Final Project IS2 – Visual Culture

April 1: Start of the final project

Thesis question: how does littering become a landmark of NYC? *


  • how do foreigners think about NYC before they come here? How do they think after? (interview required)
  • since littering is a problem for many cities in the world, how can I make it unique in NYC? How can I combine it with atypical NYC elements?
  • If I want to do 2D work(s), what will be the proper media to use?

Key words:

  • littering, garbage, sustainability, dark side of city, urbanization, city planning, combination
  • antique, emotion, idealized, hidden/forbidden dirt (layers)

Relevant data collected in Seminar:


Visual analysis of images:

General plan: a series of 2-layer drawings of NYC landmarks/cultural artifacts, top layer = the glamour side of NYC, button layer = the dirty side/reality

Plan 1:

Plan 2:

Plan 3:

Plan 4:

On Tuesday, April 10th:

The plan is set – to do two overlapped drawings about how NYC is like in foreigners (who have never been to NYC)’s eyes, and in citizens’ eyes respectively. Specifically, I try to identify NYC and its littering issue using symbols, but at the same time the symbols need to be figurative, which means that viewers should know my drawings are about NYC.

The first layer will be on transparent paper with decorative line drawing. I put sightseeing bus, 1930’s women fashion, Wall Street bull, Coney Island Mermaid, Statue of Liberty, Broadway, NBA/baseball teams in NYC, and skateboarder on the first layer. I hesitate to continue on the second layer which should be on canvas, since I am not sure about its content. I spend an extra day thinking about the relation between NYC and littering, and how to combine them together. I then decide to draw NYC subway since littering happens a lot there, with people throwing beer bottle/cigarette butts on the streets. The Tsatue of Liberty throwing out a can is also included.

My plan seems to work in the class critique. Members in my group can understand the contents quickly, and I don’t receive much suggestions but on the medium I choose for the first layer. In fact, I tried to use acrylic paper, but the surface is too frictionless, and the ink is blurred once I touch it. In the next class, I will finish the two mock-ups using the exact mediums I will use for the actual pieces.

Monday, April 16th:

  • The topic I am researching in Seminar : how can littering become an identity of NYC?
  • The specific message/content I am exploring in Studio: how can I make littering unique to NYC? How can I combine them together in 2D drawings?
  • Explain exactly what I am making in Studio and the materials you are using: I am making two layers of drawings; the first layer would be on transparent media (acrylic/glass/tracing paper), and the second layer would be drawings on canvas/paper.
  • Explain why you think the materials I am using are effective at supporting your content: the materials are not strongly related to the content; i just feel more confident to do drawings rather than 3D work.What really matters is the content of my piece, and the messages I can deliver to the viewers using flat surfaces.
  • Explain the research I have done since our April 9 class and your research plans for the upcoming week. I made a prototype of line drawing on transparent paper, and made decision on its content. I also made a prototype of drawing on canvas. When they are overlapped, they seems to work in the individual critique today. The professor showed me some Rococo style drawings which I can refer to. I will continue to collect valuable sources to help me improve.
  • Write an explanation of what I will complete for next class and write how long I think it will take me to do it. Since laser cut will mostly not work, I will start drawing on the first layer and complete the main figures at least; at the same time, I need to make sure what I will do for the second layer. Also, the way to layout/presentation needs to be decided as well.

Monday, April 23th

  • Explain exactly what I did on your Studio project since our last class. I worked on drawing in Rococo style, and I was settled with the content for laser cut/print.
  • Was it successful or not? If you think it was successful, why was it? If it failed, explain why and what you are planning to do to either fix it or change it. Personally it works for me. I put great effort and even went crazy on drawing those fine line drawings; even though it is not exactly rococo style, it is “Luococo” style which is unique to myself. I really wish it can go well in laser cut which I will try on Thursday.
  • What feedback from your group critique did you receive that was helpful? They didn’t give me much feedback but just question about the Coney Island mermaid. I may just get a bottle of the Coney Island beer with mermaid in my presentation…
  • Explain any new research you’ve done since our April 16th class and your research plans for the upcoming week. I did research on the drawings for the first layer and worked on my own drawing. Hopefully laser cut will work. If it doesn’t, I will try to print it on a transparent paper, and at least figure out what to include in my second layer.
  • Write an explanation of what you will complete for next class and write how long you think it will take you to do it. The laser cut will take me 2+ hours, and doing the second layer will take me at least 8 hours.

Monday, April 30th

Life has not been easy for me especially today. I wish I can get everything done as soon as possible no matter what the result is…

  • A brief explanation about what I completed on your final project during the week between classes…what did I encounter along the way? Was it successful or did I discover something that requires more attention or detail, etc.? Did something fail and require me to try something different…if so, what happened and what did I learn? I tried the laser cut but couldn’t complete it within an hour, so I made two back-to-back appointments for finishing the piece. Another disappointing fact is that my professor thought the second layer was made in a hurry and couldn’t “compete” with the first layer. During the class critique, classmates had varies of opinions towards the way to present the work, and some even suggested me to use new media. I only have a week left, and I have spent way too much money, time, and especially energy on the studio project. I cried once the critique was finished even though it didn’t help with anything, but I still don’t know what to do now.
  • Explain any new research I have done since our April 23rd class and your research plans for the upcoming week. This includes materials I am researching, artists I am researching, etc. I haven’t done much research this week because I was sure about what would appear in my layers. I did do research on Trump’s cartoon figure, New York’s fashion in 1930s, and a proper character (Ninja Turtle) who could be representative to NYC (since he lives in the sewers in Manhattan. However, my professor and classmates didn’t think the idea works because they could’t make a visual connection to the characters on the first layer with that on the second layer.
  • Continued Time Estimate: write an explanation of what I will complete for next class and write how long I think it will take me to do it. I need to finish everything because my presentation is next week… I will finish the laser cut on Wednesday in 2 hours, and hopefully find a proper material to print my second layer by Wednesday as well. May refine the drawing in 2 hours too. Right not I am frustrated by the fail today and don’t have much idea on what specifically I should do. But thank god everything is close to ever.

May 4th, Friday

  • I corrected the drawing with a better-matched scale and characters referred to the first laser cut layer. The laser cut is finished after 80 minutes staying in the machine. After printing the second layer on glossy paper, on Friday afternoon I met with Bryan and talked about my installation using fishing line and S-hook.

May 7th, Monday – Final Presentation

After 4 weeks of superb hardworking, I had my presentation on Monday to summarize my entire process of creating this work , from my initial inspiration to final product.

Starting with my negative emotions towards NYC and even USA which I had at the beginning of semester, my specific investigation began from Bridge 3 where I finally settled with my research topic about trash in NYC, after I struggled for a half of the semester. Before my final project, the project I was most proud of was my final 2 diptychs which I fully expressed my drawing techniques. With my professor’s encouragement, I decided to use and improve my drawing skills to make a final project. It is not only a revenge of my last semester, but also an important stage for me to show my professor, my classmates, my friends and myself how fascinating I really am, and to tell them that I have no limit. I have a strong ambition to do it perfectly.

Two important things I learned from the process. One is to develop my style instead of to maintain my old style. In my first 3 weeks I spent my 95% of time on creating my own drawing. The first layer of rococo-style line drawing was about 75% in my comfortable zone, at the beginning I was a bit nervous that I could not fully copy the style; however, it was quickly gone because the most important thing in my work was to be unique. When I did the second layer, I tried to step a little further from my comfort zone to try a comic style I was not as familiar. At first it didn’t work out well to make connections in-between the first layer. I re-arranged the composition and characters until it worked out. In my drawings, people could see where I borrowed some references from, but they could also tell that it was my work.

The second thing I learned was to overcome the frustration. As mentioned previously, while the audience could not understand my work in the class critique a week before my presentation, I was extremely upset because I made painstaking effort but it didn’t pay off. The shadow of the failure from last semester suddenly came to hunt me, and I was once planning to give up but still managed to calm down and work again. I made a mental progress compared to last semester which I am really proud of myself.

To conclude, I am 120% satisfied with my performance in my final project, and 95% with the general course (I wish I could find my research topic earlier). For the final presentation, if I were to correct something, I wish I could use a more advanced way to put up my work, but what I did was the most suitable choice when considering my budget.

A very big thank to Bryan, and thanks to my family in China, friends who gave me mental support, and lastly thank myself for being so strong!

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