Project 1: Auto-Graph

Ideation

A few of my initial ideas involved iron filings and ferrofluid, as well as magnets attached to a clock motor.

Some initial ideas

However, I had to scrap these ideas upon realising that iron filings and ferrofluid are difficult to obtain in Singapore.

Sketches for magnets rolling idea

My next idea involved a tilted board with elevated surfaces upon which magnets could roll down. On top of this would be another tilted board with magnetic paint/metal items on top of paint blobs, which would be the method to make marks as the magnets rolled down beneath.

Above is the prototype for the board beneath, designed to have multiple magnets rolling and knocking into each other to create a chain reaction so as to create a more interesting piece on the surface layer. I used coins for the time being to test if the prototype’s lanes would be feasible.

However, after much research and testing, I discovered that this idea would not work as the force of the magnets was either not strong enough to pull the metal items along the top as they rolled down, or if the force was strong enough then the magnets would lift off the board entirely and stick to the metal items on the surface instead of rolling down.

Hence, I had to change my idea entirely. While researching on the patterns I could make for the board where the magnets would roll down, I came across a pinball machine surface and was inspired to make a pinball machine instead, with the pinball as the main tool to make the drawing.

The biggest problem would be getting the paper onto the machine (to get the drawing) while still having all the usual obstacles that the pinball would bounce against. As these obstacles are usually set on the surface of the machine, I decided to make an extra cover on which the obstacles would be placed so that paper could still be placed on the machine and removed after the drawing was made.

Process

I used this video as reference to make the flippers. I decided to go with using cardboard boxes to make the machine instead of wood as I was unsure whether I would be able to get the exact diameter of the chopsticks through the sides using a drill. I had the impression that using cardboard would be more precise as I was poking the chopsticks straight through.

Flipper components

I started making the components on the bottom with styrofoam as these had a sturdier form than cardboard, which I would have to cut and paste to achieve the thickness required, and would easily fold under pressure. I worried that styrofoam may be the same where it might crumble if too much pressure was applied, but it maintained its structure and so I decided to go ahead with using it.

In progress of setting up the flipper mechanism

 

Flipper mechanism sans rubber bands

The biggest problem I had with the mechanism was that the styrofoam kept getting ripped from the box despite being superglued or hot-glued down to the box. It was not strong enough to withstand the force of the rubber band, hence I decided to get wood pieces instead to replace this component.

Another problem I had was getting the rubber bands to work – I realised that I had bought the wrong kind of rubber bands – they were too big for the mechanism. To combat this, I wrapped one end around the chopstick several times and it worked.

Close-up of Push Mechanism
Top View of WIP

Final

Front View 

I used a translucent polypropylene sheet for the cover as I wanted the obstacles and drawing to be visible so that the player could see what they were doing and making as they played on the machine. I used this same material to form the sides, back and surface of the machine to keep the box tilted at an angle.

Side 1
Side 2
Top View with Cover
Top View without cover, after drawing machine has been used

This was the first test, in which I put the purple paint on the paper for the pinball to pick up as it traversed the machine. The results were unsatisfactory as it only made dot-like marks and it did not really track the path of the ball. I added water to the surface of the paper in an attempt to help the ball move around with less friction, but it did not work and only caused the paper to wrinkle.

I tried this again but with pink paint at the side of the machine itself and not on the paper. It worked better as the ball picked up the paint more easily and its path was trackable as can be seen from the pink lines in the photo.

Acrylic paint mixed with a little water

The medium I used to make the painting was acrylic paint mixed with a little bit of water, as acrylic paint alone was too thick and dried too quickly, causing the pinball to stick to the paper/machine instead of rolling down.

This was the first successful piece in which the ball’s movements were tracked using the paint and the areas where the flippers hit it or where the ball knocked against the obstacles are visible. The most common path is also demarcated by the thickest paint lines.

This was the result of the demonstration and try-out done on presentation day – not many marks as people only tried it out for a few seconds.

This piece was made after adjustments to the machine to direct the ball better and the flippers were fixed to be fully functional.

This piece was made on tracing paper, unlike the rest which were made on normal opaque paper.

This is an orthographic plan view drawing of the machine.

This is a combination of the drawing made by the machine and the drawing of the drawing machine itself.

Final Thoughts

I am glad that it worked as I spent a lot of time agonising over the flippers and whether or not they would have enough power to propel the ball upwards into the playing field.

On hindsight, perhaps I should have used wood after all as that would give the machine a more complete finish – or used opaque polypropylene sheets instead of translucent ones. However, I am satisfied with the end product and have learnt much about form and mark-making using different mediums and methods.

 

Project 2 – The Improbability of Vision

Initial ideas

Our project brief was, in simple words, to create/recreate an optical illusion. I had many ideas spawned from scrolling through Pinterest. One idea was having multiple glass layers with parts of an image on each layer to altogether reveal a whole image when lined up. Another idea was to have multiple hanging pieces of items to reveal an image through its shadow when a light was shone from the top. The next idea was something I came up with – a few clock hands propped up by stands and lined up with parts of an image attached to each of the clock hands. These hands would reveal an image at a split second when the images are all combined together and as the hands tick on, the image would be mixed up again.

However, the clock idea did not seem optical illusion-y enough for me, so I went back online to look for inspiration.

I chanced upon Matthieu Robert-Ortis’ wire sculpture where the viewer would see 2 giraffes from one angle and an elephant from another angle. It looked really difficult to do and I wanted to challenge myself, so I decided to go with this.

However, I did not want to use the same images of the animals as it seemed somewhat arbitrary. I came across some blind contour images on Pinterest and was inspired to do faces instead. On one side, there would be three different faces with different expressions and on the other side, it would be a single face. This was to convey the multi-faceted nature of humans despite the main image of ourselves that we try to portray. Upon consultation with Peter, he suggested making the main face a portrait of an actual person to give it more meaning.

Thinking about the message I wanted to convey and who fit this concept the most, I thought of my mother. As children, we tend to have a lot of preconceived notions of how our mothers are supposed to be, but we forget that they are just as human as we are and just as susceptible to bouts of depression, exhaustion, and escapism.

For the drawing style, I decided to go with blind contour as it was more forgiving in terms of the wire form. Sticking to a clean-cut, normal drawing style would make the styling of the wires much more complicated.

Planning sketches

As for the main singular portrait, I decided to trace my mother’s profile photo as a representation of the image she portrays of herself to the world. The main characteristics were the short hair and glasses.

Sketches – the one on top is the main portrait of my mother

For the three faces on the side, the different expressions I chose were sadness (a face with a tear running down the cheek), escapism (the face turned away at an angle), and exhaustion (the middle face with eyes closed).

First prototype – miniscule version

To test if the wires I was using were thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to still be malleable, I made a small version of two faces. I concluded that the size I made it at was too small to be impactful and that a larger size would also be easier to manipulate.

Larger version – one face

I proceeded to try making one with a larger face.

Larger version – 2 faces

I finished the first face and attached a second face to it that was made with a separate wire. I attached them by hooking the ends. This seemed fine but unstable, so I thought it was better to just use one continuous wire to form the whole thing.

First version – spray painted black

As the final version was going to be black in colour against a white background, I decided to test the spray paint on my first prototype to see if the paint would affect the metal in any way. It turned out fine, as seen in the photo. In fact, it made the image clearer as there was no reflection like when it was silver.

More sketches

Throughout the sculpting process, I kept testing paths for the wire I could take by drawing them out since it was a single continuous line. This meant that I could not make any major mistakes as I would not be able to fix them easily – I would have to unravel the whole wire and that would cause the lines to be less straight

Main portrait WIP

As I created the three faces in front, I had to figure out how to make the main portrait on the side at the same time. It was rather complicated which is why I drew out the lines on paper first to see which would work.

Set-up

When the whole wireframe was done, I spray painted it black and began to set up. I planned for it to be a hanging sculpture as the wires could not support themselves from the bottom.

I used a white board for the top and hung the sculpture using thin white threads that were less conspicuous.

Set-up from another angle

It was really difficult as the wires kept twisting and turning and I had to keep readjusting the placement of the threads to ensure both sides were clear.

Final Image Side 1 – Main portrait
Final image 2nd Side – 3 faces

The lines are definitely not as clean as I expected and hoped, but the images were somewhat visible from both sides.  Also, if the backing and ceiling were more spacious, I would be able to show the images in its entirety – part of the reason I could not achieve what I wanted is that the wire did not have enough space to freely hang. Overall I learned that wires are more complicated to maneuver than one can anticipate and it required more time than I expected to be able to complete it.