Charcoal Eraser Self-Portrait & What I Learned From Art 160 (Visual Thinking)

Charcoal Eraser Self-Portrait

This is my final project of the year!!!! Over the span of two weeks, I created a self-portrait using charcoal and an eraser. Below, I’ve listed how I did it and pictures of the process and the final piece. Enjoy!

First, I colored charcoal onto a piece of paper, used tissue to pick up the excess, and rubbed it onto the sheet I would be using until it was completely black. I then set up my light, which would allow me to re-create the different shades on my face as I studied myself in the mirror.


In this project, I was not allowed to draw or make lines; everything was shaded/erased using the eraser.

I started with my nose, creating the lightest shade on my face (where the light hit the brightest), and went from there.


Throughout the project, I saw difficulties because each day the natural light (from outside) would be different from the previous visit I made, so the way the light hit my face would change in my portrait. At first, I would go back and make changes to what I’d already done, but I decided that I would just add on to whatever I’d already completed instead of wasting time changing something that would probably be different the next time I came to work on it.


After conquering my nose and mouth, it was time to begin on my eyes (the most challenging of all). Because I took measurements/proportions with string, and squinted one eye to do so, I had serious problems.


When creating my neck, my professor told me that the way my neck is in reality and the way I re-created it was completely different. I made my neck to look like that of a Barbie, when it is actually a “nice, thick neck,” in the words of my professor.


It was then time to work on my hair! Because my hair is curly, I was pretty nervous about how I’d go about making it, especially places where the light hit it. It was fairly easy creating the curly pattern, but adding lighter shades of where I could see light in my reflection was the hardest. After looking at a fellow classmate’s self-portrait, and saw that her hair was perfect, I asked for tips on how I could do mine, but failed :(. I ended up making lines, which is NOT correct. I then rubbed more charcoal to get rid of the mistakes, and used my eraser to lightly add shades. It didn’t come out like my classmate’s, but I tried, and I think it looks better than the lines I’d drawn.


My final piece!!!


I wasn’t too pleased with the outcome of my project at first. I felt that my eyes were too big and that I looked angry (many of my peers also felt this way about their portraits). However, this was my first time ever doing a self-portrait, and though I think it looks a little more like my cousin, I can see some of myself in it, and I’m quite proud! Throughout this project, I learned that I had to stay optimistic about the results. If I went into it with the mind that I would do good, then I had a good turn out, but if I started out saying, “Oh, this is so hard,” I wouldn’t try, which would show at the end of my day’s work.

What I Learned From Art 160 (Visual Thinking)

What I learned from this course overall was that how we perceive things is a major influence on how we think, whether it be in art or real life. During the semester, I was taught to draw or communicate what I saw, rather than what I already knew. Because I allowed myself to block out everything I knew, I was able to form an opinion and thinking deeply on whatever subject I was presented with. Before, if I were to look at something, I would speak only based off of prior knowledge, without taking a second to observe and think. Doing art critiques really helped because as a class, we were able to pull meaning out of each others’ work and discuss how or why we perceived things a certain way, which led to us formulating opinions about the work. What we see has an effect on our thinking because when we interpret something in a particular way, we are overcome with some kind of emotion; we then base our thoughts off of these feelings, which have been influenced by our perception. Visual Thinking has expanded my thought process, and I am happy to have been able to take this course under a wonderful teacher.


Vik Muniz: Waste Land

Vik MunizImage


Vik Muniz is a Brazilian artist who, after being shot in the leg while trying to break up a fight, was given money by the shooter (as to not press charges) and used the funds to begin his career as an artist.

In the documentary Waste Land, Muniz is working on a project where he will create portraits of garbage pickers at Jardim Gramacho (the biggest land fill in the world) in Rio de Janeiro, and after selling them, give the money earned back to that community. What makes this project even more special is that Muniz used actual garbage that the pickers would separate to recreate the photographs taken; the pickers also played a major role in the end result as it was their stories being shared, their photographs being taken, and their hand in recreating the pictures.





Those involved in this project were, of course, the pickers, who belong to the Association of Collectors of the Metropolitan Landfill of Jardim Gramacho (ACAMJG), Irma, a trained cook who would make food for the pickers, and Muniz’s team. Through this project, Muniz brought hope to the pickers. Before his arrival, they were unaware of what the world outside of Rio could offer them, and having the chance to attend his exhibit and meet other people allowed them  to formulate a life they thought to be ideal. However, the problem with this project was that because they had been exposed to life outside of Rio, they had more of an incentive to leave (than they already had), though there is little chance that this would ever happen for any of them. It’s like dangling fortune in front of someone on a treadmill and them running after it, wanting that fortune, but deep down they know that their chances of receiving it is slim-to-none. The long-term implications of this project is their desire to work towards a better life for themselves; though they had an idea of what they wanted before Vik Muniz, they didn’t know to what extent, and this project allowed them to define their goals.


(Source of images:

Art Event: MATERIAL WITNESS (On-Campus)

On October 21, 2013 I headed to the Dana Fine Arts Building on my campus to take a look at the art exhibition, Material Witness, located in the Dalton Gallery. The exhibition itself is produced by the Women’s Caucus for Art of Georgia in collaboration with Agnes Scott. As the WCAGA’s blog states, “It is the outcome of a national call for art by women responding to this moment in time.” (


Below are a few pieces of work that I found intriguing and wanted to share:


This was one of my favorite pieces in the exhibit. The drawing shows a sinking boat that appears to be hidden under the water; to me, this is a demonstration of how close we are to history. This ship has a past, a background, and has probably been through dozens of experiences from long ago. But now it sits beneath the surface of this body of water, hidden from the human eye, while the humans live above the surface, paying no mind to and letting go of the history that they cannot see.


Figuring that Tchotchke was a young woman, I looked “her” up and was surprised to see that it is a word that has so many meanings, like: a knickknack or miscellaneous item, a promotional item given at trade shows and conventions, and a desirable young woman (which comes from the book, The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten). I’m going to make a guess that Rexrode created this sculpture with the “tchotchke” from Rosten’s book in mind, due to the inclusion of a woman’s head with beautiful flowers sitting atop in a way that makes her look desirable, but I could very well be wrong.


I was a bit confused on why I  liked this portrait, but I do. I don’t quite understand what is going on, but I can point out what I see. There is a married couple, the husband standing and the wife seated, and they look to be pretty comfortable in the monetary department (i.e. flat screen t.v., the woman’s posture, and the put-together look of the room). However, I did not grasp the reason of being bound. I Google Imaged Kristin Skees’ name, and saw that she worked a lot with couples who were dressed, or bound, in the same fashion as The Gannons. Being bound this way reminded me of suffocation, and for both people to be bound means that they are suffocating (each other maybe?).

The Antonym Project Critique

After choosing the two thumbnails below (for “enraged” and “calm”), I followed similar steps as I did with the “Art Box,” and listened as four of my peers critiqued the finished product.


The final product:


The critique:

The distinctive unifying formal qualities are line and color. The scribbles in “enraged” are overlapped in a jagged manner, making the lines feel angry, while the straighter (yet wavy) lines in “calm” makes the work actually feel calm; the calm lines are more relieved and light, while the overlapping scribbles feel heavy. The difference in color between dark (enraged) and light (calm) is clear; dark is bold and heavy whereas light is soothing. The darker color also brings out a darker mood. The tangled cords give off a sense of imprisonment; something is tying you down ’til the point that you feel rage. Untangling these cords allows a more soothing, or calm feeling. In the “enraged” thumbnail, you can see the anger far away, but stepping closer, you see the chaos.

From this project,  I learned that patience is a virtue! I struggled with trying to figure out how to depict enraged so that the audience would be able to understand the work, and after a while I wanted to give up, but I was extremely determined. I found out that approaching my work steadily was key. The point of this project was to use the mind to decipher between two words that are complete opposites. When you see the words “enraged” and “calm,” you think of their meanings, but visuals don’t come to mind; this project allowed me to think visually because I was able to draw their meanings rather than state them. What I liked about this project was the many different ways I was able to draw emotions, literally. “Enraged” and “calm” are forms of mood/feelings, and I enjoyed going completely insane on a few thumbnails, but then freely drawing something soft and a bit more lovely on another. I also think that losing patience with the project helped me with creating different perspectives of enraged, though I was able to calm down in the end. What I liked about the project that I didn’t do, which is the animal project, is that you had to create an imaginary animal and come up with a function. I saw that some of my peers created animals that took away a lot of bad out of this world, and replaced it with something good, and I really like that! This connects to the Antonym Project, or more specifically, my project, because the functions of the animals played on opposites as well. As stated before, in my project, the focus was on two words that were opposites, and in this project it seemed as though the focus was on an animal that dealt with the bad and the good (i.e. taking away the bad, and bringing in the good).

Two successful projects:



I really liked Cierra’s finished piece! I felt that her project was successful because she depicted her words, “flawed” and “exquisite” perfectly. Looking at her sketches, you could see the difference between the two words, but her still-life photographs were great! In her “flawed” photo, she used dull rags (I think) that had jagged ends, but for her “exquisite” photo, she used a quilt with perfect edges and detailed patterns/designs.



Itzel was part of the “Animal” group. I really liked the detail of her eagle and wish that I could have taken a video to show how well put-together this piece was. Her animal was on a mission to prevent lung cancer by ridding of all tobacco in the world, while purifying the air (again opposites).

Another week for me???

If I had another week for my project, I would come up with more ideas for my still-life photographs so that I would have more options to choose from. I kind of fell behind in this project (so I felt) and I rushed the production of my still-life photos, so I definitely would do a bit more brain-storming!

What is visual thinking anyway?

Visual thinking is the way we think about work. We observe the work for what we see and what we know, and we form opinions based on that. You first look at the piece as a whole, only focusing on what you see and not what you know of whatever it is that is going on. Then, you bring what you know to what you are seeing. After reasoning with what you see and what you know, you can make final thoughts, or argument, for the work. For me, visual thinking has become a way to practice deep thought. When I look at art, I no longer question why others look at pieces for so long as if they are in awe of the work, I too come face-to-face with it, observing and analyzing all that I can so that I can be a part of the discussion as well.

The Antonym Project

For this project, I’ve picked two words (enraged and calm) that are antonyms to one another, and created thumbnails that are visually equal to the words. After creating 100 thumbnails (50 for each word), I had three of my peers analyze them and answer the following questions:

1. Do you have 100 thumbnails? <-I obviously answered this one:)

2. What marks best define each term and why?

3. Which compositions best define each term?

4. Contributions to my project.


From the three people I spoke to, I received very similar responses. They all felt that using a pencil to illustrate “calm” was the right move because it’s light and appears soft; for “enraged,” I used a Sharpie, pen, and a black pastel, which they mutually  agreed was best because the colors were dark, which is kind of an angry color. Although they all came to an agreement about my marks, they had completely different responses to which of my compositions best defined each term:

Gwen stated that she liked these thumbnails the most because they gave off a “static” look, which could be used to define being enraged, and the wavy illustration is calming.


Asha thought that these thumbnails best defined “enraged” because the objects were overlapping, sort of giving off a feeling of chaos, which is a word that I feel falls under the umbrella of rage, and she too believed that the wavy sketches were consistent with calmness.


Monique stated, “Calm’s best composition is the one that looks like a rainbow,” and, “Enraged is page 3-composition 8 because it looks like a child’s room after they graffitied it.” (She also added that rainbows come after a storm, which I take as the rainbow=calm and enraged=storm.)


*Below are just a few thumbnails that others saw interest in, and that I like myself:


Here are some contributions that I received from my peers:

For the word calm, I could take a blank square and draw a single wave with a pencil.

For the word enraged, I could use a pen to color inside a thumbnail, with the pen strokes supporting the idea of being enraged.

Dark works for enraged, light works for calm.

Art Box: The Critique


Today was the day of the class Art Box critique! Each of my classmates, and myself, had differing patterns that gave our boxes character. Looking at the work, I saw that some boxes contrasted against the black background greatly, due in large part to their lightness, which I felt was more appealing than the dark boxes on the dark background. I also noticed that the boxes that included the “shading effect” gave an illusion of being three-dimensional, which I thought was cool (mainly because mine fell into that category-shown further below).

The Beginning:

Before actually mounting my finished box, I drew one using charcoal (like with the chair drawing, there was a box placed in the middle of the room), which I then had to re-create using a straight edge and pencil for it to be copied clearly for reproduction.



I then numbered the different sections from 1-10 based on how the light hit the box I was drawing (including shade), according to the value scale, and later made copies of these numbered boxes. I created the different value scales using a black pen, pencil, black oil pastels, and a blue colored pencil, which I would be using to construct my new box out of. After making copies of my sample value scales, I decided to use the scale drawn with black oil pastels because it copied fairly better than the rest. I then re-did my scale by hand (so that it would be larger) and made actual copies of those which would be used to slice the boxes using an X-Acto knife.

boxes8 boxes9

After gathering all of my materials, I carefully cut sections out of my boxes using the coinciding value scales (including the shaded parts), and put the box together using the dry-on-dry method; I put rubber cement glue on the back of the pieces and on the paper I was putting them on, let them both dry, and then mounted them. I then used a straight edge and X-Acto knife to slice along the edges of my finished box, making it smoother, and using the same dry-on-dry method to mount the final box onto the black background. What I found the most frustrating about this project was using the X-Acto knife to cut my box because I would veer off the line, or even worse, cut into the box; I even cut the tip of my finger-nail…but it didn’t hurt, no worries!

The Final Box:


I learned a lot about value, patterns, contrast, and the awesomeness of the rubber cement glue eraser!!! Value affects form; different values can bring about different illusions in a piece of work. For instance, some of our boxes appeared three-dimensional because of the values that represented the shading of our boxes. Patterns also play a role because some boxes gave a sense of movement because of the circular patterns that were used in representation of the value scale. This project is a part of visual thinking because it incorporated perception. Our final box was constructed based on how we perceived the given values in the beginning, and in the end, how we each perceived the boxes during the critique (i.e. 3-D, floaty, still, etc.)

The Work of Jessica Burke

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In Jessica Burke’s drawings, she has two women dressed up as someone they admire; Stephanie as the feisty Betty Rizzo from the film Grease, and Paula as Spock from the series Star Trek. I think that the composition as a whole is giving off a gentle feel; there are no strongly angled lines or harsh edges in either of the pictures, and the soft shading of the drawings are smooth in texture; I think this is because the two subjects are women (who are ideally suppose to be soft and gentle creatures), but had they been men, I think there would’ve been more angles and bolder shading (which would appear more masculine). However, the actual behavior of the subjects are more telling; though Betty Rizzo oozes femininity, Stephanie appears to take on a more masculine stance, while the very pregnant depiction of Stephanie (which is seen as the peak of femininity) falls in line with womanliness as she cups her belly, though she is channeling the seemingly emotionless Spock. The two women admire very different people, the main difference being that one  is a female and the other male, yet they adopt completely different behaviors for them, sort of breaking the stereotype of what each sex is supposed to be like (or I could just be bringing something out of the pieces of work that aren’t there…lol).