studio logs

Studio Log #6: Bits and pieces

Bits and pieces of polymer clay before they were fired. I just love how they’re laid out. It’s satisfying to see them fill up the space.


Studio Log #4: Lost and Found

For the past few months, I was feeling a little lost and unsure of what to do next with painting. I thought working on prints and collages would get me back on track, but I was still not as productive as I used to be and just as lost. Part of the reason was because I couldn’t quite adjust to having to schedule studio time around two jobs. The other part was my own paralyzing fear that stemmed from having to structure my own studio practice, coming up with my own “assignments”, so to speak, without any idea how. (My previous attempts to hold myself accountable included a monthly Studio Log post on this blog. But the last log I posted was from two months ago. So...)

Ultimately, after talking to my best friend (and she’s the bestest!), I was spurred into action. She was right. All my insecurities, all my hesitancies, all my doubts, all my worries about what would people say about my works, mean nothing if there are no works to show. I realized that I needed to treat my studio time just like another job because it is just as important than my day jobs. The first important step I took toward achieving this was saying no to a part-time job offer (which I have to thanks another amazing friend who pushed me toward this absolutely right decision). Taking on that job would mean I’d be juggling 3 day jobs, which would add up to 50-55 hours work weeks, and I’m so, so done with that life. 

As for painting, I’ve set up a new still-life that I’m super excited about. I’m still using those foam scraps I found in the trash a year ago (which were used in the still-life for As Is). I’m working on a preliminary drawing of it now to prepare for the painting. I enjoy drawing these shapes so, so sooooo much! I'm definitely going to make more drawings of this still-life from different perspectives. Also, I need to figure out how I can make more of the little guys so I can use them in other still-lifes.

Still-life set up. 

Still-life set up. 

Untitled (in process), 40"x30", charcoal on paper, 2017. 

Untitled (in process), 40"x30", charcoal on paper, 2017. 

Now, about printmaking:

I’ve been working, slowly, on a hybrid print project, using both etching and woodcuts on one print. I chose a simple image of a few mushrooms. I’ve always been interested in organic/natural forms, especially in the style of the illustrations in old textbooks. Formally, this image provides just enough details/textures for me to play with without going insane. 

The plan is to make 1-2 blocks for the colors in the mushrooms’ caps. Plus, an etching of the gills to create a more dimensional effect and to introduce a different kind of marks in the print. So far, the key block (picture below) is carved and proof printed. Next, I need to carve the color blocks and proof the etching. Then, with some luck, all the plates will line up just perfectly. Or not. But I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Proof of the key block.

Proof of the key block.

I started this print project to reacquainted myself with printmaking after a long period away from the printshop. My old prints, done mostly during my intro classes, are very flat and graphic. They actually look similar to this key block. Which I like just fine, but it is time to push my limits and get out of my comfort zone. 



Studio Log #3: Painting??? Printmaking???

Since I started making them in the summer, the collages have evolved from merely sketches and somewhat thoughtless exercises into a more deliberate process. But after the 60th collage, it feels a bit tiresome and repetitive. The next step, I think, is to experiment with different kinds of papers (different thickness, textures) and to layer them to create a more sculptural effect. This would also allow me to play around with light and shadows within the collages more, giving them more depth. Also, incorporate more drawing elements. 

I have been looking at the works of Erin O’Keeffe, a contemporary photographer based in NYC, who sets up these beautiful paper still-life to photograph. Her other series of works are also fascinating, but it is these paper still-life that first drawn me to her. These works inspired me to try making models out of papers to paint from. I'm still having a hard time making these models since it's so different from what I'm used to before. (So full of regrets for not taking a sculpture class in college). 

I have gotten more and more interested in making works on papers, like drawings, collages and prints, instead of painting. I find that working with these techniques is more immediate, which allow me to work through new ideas easier and faster, before returning to painting again. I have been wanting to try overlaying etchings and woodblocks into the same prints. So maybe that will be the next project. (Once I have access to a proper printshop). 

Another artist I have been look at more lately is Karen Kunc, whose works are incredible and inspiring. I love the long and narrow, horizontal orientation of the majority of her prints. And her accordion books are amazing!

Amy Chan is a painter and professor at UVA. Sadly, I've only had the chance to take one class with her during my undergraduate years. Her paintings on shaped panels are incredible! She also makes screenprints! I love her weird organic shapes, and her use of colors. So good! 

Printmaking and painting really are meant to go side by side. 


Studio Log #2: The next steps

I have made over 60 collages since mid-July when I first posted studio log #1. I think I finally am starting to figure out how to move forward. At first, I was using construction papers, randomly cut out shapes which were very similar to one another. However, these helped me a great deal to make decisions fast and permanent, no changing things around when the shapes had already been cut.

Then, the bad quality of the construction papers began to bother me as I wanted to pay more attention to colors usage. So, I bought some cheap color-aid papers online. The collages made with these papers were a little bit more thought out, because I had become more comfortable with this method of working and starting to have ideas about what I wanted to achieve.

These are a few of the collages made with the color-aid papers. 

Then I paired some of these together to play around with their compositions. 

I haven’t paint since May, after my fifth year thesis show. The itch to paint was becoming harder to ignore, but I felt I wasn’t ready to jump right back into using oils again and I thought I should try something new, this gouache study (pictured below) was done. Initially, I wanted to finish it in a day, work fast to not overworked the surface, go with the color choices I’ve already made in the collage it was modeled after, and get the feel for what gouache is like. Throughout the painting process, many little things started to bugged me. First, gouache dries super fast, which I had expected, but it was one thing to know it and another to actually do it. Second, it was hard to work in layers (as I was used to with oils) since the dried layers underneath would be reactivated with the new wet paints on top, making certain areas muddy. Eventually, what was supposed to be a fast study became a two-days worth of work and I’m still not happy with how it turned out (especially compared to the original collage, which I thought is better than this gouache study). I did like some areas in the gouache study though, and learned some things about using gouache. Maybe, if I keep pressing on, and I do want to work in a new medium, then I will eventually get the hang of it.

Gouache study after Collage #48, 2016. 

Gouache study after Collage #48, 2016. 

The difficulties I had with this gouache study make me think of: 1) why can’t these collages be the final works instead of as sketches for paintings? and 2) what is the role of observation in this series of completely non-objective works I’m making? Is observation not important to me anymore?

Also, Jean Arp is a revelation. I just realized how much I was influenced by him after making all these collages.

Overall, I did improve on numerous flaws and adopted new good working methods (I think):

  • Incorporation of various sizes objects/shapes within a composition.

  • Have more open compositions (be more thoughtful about negative spaces, more decisive).

  • More aware of the edges and how they play into the composition.

  • Not afraid to go toward the non-objective route.

  • Be more aware of background/middleground/foreground and how to utilize/play with these in a more engaging/interesting way.

  • Start to adopt a more methodical approach to archiving works I produced and how to use this archive to reflect on my progress (or lack of it).

A lot of the things on that list should be common sense thing for an art student to have at least acquired some level of competency over, but apparently I’m just that slow. Nevertheless, I am making more progress and trying out new things. That is good enough for now.

Studio Log #1: Collaging, collaging, collaging

The first post on this blog marks the new beginning for me, and the first step out into the world on my own! How exciting! But of course, new beginning also comes with some confusion as to what I should do first to get back onto my feet and keep painting.

I knew that I needed a source of imagery for my paintings, and I can't rely on trying to find random, trashed objects and throw them together to make still-life, hoping something interesting would come out. Nor do I have anymore animal bones/skulls to play with (it just means I need to start collecting them myself, of course). 

So, I decided that the fastest way to create shapes was to cut them out from papers and put them together a la collage. (How innovative of me.) 

I spent the past couple of weeks cutting out random shapes, and putting together some collages. 

Prototype (collage) #1, in progress. 

Prototype (collage) #2-6. 

It was so much fun. I just used a pack of cheap construction papers so that I wouldn't be too precious/careful/self-conscious about what I was cutting. 

Then, I saw that Michaels was having a sale on their scrapbook papers stock. So I bought a whole bunch, choosing solid colors close to the colors that I would use in my paintings. Nothing neon, or patterned. I wanted to keep the focus on the shapes and lines and simple colors. 

And, more collages.... 

And this is what my corner in the studio looks like yesterday. 

I still need to make more collages so I can edit them down, combine them, etc. to come up with something usable for a painting. 

But for now, I will keep on collaging, collaging, collaging...