October 19, 2020

Hacking public art with Scratch

 

In 2018, I conducted a workshop on hacking public art at the Scratch@MIT Conference. Since then, I had pending to prepare this tutorial. In fact, rather than a tutorial, this is more like a set of suggestions, tips and indications, because the activity, as you will see, can be approached in many ways, and is totally open to variations.

The idea is very simple, and consists of using creative coding to play with the art that we have in our surroundings.

 
Try this Scratch project with 3 examples.

The activity can be performed with children, adults, families, and is also perfect for teacher training. It is interesting because it allows us to work outdoors, work in teams, improve our coding skills, and learn from the art we have around us, which we may see every day, but to which we often don't pay enough attention.

The main idea is to take a walk with our team, choose public artworks that we would like to play with, think together about what we could do, and finally program it with Scratch. We can code outdoors, with laptops or mobile devices, or we can first take the pictures outdoors and then go code in the classroom, home, museum, etc.


With the Scratch graphic editor we can make many effects, and for many animations it is more than enough. But sometimes it is useful to know that there are free online graphic editors, which allow us to play with the photos in many more ways. Sometimes these are useful to prepare the photos before uploading them to Scratch. I recommend Photopea and Pixlr, which are very intuitive.

Ideas and things you could try:

1. Adding elements from another context

2. Bringing to life a sculpture or painting

3. Duplicate elements and play with them

 

You can find inspiration in the projects of this Scratch studio, and I invite you to add your owns there.

Also, I share a step-by-step to learn how to create a project like the first one in this post (where the Scratch cat replaces the Botero cat).

Step 1: We take the photo of the sculpture, we upload it and use it as a backdrop in Scratch. 

Step 2: We open the same image again but as a sprite. Then we have to cut out the body of the statue (we won't need its head) and we can change its color to make it more similar to the orange color of the Scratch cat. 

Step 3: Now we have to edit the Scratch cat sprite, remove its body with the graphics editor, select the head and copy it, return to the statue's sprite, paste the head and adjust it (orientation and size).

Step 4: Finally we only have to program the animation. First we make the sprite totally transparent (set ghost effect to 100), and we set the size and position that it has to have to be right over the cat statue in the background. Then, we wait as long as we want and with a loop we make it appear slowly (decreasing the ghost effect in each iteration).

 




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