A Blind GIF Artist Visualizes His Lost Sight

A Tribute to Adam Martinakis by GameL +Adam Martinakis source: 3DVF.com/GameL. GIF animation by George RedHawk.

Before becoming an unlikely viral GIF art sensation, George Redhawk worked in various areas of medicine, instructing on subjects such as x-ray technology and, rather surprisingly, phlebotomy.

As he tells The Creators Project, he had a fairly productive life doing that. Then, suddenly, Redhawk lost his sight, destroying his career and life in the process. And even though he continued to teach for four years, Redhawk says he “lost everything”.

"Light Is Time" a collaboration between Citizen watch & Tsuyoshi Tane (DGT). GIF animation by George RedHawk.

Out of desperation, Redhawk began using his remaining sight to find everything beautiful that he could commit to memory — to, as it were, take it with him. “I was obsessed, up day and night, trying to see everything I could,” Redhawk says. “That led me to an appreciation of art.”

This newfound appreciation of art led him to various artists online, and into the world of GIFs, particularly of the morphing variety. He thought that this format was a pretty accurate way of illustrating his sense of vision — a way of expressing it. Which is why his current work, a mesmerizing fusion of still and morphing motion, is called The World Through My Eyes.

Original black & white art by Federico Bebber. Colorization & GIF animation by George Redhawk.

“It’s an artistic expression of the confusion I go through with my vision loss,” Redhawk says. “Not enough data getting sent to the brain, and it tries to fill in the blanks with false information, so you can’t trust what your eyes or brain are telling you.”

When Redhawk realized that things in his field of failing vision began morphing, he started to play with morphing software, designed to mutate one image into another. One day, on a whim, Redhawk asked himself, “What if I morphed an image on to itself?”

Digital Art by Gregoire A. Meyer +Gregoire A. Meyer. GIF animation by George RedHawk.

“That’s when I realized I could get some bizarre and strange movements,” he says. “I can control the movements on what moves and doesn’t move. I had a lot of time to practice with it. I was just doing it for fun while my wife was at work. I saw what it could do and couldn’t do.”

And what Redhawk could do was essentially hack a piece of morphing software’s magnification box. The magnification allowed him to see the image, but also gave him the opportunity to be accurate in how he turned the tool back on itself.

Sculpture: Cairn by Celeste Roberge. Photo editing & GIF animation by George RedHawk.

“It has three screens: image 1, image 2 and then image 3, [which] is a blending of the first two images,” Redhawk says. “You place dots where you want movement and where you don’t want movement.”

Working from still photos that struck his fancy, Redhawk took elements that looked weird to him and started to move everything that typically wouldn’t be moving — a building, for instance.

Original art by Antonio Mora. GIF animation by George RedHawk.

“I’d move features of the face everywhere,” Redhawk says. “In some photographs, particularly with Antonio Mora because I love his work and what he does with blending faces with landscapes, I will make buildings move and give it a really surreal effect.”

“I feel like I have total control of it now, and many times I don’t have to think too much about it,” he adds. “If you move one dot from one side of the photo to the other, you get an extreme effect. I can make wind move left, right, up, down in very small spaces, getting it more elaborate and crazy as far as how far I want to push the limits.”

Photography by Dariusz Klimczak. GIF animation by George RedHawk

Soon, the artists whose work Redhawk was sampling began to take notice, contacting him to say how incredible the work was. Now, most of the work that Redhawk creates is done with the artist’s permission. Even though Redhawk has given birth to what’s called the “Redhawk Effect”, he rejects the idea that he is an artist, instead describing himself simply as “a guy who likes to play with photos”.

But that hasn’t stopped a recent television show from talking to Redhawk about his surreal, looping GIFs. He has found the attention somewhat amusing, particularly when French magazines started calling him “Le Daredevil de l’Art”, after Marvel’s blind superhero Daredevil, a sobriquet he finds “hysterically funny”.

Original painting by Tomasz Alen Kopera. Color editing & GIF animation by George RedHawk.

That’s not to say that Redhawk hasn’t enjoyed the attention, because he has. It was just never something he was looking for back when he started losing his sight, filing away all of the beauty, and playing with GIFs as a way of communicating the surreal effects of vision loss. Since the vision loss is progressive, one day Redhawk will be completely blind. In the meantime, he is making some lasting GIFs and being, whether he likes it or not, an inspiring visual artist.

Visit DarkAngelØne to see more of George Redhawk’s work.