Do I look like me?

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Do I look like me? —The magic question I kept asking my visual thinking professor (Professor Nell Ruby), my classmates, my close friends (who don’t mind being brutally honest), and myself during our final project: The Self Portrait. The Self Portrait truly brought out the best of me as an artist. It was a long and tedious process that put all of the skills I have learned inside the classroom and the skills I never even knew I had to the test. This project taught me about lighting, gray scales, the magic of erasing, the importance of preciseness, attention to detail, effectively using the string measurement technique, the importance of proportions, and most importantly, simply DRAWING WHAT I SEE.

In this project, the tools I was literally given were homemade paper, black charcoal, an elastic eraser, yarn, and toilet tissue. The essential tools were guidance from my instructor, critique from peers, my eyes, and trust in judgment and myself. Without the combination of both sets of tools, I would have never successfully completed this project.

After blackening and evening out my paper with charcoal and tissue, I was instructed to start my portrait by creating the lightest light which happens to be on the tip of my nose (this should fall true for everyone) and from that, expand outward. As I examined my face in the mirror for about a good five minutes, I finally found the courage to erase the first mark on my blackened paper. I then just started erasing, not afraid to make a “mistake.” I was determining proportions with the string technique that keeps “me” looking like “me.” This was the ongoing process for most of the project. I would erase, blacken, erase, look into the mirror, blacken, step back, continue to erase, blacken, erase, get frustrated, blacken, then take a break, walk around and observe my classmates and ask about their techniques, reflect, look in the mirror, use string, then blacken, erase, blacken, erase and so on until I was “finished” (an artist is never completely finished, but rather just comes to a stopping point).

When I found this stopping point of my self-portrait, I looked in the mirror, and then back at my portrait, then the mirror, and then the portrait—Do I look like me? I was proud to say yes. At this point, I felt like my piece was worthy enough to be called a self-portrait. I looked at my picture and saw how perfect my imperfections were. Those imperfections are what made “me,” me. It was what made my portrait believable because what I saw was not perfect—nothing in our world is perfect! When I was drawing my nose and lips (for about one and a half weeks) it looked believable and it had dimension and texture, and most importantly they were my nose and lips. Then when I approached my surrounding skin on my face, I thought, “This should be easy because I will just blend it all smoothly like how skin is suppose to be.” Wrong! I needed to continue what Professor Ruby taught me—DRAW WHAT I SAW—my skin, my mouth, my nose, my nostrils my eyes, my eyebrows, my glasses. I went again and DREW WHAT I SAW. I saw different places where light hit my face and I drew light, not shapes not universal thoughts of what a face is suppose to look like, but I drew the light which eventually created my face. This technique made my skin as distinct as my lips, which were as distinct as my nose, which were as distinct as my eyes and glasses. My face had become one unit—one imperfectly distinct unit that I saw, and with what I saw, I was able to transfer onto paper and make me…me—Chinenyenwa Okoye—nobody else!

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Overall, I have learned a lot in the visual thinking classroom since “The Chair” to “The Self Portrait,” it’s been quite an artistic journey. The tools that I now have in my toolbox are as follows:

  • Drawing what I see
  • It’s all about lighting
  • Boo to perfectionism
  • Abandon Comfort zones
  • Explore your mind beyond the literal
  • Have no boundaries
  • Know your materials
  • Know your message
  • Take risks
  • Know your audience
  • Be you—because you are always reflected in your work (not just in a self portrait!)

With these tools now in my toolbox, I feel like I have a solid foundation to go onward in the art world, and I am excited for the future now that I got the basics and the essential. I give all my thanks to Professor Nell Ruby:)

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A social “ill” I want demolish is corruption in government, particularly in Nigeria where selfish greedy people in control cause such a large gap between the rich and poor.

If I had a magical animal that could get rid of this social “ill” it would be an octopus cloud that wood swoop down and absorb all corrupt people in government, then the octopus cloud would then rain renewed people in government who are selfless and want the best for their country and have the mindset of a mother octopus.

When designing this super model, I used wire, cotton, gray thread and hot glue. The wire was used for the structure of the octopus. The cotton was used to make the octopus look like a cloud. The gray thread was used to represent rain. Hot glue was put on the tips of thread to create rain drops that appeared as octopus eggs.

The form of my piece is an octopus in motion. I wanted my octopus to look like it was sweeping over sand and coral in the ocean, except in my case, sweeping over corrupt government around the world. In order to make it look like this, I had the head of the octopus leaning on one side as its legs protrude forward and more chaotic. I love how the cotton makes my octopus cloud appear light and it seems like it effortlessly floats across the sky. The form of the rain drop eggs worked perfectly. The eggs of octopi are translucent and kind of a cloudy gray white which is practically the color oh hot glue. When hot glue is extracted from the hot glue gun, it is a liquid, and when I place the glue on the hanging string, it formed rain drop shapes, and it dried that way. Overall, the form worked out cohesively.

During this process I learned so many things about materials, art elements and principles, and conceptual design. I never thought I would be put in a situation to think up a magical animal that could solve a specific social ill. There was so much to consider. What social ill means the most to me? What animal and why? What materials do I have access too when just using recyclables. How do I want to display and present my animal? And most of all, how in the world am I going to design this to put the movie playing in my head into one object?!?

Well, after I established that the social “ill” I wanted to conquer was corrupt government, I wanted to think of animal that portrayed the opposite of greed and selfishness. I thought of a sea turtle because of a documentary I watched on a particular sea turtle that watched her eggs on the sand and sacrificed her life for eggs. However, this was a unique turtle. Most turtles just abandon their eggs in the sand and only one or two babies survive and make it back to the ocean. I was sad to find this out, so I researched other animals that sacrifice their lives for their eggs and the first thing that popped up was a mother octopus. Mother octopi are known for never leaving their eggs and pretty much protecting their eggs at all costs. It is common for baby turtles to never see their mother because she dies protecting them. After this research, I thought that if government had less than one ounce of this mindset when it came to governing their country, the social “ill” that I am trying to fix would be nonexistent.
When thinking of my octopus’s super power, I did not know what to do. I wanted to find a way to make the people in government act like a mother octopus. Then I thought: “the apple does not fall far from the tree!” I wanted the octopus to give rebirth the people in government. I thought the octopus could maybe suck up people in her suckers of her tentacles, but then I just thought about clouds and its cycle. Water evaporates to form clouds then the cloud eventually releases water again. I then decided to make an octopus cloud. The octopus caters to the new mindset, and the cloud represents rebirth and new life.

In order to create this super animal, I found wire to form the structure I wanted for my octopus. Then I found a bag of cotton (that seemed to be once stuffed) and used it to cover my wire structure. I knew I did not have enough cotton to cover my whole structure, so I had to stretch the cotton to make it work. I actually found that by stretching the cotton, it became more cloudlike because I could see through just real cloud-like qualities. So for the head of the cloud, I glued and stretched cotton all around it. Then I attached the leg wire structure and bent them to make octopus shapes (because I did not want my octopus to look like a spider). Then when I made the correct structures, I then covered them with cotton as well. After that, I suspended my octopus. I wanted to then show what my octopus does and I wanted it to be in action, so I decided to make it rain. So I went and got fish lining, but it was too curly, and rain does not twirl down, so I used gray thread instead. Then I still wanted it to look like rain drops at the end, and when I saw people using the hot glue gun, I noticed that the there were some droplets on the table and they inspired me to make rain drops with it. So I went and hung all my thread at different lengths, then I went back and slowly added hot glue at every tip until it formed a rain drop shape, then I let it dry.

After it dried, I was proud of my project and what it had become. During this process I learned materials definitely make or break a project. One can be inspired by materials alone. Material can portray the wrong thing correctly or the right thing incorrectly. Elements and principles just makes a piece that much deeper. This is what delivers messages and connects and communicated with the audience. Overall, materials, principals and elements must be cohesive with the conceptual design. The design all comes back to all the little things before the pencil meets the paper or in my case, the pliers hit the wire.

Strong vs. Weak: Antonym Project Peer Reflection

I love this piece. When I look at these antonyms, it reads the way it is suppose to; weak against strong. On the left it looks so brittle, so weak. The color truly helps, The various grays in the photograph portion work very nicely to make the picture look cohesively weak. And the small thin pieces in the abstract portion truly makes the weak portion of the piece look weak. When it comes to the strong portion of the project, its brilliant! The black on white looks so bold in the abstract. The “pow” factor that it has truly makes it strong and unbreakable. When it comes to the photograph, I simply love it! The black and white fist together in that way represents so many things, especially strength, because people are stronger when they come together. It is so simple, yet also powerful at the same time. The piece together works so well. I also think going black and white throughout really strengthens the piece, and it makes it work as a unit.

In “Waste Land,” Vic Muniz was truly inspiring. He went to inspire the pickers of Rio by making art of their various materials. The art work was magnificent. The people were amazed. They looked at their surroundings, and most importantly themselves, in a new light. Muniz used what many considered garbage to create beauty and he sent a message: Life is what you make of it!

Flamboyant vs. Reserved

When I think of the word flamboyant, I think loud, bright, colorful, too much, overwhelming! When I think of reserved, I think of basic, small, quiet, and unnoticeable. “When given these words, how do you depict them through art?” Mrs. Ruby asks me. Working on this piece taught me how. I realized that color, size, shape, brightness, darkness, and concentration played a major part in answering her question.
In the abstract portion of the project, when I thought of flamboyant, I went through many thumbnails to depict something flamboyant. I fell towards some type of explosion that could not be contained in the space given. When I did my thumbnails for reserved, I immediately thought of a perfect square. A square symbolizes the norm and the expected. A square is nothing outside the box. Then I decided to make both of my abstracts for my antonyms white on black. When portraying flamboyant, it made sense to make it white on black, because white comes out more on black. When portraying reserved, I cared more about a white square in the dark than a black square in the light.

When it came to my photography, I was so excited to shoot. I already had in mind what I wanted too for flamboyant. I wanted to do something with bright spiky hair so it could match my abstract work, but my model’s hair was not as spiky as I expected it to be. So I then just directed her to do the expected flamboyant poses and I went with it. I really liked how it came out. I played with the concentration of color to make her look vibrant and alive. Reserved, on the other hand, was more difficult to produce. At first I just wanted a picture of a typical American family in the corner of a black room, but it did not look right after I had printed it out. So in order to find a replacement, I went back to my flamboyant film. I found some where my model was quiet and relaxed. I loved the pictures with her eyes closed. I zoomed in on her eye when editing it so it could be cohesive with the abstract piece that it corresponded to. I liked how it was not typically reserved. I also had to darken the picture so it would appear more laid back.

As a whole, I think I accomplished what I wanted to do. My antonym project worked well, and I feel like I do not have to explain what each picture represents. It all worked well cohesively.

Abandoning Comfort Zones: Blind Contour

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Blind contour is all about observing complex images and transferring what you see or perceive onto paper. I completed this project by looking at different objects whether it was a vase, a friend, or my own hand. I drew these images with different mediums: sharpie and pencil. In order to make the transfer of my observations to my paper, I had to keep my eyes on the object at all times as I was drawing, and I could not pick up my drawing utensil at any time during that process. My comfortable environment consisted of natural light, various types of music playing in the background, and chocolates to munch on.

The overall project was truly a game of letting go. I had forget about being perfect and I definitely found it challenging. I had to mute the left side of my brain and let the right side have total domination. The left side of my brain wanted to be logical and draw what I thought the object I was observing was “suppose to look like.” The left side also told me to peek at my paper just to make sure I was on the right track of drawing my observed image correctly. However, the right side had to come in and stop the left side so that the purpose of this project would not be defeated.

The purpose of this project was to not only let go, but to learn something about myself as an artist whether it be my drawing style or personality, my proper working environment, what I am comfortable or unfamiliar with doing or using, and where my confidence lies. After completing this project, I realized that my environment did indeed play a major role in how my mind worked and thus affected the outcome of my drawings. When working with music with no lyrics, I was more focused and I seemed to transfer my objects onto paper smoothly. When there were lyrics present in the music, I seemed more distracted because I tended to focus on what the lyrics were saying and what they meant. When the music was slow and drawn out, I took my time to draw the objects and I felt more laid back. When this happened my drawings were more spacious and larger. When the music had a high tempo, on the other hand, I drew faster and I felt more rushed. My drawings were also became smaller and more compact when this happened. This project basically let me know that working in a comfortable setting with classical music in the background is the best way for me to be successful in the art studio and probably even writing a paper or working on math homework.

When it came to writing utensils I was definitely more confident using pencil than I was using sharpie. Just the fact the sharpie is bold, black and permanent with no room for mistakes, and that scares me. The pencil, in contrast, is far from permanent. It is gray and less harsh, and it helps that every pencil is built with an eraser. I simply trusted the pencil; I had no fear using the pencil, and I am already accustomed to drawing and writing with pencils on an everyday basis. The utensils definitely impacted my drawings. My sharpie drawings of my hands seem to be abstract while my pencil drawings were more realistic. I also found that my left hand, my non-dominant hand created more realistic drawings than my dominant hand did. My thoughts behind this result is that when I was drawing with my right hand, my dominant hand, I had higher expectations for my drawing to turn out well, and my I made more precise strokes with my right hand than my left hand. My left hand, on the contrary, I had very low expectations for. I assumed it was going to be horrible regardless due to the project’s circumstances: not being able to look on the paper I am drawing on, drawing in sharpie, and to top it off, drawing with my non-dominant hand! Because of this, I drew freely and I had no care to see what I was drawing and I just let the right side of my brain take control, then wah-lah! My drawing actually resembled my observed object!

Overall, I did take a lot from blind contour. After I leaped over the perfectionist hurdle, the project became relaxing and therapeutic:)

Jiha Moon Reflection

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Jiha Moon is so youthful, light and fun, and her work reflects that. Moon’s works are inspired by different places and cultures all combined into one large melting pot. In her works, there is usually so much going on, but it all makes sense and cohesively comes together. Her use of different colors, textures, objects, and materials creates some confusion or misunderstanding. However, the misunderstanding that reads in Moon’s works is not a mistake, but her way of communicating to her audience. For example, when Moon has figures such as Hello Kitty in her works, one may think she is Japanese, but at the same time there are ancient Chinese warriors in those same works along with Snow White—so one thinks to herself: “Does she identify as Japanese, Chinese, or American?” This works for Moon because it makes her audience think and dig deep into different cultures and how they can mesh no matter how different they are.

Moon is from South Korea, but resides in the US. She identifies herself as a Korean American. You can see this throughout her works. For example, in her piece “American Happy,” there is a clash of Asian and American culture inspired by her son who is half white and half Korean raised in a bicultural home. In this piece there are images of America’s iconic Mickey Mouse merged with Japan’s Hello Kitty which brings in the bicultural message. She also has fortunes from fortune cookies in her piece. This is significant because to Americans, the fortune cookie is known as Chinese tradition, however, fortune cookies are actually an American invention and has nothing to do with Chinese culture. These are the key parts that effortlessly make Moon’s piece work.

In all, Moon has wonderful technique and attention to detail. Her art reaches to a wide audience because of her play on a variety of cultures. In addition,  it helps that she is very young and lighthearted  and is a breath of fresh air. It is seen throughout her works with her use of colors, modern and relatable images, and versatile materials such as her trinkets and collectables that she has picked up from all over the world. Moon has creativity bursting out the seams and she charmingly channels them into her art as it relates to not only her but also the world. One knows when artwork is done by Moon because her style and what she represents as her own person is not only consistent but also conspicuous throughout her works. Only Moon can make the art she makes because she is the only to walk in Moon’s shoes, live Moon’s life, have Moon’s personality and style, and, overall, she is the only Jiha Moon.