At the Dana gallery at Agnes Scott College, there is a current exhibit named Side by Side. These two pieces intrigued me the most because of the fact of how solemn the atmosphere of the two is. Although Katherine Taylor’s is so small, the emotion of the piece is extremely effective at that size. The piece seems to be of either a flooded road or a pond in a desolate area. Either way, the mood of this piece is sort of calming, yet almost mourning at the same time. My interpretation of this mood comes mostly from the color scheme Taylor has chosen; the dull colors and emphasis on the reflection represent a sense of being lost. I really was enthralled by the use of colors to create such a serene atmosphere.
On the other hand, Sally Mann’s photograph is striking yet radiates a sense of homesickness. Her composition, and focusing on the blank sky and horizon allows for the viewer to feel calm. However, the dark contrasts in the shadows of the photograph bring in an unsettling feeling to the entire work. It could depend on each viewer, but to me, it feels as if the photographer is yearning to return to this place, though their memories of being there are not all positive. I particularly really like how the artist left the photograph black and white, and it even reminded me a bit of the old places I would ask home.
For our final exam, we were assigned to create a series of six drawings, which should have incorporate skills and techniques that we have been developing all semester, such as composition, use of materials, and the elements and principles of design. We were expected to work from observation, whether it be still-life or a digital photograph that we took ourselves. However, we were allowed to diverge from the observational aspect in order to allow for more creative aspects to be included.
My pieces were centered around anatomy and body parts. Originally, I wanted to do portraits of my friends but decided that I could push myself further by choosing a subject matter I am more unfamiliar with. In these pieces, I didn’t want to include every single aspect of anatomy, and so I decided that going for a more severed theme would allow room for me to play with compositions, as well as add a chaotic mood to the pieces. By viewing my work, you can see that there are many colors used within all the pieces, which was a choice made to increase the abstraction of the pieces, another area I wanted to challenge myself with.
For my first piece, I wanted the background to demonstrate the dynamics and rhythms that torsos are known for, while actually keeping the torsos static. The torsos were done on a paper bag and then collaged on top of the background, and while I believe that this is not my most successful piece, I am confident about the composition I utilized in it. Although the piece was, in my opinion, one of the simpler pieces in the entire final, I believe that my use of color and utilizing a border allowed for this piece to be successful in its own way.
My second piece, showing hands reaching for a moon, was a composition that I liked the most. The dynamic movement of the hands reaching further up moves the eye in that direction as well, contributing immensely to the overall composition. The moon in the sky adds contrast and disruption to the colorful aspect of the rest of the piece; this was done to represent the peace that the hands were grasping towards. The words in the background grow bigger and increase in darkness as they reach the bottom, which was a technique I utilized to add more contrast to the piece. The hands were done with color pencils, the background with spray paint, gouache, and Sharpie, and the moon was done with collage. The hands and the moon were done separately and later adhered to the final piece.
My third piece shows a distorted self-portrait in my bathroom at home, and the figure is instead replaced with multiple eyes. I wanted the viewer to feel uneasy when they observed this piece, as the message is that the figure feels like they are constantly being watched. The chaotic color scheme of the bathroom and the black and white scheme of the figure are also meant to convey this uneasiness. This piece was personally a challenge for me because it was the first time I properly worked with gouache. As my confidence with the medium grew, I had a better understanding of how layering colors with gouache to create different effects would impact the overall feel. The bathroom was done first as a blind contour, cleaned up, and then painted over. The figure in the middle was done with a pen, utilizing a little bit of blind contour as well.
My fourth piece shows ears on meat hooks, in front of a separated background in which the top half is made of a collage of newspaper clippings. The ears were done with gouache on separate paper and later adhered to the piece. However, the ears were a challenge to complete. I was trying to experiment with the versatility of gouache, and I am satisfied with the outcome, but learning how to manipulate the medium took more effort than anticipated. My placement of the ears could have been executed better, particularly on the left where two of the pieces overlap. As for the news clippings, they are from a Spanish newspaper, which I chose specifically because that is the language that I grew up around and heard the most.
My fifth piece is, in my opinion, my weakest piece of the six. For the base of the piece, I utilized gum wrappers and the packaging they come in. I decided that the background was too plain, therefore I attempted to tint it with ink, did not like the result, and later on added oil pastel to add more contrast. The mouths were done with ink pencils separately and later adhered to the piece. Once I added the mouths, I decided that the piece was still missing an element so I added text to the remaining spaces in the piece. If I were to do this piece again, I would vary the sizes in the mouths, make them much brighter than they are now, keep the text, and probably keep the gum wrappers and packaging the way they originally were.
My sixth piece was one that I had many challenges with, but I am satisfied with the result. I initially painted the legs with gouache and painted the background orange. However, compared to my other pieces it looked too plain and it didn’t convey the feel I wanted it to. I decided that the legs would look better with an outline, therefore I used Sharpie to create a thick border around the legs. I also added the bones sticking out of the top of the torso and at the ankles, however, it still did not tie the piece together as I intended. I finally decided that adding more concrete shapes would aid in the composition, and so I added red and yellow boxes to the background and decorated them with patterns. This piece was meant to portray movement and the dynamics of legs, and adding the patterns conveyed that sentiment more effectively.
Throughout this semester, I have definitely grown a lot. Not only have I had a lot of practice with my technical skills, but I was also introduced to new media that I have grown comfortable with. I grew as an artist, especially with this final project. I pushed myself and focused on subjects that were out of my comfort zone, and I did so using coloring and painting techniques that I am also not used to. While my theme did stress me out a bit since it was a lot and I had assignments for other classes to work on, I’m glad that I chose the theme I did.
On December 8th, I went to the High Museum to see their permanent collection as well as the exhibits they were hosting. One work of art that caught my eye was Robert Rauschenburg’s piece Overcast III. While I am a fan of Robert Rauschenburg, I have never actually seen his pieces in person, and in fact, I don’t think I knew that he made this piece. What drew me to this specific work is the layering effect he created by putting Plexiglas over each other to create a new image as a whole. Robert Rauschenberg created his art by screen printing certain images while still incorporating abstract expressionism. From far away, the piece looks abstract, but as you approach begin to see the finer details of the work. His work is extremely expressive, complex, and saturated with contrast. The pop-culture imagery in the work with allusions to the space exploration creates a beautiful piece that is exaggerated by the darkness the layering depicts.
Another piece that caught my eye at the High Museum was Camille Pissarro’s Ornamental Lake at Kew Gardens. What caught my eye about this piece was the texture that Pissarro puts into the work with oil. The three-dimensional effect that the texture gives the painting makes it appear much livelier than it truly is. Pissarro was an Impressionist, which truthfully has never appealed to me very much. However, seeing the work in person was extremely impressive. His color scheme, which consists mostly of cool colors, is extremely serene and calming. All the different strokes of color in the work certainly pulled me into the actual painting. The high contrasts with the brushstrokes throughout the painting allows for much value to be interpreted even though there are no formal outlines.
For this project, we were assigned to explore different mixed media and techniques. While we were allowed to use black and white media used in previous assignments, the focus was to explore color and new variations of media. Not only that, but we were also encouraged to draw subjects that aren’t tangible as well. Therefore, the theme I chose for this project was a dream that reoccurred throughout my senior year of high school.
This project was personally a challenge for me, not only because I had too many assignments to do for other classes, but also because it was an extremely rough week for me and that impacted the quality of my art. Nevertheless, I persevered and decided to do my pieces on 10×12 paper to lessen the burden. For my first piece, depicting the hallway, I initially wanted to use chalk and oil pastel. However, it did not have the intense effect I desired, so I decided to instead use color pencils and an impressionistic style to relay a feeling of unsettlement to the viewer. Also, I utilized complementary colors and analogous colors where I could to contribute to that feeling. I outlined the hallway in red ink, not only because it adds to the agitated atmosphere, but also because black ink would have been too intense and would have distracted the viewer from the strokes of the color pencil.
My second piece is, in my opinion, my weakest piece because it was the one I completed last. At first, I had wanted to draw busses leaving me behind, but the composition and perspective were complicated, so due to time constraints I decided to draw the idea presented in the picture to the right instead. The figures in my dream did not look exactly like those that I drew, but the colorful swirls inside of their bodies is an aspect that I was able to translate onto paper. If I could do the piece again, I would make the figures seem more translucent and the swirls more organic. The texture of the road was done with old mascara that I had laying around. I am satisfied with that aspect because I feel that it adds to the uneasiness of the drawing. The background was done in watercolor and ink, however, if I were to do the project again I would figure out how to make a background that contrasted the figures more than it currently does.
My third piece is simple, but I am satisfied with the end result because it conveys the emotion I intended it to. The light from the lamp post was done with yellow watercolor and the background was done with Sharpie and red ink. The details in the yellow triangle were done with black ink, and I utilized textures in order to provide shading and extra features to the environment behind the standing figure. I manipulated the negative and positive space in the area outside of the triangle in order to convey trees and the spaces between them. In the negative space, I drew red eyes looking in different directions, and the bulb of the lamp post serves as a transition to these since it looks an eye itself.
My fourth piece was done in watercolor as a wash for the interior of the car and my face, and pen was used to add details to both faces and the interior of the car. The pen was also used to add the words in the background, and I utilized color pencils in order to add color and emphasize the car. The composition of this piece is pretty successful in my opinion, as the close up of the face allows the viewer to see the fear in her expression. By leaving the figure mostly white with only a small bit of shading, the viewer is able to see the man as a focal point but not stay stuck on this portion of the drawing. This entire project was challenging for me since it withdraws drastically from a style I am comfortable with, but overall I am satisfied with the end product, especially considering the amount of time I had to complete it.
As mentioned before, the theme of these pieces is a dream that reoccurred throughout my senior year of high school. In this dream, I always woke up in a school that I did not recognize or have ever seen before. The hallways felt claustrophobic, and I was immensely unsettled being there. The school was entirely vacant, but yet it felt so incredibly loud at the same time. As soon as I left, I saw school buses leaving me behind. There was no one outside, and it was completely dark, so I ended up having to make my way home by walking. The roads I went on were empty, but I still felt uneasy. It felt as if there was something, or someone, following me. Whenever I turned back, there were large figures following me, but I only ever saw them in flashes. After walking on that road for a while, I finally came to a flickering light post. However, as I stood under it, it stopped flickering and I had a moment of ease and warmth, even though my journey there and, most likely forward, were unsettling. In a flash, the lamp post turned off, and for the first time, I heard the rumble of a car pulling up beside me. I look into the passenger’s side and notice that no one is in the driver’s seat. But, most importantly, there was a man in the passenger’s seat staring at me, his hand gripping the window sill. However, he didn’t have any eyes, he didn’t have a mouth, and he was completely white. Then, I would wake up.
The most difficult part of my midterm piece was actually coming up with the grid system that I would use to divide it. At first, I was going to make the borders of the grid obvious, which would divide the piece into individual sections. However, I instead decided to use the metal structure in the middle of the still life to divide my paper. I then figured out my composition in a way that would allow for a harmonious dynamic throughout the work, and then I came to the realization that my midterm was not as divided as I had hoped. To resolve this problem, I downsized the size of the midterm into a rectangle, and with the remaining space, I created a border in which the subjects of my piece would be blacked out.
I believe that my usage of negative and positive space could have been improved, but my strongest usage of this was with the ropes and their border counterparts. The contrast of the undefined ropes and the solid color of the border added a strong contrast that I believe was needed in the piece. Also, my usage of pen ink in the flowers provided an aesthetically pleasing difference in the negative and positive space within and around it. Speaking of contrast, I believe that the shading of the bird and the rock formation was too similar to the point where they almost began to blend together. If I could do the project again, I definitely would have lightened the bird so that the contrast between it and the rock was more drastic.
In my midterm, I made the background black with the usage of India ink. I was initially not going to do this, but I believe that that choice was what ended up making this piece so successful. The only other place I used India ink was in the metal structures; I diluted the ink with water so that the solid color didn’t get lost in the background. As I said before, the flowers were done with a pen, but every other aspect was done with the other black and white materials in my kit. The lightbulb and the bird were done in graphite, although I added charcoal to the bird in some spots to increase the contrast. The cow skull and rock formation were both done in charcoal, charcoal pencils, black conté, and vine charcoal. The nest of the bird utilized a technique I used in my six small drawings assignment— I blacked out the shape with Sharpie and then added in detail with the white conté over it. Although I am fairly comfortable with these materials, the paper that I was working on made it feel as if I was using them anew. I came to like the paper later on, but figuring out how to manipulate the paper into properly doing transition values was challenging.
Throughout my pieces, charcoal was the main media used since it is the one I am most comfortable with. The black conté stick was also used with charcoal, and the heaviest concentration of these media is found in my cow skull drawing. Every form of graphite in the kit was used lightly throughout each piece. The heaviest concentration of their use is in the blind contour drawing, where I utilized them to shade by cross-hatching. Sharpie was used in two of my backgrounds, in the outlines of the blind contour drawing, and to block in the shapes in order to shade over them with the white conté stick.
Blind contour is a method that I am fairly comfortable with, so I paired it with the media that I am the most uncomfortable with. The drawing of the shelf with a ball-like form on top was initially created utilizing the subtractive method; although I ended up going over the focal point of the piece with charcoal. The wires in the background were kept the same way I initially made them. The piece with white conté on top of Sharpie was a challenge for me because I had never used that technique before, but I am satisfied with the way I executed it. The glass vase in this drawing was fairly difficult, but I believe that my use of values allowed me to properly translate the vase onto paper.
My strongest piece was my skull drawing, not just because it was the one I spent the most time on, but because my highlights and values are pronounced and are distinguished from one another. Not only that, but the high contrast of the black in the background allows for the foreground figure to become the focal point of the piece. My weakest work was the piece in which the vases are on the left of the composition because my intent for the piece had not been executed the way I expected, which was to be realistic. This is one way in which I need to grow as an artist; I need to learn to manipulate what I have to make something new, not just to manipulate what I have into what I wanted. Another way I need to grow as an artist is to become more comfortable with graphite because in my experience with the blind contour drawing, it was a nice media to use but I wasn’t comfortable enough to use it that much more in other pieces.