Attitude Adjustment

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rezlife began a new month-long series last night, entitled ‘Attitude Adjustment.’ This series will take a more in-depth look at the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5.

Even though ‘Beatitude’ in meaning has nothing to do with ‘attitude,’ (as beatitudines is Latin for ‘blessed’) the parallelism of the beatitudes themselves (blessed is this person/ because of this…) carries within it a movement that is almost paradoxical- states of being that seem undesirable are shown to be ultimately the state of blessedness because they are ways to be that God desires of humanity. Thus, there is an implicit ‘attitude’ adjustment within the poetical structure itself.

As I was thinking about the imagery for this series, I decided, as I usually do, to avoid what might amount to cliches. The obvious direction to go was to contrast something like a sad face with a happy face, or have expressions change. I wanted to go a different direction. Part of the foundation for this series is a song called Words to Build a Life On, which is about the Beatitudes. Thus, I wanted to focus on the idea of the Beatitudes being words that aren’t just something that you hear, but are something that you are to live or, as the video will state, to be. The Beatitudes are found at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus teaches us how God wants us to live. These words can be words that we simply hear, but they are meant to be more than heard- they are transformative. I was reminded of this passage from James:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25 NIV)

With this in mind, I began work on the graphic. I happened upon some of the imagery in the Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Archives, which is an excellent repository of imagery in the public domain just begging to be used. (It can be a bit tedious to search through, but you can find some incredible stuff.) One of my favorite ways of creating graphics is to take something that had an original purpose and reworking it to be something completely new. So I started with the image of this man as kind of my canvas, and decided on a minimalistic color scheme.

One thing I have noticed with having fewer colors is that it can really focus the attention onto details, and so even a few details can take on increased importance if the colors are directing attention to them. This is kind of what I did here. I wanted to subtly reinforce the idea that this series is about more than just words, so I put the strikeout through the mouth. I tried to create a little bit of a misdirection- there are multiple instances of mouths, but they all have the strike-through. This creates a little bit of visual tesion- more mouths indicates more words, but all the strike-throughs visually negate that. Since you cannot visually abstract the mouth from the strike-through, (since I haven’t given a ‘clean’ instance of the mouth) the tension is resolved in the desired direction.

Then I put the colors to work. Having the title in the pink-ish color obviously makes it stand out and draws your attention there. Since that becomes the visual focus, I made one instance of the mouth to share that color, and had the strike-though become its negative color. By having the mouth share the color of the title, it becomes a secondary focal point. Since those two elements alone share the same color, (and as the rest of the colors are muted) their meanings become inexorably intertwined, and the mouth speaks as much to the meaning of the title as the title does to the meaning of the mouth. I inverted the ‘a’ in ‘adjustment’ not merely to be clever, but also to underscore the visual paradox I already have going on with the mouth and the strike-through.

For the video, I decided to echo the minimalism of the graphic as much as possible. I wanted there to be words, but I wanted to have as few words as possible but to have them say a lot. Thus, I needed to have the imagery say as much as the words. I wrote down a few different attempts at a script, and finally settled on one that was sparse but had enough to say. I especially wanted to communicate three things:

1. There are a lot of words that surround us
2. Some words we simply hear and forget
3. Some words are meant to transform us

Interestingly enough, those three lines are longer than what I settled on. The challenge was to say those ideas with as few words as possible. The final script is as follows:

So many words
Some are meant for you to hear
And some are meant for you to be
What could you become
If you had God’s words?

When I was playing around with this in the beginning stages, I had a lot more animation- mouths moving, lines drawing, scribbles, etc. The more I worked on it, however, the more I found that the cliche less is more really is often true, especially with visual arts. I finally decided on letting the camera handle most of the animation, with some sparse animations here and there of the imagery to give it a bit of visual interest during the ‘down times.’

The soundtrack, of course, was key. I found it on FirstCom, and felt that it gave the perfect feel for this piece. Once I had the music bed in place, I wanted to let the rest of the piece kind of ebb and flow around it. I had the camera do some focus work, especially in and out of cuts, to give the feeling of this moving, breathing moment.

The final product is a fairly sparse piece, but one that I feel has great movement and gets one thinking about the words one is going to hear and the words one is going to be.

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By deviantmonk

Jason Watson

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