16 Images, 1 Cup

Orange cup with orange steam coming out of it

Image gotten from Canva

I have always told myself that I am not a very creative person. The left side of my brain works more than the right side. Mind maps, flow charts, spider diagrams – I hate them all. If you want me to thrive, place information in a logical (rather than abstract) manner, with headings and sub-headings flowing methodically. My creative juices only flow when it comes to writing and music – or so I thought.

Here I was, bored on a Monday night, taking an online course on graphic design (shout out to Devika for recommending it to me). And the first topic was on imagemaking techniques. Connotative and denotative images. Colours, texture, shape, and volume. All these sounded interesting, and I was getting ready to experiment with Photoshop. Then I saw the first assignment on iteration:

Choose a household object and make at least 10 images of it using different techniques, whether analogue or digital, for each one.

This was step 1 – making denotative images, those that have no broader meaning beyond the object portrayed. We were encouraged to focus more on using different techniques, rather than trying to create perfect images. So I thought it would probably be better to experiment on paper instead of Photoshop. I got some paper, not knowing really what I was doing or how this would turn out. I printed out a picture of a cup (shown above) and used it as a guide. Then I started drawing and painting.

With makeup.

One cup represented with sixteen denotative images

Making denotative images using makeup

(Click here to view the individual images)

I cannot tell you how long I spent, but once I got into the hang of it, I simply could not stop! I ended up making 16 images but only submitted 10, as per the instructions. I used a foundation, concealer, lip liner, lipstick, eye shadow pallette, liquid highlighter, bronzer, and coloured pens to create my images. Then I scanned them with my phone, used a photo editor to edit them, and collated them in one picture, as shown above. This must have been the most fascinating thing I have done in a while! It’s amazing how many different images can arise out of just one object.

This led me to step 2 – making connotative images, those that convey a larger meaning. I used a combination of my drawings and resources on Canva to create these images, as shown below.

Three connotative images showing broader messages beyond the object of a cup

Making connotative images using my drawings and Canva

(Click here to view the individual images)

The larger messages that these images portray are as follows:

  • Image 1 – connotes drinking a hot beverage in the morning while reflecting on things (“morning reflections”). The second cup is flipped vertically as a play on the word “reflections” (thoughts/mirror image).
  • Image 2 – visual representation of the sentence, “I want to leave my footprints on the sands of time” (this sentence is itself open to interpretation but I’ll leave that up to you). The “sands of time” in the beach are organised around a cup merely for stylistic purposes.
  • Image 3 – simply, “pour out your heart”. I think this one is my favourite!

If you got any additional message from these images, do let me know in the comment section!

Update: In a different assignment, I also used one of the cup images above to create a poster for a song ‘Breathe Me’ by a fictional band, The Rounded Cups.

Poster of Breathe Me by The Rounded Cups

Why am I sharing this? Well, the first is to make you think about perspectives and interpretation. I created 16 images out of one cup. I then built on these to create images that have broader meanings. This says something about how the same issue can be interpreted in the same way by different people based on their backgrounds and specific experiences. This is why we must always be respectful of other people’s views and engage in dialogue to learn from them.

The second reason is to remind us not to limit ourselves. I thought I was not very creative, but here I was using makeup to create images; using art to make broad interpretations. I am not into graphic design (or maybe I am now – who knows?), but I really enjoyed this experience and I encourage you to try it too. Take an object and try to create as many images of it as you can, using a combination of different techniques. If you want to go a step further, try to convey broader messages with these images. I assure you that it will be a pleasurable experience!

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