A picture’s worth a thousand – erm – hours, probably, the way I’ve gone at it

I’ve made a monumental meal of this task, and I’ve still only done the first part of it, as the deadline swings round with assignment 2 already up and running.

My first thought was to bang it out quickly in a few moments before going to sleep by seeing what I could find in the way of vector graphic apps for the iphone. After I’d trawled through the options (I didn’t really want to pay what with not knowing what I was looking for, and being a bit of a cheapskate and all) I downloaded the ‘lite’ (ie. free, and – it turns out – pretty useless) version of miniDraw.

I sort of know what layers are, though not how to utilise them, but Bezier curves mean nothing to me. I thought that even though the iPhone screen is only small, that it wouldn’t be a problem for the simple shape-based graphic that was suggested as the outcome for this assignment, but it turns out I was horribly wrong. Maybe if you know what you’re doing with this kind of software and have an eye for design it might be OK, but I just found myself fiddling aimlessy with it for ages. I’d also had a quick look at  some of the keenies who’d already posted their assignment results, complete with sketchbooks and mind-maps and what-have-you outlining the ‘creative process’. I’m not mocking that, honest: I’d love to be able to plan something coherently and then get the damn thing done, but I’ve always struggled to work in anything like a systematic way.

So what actually happened was that I was playing about and kind of accidentally drew a line that curved in a way that reminded me a bit of  the sweep of a page of an open book, and I thought, well – I’m an English teacher: that’ll do.

I figured out how to copy the line, and then mirror it to produce a number of  ‘pages’ and then it all got incredibly frustrating. Once I’ve started something like this, though, I can’t let it go, even when it’s not really working. What I should have done is learned from the experience that the iphone wasn’t really working as a tool for this job, and transferred straight to one of the tools recommended in the assignment. I did actually try that at one point, but couldn’t quite replicate the curve of the line that I’d by now become rather attached to.

There followed several comedy hours where things happened that were a complete mystery to me. I couldn’t work out how to select multiple ‘objects’ so every line was completely separate when it came to wanting to recolour the image (though I could resize and rotate the whole thing). And somehow I’d created multiple objects on top of each other so I had to keep moving and deleting them until there was only one left so I could apply colour.  I guess it probably gave me a little taste of what many of my students must feel when I’m asking them to do something that to me seems obvious, but they just don’t get it (sorry, year 11 set 4, about all that ‘varying sentence structure’ stuff).

Also, being an English teacher, I couldn’t quite stick to the injunction ‘no words’, so by Saturday morning I had this:

after faffing about for ages on my iphone, this is as far as I'd got

I ended up having to pay £2.49 for the full version of the app just to export it in a format that the free Inkscape software could read, as it became clear that I was going to drive myself insane carrying on as I was. I did begrudge that £2.49, particularly as I’m unlikely to use that app again in anger (with anger, perhaps!), but then I reflected that I was paying about the price of a coffee for a piece of software that not so long ago would have cost tens of times more for similar functionality, so I stumped up, and then spent ages more trying to work out how the gradient editor works in Inkscape, and fiddling about with all those little lines.

Here’s what I wound up with in the end:

That's all folks!

I ‘evaluated’ it by showing it to my Y12 English Language & Literature class on Monday morning. It seems I’m the only person who sees that squiggle as the page of a book. After an embarrassed silence, one of them ventured: “Is it, like, train tracks or something, sir?”

Oh well.

After a little explanation of my thinking behind it (much of it post-rationalised, I have to say), one of my charges was kind enough to say, “Wow, that’s really intelligent, sir.” I don’t think she was being sarcastic, but I do think she’s easily impressed.

Having seen Nicola McNee’s contribution to this assignment, we appear to have experienced very similar frustrations, and to have been thinking along very similar lines, although I do think her sign is much more elegant than mine.


(I wonder if our idea behind the colour scheme was the same?

3 thoughts on “A picture’s worth a thousand – erm – hours, probably, the way I’ve gone at it

  1. Congrats on your sign, I have also lost many hours of my life in this kind of software. What never fails to amaze me is how intuitive my children find the likes of photoshop or illustrator, i only use it on a last resort basis! btw my sign is now complete (also one only), but will have to wait until tomorrow to update blog.


  2. Yes probably Ant – I was thinking stop and go, prohibited and open… I’m smiling reading you post cos I started with the pc and then went looking for vector apps on my iPad and found nothing up to the task either! I think I find these picture editing tools difficult because I get frustrated quickly if I can’t produce something I’m envisioning in a reasonably short space of time. That’s why so many web2 apps are great because you can get professional looking results fast 🙂


  3. Indeed: stop & go, the idea of making progress (and hints of the red & green marking pens).

    However, I find the process of learning to do something fascinating, even as I’m finding it annoying and frustrating. Indeed I think, on reflection, that I find process more interesting than product. I get interested in something new, learn how it works, but never master it, and then get fascinated by the next thing that comes along.

    I also tend to get bogged down in tiny details that matter to me, but add absolutely no (or at least very little) value to the product itself. You should have seen how long I spent getting that ogham script spaced out along the line!


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