Sunday, June 18, 2017

Joys in Small Successes

Sorry guys, I've been blog-sinning lately. It has been almost three months since I last posted on here, so the neglect is real. I'm sorry. Anyway, so much has happened in the last few months.

It's spring semester here at BYU-Idaho, which means the weather is finally good enough to do something. With this, I have gone to a couple of bonfires at the dunes, a few socials in the park, and loads of other good stuff. And...I'm starting to see the grand beginnings of a hardly there watch tan! Seriously, that is a dream for someone with my complexion. If only I could tan more easily! But, God knew what he was doing when we were all created, so I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Anyway, my art classes are up and running again. I am taking mostly lecture classes, but I still have one studio class. I'm taking art history, art and propaganda, art 101 (easiest class ever when you've been an art major for a while), art seminar, and ceramics (my one studio class). It has been a great semester so far! I know its already towards the end, but hey, I can give you all an overview of how it has gone so far, right?

So, all the lecture classes are just lectures. Plain and simple. Studio classes are the fun part anyway. Before I go into my work from my ceramics class, I'll cap off what I did in printmaking last semester.

I did one last print since my last post, and it was really fun. I cut my plate into a circle, and did an aquatint of fireworks on it with chin collé to color the fireworks. It was such a hassle working with the chin collé! It's a technique where thin paper (think tissue paper) is glued to the print, usually "below" the ink to add color. I had two pieces that fit together quite like a puzzle and took up the whole background of the piece. Needless to say, it was hard to get them in the right place on the plate while they had glue on them and not have them fold over onto each other and get glued together. In the end, I think it was well worth it though. All the tedious headache paid off in the end.

Sorry I don't have a more full on picture of the piece. So, it's hard to tell in this, but there's yellow fireworks and blue/green fireworks. It was a hard process to do, but 20 prints later, I was happy with the results. This print took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to glue down the color without messing it all up. It was to temperamental, but I loved it in the end, and so did my classmates.

Since then, I have been doing ceramic work in my studios. It has been such a challenge for me to be patient with the clay when I'm throwing on the wheel, but I know that I have already improved a ton. Here's the first bowl I ever threw. It wasn't the best, so I warped it to hide that. It ended up being an interesting piece, but I've made better since then.

As you can see, I probably had the most fun glazing it. Those weird colors on the sides and bottom of bowl were really fun to do, but would have been way cooler if the bowl itself was better. I do have another one though that I'm waiting to glaze right now, but I'll post my most recent picture of it. I still have a long ways to go, but it is a huge improvement.

It's already tons better than the first one, and I'm super excited to see it all finished. It has been through a bisque firing since these pictures, and now I'm kind of just waiting for someone to finally mix up the glaze I want, like I asked them to do two weeks ago, and no one has done it yet. I have also done a few mugs, but the first one is super bad, and I don't have pictures of the other ones. There are a few more random projects I have done, but they aren't really noteworthy. I'll post more when they are done.

Other news before I finish? Um...I am almost ready to launch my etsy shop (yay!) and it's going to be really fun. I will be selling a few prints I've made on there, and it should be great. I'll post more about that once its up. Um...well, the semester has been great, and I'm seriously so grateful to be where I am. I couldn't have asked for better--being here at BYU-I surrounded by amazing people has been such a blessing, and I am growing in more aspects of my life than just academics. I has been such a joy, and I'm sad that in a year and a half, my time here will be over. Here's to hoping that the next chapter of my life will be just as glorious.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Passion in the Small Things

I'm just going to get it out straight from the get go. These last few weeks have been crazy for me, and I'm so excited to get them written out. My current semester is almost over (there are only two weeks left) and I am going to be so sad when it's over, but I'm excited for change (as always) and for the adventures that this next semester will bring me.

Since I last posted, I have finished tons of artwork (well, two projects, but that is a lot of work) and got to go on a little trip. Since it tends to be all I talk about, I'll start with my art.

I recently finished working on two printmaking pieces. One is a block print that I did for a print exchange we had, and the other is an intaglio print (the copper etching that I normally do) of a dancer. The block print was a challenging piece for me. I did my first block print when I was in 6th grade, so the method isn't new to me at all. It was the subject of the piece that made it so hard. For the print exchange, we focused on a deep part of us that we may not be too proud of. We explored and exposed our deep vulnerabilities and imperfections. One of the most crucial things in art is being able to see the world through your lens very clearly, and expressing that. One of the hardest realities to face is ourselves, and we had to do it for this project. More than anything, I spent so much time just thinking about myself. What was one of my biggest weaknesses and insecurities? After lots of careful thinking, I realized that I had a problem I had recently overcome which I had been battling for years.

I know that all adolescents undergo a identity crisis of sorts. That is a part of growing up. We must realize who we are and how we express that. I however, felt that I had too many personalities (so to speak) while growing up. I have always been deep down a "people pleaser" of sorts. For years, it was more devastating to fail someone else's expectations for me than to fail my own. Because of this, the many sides of my personality were born. I felt like my life was a one man show with multiple masks depending on who I was interacting with. One day, I had enough of it. In the confines of my room, I broke down in tears because I didn't know which "mask" was the real me. My high school world had come crashing down, and the weight of it was pretty heavy. I didn't really know who I was. I knew very well the different people I pretended to be, but I didn't have any idea which one was the real me. Years later, I now have determined who I am and don't have to wear any masks. I don't care about pleasing others for the sake of peer approval anymore. While I still consider myself to have a "multi-faceted personality" (I totally made that phrase up), I know that each facet belongs to me, and is genuine to the core. Just as the most beautiful diamond needs all of it's perfectly cut facets to shine it's brightest, I need each and every side of me to be my best. Some days, I feel like dressing up in an elegant way. Other days, I lean more towards a 90's grunge-ish look. And you know what? It's okay because it's who I am. I am the same person now either way. Whether I am wearing make up or not, I use the same vocabulary. I still have the same life experiences, have read the same books, love or hate the same movies and music, and I still believe the same things each time. I can finally be the same person no matter what I look like that day.

To express these feelings, I did a linoleum block print of a faceless woman with a "mask" (a green colored square). It was amazing to make art with meaning, and it took me far too long to get back to a point when art emotionally meant something to me.

It was an emotionally draining process to dig deep enough to find and reveal this weakness of mine, and was a physically consuming process as well. While making this project, I even gouged my thumb a little bit with the carving tool (no worries, it's better now, but I might have a cool scar from it).

I actually cut my thumb twice within five minutes or so, but it's okay. The price paid as an artist is more than worth it. I printed 18 copies of the piece, and fifteen were used for the print exchange. Oh, I should probably explain what a print exchange is for you guys. Basically, a group of print makers get together, and make a print for everyone. We picked a theme, and we designed a print based around it. We set a due date, and when that day came, we all came back together to give everyone a copy of our print. That means that I also got a copy of everyone else's art from this project. It was amazing to see us all honestly bring ourselves to light, and was so worth it.

It is always amazing to me to see how much we can learn from each other, and it gets even better when we realize that other people struggle too. No one is perfect, no matter what light we see them in. We all need to cut each other, and ourselves sometimes, some slack since we are all still working on it. Succeeding in life didn't come naturally to any of us, and that is perfectly fine and normal.

My next art piece, the dancer, has to do with overcoming the struggles that we face in life. Some weaknesses we have to embrace. Others, we can and should strive to overcome. And let's face it, some of these challenges come from the world around us.

One night while I was home for Christmas, I had a brilliant wave of inspiration. I was laying in bed about to fall asleep when the idea hit me as if a refreshing raindrop from Heaven. I grabbed my sketch book (which thankfully was on my nightstand) and scribbled a rough sketch of my idea in the dark. I didn't even turn the light on to draw it. I saw this graceful dancer breaking free through the mist of tribulation of this world. The smoke dispersed away from her with every powerful step that she took, just like stage fog does with the actors in a play. There was something magical and powerful about it, and I knew I had to create it. Just as quickly as the image was stamped on my mind, a Bible verse came along with it. It was Isaiah 52:2. Now I never pictured myself really making religious artwork, but this is my version of that. While the subject itself isn't necessarily religious in nature, the meaning and message of it very much is to me. The scripture in Isaiah says this:
"Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion."
What an overwhelming feeling of insurmountable gratitude! Anything that would hold me or anyone back could, and would be lifted. God loves us, and wants to help us. I know that I have overcome so many struggles in my lifetime, and will still face many more. With this piece of art, I had to learn yet again the meaning of behind the piece for myself. I ran into more complications making this print than I think I have ever run into. The funny thing is that this plate shouldn't have even been that hard. It involved basic techniques, and should have been so simple to execute with the experience that I now have in printmaking.

It was a simple hard ground and aqua tint intaglio plate. And don't worry if those mean nothing to you. They are printmaking terms, that if you are super interested, you can learn more about from watching people do them on YouTube. However, I could pretty much just tell you that they are pretty basic, and I learned them in my first two weeks of printmaking. Let me just give you an example of how things wouldn't work out for me. First, when working on the aqua tint stage of the etching process, my first try at getting the "smoke/fog" didn't work at all. It was terrible! Luckily, I was able to quickly come up with a solution that worked perfectly. It gave me a more geometric look than I was originally hoping for, but it still gets the message across. Next came the problem that almost made me lose my mind. When the plate was finally done, I went to print it. I knew I would need around 10 prints to get a good grade because the print was so simple. This was several more than I had ever done before, so I was a little nervous, but not too bad. I was excited to have the final product in my hands.

As soon as I finished the plate, I pulled a test proof. It was gorgeous! I was so proud of how well it turned out, and I couldn't wait to come back to the press the next day and print my final pieces. I felt so accomplished, and I was on the top of the world. Sadly, the next day didn't keep me quite as optimistic. I went back to the press the next day to print my copies. I put my paper to soak (that helps the paper to absorb the ink better) and waited until it was ready to print. Finally, my paper was ready, and I went to print. When I pulled the printed paper off the press, my heart sank. The ink wasn't nearly as dark as it needed to be. The paper wasn't holding the ink, and it looked like a washed out mess. I guessed that I had just wiped too much ink off the plate, so I tried again. I tried several more times in fact, and the results didn't change. I was so frustrated that I'm pretty sure I scared all of the beginning students in the room. I wasn't yelling or anything, but I sure didn't look like a happy camper. I wanted to scream and sob and let out all the feelings of failure that I had in that moment. Because of this event, I knew that I would not have a complete set of prints to turn in the following Monday. I had never asked for a redo before, and it was going to feel so terrible to do so. Luckily, my professor is so understanding of these things, and lets us redo assignments for full credit as long as we still show up to the critique and have at least something to show. I knew that my only option was to show up at the critique with my failed prints and hope for the best.

To my amazement, most of the class also asked for a redo on their prints. I felt so relieved! Isn't it amazing how we feel less like failures when we realize that everyone else has issues too? Anyway, it was so nice to have the support from other failures too to get me through my own. A little bit later, I re-attacked printing this plate. I used a different paper that holds the ink a little better, and I soaked the paper for a pretty good amount of time, like twice the amount of time as before. Finally, it was printing! It still wasn't quite as good as the test proof I pulled before, but it so much better than my failed attempt.

This time, it was working to a point that I was happy with, so I decided to go the extra mile. I printed 20 pieces of this print, and it was almost enjoyable. The relief that came from overcoming truly brought an extra layer of meaning to this piece, and I couldn't be happier. I named it "ARISE" because of the overcoming of hardships that makes this life beautiful.

So, after I got all these printed, I got to go on a little trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was just a fun overnight trip with a few friends from church. We went to the temple there, and did a little bit of walking around Temple Square. The weather was a gorgeous 80 degrees or so, and the sun was out shining just for us. We had a few mishaps, like temporarily losing people, and freaky car problems, but we managed to figure everything out and have a great trip.

I am so grateful that I got to go on that trip. It was so nice to have a break after stressing so much over my artwork, and better yet, the time was spent with amazing people. I am so grateful for how those around us really can lift us up when it feels like we have been standing in the bottom of Earth's deepest abyss. Even more so, I'm grateful for everything I have learned through all the hard times in my life, and for the person I am becoming because of them.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Art of Complication

So, let's be real. Every time I go a while without writing, I always start my post with a generic statement about how sorry I am that I haven't posted. They are always true, so I'm going to guess that you get the point and try not to really write one for this post.

These last couple of weeks have been crazy for me! I have had several print making projects to work on and turn in, as well as other things in my life. I feel like I'm finally starting to pull myself together, which is super relieving. After feeling like my life was constantly falling apart, it's nice to feel like I am straightening things out for a change.

For one, I finally got up my art instagram page yesterday. I have been meaning to do this for months, but it's finally up. Yes I did post about 20 pictures in 2 days to get ready for it, but it's worth it. I updated the instagram gadget (found in the left column of this page) to be my art page rather than my personal one. Just click and view, and hopefully help me get a little more outside recognition. Networking is so advantageous in today's world, so I'm excited to have mine ready. I will try and keep up progress and final products of my work , and hopefully before too long, the page will gain traction.

That being said, I have been hard at work making the art too. I finished a fun surface-roll and hard ground intaglio bleed print a few weeks ago, and I honestly liked it more than I thought I would.

This is what the final product looks like. I had a lot of trouble printing it, so it ended up about a third of the size that I had planned. Most of the plate isn't even printed because of it. I was going to do a much bigger version and print it on black paper, which I figured would show up great because of the strong ink pigment of the red surface roll. Unfortunately, it didn't really work out that well. Try as I might, I couldn't get it to print, and I was running out of paper. Thankfully, I had some paper scraps left from other projects that I could use to make a smaller version of the print, which it what I did. I cropped off most of the top and some of the bottom of the plate, and then I printed that. Honestly, for a last minute improvisation, I would say it worked out really well.

All of the class' prints are hanging in the student gallery in the third floor of the art building right now, and honestly, we couldn't be more proud of them.

Mine sure looks tiny compared to everyone else's, but that's okay. I am really happy with the way it turned out considering how it gave me so many issues throughout the process.

My next project has turned out to be even more of a challenge. It's actually really funny. I am doing technically easier pieces this semester than I have done in past semesters, but they are giving me even more problems when I go to print them. After I do all that I can, it still seems that I will inevitably run into a problem rather than invent one for myself like I did before. It's so much easier to control the expected than to be surprised. I finally got my copper plate to look perfect. It was late one night in the lab and I was tired, so I pulled one proof (a practice print) and went home. It printed perfectly, so I couldn't have been happier. Unfortunately when I went back to print the final copies the next day, it wasn't working. They were printing terribly, and I didn't know what to do. I finally just gave up and decided to go for a redo on the project (which I can thankfully do without a grade reduction as long as I have something to bring to the critique). On top of that, I am also delving into the world of block printing for my next project: the print exchange. I have been carving a linoleum block to essentially create a custom stamp that I will use for this next project. I have played around a little bit in this side of printmaking when I was in middle school and high school, so it's exciting to do it on a higher level now. It's amazing to see how much I remembered from before as well as how much new knowledge I had to bring to the table. I'll post more on those prints once they are finished.

That all being said, I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have to study and create art. Self expression is super important to me, and I'm thrilled to be honing one more creative outlet to help me do it. It's amazing what you can do and how you can express it when you truly put your mind to work.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

It has Begun

I think I'm finally ready to start my life. No I didn't just magically graduate or get married or anything, but it's getting real.

I have put a lot of effort into planning my art pieces for the semester, like really thinking about and sketching the ideas. I am trying to make things non arbitrary, but meaningful, well planned, but spontaneous. It's a hard balance to find, but I'm trying really hard. I just finished printing the first edition of my first project yesterday. I may have to redo it and make a second edition that's a little different, but I am still trying my best to get it down. I am working on sketches for my next project right now, and I'm super excited about it.

I am missing Brazil a lot lately. I have met a few more Brazilians this semester, and they just make me miss it more and more. I feel like it's just slowly slipping away from me, and I'm scared to lose it. I guess that's why I am going to portray one of my favorite places in Brazil for my next piece. I miss a beautiful cobblestone street that brought the feeling of classic romance alive, especially at night in the lantern-lit street. While I wasn't really thinking about romance while I was in Brazil, I would give almost anything to go back there and see that street again. I would give anything to walk down it with that special someone and share with them the beauty that I fell in love with. That's why I am bringing it to me through my artwork since I can't go to it right now. I will have to start putting pictures of my work up through the processes so that it seems that I am actually doing something.

I guess if anyone wants, here's my design work on Behance. That way, you know that I'm not lying about studying design and art. I know that I've been super bad about really showing it, but I am so excited to be slowly finding my way of expression. That's something I have always struggled with. I have always had kind of a hard time expressing how I feel, which makes it nice to have another way to try and really express myself. It's hard for me to verbally open up to people, but in the past I have had music to do that. I could say things through the piano that even I didn't understand about myself, and I'm just starting on my journey to get there in the visual arts. I have found that through the arts, we are subtly more honest about ourselves than we would otherwise be without even realizing it. Artwork is the purest form of a self-portrait. We let so much about ourselves out without even realizing it.

I think that's why art is so therapeutic. People sing to let people know that they are excited, in love, or something like that. It shows how they feel about the world around them, and about themselves. What's more honest than that? The best part is that we don't even realize it while it is happening. I guess that's why I like the arts so much. I can let out problems that I don't even want to admit that I have. I can embrace a side of me that I normally don't even acknowledge. To me, that is the hardest thing about life. It's about accepting our imperfections. It's about realizing that no one is perfect, no matter what it seems like. It's about accepting that we aren't the only ones with problems.

It's just so hard. People may come and go in our lives, but we don't know how this is going to affect us. We never know how, years later, we may look back on something seemingly trivial just to see mow big of a difference it really made in our lives. I wish I could tell every person that made a difference in my life how much they mean to me. I wish I could tell everyone how much I love them and help them to see that I really mean it. I wish I could go back in time and just pause during the moments of pure bliss. That way, I could really appreciate them like I didn't in the moment. But, let's be real. I can't do that. Life doesn't really allow it. So take your days as they come. Love the good and the bad, and never give up. Your future can be even brighter than your past if you let it. Nothing is final because there is always tomorrow. Experience eternity today. It's the best place to start.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Delving Deeper into Life

Hey there again! So, this is the first time after saying that I will do a good job posting that I am actually posting in two consecutive weeks. I cannot tell you how proud of myself I am. Okay, so that sounded a little self centered, but I really don't mean it that way. It is just good to feel success. I think everyone likes that feeling.

Anyway, I have done a lot of thinking this week. Granted, I had less time for thinking this week than I had last week because I started working 40 hours again and going to class for 6 hours a week, but it's okay. I think the mental stimulus from working and going to class actually helped me to think better. Having less time to just think made me think more objectively about things. That is one of the keys to doing things in the art world: necessity creates the environment to come up with ideas better than an overly relaxed situation.

It has been good for me to start working. Too much free time kind of kills you after a while. Relaxation is only good for so long. Being mentally dead because you don't have productive stimulus gets pretty tiresome after a while. As I went back to class and work, I had a neat opportunity come up to think, and to think deeply. For the class I'm taking (advanced printmaking) I had to come up with project proposals for three projects, and then we created a theme for the fourth project together as a class. Since we just did that on Wednesday, I am now trying to come up with my idea for that project. We are going to be basing our project on our own personal vulnerabilities. We are going to delve deep into ourselves, to find our biggest insecurity, our deepest fear about ourselves, and then we have to confront it. I am so excited to do this. I think this project will end up being the most honest "self portrait" of sorts that any artist can do. Not that it is a real self portrait, but I think it will show a lot more than an actual self portrait will about ourselves. Nothing comes closer than the truth than what we are afraid to let out. The cool thing about this project is that upon choosing our subject matter, we can decide if we want to embrace or try to overcome this imperfection. I personally would agree with Andy Warhol's outlook on imperfections. He believed that they are what make us beautiful. Our idiosyncrasies make us who we are for better or for worse. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is embrace it. Just because we don't like it doesn't necessarily mean that it's all bad. I mean, this is one of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon, and it illustrates that perfectly:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27) 
Honestly, so many of us refuse to acknowledge our "ugly side" because it seems like everyone else is so perfect. They aren't, so why should we have to be. That doesn't mean that we can't or shouldn't try to come closer to perfection, but we shouldn't kill ourselves over it. Here's a super good article about this mentality if you are looking for extra reading. But honestly, can you imagine if we were all "perfect" we would then all be the same, and life isn't fun without variation. 

 Anyway, life is good, and I get the chance to look at it up close and personal this semester. I feel that there is no greater privilege than to look life straight in the eye and learn from it. Embrace it, the good and the bad. Love the silly string fights and Polaroids. Love the silly memories with friends as well as the ones that might make you cry. Love it all no matter how hard. Loving involves accepting the good and the bad. That's what life is about. It's about changing our perspective and widening our horizons.