woodcut

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Intro: This past semester, I took an intro to printmaking class at university. Wanting to capitalize on expensive art resources like risograph printers and printing presses, I figured printmaking was a great way to learn an unconventional and entirely unfamiliar medium of art at relatively low cost (well I still pay tuition…)

The first class project was a woodcut print. We decided to center our sketches on the theme “balance,” decided through a very democratic, pain-staking voting process within our 11-person class. This project spanned about 6 weeks, and we were required to make an edition of ten (i.e. ten of the same print).

Interesting side note: to resize store-bought paper, it’s part of the woodcut tradition to tear the paper (as opposed slicing it with scissors or blades).

Process: Bought woodcutting blades and blocks of wood (surprisingly expensive). Finalized preliminary sketches. Made a sketch onto actual block of wood. Spent hours thinking of color separations and how to partition out my color layers. Weeks of carving out each color layer on the same block of wood. Used exacto knife for more detailed sections and clean lines. For each color layer, I inked up my board with relief ink. The process was pretty tedious, as I had to make sure the board was clean and contaminant-free. It’s close to impossible to be rid of all the little chips of wood left over from the carving stage. But these insidious little pieces create an uneven surface while asserting pressure from the press, so often times, the area around these tiny villains won’t print. Finally, the cleaning process at the end of class is a whole other gamut. I’ll just say that I had to leave at least an extra 30 minutes in order to make sure all the painting breyers and paints were cleaned up thoroughly (with vegetable and baby oil).

Artist statement: 

What does it look like to be sated, in the heart, in the mind, in the soul?
My subject matter is relationship between human and nature. Hasui Kawase, a prominent landscape artist in Japan during the 20th century, it is clear that nature is an irrevocable backdrop to the human experience.
In Buddhist teachings, the world is characterized by the ‘three marks of existence’: impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anatta). Recognizing anicca means seeing the ebb and flow of life, the wearing of mountains, the cycle of birth and death, the flux of highs and lows. It is a rare thing to find a feeling of clarity and inner peace. My purpose here as an artist is to archive these fleeting moments in an honest way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this project. The slow, meticulous process of physically carving into wood is surprisingly meditative and cathartic. Furthermore, this form of printmaking challenged my ways of thinking and my indecisive bent. Clearly, the physical removal of material is a very binary decision. Either the wood is there or it’s not. Once a decision is made, it’s final and completely irreversible. For decision-paralyzed human beings like me, this is an art process dreamt up from a nightmare. I had to heavily discipline my old mushy, draw-as-many-confusing-lines-as-possible-to-abstract-my-drawings ways (see preliminary sketch) and be a cool-headed + decisive bean.

Some of my favorite woodcut artists include Hasui Kawase.

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Late Autumn in Lake Yamanaka. source
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Wisteria at Kameido. source
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Hayama at Iyo. source

I also love this woodcut of Grinnell Glacier by Todd Anderson (think of the crazy color separations!!)

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Grinnell Glacier. source
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sketchbook

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Last semester, I was lucky to fall into an art history class called “Architect and History.” I added the class after hearing that the professor, Lothar Haselberger, was going to retire after the fall. Even though there were some sleepy classes, and I have only foggy memories of some of Haselberger’s slide decks, this class was one of the most interesting, perspective-widening ones I’ve taken at Penn. The class is structured around lectures, readings, and excursions. Every Friday, we visited different buildings situated in and around Philly, and the professor would share the historical context and interesting architectural elements of that particular building. As a student stuck in my campus bubble, I rarely make the time to explore the city, and even less so to examine the architecture of its buildings. These excursions were truly gems–a quirky way to get to know Philly and learn a bit more about its history.

I think the mark of a good class is one that changes the way you see the world. Since fall, I’ve started looking at the world differently, trying to understand the difference between simply looking at and truly seeing buildings and their architectural elements, cultural significance, and historical context. The professor’s passion for art history is genuinely inspiring and infectious, and it communicates through all his lectures, excursions, and presentations.

This is the kind of class that I want to comprise my undergraduate education. It truly embodies the value of the liberal arts. For an engineering student like myself, this class has been a welcome breath of fresh air amongst my highly technical classes, where I sometimes struggle to immerse myself in the clear-cut, analytical content. I see more clearly the links architecture has with the technicals of engineering but also the pure, unadulterated artistry of it. Professor Haselberger has encouraged me to think more critically, analyze more closely, and be more creative in my view of the world.

summer sketchbook things

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These sketches are pretty dated, going as far back as April of this year. I haven’t been able to post anything from this sketchbook because I had left it at home (Georgia) and forgot to bring it to college with me. But now it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m situated snugly inside my flower-patterned comforter that smells like familiar laundry sheets and reminds me of cold winters from my childhood. In other words, I’m home!

Some context for these drawings: this summer, I tried to draw a lot more because I missed that part of my life dearly. So on a Wednesday evening after work, I walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with nothing but sketchbook, pencil, and determination in tow. At the statue gallery, I bumped into these two other people sketching a bust. They curiously peered over my shoulder, introduced themselves as two members of an art guild based in Philly, and asked me if I wanted to join them and their friends in sharing museum sketches. This was a fortuitous encounter…I met so many talented humans who actually work as freelance artists! From there, I attended a few other museum sketching events and figure drawing sessions. Although everyone was solidly at least 5 years older than me, I felt comfortable and open with these people. Must be something about the mutual love for art!

Also I just found my tablet in my drawer at home….collecting dust….sitting in neglect…….I will bring this back to school with me and treat it with the love + respect it deserves.

feeling small

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Among thousands of students, the large majority of which are geniuses in some form, I struggle to reconcile with my feelings of inadequacy–especially since I’ve transferred into the School of Engineering this year. By some odd stroke of good fortune and I guess hard work, I wound up receiving a teaching assistant position for the discrete mathematics course that all comp sci majors/minors have to take (CIS 160).

I applied for the position because I wanted to keep learning and to join a community of people in which I could grow. I acknowledge that I worked my ass off last semester and sold my soul to office hours and problem sets, so receiving this job makes me feel like the hard work has paid off and at least somebody thinks that I’ve grown. But working hard doesn’t necessarily equate to intelligence, deep understanding, or teaching ability. When I tell friends and colleagues that I’m a 160 TA, they widen their glimmering eyes in what I perceive to be respect. This reaction makes me feel bashful and sheepish and confused and turbulent all at once. I want to exclaim, “Don’t you understand! I’m not even smart or qualified. I’m not a math whiz! LISTEN TO ME WOMAN. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING OR EVEN WHO I AM.”

I held office hours today and walked out feeling like a desolate puddle of melted human. Understanding material sufficiently to execute a homework problem and mastering concepts so that you can dynamically bend and morph them into clear explanations are two completely different beasts. I have no confidence in myself, and that self-deprecation projects itself into my answers. I can’t stop thinking that if my previous self had me, Annie Su, as a TA, I would hate me. Why do I feel so drastically under-qualified for this job?

The TA’s for 160 are all quirky, intelligent, and nice people, and I’m grateful to have been extended a hand into this community. But being around these people throws me into a limbo of anxiety and self-doubtThis dude popped out of the womb doing math competitions. And that girl over there interned at Facebook, Apple, and all those sexy tech companies with coveted internship positions. What am I but a small, random outlier? All I have going is hard work. Slow learning. Inquiry. I know that dwelling on what I’m not doing right is wasting what little time I do have to improve and learn…but I can’t help it. And it also frightens me how ungrounded from reality I am. I can’t even think about job stuff without becoming somewhat nauseous…I’m not ready, qualified, or mature enough to participate in the adult world…

I’m starting to learn more and more that I am not these people and never will be. I’m not an AMC champion or a genius software developer at the ripe age of 17. I don’t have any of those things going for me, but that’s ok. My own set of skills (not really sure what they are though) are different. And different != bad. What I like to talk about and ruminate over, what I read voraciously until 3am, what I’m curious about, what I think about in fleeting while on the elevator–these constitute who I am and what kind of person I want to be. Why do I fret over not being like the others? The world needs more kooks, right?

(in theory)

Then the disconnect  between sound logic and visceral feeling sets in. I can’t help but feel small and inadequate anyways.

figure drawing

FNAR 280: Figure Drawing 1 also known as The Only Class That Kept Me Sane. The human body is really beautifully intricate and strange…thank you Doug for being the most eccentric, avuncular professor and creating a space where all your students feel free to question, create, and observe with open minds and open hearts. I’ll miss all your strange, random musings and the donut runs and of course, the black charcoal dust that manages to coat itself over my hands, clothes, belongings, soul, etc….

“I think art is really important to you.” As stupid and self-oblivious as this sounds, I didn’t realize what an irrevocable part of my life art inhabits until Doug said this to me during crit on the last day of class. I’m so thankful that I took this class–it nurtured a love in me for the human body and all its strange intricacies. Most of all, I know myself approximately 2.5% better. I know that creating art is meaningful and worthwhile to me and that I never want to stop doing that.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the cliché post-class feelings out of the way, here are some drawings that turned out not terrible (nudity warning).

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