Converging Cultures- Reminisce



1)    Introduce the project: The studio challenge was to create a surrealistic artwork that conveys our culture using Photoshop. The class was introduced to a number of Photoshop artists and surrealists to gain inspiration. As Photoshop was a brand new media to many students, the entirety of the class learned a variety of techniques through online tutorials.

2)    Formal analysis/Message: Predominantly, Maggie Taylor’s artwork series, The Burden of Dreams, prompted my artwork. I borrowed her composition and color scheme. Although my initial idea was to only have one piece (unlike Taylor’s), I found two bird images that I adore equally, so I decided to create a series of two. Coincidentally, the way the heads are tilted makes them seem like they are looking at each other, and that sparked the idea of “reminisce”, where I look back and discover that my cultures determine who I am. The magpie (down) symbolizes the Chinese myth my mother told me: if you see a xi que it means you’ll have good luck. The nightingale (up) symbolizes me as it is my birth month bird (July). It is also the mascot of the Nightingale Charity Club which I am proud to be part of.

Through sharp color contrasts, I placed the focal point of both pieces on the birds’ headdresses, where two objects, a Chinese fan and a Singaporean plant, are combined to represent my cultures. The tenebrous yin-yang in the background diverges from its actual meanings. I wanted it to symbolize my two cultures—one black and one white— and that I will never be who I am without one or the other thus there’s always a splotch of one culture on the other side.

The surreal devices I included are juxtaposition and scale for the headdresses, dislocation of the birds and their backgrounds, and transparency in the yin-yang and tree branches.

3)    Summarize the creative process of making this work: The actual studio
piece did not end up like anything I had envisioned initially. What I planned in the past was to include myself staring in a mirror where one side of my hair is braided and one is let loose to show Chinese and Western cultures. However, to take a picture without getting the camera reflected in the mirror was too challenging. The more I tried, the more difficult was the process, therefore, I decided to scratch out that idea and move on. The idea of this final artwork came to my head when I saw the birdcage that was displayed in the art studio at school. The birdcage looked very delicate and symbolic. However, after taking photos of the cage, my mind was blank and I did not know how to continue. So instead of a birdcage, the idea of birds came into my mind. I searched up my birth month bird and magpies because both of them relates to me and my culture in many ways. When I gathered images of the birds, I realized both of them looked like they are painted pictures. That’s when I felt inspired by Maggie Taylor because her artworks all have the quality of paintings. Once I figured my general composition and artist inspiration, I began instantly. The final artwork was never sketched in my sketchbook, I envisioned it in my mind and made that my starting point. It’s a miracle that it turned out as better as I thought it would be.

4)    ​Effort and Artistic Growth: The idea of working with Photoshop was exhilarating but was also unnerving. Now, even after this project, I still feel the same way about this media. I have never experimented with any Photoshop art before, so everything I have on my page was learned by myself both through online tutorials and self-experiments. Throughout this Converging Cultures unit, I changed my idea at least five times. Every YouTube tutorial, both ones in class and ones I found on my own, inspired me in a variety of ways that could have possibly altered my destination. But, nonetheless, once I established my mind, I worked to complete my project in within the time frame, working efficiently and utilizing class time to my advantage. Looking at my finished artwork, I can finally let out a sigh of relief. Shocking as it is, I’ve used Photoshop! To have learned to tame an unprecedented media to my demand is unbelievable, therefore, I truly believe that I have grown and matured as an artist.


In this unit, the art theme was focused on surrealism. Therefore, it is impossible to see in reality what the product might be, except in my mind. From the initial sketches to my final product, the vision in my mind never ceased quavering; it
could have easily transformed into something entirely new if I wasn’t adamant. When I decided on the final idea, I told myself to be resolute andwork on it until the end. As I have mentioned previously, I did not draw out a sketch for my final idea. I used Maggie Taylor’s art, The Burden of Dreams, as reference and I was hands-on. I gave myself critiques whenever I was stuck and made necessary adjustments. The more I built upon the work, the more it came to life. Therefore, envisioning the art was a necessity in creating this final art piece.


When the different Photoshop artists and surrealists were introduced to us, Ms. Z showed us their artworks and videos. I observed that many of them incorporated symbols that had deeper meanings. One symbol that I remember most is from Jerry Uelsmann. He said that boats in his artworks represent the spiritual path to the afterlife. Why? Well, he has a personal story attached to it. This made the object gain meanings that are unique to only him and nobody else. The idea of giving a common daily life object a personal meaning inspired to me. Thus, this is the main reason why I chose to include the magpie. It is because I have Chinese culture and because of my mom’s story that, to me, magpies(喜鹊)symbolize good luck.

Develop Craft

As I have mentioned above, Photoshop was a brand new tool introduced to me. It took classes after classes for me to be accustomed to the shortcuts and techniques. Something that was most effective in helping my development was the five Media Testing practices in class. It taught me the basic keys and buttons to rotate and move and select. This served as a huge purpose in creating my final artwork. I can say with confidence that my knowledge of Photoshop has grown tremendously through this unit. Therefore, I am also very thankful to this project.

Valentine’s Day Card

I created this card for my two best friends who are “my partners in crime”. We would do silly things together and laugh about them together. What I wanted to tell them is we depend on each other and we will always have each other. The element of art I incorporated in this card is ‘color’ where the panda faces are contrasted from the bright pink background. The card is humorous as I used a pun where the subtext reads: “I de(panda) on you, and you de(panda) on me”. This pun is also what makes this card creative!

A Documentary Review: Sky Ladder

What new ideas or understandings did this documentary shed light on for you in terms of the workings of the contemporary art world?  Please explain in detail. 

This documentary introduced to me how the modern world tolerates art and how it brings it to daily life. I have always strictly limited my definition of art to working on paper with a pencil or on canvas with a paint brush. My stubbornness blocked me from thinking that in the actual contemporary art world, art is so much more. I never even thought of gun powder as art media before, and yet it is as beautiful as magic in the hands of Cai Guo Qiang. This documentary really opened my eyes to what art can be and its potentials.

What is an issue brought up in the documentary that you STRONGLY AGREE OR DISAGREE with? Explain the issue and give us reasoning as to why you agree or disagree with it.

The documentary invited many knowledgeable art critics to opinionate on Cai Guo Qiang’s art and his style. The issue of how fame and money can disrupt the artist’s original intentions was corroborated as both critics have pointed it out. There’s this comparison between, “‘Yes, I want to do it’ and ‘no, we will not let you’ [to] here’s two million dollars, what do you want to do?” I absolutely agree with this rising issue amongst artists, especially ones who are successful. When you work alone and for the enjoyment of art, you don’t depend on it to make a living. However, once you are surrounded by fame, there are people who want to collaborate, and thus, you are no longer free and independent. They will pay in return for your participation and you will have to tolerate what they desire, and thus, you are put on a constraint of freedom. The idea of fame and money will definitely quaver the artist’s original beliefs.

What’s the most important takeaway from watching this documentary? What will you remember about it moving forward? 

A significant takeaway from the “Sky Ladder” was reminding me that art takes courage and perseverance. Working with gun power as the art media is creative and innovative, but at the same time, incredibly dangerous as admitted by Cai Guo Qiang himself. To make make his vision of the Sky Ladder come to life, it took him years after years of preparation and trial and errors; he had to accept failure and keep improving. On his fifth trial, Qiang had to suffer under time and financial constraints and his wife’s disapproval, but Qiang was relentless. On his fifth and final trial, the Sky Ladder, as if a fiery dragon of success, soared in the sky to celebrate his victory.

In a Box- Home Sweet Home

The “In a Box” project required us, the students, to design and fill a box that conveys a certain theme.

In the very beginning, the class was introduced to Joseph Cornell, the inspiration artist, by watching videos and analyzing his box artworks. We also observed many other artist’s works and learned their art techniques through videos, images and media testing. For example, we molded air dry clay and did paper layering. After the several classes of observation and media experimentation, we began focusing on our own individual projects. To give us a general direction, the class brainstormed a list of themes together. Each student was then randomly designated with a theme by drawing lots. From the two themes I drew, I chose “dream” to focus my project on. Then, every student created a personal idea web of what they think is connected to their theme. For me, I branched out dream to sleeping, night time, fantasy, hope, desire and many more. In our sketchbooks, we also made an idea vs. visual table. Some things I jotted down were fantasy to castle and sleeping to bed. The last planning activity was to sketch a final composition of our box.

Finally, we were set to construct our box! For me, the second I got studio time, I painted the inside of my box white with a dry brush to give it an old wooden texture. After that, I collected materials. In my vision, I was resolute with the idea of using glass bottles, so that was the first thing I picked. However, while I was sifting for more items, I began choosing objects that looked nice and notnecessarily the ones that fitted my theme. The objects were either brown, beige, yellow, or white, even though I was supposed to use dark colors to show night time. My peers also felt as if my box was communicating “nature” because of the organic colors instead of “dream”. That’s when I became stuck and had to rethink about my plans. To resolve this challenge, I thought deeper into the meaning of “dream”. That’s when I discovered the difference between cliché and original. In my planning process, I only thought about the surface meaning of dreams, such as people dream when they sleep and kids dream to become princesses/princes. I decided to not focus on these common dreams, and thought about how in our world, there are people who dream of a home. By making changes to my plans, my product differed greatly from my final composition (except for the bottle which I kept!).


For this project, I must say I pushed myself to try out new techniques. Whencreating an assemblage, I had to keep in mind when placing something in the middle or in the upper part of the box, something needs to hold/support it or else it would fall (because of gravity!). Therefore, I also had to think about how to incorporate the holders/supporters in my art. For example, I created compartments and walls to put objects near the top. I believe I did a great job, using color to unify my art, showing levels, and conveying my feelings/ideas through my box. Although I missed two studio time, I still completed my box in time, so I believe I have organized my time well! From being able to adapt designs based on project to good time-management, and from being able to analyze themes to high workmanship, I believe I have matured as an artist.

By analyzing Joseph Cornell’s artworks, I learned that each of his boxes wanted to tell a story, but the audience had to decipher the story themselves because Cornell avoided literality and conveyed ideas in his own ways. I wanted to do the same to my box so instead of plainly showing thought bubbles, beds, moon and stars, I went a different direction to represent “dream”. The way I designed my box resembles a home. Home symbolizes dream because there are people such as orphans and refugees who long for a home, so this is their dream. The color scheme also plays a role in delivering the theme as it is old-looking and, as Ms. Z have described it, “looks like an old grandma’s home”, creating a nostalgic, warm, and protective feeling, showing how dreams are filled with joy.

Stretch and Explore
In the process of my working, I shared that I playfully followed my desire when choosing the objects instead of restraining myself to my original plan. Although this pushed me off my tracks at one point, it allowed me grow as an artist, giving me opportunity to discover deeper into the meaning of my theme. Without the constraint of my my preconceived plan, I stretched and explored and tested my abilities when creating art.

Understand the Art World
This unit introduced me to many new artists that inspired me such as Joseph Cornell, Chiharu Shiota, Kara Walker and other artists. From them I learned a variety of art techniques such as gluing yarn, layering paper to show depth, using found objects and giving it a new meaning and, of course, creating art in a box. Kara Walker’s art showed her culture and how history impacted her art focus, this inspired me to think about our current society and the life of refugees. Chiharu Shiota motivated me to be confident in my art. Although in one video she said she was shy in front of cameras, her art is magnificent, encouraging me to believe in what I am creating. Joseph Cornell’s boxes are filled with found objects and nothing purposely created which inspired me to not use air-dried clay but rather objects people brought in which I gave new meanings to. Understanding the art world was key to my final product.

Charcoal Drawing Reflection

In Art 1, our second project is distinct from the other projects because of the medium used in creating this artwork. It focuses on utilizing charcoal to draw our clothes.

To create this piece, practices were required; first we created a charcoal value scale and drew eggs. After that, we took photos of our clothes and sketched out the compositions in our sketchbook. Out of the four compositions, we chose the one we liked best. To create the final piece, we first sketched out the most favored composition with vine charcoal on a big piece of art paper. Secondly, compressed charcoal and charcoal pastel were used for shading and mass filling. I started off with the darkest and gradually became lighter. Blending with a Qtip and tissue and detail refining with a charcoal pencil was constant and happened in between.

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