Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Final Thoughts

          Looking back, there are three assignments that really helped me improve my art. The foremost one would probably be my realistic self portrait. This really helped me solidify my understanding of human facial anatomy and shading of the skin.

          The second assignment that improved my artistic abilities was the vegetable still-life. This painting exercise helped me figure out blending, color palettes, and conveying depth with color.

          The final project that I think turned out to be my favorite creatively speaking, was the Unsung Hero project. From this I learned how to take a subject and turn it into a piece of art by visualizing the composition with thumbnail sketches and gradually making those more developed until the final product was fully shaded, in full color, with a pleasing composition.

Work of Art that I am Most Proud of.

          Overall, one piece of art really stood out to me throughout this art class because of how much I was able to learn from it, which in turn made me very proud of it. This piece would be the imaginative self portrait because I feel that I learned a lot about composition including all the symbols I choose in a way that made the drawing dynamic and interesting while still being uncluttered. This made me proud because not only did I include all my desired imagery successfully, but I learned a lot about myself in creating this piece. It's difficult to sum up one's personality with a single piece of art but the challenge made me think outside the box and presented specific problems that I had to find ways to remedy. One challenge I encountered was using only a black pen because I usually use colored pencils so I learned a lot about shading and texture through using a limited media. I'm now more confident working in monochrome and creating a composition that works with the subject matter.

Watercolor Techniques

To experiment, explore, and learn a variety of ways to paint with watercolors

          Learning watercolor, I think the most important technique I experimented with was the wet in wet which proved to be a very good way to depict cloudy skies and blend colors in a controlled environment like I did with the fish-scale pattern (the colors bled together but stayed within the wet area). Another painting concept I learned was side only which was really good for painting layers over layers of paint to give a painting more depth and variation of color value. The 'change pressure' concept was important to get the taper of branches and trees in the bottom painting as well as using thicker lines in the foreground. Thickening lines in the foreground as well as making the colors more saturated in the foreground was key in conveying an accurate sense of dimension within the watercolor painting. One thing that was fairly difficult but very vital to the success of a watercolor painting was keeping the light values such as leaving parts white or with only a very pale wash of color.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Unsung Hero: Helen Brooke Taussig, Queen of Hearts

The story of the hero, Helen Brooke Taussig, started on May 24, 1898 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When she was nine, she and her mother both contracted tuberculosis. Taussig remained ailing for years after, but her mother passed away tragically. The disease left Taussig ravaged, making school work even more difficult on top of her severe dyslexia. Despite all this, she succeeded and even flourished in her studies at Cambridge School for Girls, Radcliffe College, the University of California in Berkeley, Harvard Medical School, and Boston University. But none of these schools, however prestigious, allowed her to earn a degree. Why? For the crime of being born a woman, of course. But Helen Taussig was not meek, or scared, or stupid like men said she was. She was finally accepted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as a full degree candidate. She earned that MD degree in 1927 where she also did her pediatrics internship and cardiology fellowship.
When I first read about Helen Taussig, I just knew I had to paint her story. Of course there were many other Heroes who deserved to be recognized, celebrated, cherished, but her story truly resonated with me and that is something that I needed in order to represent the story of a hero in my full capacity - to let her travails inspire my vision. The true reasoning behind my decision to capture Taussig’s story is that this year I have been in great contact with hearts as well. I spent three days with a cardiologist and over those three days I saw well over three dozen patients. With every patient, with every failing, ailing, dying heart, I became more and more entranced with the complexities of pumping muscle and roaring blood and the geography of veins and arteries. With every new patient whose room I stepped into I wanted help them more - I didn't want to let them die and that’s what medicine does to you, I think, it doesn’t let you stop. Helen Taussig never stopped, never let her dyslexia stop her, she didn’t let men stop her, didn’t let being deaf stop her. That’s why I chose her as my hero.
For the actual painting I had to interpret Taussig’s independent and fiercely determined persona into something visual which is of course fairly difficult to make something intangible into something you can physically see; so this was my first challenge. To accomplish it, I placed her her dead-center on a sort of marble pedestal with a background that gradated towards her to make her the main focal point. Her white coat I fashioned into a kind of queenly regalia which is a theme I followed through with the newspaper article that reads, “Queen of Hearts Cures the Blues.” Queen of Hearts is my nickname for her and who I see her as because being a surgeon is very difficult but then being a pediatric surgeon is even more so because children’s organs are far more fragile and delicate so I gave her the title of queen to symbolize her elite skill. The “cures the blues” part comes from her collaboration on the Blalock-Taussig shunt which repairs a condition in infants called “blue baby syndrome.” This inspired the color blue to become a recurring theme that I sort of ran with, so the palette of my painting is very much geared towards the cooler side of the color spectrum. The red I used to depict blood on Taussig’s sleeve and white coat which are to symbolize that, yes she was a phenomenal doctor and possibly a queen in some people’s eyes, but she got to her position of renown through hard work, sacrifice, diligence, and not being afraid to get her hands dirty. Also, the sight of blood can be gory and represents violence to a great many people, but those who heal instead of kill also deal with it on a daily basis; they crack people open, get up to their elbows in blood, and rifle through patient’s organs for the sake of preservation. Blood means life, and so it only seemed fitting that red become a central theme of my painting. The last symbol I included is the staff Taussig is upraising, which originated from the Greek myth of the god Hermes who carried such a staff called caduceus. It now commonly symbolizes the art of medicine and healing so I thought it apt to be the scepter for the Queen of Hearts.
The papers drifting down through the background are articles attesting to a few of Taussig’s successes. The long list of her accomplishments include being honored by France as Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur and honored by Italy with the Feltrinelli Award. She received an honorary medal from the American College of Chest Physicians, the Lasker Award, the Gold Heart Award, the Howland Award, was honored with the American Heart Association's award of merit, was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the National Academy of Sciences. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson and was the first female president of the American Heart Association. She earned more than twenty honorary degrees and became a member of the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the American College of Physicians. To be clear, she was extraordinary.
In conclusion, this experience has changed my view of certain things to an exponential degree. I learned that it may not always feel like it, but hard work is rewarded, our flaws cannot destroy our dreams, and women can succeed in fields dominated by men. I also think everyone should know Dr. Helen Taussig as the warrior who pressed fearlessly through the fray, as the queen who led women where they had never ventured before, and as the Savior of millions the world acknowledged for a split second and then forgot. But I have taken it upon myself to remember, and I have hope that someday, the world will too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

LMC Unsung Hero Planning

I felt particularly motivated by the story of Helen Taussig, MD, who daringly pioneered many innovative medical techniques during her time as the first official pediatric cardiologist (a doctor of childrens' hearts). She motivates me because of her resolve to better the world's populace even though many people (men) tried to prevent her, and because of her perseverance through obstacles such as her mother's death and her own hearing issues as well as trying to get an education while struggling with dyslexia. I like that she was not the type of feminist who tried to tear down men to accomplish her goals but helped to inspire other women to seek careers as doctors and equalize the ratio of men to women in medicine as both genders should have an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams. In a visual sense, her story inspires images of strength - a tall, powerful stance, and a gesture of benevolence. Her signature color, I feel, would be blue as it commonly represents knowledge, truthfulness, and loyalty - all qualities that she plainly possessed; this color is also appropriate due to her pioneering the cure for "blue baby syndrome" which killed a staggering number of infants before she rooted out the problem. An object I might add would be Hermes' staff, caduceus, which is the symbol of medicine and is commonly depicted on hospitals and other medical buildings or organizations. Another image I would associate with this wonderful lady would be hearts as she devoted her life to fixing them. Other miscellaneous items might include a map of Massachusetts, books of anatomy and learning, a stethoscope, children/babies, and a newspaper article featuring her work. I think it would be most apt to depict her story in a more figurative and abstract way.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Vegetable/Fruit Painting

         From this painting experience I learned a great deal about colors. For example, when deciding on colors for a painting it's good to use either colors that are in close proximity to each other on the color wheel, or on opposite ends of the spectrum (for my paintings I used both similar and opposite colors but kept the palette in warm tones because of the red bell-pepper). Also, for doing shadows it's very effective to use the opposite color. In terms of techniques that I learned, the most helpful was probably blending, which is not something that I have ever excelled at but looking over professional still-lifes I realized how vital it was for the success of the painting. After this realization, I practiced at lot with blending in my orange-background painting and as a result I think it's the better one. The palette knife was interesting to work with again too, though I did not work very much with it and so did not hardly improve. However, I would like to work further with it in the future because the works of Mark Gould (one of the still-life artists we had the option to choose from for the "What is a still-life" assignment) had a very inspiring usage of the palette knife.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What is a still-life?

          A still-life is a painting, drawing, or a photo of inanimate objects, most commonly in an ordinary or mundane setting. The artist is free to manipulate their chosen setting and re-position these objects or readjust the quality of lighting to their liking.

"Headphones" by Robert Beck
  I chose this picture because of the minimalist style that the artist used with the single image of the headphones. What also drew my eye about this is that it does not use what is traditionally thought of as a subject matter for a still-life by using technology in the place of a basket of fruit or a vase of wildflowers.  I really think minimalism in it is interesting too, because of the use of negative space and how the artist can still make it seem interesting and thought-provoking. I would really like to study this style in order to understand it better and incorporate it into my own art to achieve the same amount of intrigue with a painting that has less than with a painting that has more going on inside it. The element that drew my eye to this piece initially was the choppy and brusque manner of the stokes as it evokes my own natural style of painting. However, his conveys the image in a much more succinct way than I have ever been able to, which is something I admire. I also like how he scratched out parts of the topcoat of paint to show the basecoat as a highlight on the subject.