Week 7: Recreating Jenny Holzer’s Projection Works

During our MEDA301 class in Week 7, we had to recreate an installation piece based on one of the five areas listed on Medadada blog post (Law 2017). The exercise was designed to improve our group work skills in preparation for our third assessment and any other artistic projects we may work on in the future. The selection of these groups was based on our personal vote of which area from the list we wish to work on for the duration of that lesson, and after some thought I decided to choose ‘Expressing Digitally: Textuality and Expression’. After some discussion, the work my group had chosen to reinterpret/recreate were the projection works by created Jenny Holzer in Sienna (2009) as we were interested in the political interpretation behind the quote projected onto the building.

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As we opened up Photoshop and started to think of a quote we could type into the program, we had to decide whether we wanted if our reinterpretation of this piece was going to be humourous or serious. On one hand, we wanted our audience to be engaged with the political concepts similar those represented in Jenny Holzer’s works. But at the same, we didn’t want to create something that seemed too stern and preachy. So we eventually decided to choose this humourous tweet written by Donald Trump (2012):

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However, when we proceeded to recreate this piece using a couple of the projectors provided by Glenn, one major problem we encountered earlier on was that we couldn’t project the text on its own without having a grey box show up behind it. After experimenting with the projector settings and Photoshop for a while, we decided to carefully place sticky tape around the projector lens based on the advice that was given to us by Mat. Once we had done this, it had softened up the edges of the grey box and therefore made its existence seem less obvious.

In order to increase audience interaction with our piece, we resized the text by shrinking the quote down while enlarging the text stating the quote’s author. Because Donald Trump is a widely recognisable political figure for his right-wing political standpoint and his provocative statements on global issues, making the text of his political status larger would make people wonder what he has said and therefore encourage them to take a closer look.

Although, while the simplicity of our piece provided a clear communication of our message, I felt that something else could’ve been added to increase audience participation even further. One particular work that’s an example of this is He Will Not Divide Us by Shia LaBeouf (2017). While the typography in this piece is painted rather than projected onto the wall, the work also includes an installed webcam underneath it which encourages audience members to voice their opinions on Donald Trump and have them be broadcasted onto an online livestream. Even though this particular piece had to be taken down due to the strong reaction it received, the additional installation piece of the webcam had drastically expanded the audience’s interest in the work overall.

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References:

Holzer, J 2009, Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise, image, Jenny Holzer Projections, viewed 10 April 2017, < http://projects.jennyholzer.com/uploads/project/image/attatchment/402/large_2D11_113_19.jpg >.

LaBeouf, S. 2017, He Will Not Divide Us, Museum of the Moving Image, New York City.

Law, J 2017, 07W Material Discourse Emerges, Medadada, weblog post, 7 April, viewed 10 April 2017, < http://medadada.net/2017-301-07/ >.

Trump, D 2012, It’s Freezing and Snowing in New York, viewed 10 April 2017, < http://www.cheatsheet.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Global-warming.png >.

Week 6: Proposed Project

After taking some time to carefully consider my project ideas stated in my previous blog, I have decided to focus on developing the idea of collecting household objects as I feel that this process will help me concentrate more on material usage and how it can be used to communicate concepts within a three-dimensional space.

So for my proposed project, I wish to experiment with the idea of creating a mini set design that will depict a static environment with no actors/characters present. The scene that will created will appear to be the aftermath of a chaotic set of events that had taken place beforehand. At the moment, I am still unsure as to what the exact tone of the narrative will be (serious or humourous). But the set design itself will be created using tables and chairs, everyday items brought from home with a varied set of textures/materials, and even some lighting equipment if possible to enhance the overall atmosphere of the piece.

Similar to a previous idea I had proposed during MEDA201 but didn’t exactly go through with at the time, I also want to encourage audience interaction with my piece by including a ballot box with some paper and a set of pens/pencils. Viewers will be invited to share their perspective is on the chain of events that occurred leading up to the scene that is presented in front of them, and may also be invited to interact with the materials given too.

Yet the set design’s storytelling elements won’t exactly be straightforward, as it will deliberately attempt to trick viewers into believing that a falsified retelling of events had taken place instead. As discussed within my previous blog post, the falsified version of the story will be signified by using objects with thicker materials (wood, metal, etc.) that are supposed to emphasise the apparent ‘authenticity’ of the situation while the actual version of events will most likely use objects with thinner materials (paper, plastic, etc.) to depict the supposed ‘artificiality’ of the situation.

Although this project proposal isn’t directly related to my two practices of illustration and creative writing, I can still use these skills to contribute to this project in the following ways:

  • Sketching up rough set designs to post on my blog.
  • Writing short stories that detail the narratives behind my work.
  • Create landscape or portrait paintings that can be stuck up on the walls.
  • Type up and print out fake novels/manuscripts that can be placed on the tables.

But it does relate back to my interest in storytelling and my current studies of filmmaking as a good set design can enhance the audience’s overall experience of the story you are trying to tell and it’s also a skill that I currently don’t have a lot of experience in doing.

Week 5: Project Research

Conceptual Ideas:

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Lately, I’ve become fascinated with how the comparisons between authenticity and artificiality have been used as a weapon for gaining social dominance rather than being used as a means of communicating one’s actual identity.

Originally, authenticity was defined as something that is ‘true to one’s own personality, spirit or character’ according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which meant that any means of honest self-expression can be valued even if it isn’t favoured by society. But this definition of ‘authenticity’ has been adapted to involve a stricter set of physical and personality traits that are viewed as being superior, while everything that falls outside of this set of ‘authentic’ traits is labelled as being ‘artificial’ and therefore inferior.

This comparison between authenticity and artificiality has also been duplicated across a wide range of mediums, from stories where an ‘authentic’ character is over-idealized above others to strawman comics that oversimplify an opponent’s viewpoints on a particular topic, and this has created questions as to whether or not this limited idea of ‘authenticity’ still holds its power.


Ideas for Practice and Material Usage:

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  • I could use everyday objects found around the house with materials that could signify elements of authenticity and artificiality including paper, cardboard, chicken wire, water, fabric or plastic. Then I could apply these materials either towards sculpture making, as I had done last year in MEDA202 with the cardboard box covered in paper mache and white paint, or I could present these individual materials separately by either laying them out on a table, sticking them up on the walls or hanging them up from the ceiling. What inspired me to consider this idea were the Who This Am (Park 2014) and the Jellyfish Lamp (Unellenu designs 2012) works from the Out of Hand exhibition because even though both of these works were technically produced using 3D printing, they can easily be recreated using ordinary items and materials instead.
  • I could combine both of my current practices of creative writing and illustrations to put together an animated short that can either be projected onto a screen or it can be shown as a video installation piece that includes a set of headphones. Although this could take quite a bit of time to work on as I would need to prepare a script, sketch up some storyboards, get a few voice actors together, animate each frame together while revising the final work to make sure everything flows smoothly, etc. The animated short in question will use satirical writing similar to the Moral Orel example explained in my Week 2 blog post, but it will use a different artistic style.

References:

  • Beaton, K. 2014, The Only Cool Girl, image, Hark A Vagrant, viewed 2 April 2017, <http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=357 > .
  • Bolk, K 2011, The Strawman Argument, image, Interrobang Studios, viewed 2 April 2017, < http://lezleydavidson.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/the_straw_man_argument_by_kevinbolk-d3ca3d5-700×525.png >.
  • Park, K. 2014, Who This Am, The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney.
  • Swift, T 2009, You Belong With Me, online video, YouTube, viewed 2 April 2017, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuNIsY6JdUw > .
  • Unellenu Designs 2012, Jellyfish Lamp, The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney.

Week 4: Opportunities

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To me, preparing for a career is going to take an extensive amount of effort to merge my practices into the professional world as opportunities for creative work are fairly limited and it will also require endurance for the many failures experienced along the way as success is rarely achieved on the first try. But if I pursue a number of work routes and build up experience from them overtime, the likelihood of an opportunity appearing for me will gradually increase as I become more confident in what approaches are going to be more successful in the long run.

Here is a quick list of options I could consider starting off with:

Opportunities in Illustration:

  • The closest animation studios that include illustration jobs reside within Sydney and they require portfolio/showreel submissions for internship work. Companies that offer internship work include Animal Logic, The Animation Company and Buzzfeed.
  • Newspapers such as The Illawarra Mercury have hosted art competitions in the past for members of the community to enter. In 2014, I participated in one of these contests and was listed as a finalist in the ‘Cartoon Competition’ (in which my submission can be seen here).

Opportunities in Creative Writing:

  • Penguin Publishing Group allows manuscripts to be submitted for consideration during the first week of each month.
  • Allen & Unwin also allows writers to submit work online for assessment regardless of what genre they write for.
  • Participating in short story competitions, such as the ones hosted by the Fellowship of Australian Writers, can help me sharpen up my writing skills and become more familiar with what writing styles/stories are more suitable if I decide to pursue the career pathway of an author.

Freelance:

  • As of November last year, I’ve been putting together an art store on Redbubble that is still currently under construction.
  • Uploading my artwork to websites such as Blogger or CGSociety/CGMA can help me improve my work overtime with feedback and improve my current portfolio/showreel that will be submitted to potential employers in the future.
  • Conventions such as Smash, SupaNova or Comic Gong allow artists to set up their own stalls where they can sell their own merchandise whether it be art prints and self-published comic books or handmade figurines and plush toys.
  • Submitting animated shorts to film festivals such as Tropfest or Sydney Film Festival can possibly increase recognition for my work too (if its lucky enough to get selected).

General Work:

  • If I cannot get work within my field straight away then I can work on small jobs in the meantime to pay back my education fees and develop valuable work experience that can be included on my resume.
  • Job searching websites I use include Seek, JobSearch, Indeed and GumTree. I also check the ‘Illawarra Jobs Board’ Facebook page regularly.
  • During this time, I could consider working in retail jobs that relate to the film industry such as JB Hi-Fi or Sanity, or the illustration and creative writing fields such as Riot Art & Craft or QBD Bookstore.

Week 3: Heroes

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Susanna Kaysen is an author that has only published a few works within her lifetime such as Asa, As I Knew Him (Kaysen 1987), Far Afield (Kaysen 1990), and her recent autobiography titled Cambridge (Kaysen 2014). Yet, despite this, she has gained a wide following of readers intrigued by the experiences she writes about.

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As stated in my previous blog post, she is best known for her 1993 memoir Girl Interrupted that was adapted into the 1999 film of the same name. She was inspired to write this memoir after seeing the painting Girl Interrupted at Her Music (Vermeer 1658-1659) while visiting an art gallery in New York, as it brought back memories of her late teenage years growing up in the late 1960s when her life stopped completely. In this memoir, she details her stay in McLean Psychiatric Hospital using a non-linear structure that describes incidents that occurred within the hospital throughout her time there while presenting medical documents as supporting evidence of her encounters. The stories of these incidents are told using straightforward narration and a nihilistic tone to prevent them from being misinterpreted and romanticised by the audience.

One thing that I appreciate about Susanna’s writing within Girl Interrupted (Kaysen 1993) is that her reference to real life incidents allows her narratives to become more believable to the reader and thus more enjoyable. While she takes the neutral role of the narrator, other characters are easily distinguishable by their diverse character traits as Susanna assigns specific chapters to flesh out their personalities and interactions within the ward, all from Polly’s supportive and gentle nature towards other patients to Lisa’s aggression towards the nurses and the institution of psychiatry itself.

The young women are not written to be role models nor are they written to be demonized by their readers. They are simply there to exist with their own individual thoughts and their own methods of expressing them, even if these ideas and assertions are considered to be disruptive to both themselves and the society that resides outside of the hospital.

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Susanna herself has always worked on her novels at home using the traditional method of typewriting instead of using a computer, as she prefers to physically remove pages from the machine and edit them using a pen (as stated in this interview here). Yet conceptually, her practice is also built around her refusal to comply with the traditional lifestyle that was expected of her and other young people at the time: Attend highschool, study in college, get a job, get married, raise a family, etc. . Instead of moving onto college after her highschool graduation, she sat back on the sidelines and took notes on what she had observed about the people around her until she had eventually documented an experience that most people had not lived through.

While it is extremely important to gain this academic and work experience, what I find interesting about Susanna’s history is that it reinforces the idea that a good project can come from almost anywhere if an individual develops an independent work with enough research and practical experience overtime while considering the publication and art selection process that will allow their work to be seen by a wide audience.


References:

  • Elsworth, C 2014, Interview with Susanna Kaysen, Goodreads, viewed 17 March 2017, < http://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/931.Susanna_Kaysen >.
  • Kaysen, S 1987, Asa, as I Knew Him, Vintage Contemporaries, New York.
  • Kaysen, S 2014, Cambridge, Knopf, New York.
  • Kaysen, S 1990, Far Afield, Vintage, New York.
  • Kaysen, S 1993, Girl Interrupted, Random House, New York.
  • Vermeer, J 1658-1659, Girl Interrupted at Her Music, Frick Collection, New York.

Week 2: Research

Contemporary vs. Historical Contexts:

The 1948 film of Mary Jane Ward’s novel The Snake Pit depicted the psychiatrist as the savior of a woman suffering in a mental institution.  … But by 1960, the dragons had become the psychiatrists and the institutions of psychiatric care themselves.” – Robbin Faggen’s introduction (2002, pp. 9-22) to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesley 1962)

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When conducting creative research for storytelling, one thing that fascinates me is the way authors and artists respond to previous ideas and works by exposing the flaws they had upon the real world. Storytellers are constantly re-telling the same set of events to acknowledge the complexities of how a particular incident would function in a contemporary context in comparison to a historical one. For instance:

  • Susanna Kaysen: Author of the 1993 non-linear memoir Girl Interrupted, she reflects upon her experience staying in a psychiatric ward in the 1960s and her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder while questioning her progress of admission and the institution’s perspective of what a ‘borderline personality’ is considered to be.
  • Dino Stamatopoulos: Creator of Moral Orel (2005-2008), a show that challenges the authority of religious fundamentalism by combining clay figures commonly seen in the children’s cartoons such as Davey and Goliath (1961-1973) with explicit scenes of abuse and torment that comes with following the Christian faith.
  • Gillian Flynn: Author of Gone Girl (2012) compares thinly-layered narratives of good-guy versus bad-guy found within journalism with how these stories can easily be manipulated in real life. There is also the particularly famous ‘Cool Girl’ speech that is given by one of the leading characters.

If I had to break down the contents for Moral Orel (2005-2008), there is an interesting interaction between the conceptualisation and material usage that occurs that creates an unsettling effect on viewers.

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Originally, Moral Orel (Stamatopolulos 2005-2008) was written as a comical satire that followed the misadventures of a god-worshipping boy named Orel Puppington. It playfully mocked the loopholes of bible verses while parodying well-known character tropes from traditional family sitcoms in the 1950s and 1960s (the father who smokes a pipe, the stay-at-home housewife, etc.). But then, as each episode goes on, the psychological damage of these characters becomes increasingly evident and makes viewers question whether or not they should still laugh.

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The clay designs blur the lines between the child-like optimism and realism of the series. In earlier episodes, the stop-motion animation has a rougher transition of frames while movements, gestures and facial expressions are exaggerated all to emphasise the comedic side of the show. Yet in later episodes, the animation and clay designs become more refined to showcase the realistic development of the narrative.

These two areas assist each other in exposing the heavy contrast between the external representation fundamentalist churches give out to the public and the internal experience of living the restricted lifestyle the belief system actually brings.

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When combining my illustration and creative writing practices together into a single project, I plan to use materials and designs that either compliments or subverts the meaning I’m communicating to my audience. It may not be as fascinating as Moral Orel (Stamatopolulos 2005-2008), but it can be something I could consider and experiment with when creating works that subverts previous ideas.

 


List of academic papers that reflect upon my practices:

  • The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing (Bolton 1999) explains how emotional expression within creative writing can not only provide relief from distressing memories and past experiences, but it can also create psychological depth within the literary work that will increase the overall quality of content. (Practice)
  • In her introduction to the classic novel The Outsiders (Hinton 1967), Picoult (2006, pp. 7-15) discusses how adolescents in 1950s and 1960s literature were portrayed as squeaky clean young adults who rarely made life-altering mistakes or showcased any character flaws that would’ve placed a barrier on their success. Using the Gidget (Kohner 1957) and Cherry Ames (Wells 1943) series as examples, she declares that these stories were designed for adults looking to reminisce on heart-warming memories of growing up rather than teenagers who are confused about their identity and need guidance of the world through personal exploration. (Historical/Conceptual)
  • Computer Animation (Thalmann 1990) analyses the contributions that computers make in assisting artists and animators to produce animated films, whether it be creating artwork using graphic editing software or allow these images to move through the frame-by-frame process or tweening features in animation programs. (Practice)
  • Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First Century Storytelling (Gardner 2012) details the historical milestones that cartoons and storytelling have had over the course of the late 1800s to the early 2010s, from the first debut of optical toys such as the thaumatrope and the stereoscope to contemporary film adaptions of popular graphic novels that enhance (or lessen) the visual quality of its storytelling. (Historical)

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(view above image from iversity here)


References:

  • Bolton, G 1999, The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, United Kingdom.
  • Columbia Pictures 1999, Girl Interrupted – Talking about Ambivalence, 8 December, online video, YouTube, viewed 9 March 2017, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmVnIRgfngc >.
  • Davey and Goliath 1961 – 1973, television program, Trinity Broadcasting Network, United States, 25 February – 29 May.
  • Evolution of Storytelling 2012, image, iversity, viewed 1 April 2017, < https://thumbnails-visually.netdna-ssl.com/evolution-of-storytelling_5338931ba4b00_w1500.jpg >.
  • Faggen, R 2002, ‘Introduction’ in H Eliot (ed.), One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Penguin Group, New York, pp. 9-22.
  • Flynn, G 2012, Gone Girl, Crown Publishing Group, New York.
  • Gardner, J 2012, Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First Century Storytelling, Stanford University Press, California.
  • Good Stories Compel People To Change 2016, image, Conversion Bug, viewed 1 April 2017, < http://www.conversionbug.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2-2.jpg >.
  • Hinton, SE 1967, The Outsiders, The Viking Press, New York.
  • Kaysen, S 1993, Girl Interrupted, Random House, New York.
  • Kesley, K 1962, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Viking Press & Signet Books, New York.
  • Kohner, F 1957, Gidget, Berkley Books, New York.
  • Moral Orel 2005 – 2008, television program, Adult Swim, United States, 13 December – 18 December.
  • Picoult, J 2006, ‘Introduction’ in H Eliot (ed.), The Outsiders, Penguin Group, New York, pp. 7-15.
  • Satrapi, M 2007, Persepolis, Pantheon, New York.
  • Thalmann, NM & Thalmann, D 1990, ‘Computer Animation’, Computer Science Workbench, vol. 5, pp. 13-17.
  • The Snake Pit 1948, motion picture, 20th Century Fox, United States, directed by Anatole Litvak and based on the semi-autobiographic novel by Mary Jane Ward.
  • Wells, H 1943, Cherry Ames: Student Nurse, Grosset & Dunlap, New York.

Week One: Defining my Field and Practice

As a third-year student studying Digital Media, I am most drawn to the well-established field of filmmaking as I am intrigued by the fact that this field blends visual and written storytelling together. Within this field, the practices I am most confident on embarking on are illustration and creative writing as they allow for independent research and practise sessions to take place in solitude where I can safely express my own ideas and personal thoughts. They can also be applied to the sub-fields of conceptual art creation, screenwriting and storyboarding; all of which are within the pre-production phase of filmmaking.

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In terms of practising illustration, this process can either be done with confidence or become frustrating and time-consuming. This outcome depends on the amount pre-planning the artist has done beforehand. Collecting research for art projects mostly involves searching for references images that clearly depict the figure, object or action that needs to be sketched out. Once this is established, the rough sketch containing the anatomy and perspective techniques required can then be outlined within the artistic style the artist has intended it to be in. For instance, one particular artistic influence that inspires me is the classic art style of Walt Disney Animation Studios. While working on animated films, the artists reference real-life models such as the live action performances done by Kathryn Beaumont for Alice in Wonderland or the facial expressions of artists and animators reflected from a nearby mirror, and then create rough sketches of characters that appear in the film while exaggerating certain characteristics to create a cutesy animated style. As I have practised the discipline of illustration through iteration and took on creative challenges that resided outside my comfort zone, my confidence in artmaking grew and my artwork was completed much faster with each successful piece I produced.

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Creative writing as a practice also requires extensive research beforehand through the study of various theoretical topics about the accuracy of events within the fictional work, the physical appearance and psychological states of characters involved, and the historical/cultural/social contexts of the stories you intend to write. Jotting down notes about ideas and then creating an in-depth structure of the events and character developments that occur throughout the novel prepares writers for the construction of the final piece. After this study is completed, an iteration process comes into play as authors craft and then re-craft various drafts of the same story to perfect the story pacing and subtle communication of themes throughout the work. What could be perceived as a masterpiece one day could be an amateurish contribution the next, so it is important to be open to making changes. Although, unlike my illustrated works, I have not showcased any completed examples of my creative writing to a public audience as I have mostly practised this skill in private.

So throughout this semester, I wish to explore these two practices further and hopefully apply them to a video installation project that can easily be set up without any trouble. I have not yet established whether or not the storytelling in this project will be clearly defined or be more abstract and experimental. But as I gather more research and experiment with various trial concepts within these next few weeks, I will gain a better understanding of the exact ideas that will work best with my final project.


References

Amidi, A 2014, Animators and Mirrors, Cartoon Brew, weblog post, 26 November, visited 29 February 2017, < http://www.cartoonbrew.com/animators/animators-and-mirrors-106260.html >.

Beaumont, K 2012, Alice in Wonderland Behind The Scenes – Live Action Reference (1951) HD, online video, 20 November, YouTube, viewed 29 February 2017, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWwO-h7ZSlw >.

Moore, F 1944, Fred Moore looking in Mirror, image, Cartoon Brew, viewed 28 February 2017, < http://www.cartoonbrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/mirror-fredmoore.jpg >.

Pixar, 2013, Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, image, Masters Review, viewed 4 March 2017, < https://www.mastersreview.com/files/2013/03/Pixar-22-Rules-of-Story.jpeg >.

Sambuchino, C 2013, How to Write a Novel: 7 Tips Everyone Can Use, Writer’s Digest, weblog post, 22 May, viewed 4 March 2017, < http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/how-to-write-a-novel-7-tips-everyone-can-use >.

The Literacy Store, 2016, Narrative Essentials, image, Pinterest, viewed March 4 2017, < https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6d/fd/1b/6dfd1bacc0fd7f905157c0c23a8990ad.jpg >.