The purpose of the conceptual unit was both to develop our artistic and abstract communication skills and to answer the question “How can I use unconventional forms to express myself?” Each class had assignments that became increasingly more abstract and conceptual, to make us think about what we were doing and develop these skills. Design had us take a photo that represented poems we had written in English, then we used Photoshop to emphasize the original message of the poem within the photo, and wrote an artist statement to go with it. English had us writing poems based on a concept statement in the poetry unit, and analyzing writing and creating our own essays that examined our feelings towards a specific topic in the expository essay. Digital Media tied everything together; animating the photo haiku, creating the websites to display everything, and creating a piece of experimental music to tie into the unit.

I learned a lot of new technical skills in this unit, as well as expanded upon my understanding of artistic thought. Technically, I learned how to navigate Photoshop, Animate, Protools, Dreamweaver, and the cameras. Artistically, I learned about composition of photos, and expanded my understanding of artistic representation with my spoken word poem. I enjoyed taking photos to connect to my spoken word poem, because my poem was about human emotion, and the photo could not have people in it. It was interesting for me to try and find an image that communicated this complex thought without a human face, and it was definitely a challenge.

To introduce the expository essay, we read “Why I Write”, by George Orwell, and “Why We Crave Horror” by Stephen King. Both are essays describing something about human nature. That was our template for our own essays, with the task of describing a passion we either have or do not have. My inspiration was books. As a person, I love reading, and I have since before I even learned how to. It seemed only fitting to write my essay about this lifelong passion.


The assignment in English was to write poems with different criteria. The first poem we wrote was a free verse poem; we received a randomized concept statement by drawing an emotion and an experience from two bags and wrote a haiku and a free verse poem in response. My concept statement was "Exploring the feeling of regret through the experience of daydreaming.". I choose to write my free verse poem in a sonnet format, since iambic pentameter is fairly easy to work with.

The second poem we wrote was a spoken word poem, with a concept statement of our choosing. I wrote mine about the feeling of isolation through self-suppression, since most social environments force us to suppress some of our emotions, and this tends to isolate many people.

The last poem we wrote was an Ekphrastic poem. Ekphrastic means in response to art, and this assignment came after a field trip to the SFMOMA. We were instructed to find a piece of art that we connected with and write the poem in response.

In digital media, we took the poems we had written in English and we used Photoshop to superimpose them onto photos we either found or took ourselves, depending on the assignment. We then used Protools to record ourselves reading the poems. We used animate on the haiku to combine the audio and image, and uploaded the resulting video to YouTube. We used Dreamweaver while building our websites to simultaneously trigger the audio and the image of the poems on the web page for the other poems.

Before the unit, I viewed poetry as meaningful, but unreachable. I did not realize that it is almost as easy to write a meaningful poem as it is to write a meaningful paragraph. The lineation is what trapped me in my mind, until I saw how many poems do not follow lineation rules, and realized that all I had to do was write with emotion, metaphors, and rhythm to create a poem. I enjoyed how deep into the concept we went for this project; you couldn’t just write something and then make up reasoning on the spot. Because of how many different ways we looked at our poems, they had to mean something. .

The vast forest of thought sees me hiding
A biting chill carries the leaves away
Far away they float, dancing and gliding
Like the life I dreamt that would not stay
I sit and think of all that I have done
My mind floats back to the dream that was lost
Trying to find a bright side, I see none
Looking up at the sky with my legs crossed
The sun beats down on me, a mocking eye
Constantly judging this sorrow of mine
Free Verse Poem
Such an innocent word, yet charged for so many.
Show too much.
“Is it that time of month?”
“Stop being a baby; don’t cry.”
“Dramatic much?”
Hold it in
Don’t let them see inside
Negative emotions will only get you scorned
Keep up the facade
Don’t show anything. 
“Wow, you’re such a bitch.”
“Emotionally constipated.”
“Don’t you feel anything?”
Pain. Suffering. Despair. Anger.
They make you think you are wrong for feeling them; you are weird. 
The only emotion they tolerate is peace. Happiness.
They do not talk about it, do not want to acknowledge it, leaving the rest of us alone. 
Emotion is not strange. You are not weird.
Emotion is not something to hide. You are not alone.
Trap of Emotion--Spoken Word Poem
Looping, unknown,
into the future.
Walls rise around you,
Echos of the past and future bounce around you,
as you focus the echos within.
A labyrinth;
both for body and mind.
Ekphrastic Poem

The haiku assignment was to write a haiku based on a concept statement randomly drawn in class. After looking at the rules of haiku and some examples, we drew our statements; my emotion was regret, my experience daydreaming. Tasked with writing a haiku about exploring regret through daydreaming, I wrote a fairly straightforward piece about someone thinking back on a decision they regretted. In design, we had to shoot a photo that expressed the emotion behind our poem; mine was a bathing suit since it can represent many lost dreams; a vacation that never happened, a weight loss goal missed, self-doubt…the list goes on. With the text of the haiku superimposed over the photo, we took it into digital media. There, we created a musical intro to set the mood and recorded ourselves reading the poem. Then we combined the audio and the photo in animate, with 5 seconds of black frame to end the video.

I enjoyed being able to explore a single concept through different mediums and senses. Not only did using text, photography, and sound challenge me to think about the emotion in different ways, but it also made me engage different senses, and in doing so, made me understand my own work more deeply.

animate screenshot

I am exploring the feeling of isolation through the experience of self-suppression.

Thumbnail of conceptual art piece.
Conceptual Art-click on image to view art

The design conceptual art project was to create an image that represented our conceptual poem, which was one of our poems that we chose to explore in depth. First we shot upwards of 50 photos, then narrowed the selection down to a few that we felt represented our poem. After choosing one photo, we took it to Photoshop to enhance the representation of the concept statement; in my case, the concept of isolation through self-suppression. My photo was a perfect bloom hiding a dying one; the mask presented to society hiding the true isolation.

I enjoyed the use of Photoshop to enhance a message within our images; there’s only so much you can do with a picture, and that also depends on the environment the picture is taken in. Photoshop elements can help to adjust the imperfections of the image back towards your message, such as adding light or shadow to areas representing sorrow or happiness.

“Hold it in-/Don’t let them see inside./Keep up the facade.” “Pain. Suffering. Despair. Anger./They make you think you are wrong for feeling them; you are weird. /The only emotion they tolerate is peace. Happiness./They do not talk about it, do not want to acknowledge it, leaving the rest of us alone. Isolated.” This is a response to being too emotional and open, and as a result, true emotions are withheld. This translates into the bright flower in my photograph; the perfect facade. But the real emotions don’t just go away, which is the wilted and dying flower just behind the other, just under the surface. This leads into the second set of lines from the poem, at the end when I talked about the effect of bottling things up to not feel different; it leaves you feeling alone, like no one else can understand what you’re going through. And because no one ever talks about the issue, you become further convinced that you’re the only one in the world who feels the way you do. Everyone wants everyone else to be happy and perfect, and if you aren’t, they either get uncomfortable or simply disappear until you cheer up. Or, in many cases, pretend to have cheered up. The bright flower blooms, hiding the death festering below the surface. These emotions are toxic, and cause serious damage when they are ignored.

I took my photo by placing a vase of flowers my mother had bought outside; I arranged the buds so the dying one that had been next to the blooming one was now behind it instead, and I turned the vase until the sun was directly on the blooming flower, casting shadow on the dying one. I then focused the exposure on the blooming flower to make sure that shadow was not obliterated in the final photo. I then went into Photoshop and accentuated the light and shadows I had created in the original photo, darkening and adding purple to the dying bud, lightening and adding pink to the blooming one. The most challenging part of this project for me was creating the dying effect in the edges of the petals. Nature doesn’t have too many natural lines; most flowers, including the one I worked on, die gradually. The difficulty for me was creating selections that managed to gradually fade out to the normal color so it wouldn’t be obvious I had edited it. I ended up solving this by smudging and using the dodge tool to lighten the lines of my selections, then using the blur tool to hide this. The next struggle was how to do this in a way that wouldn’t compromise the integrity of the lines that were supposed to be there. I used a small brush and only blurred what I had to, but it still didn’t end up as perfectly as I would have liked.

screenshot of photshop file on conceptual art piece

The experimental music assignment was to create a piece of music in Protools. The assignment was very open-ended; as such, I decided to have a friend help me out with a piece of music she and another friend had already written. She preformed the song, and I recorded it and edited it within Protools to make it a proper recording. The inspiration for her song was a situation which her friend encountered; another girl had told her friend that she could not date the boy she was dating because this girl had wanted him first. The song is written from the point of view of the rude girl, but she does not end up getting what she wants. The mood of the song is very combative through most of it, until the girl realizes at the end that her attraction to this boy had taken over her logical side, and she had been deluding herself to think that she ever had a chance with someone who was clearly not into her. The tone is fairly sad; this girl is watching the boy she likes be in a relationship with someone else, and her reaction to this pain is anger and the deluded belief that once she is gone, the boy will be hers.

My friend is talented, so I did not have to do much. In Protools, I normalized the tracks, adjusted the sound levels on her voice and her guitar to highlight her vocals, and added different amounts of reverb to all tracks to make the sound less flat. She also sang a harmony, and I adjusted that sound level as well so her main vocals would still be the most prominent sound, but the harmony was still noticeable. I also adjusted the levels of bass in the guitar track to highlight her voice, which naturally falls in the treble range.

I enjoyed recording the song with my friend, and I enjoyed editing it to make it sound on the track as good as it did in real life. It was also interesting to be able to play with the sound levels and make my friend sound like her song had been professionally recorded. There is only so much you can do with a single guitar and voice live, but if you put those sounds into Protools, you can layer them and modify them until they can sound like a full choir or band, and that process was really fun for me.

screenshot of protools file on experimental music