November 10, 2020
When considering what I wanted to do for my final art piece, I was reminded of the fact that I have had my two kitties for almost two years, and for a while now I have wanted to find some way to cherish them other than by taking a million photos of them daily. Having my two cats, Mars and Cleo, was a huge help to me during quarantine, when my mental health surely would have suffered significantly if I did not have the warm, kind presence of my cats with me every day. I love my cats quite dearly, and since they are boyfriend and girlfriend, I wanted to create a piece that would celebrate their union without being blatantly an art piece about cats.
Conveniently, both my cats have names that represent real-world objects. I chose to express the relationship between Mars and Cleo as being akin to that of the planet Mars eclipsing a pyramid. The eclipse is a natural event that generates this shining ray of light, similar to how my cats have been a beacon of warmth guiding me through darker times. Because pyramids are not something that are iconic to the ancient ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra, I wanted to incorporate another element that would be more strongly tied to Cleo. I found the astrology sign for Cleopatra, and decided that it would work well in contrast to the astrology sign for Mars, which is more commonly known as the symbol for a human male. With these core elements in my piece established, I began to think about composition; although I was not sure how all the elements would fit together.
November 12, 2020
I began my sketching process by first experimenting with one idea that I had come up with, where the planet Mars was surrounded by the symbol for Cleopatra made of light. Unfortunately, I quickly decided against this idea because the symbol was too unnatural a shape to be composed out of the radiant light of a solar eclipse. My second idea involved incorporating more Egyptian imagery, such as the guardian statues in front of the pyramid. These statues would be symbolic of how my cats often act as guardian spirits sometimes, but the Crook and Flail the statues wielded distracted from that meaning. The third design replaced the statues with carved versions of the astrology signs for Mars and Cleopatra.
I liked the third idea, and decided to push it further by turning the statues into modern art sculptures, creating a surrealistic effect with the contrast from the ancient pyramid in the background. The statues in the foreground ended up being too disjointed from the pyramid in the background, and so I decided to brainstorm how I could better tie the foreground and background elements together. I ended up creating a graffiti-style depiction of these two symbols, where they fill the entire page. The idea is that behind these symbols would be the planet Mars eclipsing the sun as it peeks over the top of a pyramid, just like in the previous sketch. To stop all these different elements from competing with each other, I plan on making the symbols appear faint, almost as if they are semi-transparent. They would then only distort the color of the background image, without completely disrupting the image. I quite like the graffiti-style symbols, so my next step is to create a full-size drawing of them. I can then ink that drawing so it is permanent, and then I can sketch in my pyramid idea with pencil to see if the piece gets too cluttered. If that is the case, then it will be easy to erase my sketch and begin anew, without affecting the graffiti symbol overlay that I had already inked.
November 17, 2020
Having chosen to pursue the direction of the fifth sketch, I spent all week trying to decide what I was going to do with the background of the piece. Whenever I'm stuck with a project, I like to bounce ideas off of my two roommates. They are both very creative people themselves, and they come from very different backgrounds. This allows me to generate interesting and unique ideas with either one of them or both, and explaining my projects with another person helps me solidify my vision of it as well. My roommate had the suggestion to put hieroglyphs on the back wall, and his idea was to create my own hieroglyphs of cat-related symbols rather than sticking with traditional Egyptian designs.
I liked his idea quite well, but I did not like how obvious and on-the-nose the cat hieroglyphics would be. I wanted this art piece to not give any impression at all that it is about cats, so it is visually interesting to the generic audience member, but has deeper meaning and importance that resonates with me alone. One aspect of my cats that I had not captured in any of my sketches or ideas was the union between my two cats. They are basically boyfriend/girlfriend, or even husband/wife at this point, and I wanted to commemorate their union. Thus, the hieroglyphs (which represent Cleo) I chose to feature in the background of my piece are written in a Martian font to incorporate an element of Mars. What the hieroglyphs actually say is a love poem that I found online, titled "What The Cat in the Hat Would Say About Love." I think the poem is gentle and comforting, and is something that Mars would recite to Cleo if they could both speak and read.
November 22, 2020
I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to create this piece on wood. This was primarily due to the fact that I had never made an art piece on wood, and I wanted to experiment with using it as my canvas. I also was never able to print on any of the two wood blocks we purchased for this class, and I didn't want to waste the material completely. Using wood for my piece worked perfectly for creating my hieroglyphs, because I was able to actually carve them into the wood. I always try to incorporate some element of depth into my piece, and the hieroglyphs add a layer of complexity and dimensionality to the piece. None of my carvings were perfect, and when you take a close look at each hieroglyph, the tiny imperfections give the illusion of age to the carvings.
Unfortunately, when I had finished carving the hieroglyphs and took a picture, there wasn't much difference between them and when they were simply drawn. The difference was more easily noticed from different viewing angles in person. To help the hieroglyphs pop out more, and to make their carved nature stand out more, I filled them in with a bit of brown acrylic paint mixed with water. I dipped the stylus that I had used to carve into the paint-water mixture, and the stylus came away with less than a drop. When it was placed in one of the carved cracks, the paint-water mixture instantly seeped into the wood, darkening the carved lines but also spreading onto the surface. This gives the illusion that water has seeped into the carvings over time and permanently stained them, reinforcing the simulated age of this piece.
November 24, 2020
This piece is simply titled "Mars and Cleo" and the irony of this piece lies in the fact that no one will understand the title or meaning of this piece without explanation. I have made an art piece that is deeply personal to myself, representing my two cats, Mars and Cleo, yet no one would ever guess this is an art piece about cats. I owe my sanity during quarantine to my two pets, as their affection and attention always kept my spirits high and the lonely days from being so lonely. They are also boyfriend/girlfriend, and to commemorate them both, I wanted to show their union as a cat couple. The large symbols that dominate the piece represent the two cats, with the symbol on the left being the zodiac symbol for Cleopatra, the ancient ruler of Egypt, and the other symbol being the Zodiac sign for Mars, the Roman god of war.
Cleo is a more docile cat, but she is very loving and affectionate! Fittingly, I chose to represent her with blue and white, for her purity and her emotional compassion. The patches and shades of blue reflect her coat of fur, which is full of a multitude of different spots and splashes of color. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mars is constantly energetic. He is a social cat, who will always follow the action, and his high energy means he consistently rampages through my house in the early hours of the morning. He is almost a black cat, except for a patch of white fur on his chest. That patch of fur reminds me of an arrow, which is fitting because the Zodiac sign for Mars also features an arrow. Thus, I chose to focus on that aspect, creating a fiery arrow that is expressive of both his personality and his physical appearance.
The contrasting colors create a strong juxtaposition between the two cats, which is only resolved by the unifying background behind the two. The background consists of hieroglyphs, written in a Martian font. These hieroglyphs spell out a love poem, entitled "What the Cat in the Hat Would Say About Love." The poem represents the union between these two cats, and connects the two just as they are connected in real life, representing their unwavering affection for each other. In some way, the poem also represents my own desire to find love for myself, and my yearning to attain what my cats already have. Despite these desires, I am always comforted by the fact that even if I do not find a partner, I already have Mars and Cleo by my side.