SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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@r+ Animated Gifs David Gran T he animated gif is an interesting art form, but likely not the first medium that comes to mind when thinking about new media art. If you are not familiar with the term, "gif" is simply a file type. It stands for "graphics interchange format." If you've ever seen a hamster, baby, or banana dancing on a website, you've seen an animated gif. Yes, it may be hard to take seriously an art whose origins are most often associated with silly dances; but as we know from art history, some of the most radical new art forms were once ridiculed by the mainstream art world. images that appear mostly still, with a subtle hint of movement. In addition, various artists have integrated other media, such as light painting, or even traditional drawing. Artist Yuriy Mironoff, who goes by the name of Design with Movement One of the reasons that the animated gif demonstrates so much fascinating potential as an art form is that it lies at the intersection of still images and time-based media. Most moving-image media engages us in a way that defines our time with it; when we go see a movie, we are there for a prescribed amount of time in order to experience the whole work. With the gif, we experience the work in our own time, our engagement with it is closer to the way we would engage a still work of art. In this way, we can also consider the gif a photograph or design with movement. Beyond the Meme Within the genus "animated gif" are several distinct species. The sort of animated gifs that we might be most familiar are associated with "memes" or simple humorous images that may spread virally throughout the Internet. "Wiggle-grams" simulate three-dimensional space on your computer screen by interpolating two stereoscopic images in alternating frames. "Cinematographs" are 22 November 2013 SchoolArts MiRon has made the a n i m ated g i f his medium, and the blog platform Tumblr his gallery ( While his black-and-white faces have the beauty of a traditional woodcut, the unique format of the gif allows him to create works of art that come to life and seem to pop out of the screen. "Artists can experiment with all the power of this new media and should ignore any labels or established views on what art is supposed to be," says MiRon. "Contemporary technology has given artists the ability to use new media, and most importantly, to show their art to a wider audience. Availability of information changes the whole system of relation between artist and audience" Gifs in the Artroom? Gifs may also be an excellent way to engage students in a medium that they already seek out and enjoy in a new way. As one of my former students points out, gifs are now often the medium of choice for communicating a quick reaction to friends over e-mail or in online forums. Perhaps if a picture is worth a thousand words, you might have to multiply that by the number of frames in the gif. There are a number of ways students can create their own gifs, and the first consideration is source material. If they are starting with video, the very inexpensive GIF Brewery ( is available for Mac users. Other video-to-gif converters are available online. Various mobile devices have useful apps such as Gifboom (, Flixel (, and Echograph ( for creating, editing, and sharing images on the go. If your students are starting with still images or creating gifs from scratch, Photoshop offers a number of easy avenues using the animation function. For links to tutorials, useful gif creation programs, and examples of excellent animated gifs head over to David Gran teaches high school art and film classes at the Shanghai American School in China and is the author of The Carrot Revolution, a blog about twentyfirst-century art education (carrot

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