Monday, October 28, 2013

Must have apps/programs for Grad students

This is a much longer and more informative post from me, but I thought this was the best venue to post all the interesting tools I have come across through my MA as I've been trying to organize my primary research in a way that makes sense for me. Hopefully some of these tools are useful for you as well!

Thought Maps by Jamie Marie Waelchli | 2007-2011| FalseFront

I may not be the most organized person in the world, but I'm definitely open to trying new apps, programs, websites or techniques that might help me organize my thoughts and research, or increase productivity. Here are some of my top five technology picks I'd recommend if you're trying to organize your research, essays, thoughts, schedule, life, etc.

I'm going to include a brief description of how I use the product in some cases, just so you get a sense of how to apply it to your own research, or life.

1. EVERNOTE (click here for the website)  - A program for organizing your notes, ideas, pdfs, photographs, thoughts, citations, to-do lists, voice recordings, everything!

Before I begin, watch this quick video explaining what you can potentially do with Evernote as it explains the gist of it better than I can.

Evernote would have to be my all-time number one choice. I can't say enough good things about it! It's a program that you can download from the website, and run while online or offline on your computer (this means you don't have to worry about what you are writing disappearing if you aren't connected to the internet - you've got it ALL THE TIME). You can also add Evernote on your phone, your tablet, or access the online website version of it by logging in wherever you are.

Whatever you put on Evernote syncs up when you are connected to the internet, so if you add something to Evernote while at the library using their website log-in, it will automatically sync up to your home computer and all your devices (okay, this may not seem revolutionary to a lot of you, but it's HUGE if you're like me and paranoid about losing information - it's all organized in one central hub). Or if you're the type of person who writes notes on the go on your phone, it's automatically accessible to you once you turn on your computer (no need to transfer it manually, or try to remember where you wrote that note down).

How to use it?

Its usefulness depends on you figuring out how best to make it work for you (it took me about 3 months to start figuring out how I could use it for my own research). You can make individual notes that have titles and tags so that they are easy to find and search later. You can put these notes into notebooks, and you can have sub-notebooks inside your notebooks (I don't think you can but sub-sub-notebooks into your sub-notebooks yet, or maybe you can if you pay for a subscription).

How do I use it? 

I use it for my Major Research Project (MA thesis) as I have one large notebook for my topic - the historical artist I'm studying, and then I have sub-notebooks that include:

  • Her paintings (the notes in this folder each have a photo of an individual painting, and then whatever information I've been able to find about it from the web, or quotations from literary sources I've come across) 
  • My to do list (this is actually broken up in to individual notes with to do lists for certain things. You can add in a little box that you can add a check to when you've finished something, so it really helps you stay on track)
  • Information on sitters and patrons
  • Literary sources 
  • Chapters
  • Possible connections 
I also have notebooks for my personal life and interests, classes I'm in, other research projects or interests, etc. 

When beginning my MRP I had all my research in one extremely large Word document (I think it was about 80 pages). It had photos, excerpts from literary sources, reviews, etc. and every time I opened it, it would slow down my computer immensely, and it would be hard to find and organize thoughts (copying and pasting only does so much). 

Ultimately, Evernote is a brilliant way to organize what could otherwise be a whole bunch of disparate notes, all in one easily accessible place. 

Did I mention the Web Clipper?

You can download a browser app called the Web Clipper, so whenever you see a photograph, pdf, article or website online, you can use the clipper to clip the whole page or just a section of it and add it into Evernote as a note, nicely filed away.

2. POCKET (click here for the website) - Collect articles to read later, online or offline

Pocket is another really handy app I'd recommend. This is less about organizing your notes, and more about organizing your readings. Often when I'm going through facebook or twitter or other sites, I come across articles that I think sound really interesting, and I know I should read it but I don't have the time to at the moment. If you install Pocket (I have it as a Chrome app) you can just click the little Pocket button at the top of the screen and it's saved in a little folder for later.

It's like a bookmark folder, except now when I'm commuting to school or elsewhere I can take out my tablet which has the app on it and be able to look at those saved articles while I'm offline.

3. THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE - A technique to help with time management or "getting shit done"

This was a technique developed in the 1980s, and involves breaking down the time you are actually working on a project into 25 minute intervals. Each of these intervals are called pomodoros (or tomatoes in Italian). Between each tomato is about a 5 minute break when you can check your emails, take a quick glance at facebook, stretch your arms, grab some water, etc. But when you're in your pomodoro/tomato you have to work completely uninterrupted for that 25 minute period.

There's a number of different apps, programs and websites you can use to help you with this technique and most of them are fairly straightforward and will help you get the same thing out of it (for my Nexus 7 tablet I used Pomodroido, which doesn't really have any bells and whistles but it's useful as a timer and calculating how many tomatoes you do).

4. KANBANFLOW (the website is here) - "A visual process management system that tells what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce... An approach to incremental, evolutionary process improvement." - Basically, it's a fancy way to organize your To Do lists

KanbanFlow is something that works hand in hand with the Pomodoro technique (the website KanbanFlow has a built in Pomodoro timer a the bottom of the page). Basically it's a website that helps you break down a project (like your thesis or your MRP) into smaller, bite-size tasks.

Instead of having on your to-do list "write my MRP" or "research this artist," you can break down each task into sub-categories of tasks that are easier to digest. I think the point of this is to help you establish a game plan, figuring out the steps you need in order to complete a task. I personally think that it works off that feeling of satisfaction you get when you accomplish something on your checklist, and having all these small tasks (maybe.. "turn on laptop," "go to this website," "email so and so about this archive") gives you a bit of an adrenaline rush that makes you feel like you're accomplishing something.

Anyways, I've found that it works. I don't use it for my MRP (because that would be too intimidating to make a massive to do list for that just yet), but I definitely find it useful for smaller essays I'm working on.

5. BOOMERANG FOR GMAIL (here is the website) - it works as an add-on for Firefox, Chrome and Safari as well as with Google Apps email

This is a relatively new find for me and I'm loving the idea! All too often I find that I'm only getting to my emails around midnight or later, and you have that dilemma about do I send this email now and look unprofessional or do I save it in my drafts and send it in the morning (if I wake up that is)?

With this program you can write your email, and then tell it to send the email out at 8am tomorrow morning. It does other things like boomerang emails back to you but I haven't really used that part of it yet, so I really can't say how useful that is. What's really great about this is that you can send an email out at 1am, schedule it to be send 7am that day, and when you wake up, you may already have a reply waiting for you!


Those were the top 5 I could think of off the top of my head, but there are quite a few other programs you might find useful if you don't already know about them (though chances are you do).

  • Reverse Google Image Search: See a photo on the internet with no context? Drag and drop it into Google images to search the image itself, and find better quality versions as well as contexts. You can also get a Google Chrome App, so that all you have to do is right-click an image to reverse search it
  • Dropbox (or Skydrive, or Google Drive, or any of those other ones): This is great for obvious reasons, storing your files online as well as being able to easily share documents and photos with others. 
  • Programs to gather citations - Zotero, Mendeley, Endnote - I've heard great things about these, but haven't really gotten around to using them yet. They're definitely worth checking out though! 

Anyways, that's all I've got for now, but I'm always interested in hearing about new ways to make my life easier, so feel free to comment if you have suggestions.

Edited to include suggestions -


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Getty Museum and Open Access

This past Monday August 12th, the Getty Museum announced their "Open Content Program to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty's digital resources as possible." This means that they have put up around 4,600 high-res images that are "free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose." As someone who loves to root through the archives myself, I could not be happier to hear about this decision and spent a number of hours meandering through their online collections focusing in particular on their photographic archives. 

I was extraordinarily pleased to see that not only are high-res images included and the meta-data, but the photographs are often accompanied by a descriptive paragraph or so explaining the importance of the work, or the background, or framing it in a wider context. These short descriptions allow and foster a greater appreciation for the works, and I'm impressed with their quality as well as the wide ranging variety of examples chosen.

In their article, the Getty Museum explains why they chose to move towards open access,

This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity. In its discussion of open content, the most recent Horizon Report, Museum Edition stated that “it is now the mark—and social responsibility—of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.” I agree wholeheartedly. 
They've hit the mark when it comes to education, using images to share stories and making history more accessible. I'm looking forward to when Canadian museums start to follow this approach (though the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN)'s Artefacts Canada is a good start) as there is a wealth of information out there and sharing it will only foster more research and greater exchange of ideas.

And now for my top ten favourite photographic works in chronological order that I have came across so far during my look through the Getty's collection (I admit it was terribly hard narrowing it down to 10).

1. Daguerreotype Copy

SourceUnknown American, about 1848, Daguerreotype, 2 5/8 x 2 1/16 in. (84.XT.1568.7) 
Since the daguerreotype process did not involve a negative, the plate could only be copied by rephotographing it. Although the process was difficult and fairly cumbersome, it was highly profitable. Multiple copies of famous people were widespread, and families often required duplicates for their relatives.  
This daguerreotype plate reveals the manufacturer's name: Edmund White & Co. of New York, the largest plate maker in America in the 1840s. Also visible, stamped in reverse along the bottom edge of the plate, are the words "Best Quality Art." 

2. Portrait of an American Youth

SourceJeremiah Gurney, American, 1852 - 1856, Hand-colored daguerreotype, 3 7/16 x 2 3/4 in. (84.XT.1564.27)
The bare chest and flexed biceps of this young American man might be interpreted as a metaphor for the strength, vigor, and optimism of America in the 1850s. Striking a pose of physical prowess yet exuding youthful vulnerability, the would-be pugilist awkwardly curls back his left fist in a gesture that almost suggests a battle with himself. His elongated neck makes his head seem nearly detached, hovering above his pale torso. The distinct, faint tan line across his neck and shoulders may betray his social class by indicating that he labored outdoors. 

3. Spiritualism 

 SourceWilliam Mumler, American, about 1861, Albumen silver print (84.XD.760.1.7) 
The Spiritualist movement was founded on the belief that the human soul exists beyond the body and that the dead could communicate with the living. This concept developed in the 1850s and gained momentum in the United States after the Civil War. Mumler claimed to be able to photograph the spirits of departed loved ones. Although his methods were never disclosed, he made ghostly images by incorporating an existing picture of the deceased into a new photograph he made of the surviving relative. His eight-year-long activity was marked by highly publicized civil court trials for fraud. 

4. Photo-collage 

SourceUnknown British, 1870s, Collage with pen, ink, and albumen silver print (84.XA.1252.2)
This album offers a particularly original presentation. An unknown skilled amateur cut out individual figures and faces, arranging and pasting them onto his drawings. The realistic quality of the subjects contrasts with their fictional settings, the whole resulting in humorous tableaux vivants (living pictures). 

5. Differential Action

SourceThomas Eakins, American, Pennsylvania, 1885, Lantern slide, 1 11/16 x 1 9/16 in. (84.XM.201.25) 
Thomas Eakins' investigations into motion grew out of Eadweard Muybridge's animal locomotion project at the University of Pennsylvania. Eakins assisted Muybridge in finding models for his motion studies, and, erecting a separate shed on the campus, Eakins began to conduct his own experiments. This photograph is one of a series of what Eakins called "differential-action" studies, which culminated nine years later in a lecture entitled "The Differential Action of Certain Muscles Passing More than One Joint." This lantern slide image was probably used as a projected illustration during the talk. In order to demonstrate the tensile strengths of a horse's muscles, the man on the ladder balances his weight on the horse's skinned hind leg. 

 6. Expressive Georgia O'Keefe

SourceAlfred Stieglitz, American, June 4, 1917, Platinum print, 9 5/8 x 7 11/16 in. (91.XM.63.3)
[Georgia O'Keeffe] is much more extraordinary than even I had believed--In fact I don't believe there has ever been anything like her--Mind and feeling very clear--spontaneous--& uncannily beautiful--absolutely living every pulse beat.  
Early in Alfred Stieglitz's relationship with O'Keeffe he wrote this adulatory description of her to a friend. Stieglitz made this expressive study of O'Keeffee's nearly dancing hands and her torso, dressed in a crisp black dress with a sheer, voile shawl collar, reminiscent of the one she wore when they first met at his gallery. O'Keeffe, by then already an accomplished painter, expressed herself eloquently through her hands, and Stieglitz recognized their emotive potential. 

7. The Dancing Faun

SourceAndré Kertész, American, Hungary, 1919, Gelatin silver print, 2 3/16 x 3 5/16 in. (85.XM.259.18)
We were "sportive," we three brothers.... We went swimming, running, mountain climbing--everything.... [Eugenio] had the body of the good athlete that he was and a fine head for a faun.-- André Kertész 
Sixty years after this photograph was made, André Kertész recalled his life in Hungary with his two brothers, Imre and Eugenio, the latter the model in this photograph. Kertész transformed the silhouetted form of his brother leaping dramatically between leaves of foliage into a mythical creature of fairy tales. The oval trimming of the print creates a precious miniature, contributing to the photograph's whimsical quality. 

8. Man Ray's Woman Smoking a Cigarette

SourceMan Ray, American, 1920, Gelatin silver print, 3 3/8 x 2 11/16 in. (84.XM.1000.43) 
Made in the same year that suffragettes won the right to vote in the United States, this photograph flouts convention by showing a woman smoking, with her head thrown back in abandon. Man Ray's equally daring composition shows the model from an unusual vantage point, with the image centered on the crown of her head. 

9. My personal favourite, the marchesa Casati

SourceMan Ray, American, 1922, Gelatin silver print, 4 11/16 x 3 1/2 in. (84.XM.1000.136) 
One of Man Ray's early commissions as a photographer was to make a portrait of the Italian-born Marquise Casati, a free-spirited aristocrat who lived much of her life in France and whose personal style involved disheveled hair and raccoon-like eyes. In this portrait, the Marquise is visible through the panes of a display case holding an exotic artificial plant. She performs for the camera, appearing as a kind of gypsy sorceress with her lacy shawl and crystal ball, in which the photographer's reflection is visible. She forms a part of a still life, herself a curiosity as much as the objects on display. 

10. The Olly and Dolly Sisters 

SourceLászló Moholy-Nagy, American, born Hungary, about 1925, Gelatin silver print, 14 3/4 x 10 13/16 in. (84.XM.997.24) 
A floating circle, a common motif in László Moholy-Nagy's work, is a dominant, repeated form in this composition: one superimposed over the face of a human figure, a second substituting for another body, and the final and largest circle serving as the foundation upon which the figure perches. The detailed opulence of the plumed skirt cascading around the woman's body contrasts with the empty void of the black sphere obliterating her face and thus her identity.  
The title refers to the identical twin Dolly Sisters, Jenny and Rosie, who were a dance team popular in Europe and the United States from 1911 to 1927. They appeared at the Moulin Rouge in Paris and the Ziegfeld Follies in New York, and spent their final years in Los Angeles. They were renowned for both their beauty and their gambling prowess.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Watercolour Sketches from Childhood

Digging through some old boxes I recently came across my sketchbook that I used between ages 8 to 11 (though the majority were done around age 8). Some of the watercolours sketches were too funny not to share. My favourites include the painting done in the backseat of our old chevrolet caprice classic of the recognizable backs of my parents' heads, as well as the portrait of my father with the very crooked eyes (I remember having a fit because no matter what I did to that piece that eyes were still out of whack, but hey, he's got character). 

Sketches from Childhood (Age 8)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Collector's Wishlist: A Day at Art Toronto

This past Friday I headed to Art Toronto to attend a couple of lectures and check out the incredible selection of artworks on display by more than one hundred different galleries from throughout Canada and around the world. Here are some of the pieces that stood out in particular for me (though it really is only a very small sample). Art Toronto is open until October 29th, so I suggest stopping by if you have an interest in up and coming contemporary artists.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nuit Blanche

Wow, more than 10,000 page views for this blog! Who reads this thing anyways? 
 Anyways, I just want to say thanks for reading and here are some shots from Nuit Blanche in Toronto this past September. 
 I'd like to go back and add artists names to these photos, but I haven't had much time lately, but if you're interested you can track the artists down here.