Archive for the ‘Self-reflection’ category

A new phase

October 24, 2013

It’s been great to see the amount of visitors that have browsed on this site and the supporting comments I have received.

For those who have been following this blog for a while I wanted to provide an update. I am now embarking on further research at the University of Kent! It’s going to be a challenge, that is for sure, but the interesting subjects I’ll be covering will hopefully drive me to complete the study with success InshaAllah (God willing).

If anyone is interested to see the areas I look into, the artists I discover, and the artworks I discuss in relation to my research, then please do visit my new blog:

It’s still early days but hopefully there’ll be some interesting and meaty content coming very soon. Keep your eyes open! And if you come across anything you feel is worth mentioning then please do get in touch via my contact page:


MA results!

July 20, 2010

I got my results this morning and I’m soo relieved and grateful to God that my efforts in the project were reflected in the marks.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Andy Stiff and Jonathan Kearney the Digital Arts tutors. They were both very inspiring and knowledgeable in the field and this was invaluable especially when receiving feedback throughout the course and through the tutorials.

I’d also like to thank past and present students who provided advice and feedback during mid-point and group reviews. Hope you all manage to continue working and expanding on your practices.

It truly has been an interesting and unpredictable journey but one that I enjoyed very much. I would recommend the course to anyone with an interest in the field of Digital Arts. So remember Camberwell when looking for a course!

I would also like to thank a few key people who have helped me in various ways during the course:

– My family for being unbelievably supportive and putting up with my endless chatter about the project
– Daud Sutton, author of Islamic Design – A Genius for Geometry, a small concise book but immensely useful for learning how to create traditional Islamic patterns
– Victoria Hotchin for proof-checking my write-ups without giving up in boredom
– Lindsey Auty for being the best personal memo pad
– Richard Henry for his tips on extending my pursuit of Islamic pattern-making (Issam Said’s book is ready and waiting)
– Sahand Hesamiyan for his vital advice on using metal
– Susan Mortimer for helping make the lovely books that have been admired by all
– My crazy uni friends (you know who you are) , you’re mad but at the end of the day you’re the best
– and finally all the artists and practitioners who have contributed to my research and provided me with the material to take it all forward for a possible PhD

I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, my memory is truly not the best so it’s nothing personal if I have.

So what of this blog now? I will be continuing with my research and practice but for the new phase I may start a new blog. I will add a post with details of this once the ball gets rolling with that. For now, a well-earned break perhaps.

Thank you for being such attentive readers (at the point of writing this post I had received 26,043 visitors to the blog since August 2008) and I hope the content of this blog will be useful to anyone looking into the areas of Digital or Islamic/geometric art or anything related to what was covered on this blog.

Thank you all again, Ciao 🙂

Not in the mood

July 3, 2010

I am exhausted. Things keep coming up that I wasn’t expecting. And yet I know that if I had managed to organise my time differently I might have known about those things before hand. Even though I’ve used up almost all my annual leave from work to dedicate myself to getting it all done to a decent level and within time, I still feel it hasn’t been as smooth a process as I wanted or had planned for. It’s quite odd being in this situation as usually I have things completed way in advance. I guess with practical work of this kind you just don’t know what may come up until you try it.

For example the MAC mini I was supposed to be using was borrowed from college. However, it’s one of the older models which doesn’t have an intel chip and therefore my files won’t work because the OpenCV library cannot be installed on it.

Therefore my plinth becomes useless unless I use my personal MacBook pro instead. I feel really annoyed because as I mentioned above, it’s something I could have been aware of before and then made a plinth much bigger in order to house a G5 instead. I could still use the G5 but it would have to sit on the outside of the plinth. The amount of work that went into making the plinth (and it doesn’t look like any ordinary plinth believe me) would be soo sad to put to waste like that, although it would still house the camera and projector.

Now that my ideal set-up has been disrupted all my previous options and decisions have been thrown up in the air. I’ve been reminded of my initial idea to have the camera and projector overhead.The wiring would have been an issue as well as the need to install a specific shelf/tray for the projector. Apparently the ceiling in the space is concrete so we can’t really drill into it anyway.

But as I’ve been discussing with my family who have been closely observing my practical work – TIME AND MONEY are two factors that always come back to cause you problems. no matter what you are trying to achieve. If you have neither then you’re basically limited. In this case the time was the bigger problem and the money an additional one.

An example of where more money for the work would have been handy is for the metal I am using. I realised it might have been better to leave an uncut border to my piece. It might have been a better finish. But then again I wouldn’t know unless I tried it. As it stands I bought some huge clippers for cutting sheet metal. They are really heavy but do the job very well and were handy to cut off the sharp small ends where the pattern ends abruptly along the edges of the aluminium sheet. This gives it a tidy finish as well as a safer edging.

Another aspect of the metal not being quite right is the reflectivity. It does have a nice finish, just not a mirror finish. I’ve looked into polishing techniques and let’s just say it wasn’t feasible to do it myself or to pay someone else to because of the cost of the service and collection and delivery.

As an alternative solution I have backed the cut aluminium with a slight gap against a large sheet of mirror card. This means that at least the back of the cut sheet will be reflected and give a slight raised 3D graphic imagery effect. This makes me feel better about the installation.

I have to say though everyday seems to be a bit of a rollercoaster. I go from being really motivated, determined, positive, and task oriented and then skydive to frustration, fatigue, sometimes even anger, worry and then memory loss. The last one can be a bit funny sometimes but a bit of a risk at the moment. My memory is in full capacity mode and I’m not sure how long it will last. I’m counting down the days till my anxiety will go though.

So yeh time would have helped – but then even if I could extend the project length I might become super sick of my work. Sometimes if you work on something for too long you don’t know where to draw the line and you just keep going at it until it completely changes or you have ruined it. So maybe it’s a good thing that I’ve run out of time at this stage of the work. Hmm, I might just be feeling like this because of the smaller issues the crop up. I’m going to reflect on this again next week after the assessment date has passed. I might feel differently about it all once that bridge has been crossed.

DIY Day four

July 2, 2010

The days I’ve been in this week have actually merged into one huge chunk of time. But I can now report on the further developments in making my plinth.

If I could I would actually exhibit my plinth as a piece in its own right. It’s actually turned into something quite unique and nice to look at. I’m already contemplating its locality post show.

So let’s see, in my last post concerning this I had finished off all the pieces of the panels. I had started painting them too as I wanted to save time later and just assemble it when I next came in to the workshop.

We had also left a laser cutting of pattern into 3mm MDF (I still had spares from before) after I had left the previous day as we realised the lack of border on the other one I was going to use would make it harder to attach. I made sure the 10-point stars were in the middle of the cutting and Karel (3DResource manager) used his AutoCAD skills to size it exactly to what we needed in order to fit it into the previously routed front panel. This looked great and fit almost perfectly. There were only a few gaps which could easily be polyfilled later down the production timeline.

So the next day I took some extra MDF in to make the top and also the spindles I bought to cut up and stick under the top layer to raise it a bit higher and to leave a further gap for ventilation.

I told Karel my idea for construction, he slightly adjusted it and we went back to what I was originally thinking of: instead of just screwing the panels together edge to edge I would use the spindles as the main frame for the whole structure and attach the panels to this.

We, then, however, needed to cut some more wood as I had only taken in a couple of my spindles when I actually needed 4. This wasn’t hard and I started screwing the prepared panels to these. I ensured my measurements were accurate and double checked them many times along the way to make sure one wasn’t shorter than the rest and to make sure it didn’t wobble at the end.

Attaching frame (which also forms the legs) to the side panel

Attaching frame (which also forms the legs) to the side panel

legs/frame attached to side panel (prior to error checking change)

legs/frame attached to side panel (prior to error checking change)

My arms aren’t the strongest and as I was drilling into 18mm MDF and then through to the chunky wood frame I slightly struggled to hold the drill down. But I thought it was a job well done and made sure the screws were sunk into the MDF rather than sticking out.

However,  there was an abrupt change of plan when we realised we had not made it correct in order to leave the walls on the outer parts of the whole plinth, and allow for the door to be attached using hinges. This was partly also due to needing to place a shelf in for the projector and keeping the width to a suitable amount to fit it so the lens would come to the middle. So the consequence was me having to undo half a day’s worth of work.

The panels fit together nicely on top of the legs/frame which were inset by the thickness of the side panels (18mm).

The panels fit together nicely on top of the legs/frame which were inset by the thickness of the side panels (18mm).

However, Karel very kindly decided to dedicate himself to helping me get the majority of the construction done that day. I drilled and screwed what I could. glued and nailed what I could and handed over tools and parts when I couldn’t do the more difficult and muscle needing tasks such as bending some chunky metal to make me a hook for hanging a padlock on.

Part of frame cut on one side to make room for projector, and side hole aligned with position of projector vent

Part of frame cut on one side to make room for projector, and side hole aligned with position of projector vent

Second shelf cut with square in corner to fit with frame and hole at back corner for cables to pass through

Second shelf cut with square in corner to fit with frame and hole at back corner for cables to pass through

The day was full of huge ups and downs. But the end result of my plinth was worth it and I am super grateful that we have a place like the 3D Resource center to work in/from.

Top added, hinges added, holes for cables and two extra support beams aligned with the top and bottom of the door

Top added, hinges added, holes for cables and two extra support beams aligned with the top and bottom of the door

Filling holes and gaps with Polyfiller. It's better to have it bumpy than sunken so that when it is sanded down it can be flattened to the same line of the surface

Filling holes and gaps with Polyfil. It's better to have it bumpy than sunken so that when it is sanded down it can be flattened to the same line of the surface

Using a metal pole bent backwards and then bending again from the back to allow for attaching a padlock

Using a metal pole bent backwards and then bending again from the back to allow for attaching a padlock

To add the finishing touches I polyfilled all the gaps and then the next day, after they had been sanded down I prepared the hole on the top for the camera to come through. I almost forgot about this and it should have been done before the top had been attached. But Karel was in super sonic  mode at the time of cutting it down and drilling it on that I dared not protest. Anyway, I drilled a big hole in the middle where I’d marked out the shape of the camera. I was going to arrange it so that the main bulk of it – i.e the lens and infra-red LEDs would be raised above the flat level of the top of the plinth. This would hopefully allow for the lighting recognition to still work in the dark and not be limited by the cut off of the area around the camera formed by the hole itself.

Cut hole needing to be chiseled

Cut hole needing to be chiseled

I then jig-sawed the rest of the rectangular shape out of the top piece and then filed it away for a while. I then slanted the angle of the file so that the camera could slot in easily from the bottom but stay within a snug fit at the top of the hole. I made this a slower process so that I could continuously test the fit and file away where necessary until it was right. I think I did a pretty decent job at getting it to fit right. This meant I wouldn’t need to use duct tape to secure the camera in place either.

Slotting camera in place for a snug fit

Slotting camera in place for a snug fit

Next I started the main painting of the whole plinth. I used a gloss based paint – the one coat one I bought from B&Q. It gave a nice smooth finish once dried but I could tell it was better to do the 2 coats anyway.

The edges of the MDF were really hard to paint as the paint kept seeping through rather than staying on th e surface of the edges. If I have time I am going to try to sand and paint a few layers on the edges. If I can’t do this before assessment then I’ll definitely do so for the exhibition.

And this is it – the finished plinth!

I really like it and so does everyone who has seen it so far. I think one person even thought I was doing another pathway of the course (like designer-maker) when they saw me working on it in the workshop. But I said to him that was the cool thing about the course, you start it off with your one practice in mind but you get to the end and you have the opportunity to include many other practices, skills and techniques for the final stages.

I’m very proud of my plinth, it’s why I said earlier – it’s no ordinary plinth. And as a result I feel very grateful towards the 3DResource team in helping me get it to look the way I wanted and even better than what i wanted. It was worth all the downs encountered.


Home-made burgers and access to metal currently denied

June 20, 2010

So I’ve been on my laptop for what feels like days. Just finished the essay. I don’t feel that happy about it. It was rushed (really bad time to have a deadline) and probably could have been written better. But the deadline is tomorrow and I have no desires to drain myself of all life before completing my MA. So it’ll just have to do.

What I really want to be doing right now is finishing my sculpture. I’m way behind schedule. It’s bugging me. And yet I cannot do anything because right now the metal is hidden behind the sofa in the living room and as it is the biggest room in the house I need to sculpt it in there. But I also need to wait for the visitors currently sitting in there to depart before I can do that. This can be classified as an external factor. Some things in life are completely out of your hands and you can’t do anything but be patient.

I even missed a family BBQ today because of the essay writing. But luckily they bought some food back for me so I don’t feel as depressed as I did a few hours ago.

Symposium presentation

May 18, 2010
  • I am no film-maker
  • I had to make do with the in-built mic as I couldn’t find my external one
  • This was my first time using iMovie

And now you may proceed:

The original copy is much better quality but this was hugely compressed when uploading to YouTube, hence rubbish quality.

Scary vampires

April 7, 2010

After looking at some rubbish web cams which claim to have night vision capability (and actually only have LEDs to light up when it gets dark) I decided to go with a really cheap one from China (through eBay), just in case it turned out to be one of those.

It’s a very small camera which even has a mic,  and works surprisingly well for just £3! It works using Infra-red LEDs allowing it to work in the dark. I was quite sceptical of the quality of the image so naturally I tested it with different variables.

I turned the lights off and only had the light coming from my laptop screen at first and it worked great. I then placed the camera facing away from the laptop (completely behind it) and it still worked well. I stood in front with my little sister and it made us look like really pale vampires with scary shiny grey eyes! We both have dark brown eyes so not sure why that was happening. Anyway, the point is it works and when I use it for my work it will actually be mounted overhead so the problem of looking like scary vampires won’t be an issue.

I then tried to get it working with the OpenCV and processing examples on my PC but to no avail. I keep getting error messages. This is a major annoying factor, but one must persevere! I just have to keep trying to figure it out.

OpenCV - Errors :(

OpenCV - Errors 😦

I have also ordered a large roll of mirror card. It took me some time to track down someone who could sell it to me uncut (as the largest sizes you can get in the shops is A2). This gives me loads to experiment and work with and was a good saving on the usual retail price too.

I have also been looking into metal-cutting companies who not only supply but provide services for cutting metal sheets (aluminium, steel etc) but seem to be doing this mostly on mass scales. Its been another difficult aspect of getting the practical work together but I’m still hoping it can be done as a one-off and at a reasonable price. I’m now waiting for those companies to get back to me with quotes.

So all in all there are many small things going on but all are necessary in order to produce the whole which is probably why I haven’t been blogging as much.

My next task is to choose and complete a final pattern. I want to up the game a bit with this and choose a more complicated one that combines possibly 10 and 5 fold arrangements or 12 and 6. Plus I want to add my own touch to the standard pattern formations. It’s not a huge requirement but would be a nice bonus.

I am also aware that I had set myself the goal of having a proto-type ready by the end of March. Unfortunately there have been a huge amount of things to do which has slowed my progress down. And more things keep coming up! I do sometimes wish I could work on this project full-time but then again the other things going on are not bad things or are things that are about progress in life in general and so I wouldn’t sacrifice those either.

Practical solutions

March 3, 2010

I don’t think I realised how worried I was becoming about the need to learn a load of electronics, using the Arduino, Processing and connecting up all the potential sensors, not until I realised how relieved I was at hearing of alternatives that might work just as good if not better.

I attended Leon’s electronics workshop and spoke to a previous student a day before about my aims and they both suggested Video tracking as a solution. This sounds perfect! The potential is huuge.

Also, I got a quote back from a company about a matrix array sensor – guess how much…$3000 – $4000!!!! lolol yeh I know.

Ok so back to the solution, I found some really cool examples of video tracking in conjunction with Flash which is how Leon suggested it be used. The ones on this page are more like games but with a bit of editing could do the trick:

Also because it uses ActionScripting (which I at least recognise) it might be more realistic for me to pick up in practice.  As this practical prep is taking up much of my time I find myself blogging less. However, there’s a lot going on in this brain of mine (only some of it daydreaming) so here’s hoping it comes together soon so that I can go back to the aesthetics of the work and spend a good amount of time on that again.

BeatBearing and more electronics!

February 20, 2010

The title should probably be the other way around as I’m going to mention the electronics bit first.  I am really trying to figure out exactly what I’m going to need for my proto-typing for my next personal deadline. It’s dawning on me that this is way out of my comfort-zone. I don’t know where to start. However, I have come across some friendly and mostly helpful people so far and I’m hoping that will continue to be the case.

Leon Barker (PhD Student at SCIRIA) will be in uni again doing workshops in a couple of weeks on Arduino circuits and the like (I hope!). I have looked up bits of info randomly here and there about equipment and materials that I may need for AC lighting manipulation (which is really dangerous and so I’m slightly scared) and I’m also trying to find some pressure sensitive mats. The ones at Maplin seem to be very basic and have a switch for an open or closed circuit. This means there can only be two states and therefore two conditions for me to work with. I guess this could potentially do the trick depending on how I set up the lighting. An alternative is to project light on to my work instead of illuminating it from behind. I think both could work. Maybe I’ll need to use both anyway. But that’s another thing I won’t know till I’ve tried it.

I can’t believe how much there is to think about! I’ve had to stall on the sculptural aspects of the work for now as I fear the electronics will take much longer and is a higher hurdle. I did find some interesting acrylic materials but none of these would be suitable for what I need. I also found many steel.aluminum suppliers and cutters but they are very industrial based and so charge huge amounts for bulk amounts (can’t afford it and don’t need that much anyway).

So anyway while looking up these things I came across Peter Bennett’s work on YouTube. He is a PhD student at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queens University Belfast. His current work can be read about and viewed on this site: But I really want you to see is this video which shows his BeatBearing project. You can figure out how it works just from watching:

The cool thing is Peter has used Arduino and Processing for BeatBearing and has made his code and methods available for others to re-construct and experiment with. More about this project can be read here:

And before I finish off this post here is another link to a video in which you can see Peter Bennett and Sean Toru’s Transparency in Digital Art installation. They’ve used processing as well as pressure sensitive mats to allow users to create and edit shapes projected onto the wall through their movement on the floor:

Hmmm – lots to think about!

Breaktime is over

January 9, 2010

Ahhh what a nice break. It’s been cool giving myself time to relax. I thought I’d treat myself for the hard work of Unit1 which btw I got feedback for last week and it was very positive.

This was very encouraging and I am eager to progress this project to see what I’ll produce as the end nears in a few months. It’s roughly 5 months to the end of the course. I’m not counting the rest of this month or July. You have to give yourself contingency time don’t you?

So just to recount my goals for the next few months…

I need to:

  • explore further lighting options
  • experiment with interactive elements of lighting use
  • look at further materials that could be used for sculptural aspects of the work e.g, aluminium?
  • build second prototype by mid-March? (may need to revise this one later)
  • keep taking photographs of work as I go along (I like how these have come out so far and the process has turned into an artistic practice in itself)

I’m sure there will be more to add to this list but even this is enough to keep me going till I need to produce the final version. But then so much could happen in the next few months so this is only an indication of what I’m going to aim for.

Oh and here’s an image I created last week. It is a combination of hand-drawn and digital illustration (best way I can think of describing it). I think black and white is just my thing. Even though I contemplate doing coloured work I tend to always come back to the black and white. I guess its a classic combo that always looks good.

Inversion by Sara Choudhrey

Inversion by Sara Choudhrey