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.
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.