Liberty and Millvale Intersection

August 31, 2016

The Location

Liberty Avenue is one long street filled with buildings and complexes whereas Millvale Avenue is a road that bends until it hits Liberty Avenue at the intersection. While riding up Millvale Avenue, the landscape slowly changes from old brick homes to taller, newer structures.

The intersection between Millvale Avenue and Liberty Avenue contains a hospital, a parking lot, local shops and some chain businesses.

West Penn Hospital, towering over the Millvale Avenue, stands as the tallest building of this particular intersection with yellow and red bricks, large glass windows and flags hanging from the exterior walls reading “Allegheny Health Network West Penn Hospital Mellon Pavilion.” The building looks relatively new. Red bricks are not falling apart and crusty, but rather clean and uniform as the exterior wall of the hospital. The large windows over look the Liberty Avenue, allowing patients or hospital workers to take a look out into Pittsburgh. Because the hospital is much taller than the other buildings on the street, the sun hits the surface of the wall providing a warm and sunny street. The clean brick walls told me that the hospital is an area that is respected and well kept in an orderly fashion.

The fact that the hospital is even located in such an area tells me that emergencies and health problems are an issue in the neighborhood. Several ambulances and even helicopters have driven in and out of the hospital show the sense of urgency within the community.

In contrast, the same buildings and complexes that occupy the opposite side of Liberty Avenue, drastically differ in style and age from the hospital. The ground level of this building is filled with local shops, names of businesses unfamiliar to a stranger like me. A local burger shop named “GM Dog and Burger Shoppe” occupies one corner of the intersection, with a door right at the corner of the store. As I passed by the door, I could immediately smell the mouthwatering smell of fresh patties that locals and customers can enjoy for a fresh meal. The conversations between locals makes the area seem like everyone is already well accustomed to each other and acquainted to the area.

First impressions/feelings

As someone unfamiliar to this part of town, I definitely felt estranged from this community. The streets were never busy with pedestrians but rather with cars, buses, bikes and other modes of transportation. The only sound heard was the roaring of vehicle engines and screeching of car wheels. The lack of people and the emptiness of conversation made me feel out of place. My first impression of the place was that it was a place was run down shady. The buildings were definitely old fashioned and looked as if it had been around for a while. I felt as though everything was moving slowly with the lack of people and movement other than the vehicles moving to and fro.

Locals enjoy some chatter in front of local shops.
Nurses from the West Penn Hospital often walk through this area.


With West Penn Hospital dominating most of Liberty Avenue, it’s not hard to notice the nurses, doctors, and other hospital workers exiting the hospital, traveling to their next destination, possibly going home for the day. Crisp students in their white lab coats often chatter as they walk through the streets. Nurses in scrubs looked overworked and stressed as they leave the hospital complex which shows the care and compassion within the hospital community.

Overall, most of the people seemed to be a part of an older group of people. With the hospital around, it is expected to see young children or old people. Several school buses have passed through the area, indicating nearby schools and homes for elementary school students. Although I have spotted a few children, I felt this neighborhood seemed much more appropriate for adults and the elderly, with the peaceful setting and the slow mood.

Although the same street (Liberty Avenue), the two contrasting styles of buildings almost make them seem like different parts of town.

The Contrast

Once I stepped down from the car and onto the intersection in front of the West Penn Hospital, I immediately took note of the contrast between the new and the old. Looking down Liberty Avenue, although all buildings primarily use brick as exterior, there definitely was a distinction between

Even the small details such as the lampposts, mail boxes, and trashcans show peeled and layered paint depict the renewal and prolongation of old objects.

Graffiti marks covering the clean walls indicates that the neighborhood has people who aren’t afraid to express themselves upon the brick surfaces.

With the composite from new and old, this neighborhood shows that it is one formed through renewal and improvement rather than utter destruction and recreation. The local people and passing pedestrians show how although seemingly isolated and empty, it is still a place where a community thrives.

Why are we doing this project?

September 1, 2016

Putting up our outlines on the wall to see whether it’s too sketchy or simple.

During class, Stacy and Steve mentioned no one asked “why are we doing this project?” After pondering about this, I came to the conclusion that we execute this project to be more aware and open of our surroundings while also learning about composition and form.

My initial choice for my intersection photograph. Later realized that this photo did not represent my location best.

I realized that the photograph I chose to cut out composite shapes did not exactly represent my location. Although I wanted to show off the reflection in the mirror to show off the new and old of this particular intersection, I realized this photograph definitely did not document the old and new contrast I wanted to present.

Therefore, I decided to make a third trip to my intersection to hopefully capture an image that would clearly represent what I am trying to demonstrate what I am trying to say about my location.

Third visit

September 2, 2016

Different viewpoints of Liberty Avenue.

I revisted Millvale Avenue and Liberty Avenue to snap photographs that would better depict this location spot. I thought the ones that the photos that best represented this intersection was Liberty Avenue where the buildings were a combination of new and old. In addition, the photographs showed the many cars and pedestrians passing through the area, adding on to the idea that this location is a pass through area.

The Creation Process

September 3–4, 2016

Using homemade cropping L’s to crop the image.

After printing out the new photographs, I adjusted my crop tools to remove any unnecessary components that didn’t contribute to the essence of the place.

After tracing the shapes onto tracing paper, I drew the buildings in my sketchbook. I colored the shape in different tones of grey to show which layers would be on the bottom and which ones would be on the top to help me show which pieces needed to be cut out.

Left — Sketching the outline of the shape of a roof Right — Using a x-acto knife, I cut out the piece and flipped it to prevent any pencil marks from showing.

To create each piece, I traced the unique shape onto the bristol paper and then used a ruler and x-acto knife to cut it out.

After cutting out the larger shapes, I began to stack them to
When cutting the smaller, more detailed shapes I had to be sure to arrange the pieces carefully.

Slowly, the layers began to build up.

The final product for our first cutout.

What I learned:

  • Forms can be simplified
  • No excessive details are needed to represent something
  • Don’t cut on the side with the pencil (will leave grey pencil marks and eraser smudge marks)
  • Use organic or geometric shapes or lines depending on what is being depicted
  • Be careful with the x-acto knife…

How I felt

The creation process definitely was frustrating with cutting the small tiny pieces and trying to stack everything together. The process taught me not only design skills such as form and composition, but also patience and focus. In the end, it was satisfying to see all the different pieces, big or small, detailed or simple, finally come together to create a composite piece.

Paper Cut Part 2

September 6-7, 2016

The Assignment

Our first paper cut outs hanging up on the wall for a critique.

After presenting our first paper cuts to the class, we were given size limitations (6x8" or 7x7") and instructions to create a second paper cut out.

We learned the different types of knives and cutting techniques, facilitating cutting bristol paper in a safer and more efficient manner. I learned how to keep my paper much cleaner and sharper and prevented any more cuts in my hand.

With the advice from the TA’s, I tried to add in much more detail that would evoke the essence of my location.

In the end, I created a paper-cut much cleaner and precise than my first. The new product showed off the important details while also staying much more pristine.

The second paper cut-out up for critique.

September 8, 2016

What I learned

  • We discussed whether or not a focal point would be effective in communicating our space. Some of the examples included a person or some sort of object that immediately drew the eyes of the audience. I noticed that mine did not really have such focal point. However, when considering what I wanted to communicate about my intersection, I realized I wanted to show the blend of the new and the old while also showing that it is a pass through area. I feel that a focal point would only stray away from this idea.
  • It is also important to consider foreground, background and shadows because they all contribute to the overall composition of the piece.
  • I asked a table partner, someone who never seen my location, to tell me what she saw in my second paper cut and she told me that the neighborhood looked very polished and possibly residential. With the cars, the streets looks busy yet not that many people on the street. For my next cut, I know I should try to communicate the vibe of being hectic and old, the initial feelings and impressions that I had when I first approached my intersection.

Editing my white-on-white

September 9-12, 2016

By creating a new white on white cut-out, I really wanted to show off the essence of my area. This meant, focusing on the details that represented the new and the old, and also removing unnecessary components.

Cutting a new cut-out also let me improve in craftsmanship — learning to be more efficient and clean with the paper cutting.

Carefully cutting and stacking the paper to create a new composition.
Side by side juxtaposition to show the differences and similarities between the two cut-outs. I definitely thought the 2nd one was much cleaner.

What I Learned

  • Elimination can be necessary.
  • Craftsmanship can break or make a paper cutting piece.
  • Be wary of which details to add in.


September 10–12, 2016

Our next step meant translating our cut-outs to a grey scale using the paper with tones of warm grey. When creating this particular cut-out, we have to be particularly careful as to creating depth with the different tones and not making our buildings look flat.

Using Adobe Illustrator, I made vector shapes to depict the different shades of grey to be cut out for this third cut-out. This facilitated the cutting order and shapes.
I stacked the different layers of paper as I cut the different colors of paper.

What I Learned

  • The different tones of grey can be used not only to delineate the distinct shapes, but also to show value and shade to particular components.
  • Create depth!
  • I think I am starting to show more of the “story”

Greyscale + Spot Color

September 13–14, 2016

The Assignment

Out of 9 colors, we were asked to choose one that would replace a tone from our greyscale.

After completing the greyscale assignment, we were thus assigned another assignment, this time using color.

The Choice/Meaning of Color

Vector images on Illustrator allowed me to look at the different colors

I used the vector image I created in illustrator to help me see the different color palettes that would potentially work for my next piece. I strayed away from using earthy tones like the toned down grey blue or the greens, because I didn’t want to give the impression of nature. I wanted my place to read

I remember in visualization class, we were discussing patterns and noted that stop signs are successful for the red color. The red color stands out against the warm grey tones. I thought it would be successful because it would bring out the new industrialized, buildings, almost as if it is saying “stop and notice me.” In addition, the bold color peaks out with the details from the older buildings, symbolizing the foreshadowing of future renovation and innovation.

The Process

For this new cut-out, I utilized a new cutting technique. (Shout out to Anna, CJ, and Serina for teaching me this.) Rather than transferring my image onto cutting paper and then tracing the image onto sheets of paper, I found it much more efficient in printing out my image and then directly cutting the image with the paper. This way, I save time from constantly outlining each shape, and the form looks much more accurate.

What I Learned/Improved

  • Faster and cleaner cutting techniques
  • Color can portray mood and tone
  • Take risks/Be bold

How I felt

  • I feel that I am growing much more satisfied with my work. The critiques definitely helped improve my piece. I feel that the cut-outs are slowly growing to present the story that I want my paper to convey.

Finishing Touches

September 15–19, 2016

Now that we completed all three compositions, our final assignment was to touch up or make any last minute changes in our reliefs. I used this time to add the details missing from my initial cutouts. My third cutout, the greyscale with color spotting had the most details, so I had to go back and add these details on these reliefs.

We also took this time to photograph our work to document our final products.

White on white
Greyscale with colorspotting

Final Shots

September 19, 2016

What I Learned

  • Cropping and space can affect a composition
  • Be careful with cutting
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