the “Registrants” instead of “Residents,” and “Open” instead of “Traffic” at the very bottom were a bit trickier. I wanted to move the original text so that it fit better on the sign with the new text (when I tried to add “Registrants” in the place of “Residents” it didn’t fit in the space well without moving “only”).
    1. Duplicate the sign image so you have two (as per the screen shot below)Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 11.20.56 PM
    2. Use clone tool on both the first and second sign images to erase the words you don’t want: here, I erased “residents” and “through” on both images, because those were the words I was going to replace.
    3. Add “alpha channel” to sign image second from the bottom–this means that if you cut anything out of it, the space where you cut will be transparent and it will show through to the layer underneath.
    4. Add text to original image (not the copy of it on the bottom of the stack)–“Registrants” and “Open.” I used the Consolas font for this too, even though it didn’t quite fit as well for this section of the sign as for the section above it, but it’s pretty close.
    5. Move this text you’ve just created to where you want it.
    6. Select around the original text you want to move, on the layer just above the last layer (here, “only” and “no”) and use Edit -> Cut, then paste and it will give you a floating text layer that you can move around. Move the word where you want, and it’s fine because where it was just shows through as transparent to the white space on the image at the bottom, where the clone tool erased the original word. See the screen shot below, which is hiding the image on the bottom of the stack to show the transparency where I moved “only” and “no.”
    7. Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 11.27.46 PMAdjust the colour of the new words to match the originals as best you can.
  6. The much easier way to do the “registrants” and “open” words would have been to just clone out the whole of “residents only” and “no through” and re-type them in the new font and move them around from there. But of course, I only thought about that after I thought: hey, I know how to preserve as much of the original as possible and just move it. I think the effect would have been just as good to just add new text there rather than trying to keep some of the original and move it.


I like how this one turned out, and it was fun and pretty easy to do!

Where is Shakespeare’s head?

This image is on Flickr, here


The #ds106 daily create for April 23, 2016: It’s Shakespeare’s birthday! “Scientists have scanned Shakespeare’s grave and determined that his head is likely missing! Your mission – show us where Shakespeare’s head is!”

When I saw this daily create I immediately thought of an old #GIFfight from 2013, which used this Vader image. Then I used that image for another daily create in December 2013.

This Vader pose just reminded me of those old iconic images of Hamlet saying “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well ….”

I followed pretty much the same process as described in this blog post, including doing a transformation of the skull so it looked more like it was facing Vader.

Skull image is from here:

Taking my giant cat West

The ds106 daily create for February 19, 2016 was:

But I decided in the end to just use one cat (less work to cut one out of its background than two). I thought I might have to put the cat in the back of a pickup truck with the back door up, so I thought the one of Marco standing up would be better because more of him would be out of the truck bed.

I first tried to put him into this truck:

From, public domain
From, public domain

But when I made him into a giant cat, and put him high enough in the truck behind the back gate so you could see he was a cat, there wasn’t enough room for his head.

Then I found this image on Flickr:

SAAB 99 pickup truck, Flickr photo by John Lloyd, licensed CC BY 2.0
SAAB 99 pickup truck, Flickr photo by John Lloyd, licensed CC BY 2.0

Perfect–I wouldn’t have to put him inside the truck back door, which would require cutting the door out of the image and putting it on a new layer, on top of the cat!

Process steps (using GIMP)

  1. I opened both images (truck and cat) as layers.
  2. Then I used control-click (right-click) on the cat layer and chose “add alpha channel,” which allows it to be transparent if you erase part of it.
  3. Time for the eraser tool on the cat layer:

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.54.57 PM

4. After working with the eraser in smaller increments, I ended up with this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 9.30.26 PM


I just wasn’t really thrilled with the result. For one thing, it looked like he was listing to the side a bit.

5. I then went to Layer on the top menu and chose Transform -> arbitrary rotation and rotated him a bit so he wasn’t listing so much. But it still looked weird.

6. He needs a cat bed or a pillow, I thought. Otherwise it just looks like he’s sitting strangely on that truck. I found a picture of a pillow on Pixabay. I did the same as in step 2 to add an alpha channel to the pillow layer, and used the eraser tool to get rid of the white background.

7. But the pillow was sitting at a weird angle; it looked like it wasn’t really sitting flat on the truck. This time I used the perspective tool on the left menu of GIMP and moved the layer around with different perspectives until it looked better.

8. I then cleaned up the edges of the cat a bit more. I realized that if you make the eraser tool Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 10.10.14 PMbigger, using the brush that looks like the one with a square around it on the right, it will give you softer edges on your erasing around the image (rather than using a smaller brush, which gives harder edges).


And so, the finished product:




Amazing how he can manage to stay on through all the bumps in the road!