COMMUNICATIVE SHAPES

FRESHMAN STUDIO FALL 2016

intersection of Centre Ave. and S Aiken Ave.

08.30.16 | EXCURSION TO INTERSECTION

During the afternoon, I went to the intersection of Centre Ave. and S Aiken Ave. in order to observe the characteristics of the area. Although I did not know much about the place, I was able to analyze the various aspects of my surroundings that allowed me to understand more about where I was.

On one side of the street, there were many residential buildings (pictured in the first photo) with a decent amount of space in between the properties. A majority of the houses had multiple floors with a fire escape on the right-hand side. Each of the houses seemed to be well kept with bright and endearing colors despite being shaded by the large concrete parking garage on the other side of the street, owned by the UPMC Shadyside Hospital. Walking in and out of the buildings were what I assumed were medical students from UPitt as well as professional doctors and a few families. Because of the location of the hospital, there was a heavy amount of traffic going through the intersection. The juxtaposition between the busy and active environment of the hospital and the sleepy aura of the residential side of the street acted as a reminder of the differences that can arise due to subtle changes despite being in the adjacent areas.

two residential houses across from the UPMC Hospital

On the other side of the street lay a quaint, run-down church with boarded up windows. The exterior seemed to be falling apart, and a plaque in front of the building read: The First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh. In front of the church and around the corner were graffiti markings on the sidewalk, fire hydrant, and mail box. There were weeds growing in between the steps near the front of the church, and a part of the site was blocked off with flimsy caution tape. It seemed as if the church had been forgotten about even though it seemed to be a central point in the area. Although it was in such a beautiful part of town, the church appeared decrepit and lonely.

First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh

Despite these issues, the church did not give off the impression that the area was dangerous or unruly as it was surrounded by beds of various flowers as well as Morrow Park. The flowers significantly improved the feel of the area as the bright colors distracted from the bedraggled state of the church and helped ease the tension caused by the graffiti and the signs alerting passersby of the security cameras monitoring them at all times.

bed of flowers in front of the church as well as graffiti on the sidewalk

However, the subtle juxtaposition of the environment was not limited to the adjacent flowers and graffiti on the sidewalk. Another interesting contrast in the area could be described by the difference between the old and the new buildings. For example, the apartment complexes (Arlington and Coranodo) appeared to be much older than the higher quality hotels on the other side of the street (Hyatt and Courtyard Marriott). The modernized sign for Morrow Park heavily contrasted with the fading appearance of the run-down church. Walking from one side of the street to the next almost felt similar to entering a different time.

Arlington apartment building

Overall, the area seemed to be constantly moving. Apart from the residential section of the street, most of the buildings seemed to be high end hotels and apartments. The location seemed to encourage temporary stay with said buildings in addition to the hospital, where people would not be expected to stay for an extended period of time. Everything about the street corner seemed fast paced and the heavy amount of both foot and vehicular traffic only added to the effect.

a woman walking her dog; Courtyard Marriott building in the background on the left

At times, the four-way intersection seemed to be a chaotic mess. Cars would speed through without consideration of the other vehicles around them, barely waiting for pedestrians to finish crossing the streets. For instance, even before I started to cross the street, a woman in her car yelled at me through her window and demanded that I move quickly. Despite the fact that the light alerted me that it was safe to cross, the woman sped up and turned the corner in front of me before I could make it halfway across. It seemed as though everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere — or in a hurry to get out of the hospital parking lot.

09.02.2016 | TRIAL 1

As a follow up to our excursion, the class was asked to create a white-on-white image using paper cut outs in order to resemble one of the pictures taken at the intersections assigned.

Despite being advised against, I decided to try utilizing the above image for my project. I was unsure of how to start, so I began with a simple sketch.

initial sketch + beginning cut outs

After that, I attempted to cut out the shapes by putting the sketch over bristol paper, but I was unsatisfied with the results. I struggled with creating straight and accurate lines as my x-acto knife blade was extremely dull. I eventually replaced the blade but scrapped the image entirely.

original image + completed white-on-white project

09.05.2016 | TRIAL 2

In the end, I went with an entirely different image, going for a more simple approach than the last. As I finally realized that my blade was dull, cutting out the pieces for this project was much smoother and easier than the last. I started by creating a simple sketch of the basic geometric shapes of the image using merely a pencil and a light table. After that, I used a scanner application on my phone to create and print out copies of the sketch that I could use to create my project. In order to make accurate cuts, I would place the scanned image on top of a piece of bristol paper and trace over the image using my x-acto knife.

foreground of the piece

The first piece that I cut out was the mail box, as it was the most prominent part of the picture. After that, I decided to complete the foreground using my x-acto knife, masking tape, scotch tape, glue sticks, rulers, and bristol paper.

Rather than work in order, I moved on to cutting out the church in the far background. I started with a bottom layer for the entire building and then pasted a triangular piece of paper in order to act as the pointed roof. Following that, I cut out and pasted the individual towers of the church, followed by the trees and foliage surrounding it.

Following the last step, I proceeded to cut out the cars on the road. Each car was created using a base layer under a more detailed layer in order to create windows. In a similar manner to the sidewalk in the foreground, the shuttle on the left hand side of the paper has shallow cuts representing smaller details. After placing the cars, I worked backwards and traced out the bus stop, signage, and foliage behind them. These small details made the image seem more organic (especially the non-geometrical shaped pieces). Once all of that was finished, I cut out the most prominent looking clouds in the picture and created the road by adding a layer in the back so that it appeared to be in between the background and foreground.

project prior to taping onto base layer

After over 12 hours of work, I was able to paste the last base layer on the image and call it complete.

completed project
completed project

09.07.16 | COMPLETED WHITE DRAFT

For the next step of the project, I decided to go back and retry my house picture. In order to differentiate the image from before, I cropped one of the houses from the picture and scaled up the image so that it would be easier to add details. After this, I printed the image out and used a light table to trace out lines that I would cut. I scanned the sketch and printed it out a few more times in order to have a base to cut out of.

cropped image and 7x7 scanned sketch

I started off by creating a base layer for the house and proceeded to cut out the windows. I then used thin strips of paper to make window frames and the small details on the roof and the chimney. I set the base layer aside and began working on the front porch on a small, separate sheet of bristol. Similarly to what I did prior, I cut out windows and added a door frame to the front, following up with the staircase and columns. After finishing the porch area, I cut out part of the base layer to add the porch to the house.

As shown in the pictures, I started on the bushes that covered the bottom of the house in order to hide the awkward cut marks on the bottom of the piece. I created a sidewalk with small incisions and pasted the bushes over and the houses under. Once I was satisfied with that, I cut out the trees and bushes on the left of the house. In order not to distract from the details of the house, I made the foliage appear very simple with minimal layers and shapes.

overlapping trees on the left of the final image

After I was finished with the foliage, I began to paste my pieces onto the final 7x7" bristol square. I cut out long, thin strips of my remaining bristol and pasted them onto the image in order to act as telephone wires. Once I was finished gluing all of the pieces on, I finally cropped the full image.

09.08.2016 | CRITIQUE/DISCUSSION

Through the critique, I began to better understand the goal of the assignment. Rather than choosing images based on the aesthetic of it, we should have picked an image that was more representative of our intersection. Thankfully, I was able to coincidentally choose an image that I believe connects with my previous analysis of Centre Ave. and Aiken Ave.

For the next step of the process, I might try to cut out layers from the house so that it does not stick as far out of the page that it looks unnatural (as it currently does). Additionally, I may try to either create thinner telephone lines or alter my approach and cut out incisions for the cords instead of layering them over the piece.

completed project emphasizing depth

09.12.2016 | GRAY-SCALE PROJECT (WARM GRAY/BROWN)

Following the critique, I decided to begin cutting out parts of my house again. I started on the 9th of September, and finally finished on the 12th.

For this, the class was tasked with using four different toned paper, rather than creating an entirely new white on white creation. I decided to plan out what I was doing digitally in Paint Tool SAI and then traditionally using four different toned gray copics. After I decided on how I was going to create the piece, I started once again with the base layer of the house.

I followed a similar routine as I had done with the white on white creation, however I paid more attention to neatness and detail. Additionally, I worked in layers so that the front of the house would not stick out of the page as much. To do this, I used my x-acto knife in order to shave off excess layers of paper from the base layer of my house.

finished house

Unfortunately, after creating the house I was less focused on taking progress shots for my post. I worked from the foreground to the background, making my way from bush to tree. In order to make the picture appear more realistic, I created the sidewalk and road with simply two strips of paper pasted to the bottom of the page. I took out the cut out details from the sidewalk as well so that it would not distract from the detail of the house. Finally, I cut out four thin strips of paper in order to act as telephone wires(the incisions would not have been enough to fill the empty space at the top of the canvas) and pasted them over the rest of the layers.

Finally, I used my olfa blade in order to crop the canvas so that it met the 7x7" size requirement. While there are still many things I may be able to improve, I am pretty happy with how this draft turned out in comparison to my last two. I definitely spent a considerable amount of time on this project compared to the last working in studio.

completed project

09.14.16 | COLOR SWATCH PROJECT

Unfortunately, I had been too focused on creating the final project to take more progress photos. I essentially followed the same process as the last two versions of the project with more careful planning and more focus on craftsmanship.

Immediately after learning the next step of the project, I analyzed each color choice and was immediately drawn to the dark red and medium green choices. I liked the red because it matched the red that made up the detailing of the house which persuaded me to choose the image in the first place. While I did like the color, I thought that making the foliage around the house red would be too harsh and would communicate something much different to what I wanted to portray in my project. In the end, I decided to use the mossy green colored paper in substitution of the darkest shade of brown. I wanted to have a more subtle contrast between the darkest and third darkest shades which was solved with the lighter green color. I also wanted to communicate the natural feeling of the space at Centre and Aiken, which I thought that the green color expressed effectively.

thumbnails/sketches for composition and color choice for project

I then decided that I wanted to alter the colors moving from the color swatch version from the gray scale project, apparent in the foliage on the sides of the house as well as the telephone wires on the top of the image. Rather than focus on being accurate to the picture, I decided to choose the colors for the trees and bushes based on emphasizing depth. In order to achieve this, I made the bush closest to the foreground the darkest shade (which I substituted the green color in for) and cut the farther trees out of the corresponding colors. Additionally, I changed the telephone wires from the third darkest shade to the darkest shade in order to balance out the colors as well as show that the wires were present in the foreground as opposed to the background.

Once I was content with my color choices, I went to working on the actual project. As with my other trials, I started with building the house trying to keep my lines as straight as possible. For this final version of the project, I focused on making the lines that made up the windows consistent in their width so that it looked more precise. Finally, I followed up the bushes, trees, and sidewalk with the draping telephone wires that completed the image.

09.15.16 | POST-CRITIQUE IDEAS

After the critique of the color swatch projects, I decided that I was satisfied with the color I chose in that it was effective in communicating the natural and serene manner of the intersection.

Knowing that I would have to mount each of my projects together on blackboard, I decided that I wanted to make my projects more consistent with each other. In order to accomplish this, I will focus on matching the shapes of the trees in each composition without completely redoing the pieces. Not only this, but I plan on removing parts of my white-on-white project (most notably the house) and placing them on a new bristol canvas that is 7 x 7" rather than 6.5 x 6.5" so that it appears to fit the series more.

mounted images

09.19.16 | MOUNTING PROCESS

Between the last critique and today, I was able to alter my projects until I was satisfied with my results. In order to make the pieces appear to be more of a series, I editted each of them so that they would be more consistent with each other.

For the white-on-white creation, I stripped the original canvas of the house and scrapped the rest of the image as it was too small to fit in the series. I then cut out a new 7 x 7" square to use as a base layer for the rest of the elements of the piece. Keeping only the house intact, I created new trees, sidewalk, road, and telephone wires that matched the new canvas size. After cutting out all of the new pieces, I glued them onto the 7 x 7" bristol sheet so that it matched the rest of the pieces.

finalized white-on-white piece

As for the brown one, I tried to straighten out the elements of the picture without greatly disturbing each of the pieces. I decided to leave the foliage (as well as the bush on the left) in order to show the transition from considering the colors in a photo accurate sense versus considering the colors in terms of expressing depth within the image.

Finally, I altered the colored image by cutting out shapes in the farthest tree so that it was more consistent with the other two compositions. I tried to clean up the residue glue from the project as well as flatten the piece by cutting out more layers from underneath.

Once I was happy with my three versions, I mounted them on 10 x 10" blackboard as instructed. I then photographed them over the blank sheets of paper over the light table.

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