Portraiture- “Reality” Glen Zhang

 (Final Photo)

 (progress photo #1)

 (progress photo #2)

 (progress photo #3)

 (progress photo #4)

 (final plan photo)


what were you asked to do for this studio project?

In this project, we were asked to do a portrait painting with oil or acrylic paint (given that we did a few media testing in advance). We had different sized canvases and were asked to paint using the techniques we learned and be creative with our work! We had three guiding questions, and the two I chose was “how can a portrait make a broader social statement?” and “How can we represent the intangible in portraits?” I was asked to answer these two guiding questions in my portrait painting, and I’ll get more in depth later on in this blog.

What media were you working with? 

There was the choice of using acrylic and/or oil paint, I used acrylic for both my background and my brother. I also did an underpainting in advance so I have a “shade blueprint” to follow and have a underpainting to guide what my different shades are in different sections of the painting.

Formal analysis/Message:

What is the meaning of the title of your painting?

My title “Reality” is showing my view of the reality of this world. What I am trying to show here is that when we were kids we were taught how the world was all beautiful and lovely. However, all of us has a turning point in life, and realize the true darkness and chaos in the society that we live in.  That’s something you can’t see in my artwork, some may not be able to see that I am showing the truth of reality, as not all people view society as I do. The color scheme, facial expression, bad news, etc. all point towards the darkness of society, and all in all links back to my title. This relates back to my guiding questions because I’m creating a broader social statement by showing the darkest sides of society, and representing the intangible because not everyone can see the reality that I see it in, and I am just expressing from my point of view.

Who is the subject of your painting and why did you choose this person?

This is a really interesting question, and it actually took me a lot of time to decide who I wanted to paint to express my viewpoint on reality the most. The subject I chose was my brother, and this was for two reasons. The first reason is that I know him. I wanted to express the sadness and darkness of society, and the first thing I thought to myself was: “What darkness do I SEE in my life?” I thought and thought about it until I turned to my little brother. Every day I see him getting emotionally attacked by all the real-life problems that he is exposed to, and this turned him from a free, joyful, playful, brother into what I now know him as, self-cautious, stressed, non-talkative brother, and in a depressing way it seems like he’s just not the same person that I once knew him as. He is exposed to all these bad news about drug dealing, death, suicide etc. which is what I feel sadly defines him the most. The second reason is the character he possesses. He’s a middle school sixth grader, and at this stage is when you start to change, you learn the bad side of life, and it just gives off this feeling of helplessness and innocents. If I were to use my father, for example, the same feeling wouldn’t be given off, since my father already learned the darkness of society, and wouldn’t be emotionally phased at all, so overall I think my brother is the best fit for this project.

Which guiding question(s) are you addressing and how are you addressing them in this work? 

The two guiding questions I am addressing is “how can a portrait make a broader social statement?” and “How can we represent the intangible in portraits?” For “how can a portrait make a broader social statement?” I addressed this question using all the different parts of my artwork. As I mentioned before my brother has been affected by all the terrible news that the world has to offer, and the statement I am trying to make is that a lot of this tragic news is caused by us humans! What people in this society is doing like terrorism and suicide is negatively affected the youth! My brother was one of the victims in the darkness of society, constantly hearing about this bad news and horrible things are not something happy that a child should be living under. What I am trying to express about our society is we need to stop the madness and have our next generation should cherish their youth, instead of living under this horrible society image. The second question (“How can we represent the intangible in portraits?”) was addressed through the meaning behind why I chose my brother and why I used newspapers. I chose my brother because I know him well, and I know how the darkness of society affected him, which is something a lot of people cannot see. Also, what is written in the newspapers in intangible, until you walk closer to it and see all the words written on it like “attacked” or “Broken”.

Explain how the visual elements support your intended message about the person or what they represent.

The visual elements were expressed through the color scheme, newspapers and facial expression. For the color scheme, I chose to use blue (which is a cool color) for my brother, purple ( which is also a cool color) for my background, and red, orange and yellow (all warm colors) for my flaming newspapers. what is intangible in the cool colors is that I’m trying to Express the cold reality of society. The background and my brother’s cool colors give off a sense of isolation, coldness, and depression, and a dark feeling of helplessness. The warm colors from the newspapers completely make them stand out from the cool colors. The warm colors were meant to give a sense of danger, as they are painted as fire. For the facial expression, what cannot be seen is how plain the face is but is combined with tears. What I am trying to express using the tears is a realization, because if I were to give my brother a frown it would seem as he was in complete shock about the bad news and is the first time that he is hearing about all this. That is not the case, because  Justin (my brother’s name) has been hearing about this all his life, which is why the tears express the huge amount of depression that is within him, and the plain expression is saying that this is nothing new, and living in this dark society is every day to him. Lastly, the meaning newspapers are unseen. How this relates to the main question is what the newspapers are what it says on them. Two examples are “Suicide note” and “Chemical factory kills 7” This is tragic news and it is flying down on my brother, making it emotionally threatening along with the fire complementing how dangerous it is.

What, if any, symbolic imagery did you include and how does it support your artistic intentions? 

The only thing symbolic in this portrait painting would probably be my brother, as he symbolizes the youth and how the darkness is affecting our youth in the exact same way.

What is the mood of your painting and how did you use a specific color palette to create this mood? 

I talked about this earlier, but the mood I am trying to express is isolation and depression, and also a sense of danger. the cold colors of my brother and the background show how cold and isolated and depressed he is, while the warm colors making up the fire gives a sense of danger in this cold environment.

Who inspired you in this project?  What have you “borrowed” from studying their work/style/technique?

There were two artists that really kind of inspired my artwork. The first one is Francoise Nielly. All of his artworks have this wide variety of colors, like when there is a light area he would overlayer that area with literally all the light colors, or even non-light colors! Not only did he influence me with his wild color scheme, he also influenced me with his media. Francoise Nielly uses acrylic and I personally really liked the way you can overlay your paint, which is what I did for basically my whole work. (I overlayed my entire painting about three times!”

The second person is Alex Katz. Alex Katz used a series of color on his portraits with only really one main color and white to make different shades, this inspired me with my artwork, as all I used to paint my brother was dark blue and the color white, all it was was the color blue, just in different shades.


Did your actual studio piece end up looking differently than you had envisioned in your final plan?

My plan and my final product overall were not that different. The things I changed was having text on the newspaper that was meaningful, the blue color scheme on my brother was not my original idea, I thought of it later to better fit the mood. Finally, The color of the background didn’t turn out how I imagined it to be. I originally wanted the background to be green and purple and brown, to give a gross feeling and an environment you don’t want to be in, but then I later rethought this idea because it will just ruin the color scheme and won’t be pleasing to the eye, so I changed it to purple to better fit the message and to pair well with my brother along with contrast really well with the burning newspapers.

Did you take advantage of class time? 

I feel like during this project I made the most of my time count than any other of my projects. I not only spent every second painting my project, I also make sure I get opinions and how to make my portrait painting unique and outstanding. Not only did I take advantage of class time, but I also took advantage of after-school opportunities, because I came many times to the art studio when I don’t have other activities. So, all in all, I think I put some pretty good work in.

Looking at your completed work, do you think you’ve grown. stretched creatively and matured as an artist?  Explain how and be specific.

Throughout this project, I feel like I have grown so much. It was my first time using acrylic, and I feel like that I have just learned so much, from creating different tones to overlaying paint to give my artwork a more natural feeling. I have grown as an artist because I have learned how to become more stretched out to what to sue, for example, I would have never painted my brother only using shades of blue because I wasn’t open to doing loose and crazy ideas, but that is just what you have to be to be an artist. I also stretched my creativity, as I used the newspapers to compliment my social statement…in a portrait painting!

3 artists habit of mind

Stretch and Explore

Stretch and explore means exploring playful ways to perfect your piece, and I did exactly that. I used newspapers in order to better express my social statement, which was not part of the material we were exposed to, which shows how I used a little bit of creativity. Also, the color scheme inside my piece was also played around with. since I only used one color and a shade to paint my brother, it was definitely a risk, and my painting might not have looked as good. But I took the risk, played around with it, and it turned out better and more suitable to express my mood.


Envision is seeing your artwork before it actually is painted, and seeing how it would better look. In the middle of painting my brother, I realized that a lot of features of him was not to my liking like the eyes were too wide, or the mouth was not aligning with the pupil of the eyes. I had to take a step back, envision what I wanted it to look like, and then pieced it one at a time to better fit what I want it to look like.

 (eyes aren’t right shape, tears tilted, shoulders too small, not enough contrast etc.) (this was before I changed everything)


Reflect is where being able to judge your own work to make it better and take other peoples criticism. my original idea was to have my brother looking straight at the viewer, but a lot of people told me that this would make the mood less bold and it would make the painting look boring. I personally reflected on my own work by taking a step back and look at my backgrounds color, the color of it was not eye-pleasing and had a rough texture, which is not what I was going for, so by reflecting my myself I made my portrait painting better fit the mood and social statement. Also, the color originally was only going to be yellow and orange, with layers and no natural look. I changed that by self-reflecting and made it now with layers on layers for more a more natural feeling, also with the color red inside.

 (paint pallet for fire)



Overall this has made me into a better artist, and I also found my favorite type of media, acrylic! I was able to stretch out my ability to paint and also was able to take more judgment not only from other people but also myself. This project has made me more open to ideas, and more playful and creative. This project has made me grow as a artist, and I hope to be able to do another painting project!



Save Banksy Review Glen Zhang

Saving Banksy was the documentary I chose to watch and I have to say, it was really interesting. This documentary basically talked about how there were a bunch of street artist who painted on public property. They would make those paintings, but the government did not like that. However, instead of removing those paintings, the government would put it up for sale, and for high prices. Banksy was one of those street artists, and barely anyone knows his identity, only people who work with him and people he truly trusts. Now this enraged a debate, whether painting on public property is a blessing to the citizens and the artists should keep doing it, or this is a violation of the law and the government has the rights to sell it without the artist’s permission, and without giving them any of that money.

After watching this documentary, it ignited me think one way: “art is freedom”. Yes, they are breaking laws, but they are doing it in a beautiful form and isn’t harming anyone in any way. “Saving Banksy” taught me all the different ways that art can be taken in by form. Banksy would do art and wanted people to see it so badly that he would do it even if there is a risk of going to jail. I have learned that as an artist you are not afraid to take action, you are willing to do things that are risky to create something meaningful and beautiful.

The issue in “Saving Banksy” is whether the government has the rights to take artwork off of public property and sell without the artist’s permission or giving them any of the money to them. In my own standpoint, I strongly agree with the artist’s and that the government doesn’t have the rights to take artwork without permission. Think of it this way, the artists are giving up their own time to create something that the whole public can enjoy. Removing that is only going to benefit you, the citizens can’t see it in it’s original and unique place, the artists would definitely stop you if they had that power (which they don’t). You will have a profit selling it, but with so many consequences, which does not seem fair at all to me.

The most important thing I learned is to free your passion. Don’t stand back, keeping going forward to see your deeds getting recognized, no matter the risks, because you are just doing what you love to do. I will remember to always try to create a better society, whether it is to promote peace or positivity, as Banksy did with his artwork.

Converging Cultures-Messy Life

Introduce the project: In this studio project, our whole class has been asked to create a photoshop (used adobe photoshop CS6) project to describe our unique cultural backgrounds. The challenge was to create a project that showed the culture behind our backs, without being too literal.

The title that I gave my project was “Messy Life”. I think that this title best fits my project, and also best fits the message I am trying to give the reader about my life. My life has been messy, from being born in Connecticut, to moving to North Carolina, then to Shanghai, and now Beijing. The craziness is represented in the hair, which has been happening my whole life, which is why the houses I lived in emerges from my hair because they are filled with craziness. The houses are also represented as a journey. This has been well…my life!

Formal analysis/Message: I started in the house on the right, which is the one in the U.S, to the one in Shanghai which is the one in the middle, to the one in Beijing, which is where I currently live. Now let’s talk about the background along with the house I’m standing on.  The reason I am standing on this house is that I have the most memories that laid on the U.S. From drawing on the walls to playing Yu-Gi-Oh cards with my brother in it, this house feels most like home to me. which is why I’m standing on it, and the more hair outside represents again the crazy adventures that I had there, and how they are always within my sight, how I always I look back at them, how much I cherish them. The U.S: Now, growing up in the U.S was not always easy. You would have nights when I wouldn’t be able to see my mother or father, as they are busy at work to provide for me. I would also have a limitless imagination, such that I can create the playground in the backyard of my house into a secret spy base, which ended up being what I did every evening with my parents out. The crazy part of my American life is my child’s biggest thoughts on the endless things that I could do when I grow up, which ended up making the future that I see before me kind of…messy.  Shanghai: I was just in 3rd grade, and it was also the first time I lived in an apartment. Since we lived on the very top of the building, we could hear just about everything around us, and see everything. What’s messy about this phase of my life is the unwanted noise. I would wake up to a loud noise made from the park speakers, and sleep most nights with fireworks outside, loud crackling noises and dazzling lights. The house in Shanghai didn’t bring me the most positive memories, and they are the messiest part I had to live up to. Beijing: Beijing is the current location in which I live, and in two years, this already brought so many crazy memories to me (we live on the top floor of the apartment). From watching fireworks at night on my front porch to waking up and seeing the beautiful landscape of Beijing, I now feel close to three different cultures, all one crazy journey.

Surreal Devices: In this project, the two surreal devices I used were scale and dislocation. Scale because I created a visual effect of me standing on my N.C building in my own hair, So I resized me to be smaller to stick myself into another giant version of myself’s hair. Dislocation is pretty obvious because there wouldn’t be just random houses inside someone’s hair! I also had a little of elongation, since the hair I have on my head is Not increased in length, but instead, I got someone else’s hair, and edited it to be longer, then placed it into my own hair.

Artist influence: My inspiration for this project was from a photo on the adobe photoshop Instagram page by @demasrusli. In this work, He created a dream-like design where a city was drifting towards him. I created the same feeling by making myself drift along my hair. I also used a lot of Erik Johansson in a way. I took more than two photos, the reason for that is I find it really hard to find the correct photo that fits your wanting. The picture of my N.C, Beijing house were all taken by my monitored camera, the picture of the Shanghai house was actually taken by one of my friends in Shanghai because I obviously couldn’t be there. The photo of me was also taken under my own control. The only thing that was not taken by me was the hair, any hair could have worked, but this strand of hair had already the dream-like feature, so all I had to do was copy and paste, organize all of them in certain angles, and then you got all the hair in my artwork.

Summarize the creative process: From what I imagined my project be like, my project looks completely different from what I originally anticipated it to be. Originally I was going to do a board type project where a game board would represent my project, but I couldn’t make it look natural and it didn’t carry my message very well, so I changed to the hair idea. I also imagined my project be honestly a lot worse than I have created for my studio. The original plan would have been a lot faker and wouldn’t look so dreamy. The biggest problem by far is trying to find things that wouldn’t be so literal to communicate my culture relationships. Flags were my initial thoughts, but that is basically just giving the viewer the main message without making them think. So I then used buildings, places that mean a lot to ME, and symbols to represent emotion (like hair for messy and adventure). As you can see in my previous ideas, I had flags in all of them. The first idea I had was the most literal it could be. I was literally jumping into an American flag, and being held by the arms of the Chinese flag. The second one is a little less literal, but still showed flags blended with the buildings that I am sitting on. Then I thought to myself: “No one should fully understand my artwork and the culture/adventures behind it except myself.” I used this to guide what I wanted my artwork to look like, creating a story behind it, one that I only 100% recognize.

(beginning designs)

Effort and artist growth: In this project, I definitely went out of my comfort zone, like creating hair and light, which I have never done before. I also did try to make the best work that I possibly can, by getting feedback from others and make my project look so it is one of a kind. And I think that this was the most I worked in class since there was always something I wasn’t pleased with and wanted to make it to absolute perfection. Looking back on my work, I think I really have grown as an artist. Even if it was digital work, I really was able to display more of a smooth and dreamy like feel, all while being to express my message complete and deeply.


Beginning idea





Develop craft: There was a lot of tools that I used in my photoshop project that I have not been taught in class. For example, I actually created my own brush using the brush settings to draw my customized, crazy hair (also to draw the background). I went on Youtube and searched up a lot more things to make my artwork more natural. For example, when I was close to being done with my work, I noticed that my hair was kind of dull and many people won’t focus on it and realize that the patch of hair with what’s in it describes my life! so I searched on Youtube how to bring out natural lighting onto your hair. I now emphasized the focal point of this artwork and told people what you should be focused on when looking at it.

Express: I had personal feelings inside my artwork that only I would understand. The feeling that conveys to me is crazy. The hair that’s exploding represents my life as a whole, an adventure, a crazy story, a lightened up and exciting cultural cross that I have experienced, and me as a whole. The houses are actually aligned with how my life is. The house on the left is where I started my life, where I was born, and that was North Carolina. The house in the middle is my pre-teen life in Shanghai, and the house to the very right is where I live currently, living my teen life. I expressed my means even more by creating light in my hair. As I mentioned above, the lighting was a way to tell the viewer that all the culture is here, my life is here, focus on this part of the artwork. The lighting expressed the glamorous life that I lived. The feeling that I wanted to make the viewer think was messy. Now, another reason I think I used Express a lot is because of the hair. The hair is everything in this artwork, I’m telling the reader what my life has been like. But my life has not been a unpleasant life, it’s been a life that I can remember and feel thrilled to have lived through. It is not a nightmare, but a dream, so that is why I made my hair pretty smooth and dream-like, so the viewer doesn’t get the wrong idea.

Understand the art world: This is the main “Artists Habit of Mind” that was used in the creation of my project. I used the @demasrusli picture as inspiration, and I also used the technique from Erik Johansson where I got a lot of taken photos and combined them all together. From going in uncomfortable positions and stances to finding hair of different girls on the internet to fit into mine, I think I did combine a lot of different photos like Erik Johansson, and it really tells the story of my process and the Idea of my project, understanding the art world was definitely a factor in creating my project.


Imperfect Glen Zhang

In This in a box project, everyone in the class were all given a box, and within 6 studio periods we were asked to create something that drives our theme (for example dreams). We were allowed to use any material, and you were also allowed to bring things from home. The first step in creating our box was inspiration. Our teacher showed us a group of artists who have different art techniques, and we also exhibited all the different materials we had. The second step was to scale, We were asked to find a picture online, and we cut it up into sections to make it have three layers. This was a model on what layering we were expected to do in our project. Of course the last step of our project, was to create the actual box.

Now, even with all this time to prepare, my final project looked nothing like my final plan. I figured better ways to express my theme when making some of the parts of my project. One thing I found really challenging was to follow my plan, as we had limited time and even though the final plan expressed my theme, it wasn’t expressing it in the best possible way, and it was a bit sloppy. The way I faced these problems were to use more simple ways to express my theme, but also making it within the 6 class time frame. 

Meaning Behind My Art

During the first three studio days, I used all that time to create by background, with the eyes and the black paint. I used so much time to do my background because it is the center piece of my art. It is telling the audience that you are not the center of attention, as there are few colored eyes representing the people who actually notices you. The mask took me one class to make, and it is the only thing in my box that is light colored. This is telling the audience that sometimes even the ones you care about the most might not see you with the same beautiful, caring, loving eyes. Finally, during the last class, I made my jar. The jar had tape on top, showing signs that society allows keeps us sealed, and even if we try to escape, we never fully will (the clouds are the symbol of humans).


In this project, I really think I pushed myself to create a design using different materials and applying them to my box. I also most definitely tried to use my time in class to my advantage. During class time, when I was waiting for paint or glue to dry, I was pushing myself to make my box stand our and I was also making my box so that it better fits my title and my theme. After the course of creating this project, I most definitely grew as an artist. I feel like after the creation of this box, I could find multiple ways to express a mood, and not using a direct symbol to represent it. Also, I improved by creating a box that has a lot of “artistic stretches” such as using patterns, layers, color contrast etc.

Envision: Before I started the creation of my box, I thought to myself: “what symbols can I use to express Imperfect?” And I furthermore used that thought to drive my creation. I thought about certain features that will make my artwork stand out, material usages etc. After that I got review from others, and they found a few things I could improve on. Originally, I was going to stick nails on the surfaces of walls. But people suggested it gave it more like a dangerous feeling, instead of a mysterious feeling, so I got rid of that as well.

Reflect: About in the fourth studio class, we discussed with our peers how we can improve on our projects. Before that, I was looking at my artwork, I had changed some major parts to fit the time and my theme. For example, I was going to hot glue tears running down the face with nails in it. But that had nothing to do with my theme, and doing that was really for the fashion, so I got rid of it.

Stretch and Explore: I most definitely think I used stretch and explore in this project. When I was brainstorming on this project, I was thinking of just using paint for my background. After a while however, I found that using all types of different materials makes it stand out a lot more. So I went on and used paper eyes, a mask and nails, a jar with clouds etc. The only paint I used was black, and the reason I used it was to let the mystery feeling expand even more, like it is more tightly packed.




Art Fast/Slow Drawing

This art project of drawing a rickshaw drawing was one of the most unique art experiences for me. During this project, I showed a demonstration of the two skills: Gestural and Continuous contour lines. The difference between these two is Gestural is a quick sketch to outline the basics of your art, and Continuous contour line is drawing in lines in which your hand rarely leaves the paper.

The first time I was introduced to this project, I was shocked how amazing it looked when you combined these two types of art. When drawing Continuous contour lines on top of your gestural drawing, it didn’t have to match perfectly, which is what made everyones look so special. When being brought into this project, their are a few things I would have done better the second time around, which would be to not focus too hard on the gestural drawing. If you just let your hand “go with the flow” you will find that at the end your drawing may look weird, but it really creates this sense of those two drawing binding together to create a whole new one.

One thing I found challenging in this project was the contour line drawing. Every time I sketch, I love to draw it in strokes so that it is straight. But with this drawing, it is recommended to draw without your hand leaving the paper. It is something different, but I will admit, drawing with wobbling lines gives it a more realistic taste. And lastly, one thing I learned from this project is how to draw contour lines and really how to bring it to life, and also how to combine these two drawings to create one beautiful masterpiece.