The task was to create a ‘self-portrait of an inspired and reflective practitioner’. There was not really any other details to go by, some examples, but nothing that really fit with me. I was confused, and a little lost at what to do with this task, so I turned to my friends and asked them what they thought was a good idea.
“Make a website” one said.
“Write a really refined bio about yourself” said another.
“Maybe a collage of your favourite things?” said a third.
These were all good ideas, and to be honest I could just accept them and move forward, but a self portrait is a really personal thing, and I wanted to get it right. They were all… missing something. They didn’t really achieve that reflective section of the brief, and they were all missing an important aspect of my inspiration.
All my work is incredibly interactive, more so than a lot of other people in this course. Being the only web and game student in the course, all the other students in it (film, audio, graphic design) just don’t have that element of responding to the consumers attention that I desperately needed to show.
What I wanted to make was a game, but I only had a couple of hours. I needed a way to make that narrative aspect of myself shine through, and there was no other way to do it. But then I hit on an idea, I could use Twine to create something relatively quickly while also abusing the one thing that I have mastery over, the web. So, I had a medium, but I was rapidly running out of time. There was only one thing to do, make a list. Ok, so what inspires me…
I looked at this list, and I was a little shocked. There was no still design there, and no web. There was no space for illustration, layout or any of the things that I in fact, teach. This was honestly my first breakthrough, I realised that I appreciated them but I didn’t really draw inspiration from them. They were a side product of things I created, building blocks to create the final product but not the product itself.
Ok, I have a direction, I have a list and I have a medium. I really want to find a way to build narrative into it, and I want to be able to divide these things up. At the time I was vaguely watching the Fargo tv show (the first episode) with Martin Freeman as the character with the most air time. While watching my mind wandered through this vein to Sherlock, and I hit on it. I could make a ‘mind palace’ and populate it with my inspiration.
I loved this idea, and the way I could stream a very vague narrative and a physical space into the experiment. I could have backgrounds for each section, and allow the user to navigate it for themselves!
I was excited.
So, I sat down to work.
“This is easy” I thought to myself, “I can knock this out in no time at all”.
Three hours later I was exhausted and staring at what I had made, unsure of why I had done it this way. The narrative carried the character I wanted to get across and I linked everything I wanted. I also had a vague design to the whole thing, although I wasn’t incredibly happy with it, it was there and it was as finished as it could be in the brief time.
I even had a chance to weave in some metaphors that made me happy, things like the external part of the building being described as spooky, even haunted, while the inside of the building is nothing but warm and welcoming (showing the difference between my goth aesthetic and the support I try and give to others). Yes, this was the direction I wanted to take it.
I showed it off to some friends, and the feedback was instant.
“It’s a self-portrait, where are the pictures of you?”
Seems, that perhaps, I don’t feel comfortable putting my own face on the things I create. In fact, I would say that I treasure the brand, and the strength of my work over my actual face. This was a slight wake up. I actually wanted to go back and put an Easter egg into the experience leading to a hall of mirrors to represent that, but the rules of the task were clear and I had already used up the allotted time.
So, let’s talk about the sections, and why I made them that way. There are two sections that are hugely related to what I do, one I dabble in occasionally, and one I only pull inspiration from.
The library was important to me, in a way it’s my most treasured section. The first thing I ever fell in love with creating was narrative, I think I may have written my first story when I was 7 and all through school it was at the forefront of my mind. I read, extensively. MS Readathons were always my favourite because I would earn so much money for charity. I still have a large collection of my young work on badly drawn picture books.
But the library is also bitter sweet, because though I have never lost the love of writing, my last year I came to a cross road. With working full time, studying and working on side projects I could either network / socialise for my career, or I could read at the same rate I have been. To give you an idea of how much this dropped, in 2015 I read 217 books, 2016 I read 110, this year I have read 12. This was something I weaved into the experience with the musty description of the space.
These stories are still with me, and are very important to me, but I miss the chance to read. However, there is a positive end to this story. To try and fix this loss, I have started to take side projects in the narrative sphere. I tried to show this but linking one of my short stories (very bad short story, it’s my first in a decade and I am so rusty) as part of the content there as well as shown the one light on at the reading table.
The server room and the library were the first two rooms that came to mind, and two I knew were incredibly important from the get go. While the library was a more mythical place, dark and musty, the server was the counter that that, a clinic room, something I knew inside and out. It represents the logical side of my creation, while the design and narrative are something that I create it’s that pure logical nature I have at my disposal that helps me get the job done.
The server room is mainly a place to show of my love for maths, logic, timing and games. And I tried to represent that through three demonstrations:
The cinema was an interesting one, movies and videos inspire me quite heavily, and after games they are my go to place for relaxing and absorbing. However, my own experiments with the medium are one off, and usually to fit a single goal that I need to achieve rather than a place for creation. The video of my own I linked in that is almost 7 years old, being created during my original degree at SAE.
But cinema itself has always been an escape for me and has shaped the way I look at media, as I child I was obsessed with both Labyrinth and Nightmare before Christmas. To an extent, my favourite media has always followed down this vein, which I tried to represent by including a trailer for a more recent piece of media The Magicians. This particular show kind of crosses over with the library, as it was originally a book (that I was hideously in love with).
I was also a bit hesitant with the cinema however, because as much as I love it, it also represents the one medium that has hurt me the most. Shows like Family Guy and Monty Python’s representation of trans issues, the mocking, the vomiting, have hurt me like no other creative medium ever have. I didn’t know exactly how to show this, and in the end I settled on doing it by including a cinema with an image being displayed that kind of.. clashes with the aesthetic of the rest of the house. It’s crass and out of place.
First up, audio is one the one medium I just… cannot create in. I mention this in the portrait, but I can play a handful of instruments ok, and the flute to quite a high level. But I always learnt the classic way, and this never really included any knowledge or understanding of how jamming works. No matter what I do I have never really created something new. This medium is an inspiration for me, but an alien one, which is something I tried to represent by including something that clashes with the rest of the house, but not with the crassness that the image in the cinema does.
Music, never the less, is incredibly important to me. When I’m trying to figure out a plot hook for games or narrative listening to my music, flicking through aimlessly, can sometimes capture a feel or a mood that drives my ideas forward. Music captures emotions and moments in my life, refining them into a recyclable feeling that I can return to if I want to relive it.
Musicians have also been the most open creatives that I have met, multiple musicians have responded to me over the web or in person, happy to talk and share. Each item in the list in the listening room shows one of these ideas or another, to try and explain what this means to me.
I’m not 100% sure if I covered everything I needed to with this task, but I did step outside the most average response I could give, which makes me happy. I also got a chance to experiment with the idea of a self-portrait in a rather unique style, and I’m all about not going with the norm.
I’m happy, but confused, with the experience.