The Passage of a Year

Almost exactly a year ago, I made a zine for a visual arts class. I’ve always held on to bits and pieces of stuff. They’re mostly just piles of receipts and flyers sitting in eternal purgatory somewhere in my apartment. This was the first time I ever compiled them.

2015 was a crazy period of change, but looking through my year-old images, I realize that I’m still very much influenced, driven, and characterized by the same things. Postcards that never got sent, annotated text, artist bios, being so into someone – the passage of a year revealed the authenticity contained in this little book. In 2015, I actually ended up visiting Prague, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Berlin and more. I saw the original Egon Schieles. I walked the streets of Kundera.

I should make one every February for good luck.

 

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In Memory of Disposable Kodaks

At the start of my romp around Europe in March of this year, I decided to pick up two disposable cameras in London. I was drawn to the challenge of capturing two weeks of adventure in less than 60 images. I really do believe in soaking up and being solidly present in the places I visit. I see too many people constantly glued to their cameras or phones, that they forget to see the world right in front of them with their own eyes, and not through artificial lens. Photography is amazing, but not all of an atmosphere or mood can be picked up in pixels.

When I walked back to my apartment from the Kodak store with my fresh batch of photos, I was actually smiling ear to ear. Something about the combination of anticipation and nostalgia in looking at pictures taken five months ago. It’s a new age (now, old age) time capsule, a blast from the past reminding you of how far you’ve come, and the fascinating places still left to be discovered. Aside from this fluffy stuff, here’s what I learned about taking pictures with disposable cameras:

Pros

  • They are lightweight.
  • You feel hip.
  • Instant vintage filter!
  • Everyone looks great because HD quality is not always a good thing.
  • It’s like Christmas morning when you pick up your developed photos.

Cons

  • Photo quality is hit or miss, especially for indoor shots. I only bothered scanning around 40% of all the photos.
  • You get called a try-hard hipster.
  • It’s expensive to develop. CVS was charging something like $18 a roll.

Overall, I definitely plan on using disposable cameras again when I travel. They’re a lot of fun and the resulting photos make beautiful souvenirs. I now have envelope stuffers for the letters I’m writing to my friends abroad who were kind enough to host me and show me around. The photos are also cheery decoration for freshly minted, post-grad millennial apartments.

I already sealed the pictures I took of my friends and myself into envelopes to be mailed, but I still have plenty from just around town. Now without any further ado, and in no particular order, I present my 2015 European Backpack Trip in twenty-one images! Click on them for closeups and occasional captions. Can you guess where each was taken?

Tokyo in 24 Hours: Vlog

I originally wrote my usual casual-yet-witty-and-insightful styled post for my trip to Tokyo (hehe), but then I decided to experiment with a new form of memory documentation called video. It is now almost 2am and I have work tomorrow. But it was so worth it to have churned out something creative. And learned a new skill to boot. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I know Shibuya Crossing is not actually called “Title Text Here.” It took forever to convert the video, then compress it, and upload it to YouTube – all on unreliable Beijing wifi. And I tried fixing it and reuploading that version but iMovie wouldn’t save the new one. Whatever, I forgive myself.

Music by Oliver Heldens & Shaun Frank, Shades of Grey (feat. Delaney Jane) (Leeyou & Danceey Remix)

The Marchutz Oil Painting Haul

Since my experience in Aix was intimately tied up with what I ended up painting during my time at Marchutz, I thought I’d visually introduce you to some special people and special places of my time abroad through my paintings. Starting with…. the lovely faculty of the Marchutz School of Fine Arts:

I’ve never experienced such lavishness in terms of a teacher’s dedication to their student’s learning process. They are more than teachers; they are dear friends.

I have so many of John because he would sit the longest and read to the entire class from a book. Like To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

We also did a few weeks of still lives. I don’t have as many because our motif was kinda limited by the natural cycle of rotting, maggots, and an unbearable smell of spoiled food in the studio. I was also unmotivated to work fast as an apple sitting on a counter isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

For the first month, we took the “vomit comet” out to the landscape near the base of Mt. St. Victoire and painted in a field of snails, grain, and Provencal farm houses. Life is beautiful when you really stop and look at all the colors and movement that make up the world.

Of course Marchutz wouldn’t be Marchutz without the best classmates and friends and buddies I could ever have asked for. Portraiture was the last leg of the curriculum and the one I enjoyed the most. I love trying to capture the personality of a person. Again with the beauty thing; painting people just makes me think how beautiful all friends are. Not everyone sat for a portrait but here’s what I have.

Those are just the paintings I thought were worthy of your attention. Drawings (which I am much much more comfortable with) will be up by a distant date in the future. I have Christmas parties to do.

Five Days in Monet’s Gardens, Giverny

It’s a rare opportunity to be able to stay for five days in a world renowned tourist destination that most visitors only experience for a few hours. Literally a two minute walk from Monet’s gardens and house, Terra Foundation’s housing and studio was truly a haven for art students. In the midst of all the starstruck moments of study abroad, I was beginning to miss the feeling of being comfortable, stable, and familiar. But those four days, four dinner parties, and four fabulous studio sessions with Greg Wyatt and the rest of the Marchutz gang felt like home. Not just home, but home during the holiday season when everyone’s together – family and friends – and enjoying each other’s company with not a thought for how late it is getting or how many bottles of wine have been drained (64, if you had to know). I needed that.

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The focus of the studio sessions was sculpture. Now I am not naturally inclined to sculpture probably because it confuses me. It confuses me because I’ve never done it before. I’ve never done it before probably because sculpture is fricking expensive. We’re going to be casting our little three by four inch wax sculpture into bronze through the founderie at Coubertin and I think he estimated them to be at about a hundred bucks a pop. I mean, it’s a gift free of charge from Greg but, seriously. Bronze cast sculpture is not for the starving artist.

Though, there is something incredibly fascinating about playing with hot wax and burning stuff over an open flame. Melting wax is fun. Playing with soft, squishy clay is fun. I don’t know why but it’s just fun to squish stuff in your hand and feel it ooze through your fingers.

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Obligatory photo in front of Monet’s ponds. Did you know Monet was actually kind of a bad ass? I thought Monet just bought these ponds and gardens but no. He had these dug and built to his exact specifications (a lot of Japanese zen influence) because he was one of those rare painters that made it when he was still alive. His garden is almost the antipathy of something like Versailles with all the geometric grids and clear boundaries (seriously, the French are so strict about not walking on the grass…) where man imposes a form onto nature. If you see Monet’s garden, it’s very organic and there are no boundaries so that the reflections in the water are infinite. That was probably very important to Monet because he considered the mirror of water to be his number one motif. I used to think Monet was kinda foufou and decorative but when I actually had to draw the pond and make sense of the water, the transparency of the water to the bottom of the pond, and the reflection of the sky and trees on the water – my mind exploded.

Some attempts:

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We were supposed to interpret Monet’s gardens with wax sculpture on wire supports. I didn’t take a photo but I did do a sketch of it!

It might be shallow of me to say this but the food and housing definitely made the Giverny trip unforgettable. We basically had three separate houses to ourselves, catered dinners every night, museum lunches everyday, and endless loaves of good French breads and jams for breakfast.

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Me devouring a chocolate tart with the most sexy expression on the planet.

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Me not looking at all the art books on the shelves in the middle of the most epic pillow fight of the century.

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The Terra Foundation buildings had the sweetest country feel to them. Wood on exposed beams on stone fireplaces on floral patterned linens.

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Not taken at Giverny but at the Founderie de Coubertin. There’s some pretty secretive stuff going on over there, no pictures allowed. Looking back on all these photos though…man, I really am so lucky. How many people can say that they stayed at an artist’s colony in Monet’s gardens for a week? I journaled, I sketched, I ate, I fell in love with a place. Maybe Monet was onto something:

“I form no other wish but to mingle myself more intimately with nature and i covet no other destiny than to have worked and lived…in harmony with her laws. She is the grandeur, the power, and the immortality beside which the human creature seems no more than a miserable atom.”

All in a Day’s Work: Water-Soluble Color Ink Pencils

This weekends marks the few last days of the still lives that have served us valiantly for the past two weeks. I have come to spend so much time with them that I no longer notice the smell of the rotten pumpkin, bananas, carrots, yams, and various other moldy fruits and veg. Drawing and painting still lives was way more comfortable than painting out in the landscape. I know what an apple is supposed to look and feel like. I  have no clue what a fluttering cypress tree 100 meters away even is. Here’s all the sketches I did today from Ink-tense pencils. They’re like color pencils that you can wash over with water and the marks turn into really vibrant ink. My camera isn’t the best at picking up the accurate colorings. Sorry everything’s so yellow tinged. In reality, they’re more red.

1. First impressions. Curly-que is a black moldy pumpkin slice. Purple cabbage does not relate to stark, light background.

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2. Awkward composition of tomatoes and pumpkin. But I do like how many reds I was able to  describe.

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3. Blue and yellow color contrasts are always crowd winners. Focused a bit too much on dark contours rather than developing the interior color values, though.

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4. Got bored of still lives. Drew Ruhee painting on the floor instead. Much more difficult than still lives as you probably can tell… Sorry I gave you a hunchback 😦

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5. White bottles give me hard times. Quite proud of my cauliflower though.

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Happiness Update #4

I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I fell off the train tracks for doing these everyday, but I do remember a couple from this week. It was midterm week so I think everyone gets a free pass for falling off train tracks.

49. Have you ever stopped and thought about how wonderful it is to be in control of your body’s movements? I was climbing the steps up to the top of the village of Lacoste. I was breathing hard because it was hot and the road was so steep and broken. But my legs just kept pumping and my knee bent when they had to and I never fell down.

48. We have sucky coffee in the United States. The French know how to make the perfect Cafe au Lait. There’s a reason why that drink’s name is in French.

47. My host mother surprised my house mate and I by buying us a jar of nut butter for our trip to Giverny tomorrow. Peanut butter for me and almond butter for Rebecca.

46. Today was the last day of landscape painting en-plein-air. Looking back on all the paintings I did and all that time I spent basking in the sun is evidence that the experience has brought forth fruit. Some pictures to commemorate the final day:

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Early morning in the landscape is the best time to watch the fog roll out.

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The last motif.

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