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Being a chronicle of the first year in the Illustration Practice Program at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

By Ashley Yazdani

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BIO

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INTRODUCTION

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FALL SEMESTER

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Image Harvest Book Binding Paper Engineering Letterpress Lasercutting Alphabet Book Art Market Sketchbook Project

10 14 18 20 22 30 36 42

SPRING SEMESTER

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Stop Motion Animation Words on Wheels Hand Lettering Pattern Making Self-Directed Project Elective & Independent Projects

48 52 58 66 72 82

WHAT’S NEXT?

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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// bio //


I’m Ashley Yazdani. I am an illustrator, traveler, and nature lover. The first book I ever illustrated was made with my best friend in third grade: it was about a girl who could fly through the sky on the back of an orca whale. These days I am learning the skills to turn new fanciful stories into actual picture books. My tools of the trade are primarily watercolors and Photoshop. When I’m not pushing pigment or pixels around, I can be found reading, knitting, baking, or running in the great outdoors.

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// introduction //


In 2008 I received my undergraduate degree in Illustration from California College of the Arts. The education I received at CCA was excellent and it created a terrific foundation for my path, however, in the years following graduation I had begun to feel stuck. I wanted to make picture books but was having no luck in the field, and I realized that in order to continue as an illustrator I would have to make some big changes. In the fall of 2014 I began my graduate school education at the Maryland Institute College of Art with the following goals in mind: Become proficient with digital media. Loosen up my drawing style and painting technique. Get weird; cultivate unique ideas. Have fun! This book is a chronicle of my growth within graduate school so far. It marks how I worked to meet these goals, and forms a road map for how I plan to continue challenging myself. Whether or not it is apparent to you, reader, I can clearly see the changes that happened over the course of the year. With every project, stems stretched and petals unfurled. Some did not blossom as beautifully as others, but each one changed me as an artist, and contributed to the overall bloom.

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// fall semester begins //


// fall 2014 //

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IM AG E H A RVE S T

As the first assignment of the year, Image Harvest presented some unique challenges. There was a quick turnaround due to the scheduling of our gallery show, and I chose to complete this work in Phoroshop, which still felt unfamiliar and clunky to me. On top of that, this project was loaded with the pressure of being the first graduate school assignment. My approach here was going to start me on the track through school, and was to define the bar against which I would set my future work. This project began with exploration through past sketchbooks to discover a central theme within my work. The theme settled upon was Literature, and from there I created lists of possible project ideas, and dove into sketching. Thus the work of graduate school began.

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// image harvest //


// fall 2014 //

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// image harvest //


The final three stamp designs were hung in the Illustration Practice Gallery show in October, 2014, and were displayed at their full sizes, as well as at postage-stamp size.

// fall 2014 //

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BOOK B I NDI NG WOR K SHO P

I have such high respect for books, and was thrilled to learn more about what goes into making one by hand. In the past I had dabbled in book binding and had altered or made my own sketchbooks from scratch, but it was terrific to finally learn the proper process from an expert. For my response I wanted to make an object that felt special, something that would make you want to pick it up and interact with it. I also wanted my book to be informative, and to communicate in an interesting way. As a lover of astronomy and folklore, a book about the names of the full moon was the perfect subject for this project.

J anuary

I chose to build the book out of a large sheet of paper that I painted by hand to represent the night sky. One weekend of painting, cutting, folding, drawing, slicing and dicing later, and I had a little book that I felt very proud of.

M ay

Sep tem b er

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// book binding //


Feb r u a ry

M arch

Ap ril

Ju n e

J uly

August

O c t ob e r

N ovem b er

Decem b er

// fall 2014 //

15


This project indulged my crafty side, and I loved that I had an object as my final product. It was instructive to see what I could make in such a limited amount of time, and with this project I began learning how to use traditional materials in a faster way.

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// book binding //


// fall 2014 //

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// paper engineering //


PAP E R E NGI NE E R I N G

A confession: while making this little house, part of me wanted to burn it down. Then I reined that thought in and decided I wanted to make a tiny paper gas canister accessory, and for paper flames to shoot out of the roof. Instead, I ran out of time and turned it in.

This house’s construction was labor intensive: papers were painted, textured, cut, folded, and glued by hand. Walls were raised and covered in accordion-folded paper siding, and each tile of the roof was individually scored, folded, and glued. Oddly the tiny front stoop was the most difficult part to create. The entire structure wobbles when you set it down. I am no architect.

Though making this was an unusually painful process, I feel satisfied when I hold the final house. It can contain a small electric candle and cast a soft glow at night. And although it is a fragile home, and a substitute that is literally hollow when compared with what it represents, it sits under a picture of my parents in my studio and serves to remind me of my own home while I am far away.

// fall 2014 //

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LETT E R P R E S S

The thrill of this project was in learning how to operate a letterpress printer. Our visit to the Baltimore Print Shop whetted my appetite for printmaking, and I hope to return to this medium in the future. My three little feathers began as more traditional representations of feathers, but bringing in pattern and texture was ultimately more satisfying. This was the first project of the year where I chose to represent something real in an unrealistic way, and this cracked open a door to a new way of thinking. 20

// letterpress //


// fall 2014 //

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L A SER CUTTIN G

This project was a terrific challenge, and yielded a gratifying result. My initial reaction to laser cutting was that it felt too technological, too precise. It was a challenge to devise an outlet for these new techniques that was pleasing to me. While exploring a concept, I focused on the idea of laser cutting a white surface… shapes on white… shapes in the snow… foot paths through the snow! There was the kernel of my idea. I wanted the reader to interact with the footprint shapes playfully, and a picture book was the perfect medium, though I only had one week to make it.

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// laser cutting //


// fall 2014 //

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At the end of the semester I decided to revisit Snow Walk, re-design the main character, and create two new spreads. I wanted to explore new shapes and ways of drawing children, and the limited time-frame forced me to paint in a faster, more intuitive way.

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// laser cutting //


rev i si o ns...

// fall 2014 //

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// laser cutting //


// fall 2014 //

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W ho M ad e Th ese T racks?

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// laser cutting //


I t Was M e!

// fall 2014 //

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ALPHAB E T B O O K

The ultimate conceptual challenge. How do you illustrate a text whose content you don’t enjoy? You dig, you sketch and sketch until you unearth hidden facets that please you. Ultimately this was a terrific exercise in finding ways to create satisfying work in response to any subject.

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// alphabet book //


// fall 2014 //

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// alphabet book //


// fall 2014 //

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// alphabet book //


// fall 2014 //

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A RT MARK ET

This project, more than any other this year, challenged how I conceptually approach illustration assignments. My first instinct was to create holiday greeting cards, but I was instructed to make them more unique. I then chose to approach stationery design from an angle that would involve the customer and engage their sense of play, and thus the “Make It Ugly!� holiday sweater cards were created.

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// art market //


The cards were modeled on the now-celebrated ugly christmas sweater. Each pack of four cards came with an included metallic sharpie marker, which could be used to transform a simple sweater template into something fantastically ugly. Each pack also contained one bonus pet sweater, to share the ugly with your animal friends.

// fall 2014 //

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Creating the cards forced me to work in simple shapes and unusual textures. Each design needed to be a blank canvas for the user to decorate, but also had to have enough information to spark an idea. I wanted for each card to be unique and beautiful, and experiemented with monoprint, stencils, and linocut. However, the most efficient printing process was ultimately digital.

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// art market //


I loved discovering the beautiful imperfections of rolled printmaking ink, and chose to include this texture in each digitally printed card. Additionally, I created a limited set of hand-made cards using stencils, watercolors, and colored pencils. These cards were meant to be funny and easy to make, and they provided a chance for me to use my new interest in shapes and textures when making characters.

// fall 2014 //

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T h e fi n a l c a rd s , p ac k a g e d i n a b e l l y b a n d a n d d isp layed at Art M arket

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// art market //


// fall 2014 //

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PA RT N E R E D W I T H T HE BROOK LYN S K ETCH BOOK LIBRARY

At the beginning of the year, each member of my class was given a sketchbook and an assigned theme. We then rotated the books through the class, each creating a sketch every week before passing the book on to the next person.

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// sketchbook project //

By the end of the fall semester we had each completed a spread in every book, and had explored multiple themes across all of the sketchbooks. My own sketchbook’s theme was “Iconology”.


// fall 2014 //

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Winter

What started as an intimidating exercise soon became a terrific weekly opportunity to explore other media. I was inspired by the work of my classmades every time I opened a new book, and it was exciting to watch everyone else’s work evolve as the weeks went by. At the end of the project, everyone’s sketchbooks were sent to The Sketchbook Project Library at the Brooklyn Public Library, to be shelved among many other artist’s sketchbooks, and checked out by interested viewers in the future.

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// sketchbook project //


City Ligh ts

H istory B ook

M id d le

Parts O f th e W h ole

// fall 2014 //

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// spring semester begins //


// spring 2015 //

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STO P M OTION AN IMATION

There is no project that was more intimidating than stop motion animation. I was very conscious of its approach through the entire school year, and by the spring semester I was extremely worried about what to make. Would I be able to make my characters move convincingly? Would my characters even be up to animating? Would I even have an idea? Fortunately an idea struck quickly, and I soon chose to make a film that was as ridiculous as possible.

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// stop motion animation //


Our anti-hero is a very worried blue rhinoceros who is determined to put out fires. He stomps out every fire he comes across, eventually razing an entire building. This little film owes a great debt to Monty Python: an entire childhood spent watching their works has finally expressed itself here. The final film is pleasing and funny to me, and was successful in its initial goal: it makes people laugh. Although the medium of stop motion was still challenging, everything somehow fell into place once the process began.

// spring 2015 //

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// stop motion animation //


// spring 2015 //

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Words on Wheels presented the opportunity to illustrate two poems written by local schoolchildren. Both of my assigned poems were somewhat abstract and open to interpretation by the reader, which became a special challenge. I strongly wanted to respect and celebrate the creativity of the writers, while at the same time contributing my own vision. My illustration for Alpha and Omega was selected by the jury, and was one of the pieces displayed inside buses around Baltimore in 2015.

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// words on wheels //


W i th my po e t, M a di so n Ma tti s o n , A t t h e Wo r ds O n W he e l s La u n ch C e re mo n y

By far the best part of the process for this assignment was the Words on Wheels Launch Ceremony, where the poets were presented with our artwork for the first time. It was beautiful to see the looks on their faces when they saw the images their words had inspired - many of the children were so excited or moved.

// spring 2015 //

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D re a ms

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// words on wheels //


// spring 2015 //

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I’m the Alpha and Omega, The beginning and the end. The start to the finish The top’s where I begin. I never back down, I’ll only walk up. I think of life as a glass half full, So what’s in your cup? I’m tall then I’m short, I make the strong look weak I’m the Alpha and the Omega, So what do you think?

ILLUSTRATION & DESIGN: ASHLEY YAZDANI / MICA MFA IN ILLUSTRATION PRACTICE ‘16

Alpha and Omega

A Joint Project of: Baltimore Design School Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School Baltimore School for the Arts Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School Cross Country Elementary/Middle School Edgewood Elementary School Hampstead Hill Academy Holabird Academy KIPP Ujima Village Academy Maryland Institute College of Art Midtown Academy Roland Park Elementary Success Academy Wolfe Street Academy SPONSORED BY:

Madison Mattison, Grade 8 The Midtown Academy Teacher: Whitney Birenbaum

A l pha a n d O m ega

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// words on wheels //


// spring 2015 //

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HA N D L E T TERIN G WORK S H OP

The hand lettering workshop encouraged us to explore our own unique letter forms, and to discover new ones in unfamiliar places. We drew with our eyes closed, tried new materials, wrote while challenging and limiting ourselves physically, and played with post-it notes to create threedimensional letter forms. After the workshop we were asked to complete a response project, and I chose to create three illustrated alphabets.

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// hand lettering //


// spring 2015 //

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... is inspired by a medieval jousting tournament. The colors were taken from one of the medieval Unicorn Tapestries from The Cloisters.

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// hand lettering //


// spring 2015 //

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// hand lettering //


... is the closest to my own handwriting. Initially this plane was having a happy little ride, but then I was instructed to put in a black background, and things took a dark turn. For this piece I created my own brush in Photoshop for the first time.

// spring 2015 //

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... is a very witchy alphabet. I wanted to create the feeling of real magic, and for the entire piece to have an earthy sensibility. Going back to watercolors was a natural choice.

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// hand lettering //


// spring 2015 //

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PAT TERN MAK IN G

After looking forward to pattern making all year, it was such a pleasure to dive into our pattern design workshop. Leah Reena Goren taught us to create repeating patterns over one weekend, and I fell in love with the process immediately. We each created three patterns during the first workshop day, and I loved the immediate gratification of making simple, quick pattern designs in watercolor. And although I was worried at first, it was ultimately very liberating to cut up my own art to make it tile. For our final assignment we were asked to create a set of five patterns around a central theme, and I chose to examine different methods of divination.

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// pattern making //


Tarot

// spring 2015 //

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C rystal Scrying

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// pattern making //


Runes

// spring 2015 //

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Palm istry

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// pattern making //


Tasseograp h y

// spring 2015 //

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SE L F - D IRECTED PROJECT

Our self-directed project at the end of the year is meant to be a mini-thesis, to test the ground of an idea you may want to continue as a full thesis in the following year. Although I have a lifelong interest in illustrating children’s books, I had still never made a full dummy book. This was the perfect opportunity to map out an entire story, and explore the process of creating a real book. I chose to adapt a newly discovered German fairy tale, telling it in my own words and pictures. After re-writing the text, sketching out the full story, and creating two full-page spreads, I packaged everything together to create my very first dummy book.

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// self-directed project //


// spring 2015 //

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Adapted from a newly discovered German fairy tale, The Magic Chase tells the story of a witch, three captured princess-sisters, and one hapless prince. The story begins when a prince becomes lost and is discovered in the woods by a witch. She intends to eat him, and takes him back to her house, where she lives with three captive princesses. When the youngest princess takes a liking to the prince, she helps him escape using macic she had learned from the witch, and the two flee for safety together.

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// self-directed project //


The witch sends out each of the other princesses to retrieve their sister and the prince, before going out to bring them back herself. Each time they are pursued the young princess eludes capture by using magic to transform herself and the prince: first into a rose bush and a rose, then a smithy and a blacksmith. Finally the princess transforms herself into a pond, and the prince into a duck. The witch drinks down the princess-pond, who then transforms back into her human form and frees herself using a sword she had concealed. Ultimately the princess and prince are reunited, and the two fall in love and live happily with the princess’ sisters, until the end of their days.

// spring 2015 //

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“My second sister is following us, but I know just what to do,” she reassured the prince. “This sister is gentle, and she hates loud noises. I’m going to turn myself into a smithy…”

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// self-directed project //


“...and you will be a blacksmith.”

// spring 2015 //

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As the witch approached she found a bright little pond with a single duck floating in the center. She spoke kind words to the duck, and tossed tasty crumbs into the water...

...but no matter what she did the duck seemed to ignore her.

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// self-directed project //


“If you won’t come back by choice, then I’ll bring you back by force,” said the witch, and she pulled out a long straw and drank down the entire pond.

// spring 2015 //

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// self-directed project //


T he final d um m y b ook

After binding it together and slicing the edges on the final book, I felt so accomplished! Although it is only a dummy, I have finally proven to myself that I can create an entire book. The process is much less intimidating than it once was, and this is now a project that I will have no fear approaching in the future, whether for thesis or not.

// spring 2015 //

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E L E C TIV E PROJECTS : M OCCA COMIC

Just before spring break our class put together a zine for MoCCA Fest 2015. We each contributed one comic, and they were given away at the event. Because it is a beverage that has been immensely important to my graduate school career, I decided to use my comic to teach people how to make a good cup of coffee.

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// elective projects //


// spring 2015 //

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E L E C TIV E PROJECTS : A DVA N C E D CH ARACTER DES IGN

A teenage girl and her dog are separated and accidentally transported to an alternate universe through a fairy ring in the woods. The two begin a multi-dimensional quest to find each other, and ultimately must trick their first acquaintance into helping them find a way home.

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// elective projects //


During the spring semester I enrolled in Advanced Character Design, and one of our assignments asked us to devise our own stories, complete with a developed universe and characters of our own creation. It was an exercize in storytelling and world-building, and this work now holds the nucleus of a story that I want to revisit and devlop further. This summer I plan to try my hand at writing, and will explore this story’s potential as a graphic or YA novel.

// spring 2015 //

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// elective projects //


// spring 2015 //

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// elective projects //


// spring 2015 //

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// the future //


This concludes my first year of graduate school at MICA. Although this is the end, there is still a lot of work ahead. In May I will be creating my first embroidered illustration to be included in a show at the Light Grey Art Lab, a Minneapolis-based gallery of art and illustration. From June through August I will be working as this year’s Trinkett Clark intern at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, in Amherst, MA. All through the summer I will be nurturing the seed of an idea for my graduate thesis. I will be planting it in the fall, and with any luck next spring will bring another bloom.

// spring 2015 //

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My work this year couldn’t have happened without the help of many people. Special thanks to Joyce Hesselberth for leading a rigorous and challenging first-year experience, and to Whitney Sherman for leading such an exciting MFA program. Thanks also to Daniel Krall and Sam LaCombe for their guidance and encouragement, and for such inspriring coursework. Lastly, none of this would have been possible without my amazing family. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad, for your heartfelt encouragement and support. And thank you, Dara, for always standing by me with unwavering love and care.

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// acknowledgements //


// SECTION TITLE //

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// SECTION TITLE //


Bloom