Final Things

Well, as I close up this blog for the semester, there are two things that I realize I have left out:

1) Nature drawing

2) Off campus art exhibit

I did both things, but I did not write blog entries for them, so I will describe them here.

For my nature drawing, I actually drew something that wasn’t growing at the moment. I had a rose in my room from the ring ceremony and I took it outside and drew it with oil pastels, one of my favorite mediums. My attempt was to capture the colors accurately.

I did not succeed in that respect, since I wasn’t able to blend the pastels well in the crevices and small shapes of the petals. So the colors are extremely exaggerated and much closer to the available shades of my oil pastels than the true colors of the rose. I unfortunately cannot find my camera connector at this time (all packed up!) so I do not have an image to show. I wish that oil pastels had been used this semester, I have a lot of them and would really like to learn more about using them properly. Perhaps I can take some of what I learned from vine charcoal to get better with pastels? In any case, I think with pastels you have to work on a bigger scale than I did, because you have to blend colors and it takes a certain degree of space to blend colors well. Otherwise you’re just layering them one on top of another- although now that I say it, I wonder if by layering lightly I might be able to create new colors in a small space? Well, that’s an experiment to do this summer!

The gallery that I saw was the Seen Gallery in Decatur. It was quite a while ago, and although I wrote down the name of some of the pieces I liked in particular I lost the paper while packing. Oh, well. The work at the Seen Gallery is all modern and seems to be mostly by local artists, although some of the pieces are from far away. Although it is modern, much of the work is “modern” in a way that pays homage to classical art or incorporates classical technique. For example, there is a good deal of sculpture that I would describe as stylized realism. I don’t mean modern sculpture in the sense of a big wire square or something like that, I mean that a lot of the sculptures are actually renderings of people or objects. I really liked these sculptures of animals that were there when I visited, I think it was a goose?

I was pretty impressed with the paintings, too. Some of the paintings are realist in technique and abstract in concept (they express a surreal scene or use colors and shapes that are somehow different than reality to convey a mood). Actually, some of the coolest paintings I’ve seen in the past year were in a gallery in Savannah. I wish for the life of me that I could remember the name! In any case, it’s right by Vinnie Van Go Go’s pizza and a gelatto shop. They have a lot of contemporary paintings of musicians, which are just fantastic because they combine realistic rendering with unique attitudes, established typically by the use of color and contrast. The only problem I have with them is that they tend to look like they were done in Photoshop and then painted from the computer screen.

There was also a lot of artwork that was fairly suggestive, sexually. The art didn’t expressly contain nudity or anything but some of the paintings in the gallery looked like pinup work. Some of them were well done in terms of composition and technique, but a lot of them were just average and looked pretty devoid of style. It made me wonder if those pieces were just designed to sell based on their content. I mean, I have seen some pinup work that is legitimately fun to look at because of the way it is portrayed. Some have really unique lighting, styles, or moods. I just have trouble understanding exactly how something is art when it looks like an amateur painting done from a computer screenshot.

The Final Critique

On Friday, the “art final” took place. It was a critique a lot like any other, so it didn’t really feel that different. The only unusual thing was that we spent more time on each individual piece. Nell Ruby asked everyone to say what bothered them about their face, and then the class commented on each individual project. I really appreciated that, because there have been a lot of times when I’ve left critiques thinking I learned a lot about other people’s works, but got no feedback in any direction on my own. Actually, that just happened in the first two critiques, after that I started getting feedback. I don’t know if I just got more assertive about asking for feedback or my work got more worth commenting on, but the problem stopped midway through the semester. Anyways,  I got to see everybody’s portrait, and boy were they different. I took pictures of some that really caught my attention.

Anahita

Anahita’s piece has the most fantastic eyes. I watched her make them, and used her eyes as a guideline for mine. I used them not in the sense of trying to incorporate shapes from her eyes into mine, but in that her eyes are drawn with such attention to the lines and shapes that really exist. Anahita’s eyes, when you look at them up close, aren’t idealistically round or symbolic of eyes. They’ve got lines and curves that I frankly would never associate with eyes. That’s why they came out so real, and why it looks so much like her! Anahita saw what really composes her eyes, and was able to translate that to her page. Her eyes aren’t symmetric or idealized in any way, and they came out so true to life.

CeeCee

CeeCee’s portrait looks a lot like her. But that isn’t why I love it so much. In this case, it’s actually the glasses! Wearing glasses (or any accessory on your face) can make drawing a challenge; I used to struggle with drawing my own glasses when I was younger. How do you represent them in a way that is realistic and doesn’t overpower your face? I think CeeCee did it right. Her glasses don’t look chunky or symbolic, and that helps define them elegantly and smoothly. Certainly they cover parts of her face, but they’re so natural looking that they actually enhance her eyes. Interestingly, I think the frame of the glasses is the best rendered section of this drawing. I feel like I could run my hand on them. And here’s mine:

Elle

This is the drawing that I presented at the critique. I was worried predominantly about how accurate it looks. Although the class assured me it looks like me, I’m still not sold. I can definitely imagine one of my family members looking at it and asking, “Who is that?” I also worried that the eyes might look off, as they gave me the most difficulty. I spent a lot of time drawing and redrawing the right eye- Nell was definitely right about one side of the face being harder to draw than the other! Nell suggested fixing the pupil on the left eye. I did actually go around with a set radius that I measured out, but I think in my hurry to be done on time I forgot to measure (or measured incorrectly) the right edge of my left pupil. It makes my eye look off because in nature, pupils really are almost perfectly round. So I fixed it immediately after the critique, and hopefully in time for my final grade.

Elle part two

Better, but looking at it now I realize it is still not perfect. I think I will spend some more time on the eyes this summer to try to finish them off.

Interesingly, I got some very nice comments on my use of strokes with the eraser. I did not do this intentionally, I just wanted to capture the most detail possible and I had to work small to really get the shadows I saw. So it most certainly was not planned. Someone said it looks like my face is underwater, I don’t really see it though. I personally think my face looks  a bit like the lunar surface!

So what did I learn from this project? Well, sometimes you just need to put a lot of time into a project to make it decent. Frankly I think I could probably spend another 5 getting this to the level of accuracy I initially hoped for. Also, seeing what other people are doing can help even if you’re not working on the same thing. For example, even if my workstation neighbor is doing a fantastic job on her nose, I can’t really borrow shapes or shading from hers because my nose might look completely different and have completely different lighting on it. But  you can see the techniques other people are using to optimize their accuracy, and learn from them. I’d say I’m proud of this project, even though I think it still has room for improvement.

Reflections on an art exhibit

Earlier in the year, I saw an exhibit at Agnes Scott called “My Sweet, Sweet….” which featured many student and staff works responding to the titular prompt. However, the work that I really got interested in was called “Day and Night”, a collection of photographs about ordinary people active in the fetish community. The collection is by Forest McMullin. There are about ten sets of photos, each set containing a portrait of the subject in their everyday clothes (their “public face”) and a photo in their fetish getup. There’s a variety of fetishes explored, including bondage, domination, submission and role play.

Reading about the exhibit directed me to visit the blog of one of the subjects, who goes by Domina Dea. She spoke at Agnes Scott about the pictures, but I unfortunately did not make it to the panel. Here’s a link to her blog:

http://dominadeaspeaks.com/

A poster for the panel, with Domina Dea in her "day" clothes.

I got pretty interested with her blog and read a good part of it (see, blogs are great!). Domina Dea is actually a working dominatrix who provides her services to select clientele. However, although her work is sexual in nature, none of the work she does actually involves sexual activity. Something about this that strikes me as interesting is that being a dominatrix seems to be her everyday job, so her “day face” would most likely be her bondage gear! But, I see the point of the photographer- what does she look like when she’s just running out to the supermarket?

Domina Dea has her own studio and even an apprentice. What she does is actually a job, and she provides “sessions” somewhat similar to how you might make a massage or therapy appointment. From her website, it seems that she is fairly used to posing for photos for both promotional and artistic purposes. Interestingly, her expression in the picture shown at Agnes Scott’s gallery is less playful than most of the pictures on her site. She is showing off her equipment, and also making a fairly serious face. She looks like the type of woman you would not want to piss off! (Then again, if you’re one of her clients, maybe you do want her to get angry at you.)

Someone at the gallery opening pointed out that her face looks identical in both pictures. In most of the sets, the subjects have a distinct “day face” and a distinct “night face”. For her, there really is no obvious difference. Perhaps this is because she is so active in the Atlanta BDSM community that she actually spends most of her time in her “night face”.

I’m glad that I saw the exhibit because it prompted me to look up Domina Dea, and frankly I learned a lot about what being a dominatrix is like. I hope that there is another event/panel where she speaks because I’d be interested in seeing her mannerisms in person. The pictures give me such a strong feeling for her attitude, I’d be curious how accurate my impression is.

Tiny Animals: Jellies!

Recently, I went to Savannah, where I got to visit the beach (and get one of the worst sunburns of my life). I saw and got to touch a lot of jellyfish, which ended up being the inspiration for my “tiny animals” project. The goal of the project is to use the principles of art explored in the Graphical Thinking project to imbue a small model of a fantastical animal with selected personality characteristics.

A jelly in a little pond. A very brave girl was picking them up and putting them in a little zoo she made.

Now, I was very silly and forgot to take pictures of my creations. But they are coming shortly, probably later today.

I started playing with wire, trying to make the body of a jellyfish out of thin filaments wrapped around each other. Jellyfish are 97% water (or something over 95%, I can’t remember the exact percent) and so their bodies are predominantly membranes. They’re also cnidarians, which is a set of animals with sensory neural networks but no motor control over their trajectory of motion. Most cnidarians live in the sea, and they just float with the tide. So jellyfish end up where the tide takes them- which explains why so many were washed up on the shore or caught in the breakers, about to be beached.

The wire sculpture was very frustrating, and I was having trouble uniting it with another theme I wanted to explore- familiarity and comfort. I’m very familiar with making cuddly fish- for Christmas, I sewed my boyfriend a stuffed cuttlefish, since there is no manufacturer that makes them and it’s his favorite fish. I drafted the pattern and chose the fabrics with the hopes of giving him the warm-fuzzies. In this project, I wanted to explore how a jellyfish could be friendly. I wanted to make one that was somewhat puppy-like! This personality would not make sense with a cnidarian though, because for a jellyfish to be compassionate it would have to chose to be around people. It couldn’t be quite as passive, since I didn’t want it to be monk-like. It had to be playful.

So, in the end I got two animals: the Transient Air Jelly, and the Cuddle Jelly.

The Transient Air Jelly.

The Transient Air Jelly (herein referred to as the Air Jelly) is made of only three things: wire, film strips, and a modem. The modem acts as an anchor, the wire creates the body of the jellyfish as well as the stand that elevates it (I didn’t want it to look dead, it really had to be floating) and the film functions as tentacles. This jelly is empty inside, which is how a membrane should be. It’s a structure, but not a particularly personal one without a lot of substance to it. I think the lack of straight lines helps it feel purposeless, and I intentionally curved the wire stand to 1) represent the sinusoidal trajectory along with the jelly travels due to the tide, and 2) make the stand subtle and not overpowering. If I made it a straight line, that would have contrasted starkly with the curves of the Air Jelly’s body, and would have drawn attention to the stand. The stand only functions to enhance the viewer’s experience of the jelly and promote the feeling of weightlessness. Interestingly, this piece took me less than 10 minutes to create, but it got the most reaction in the class critique!

The Cuddle Jelly

The Cuddle Jelly allowed me to explore a pet-like animal. I embroidered thin white fabric with simple curves in colors that I picked out of the jellyfish in Savannah. Jellies are mostly clear, but partially due to reflections and partially due to pigments they have some transparent color built into their bodies. Every color in the Cuddle Jelly is based on something I noticed in real jellies at the beach. I also filled its body with deep orange fabric, so when there is a light on the jelly the viewer can see color within. This enhances the feeling of substance, since I wanted this jelly to contrast with the stark emptiness of the Air Jelly. The tentacles are pieces of yarn, which I used because 1) the colors are very vivid, and 2) it reminded me of crafts from when I was a child; I made a lot of yarn dolls and my grandma was always making me sweaters and blankets with yarn tassels.

Updates on various things

The next project in class is called “Tiny Animals” and it involves making a fantastical animal out of found objects, wire, and sculpey. I think sculpey is clay. In any case, I’m a bit intimidated because I’ve NEVER worked in 3D. Fortunately, I feel that the graphical thinking project really got me thinking about the elements of design, and so I am probably the most prepared I have ever been to take on sculpture.

So what animal qualities do I want to have? I mean, I know of a few cool animals, but I’m not sure which qualities really excite me. One thing that biology taught me is that in organisms, FORM DETERMINES FUNCTION. So if I want my animal to have a particular function, it should have a form that supports it.

Some ideas I have about fascinating animal qualities:

-Cuttlefish can see ultraviolet light. How could I possibly show that externally? Perhaps an animal with intriguing or unusual eyes would demonstrate this unusual property.  Cuttlefish have eyes with “w” shaped pupils. Actually, I made my boyfriend a stuffed cuttlefish for Christmas, and it was a ton of fun to make. If I can find a picture I’ll attach it! Also, like most members of the Cephalopod family, Cuttlefish are exceptionally smart. Octopuses are relatively brilliant!

-Cuttlefish also have skin with a ridiculously high DPI. They can change color, and their ink is brown. Actually, the word “sepia” comes from the Cuttlefish’s genus, Sepia. Sepia ink used to be made from Cuttlefish!

-Hedgehogs are covered in little spikes and can perfectly roll up into little balls. They have a rounded shape with the ability to go compact in seconds! Everything about them is “roll-able” except their spikes, which make them pretty cool to look at.

-Rats play and communicate via chirping! Scientists have found that tickling rats can cause them to chirp, and functional MRI and PET scans show that chirping is associated with pleasurable chemicals being released. So rats actually get pleasure out of playing together and being around other rats.

-Wolves travel in nuclear families and often “test” potential new members for their small pack by trying them with non-fatal fights. I find this interesting because it gives me the warm-fuzzies and a sense of nervousness at the same time.

I’ll have to think on this more. There is no shortage of ideas here…

I wanted to share some art I made on my own: CAKE ART!

I used to have a catering and dessert business in high school. Most of my sales were due to my cake decorating skills. I did everything: roses, ribbons, decorative borders, etc. In college I have not gotten to bake very much, and when I do I never break out a frosting piping set or anything. I made a pretty aesthetically pleasing cake recently, which I’d like to share.

Yes, the frosting is messy, and I would probably not feel comfortable selling a cake that looks so disorderly. But I have to say, I really love how the strawberries support the second layer! I think that it creates a sense of balance. Also, the strawberries are kind of choppy and uneven, which creates a very interesting texture- I might even go so far as to say the strawberry layer has a rhythm of its own. I wanted to share this because it reminded me a lot of the graphical thinking project!

Update on graphical thinking project

So, the second half of the graphical thinking project involved photography. I found this frustrating because my camera quality really limits the shot. I think I still got a pretty decent picture, but I know a high-end camera with an actual lens would probably take a shot that could stand on its own as art. My shots look weak without the context of the original graphics. These are the pictures I used:

The top is reserved, the bottom is flamboyant. I had a lot of fun arranging the flowers into that shape but I worry about it being “heavy handed” as a metaphor. I got the flowers from my boyfriend’s backyard, he lives in a house with 3/4 acre of land and a creek. It’s the best place in Atlanta, in my humble opinion! Flowers come in literally every color (except orange, I think). I thought that the red and pink flowers above were the most festive and flamboyant looking. When the picture was printed, the colors came out deeper, which worked in my favor.

Reserved gave me a really tough time, though. It was tempting to simply define reserved as the opposite of flamboyant by using dead grass and plain things.  After a lot of walking around the yard, I came up with some stronger ideas. I found sticks to use as the borders of the square, which posed their own unique problems. I had to sacrifice the curved edges of the original graphic, and I think the sticks didn’t make as thick a line as the graphic implied.

A question that arose when arranging the reserved shoot was what to do about the ubiquitous flowers. I could have easily picked a deader patch of grass, but ignoring the flowers altogether seemed like a cop-out. They posed an interesting question: how does “reserved” interact with something that is somewhere between itself and flamboyant? The flowers were tall and thin, unlike the wide, booming blossoms used in the flamboyant image, and had regal purple-blue buds. They were quite dignified flowers! I saw a few options:

-Pay no attention to them while arranging sticks: This would treat them as a detail of no consequence to the reserved subject.  Reserved and the flowers coexist, but the borders formed by the reserved square would be inefficient at preventing the diffusion of the flowers inwards. That could either signal a weakness about the reserved square’s borders, or a zen sense of “what will be will be”.

-Place the sticks so that every flower falls outside of the square: This would imply that the flowers are all external to the reserved square, and the square has enough fortitude to keep them out. It also implies that the square has characteristics such as plainness, simpleness, possibly shyness, etc. This setup would really imply a difference in the foundational qualities of the reserved subject and its surroundings.

-Place the sticks so that every flower falls inside of the squre: This would give the feeling of something intriguing and vibrant residing within the reserved subject. The reserved subject has successfully prevented the blooms from spreading, but it has cultivated them wonderfully within itself. It has kept them controlled while also nurturing them.

I chose to go with the last option, because it is most in keeping with my definition of reserved (see my last post). Reserved shouldn’t be indifferent to the flowers, because that implies passivity. Reserved isn’t necessarily passive, in fact I think of it as an active decision to uphold a degree of solemnity and withhold action. Keeping the flowers outside the square would make reserved seem plain by nature, which would be a horrible mistake that shows poor comprehension of reserved. Keeping the flowers within the square shows that the reserved subject is not weak, but in fact mature and wise (about how to cultivate life, in this case) but chooses to refrain from branching outwards. It is self-contained, but within itself there is a wealth of qualities such as maturity and vibrancy.

Progress Notes

Hello everyone! I am right smack in the middle of the graphical thinking project, so it’s a great time to reflect on my progress and what I have to do to finish strong. Here are the final prototypes I’ve settled on:

Reserved

Flamboyant

I certainly got some interesting feedback. For flamboyant, not very much was said about the shape aside from someone’s suggestion to add another curl. However, I think that would be overly ornate. Flamboyance is rarely delicate or even intricate, I think. I don’t want flamboyant to turn into ornate. However, the dots were difficult to see in the picture I showed the class, and I think I need to be sure the dots are big enough and bold enough to be seen as a clear compliment to the swirl. I’ve gone ahead and added more dots and some irregularity in terms of size in order to give the picture more spunk.

For reserved, I got quite a lot of ideas, but I actually don’t think I’m going to use many of them. My idea of reserved is somewhat purist, and I’ve tried to separate it out from the similar qualities it is often bundled with, such as shyness or meekness. Reserved isn’t a frail trait. When I think of reserved, I think of someone reserving their judgment, or choosing to exercise restraint. I think of someone trusting their foresight and personal strength enough to hold off on acting. So to me, reserved is a word that implies discipline and personal strength as well as unobtrusiveness. There is no reason it should be impish or delicate.

The general suggestions were to make the shape smaller, thinner, or less centered. However, while I think all these ideas are interesting and could possibly even improve the aesthetic quality of my graphic, I think they would undermine the definition of reserved. I’ve put a lot of thought into my concept of the word, and I think my shape is the optimal representation: centered because reserved has no reason to be off to the edges or hiding, thick because reservation requires fortitude, square because reserved is disciplined, and curved around the edges because it is unobtrusive and unimposing. I left spaces between the four corners to show that the shape isn’t rigid; it can change into a new formation at any time. But it stays in such a regular, straight shape because it choses to exercise discipline.

Now, I’m having a little bit of trouble with making my final version of reserved. Flamboyant was fairly simple because the curve is necessarily irregular. But reserved, on the other hand, should have a reasonable degree of regularity. It should be the same shape repeated four times-right?

Part of me thinks that it should be extremely regular. But, another part of me thinks that reserved is a very organic quality, and so its components don’t have to be perfectly symmetrical or exact. I need to make a choice, and most importantly I need to make sure I don’t just choose organic because it will be easier to cut. It’s really tough to make a perfect curve around the edges of a corner!