GIF it a go!

This GIF making workshop considers how the effects of engaging with art unfold when people are given the chance to spend some time remixing those artworks to create something new – a GIF! 

GIF as in “Gift” or GIF as in a “Jiffy” – it’s scone/scone for the digital world and a reliable way to start discussion during an afternoon of GIF making (I’m in the ‘hard G’ camp). On the 2 and 9 October, participants attended virtual GIF making workshops led by Charlie of the OpenEd Centre at University of Edinburgh. Copyright free images of Scottish works of art held by the National Galleries of Scotland, some of which you might recognise, were given to participants to start editing, reworking, and animating into GIFs.

The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) was invented in 1987 by computer scientist Steve Wilhite. These moving loops have become part of our popular culture seamlessly, deployed on social media, in private messages, to amuse or entertain, usually clarifying how we feel. GIFs are drawn from a wide range of media. The kind you frequently see provided in GIF menus on Twitter or Facebook are often clips of film or TV shows, although artworks have also proven to be an appealing source for the GIF. Classical paintings might have been created in the distant past, but they are static glimpses, snapshots, despite how much time passed during their creation. Making the artworks move offers the tantalising chance to bring them to life in a new way.

Inspired by Sir Edwin Landseer, The Monarch of the Glen, About 1851

Inspired by Norah Neilson Gray, Mother and Child, 1920s

During the workshops participants began by applying stickers to the images of art, before moving onto creating layers, which allows you to change individual parts of the images. Once this step is mastered you can start to move objects across the screen, extending or adding to the story of the painting, like changing the colours of the Reverend’s hat, or the Monarch shaking his head. Here are some of the GIFs participants made.

Inspired by John Emms, Callum, dated 1895

Inspired by Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Ladies Waldegrave, 1780

I was interested in inviting people to make artworks held by National Galleries of Scotland into GIFs as part of my PhD research, which looks at how the use of art images online might help generate new perspectives and ideas about them. From the GIFs above there was fun to be had but it also brought out some of the stories and details held within the paintings too.

Inspired by Sir Henry Raeburn, Reverend Robert Walker (1755 - 1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch, about 1795

Inspired by William Bell Scott, Una and the Lion, purchased 1978

Creating your GIF

We’d like to invite you to do the same. The GIF making guides the workshops were based upon are open access and you are free to download and work from them. You don’t need any specialised software to start, but if you have some experience already this is all possible with standard image editing tools. - an online GIF maker & toolset for GIF editing - free online image editor – GIF hosting website, upload, add stickers

The workshop guides linked below could also be felpful!

Select from these images and GIF It A Go! Be sure to tag us in your creations on Twitter @natgalleriessco and use #GIFItUpNGS wherever you upload.

About the author

Eleanor Capaldi is a second year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, undertaking research in a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the National Galleries of Scotland. She is exploring how the use of digitised images might help to encourage more diverse interpretations in online audiences. These digitised images might come from NGS themselves, on their website or social media feeds, or be taken, shared or even edited by visitors and audiences themselves.

By Eleanor Capaldi. PhD Researcher University of Edinburgh/National Galleries of Scotland, 4 December 2020