Friday, September 5, 2014

Four Ways to Combine Audio With Your Artwork

Yesterday I showed you my "Studies in Casein" exhibit, created with the new Google Open Gallery toolkit. Now, here's the link to my "Studies in Watercolor" Exhibit.

I set up this exhibit with the "immersive layout" option. This mode presents the art full-screen, with the video and audio on autoplay (adjust your volume). Clicking on the image thumbnail opens up the scalability feature and pauses the video/audio.
For sound recording, I use a Zoom H1 Digital Recorder. If you're interested in adding the dimension of sound to your artwork, you can bring this lightweight unit into the field when you go painting. It records stereo sound in MP3 or WAV formats, and gives you automatic or manual level control. 

Imagine being able to let your collectors hear the actual sounds of the crashing surf alongside your seascape painting. Or imagine letting your painting students know what you were thinking while you did your on-site demo. As artists, we can create not only paintings, but also various packets of other media: text captions, step-by-step photos, video clips, and audio samples, which we can reconfigure on various platforms, some of which are not even invented yet. At its essence, art is about lived experience, and an audio clip can add an evocative real-life resonance to what you've captured visually

There are at least four ways to combine audio with your artwork. 

1. You can add audio to your artwork by uploading the audio file to Soundcloud, and then embedding the Soundcloud file in a blog post. For an example, see my blog post about England

2. Or you can combine sound with your plein-air in a YouTube video, as with my 'Talking Portrait' above. This was edited in iMovie on a Mac laptop using "Ken Burns" camera moves. 

3. Or Apple's Keynote presentation software lets you add an audio clip.  Here's how

4. Finally, you can combine audio with an online exhibit using Google Open Gallery's toolset. 

Google Open Gallery is currently only offered by invitation, but you can apply here, and tell them I sent you.


Tom Hart said...

I found the following today while perusing this gallery using Google Chrome:

I couldn't find a consistent rhyme or reason why, but usually I didn't seem to have the option of using the mouse wheel to zoom in and out (which allows smooth and varialbe zooming), but could only zoom in and out - in discreet steps - by double-clicking. Sometimes when I loaded the gallery, I did have the wheel-zoom option, but not always.

I don't see an inuitive way to navigate between images directly, except to think to use the "compare" option or to use the forward or back arrows.

In general, though, this is a great way to combine images and sound. Again, the ability to zoom in high res is fantastic.

Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

Yesterday I reported on issues on a Mac viewing these embedded on your website but worked ok on the linked version only displays the artwork on my audio or video at all. Google doesn't play nice with apple devices it appears

Dan said...

Hi James,

What you say about combining media, and particularly about recording the experience of creating the art itself (especially in plein air works), brings up an interesting philosophical point.

Throughout history there have been artists who believed that their art must speak for itself, and that therefore their private lives should remain private, or even that they should live especially solitary lives. I guess they believed that any extra information would only obscure the essential statement they were trying to make with the art works themselves.

Certainly in this age of rampant deconstructionism, this belief seems well founded. Nowadays instead of people looking for the statement you are making, they are likely to be trying to psychoanalyze you through your art. Your ability, to many people, represents only insecurity and competitiveness. Your skillful techniques are only so many "tricks" that you have learned so as to impress onlookers. And so forth.

Then again, when one carefully captures and edits audio and video, carefully crafts words to go with their art, and so forth, at that point I think one is in danger of projecting an experience quite different from the one that really happened. Most art videos are edited so that a majority of the mistakes, long pauses for thought, false starts, and whatnot have been removed. The reason usually given is so as not to bore the viewer, but another more subtle reason may be so as to create an impression of competence. This is of course the very thing all those deconstructionists have latched onto when it comes to art itself: The desire to come across as a certain kind of person or a certain kind of artist, due to a desire to be accepted or loved, can result in art that merely projects a false image of the artist rather than communicating his or her thoughts and feelings honestly.

Here again, that practice of creating privately and letting the work stand on its own seems a sort of antidote. Ideally (or so it seems to me) an artist should not be thinking about how he or she will be perceived as an artist when creating art.

The danger of adding video and audio that pertains to the process of creating art is in the self-consciousness that it might bring to the process. I've always felt I was at my creative best when I lose myself in expressing a thought or feeling, at my worst when I worry about what spectators might be thinking.

An interesting phenomenon in the art world is that teaching seems to go with the whole package. It seems to me that often a substantial part of a successful artist's income is from instructional videos, demonstrations, and seminars. Sometimes I wonder if that doesn't account for more of it than the art works themselves, particularly when it comes to fine artists. The upshot of this is that one must make a living, and one comes to depend on a public perception that one is an expert, and so one is loath to do anything that might jeopardize that perception.

Written on the whiteboard in my cubicle at this very moment is a small note in the corner that reads: "Perception is not reality." I try to remind myself of that often, because in the world of business, the adage is that "perception is reality." Perception may be a critical factor when trying to create something that lots of people will buy, but I think it's ultimately pathological to put perception in the driver's seat over the long term. When it comes down to it, an expert is an expert, whether or not s/he looks like one in a particular moment. In this age of high-bandwidth marketing and social media, we seem to have forgotten that, and this can have a detrimental affect on art.

Sorry for the long comment post. The bottom line is I feel that the best art communicates something real. I have to wonder about what effect the mass proliferation of video clips and sound bytes will have on that.

Thanks for listening!

James Gurney said...

Dan, those are interesting thoughts. Art can consist of any combination of media, and it can turn its gaze in any direction. For Andrew Wyeth, he used paint to communicate his innermost feelings about the world, and he kept his process totally private. On the other extreme is a documentary filmmaker who turns the gaze outward to the world--it's not so much about the artist as it is about the subject. But some documentarians, such as in Vice Media or This American Life, show you the world as seen through a temperament. To me it's all art, as long as it reflects some aspects of the human experience, and any combination of ingredients or media are fair game. With the Internet, we happen to live in an era of revolutionary new forms, some still in formation, that are available for artists who want to use them.

Dan said...

James, thanks so much for responding. I wholeheartedly agree that visual expression is not limited to certain media, and that new forms emerge as the technological landscape changes.

On the other hand, we seem to be seeing an explosion of art exhibited through social media (Facebook, blogs, "Urban Sketchers," etc.) Easy availability is a good thing for both the artists and the people who enjoy their art. I love the "Urban Sketching" phenomenon. But then social media per se sometimes have a strange effect on people. When you look at your own profile, you see yourself pretty much exactly as others will see you, and it's sometimes awfully difficult to avoid being seduced into projecting a crafted image of yourself for others to see. Social media at its worst can become a whole lot of people engaged in self marketing.

When you speak of adding video clips and sound bytes to your art, there is an ambiguity there. You could be talking about genuinely creating multimedia art. But then you could be talking about merely presenting your visual art in a "virtual" context through social media, wherein you project a virtual back-story against which to interpret the art. And however honest the art may be, there is a definite tendency for this kind of virtual context to degrade into self marketing.

One can say that this tendency is not the fault of the medium, but that it's merely a dishonest way in which the medium might be used. But then when you stand back and look at the effects that certain technologies have in fact had on our culture, I personally believe there is a valid place for critical appraisals. Revolution is disruptive, and not all its effects are positive.

My comments aren't going to stop people from adding media to their art when they present it online. But it may be worth raising awareness of some of the pitfalls.

Thanks again,

Dan said...

And I'd like to make it clear that I have never found your video or audio clips posted here to be of the "self-marketing" variety. I was talking about the phenomenon in general, not about specific individuals.

Connie Nobbe said...

I noticed that on the Google gallery, your videos are playing on my Mac with the volume so low, that I can barely hear it, even when my speakers are turned all the way up. And I tried to page through the casein google gallery, and I had a hard time getting things to scroll and play. I think Capt Elaine might be right in that it's a conflict with Google operations and my Mac OS. Maybe it's a brand new Google project and they are working out the kinks. OR, it could just me my inexperience with it.
Also, when I clicked on your watercolor gallery, it says it has been removed by the owner. I will check back on it though, because I want to view that well.
I enjoy your videos, as I love the story behind your paintings and sketches. All of your instruction on videotaping the process of a painting is fun and intriguing. You have such a diverse skill set.
When I was a teen (in the 80s), my dream was to make music videos like I saw on MTV. Back then I didn't have a way to pursue that dream. Now, I don't care to make music videos, but making some videos that are in relation to my own paintings would no doubt be a perfect fit and satisfy that teenager in me.

Roberto said...

Thanks for sharing the Google Gallery links, and your two virtual exhibitions.
I am just finishing a face lift of my own website w slideshows, and while I have definitely improved and simplified the visual presentation, I have been considering ways to add commentary, descriptions and attributions etc.. This looks like a good format to try out. Hopefully by the time I fumble thru the process the kinks will be worked out and the format wont be obsolete (I’m on a Mac and I had many of the same problems the Captain and Tom described).
To add to Yours and Dan’s insightful comments:
I always enjoy the audio tours in Museums and the commentary by sincere artists about their work.

I don’t really have a problem w well thought out and crafted artist’s statements and commentaries. (The distraction for me is, as Dan points out, when its clearly just ‘Art-Speak’ and ‘Marketing-Jingo.’) We put a lot of effort in craftsmanship and design when creating our art, why not use the same skills when talking about it? But then again, it is a very difficult thing to talk about your own art! Its been said that “Talking about painting is a lot like dancing about architecture”. It requires a whole different set of skills, and visual artists are notorious for our lack of word-craft (a good example of this might be some of my many posts on this very blog spot!). Keep up the good work Mr. Gi, and enjoy your road-trip! Thanx for the Journey!! -RQ

Unknown said...

Interesting idea, hadn't thought of it before but now I'm inspired. Thanks.