1–Introduce the project:
This studio assignment, the Converging Cultures project, challenged us to create a digital art piece on our cultural backgrounds using Photoshop. We were asked to weave together the two cultures that we grew up experiencing, using the surreal devices that we had investigated in previous classes. It was a difficult task for many students as we were forced to avoid using clichéd and literal symbolisms such as flags to represent the cultures and countries.
At the developing stage of this project, I, as always, had way too many ideas and was extremely indecisive of all of the potential themes that the ideas could be. However, I personally think that this work ended up being one of the pieces that I had most effectively and successfully incorporated my initial ideas into, despite the many technical difficulties I had faced with the new media. When I first started brainstorming on the concept of culture, I simply listed out the various cultural fundaments of the two countries that I associate with, Korea and America. Unconsciously, I tended to seek for the differences of the two cultures as I continued writing. But then I’d realized, that it actually should’ve been the first task to find a similarity between the two, as our project directed us to entwine a culture with another. It was then when the story Cinderella had struck my mind. Cinderella is a folk tale that is most well-known through the remake of the storyline into a movie directed by Disney. After listening to the initial plot of this movie, anyone from the US would immediately think of the Disney princess Cinderella; however, as an American-Born-Korean, I think back to both Cinderella and Kongjui Patjui. Kongjui Patjui is a Korean folk tale that has an extremely similar storyline with Cinderella, except the setting being in early Korea. Both stories where in books that I had read in the similar times of my childhood. So I chose these two stories to be the basis of my art work, as well as the main commonality of where the two cultures meet each other. And then, I started to build up ideas for my personal experiences and connections to include in the piece. I decided to change the main characters of the two stories; juxtaposing the two girls into contrasting settings, each into a scene of the other story. A Korean lady in a beautiful traditional Korean dress (Han-Bok) is placed into the background of a Western ballroom while an American girl wearing a western-style dress is put into the scene of Kongjui doing her chores in an old Korean-styled house. This represents my experience of being a “foreigner” in both a Korean environment and an American environment. Within the two years that I had lived in Korea, I had experienced the amused expressions of many people as they got to know me. My peers were interested and surprised by my background as it wasn’t so common for a new student to be from a different country, with a different passport. Most of the times in Korea, the majority considered me as a foreigner. This actually wasn’t so different in an American environment either. Also growing up being educated in an international school of an American base, people still considered me as a foreigner (in an American perspective) despite the large portion of my life spent in the same environment as them. I was a foreigner who biologically originated from a different country and was much exposed to the culture of that “different country”. This is how the two images in the book of my piece reflects on my personal experience in different cultures. In addition, the time differences of the two scenes (Konjui Patjui-> day, Cinderella -> night) show how one experience remains in the past while the other is still in its present-tense. The person pushing a page over to flip to the next scene, symbolizes myself transitioning from one environment/culture to another. Because the actual storybook Cinderella ends with the character being a princess, I wanted to illustrate that my future would also continue to associate with the setting/culture of the second page, where the Korean Cinderella is involved with the western environment. I’ve emphasized the Korean Cinderella with a focal point for the same reason.
Juxtaposition has been used in many ways in this piece:
Characters- As previously explained, the juxtaposition of the characters in contrasting environments represent my personal experiences with different cultures. You wouldn’t normally expect a western character to be in an Asian environment and an Asian character to be in a western environment.
Crown- The crown on the “Korean Cinderella’s” head is a western style crown which doesn’t match up with her traditional Korean outfit. This juxtaposition displays the “converging” of the two cultures, symbolizing myself getting used to the American culture and environment.
Words- The page with the western Cinderella is described with the lines of the western book but with the Korean Cinderella’s name (Kongjui). On the other hand, the page with the Korean Cinderella has words from the Korean book but with the name Cinderella pronounced in Korean (신데렐라).
Background & 2nd page of book- The background of the whole piece and the second page of the book shares the same setting and seems as if the book is just a filtered version of an actual scene. This was another way to express that the 2nd page was the “present-tense” of my life (as previously explained).
Small person/Cinderella & Hand- If, referring back to “transparency”, Cinderella was the scale of a real life scene, the hand holding the book is strangely large and the person pushing the page over is strangely small. This adds an surreal effect to the whole piece, making it a more figurative display of my view.
I was really inspired by the work of Erik Johansson. I borrowed his style in the use of scale and transparency of his work which made his piece look both surreal and realistic at the same time.
3–Summarize the creative process
I think that most of the creative thinking and imagination took place in the planning and drawing of my idea. I came up with and finalized my sketch after an intense process of brainstorming. The creating in Photoshop really just had to follow what I envisioned in the planning process. Overall, the general image of my final piece matched up with my initial plan except for the reducing of a few details that seemed too complex and disorganized with the piece. However, there were so many difficulties on the way to achieving the improvement in my skills and successful completion of my art work. When we were first told that we had to work with Photoshop, I was very anxious and terrified because I was aware that I was awful at working with digital devices. I am a type of person who hardly understands how to use the easiest functions of daily electronic devices. Through the media testing process that we followed as a class, I was able to get a little bit familiar with Photoshop. But this still didn’t mean that I was skillful enough to put together an art piece of my imagination, as I was struggling to even follow simple instructions from tutorials. But without having a choice, I just faced the problem and tested with the media multiple times. When things would look awkward, I just tried out all of the functions to see what could amend the problem. At times, I would often draw on essential parts or details myself. Although this was an extremely tedious process, I believe it was a fruitful one and the most effective one to bring out the best of my abilities. I developed my skills as I worked on my piece. However, if I had to choose the biggest challenge that I had with this media, it actually wouldn’t be my unfamiliarity with the media (although it was extremely severe), but the technical difficulties. This was mainly because my Photoshop was fooling around with me. I had lost a whole weekends worth of work due to having problems with my Photoshop. This was the biggest challenge out of the whole process not in the aspect of skills, but in the matter of time constraints. I dealt with this problem by simply staying up many nights to make up for the work that I’d lost 🙁
4–Effort and Artistic Growth:
I believe that this definitely was a project that I’ve put a lot of effort into. Not only was this because I was unfamiliar with the media itself, but I also really pushed myself into creating a complex piece, way above my abilities. I spent a massive amount of time outside of class investigating this new media and incorporating such new skills into actually creating my piece. I’ve watched several YouTube tutorials that weren’t introduced to us in class, and also repeated the process of self-experimenting (a lot of failing) to expand my abilities within this new media. Although it was not the most pleasant process, I cannot deny that it allowed me to greatly grow and mature as an artist. This is because, by being introduced to a new media and developing the skills for it, I now have a wider range to express my artistic perspectives.
Artist Habits of Mind
Because our project required us to involve numerous surreal devices in our art piece, we definitely had to be able to imagine our own concepts into an illustration as they were not visible through any media but our thoughts. The whole process of brainstorming, planning, and sketching my ideas was a work of envision itself. I had to first come up with a whole picture in my head and then push myself to the next step of literally illustrating the picture in real life.
Engage and Persist:
As previously mentioned, this project necessitated me to engage with the learning of new skills and persist with the challenges that I faced during the learning. I wouldn’t elaborate further as it seems extremely repeated, but I would like to emphasize my effort put into the piece.
Stretch and Explore:
In this project, I really forced myself to stretch beyond my limits and explore the newly introduced media. Once again, I will not further elaborate as this topic was also repeated numerous times in paragraphs “3–Summarize the creative process” and “4–Effort and Artistic Growth”.