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.

Continue reading Charcoal Drawing Reflection

Reflection: FAST/SLOW Rickshaw Drawing

The fast/slow technique used in this drawing assignment was inspired by visiting artist, Danny Gregory. It allows our mind to focus and strengthens out hands- brain coordination by practicing gestural and continuous contour line drawings. Gestural drawing is used and represented by the watercolor part of this drawing; it’s when the artist allows him or herself to draw freely, only outlining the general shape of an object. On the other hand, continuous contour line drawing is the layer on top, drawn out by a fine tip pen; it captures the small details and aspects that defines a certain object.

To create this art piece, we assembled all the needed media first: watercolor, watercolor paper, and fine ink pen. We began by squeezing two tubes of analogous watercolors of our desire and diluting it to make it more transparent. In 10 seconds, we had to quickly outline the rickshaw. After it dried on the watercolor paper, we were given two classes and outside periods to finish the slow section of this drawing.

A reminder I would give to other students when making this artwork is to be wild and free when applying water color to the paper. Don’t be afraid or mind the detail because the watercolor is the only color in the drawing so make sure to express it fully.

To me, one of the most challenging part of the assignment was flattening the view of the rickshaw. Since we worked with an actual three-dimensional object, it was difficult to visualize it as a 2D figure. Therefore, sometimes the perspective and shadowing seems unnatural. However, Ms. Zvinakis, provided us with a technique of closing one eye to flatten the image. This technique assisted me and improved my drawing greatly.

From this assignment, I learned to draw three-dimensional figures with less struggle and also how to create unique compositions. Instead of drawing the entire object, I focused mainly on the front grip of the rickshaw. This not only shows two perspectives of the object, but also allows me to devote all my attention to one focus point.