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so Happens ...

MICA MFA ILP 2016-2017

by Alexandria Wang

Table of Contents:

Introduction Fall - Image Harvest - Paper Cut - Laser Cut - Sewing - Art Market - Typography - Self-publishing Spring - Sketchbooks - Silly City - Stop-motion Animation - Handlettering - Petterns - Self-directed -Other Stuff


To be honest, my decision of coming to graduate school was born out of the fear of facing the real world. Although I wrote confidently about my thoughtful plans and great ambitions in the application essay, I, in fact, had no idea what I want to do with my life. I started college wanting to study art history and spent 2 years working in the college gallery to gain some professional insights of the industry. I always know that art is something that I am passionate about, but the 4-year exploration makes me realized the limitation of fine arts. Fine arts, very often, is only available to a selected group of people. However, I want to my voices to be heard by boarder audiences. My understanding of illustration was a art form that can apply to many other mediums. This is why I begin to develop interest in illustration. I believe that it is the art form that can satisfy my need of communication. In the end, I decided to give myself two more years to explore the world of illustration at MICA.

FALL I think everyone will agree with me that the first semester was CRAZY. Everything is happening so fast that I barely had time to sit down and reflect upon the assignments. Looking back, there were certainly epic failures that I probably do not want to take a second look at if I am not making an idea book. I was introduced to many new techniques this semester, but was given very little time to create a project. Thus, the works were often quick response to the new medium and lacked a sense of deliberation. I redid some of them for the final critique. Surprisingly, I actually learnt a lot by taking a second look at those failures. The revision process allowed me to think more clearly about the message I wanted to deliver through my work. Very often, I got too engaged with my own interpretation and neglected the fact that my goal was to communicate with others.



For the very first assignment, we were asked to revisit our old works and to dig for new ideas. I spent sometime browsing through my old drawings and found out that I was interested in the relationship between people and the surrounding environment. I decided to challenge myself by making a three-dimensional object instead of just presenting drawings.

The project was inspired by my visit to Beijing in 2014. Hutongs are alleys formed by groupings of siheyuan, traditional Chinese residences. In recent years, more and more hutongs have been transformed into commercial spaces. Residents have been forced to leave their homes which carry so many memory. This project intends to honor those memories. The installation consists of three spinning lanterns that cast shadows of cut out images. The images project on the wall of a paper house. People come, people go, people never really stay anywhere forever. Nevertheless, the traces and shadows that people have left behind can suggest their beautiful memories.

Paper-cut I am always interested in telling stories with imageries. I was very confident with the technical aspect of the assignment because I already tried the paper-cutting method for the Image Harvest project. I wanted to get a taste of sequential narrative, so I decided to illustrate a short novel “A Touch of Green” written by Pai Hsien-yung. However, it was much more difficult than I anticipated. I was quite familiar with the original story and its cultural context, while my peers were not. I did not realize the difference when I did the first version. I made an artist’s book with 5 panels. Each panel contained three layers of paper-cuts. Although I received positive comments on my delicate papercuts, I was told the story was not clear enough.


Laser-cut is a very powerful tool. I was a little bit intimidated by the complexed process at first. I did not do very well with the reaction piece. I made a fairy puppet which looks cute, but was not fun to play with. Looking back, I think I made the same mistake that I had done for paper-cut. I concentrated mostly on making something look pretty without thinking clearly about what message I want to deliver. Also, I did not dare to make a complicated design for the project because I was afraid of the new technology. After using the machine couple times, especially after the art market project. I became more familiar with laser-cut and was able to utilize it to achieve my goals. I guess, sometimes it just took practice.

Art Market Art Market was my favorite project last semester. I enjoyed the experience a lot. I was inspired by my pet hamster, Kento and my friend’s cat, Champagne. Although the two cuties never met each other, I had imaged the scene a hundred times. Making something from scratch was a real challenge. Luckily I had so much fun. I designed a clock that resembles a funny interaction between a running hamster and a curious cat. 8 out of 25 were sold at the art market. I didn’t make a fortune, but I was still happy about the result. It was very satisfying to be able to talk to the customers face to face. I met a guy who tried so hard to convince his girlfriend not to buy my clock, so he could buy the clock and gave her a surprise. It was such a good feeling knowing that something I created could spark a joy in others’ lives.


Sewing was a lot of fun and pain at the same time. I summed up the past projects and intended to focus on the idea this time. I decided to make a souvenir jacket with hand embroidery imaginary. The idea was inspired by my experience in a woman’s college. I remembered every spring I can see a lot of woman gone topless on campus. I wanted to portray such a character who did not care about other’s gossip. The actual process of making the jacket was physically painful. I had never ever done embroidery before. I definitely underestimated the challenge. I did not finish the sewing completely because I tried my best and my fingers hurt. I also got many interesting comments during the critique. There was a huge discussion about feminism which I found very interesting. The conversation made me rethink about the meaning of my work. Sometimes, a strong statement can overcome the insufficiency of the physical appearance. I realized that I should not be stubborn about only the look of the project.


I struggled a lot with the publishing project.The assignment was to design the book jacket and make a one word synopsis in a creative way. I picked a Japanese novel “The Ants that cannot Hold an Umbrella”. I choose the word “memory” as the synopsis for the book. I planed to make a tunnel book that mimics the protagonist’s process of writing. Each page will contain a part of the word “memory”, because memory can be fragmental. Memory can also be illusional. Sometimes, you need to put pieces of memory together to find the truth.However, the tunnel book was confusing for many people during the critique. They cannot associate the scattered letters with a puzzle. So I decided to redo the assignment in a simpler way. I scanned the original novel and made a mini vision of the book. The letters of “memory” were red and spread across the book.

Typography Typography was a surprise for me.I did not have much time to prepare this project, so I have to make a quick response to the prompt. My original idea was to use the typewriter to create an illustration, but it did not work out in the end. Instead of bashing my head against the wall as usual, I decided to start in a totally new direction. I treated the text as imagery. I illustrated a portrait of Bob Dylan and used the lyric of his song to form the textures in the

Sketchbook Project

The sketchbook is a continuous project that went thorough the whole fall semester. Each of us was given a sketchbook and a bunch of themes to choose from. I picked “In We Go”. It is an abstract title. It remained me of the book “On the Road.” So I decided to approach the sketchbook from a traveller’s point of view. The project was a fun way to relax when I worried too much about other assignments.

Not much to say about. Personally speaking, Silly City was a good introduction to indesign and typography for me. I barely had any experience with working di gi ta ll y p r i o r t o t h i s assignment. I was very nervous and disoriented in the beginning. Luckily, I learnt a lot through the actual hand-on ex pe ri en c e a n d g a i n e d a better understanding about typography.

Silly City


We Had Katie Deedy as the guest speaker for the pattern workshop. She ran her own studio in Brooklyn. It was a great time spent with Katie. She introduced us to her creative process. The presentation on mood board and self-promotion were very helpful. I also was intrigued by the notion of narrative pattern that she mentioned during the talk. We did a brainstorm exercise on breakfast in class. I recalled my childhood. I used to buy breakfast from the street vendors a lot in primary school. For me, the chaotic morning market was the heaven of cuisine. I was deep in reverie and decided to dedicate the reaction piece to the perilous childhood memory. I imaged I was designing for a nostalgia-theme restaurant. I created three patterns that told the story of me enjoying my breakfast on the street. I was very happy with the final outcome. Another important thing that caught my attention during the workshop was the power of personal narrative. I felt much more engaged with the project compared to other stuff I made this semester. I considered myself as a pretty emotional person. I tended to have more passion for work if I was more connected with the idea.

A fun workshop led by the program director Whitney Sherman. We were asked to use various materials to construct different words. The choice of material would suggest something about the meanings and emotions of the words we picked. I enjoyed the experiments a lot. For the final project, I designed a alphabet using yoga poses. I was very interested in yoga at that time and was impressed by the flexibility of human bodies.


Stop-motion Animation

I teamed up with Friederike for the animation project. The workshop was fun, but the collaboration was difficult. Both Friederike and I were people with strong personalities. We both had clear vision about the assignment, unfortunately none of us was willing to compromise our opinions. Besides, we were under a lot of pressure because the deadline of Silly City was approaching. It was almost a disaster at the studio. We had to cut the animation short to avoid further arguments. However, I still learnt a lot from this experience, less about the final outcome, more about the process. Although we had a lot of tensions at the set, I appreciate her openness and honesty. We managed to clam down and talked about the argument we had. Both of us realized that it was a collaboration after all. It was understandable that people want to hold on their own points of view, but it was also necessary to be respectful to your partner’s idea. The post-production went much more successfully. In the end, we were very happy about the final film.


I struggled a lot throughout the first year, mostly because of my personal life. I just had a huge lost in my life and suffered from constant emotional break downs. Graduate school was not easy. However, I do appreciate greatly being in the program. The seemingly crazy heavy coursework distract me from indulging in my sorrow and grief. Surprisingly, what i have done for the program even became something therapeutical in the end. I treated the self-directed project as an experiment for my thesis. I am interested in develop a graphic novel based on my personal narrative. I set two goals for this assignment. The first is to really learn to tell stories with images. I did several attempts in the fall, but I was not happy with any of them. The main reason that caused the previous failures was the short of time. We had over a month to work on the self-directed project. The ample time did change everything. I can finally spend enough time thinking the story straight and try different mediums. Pre-production was crucial for the assignment. I benefited greatly from the mood board. I researched movies and graphic novels that deal with the similar theme. Learning for the professionals helped a lot.

The other thing I wanted to explore through the self-directed project was sharing personal story. I am really grateful to have a group of very supportive classmates. People tend to be very self conscious about impeding personal narratives in their work. Even though, we are constantly inspired by our own lives. We often are shy or vigilant about being straightforward. I am very honest with myself and my peers on this project. Once you had the courage to speak up, you won’t be afraid of doing so again. I created a 40-page storyboard for a graphic novel in the end. It was a semiautobiographic fiction, I would say. The story was inspired by my real experience, but I altered some details to make it a better story rather than a honest diary. I think it is important to remain that distance between you as a writer and you as a character. Overall speaking. I am very satisfied with the project and am looking forward to pushing it forward next year.

Other Stuffs Besides the MFA studio, I also benefited greatly from my elective classes. In the fall I had an art history class about American west. For the final project, I did research on the Manzanar internment camp during world war II. I was blown away by cruelty and dramatic nature of history. The project made me realize I am indeed interested in story-telling, no matter it is a story of my own or others. I wanted to use my talent in writing and drawing to tell those stories, because many of them are worth telling. I took an creative writing class this semester and I enjoyed it so much. I not only wrote poems in the class, but also experiment with fiction writing. I used to be very nervous about writing because english isn’t my first language. However, I am surprised to find out my ability to tell stories in english. I wanted to continue to write and to illustrate my own writings.

MICA ILP Ideabook Alexandria Wang  

a summary of my first year at MICA ILP

MICA ILP Ideabook Alexandria Wang  

a summary of my first year at MICA ILP