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  • Amber Shan

Making a Portfolio: First Step into becoming an Artist

“My painting is what I have to give back to the world for what the world gives to me."-- Georgia O’Keeffe. We are all portraits painted with different hues of color: our life experiences have offered us individualistic perspectives toward the world. Many, like O’Keeffe, use art to express themselves and are determined to become artists. In 1905, O’Keeffe left her home in Wisconsin for Chicago and began her life as an art student at the Art Institute of Chicago. Here on Pebble Beach, and on the other side of the ocean, many young artists have decided to spend the next four years exploring the field of art and design, which would require them to compose an art portfolio. Let us hear about these young artists’ stories behind their projects.

Just like how Personal shows college the personal side of the applicants; the art portfolio helps college admissions to see the personal side of the applicants along with their artistic skills and knowledge of design, thus making the process of creating a portfolio intense and stressful. Erin Kang describes, “I have started my portfolio relatively later than all my peers who have been working for almost a year before they apply to college. It is definitely a really intense experience for me.” Kang was able to cram six series of works during the summer, however, many had a hard time finishing their work. Cindy Cai, a senior from Hangzhou, China, mentions, “It was almost the deadline for application and school was really busy, but I still had one entire series unfinished. It has made me super anxious especially after my advisor disapproved the photos which I spent 1 whole week shooting and planning. In the end, in order to have high-quality work and finish it on time, I had to ask for leave from school for three to four days.”

Under those stressful times, making art, however, helps to unleash the message these young artists have yearned to express for years or helps to advocate for social issues. Cai decides to use photography to stress the urgency of gender-related issues and oppression being put on women. Cai’s favorite work describes a fallen ballerina with a play of light sources and reflections. She talks about her work passionately, “the ballerina falls to the floor, waving her arms in the air to block the glaring light. Pain and despair burn her eyes… The emotions and the lights weave into each other perfectly. This photograph was taken in a dark environment where the only light source was a flashlight shining on the face of the model. The effect is to make the model the focal point of the image and to highlight her facial expression to abstractly demonstrate women's frustration and fear as they confront sexual harassment and external judgments.” Kang’s work, however, starts without a motif, it is through the process that she lands on the topic of self-discovery. Her work was a reconciliation between her past and present, a conversation rather than just telling her story. She expresses, “It unleashed something that I tried to hide for years, and it was able to resolve some of my past traumas related to my family and related to my past experiences. The process made it possible to put those complex emotions into a tangible visual representation.” Kang finds herself constantly achieving goals rather than finding her true passion and follows her heart; thinking and caring too much for others rather than caring for herself. Yet, her personal narrative also provides a sanctuary for those around her, “When one looks at my artwork, it is pretty obvious that they can feel a sense of pain. I think my work gives the audience the power to undergo this painful process of finding one’s authentic self, overcoming traumas, and pursuing what we really want.” Kang’s work contains two polarized qualities: personal and therapeutic to others. She was able to compromise that opposite characteristic by being honest with herself because those innate emotions of humans are universal.

Although the process of making the artwork could be very intensive and stressful, the moment you finish the last step of your painting, you will be able to take a deep breath and see your story and voice shining through.


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