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.
Sky Ladder is an art documentary about the Chinese artist, Cai Guo-Qiang. He is one of the many examples of artists in the world who create unfamiliar styles or artwork. I learned that the art you create doesn’t necessarily need to follow the generic designs people assume, but rather, it could be anything. A topic brought up in the documentary was that Cai Guo-Qiang rather “rebelled” against his father. His artwork was contrasting to his father’s traditional paintings; instead, he had a modern style of art by creating explosions on his piece. Whenever these rebellious against normality type of situations occur, I think artists should just be able to create pieces without any limitations and call it their artwork. The most important takeaway from watching is documentary is make a real-life form of what you imagine and create if without any restrictions.
This card is for my best friend who moved away. She is special to me because we’ve been friends for 6 years and we always have the best of times together. I chose the phrase “sending my love to you” because she no longer lives in Beijing, and I’m sending her a message. To design this card, I used symmetry when placing the objects to create a clean and simple look. To make it more interesting, while still maintaining the simplicity feel, I used the rule of three structure to place the scattered hearts.
#1: “Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder” (261). The author uses a simile to compare the pain to a sudden storm; portraying that feelings are unpredictable and can come unexpectedly. Even the good days can turn into bad ones when pain exists.
#2: Ever since the accident which occurs towards the climax of the novel, the inseparable duo, Ari, and Dante, has a small fall out. Ari struggles with self-doubt, constantly feeling confused about what he wants. Ari’s mother senses his internal conflicts arise, and said to him that “‘you’re fighting their own private wars’” (170).
#3: Ari and Dante went through a process of discovering something about themselves they never knew was hidden. They looked at the darker and lighter sides of being alive, which helped them become an individual. Together, Ari and Dante discovered the secrets of the universe.
In the novel Abarat by Clive Barker, the protagonist Candy Quakenbush encounters a consequential internal conflict of choosing between her home, the colorless Chickentown, and the Abarat—an archipelago inhabited by fantastical creatures. In a short amount of time of contemplation, she “leaped into the air, committing [her life] to the frenzied waters of the Sea of Izabella” (93). The phrase “committing her life” used in this sentence not only has the meaning of putting her faith in the hands of the sea, but another, which signifies Candy is committing to her decision and is accepting that she will leave her family behind and start a new life on her own in the Abarat. This section of the novel not only reminds me of the countless times I had to make important choices under a short period of time; but also taught me to devote myself to my final decision even though it may not have been the most rational option.