Posted by: Nicky | November 2, 2008

MAP 2 Online Assessment – Visual Communication

Ben Dickinson – Student #10734580

When we tell a story in cinema, we should resort to dialog only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shot and bits of film in between.

Hitchcock 1967 pp.23

In their most basic sense, ‘principles of composition are only ways of arranging lines and shapes.’ (Dow, 1997 pp.86) For from being a trivial or insignificant aspect of visual composition, the use of line and shape to communicate narrative, mood and setting is an essential component in being able to tell a story, ‘in pictures’, as it were. Stephen D. Katz has written that ‘by themselves, camera angles have no meaning… The value of the shot really depends on the narrative.’ (Katz, 1991 pp.239) In approaching the task to ‘tell a story in pictures’, I devised a relatively simple narrative story of a man who, discontent with his identity, delves deep into his psyche in search of his alter-ego. This simple narrative will be presented through three different shape and line compositions; the linear, the circular and the organic.

For the initial frame (Appendix [1]), the character is captured on a staircase, surrounded by ‘precise and sharply defined geometric shapes’ (Gatto et al, 1978 pp.68). Note the evenly distributed horizontal lines of the stairs and the distinct linear angles of the railings and tiles. It is a rigid setting, one that infers rules and regulations, and a certain degree of uniformity. As Jennifer van Sijll states; ‘a balanced frame is one in which there is an intentional symmetry.’ (van Sijll, 2005 pp.22), and yet the pure symmetry of the image is such that it presents a rather flat, dull and disconcerting impression on the viewer. Rather than be drawn to the character, the viewer’s gaze resides on the foreground of the picture, focusing on the imposing geometry of the setting (see also Appendix [4]). We are thereby able to acquire a sense of character and setting without the use of dialogue or music; although he is the central figure in his personal narrative (as implied by his placing along the vertical centre of the frame), the character is surrounded and contained by the banality and rigidness of his structured life (symbolically represented by the foregrounding of the horizontal lines).

In the second frame (Appendix [2]), linear angles are swapped for a multitude of curving lines and circular shapes. Contrary to the harsh ‘flatness’ of the previous frame, the curving lines elongate the frame by presenting a cyclical ‘gaze into the space by spatialising the gaze’ (von Amelunxen in Crone, 2005 pp.7). The curved lines and circularity of the image and the character’s movement away from us suggests a portal or threshold into another world (as in Appendix [5]), as van Sijll states; ‘if done carefully, it [circularity] can externalise a character’s inner world or even… be prescient.’ (van Sijll, 2005 pp.26) Gatto writes that the ‘curving lines allow the artist to change direction’ (Gatto et al, 1978 pp.26), and so too is the character’s change of identity represented in the dizzying circularity of the image. A similar example can be found in Francis Ford Coppola’s script The Conversation, in which the protagonist, symbolised by the linear, finds himself disoriented and confused in a foreign circular setting, and only regains control when he returns to the structured rigidity of his normal environment.

In the third image (Appendix [3]), the character has come to reside in the organic setting, surrounded on all sides by twigs and bush. Note how, in comparison to the linear setting, the character is no longer the centrepiece of the image, and yet our eyes are drawn to him far more than in the first image. Once among the natural environment, although not the central figure, he holds his own distinct place within the setting. Environment and character here share equal billing, illustrated by the asymmetrical balance which creates a ‘sensed equilibrium between parts of the picture.’ (Gatto et al, 1978 pp.124) Rather than the brazen ‘oppositional’ perspective of the first image (Appendix [1]), the voyeuristic point of view from within the setting is organic to the scene, and makes us feel as though we are intruding on an intimate moment between character and setting (see also Appendix [6]). Indeed, in this composition, the intention is not to render the landscape, but rather ‘the sensation produced by the landscape.’ (Castagnary in Art Gallery of NSW, 2008 pp.6 – see also Appendix [7])

Thus, through the manipulation of line and shape in the images, as well as the relationship between the images, narrative, mood and setting are made visually explicit without the need to resort to music or dialogue to communicate story.

Word Count: 795


Art Gallery of NSW 2008 ‘Monet & The Impressionists’, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, Australia, pp.1-16

Coppola, Francis 1972 The Conversation: Screenplay, Script City, CA, USA

Crone, Rainer 2005 Stanley Kubrick: Drama & Shadows – Photographs 1945-1950, Phaidon Publishing, NY, USA

Dow, Arthur Wesley 1997 Composition, University of California Press, LA, USA

el Laberinto del Fauno 2006 Motion Picture, Warner Bros, Mexico

Gatto, J., Porter, A. & Selleck, J. 1978 Exploring Visual Design, Davis Publications Inc., MS, USA

Katz, Steven D. 1991 Film Directing – Shot by Shot: Visualising from Concept to Screen, Michael Weise Publishers, CA, USA

Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975 Motion Picture, Atlantic Releasing Corp., Australia

Trainspotting 1996 Motion Picture, Miramax, UK

Truffaut, François 1967 Hitchcock, Simon and Schuster Publishers, NY, USA

van Sijll, Jennifer 2005 Cinematic Storytelling, Michael Wiese Publishers, CA, USA

Witness 1985 Motion Picture, Paramount, USA


Posted by: Nicky | September 15, 2008

first day of the week

Suellen and I played golf together today! Would you believe it’s my first time? If you’d seen me out on the course today, I think you probably would…

It was incredibly fun. Suellen is a complete natural, and she can hit the ball extremely far for a woman (so she tells me). My shots were a lot smaller, but I think it’s more fun that way because you get to play more!

We had lunch at a cafe next door and then drove home. On the way back we passed the University and Suellen mentioned how a friend of hers recently enrolled in a course there as a ‘mature age student’. I had no idea there was such a thing…

After I dropped Suellen off I went to pick up the kids from school and then took them out to have milkshakes as a treat. I had caramel.

Danie’s cooking dinner tonight, which has given me time to write this post instead of doing all the preparations. I think Dylan and Allie might even be setting the table. I’m not sure what we’re having yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Until next time…

Nicky x

Posted by: Nicky | September 14, 2008


I killed a cockroach today.

Mikaela was the first one to see it. We’d been eating breakfast when it ran across the kitchen floor. She started screaming, and then the other two lost it as well. Without thinking, I stepped on it and crushed it. I didn’t even have any shoes on. The crunchy body had squished between my toes, and it felt almost like standing on glass for a moment – the brittle shell sticking into my flesh. It must have been two or three minutes before I lifted my foot off of it.

It’s insides had left a shiny stain on the tiles, and even though it wiped off quite easily, I knew it would probably be some time before I could step on that tile again without thinking about it. I went to the bathroom to wash my feet, and, as I scrubbed my toes in the sink, I realised I had started crying.

I didn’t let it all out. I didn’t sob, or gasp. I just continued to wash my skin, and let the tears roll down my cheeks as I did so.

After a while, I emerged from the bathroom with clean feet. Mikaela ran up to me and I picked her up and held her, just like I used to when she was little. Dylan came up from behind me and hugged me around my waist, and when I found Allie hiding in her room I tickled her mercilessly until she had completely forgotten about the fearsome cockroach.

I’m not sure it will be so easy for me to forget, but at least it’s dead now. Danie was working in his office, and I brought him in a cup of tea, sat down on his lap and kissed him on the mouth with every inch of my being. When we finally separated, I left him with his cold tea, and went back to my room to write this. I’m not sure whether or not I caught a look in his eye as I left the room, but even if there was one there I can’t hold it against him. In time, that look with fade, and eventually I won’t see it anymore.

I’m not sure what I’ll do this afternoon. I might go for a jog, or I might even see a movie with Suellen. Then again, maybe I’ll just stay in with the family… we can look for more cockroaches…

Nicky x

Posted by: Nicky | September 13, 2008

let’s stay together

Why somebody, why people break up?
Oh, and turn around and make up
I just can’t see
You’d never do that to me
Would you baby?
Because being around you is all I see

let me be the one you come running to…

I’ll never be untrue

Let’s, let’s stay together.

(…thanks Mayet)

Posted by: Nicky | September 11, 2008

Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream?

I was close to making it back. So close. But there are so many questions that have been left unanswered… I can’t leave them that way. I need time.

Would I could cast a sail on the water
Where many a king has gone
And many a king’s daughter,
And alight at the comely trees and the lawn,
The playing upon pipes and the dancing,
And learn that the best thing is
To change my loves while dancing
And pay but a kiss for a kiss

I would find by the edge of that water
The collar-bone of a cat
Worn thin by the lapping of water,
And pierce it through with a gimlet, at that
At the old bitter world where they marry in churches,
And laugh over untroubled water
At all who marry in churches
Through the white thin bone of a cat

Posted by: Nicky | September 10, 2008

The Three Faces of Nicky

To be a mother is unlike any other role in the world. It takes love… unmeasurable love… but that is an easy thing to come by. Not so easy is patience. Strength also. Once a child sees their mother as weak they won’t be able to look at them in the same way ever again. I fear that, after the past few weeks, I may be able to see a change in my children’s eyes when they look at me… a look of bewilderment perhaps, or, even worse, understanding. To have a child afraid of their mother is one thing. To have a child afraid for their mother is something much worse. The child should not have to worry about the mother. That’s her job. And it’s a job that she does willingly. Motherhood takes absolute devotion, but it’s a devotion that comes naturally. A devotion to marriage is something much different.

I love my husband very much. If I had my time again, I would not hesitate to take the same oath and make the same bond that we did 17 years ago. But a commitment to a spouse is completely different to a child. It is hard. I feel myself constantly having to work to be a good wife… to say and do things that do not come naturally to me because I know that they are the right things to say. I constantly find myself checking my words and actions so that I don’t say or do anything that could damage our relationship… I’ve also hated him before. This by itself is completely different to motherhood – I could never hate my children… not ever. But there have been times when I have hated against Danie, and I’ve felt awful about it later but it happened all the same. I hope this isn’t just me. I can’t believe that other couples might find marriage so easy – like they do in the movies. I’ve never experienced that.

What about me? I’m not really sure how to answer that. To be a wife, to be a mother – you have responsibility. I made these decisions for myself, and I wouldn’t take them back even if I could, but is it selfish to want more? I hate to talk like that, because I know I have it good… too good… I know it’s not fair to ask for more. My friend’s daughter is 23. She has just finished University and has been offered a position in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Last year she spent 7 months overseas in Europe with her best friend from high school. When I was 23 I was in my third year of marriage. The only other country I’d known was my homeland, and I left my best friend behind when we moved here. I haven’t spoken to her in 18 years. I never did get to finish my degree either. So how do you I go about finding myself now? How am I supposed to answer that question without calling myself by the two biggest roles I play in life? You know what, I shouldn’t have to, and what’s more, I shouldn’t be asked to. Particularly not by someone who has only known me for the last ten days. Not everyone is an individual… Not everyone has to live for themselves. Some of us want to live for others!

I think I could be one of those people.


Posted by: Nicky | September 8, 2008

Had we but world enough, and time

I woke up as myself today. I still felt quite groggy, but it was a real feeling, and any of those, even unpleasant ones, are most welcome at the moment.

There has been a giddiness to my thoughts of late… a light-headedness that started off quite pleasant and then became too strange to enjoy any longer. I’d begun to miss the sorer emotions.

I saw the children today. They all came up and sat on the bed while I had breakfast. Allison and Mikaela buried themselves in my side and sat by me the whole time, but Dylan stayed at the foot of the bed while I ate. That hurt a lot.

It felt strange to see them again – to hold them. It is different somehow. They no longer fit into my body like they used to, and I feel as though I am only hugging their person; just the physical part of them. I touch their skin like it’s a material – a fabric that I am not familiar with. I don’t think it will always be like this, but I suppose I can’t be certain.

I was determined to stay strong while they were there, and was proud of myself when I was able to. Danie looked awful. His eyes were very dark and his face was unshaven. I think perhaps he needs a new razor… Before he left he sent the kids out into the corridor and sat down on the bed with me. He held my face tightly and looked into my eyes. He told me he didn’t understand, but I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I didn’t say anything back. He tried to kiss me on the lips, but I could smell that he hadn’t cleaned his teeth so I pulled back. He left the room then, I thought to go and brush his teeth, but when he didn’t return after a few minutes I knew that wasn’t it.

My arms are sore from holding my girls. When you are locked in an embrace for some time your muscles begin to ache after a while, and I can feel it in my shoulders too now. I’ll have to ask them to be more careful next time they come.


Posted by: Nicky | September 7, 2008

i’m looking through you; you’re not the same

In the world there is a hole
And in the hole there is a shaft
Down the shaft there is a tunnel
And through the tunnel there is a lake
In the lake there lives a beast
And in that beast there is a fire
In that fire there is a warmth
And from that warmth there comes a life
In that life there is a world
But in that world there is a hole

Posted by: Nicky | September 5, 2008

O what to me the little room

I got out into the garden today. The others didn’t know I was out there, but the side door was ajar so I was able to slip out unnoticed. I needed to get out, to be alone for a little while…get away from it all.

The garden was terribly beautiful. The roses spatter amongst various plants and ferns, impressing a sort of festivity to the scene. It was still dewy from the morning, with tiny droplets of sunlight still caught on the leaves and petals – a shimmering.

I walked barefoot onto the grass, feeling it squish beneath my toes. It felt wonderful – to be out…be on my own…I hopped about gleefully, visiting the different plants, the carefully ordered sections of gardenia and oleander and snapdragon. Their scents cleared me, ordered me, cleansed me. And then I am amongst the trees.

The plants are gone, and so is the light. There is a dampness in here… it lives in the soil. Twigs and broken branches check my arms. My feet sink further into the mud, and it colours my skin, as if I have gotten so deep into the earth that I have taken on its colour. The trunks are thick. They rise up around me – too high.

I am lost, and I can’t remember my way out. I begin to think, but the shadows cover my vision. It is too dark in here – just me and the trees. I think back. I think hard.

One had a lovely face,
And two or three had charm,
But charm and face were in vain
Because the mountain grass
Cannot but keep the form
Where the mountain hare has lain

Posted by: Nicky | September 4, 2008

If I don’t get it one way, I’ll get it the other

Stealing things is fun.

I never realised how much I would like it. It always seemed so trivial – taking something for yourself that you want… and I suppose it always seemed wrong too. Now it doesn’t feel right so much as natural. If I want something, why shouldn’t I take it? Sure, it might not belong to me, but what deterrent is that? Why shouldn’t it belong to me? It’s not like I haven’t had things taken from me in the past, and I can assure you that they are far greater in number and significance than what I am taking now.

Today I stole a ring, a watch, a brush and a lolly. Tomorrow I might steal a key – if I see one. I might not be able to though, if they don’t leave them lying around. They are usually pretty careful about things like that. Still… here’s hoping.

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