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Karas C.
High School Student

Art School Admissions Portfolio


Casey Roonan, Comics Artist & Cartoonist

Casey Roonan
Cartoonist & Comics Artist

Artist Statement

“Self-expression and communication have always challenged me. Creating artwork is a safe medium to express myself instead of using words.  My pieces have always been on the dark side, ever since I was a child. Some of my early influences have been Tim Burton, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe.

Growing up in New York City, I’ve had the privilege to experience a wealth of art museums and galleries. I’ve been exposed to an array of artists and their techniques. Just this past year I’ve seen exhibits that have included work from Dali, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Basquiat, and Degas to name a few.

An immediate concern I have is to present a compelling enough portfolio so that my work stands out from the rest. Additionally, I want to make certain I end up in the right college environment that challenges me and fosters my growth and development. Having a fulfilling and rewarding career as an artist once college life is over is very important to me. One of my biggest concerns is originality. I don’t want to produce art that’s predictable or ordinary.”

4 responses on "Art School Portfolio Critique: Karas C."

  1. Something I love about your portfolio is that your work, as a whole, speaks a lot about you as an artist and what themes inspire you!

    Lauryn makes a great point about falling into tropes in this horror genre. You clearly have a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and inspiration to go off on. Use this knowledge to push what you’ve already seen and create something totally unique to your artistic style. The brainy zombies with their devices is a great example of where you’re already doing that. Although in this same genre, it has a level of surprise and originality that I, as a viewer, haven’t seen before! Perhaps making collages of these tropes and cliches could be a valuable exercise in order to see how you can use them to your benefit, but avoid getting trapped in them.

    Technically speaking, you have great skill! You achieve some wonderful contrast in the charcoal pieces, while also paying great attention to detail. I’d encourage you to step back a bit from the compressed charcoal in some areas, as the deepness of the black looses some of its effect when it’s over used. In the spine drawing for example, putting in those deep blacks at the very end of the entire process will help bring out a wider range of values in the piece, as well as giving the darkest shadows a huge added punch!

    Great work!

  2. I would agree with Lauryn about how you want to explore the world of terror and the macabre in a new way – It’s best to always go back to the method and the meaning behind it. Think of your style as just another “medium” you use, but the meaning behind it changes with each piece! For me the wonderful religious undertones in some of the pieces has a really great vibe with a strange twist, almost a surrealist or magical realism take. Letting your work get more funky and dream-like could be the way to move yourself to the next style level, so taking your concepts you highly render in pencil and handling them in the way you handle your paintings could be really rewarding!
    The final gesture drawings in charcoal have a lot of vibrancy and life to them, and I think this kind of punch needs to be in the other gesture drawings at the beginning, with the colors behind the figures. That effect isn’t bad, but it needs to pair with really stellar figures. Good choice of the darker pen for that though!
    I think the biggest thing I would be aware of is your value structure – how powerful it is in your painting work (the priest sitting across from the effigy for instance, wow!) and how it could stand to grow in your graphite work – and to go back to the macabre element, the key in fear is the monster we don’t see! Think of how you can use lighting to make ordinary things seem terrifying. The movie Diabolique (the 1955 version!) and the Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train are great studies for this, as well as The Magician by Ingmar Bergman. The last one, especially, has a terrifying sequence towards the end that will blow you away! I would recommend watching it and taking shots of scenes you love and doing a little 4×6 inch study in ink or pencil to replicate the values and try to copy the frame – I do this for lighting practice all the time and it’s a great way to learn drama in lighting!

  3. Also check out the Myths and Legends podcast! I think you’d find many of the stories relevant to your work!

  4. Wow, it’s great to see such skill with gesture and the figure! I love all of your gestural drawings. The spinal drawing is also really cool because my first response was registering it as some kind of dynamic pattern. It diverges from its objectness, which is powerful and different from your other work. You have a cohesive voice throughout your portfolio which I think is good.

    Dark themes can be really fun to explore. My only concern is you want to be aware of the tropes that get used in the macabre and horror genres, because they can be easy to fall into, and then it’s not really your voice anymore, it’s a bunch of symbols borrowed from societal consciousness. For instance, skeleton limbs and sewn mouths are often used motifs to signal general horror. But the brainy zombies on their electronics has a humor and a voice that is more specific. I think that’s really important.

    Some ways to get beyond these general symbols are to research in depth specific areas of the occult that interest you, and write down why and how you connect with these subjects. For instance, your masked figure in the armchair reminds me a lot of a bearded vulture, which is a horribly fantastic creature that drops animals from great heights so it can break their bones and suck out the marrow and then eat the bones. I don’t know if you created that likeness intentionally, but think about how many interesting places you could go riffing off that specific reference! Master songwriters like David Bowie and Sufjan Stevens also draw heavily from the occult and mythological, and their deep knowledge allows them to use pointed references to these areas that make their songs individual and unforgettable.

    Another route you could go is taking these general horror symbols and stereotypes and subverting them in a humorous way like you begin to do in that electronics image. A great example of this kind of work is the movie What We Do in the Shadows that is a mockumentary about four vampires that live together.

    Finally, you could frame these horror symbols from an unexpected perspective. Perhaps you have a personal narrative that twists these stereotypes on their heads. Some great movies that breathe worn out motifs new life are A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night which is a deft feminist take on the traditional vampire story, and Get Out which is a bodysnatcher story that speaks about race.

    I think you have a strong footing with your portfolio here, and I’m excited to see you go even further with your work. Good luck with your school applications!

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