Portraiture- Be Vibrant

1)    Introduce the project:

The final project of the year was Portrait Painting. Exactly like the name, we were asked to paint a portrait of a person, either of ourselves or of someone we knew/know. I chose to paint my mother, and I used acrylic as my media.

Be Vibrant is the title of my piece. The exuberant colors of my artwork pop at the audience and seems to be as if it’s screaming the title out loud. The meaning of this title addresses two guiding questions: how can portraits make a broader social statement? And how can we represent the intangible (the unseen) in portraits?

2)    Formal analysis/Message:

My mother is the star of my portrait. It was under thorough thinking that I finally decided to paint her. In my opinion, my mom is unlike any other moms; she defies the stereotype of a mother figure in several ways that I believe shows her unique qualities. My mom resonates an unyielding strength and confidence that inspires me every day, and I want to capture this cheerfulness and youthfulness others. In my painting, I hope to make a broader social statement on ageism, especially prejudice towards older ages. People of all ages should feel equally happy and free. Age should not be a factor that reduces the fun in one’s life. Although as we get older, we tend to hold greater responsibilities, responsibilities, however, should not replace the fun aspect of life. For this reason, I chose to paint my mom because although she carries a huge responsibility with the title of a mother, she still accumulates fascinating and intriguing stories with her life because she embraces fun and joy.

I show the intangible because what I am addressing through my painting is not what people commonly think of a mother figure and I want to change that. To have fun does not mean to be reckless and be blind to one’s responsibilities. I believe it’s rather to find the joy in life even when life is loaded with responsibilities. My mom does this very well; her strong mettle is truly inspiring. And therefore, I would want to break the mother stereotype and project this unseen idea as loud as possible through my painting.

Visually, my artwork is attention-grabbing as the canvas is flashing neon and bright colors. This supports my intended message because vibrant colors symbolize fun. For principles of Design and Elements of Art, I mainly focused on balancing the negative and positive space, emphasizing on the eyes and face, showing a variety of colors by using every color on the color wheel. The texture is also vital in my communication of the two guiding questions because painting acrylic with palette knives creates a rough and untidy look that shows the carefreeness of my artwork.

My painting should stimulate an ecstatic and excited mood. As mentioned above, I purposely used neon colors to bring about this electrifying mood. The type of paint, acrylic, was also chosen specifically for its easy-to-dry quality. I wanted to add many layers of paint over one another so different colors could be splattered on the canvas and acrylic made it possible for me to do that. The layering effect also helps communicate my intentions because each layer of color represents a new interesting story added to my mom’s life.

3)    Summarize the creative process of making this work:

To create this artwork, I first brainstormed several compositions and sketched them out in my sketchbook. Originally, my idea was to paint my grandpa when he was in his early twenties in Li TianBing’s style. I wanted the painting to be green-monochromatic and to spray paint over oil. However, Ms. Z explained to me that green skin would look ill and it’s not possible to spray paint over oil. Soon after that, I decided to switch my focus. Therefore, what I envisioned looked completely different from what my final product looks like.

The challenge I faced in this project was working with many colors within a limited amount of time. After discarding the idea of painting my grandpa, I decided to try Francoise Nielly’s style. The main difficulty of her style is the need to premix many colors with paint thinner before applying it onto the canvas. This process takes a long time (and also I had to take in consideration of how many trays/palette knives I use because I needed to clean them and that takes up time, too) and class time was just not enough. Therefore, many times I didn’t have the right colors because I could only mix a few in each class. I coped with this time problem by working efficiently and only working with three colors each class.

4)    Effort and Artistic Growth:

I definitely grew as an artist through this project. Portrait painting was new to me, and putting that aside, I also challenged myself to paint with a new technique: using palette knives. I believe I have put in my best effort to create the best outcome. Although everything was brand new, I am surprised that I have finished it so quickly and within the time boundary! Therefore, I believe I havealso taken advantage of class time to work on this project. Looking at my completed work, I can say nothing but stare at it in awe! Overall, I believe this project opened me up to more branches of art and motivates me to pursue art in the future.


Two guiding questions led to my final product. I would like to reinforce some lines and messages that I have mentioned earlier because they carry potent meanings:


  1. People of all age should feel equally happy and free. Age should not be a factor that reduces the fun in one’s life. Although as we get older, we tend to hold greater responsibilities, responsibilities, however, should not replace the fun aspect of life.
  2. To have fun does not mean to be reckless and be blind to one’s responsibilities. I believe it’s rather to find the joy in life even when life is loaded with responsibilities.

Understand the Art World

Looking at my work, it is obvious that my artist influence was Francoise Nielly. I have borrowed her art technique of using a palette knife to paint, her color selection, color contrast, and texture. A video of her painting immediately captured my attention; there was one part where Nielly was painting the lips, and all she did was drag the palette knife right and downwards. As simple as that, it made the painting so astonishingly beautiful. Since watching that video, I decided I had to try it out myself. This process of learning and borrowing allowed me to interact with my artist inspiration and helped me understand how it feels to paint like her.

Stretch and Explore

This Artist Habit of Mind is the one that speaks to me the most after completing this project. Through this project, I have learned to reach beyond my supposed limits. Therefore, I am thankful for this project. It gave me the opportunity explore and discover what lies beyond my abilities. Also, since my original plan was wildly different from my final product, it is true that I explored playfully without a preconceived plan; I embraced the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents.

Spring Break Art Gallery Reflection

What was the theme of the show? 

The Duo Solo Exhibition showcased both Zhao Yang and Betty Woodman’s artworks. The artworks were displayed in one gallery to showcase how these two artists from different traditions, regions, background and gender, work on the theme of the body.

What media?  Betty Woodman uses her usual medium, glazed earthenware, but transforms it into multimedia art by combining in acrylic paint on canvas with the traditional pottery. Zhao Yang works with oil and acrylic on canvas.

What genre of art? Contemporary art.

Who were the artists? Zhao Yang and Betty Woodman.

Where did you go?  Shanghai K11 exhibition.

What did you notice about the artwork in terms of the formal qualities?  How did the formal qualities of the work support the theme/message? Zhao Yang’s paintings wander through reality, Eastern and Western fairy tales, as well as fables, transforming themselves as carriers of metaphors and symbols, and finally, presenting the hybrid images to the audiences. All these experiences, emotions, histories, stories and feelings are expressed out smoothly with Zhao’s plain painting language. Betty Woodman’s exuberantly colorful and inventive artwork breaks the limitations of pottery and brings this media to the next level. She began to transform traditional pottery, her usual medium, into innovative multimedia art, moving her work from kitchen cupboard shelves to museum walls.


Oil Painting Media Testing Blog Post Reflection

To create this oil paint piece, we were asked to take a black-and-white photo of our faces with high contrast under strong lighting. To transform the picture onto canvas, we first printed and gridded the A4 picture into ten rows and seven columns and repeated this step on the cardboard canvas. This made sure our proportions were accurate. Then using an HB pencil, we sketched the outline of our faces using the gridlines as guidance. Values were finally added when we applied oil painting consisting only of black and white.

This was the first time I used oil painting. I learned that when painting with oil paint, only a small amount of paint is required. It also can last very long without drying. It’s different from acrylic because water alone cannot clean oil brushes, it requires thinner before rinsing.

From this media testing, I was introduced to oil paint, and I feel as if it had already become my go-to paint. The smoothness and quality of being able to blend so easily really appeals to me because it makes the shading of my artwork realistic.

When oil paint gets in contact with paint thinner, the texture and smoothness automatically disappears. Therefore, I don’t enjoy using paint thinner. However, when I want to change the color of my paint from dark paint to a lighter paint, I have to use the thinner to clean my brush. Next time, I will have with me by my side several hand towels to dry the thinner from my brush. I wonder what other media and canvas material can work with oil paint. Also, what other qualities do oil paint have that make it a good painting media?

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.

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.



Reflection: Explorer’s Insight- A Travel Magazine

Humanities never lost its pace even towards the end of the year. We were assigned a big project requiring great responsibility. Each class was packed with practices and steps to create the final project: a travel magazine. In the beginning, we were randomly assembled into groups of three or four. We each chose a minority in China we were interested in; mine was the Naxi Minority because I have been to Yunnan, the province where most Naxi people are scattered.

A few days in, we also had a field trip to the Beijing Ethnic Park to take photos of our minority, observe their architect, costume, and learn about their culture. The magazine was divided into three sections: travel writing, infographic, and map. My group members, Khushi and Cameron and I, worked at various speeds. In the first day of design making, I have already formatted my travel writing into magazine form and also my infographic and map. Unlike me, they did most of their work toward the end. There were some frustrating moments and proud moments when we held our product in our bare hands. Overall, it was experiential!

A magazine infused with outstanding experiential travel writing, comparison with other minorities, and information on China’s top three main minorities. A must read!

Reflection on Socratic Seminar

In today’s humanities class, we were separated into four small groups for Socratic seminar. Group three and four followed Mr. Jason to his class and my group (group three) began to start our discussion first. I had a good start, contributing my opinion second. I listened to other peoples’ ideas before talking. It was a while after I shared my ideas again. Every time I spoke, everyone listened carefully. I think the other participants did a very good job taking turns to speak and the observers did a very good job staying quiet and jotting down notes. At the end, my observer, Isabel, said I should link more connections to real world events, since I only did it once. In this experience, I learned when a several people are discussing, the conversation can go endless, allowing us to learn from just exchanging ideas. Overall, I think it was a successful Socratic Seminar!