This week, we'll look at our second visual tool and begin working on the "text" for your first visual experiment; you should think about "content" and the eventual visual format as you compose. Last week, we looked at Scribus -- a desktop publishing tool which excells at text design and typography. This tool can be used to create everything from magazines and books to concrete poetry collages. This week we will explore a second visual tool.

Tuesday 9/13

About Gimp

Gimp is the open-source equivalent to photoshop, primarily of use for image manipulation. Thus, you would choose to use Gimp for a mixed-media composition (images and text) or for a strongly visual text. Unlike Scribus, Gimp makes it very difficult to edit text once you begin to work; the "words" effectively become images. It is not especially suited for creating large, "multi-page" works; but it is perfect for creating deep, multi-layered images.

In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich writes that one of the characteristics of digital art (writing, video, etc.) is modularity; it is composed of discrete elements composited into a whole. Gimp will allow us to compose with language and image.

fountain-pen.jpg | fountain-pen2.jpg | diphilos.jpg | speech.png (image sources)

Getting Started

  • Preview a Gimp Tutorial or two. The Basics, Beginning tutorial or Advanced
  • Gather some images to play with; use Google Advanced Image search, checking Creative Commons usage rights.
  • Save your work in xcf format. Output only the final to PNG or JPG for web; TIFF for print publication.
  • Layers - create a new image, make multiple layers; explore layer order and blending effects.
  • Transparency - seamless blending is achieved by editing source images to remove the background, making it transparent; create an "alpha channel" to make a transparent background; add one transparent object to a layer. (Here's a step-by-step tutorial with pictures.)
  • Aesthetics - think about color relationships, contrast, etc. and tune your layers to create a deliberate and unified effect. Filters will also be useful. (McLuhan's use of high-contrast black and white silhouettes as background for white text would be an example; the original, unfiltered photograph would have distracted from the text.)
  • Add a text layer.

Will Scribus or Gimp be more appropriate for your project?

Thursday 9/15

Visible Word
Sept. 15
MSA Presentation 01



  • Questions/Discussion of Visual Experiments
    • For Tuesday, bring text (images?), and a statement of purpose, ex.:
      • Purpose: I will create a concrete poem: a single, visual screen, setting the text of my fragmented "Poet's Eye" poem using Gimp to set layers, abstract shapes, in dark gray-scale to emphasize the theme of taming a frenzied world.
  • Open Lab