Today we are featuring the diverse work created by Annie Chen. She is currently in AP Sculpture. Chen uses a multitude of mediums including black and white photography, printmaking, glass, and ceramics. She wrote this piece about her process of creating art in her creative writing class.
For two hours every Saturday during preschool to fourth grade, I would copy a picture that my art teacher chose. In retrospect, this is actually quite hilarious because if there is one thing that China is infamous for – well, there are many things China is infamous for, but one of those things is copying. For years, I would sit at my art teacher’s table, meticulously copying whatever she chose, meanwhile learning various techniques through imitation. She let me use the technique where I draw grids on the original or the copy of the original to figure out proportions, and then draw each grid separately. In doing so, I learned to be able to depict things spatially without that crutch.
My spatial awareness came in handy when my parents would bring me to tour a variety of houses when they were interested in buying one. I got bored at some point, so I would draw the floor plan of the houses. It was pretty agonizing because it was hard to get the house perfect from the limited perspective of being inside it and during the limited time the realtor said we can spend inside of it.
It took me awhile to break free of the mold of perfection. In middle school, I met a teacher who probably changed my perspective on art. One day, I was agonizing over drawing the proportions of the sculpture correctly. “It doesn’t matter if it’s not precise,” Mr. Gordon, my art teacher told me. Oh, but of course it matters. I was going to be graded upon the accuracy of which I portrayed the image onto the paper. “Remember, you are an artist, not a camera.”
This was amazing because it took away the pressure to be perfect. Cameras were mechanical devices that could relatively accurately capture arrangements of objects, and I could do so much better as an artist: I could convey a message. Starting in middle school, I wanted to make art that meant something both in its content and materials chosen. I tried to create portrait drawings using exclusively cosmetic products on sketchbook paper. I thought that I was really cool because the portraits were of people I thought were phony and I was using the make-up as a metaphor of how phony they were, but then I learned makeup stains palettes and other art supplies, making the whole ordeal extremely expensive.
Through middle school and freshman year of high school, with the help of multiple generous scholarships, I took a variety of classes at the Toledo Art Museum: ceramics, Portfolio development, and glassblowing. I was working with materials that I was not familiar with, so half the time, I was back to copying whatever the teacher did to learn the skills of dealing with the materials. If my pieces ever had a hidden meaning, it was unintentional because I was just playing with new mediums. I often just find some meaning whilst working.