Category: Art 1: Seeing Like an Artist (page 1 of 2)

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


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.



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.



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.

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.


Sky Ladder

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.

Valentines Card

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.


PS Media Testing #5 inception effect

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