I’d been looking at these circles for three days, individually, one at a time, one layer on, one layer off, a long drawn out comparison that I pilfered together from memory, often sometimes in rapid succession, adjusting, fretting a bit, wandering through my uncertainty if they were going to work. This way of designed was like a version of the perpetual present — difficult to discern the pattern.
Then, when looking at them all at once, like a timeline drawn in retrospective, the small multiples were in an entirely different conversation, a rhythm of changes better understood, elongated into visibility.
“Are you happy with it?” she asked.
“I mean, yea.” But I was going to hedge. “Although I have no idea what I’d do if I make another one.”
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll come up with something good.”
And she was probably right, a balm against the anxiety of unexpected influence and pressure of how this would become a past I’d be working against. We’d worked on it together, and that had made all of the difference.
I had been looking at with surprise, at how well it had worked out just limiting it to the one color.
And perplexed and surprised by how I’d ended up with all that negative space, influenced — I think — by the Magritte confusions of day and night:
“You aren’t very good at taking breaks,” my sister commented, seated next to me at her kitchen table.
“Hmm,” I responded, not ready to admit that I wasn’t good at anything, just barely feeling like I was good at the design I’d just finished.
I was still looking at the screen and clicking back through tabs to uncover the images that I had very hastily borrowed from the internet to create the draft. I’d been so preoccupied and fretting really about what the hell I was going to do for this t-shirt design, from the moment I agreed to make it, two weeks ago, and now that I had what admittedly wasn’t all that bad (for a couple of hours of work) I wasn’t exactly ready to move on to the other tasks that I very much still needed to tackle.
Like eating dinner.
“No, I’m not. Especially when I’m doing something visual, I just get sucked into it once I finally start.”
Like Newton’s second or third law; the equal and opposite reaction to procrastination was an inertial force difficult to ply yourself away from, once you’d made it past the first law. As difficult to stop as it was to begin.
I closed the screen shut and began to put the machine into my backpack and thanked my sister for the help.
“Sure, although I’m not certain I did anything.”
“No, you totally helped. Sure, I didn’t do exactly what you’d suggested, but you totally got me going in this direction.”
Not like I had really done all that much either — listened to her idea, liked it, and not only because it was a clear concept rather than the half-dozen, half-finished ideas that had been floating around in my mind.
I opened up the Photoshop file for the new album art, getting to look at the guts of how another designer had put the whole thing together. “Oh, that’s interesting,” I said to myself, looking at the adjustment layers, reverse engineering how she’d constructed the visuals. A lot of choices I’d likely never have given myself permission to take, let alone had even thought to try. I just had never been quite so outrageous and bold, visually. Or otherwise. Not that I needed to be able to make everything, but honestly that’s how I feel about things. Like I should be able to do that, too.
It was a remix album for my friend’s reggae band, and this artwork was also a remix of her original album art, and there were traces of the old album, remnants in the file unseen, undeleted, hidden. One by one I check and uncheck the boxes like circuit breakers, examining the construction and layers almost like a geologist might, peeling back the sediment of pixels to decide where I would excise and transport the concept into a video. There were sometimes traces and notes in the labels, but often times very little commentary as to how the whole thing went together. “Untitled Layer 20” above “Untitled Layer 17,” hints at a chronology of the work and signature of her profession. It was a little puzzle to pull apart, isolating the three pieces in such a way that their interactions would work in an animation, the back and front moving in opposition, the middle piece rotating around.
I also felt tenderly toward the designer, looking at the pieces of her creativity in a way I was’t quite certain if she would have minded. Not quite like I’d gone through the top drawer of her dresser while she wasn’t home, reading the first page of her diary. Like I saw the diary and that she kept it next to her socks that were in an old shoebox, but none of them matched.