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Update: I have started printing. It’s a nightmare of images being misaligned, printer errors, and lamenting over wasted printmaking paper (at least wasted for this project.) Today I was able to “sort of” successfully print 6 pages. They were only successful because they were single-sided prints or were relatively forgiving with the misalignment. Tomorrow will bring new challenges and audible swear words in the graphics lab.
I’m also struggling with the cover. I know what I want to do conceptually, but the act of printing and making sure everything is aligned is truly nightmarish, and I’m not sure how to do a laser cut cover with paper that goes over it (which is also possibly laser cut and perfectly aligned?)
For the presentation, I am also struggling with paring down the artist statement. Right now it’s at 700 words, which is probably too long to just read out loud. However, I feel like i need all of the content in order to ground the concept and make it easier to understand. Below is the current “working” artist statement.
The Artist Statement:
My thesis illustrations revolve around the theme of Hauntology: The concept that we are haunted by our lost futures, or rather, haunted by the cancellation of better futures due to our current destructive paths. The term “hauntology” was first introduced by philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book, “Specters of Marx,” in which he argued that “Marxism would haunt Western society from beyond the grave.” Writer Mark Fischer later used the term to describe a sort of “nostalgia for lost futures.” My own interpretation of Hauntology revolves around its inherent dichotomy: The study of being and non-being, the past and the future, the present and the absent, and the positive and negative.
As a species our obsession with the future has manifested in varying levels of mundane and fantastical. In most cases, visions of the future are merely representations of the present with outlandish technological advances. The 1700’s saw a future still with bustled skirts and powdered wigs, but with flying machines and weatherproof cities. The “golden era” (ie. golden era for white American men) of the 1950’s saw the future as one with unchanging social constructs, but with space exploration, Mars vacation homes, and all comforts available at the click of a button. Philip K. Dick, in many of his writings from the 1970-1980’s, portrayed more dystopian versions of the future: Often where humans live on a poisoned planet, existing within chaotic and elusive realities.
Our current reality exists in between all of these versions. We are rapidly becoming aware of the irreversible consequences of climate change. Because the future is becoming harder to conceptualize, the fantastical elements of future imaginings are disappearing. Now, rather than looking to Mars as an exotic vacation destination, we look to it as the only viable option for survival. Or rather than accept responsibility and change our deleterious lifestyles accordingly, we continue to use non-renewable resources to fuel our disposable conveniences. Some react by retreating to a more certain—and comforting—past. Take for instance, the resurgence of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia in both fashion and media. The popularity of “retro” clothing like bell bottoms and grunge style are no longer a counter-culture statement, rather, they are trends without context. In addition, the rise in popularity of TV shows like Stranger Things—set in the 80’s— as well as the live-action remakes of every Disney movie from the 90’s encapsulate this nostalgia perfectly. The past is comforting because of its certainty: It can’t be changed, but can only be played on repeat. By doing this, we create a cultural feedback loop. We look to the past to inform the present, but because our present is informed by outdated ideas, the future becomes a more corrupted version of the past. We are referencing a reference rather than generating new ideas.
This project is an exploration of the destructive paths that our society has taken which slowly destroy the dreams of a better future. The process began by looking at classical art from the 1500’s-1700’s, the architectural motifs from the 1900’s Art Deco movement, and iconography from 1950’s—when the idea for the“home of tomorrow”and cold war hysteria were at their apex. I also incorporate sci-fi themes like astronauts and space travel. By alluding to classical artworks and biblical references and combining them with futuristic elements, I then accentuate the visual dichotomy: Modular architecture and organic patterning, straight lines and floral collage, ink and cutouts, and the emphasizing of black and white space.
By using pen and ink on the original pieces, I reference an archaic form of art making. The process itself became self-referential—as the pieces progressed they delved further into abstraction. This became a meditation on exploring my own anxieties over an uncertain future. This anxiety manifests in obsessive mark making, meditative mandalas, and fragmented dreamscapes. Wave patterns create undulating vortexes linking the illustrations by a common thread. Each illustration is a snapshot, loosely connected to one another, but never quite engaging; this is a representation of our own fragmented reality. The lines become ghosts, existing within the past, the present, and the future, simultaneously.
Notes From Jordin Isip: 12-3-2019
- For Duck and Coverr:
- add more areas of dense black/brown. The piece needs more graphic elements.
- if the center of the piece were all black, it would create a sort of dense sinkhole that would draw the viewer in
- add more variation the background line weight
- See artist David Jien for inspiration on obsessive patterning
Notes from Chang 12-6-2019
- See Artists: Henry Darger
- Creating a fairy tale piece could be my response to/speculation of the future
- The Stories can intersect (they live in transitional areas)
- For the Apocalypse Mandala: Add subtle features to the figure only
- Regarding the issues with Anatomy: deviating from the formal is ok, but needs to be convincing.
- More control of the line = more control over the outcome of the work.
- For the Astronaut piece, play around with an angular background:
Notes From Laure 12-10-2019
- Regarding a kid-appropriate piece: my idea is to make something around Pinocchio (specifically the idea of A.I.). Lauren suggested looking at the myth of Pigmaleon, as well as the latest Sex Ed podcast about sex bots. Think about what life we are creating, and what life they have beyond their intended purpose.
- Think about Futurism and Art Deco of the early 20th century and how architecture was a form of social engineering (look at world by La Corbusier).
- Think about expanding this style of art into 3D installations (ala Yayoi Kusama or Vic Munez). The art lends itself to atmospheric effects and I could make dioramas. If i plan the work for a dream space, I’ll be prepared when the opportunity arises.
- Regarding finalization of the work: if the idea is present, the piece doesn’t need to be finalized.
- Play around more with contrast: the chance and randomness of ink blots could create an interesting contrast to the structure and order within the pieces.
Feedback From Open studio 11/22
- Some of the crosshatching feels lazy, and it might be more visually interesting to add an abstract texture. Or really commit to crosshatching/rendering realistically.
- More classically composed pieces would be great
- Draw more faces. It looks like I am intentionally not drawing them.
- Consider making band posters/introducing typography (for future works)
- This work is more suited for gallery spaces than kids books
Overall, I don’t have a very positive opinion of the the event. I wish that we could have had actual class with our actual teacher, rather than brief intermittent interactions with adults experiencing sensory overload.
Notes from Lauren 11/26
Lauren countered most of the feedback that i was given at the open studio.
- does the craft support the idea? Does the work surprise/engage? Then it doesn’t matter if it’s anatomically accurate/photo-realistic.
- Successful art makes the viewer see what you want them to see
- Growth as an artist = the growth of ideas
- The imperfections add warmth and a human touch, ultimately making the work more interesting
The open studio feedback “This work is more suited for gallery spaces than kids books” is troublesome. It was mostly the condescending tone in which it was delivered, as if i were not privy to the fact that kids books generally don’t feature nudity, adults, or the macabre. Oh really?
I plan to make 3 pieces over break that are more suited for kids books. From a purely practical standpoint, I need some new portfolio pieces for the SCBWI conference I’m attending in February. For petty reasons, fuck that feedback.
Lauren suggested doing a take on Aesop’s Fables, Greek myths, or some other well-known story reinterpreted. To address the issue of “avoiding drawing faces” I could create pieces that are more “portraity.” Lauren also suggested the addition of color: two tone or tints still count as color!
Here’s the art:
I printed out some copies of the abstract pieces to play around with. Here’s a general idea of what I settled on. This is by no means a completely formed idea, but because the pointillism takes so long, I wanted to get started on whatever I could.
Notes From Chang 10/25/2019
- We discussed how the project might expand next semester. One possible route could be to silkscreen the images. Over winter break I can try and play around with ideas for color, and present these ideas in January. Chang also suggested scanning and printing (or phone pic and printing) the images to explore different solutions for markmaking/patterning/etc.
- Assess art as a pattern. See what elements need more push/pull.
- Go back through with one more pass of refinements.
“Duck, Duck and Cover”
“play around with overlapping images.”
Here are two ideas I came up with. I prefer the first one, as i think the work lacks visual density and needs more dark areas. The patterning would be small and dense around the border, rather than large swoops as shown (but this was just a quick exploration. ) I’d like to collage some dahlias as well.
Xerox test 1
“Adam and Eve, once over”
“Fill the negative space with obsessive organic shapes.” (ie. dots as seen below)
Old drawings of hands
Old drawing of a delicious potsticker
This is the result:
The obsessive/malleable marks contrast with the formal elements (ie. the posing of the figures, the architectural composition). This process is incredibly time-consuming, but the texture is worth it. I’m not nearly done with it. With this piece, I can definitely see the the possibility of adding an additional tint (ink wash) to allow for the push/pull of value. Currently, everything blends together,.
3 boxes (untitled for now):
“Experiment with the push and pull of the pictoral plane. Try only dealing with pattern and the purely abstract. Experiment with markmaking/rhythm, and figure out the systems/rules for each type of mark. Differentiate each set of markmaking, create a sustained practice. create something that is purely abstract. For this piece, push the sense of composition and space. Do not support a narrative. Play with foreground/background. What is solid? Transparent? Translucent?”
I tried experimenting with having more representational images, but didn’t like the result. I don’t often make abstract art, so creating a purely abstract piece could be a fun challenge.
Holding off on this one for now though.
The current state of the art. I have inked borders.
Notes From Chang 11/1
“Apple > God”
Notes from Chang:
“Consider the background as a visual contrast to the other elements. Ie. try markmaking with a straightedge rather than having organic, fluid lines. The rigid lines would provide contrast and separate the visual planes.”
Below is the design implemented. The brown areas are cut out with darker paper pasted behind it. I’ve also gone through multiple times to refine the squiggle lines.
Cell Phone Mandala:
I will finish it (mostly) by next week.
“Sustain the integrity of the markmaking from the center, and pull the designs to the edges. Make the marks small and dense.”
I’ve worked on this all weekend, and it’s taking forever. The background is almost done. I still need to go back through to the figures in the center and refine them some more.
It is beginning to have a mind of it’s own.
“Be conscious of the push and pull of the different layers. Hold off on this one at the moment.”
Will have finished-ish for next week. Last week I inked in the background and cut out some areas to allow for the brown paper to show through.
“Hold off on this one.”
I did add some Asian carp to the background, as well as adding more squiggly lines. I’m not super convinced by this piece. The anatomy is weird. I might collage it. I might set it aside. I’m creating some distance before making a decision.
“Refine the drawing before going into the inking. All spaces should be defined by minimal tangential relationships Ie. solid black and white, with some representational drawings. Focus less on pattern though. Each shape is an object with DENSITY. What is the edge? What is the line? Make it graphic and minimalist.”
This is just a Xerox test image. The actual drawing hasn’t changed in the last week. Chang disliked like the idea of re-introducing characters from other drawings, and I agree. In this test it feels like a collage of unconnected characters and textures. The addition of too many patterns/textures makes it chaotic. While I think that creating a little visual chaos might add to the narrative, I don’t think this is the way to do it.
I’m also holding off on this one for now. I need to make more printouts and play with the composition before committing.
Feedback From Chang on 10/4/2019:
- Look at the artist “Swoon” for inspiration on collage/large scale pieces.
- Other artists: Chris Ware, Agnes Martin, Jess Johnson
- Keep making, and make sense of it all later on
- Maintain the Edge to edge routine–>both in style and markmaking
- refine technical aspects (ie. anatomy)
- Try working with a square blueprint and see what comes out
- Push the density, and the visual and physical weight.
Feedback from Lauren on 10/18/2019
Recommendations for reading/listening:
- “In our time” podcast with Melvin Bragg
- Edward Belamy, “looking backward”
- “Voices from Chernobyl,” by Svetlana Alexievich
- “Swamplandia,” and “Orange World,” by Karen Russel
- “Love in the Time of Cholera” and 100 Years of solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marques
She also noted that the mandala pieces I’m working on have a sort of spiritual language — They are not a narrative scene, but a distillation of what i am trying to communicate. The other pieces are narrative and contain an entire scene/story. Knowing that I am working in two different ways, is there a way to bring elements of one into the other?
Onward to the progress:
I’ve begun a new method of notetaking in research. All quotes from stories or articles go on note cards, which i can then use as reference to the specific piece I’m working on. This has bee really great for organizing notes, and generating ideas. Overall I feel really good about the project, but want to have at least 10 pieces by the time the semester is through.
In Philip K. Dicks story, “Dr. Bloodmoney,” a woman watches the first couple launching to Mars:
“She liked to thin of them as that, the first couple…like something out of a sentimental, old-time, science fiction story. Adam and Eve, once over again….”
Below is the result of that passage. Adam and Eve maintain their classical stances while suited up in spacegear. On Mars they eat the forbidden fruit, in essence bringing their sin with them to another planet, already littered with plastics and debris. Around them, there’s vignettes of the planets Earth and Mars. The large circle around their head shows an image of an atom bomb going off. Above them is a running skeleton, symbolizing how humans run from death, but ultimately succumb to it.
This piece revolves around the idea that reality is fragmented. It’s still in it’s beginning stages, but was inked in this weekend.
This piece addresses how Apple products are the new religion that we’ve gladly sold our souls to. It’s a strange sort of detached hell. I spent some time making the squiggle lines darker, as well as adding the images people taking photos along the bottom of the page: The bodies are submerged. The people are more concerned with capturing a photo than they are about their own safety.
In this piece I added some darker areas and refined some squiggles. I also removed the text that said, “DUCK,” because I thought it was too…Didactic? Simplistic? I don’t know the exact word I’m looking for. Not much else has changed.
This piece addresses the blurring lines between reality and fiction. Reality is littered with plastics, while mythological stories of Cerberus and and Odysseus remain pristine. The figure in the middle is the barrier between these two worlds, yet is slowly bleeding into the world of fantasy, lamenting their role in destroying the planet, yet doing nothing to stop it.
In Heather Davis’ article, “Life and Death in the Anthropocene: A brief history of plastic” she writes
This piece is about how alternate versions of ourselves live in different dimensions simultaneously, but if we perceive them, they are only shadows. I added some darker squiggle lines to the top right, and have been adding shading.
Having a cold all week (and multiple sick days off from work) gave me ample time to work on thesis. Also, because I am traveling this weekend, I had to made as much progress as possible during the week since the larger pieces could not come with me. I did manage to get my ink and pen nibs aboard the plane though, and plan to work on more smaller components while away from the city.
I’ve begun pasting the dahlias onto some of the pieces. Rather than pasting them over the squiggly lines i have made small incisions to allow the flowers to pass in and out of the existing design. I also made the decision not to alternate the flowers (ie. one white, one brown, etc) around the perimeter of the circular pieces. Instead, I wanted to paste them in an organic way that would add visual balance with size, tone, and value. This involved working slowly, adding one component at a time, and standing back to see what areas needed improvement.
The Mayan-esque monsters below may be added as motifs to to some of the works, but I haven’t figured out where exactly they go yet.
Chang suggested introducing a tonal color (possibly with Dr. Martins inks). This would show larger shapes withing the composition and add density to the page. Let the color bleed organically within a space (using frisket/masking liquid). All color choices are a response.
- Making is a clinical process
- Establish a composition to create a methodical/meditative sense of pacing. Find an equation or a visual calculation.
- Take the components to the edge of the work.
- The edge doesn’t have to be defined
Playing around with adding elements to the page.
Flowers spill to the edge of the page. The edge doesn’t have to be defined.
At this point in the project, I am still making components:
Dalias, divers, bunnies, etc.
One major development is the addition of the “psychadelic” lines. I wanted to build texture without overthinking the process. Creating “Breathing lines” on the work has been a meditative practice that allows me to let go of some of the perfectionist tendencies I have and allow for some spontaneity.
I’ve also been diving into science fiction novels, particularly those of Philip K. Dick. Ignoring the fact that his female characters are all venomous bitches, the overarching themes within his stories are extremely relevant to my thesis topic. In “Now wait for last year,” designer drugs are used as a weapon in war, allowing the user to travel through time during their hallucinations, wherein the boundaries between reality and illusion are called into question. Despite the dystopian fantastical elements, there are many distinctly human elements to the story: toxic relationships, the struggle for power, and fighting with authoritarian figures.
Cerberus, Depression, Snapshots of scenes.
Visiting oneself in alternate realities. Shadows are specters from another world.
Homage to Tech addiction. The world is hellish and dying, yet we are more concerned with getting Instagram likes and oblivious to everything outside of the screen.
Religion is disorienting and cult-like.
An old-timey diver.
The Printed Matter book fair was not something I would likely have gone to of my own accord. While I like books, and I like to support independent artists, I do not like loud and crowded places. For me, events like this exist within a special place of hell. I avoid them at all costs. This was pure New York though: too many people crammed in too small a place, people elbowing others to get a spot at a vendor table, and books (more precious than children) clutched to peoples chests while navigating the masses.
Some major takeaways from the event included: books with beautiful binding, experimental book layouts, and a room full of posters. I didn’t not enjoy myself, but the sensory overload made it difficult to fully appreciate the beauty that is a gathering of book enthusiasts.
I did end up buying two things: One small zine of BDSM illustrations and photos, and one art magazine called “Carrier Pigeon” which contains illustrations and short stories. My biggest takeaway in regards to thesis: draw more. I want to stand in a room of posters of my own work. And then i want to make a book.