Author Archives: Mykhailo Poklad

NFT (???)

After months of vigilant observation from behind the corner, laughing and ridiculing, ruminating while anxiously walking around the room, waking up all covered in sweat, crying, and veiling, I have finally decided to look into the hottest (and probably most controversial) phenomenon in the digital art market, ***NFTs***.

As I begin to compose this entry I have no idea what NFTs are and how they function. Nonetheless, I will try not to get astray in the forest of technicalities, labyrinths of art theory, or mazes of the art dealership.

So let’s begin! First of all, what is an NFT? No, I mean, what does that word even mean? As you could have already figured out NFT is an acronym that stands for Non-Fungible Token. ‘Non-Fungible’ is practically used to describe something one of the kind, unique and irreproducible. 

The history of NFTs has begun around the year 2014. Since then the digital phenomenon has gained immense notoriety. So let’s go way back and try to figure out what NFTs actually are. We are used to thinking about NFTs as images, however, that is not always true. An NFT can take shape of a song, a video, and practically any form of media that can be digitized (even Tweets that were sold by the founder of Twitter as NFTs for hundreds of thousands of dollars).

In this regard, NFTs are like trading collectible cards: there are many individual cards, but each one is unique and nonidentical. Initially, it seems confusing. How on Earth can NFTs be unique if anyone can right-click and save any piece of media on the Internet, and if that doesn’t work, you can always just screenshot an image or record a piece of music with your phone? That is true. However, NFTs are not just unique images or songs, they come with rights for a piece of media that belongs uniquely to the buyer. A good analogy would be owning the original work of Matisse, and not just a print (there is probably one decorating your college dorm but that does not mean, you own any works by Matisse from the Louvre).

In reality, NFTs are similar to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or dogecoin which are additionally linked to a token with a blockchain. Initially, NFTs were launched by Etherium, however, now many other blockchains also offer NFTs. So when one decides to purchase an NFT, the blockchain registers the transaction and stores it, legitimizing the buyer’s ownership. 

Since the future of NFTs is highly uncertain, no one can really tell what is going to happen to the pieces acquired by Internet buyers. Leading experts in the field of blockchains and cryptocurrencies recommend being careful with investing in NFTs. Whilst it presents an alluring prospect of potentially successful investment, no one can guarantee that it will pay off in the future. Potential buyers should also consider that just like tangible artworks, digital media deteriorates with time: the quality of images drops, old formats stop being supported, and files get corrupted.

Meanwhile, for artists, NFTs presents an amazing way to monetize their art that would, otherwise, have a pretty limited market. The miracle of NFTs is that artists can avoid galleries and agents selling their arts. Many even say that NFTs constitute the new way of collecting art. 

After this brief but, hopefully, accessible explanation of what NFTs are and how they actually work, I would want to present to you a small gallery of the most notoriously known NFTs (isn’t it ironic that I can just freely put it on here even though someone spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on these images previously?):

  1. CROSSROAD by beeple

2. CryptoPunk #7804

3. Everydays: the First 5000 Days by beeple

Is it about the time to buy or sell your first NFT? (don’t forget that they are taxable)

Ukrainian animation

In my previous post, I was talking about the mysterious and crude Ukrainian cinema. This time, I decided to give you a short insight into the history of Ukrainian animation. 

Animation as a separate art appeared in Ukraine in the early 20-s. The first animators draw substantial inspiration from folk culture. No surprise that the first reported cartoon (1927) revolved around the plot of a very well-known Ukrainian folk tale, “The Tale of The Straw Bull.” Unfortunately, the film didn’t survive, but judging by the surviving sketches, this masterpiece by Viacheslav Lewandowski was a vivid and expressive iteration of the traditional narrative. 

Despite the initial advancements of the media, it was abandoned due to WWII and Holodomor, a mass famine in Ukraine. After the tragic events, during the time of relative stability, in 1934, Ukrainian animators produced the first fully graphic animated film. Around the same time, the first attempts to make an animated show with numerous episodes were made. The artists’ efforts culminated in the show titled “Tuk Tuk and Zhuk”. 

Most of these early cartoons were created in studios based in Kyivnauchfilm, a studio specializing in making animations for science films and other educational materials. Even though Ukrainian animation was developing fast, it could not compete with the Moscow school of animators, also known as Soyuzmultfilm. Understanding their technical and financial scrutinies, the Ukrainian animators invested more time and thought in developing cartoons’ aesthetics and concept, rendering them more conceptual and experimental, playing with style and various modes of representation. Meanwhile, Soyuzmultfilm focused on realism and the ‘industry standard’ defined by Disney decades before. Parting with the Disney canon, Ukrainian animators learned from Avant-Garde European animation schools which culminated in the production of numerous animated masterpieces incorporating approaches like combining live-action and animation, transfer technique, as well as conceptually innovative works criticizing religion, and even satirizing the Soviet society.

The true rebirth of the art form happened in 1950 when the renowned Ukrainian animator, Ipolyt Lazarchuk, created his most famous animated show titled “The Cossacks.” A show with a cult following among children, as well as adults, “The Cossacks” depicts the adventures of three cossacks named Grai, Tur, and Oko. They partake in numerous ventures when among many others they enter a football championship, trade salt, and even cook borsht. 

The three Cossack characters: Our, Grai, and Oko

The rapid development of the art alarmed the Soviet authorities. Fearing the progressive originality and collaboration with ‘disgraced’ artists and dissidents (such as Tagan’ka Theater, whose actors voiced characters in Ukrainian cartoons), the Soviet censors began banning Ukrainian projects from being financed. They only chose so-called ‘grey’ works that aligned with the interests of the party. Some particularly revolutionary films doomed their artists to home arrests and even internal displacement. Even the legendary “Cossacks” were targeted by the Communist Party, who wanted to portray them as Red Army soldiers instead of cossacks (name the social para-military quasi-state entity on the territory of Ukraine in XIV-XIX c.

After the collapse of the USSR in the 1990-s, many of the Kyivnauchfilm’s archives were destroyed, and many of the complete films were lost surviving only through scarce frames or sketches. 

Contemporary Ukrainian animation is experiencing a steady development. Even though severely underfunded, contemporary animators produce rare but high-quality work echoing the strive of early Ukrainian animators for experimentation and originality. Experimenting with animation has been a powerful voice of the Ukrainian people expressing its rich culture and creative originality.

Useful links and resources:

  • to watch “The Cossacks” franchise: https://popkult.org/cossacks/
  • a detailed article on the history of Ukrainian animation and why it should be celebrated: https://animationobsessive.substack.com/p/ukrainian-animation-is-worth-celebrating?s=r
  • an IMDb list of popular Ukrainian animations worth watching: https://www.imdb.com/search/title/?genres=animation&countries=UA

Ukrainian cinema 🇺🇦

Ukrainian cinema, mysterious, ominous, and experimental, is a box of jewels that many film enthusiasts have never even heard of. If you haven’t seen any Ukrainian films, I assure you that you are missing out out on so much. From early experimental socialist cinema to contemporary fantasy and drama, Ukrainian cinema has it all. And here is my personal Top-5.

  1. Тіні Забутих Предків (eng. Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors) / Parajanov / 1965

Filled with mystical and even, at times, uncanny scenes inspired by Ukrainian Carpathian Folklore, Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors is a visually fascinating story of two young people, often referred to as the Carpathian Romeo and Juliette. Here powers of nature, magic, and rituals are woven into the fabric of everyday life. Created in the 60-s, this experimental film is a true masterpiece that beautifully narrates an ordinary tale through innovative approaches to camera work, composition, and sound design.

  1. A Man with a Movie Camera / Dziga Vetrov / 1929 

One of the first Ukrainian films, A Man with a Movie Camera is an early creative experiment playing with montage, editing, and non-narrative modes of representation in cinema. Laying foundations to many of the approaches collectively accepted as tropes and staples today, this film pioneers creative filmmaking. It takes the viewer through urban cityscapes composed of collages, animations, slow-mo, and other cinematographic experiments. Film- scrapbook, A Man with a Movie Camera is a textbook for any aspiring filmmaker.

  1. Stranger / Tomashpolskiy / 2019 

An acclaimed prize-winner Stranger is a visually mesmerizing sci-fi drama. A utopian diegetic reality astonishes with its attention to detail and overall aesthetics. If you are a fan of Shape of Water, or The Grand Budapest Hotel, I am certain, you will be indulging in the visual richness of this film. Not to mention an intriguing plot combining mystery, detective, and fantasy. A kaleidoscope of color and shapes, Stranger will make you sink into the world of colors and textures.

  1. Viy / Yershov & Kropachyov / 1967

If you are a fan of horror, this story, I promise, will keep you glued to the screen of your TV or laptop. A dead bride flying around in a corpse, monsters crawling out in a church, and Viy himself, a mysterious deity from the nether world – this film paints a vivid image of traditional Ukrainian beliefs and superstitions. Based on a literary work by Mykola Hohol’, the film opens a portal into the writer’s dark imagination, nightmares, and fever dreams. No wonder that even after his death, Hohol’s ominous figure generates a plethora of blood-chilling rumors, like, for instance, that he had been buried alive. 

5. Земля (eng. Land) / Dovzhenko / 1930

This film is an acclaimed masterpiece often making lists like the 10 most influential films of All Times. Dovzhenko’s work depicts collectivization in the Ukrainian village, a process of expropriating land from wealthy peasants and joining it into self-sustaining agricultural clusters as prescribed by socialist economic system. Tackling the intergenerational conflict, Dovzhenko manages to portray how ideologies divided not only countries but villages and even families. A beautiful but tragic piece, Zemlya will captivate you with its drama and beautiful silent cinematography.  

And finally, as a little sneak peek I suggest you watch my little fan video with some infographics and exerts from Ukrainian films (you will need to download it because the web distorts clips with square aspect ratio):

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UKvCJJEE-cdrk8Lr_d5Ps169d7lwl83p/view?usp=sharing

Watch Ukrainian!

Intro: TouchDesigner

What is TouchDesigner?

TouchDesigner is at its core a programming language. However, it probably looks and works quite different from the programming languages that you might have encountered before. First of all, Touch Designer is a visual programming language which means that instead of the code expressed in text, TouchDesigner utilizes visual and graphic elements that are already optimized, structured, and basically ready to work (think, you get chunks of code at once instead of a single function). Each of such clusters of code expressed via a graphic element is called a node. You can connect various nodes into a string establishing a relationship between them and creating a sort of a network between the elements of your code. This might sound a little confusing (and it is at first), however, don’t worry, you will get used to dragging little boxes around pretty fast.

What do you need to know to use TouchDesigner?

TouchDesigner is used by designers, artists, and musicians for a vast array of purposes. This piece of software allows its users to create sculptures, animations, live performances, and immersive VR spaces. TouchDesigner’s toolset extends to editing still images, videos, 3D models, as well as working with sound through converting sound frequencies of a compatible music device (MIDI or a simple keyboard) into numerical values and, thus, allowing for music visualization. The program possesses a wide range of tools that facilitates visual manipulation from color editing to data visualization with an emphasis on geometry nodes as a way to create complex generative artworks. Unlike other image editors and 3D modeling software, TouchDesigner also offers an impressive arsenal of pre-made widgets, movement sensors and trackers, and other interactive components. Hence, ether you want to create a cool GIF for you website or design the real time responsive visuals for you DJ set, you can do it all in TOuchDesigner.

Why learn TouchDesigner?

Digital design is becoming more and more diverse encapsulating hundreds of programs for editing or modeling. TouchDesigner combines features of a simple graphic editor with some experimental and immersive approaches allowing for innovative UI/UX design, creative coding, and music visualization. Without spending countless hours on learning multiple pieces of software, by learning TouchDesigner you can try yourself out in various domains of design without familiarizing yourself with confusing and intimidating interfaces of multiple programs. By learning TouchDesigner, you are not only exercising your creativity but also getting useful skills of coding which is virtually ubiquitous in the world of design today. Moreover, TouchDesigner is an upcoming platform soon to be considered Industry standard, and it is always good to be ahead of the game.

How can you learn TouchDesigner?

The main resource I have been using in my journey with TouchDesigner has been a YouTube course that covers the basics of the program. The author goes over all the beginner things such as layout, main tools, and techniques (basically how the program operates). The format and language are very accessible even to non-tech/design people. Most of the videos are 20 minutes maximum which allows you to maintain a high level of concentration and learn a lot fast. Besides this course as well as a plethora of tutorials on YouTube, TouchDesigner also possesses an extensive textual database that covers almost everything in the program. Whereas it is not as accessible as the video course due to the abundance of complicated coding and techy vocabulary, the manual allows you to really go in-depth into the piece of software and grasp the primary algorithms that Touch Designer is built upon.

Where to download TouchDesigner?

Here: https://derivative.ca/download. TouchDesigner is free, however, you could also subscribe to get more features available (for instance, the basic version only allows for maximum 1080 x 1920 resolution).

Useful links: 

https://docs.derivative.ca/Learning_TouchDesigner

TA reveal – Misha

Hello everyone!

My name is Misha. I am a senior majoring in Studio Art and Film, and I just can’t imagine my life without images, still or moving. I am obsessed with any type of visuals, the weirder and the more eclectic – the better. Animation, character design, illustration, graphic design, and of course, filmmaking – all of these genres of art captivate me due to their emphasis on the image. My main artistic interest relates to merging different, at times, seemingly clashing images together to create surrealist multidimensional worlds. In a similar manner I have compiled a little collage to familiarize you with some of the media texts which have informed my growth as an artist and film enthusiast. I hope you will have fun trying to locate and identify each reference or character!

Looking forward to discussing (aka obsessing over) these and other films, video games, and animated shows during my working hours on Thursdays from 8pm until 12am in Axinn basement.

Starting with digital art and animation

Not just a fascinating spectacle that magically brings still drawings to life, but also a booming industry elevating films to new levels by the means of visual effects, animation (as well as other forms of digital art) captivates people of all ages and aesthetic preferences. However, the craft that is, at first glance, so playful and entertaining requires strong technical skills, excellent time management, and an incredible amount of commitment. So where should one begin?

As a beginner in the vast world of animation and digital art in general I have spent hours on the Internet trying to decide what software to use. I wanted it to be powerful but yet accessible (and not too intimidating). Here I created a list of three (+ an honorable mention) incredible pieces of software that cover all the basic approaches to animation and digital art in general.

DISCLAIMER: I will not be including Photoshop here, since if you are interested in digital art, with a 99.9% chance you have already used it at least once, and probably know about it more than I do! 

Blender

First of all, it is important to decide what type of digital art you are more drawn towards. Are you more into 2D art or are you trying to create three-dimensional models? Your answer will affect your choice of software (however, some programs can handle both!). My personal journey into the world of digital art has started with 3D art and, thus, this particular program is very dear to my heart. Blender is an amazing free software that possesses an extremely vast toolkit allowing users to create hyperrealistic renders as well as a powerful automatic rigging tool. Blender is not only an exquisite modeling software but also incorporates texture editors, sculpting modes, compositing, and other intriguing extensions such as non-realistic rendering. Some of the cons may include the intimidating interface that, however, will become your best friend after a couple of tutorials that are available in abundance on YouTube.

Krita

If you, however, are more drawn towards 2D digital art and animation Krita should be able to satisfy all of your needs. Unlike Photoshop, Krita does not function as a photo editor but focuses on animation and digital painting. Krita is acclaimed for its simple yet effective layer system, a vast variety of brush tools, and the possibility to personalize user interface for further convenience. A recognized professional program that is vastly used in the filmmaking and video-game development industry and is also free? Sounds like the perfect choice for beginning illustrators and digital artists looking to enter the industry. 

Pencil2D Animation

If these professional industry-standard ‘monsters’ seem too intimidating, Pencil2D Animation might be an optimal choice for you! Its minimalist design is very user-friendly and not as intimidating as one of the digital art giants I mentioned above. Pencil2D is the perfect tool for someone who is just starting exploring the world of hand-drawn animation or is pursuing 2D animation as a hobby. As a beginner myself, I use Pencil 2D to improve my practical skills in hand-drawn motion design. Completely free and compatible with various operating systems, Pencil2D animation is a great starting point for amateur animators like me. 

Honorable mention:

Pixel art is another intriguing genre of digital art that allows for the creation of weirdly appealing low-resolution images that have a very special nostalgic vibe of indie video games. Composed of visible pixels, such images seem simple, however, require a special skill of color blocking as well as an ability to prioritize basic elements to make an image recognizable even in a very low resolution. While you can still use popular digital art editors such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP for pixel art, the software that I have used in the past and that has proven to be simple and efficient for this particular style is iDraw. This program provides all the necessary tools for pixel art production as well as features a nostalgic flair of the 90-s RPG games. The software is practically free, however, unlocking some additional pro features requires an upgrade that only costs 5$. 

I hope this list managed to persuade you that digital art can be accessible and fun for anyone. Can’t wait to see your first digital painting, GIF, or animation!