Project #1: Liberty Ave & Millvalle Paper Cutout

Intersection of Liberty Ave. and S. Millvale Ave.

08/30/16 — First Trip/First Impressions

Liberty Ave and Millvalle is an intersection located only 7–8 minutes away by car from Carnegie Mellon. It is an interesting location because of the vast differences between the two opposite streets. From the little time that my group and I examined the area, it was noticable that the surrounding environment has an uneven distribution of financial status. The street has roadwork happening, potholes, hills of construction sand and missing cement. It is interesting to see the different types of cars that are rolling down this street. There is such a huge financial gap and not only is it evident in the way people carry themselves, but also in the way that they dress and the things that they own.

A Mercedes Benz driving towards the intersection

In general, the intersection is not very rowdy like Downtown Pittsburgh. There are a lot of cars passing through the streets, but only because it serves as a popular transition road. The speed limit on the streets are 25 mph which not only indicates that it’s a local street, but it also suggests that there is a need for extra caution on an intersection with a hospital. There is a sign that reads no turn on red from 7pm to 10pm which suggests that without the sign, the road can get very congested. This further emphasizes the importance and busy commotion that this intersection entails. There are a total of 7 traffic lights within this tiny section. I don’t think I have ever seen so many traffic lights within such a small contained area.

There is a Sunoco (gas station) on the right of the hospital. Across the hospital is a series of small mom and pop shops. There are not many chain restaurants (which now has become a general indicator of gentrified neighborhoods). The hotdog food place near the corner of the street only has a couple of tables and seems to be a place mainly serving locals. They have taped a sign on their register that says “cash only”. From my own personal experience, “cash only” shops usually indicate a small shop and you often see them in urban restaurants that can’t afford to implement a credit card system. A lot of the small urban restaurants also use a cash only payment because many of the people that stop by the restaurant don’t use credit cards and only carry around cash with them.

G/M Dog “N” Burger Shoppe

In addition to small shops, the economy around this area seems to not be as strong. This is probably because of the lack of people actually coming to this area as their destination. Two stores have “RENT ME” signs up which is really interesting. They are right next to each other. One of them is a modern building and is set up by Allegheny Health Network, which is the same company that owns the hospital, and the other is an older building that is much shorter in height and vaguely reminds me of an art gallery.

The tall building and the red brick building on the side
West Penn Hospital (Side view)

The main attraction of this intersection is the hospital. West Penn Hospital stretches from the beginning of Liberty Ave all the way to the end. It has two large pillars on the side that vaguely reminds me of a factory pipe. The brick texture of the building gives it a more old school feel opposed to the modern glass appearance of many new hospitals. My favorite part about this hospital is how different one side of it is from the other. The main West Penn wing is much older looking, while the left wing of it is much newer, more modern and obvious that it was built later. The connecting bridge serves as a way to clearly see the development from old to new within this small intersection.

The sky bridge for crossing the hospital

Since it is such a large hospital, the main people that are in the area are mostly in scrubs and Crocs. These nurses and doctors all leave the hospital in hordes. Many of them wait for the bus, walk into the parking lot, or just walk down Millvalle Ave. Besides these hordes of people, the streets seem to be pretty empty of people except the occasional people shuffling through the street in a hurry to get to their next destination. There are a lot of workers that walk past, as well as men in button down shirts and dress pants. The variety of dress within this intersection also allows me, the viewer, to see the state, condition and the vibes of this neighborhood street.

08/31/16 — Second Trip

Graffiti is the hidden art of any neighborhood. This case is no different. The graffiti within this neighborhood really exemplifies the demographic that resides there. There are a lot of names graffitied onto things like the mailbox, the lightbox, the trashcan and poles around the intersection. My personal favorite one is the on the wall of a building. It says “Social War” underneath the phrase telling off Donald Trump and it reminds me of the street mentality that is a part of so many urban cities. Graffiti represents the mindset of the residents and it shows that people in their environment are vocal about their opinions. Graffiti is rarely found in rich neighborhoods or white picket fences, but instead are found in abundance in areas that don’t have much wealth or many “things going for them”.

Grafitti on the trash can

Overall, this place was very intriguing to me because I know for a fact that it isn’t a place that many people “stumble” upon. Somehow, my privileged self rolled into this intersection in an Uber while old women and tired nurses waited for the bus by sitting on the ledges. This sight of Pittsburgh is not only more authentic, but it also emphasizes how urban areas that aren’t manicured and artificial still exist. It took me out of my comfort zone in the sense that it didn’t seem as “tourist-y” or welcoming as I am use to, but upon the second time there, it felt more comfortable and much more familiar. People walked through this small intersection with a purpose, they drive through it as a way to go to another place, so it was nice to take it slow and appreciate the humbleness that this place had to offer.

People waiting for the 54 Bus
Down Millvale Ave.


(Originally 2 audio files that have been listened to and jotted down)

My notes for my trip


  • Repatching old things, instead of upgrading to new (poles, the constant painted over lightbox, etc.)
  • New and modern vs. old and rusty
  • The idea of places not being a destination but rather a transfer point
  • Urban society and the speed of life

09/02/16 — Finding the perfect picture

my favorite photo from the intersection

On Friday, Yoonyoung and I went to our intersection and we attempted to find a “new” view of it. Since we learned about the assignment, taking pictures and finding perspectives was much easier. Since the three of us (Yoonyoung, Maddie and I) were all going to turn in our work of the same intersection, I really wanted mine to be explicitly different than theirs, but also capture the essence of Liberty Ave and Millvale. I was going to do a street view of the buildings, but one of my favorite shots I took that day was of the man walking to the parking lot.

I love the feeling that it conveyed of the neighborhood. The entire vibe of the neighborhood is that it is both cluttered and empty. There are a bunch of houses (tiny windows, tiny doors, tiny details) that are pushed together, three cars, and a bunch of bushes. However, the lone man walking makes it seem more isolated. This contrast between empty and full really exemplify the intersection of Liberty Ave and Millvale. There are a bunch of cars always passing through it, but no one ever really means to stay there.

09/03/16–09/04/16 — Working Progress

The beginning of cutting out from the bristol of my original outline
Building on layers
Cutting onto the image directly called for a need of tape refurbishing
Continuing to build upon the layers (taping them down in the process) so I could see if the image was looking the way I wanted it to
First attempt at this ( I like the top cutout piece so much)

Update: Yikes, the bouncing man did not work at all. It was actually kind of a mess haha. I think people got confused by the dimensionality of him and how he seemed incredibly distant he was.

Update2: I also don’t know how I feel about the powerlines since the next one will have to be even smaller than this one, so I think I might take them out and see how I feel about it.

09/07/16 — Making changes to the draft

I worked on the 6x8 version of my cutout. I’m not sure if it was easier than the first time since it was a smaller scale, which meant that windows got smaller, door frames got smaller, etc. I also think it was harder because we had less time in comparison to the previous one and because there was more pressure to make it perfect. I decided not to crop too many things because the image as a whole created a good narrative. I cropped the left side so that the car and the wall would be less “boring”.

Much smaller version, the car and side wall are cropped, the paper is 6x8 now
I made a ton of copies of the master outline so I could just discard and use them freely
The first 6x8 cutout I did

09/08/16 — Crit of first 6x8 white cutout

It was interesting to see everyone’s work hung up considering that I’ve only seen a handful of people’s work last night. I like the idea of learning from your other peers and adpating their ideas into your own practice. I thought it was cool of Stacie to mention the difference between Mason’s incised powerlines in comparison to other people’s 3D take on it. It was nice to see everyone’s different style resonate through their work as well as seeing people do such intricate work (like a billion windows and crazy round bicycle wheels ((like Anna’s beautiful Hallmark card worthy bikes))).

My work was critiqued during the session and it was quite helpful. It was nice to hear feedback and also be able to understand what flaws my piece had. Since I had been working on it for so long, there are a lot of things I don’t notice because I am so used to seeing it. People at my table also have seen it so often that they understand the concept. It was interesting to hear that Stacie and Steve were confused by the road because it is helping me understand what I can fix and what I can improve on. It was also really helpful talking to Stacie 1 on 1 about my piece. We talked about the different ways to go about fixing the street. In the picture above, I actually encised some pavement marks onto the road to see if it would get the point across better, but it read off as a bit busier than I had hoped for.

Overall, the crit went really well in the sense that I feel like I walked away from it with a better understanding of my piece (in the sense of what worked and what didn’t).

Important things to remember:

  • You need to ask people who don’t know where your intersection is to describe it so you can actually see if your intended vibes are working out
  • Feeling and scenery are so interlinked (update: this becomes twice as important when color is put into this)
  • SHADOWS are so hard to understand because everything in the piece is meant to be 3D while a shadow is 2D and it is hard to differentiate that

09/09/16–09/12/16 — Revision Stage

Second version of the white cutout

AHHHHHHH, I really did not want to redo the white one, but I knew that if I did, I would get better results and a better idea of how the floor would look without a floor (haha that sounds so strange). This time, it went way smoother and I think that it definitely showed improvement in my craftsmanship. I think this was much cleaner, easier to understand and just simpler in general.

Important things to consider:

  • Sometimes LESS is MORE
  • Shrubs are such a pain to cut (they really really suck)
  • Switching to new blades is exilerating

09/10/16–09/12/16 — Warm greyscale

Using Copic Markers to test out different shades/tones

What I did to understand what color tone I wanted, I used the different shades of Copic markers to mark what I wanted and where I wanted it. I wanted to do the tones not by general light to dark, but to create contrast within each thing itself.

As I was actually cutting, I modified some things because it was different seeing it with the warm grey tones.

I knew I wanted the man to pop out a little more, so I wanted the shirt to be darker than the rest. The lightest building was the farthest and I just built on the colors from there.

This is the final piece for the warm grey. I think it turned out much better than I expected. I was a little doubtful about the really dark contrast between the floor and everything else. I liked the idea of everything being kind of together and nothing too jumpy because I thought it conveyed the atmosphere much more. It was a low-key place and I think more neutral colors gives it that feel altogether.

09/13/16–09/14/16 — Spot Color

There were a total of nine colors that we could choose from (red, orange, navy blue, slate grey, moss green, pastel blue, mustard, lime green, and yellow). Although I really liked the bright colors, I thought it would be too overwhelming and also not fit the vibes of my piece. The slate grey was lowkey and added to the solidarity of my piece. I decided to take out the darkest brown because I felt like it created way too much contrast with the actual piece.

During the crit, Steve mentioned that he thought the transition from white to greyscale was very drastic, while the transition from greyscale to spot color was very simple and obvious. I honestly didn’t know what to change, but I felt like changing the dark brown was a good idea, because a big issue I had with the piece was that the dark brown and the rest of the colors were having too large of a contrast. The slate grey helped carry and tone down the piece a lot. It was interesting to see that Maddie (who was also in my group) pick the same slate grey color. It not only showed our similar mindset, but it conveyed similar vibes. Yoonyoung (the other member of my group) opted for an alarming red, which was beautiful and gave me a completely different vibe (but a vibe that also stayed true to the intersection).

Final piece for the Color Spot

Overall, I think it turned out pretty well. I love the effect of all three of them together. I think it’s really cool to see the changes. My favorite one would have to be the white one though. I think it’s the coolest, the most simple and hard thing to interpret, and overall just have a presence that the others cannot compete with.

small changes in just this tiny little segment

Things I want to remember if I ever do this again:

  • Change blades as often as possible to get clean lines
  • Putting in extra work pays off so much
  • Trying new things to see how it will look is worth it because you can get the best results that way
  • Being aware of the vibes that come along with a certain photo/cutout and being able to find ways to convey it
  • Ask OTHER people not “do you like this?” but more specific questions like “how does this make you feel?”, “what do you see in this piece?”, etc.


White on White Cutout
Warm Greyscale Cutout
Spot Color Cutout
Progression Cutout
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