Stephanie's Blog

even miracles take a little time

Individual

Rationale

Individual is a memoir about a swim session where we swam the main set that wasn’t necessarily difficult, but something I’ve always avoid training. The main point is allowing the audience to feel a sense of understanding and being able to relate to situations written from a swimmer’s perspective. The title Individual contains different meanings; the set we swam was an individual medley, it represents swimming that’s an individual sport, therefore, needing to overcome mental obstacles you meet, individually.

Set in the summer break at the clubhouse pool creates a bright and relaxed mood, which was then supported with imagery talking about the warmth and the “pastel clouds”. The reference towards “school is starting in less than a month” is meant to evoke a feeling of dreadfulness—an introduction or foreshadow to the other disappointments and hardships yet to come. A lexical cluster of words related to water, like “arctic ocean”, “breezy” and “evaporated” are used to connect to the overarching idea of swimming.

To make this memoir more impactful, firstly, I included relatable situations, mentioning Instagram, because social media takes up a huge part of our lives, and Instagram is one of them. Secondly, common conflicts swimmers would go through using imagery, similes (“felt like…”), analogies (“stranded in open ocean”), and shifts from the first person to second person narration, creating a direct interaction from writer to reader. This allows non-swimmers to also understand the battles swimmers endure. Lastly, the use of colloquial language and Chinese, which strengthens the evoking sense pathos.

The overall theme is the importance of having mental strength and its significance in individual sports. The conclusion reflects how after years of swimming, mental toughness is something I have yet to achieve. This is exemplified when I stated how I stopped and when the training session “disappeared” as easily as the aches of my body. Furthermore, giving up is substantially easier than continuing on, which is a lesson I’ve taken away from that summer’s swim training.

 

Individual

Can I say, I hate training—but then again, at times I enjoy it so much, all that runs through my mind is about the next training session. Training is hard to describe; only swimmers understand the pain of it. Practices are essential for swimming, for anything actually, but it’s the constant state of struggling to continue on, that makes it something I dread.

I’ve been swimming competitively since I was 8, adding up to thousands of training sessions; which really means, numerous times where I suffered through a lengthy practice. I’m not saying that all practices were hard, it’s just that sets gradually increase in difficulty as I get older; it’s a natural process I knew I had to go through.

It was the end of summer, aka school is starting in less than a month. A warm Thursday evening spent at the clubhouse swim pool while the sun was beginning to set behind the pastel clouds. I remember thinking, every time there was a pretty sunset, I would always be stuck in the pool. Training. While everyone else was probably taking photos to update their Instagram feed.

At every session, our coach would share the sets for that day’s practice. After we finally dove into the arctic ocean and finished the breezy warm-up, it was time for the main set. My heart sank all over again, just like the time when those words came out of the coach’s lips “4×400 meters individual medley. Odds split by 2×200’s and evens swimming the full 400 meters”. The moment everyone has been anticipating for has come. As usual, at least one person would find an excuse to extend the resting period. Not that I’m complaining, extra rest is a necessity. I would follow in and fix my perfectly crystalline goggles.

By far, this was the set I hated the most. Two 400’s is tiring enough, so let’s only talk about the first half through.

“备走!” (bei4 zou3)  (Ready go!)

It was the first 400 meters.

I pushed off the wall and swiftly swam butterfly. I remembered to keep my body position high and light, so I’d glide through the water. However, that didn’t even last 50 meters when my arms began to fail. I’d sneak in a few one-arm strokes, but I knew I needed to continue on. After all, it was the first 50 of the first half of the first 400. That’s the least I can do. Butterfly was draining, so backstroke usually becomes my repowering lap. Floating on your back with a slight flutter kick sounds quite relaxing to those non-swimmers but trust me, after that butterfly, it’s the worst possible feeling. You know the soreness and numbing sensation when you run too much? And you need to stop to catch your breath? That is the feeling, except it’s your entire body. You’re lying on your back panting while struggling to breathe in without choking on the flying droplets of chlorinated water. That’s the situation. Now breaststroke. My favorite part. The main and only reason being that I’m a breaststroker, so I’d always be able to catch up or beat others during this lap. Reach, pull, squeeze, shoot, head down… For freestyle, the only thought I allowed to go through in my head was “just swim”. And it works, under some circumstances. The times where it’s actually not ok would be now. By the third stroke of the butterfly, I took a huge breath and dived underwater to take a rest and came back up. This continued on unless my lungs felt like they were going to collapse, then I’d do one arm strokes. Even the backstroke portion wasn’t enough of a rest, and I no longer can sustain the momentum during the breaststroke. The second I reach the wall on the last freestyle stroke, I looked up and said: “我不行了” (wo3 bu4 xing2 le)  (“I can’t do this anymore”). My coach simply replied with silence. She ignored me and just blew her whistle for the next 400. At these moments, I’d feel both annoyed yet grateful that coach didn’t give me the chance to stop because I’d just end up losing the state of mind and not getting much out of the set.

I pushed off the wall as hard as I could to get maximum glide for my underwater. I needed as much momentum possible to make the butterfly feel less like I’m drowning, to state it bluntly. I don’t even know why I was complaining about the 200 split 400 meters, the full 400 is nothing in comparison, the exhaustion level actually skyrocketed. The butterfly portion is honestly torturing. What can I say, I’m a “Sucker for Pain”. My shoulders ached as I could barely skid my arms over the water’s surface, while my lungs needed oxygen after all the gliding after each stroke. I seriously can’t do this. At every wall, I’d hold on for seconds longer to get my breath back, and off I went to the never-ending laps. At last, I survived the horrendous 400 meters IM. Seeing my expression, my coach said, “不行也得坚持” (bu4 xing2 ye3 dei3 jian1 chi2)  (“even if you can’t, you still got to continue on”).

Forgetting about the aches and turning it into evidence showing that I’m becoming stronger, I’d work to maintain my previous speed. Just to let you know, this doesn’t always happen…successfully continuing on I mean. In most cases, I end up giving up; where this training session is a perfect example. In case you were wondering, I ended up cruising the next 400 meters. Anyways, I’d try to maintain a positive mindset, but having mental strength is the hardest part. It’s been all these years, but I’m still struggling. At the mid-stage of the set, there’s a burning ache coming from my heart and lungs due to the literal absence of oxygen; the heaviness in the arms overtakes, telling my legs to pick up the pace. Now is the exact moment where I have the feeling of being stranded in the open ocean. And when you finally spot land, countless emotions hit you at once; whether its gratefulness, fatigue, excitement, or disappointment; all you know is that you’re thankful it’s all over. All I want to do now is stop, which is precisely what I did.  Something even more disappointing happened. I had to live through the dreadful process where your body doesn’t feel better right away. I went through the ‘calming down’ stages where my limbs were soaking in soreness, but in the end, the pain disappeared, and so did the training session.

Mistress of Once Lover

Rationale

The short story “Mistress of Once Lover,” is my interpretation of Rosaline’s thoughts on Romeo based on the primary plotline of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. The central idea is about regrets, where Rosaline mourns her decision of leaving Romeo.

I wrote in first person point of view to decrease the complexity of the shift from past tense to present tense. The first paragraph is written in the present tense and then gradually shifted to past tense after the phrase “It feels.” This is where Rosaline reminisces about her last encounter with Romeo, followed by a background story, an introductory to her internal conflict about Romeo, characterization, and setting. I included personification, such as “heart flutters” and “welcoming the unwanted visitor”, personifying darkness as the unwanted visitor in Rosaline’s life. Following this section, there’s a change setting and a shift to present tense. I used “déjà vu” to foreshadow the misadventures Rosaline will encounter when she attempts to reconnect her and Romeo’s love by going to the masquerade, where she finds herself seeing Romeo kiss the hand of Juliet.

In this piece, I portrayed the protagonist, Rosaline, as a character who grew up in a strict and high profile family, who molded her to become a confident character. Creating this as Rosaline’s background allows her reaction of disbelief in seeing Romeo choose Juliet over her, more appropriate and understandable.

The ways I connected this short story to the original play, were by using phrases written by Shakespeare, such as “frowning night” and “Romeo, o Romeo”, borrowed from a shared dialogue between Romeo and Juliet, but in this case, it’s from the thoughts of Rosaline. I also included foreshadowing and used dichotomies as motifs—light vs. dark, such as “lightening the dense atmosphere.”

In the end, I used multiple rhetorical questions and finished it with ellipses to present Rosaline’s incredulity and derangement, which further displays the impact Romeo had on her character development.

 

Mistress of Once Lover

                  “Rosaline! Rosaline!” the muted calls ring in my ear.

I stare blankly at the winking chandelier while sprawling over my velvet duvet. It feels as if it was yesterday at twilight when the piercing whispers dissolved my quiet evening. I sat up at once, adjusted my nightgown and glided towards the balcony. I remember gazing down arduously upon the dimmed garden, only to see Romeo reveal himself under the oak tree. Not again, I had thought. He gallantly ascended over the balcony of which I stood on and greeted me with a kiss. His presence fatigued my winsome, nevertheless, even after he left that night, the aura of security and assurance he carried, lingered, lightening the dense atmosphere of this prison of a home.

Since a young age, my sisters and I lived under the stringent rules of our mother. My every movement were taught to precisely articulate the family’s power. Every second of the day, whenever visible to an outsider, our mother perpetually told us to show poise.

Romeo allowed me to feel the real sense of being notable, a significant disparity from the shallow acts of my mother. I’d jilt and disappear, but his heart remained faithful. A sense of déjà vu washed over when he departed, welcoming the unwanted visitor back into my life. The hollowness Romeo left behind devours my enduring poise. I once believed he would stay evermore; not once had the thought of Romeo forsake me for another damsel trespassed my unwavering mind.

I cannot endure the emptiness any longer. I refresh my beauty with the charm and elegance Romeo had once fallen in love with to the masquerade ball. My heart drums in my ears; at every pulse, I feel the frame I built up gradually shatter. I pause in front of the gold-rimmed mirror. Maybe I should turn back before I make a fool out of myself…but what if Romeo still loves me? These ambiguous thoughts go back and forth in my mind as I tried to wipe off the bewildered expression I wore with serene. I know his love is unfazed. He told me himself that he would love me for eternity, and be the guiding star during my darkest nights. I recollect my grace and saunter towards the main room, with my classic pair of red stilettos clicking on the polished marble floor. I survey the grand hall for my dear Romeo with assurance. I spot him in the corner. Inspecting his stance, I regain a sense of familiarity. When his glance falls in my direction, my heart flutters as a smile creeps onto my face. As quickly the aura of hope rushed over, it departed. My vision blurred once I realized our he was never looking at me. His soften gaze fixates towards the youthful girl with silky blonde locks.

The frowning night drew near. A muted hum rings in my ears, as everything freezes as I see my lover kiss the hands of his formidable foe. Incredulity rushes in. It wasn’t long before since the twilight of our last encounter. I reminisce about our enchanting memories I know I must omit, but my mind circles back around to Romeo. Had I not meant anything to you? Could I be forsaken so soon? How could you abandon me? Do I not compare to Juliet? Have I lost my grace? O Romeo, why Romeo?…

 

Portrait Unit: Flaw(less)

For this portrait project, we chose a message and conveyed it through portraiture.

This piece, Flaw(less), conveys the central idea of beauty ideologies. “less” is in parenthesis to help emphasize the significant role the word “flaw” plays in my piece. It reflects how celebrities and Instagram models affect the self-esteem of many girls, especially now that social media is so influential and plays a huge role in our everyday lives.

To convey this message, I decided to use acrylic and oil, to paint someone from the model industry because I wanted to highlight the point that taking care of their appearance is their profession, so girls shouldn’t replicate what these models are doing based off of their presumptions. The model I chose to paint is Kendall Jenner, considering she’s known worldwide and is seen as many young girl’s idols; which is why I wanted to show that people like Kendall Jenner, have flaws and insecurities of her own.

The visual elements I used to support my message is the body language, texture and the different stages flowers go through. The hand position, the downcast eyes, and the blushed cheeks connote the feeling of shyness and insecurity. The attire is ordinary but still gives an alluring and glamorous sense, complemented by the wind-blown hair. The use of texture represents the flaws, while the smooth areas show the ideal side. To prove that imperfections are normal or ‘attractive,’ I used the symbol of blooming flowers and the flower buds for the smooth regions of the figure.

This painting is meant to set a relaxed mood with its effortless and simplistic feel. I created this by making the color palette cool toned with occasional warm tones. I used gray, white and blue tones the background and tints for the flowers and clothing. Since the skin is warm-toned, I painted the flowers with shades of red. The shirt is colored with a mix of blue and red, made to bring out the blues in the grey background, and the reds in the skin and flowers. This way, it creates a sense of unity between the warm and cold tones in the figure and the background, while still maintaining its overall dim color scheme.

    

Before this project, I analyzed Jenny Saville’s and Anna Bocek’s work. Their art interested me because of the rough brush strokes, and the color block styled painting. Borrowing these techniques, I applied it to the areas I wanted texture, such as the neck, back, hair and clothing.

Excluding slight adjustments such as removing the text and shattered hand idea, the final portrait looks similar to how I envisioned. Although, I wanted the piece to look more sketched-like and loose. The biggest challenge was finding a reference photo and matching paint colors. Searching for a reference photo was difficult because I was painting Kendall Jenner, and there wasn’t an exact photo that matched to my plan. My solution was to find multiple pictures of her in similar angles and positions. Even though this made the sketching and painting process more difficult, I thought it was good practice for my observational skills, since in future projects, there won’t always be an exact reference photo I can use. The second challenge was mixing the correct color. At times when I run out of a particular shade, or it dries before I finish that area, I would need to remix the exact hue in the precise tone while finding the balance between the mixed in colors. When this happens, I usually repaint that area with the color at hand or make sure I have excess paint.

In this project, I challenged myself with new techniques such as using loose strokes and laying similar colors next to each other without blending to create texture. I applied myself to do my best work, so whenever I spend too much time on the figure and end up feeling frustrated, I would work on other less detailed areas. During class, I would try to set a goal on what to complete, and sometimes stay in after school to finalize it. Now looking at my completed portrait, I see improvement in my painting skills. It seems much more realistic the paintings I’ve done in the past. Under the circumstances of not having an exact reference photo, I feel like I included Kendall Jenner’s main features to let the audience see some resemblance, such as her signature long, straight eyebrows, feline eyes and slightly jutted chin.

Artist Habits of Mind

Observe

For this project, observing was a critical aspect. Before beginning our painting, we prepared our reference photos, either taking them ourselves or going online. Since I was painting a celebrity, I had to search online. I used 5 of the 8 photos I found. Each picture served a different purpose: the ear, side profile, hands, arms, and back, etc. Additionally, I also referred to the painting I was inspired by, two cherry blossom paintings, as well as a person wearing a similar style shirt to the one in my piece.

Envision

     

After analyzing other artists’ artwork, I already envisioned a brief idea of how I wanted my piece to look. I knew I wanted simplicity from the use of muted, dull looking colors, and expression through the eyes. The idea was inspired by a portrait on my inspiration page in my sketchbook. In my work, it’s shown through the color scheme, eyes, and the loose brushstrokes. After media testing the paints, I decided to incorporate both types in my piece: oil on the skin and acrylic for everything else.

Reflect

  

Since this portrait is more realistic than abstract, reflecting upon my work was important. In class, I would step back and observe my work to check for any problems with value and proportions. At the end of class, I would take photos and compare it to the original to see if the adjustments I made were necessary. During after school sessions, I would ask for advice from friends on how to make specific areas more realistic, or about the color choice.

Process Photos

   

After painting a base using acrylic,   I stenciled out the figure from the projector and painted over the pencil marks with blue paint. Then I began painting a base layer of the figure, focusing on values.

  

I sketched out the highlights of the clothing and decided to open up the eyes and have the figure look down. I painted in the hair using acrylic paint. The piece looked too dark, so I repainted the background with a higher blue/gray color.

  

The piece had little color, so I added tints of blues, pinks and purples in the shirt, and sketched out the flowers using pencil. Later on, I painted in the flowers using reds and whites, adjusting its position and reducing the amount as I went. The final step was to repaint the branches and alter the clothing so the color change is smoother.

 

Portrait Analysis #2

Portrait Analysis #1

Spring Break HW

Portrait Media Testing – Oil Painting Reflection

For this media test on oil paints, we painted a grayscale of our face. We first took a selfie and gridded the printout. We then gridded the canvas the same way and began sketching out our face by observing a reference photo.

This media test taught me how to properly wash the brushes by using the oil thinner. This also gave me a chance to see the difference between acrylic paint and oil paint, which helped me determine which media I would use for my final piece.

Oil paint is the best media to use when drawing realistic pieces. Since its oil-based, it dries slowly and allows to create a smooth texture and transition between values and colors.

The most frustrating quality of oil paints is that it takes a long time to dry; so when I was trying to adjust the values, the color underneath would often come through the color I painted on top. The way I dealt with this problem was to use a tissue to wipe off the layer of paint. This allowed me to change the values and colors easily.

When using oil paint, I tend to over blend and make one area the same shade, so a technique I would like to improve and learn to do is to show the different values while maintaining and smoother transition. During this media testing, I was thinking of Kehinde Wile and tried to paint smooth value transitions to recreate his style of making the figure’s skin look as if it was glowing.

 

Portrait Media Testing – Acrylic Painting Reflection

To prepare ourselves for the final portrait piece, we did media testing on acrylic paint. We first took a selfie and edited it so there were distinct values. Then we made our canvas which was a print out of the picture that was glued and sealed onto a piece of cardboard. Then we painted on top the photo using a reference photo.

During this media test, I learned that thinning out the paint using water makes the blending process between different values easier. Another technique was to use complementary colors rather than black to paint the shadows.

When painting, the most frustrating part was blending out the paint, especially when the paint has already dried. Usually, I would paint using oil paint which creates smooth transitions between values very easily, so blending acrylic paint was challenging. I solved this problem by adding water to thin out the concentration, or mixing different variations of values of the same color, and placing them next to each other.

By looking at other artists, such as Jenny Saville and Anna Bocek, I would like to learn how they maintain 3Dness of a figure without blending out the paint. I would also like to learn how they create the effortless effect when painting figures. I tried to replicate this by painting with loose brush strokes and using cool colors in the shadows and warm colors for the highlights.

Spring Fair Logo Design

Converging Cultures: Pieces of Both Worlds

This was a computer-based project, where we worked with Photoshop using both primary and secondary photos to connect two cultures in an abstract way.

For this project, I chose to connect Beijing with Hong Kong, because I’ve lived in Beijing for most of my life, but I was born in Hong Kong, so it will always be a part my identity. This is exemplified by the view outside the window. I’m sitting on a window seat with the Great Wall in the background, which shows that I’m currently in Beijing. My hand is levitating the object that’s hovering above my hand. The object is a piece of land Hong Kong architecture on top. The buildings are not only some of the iconic architecture, but it is also located on the Hong Kong side, mainly focusing on the Wan Chai and Admiralty area which is my most visited area, whether for shopping, dining out, or swim training. By placing the land close to my hand shows that Hong Kong isn’t far from Beijing, and me looking up to it shows that I’m reminiscing about the memories and longing for the next trip to Hong Kong. To add in some cultural aspects excluding the comparison between the old and new architecture of the Beijing’s Great Wall and Hong Kong’s modern buildings, I also wore red to represent the similarities in color of the two places. Then, to add another cultural aspect, I placed traditional Chinese style wood carvings onto the windows on the right to balance out the visual weight of the piece. For this project, the surreal devices I used are Levitation for the piece of land, Scale for the buildings on the land and me in comparison to the window, and finally, Transparency for the window. This work was inspired by Erik Johansson. His work consists of fantastical and realistic aspects that connect together very naturally, which I tried to replicate in mine. My layout was also inspired by an Instagram post on the Photoshop page created by @joelrobison.

Inspired by @joelrobinson

Comparing to my final plan, my actual studio piece looked different than how I had envisioned. First of all, I planned on having the frame zoomed out so you could see the edges of the window seat and the walls on the two sides. I also planned on including fairly lights, occasionally tangled in with miniature red lanterns around the walls that framed the window to illuminate it and bring the focus to the window and make the surrounding walls blur out. However, in the end, I decided not to include this because I had to piece together the window and the marble sill from separate photos. The process of placing together separate cropped out sections from different photos was the biggest challenge, especially making sure it looked realistic. Another challenge was taking the photo of me and choosing the view in the background. I took the photo in Hong Kong and it was constantly cloudy, so the light was white toned, so I chose one where the Great Wall was enveloped in fog.

For this project, I challenged myself with a new technique and ideas. I learned how to change the shapes of objects from separate photos to make it look like one—the marble sill and the bottom of the window frames. I also practiced making drop shadows and testing which tool was the best to adjust the shape and direction the shadow should angle towards. The new idea I incorporated is making this piece more fantastical than real. This is shown by having me levitate the piece of shrunken land.

 

Artist Habits of Mind: Develop Craft, Express, Engage and Persist

           

Before creating the final studio piece, we did multiple media testing as a class. We first learned about the surreal devices and how other artists, such as Maggie Taylor, Jerry Uelsmann, Erik Johansson, and Kristy Mitchell.  We also practiced transformation in our sketchbooks. Afterward, we learned how to use the tools in Photoshop with the materials that were given. The first being Fruiface which consisted of basic crop and selection skills, then making a kaleidoscope, geometric reflections inspired by @witchoria, double exposure, and creating an inception effect. By learning all these skills helped develop our skills and give an opportunity to include these in our final piece.

 

 

 

This project’s topic included culture. Culture itself withholds a lot of meaning, so there was a lot of ways we could express culture in our piece. I converged Hong Kong and Beijing and chose to express how I identify myself as Cantonese because I was born there and is a citizen, even though I’ve lived in Beijing for the majority of my life. To brainstorm ideas, I made three designs and decided to choose the first one. I then redrew my final idea and added specifics of what I wanted to include and the purpose.

 

 

Engaging and Persisting was a challenge. Firstly, having this project be computer-based, you could easily get carried away. Secondly, the process of finding the right images that you need is a hassle which takes up a lot of time. However, the one thing that needed me to persist was piecing together separate images. Out of the 23 layers, the majority was used to connect the images together and adjusting the lighting to make it match.

 

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