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Michelle Suh

pastel and graphite on paper
20″ x 15″

South Korea

Alex Rowe, Illustrator & Children's Book Artist

Alex Rowe
Illustrator & Children’s Book Artist

Artist Statement
“Just like the title, this piece was created to remedy myself from the stress I had. When this was created, I was faced with a lot of conflicts with my friends and family. I also had trouble finding meaning in my path as an artist. Though my life was miserable in reality, I depicted myself in a soothing background, wishing that I could really be in such state.”

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Video Transcript

“Your greatest strength of this piece is your skill with the graphite and applying the pencil. And your ability to capture the realism of the face, the believable expression: those are all coming along really well.

I think the problems I’m having with this piece is one: the kind of lack of harmony between the pencil face and then the color wash in the background. But right now it kind of has, they don’t seem to go well together. It seems like two different universes almost.

Also, and I think the concept of the piece too. And I don’t want to bring in other work to critique this specific piece. But looking through the rest of your Instagram feed, a lot of your work has such strong solid and powerful conceptual base. And even if this piece is just a portrait study, always remember that your strength in content, your narrative quality, and kind of the vibe you want your pieces to give off is just as much of your style as is your mark making.

But I think you have a great technical ability with this piece, and I think that conceptually you just push it a little bit further. But otherwise really nice job.”

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4 responses on "Michelle Suh"

  1. This piece displays a real mastery of two different media but also two totally different approaches! The fact that your figurative portrait is so carefully and tightly rendered, and yet the hazy, pastel background it is set in is so subtle and painterly is truly impressive.

    I love the idea of you making this piece as a way to de-stress! Art-making can definitely be a really cathartic experience, and I appreciate that you tried to convey, in this drawing, the mindset you were aspiring for in that moment… Perhaps now that the work has served that function, however, the next step is to go back in and find a way to put some of that anxiety back into the drawing!

    It would be interesting to see this narrative element expressed not only in the making of this piece, but in the image itself – and this additional element could be a great opportunity to better unify your two materials. The subtle pastel squiggles in the background would perhaps be complimented nicely with some similarly abstract graphite marks in the foreground. To some extent you’re already doing this at the top of the paper, but the mark-making is essentially the same… The different media and contrasting emotions demand different visual languages, I think, and your graphite work could certainly engage more of the composition.

    This piece has such an evocative quality that I really hope you continue to explore this subject matter in future work! You have an uncanny ability to express emotion.

  2. This piece is making me feel relaxed, so you’ve done well achieving that objective! Like Deepti, I’m really drawn to that very subtle patterning of squiggles. I didn’t see it at first at all, but it comes through slowly, murmuring images of flower petals and hearts. In contrast, the image of the face is so stark, and while the expression is restful, the contrast and composition are not. You’re probably looking to convey peacefully lost, not out of place. I would love to see more emphasis on the patterning and variation in tone in some places that could fill out the composition and give the space she’s lost in some more dimension. Perhaps look at some of Vija Celmins‘ work which is rooted in meditation and infinite spaces.

  3. I think the dreamy, relaxed quality of this piece really comes across beautifully. This reminds me of Marc Chagall’s paintings where the people are practically flowing with the wind in the sky. I think it would be exciting to explore the visual potential of the hair more. Right now the emphasis is much more on the face, since it’s more detailed, but I actually think that the hair has a lot more potential in terms of being really expressive. What if you dramatically heightened the volume and quantity of hair, so that it was 4x longer and wider, and almost took over the page? Look at Albrecht Durer’s drawings of hair in his portraits, they are very theatrical and dramatic.

  4. The squiggly lines and textures in the background are so wonderful, I feel like I could stare at them for hours. You also demonstrate great technical skill with the graphite. I wonder what would happen if you brought some of the pinks and purples in the background into the figure’s face, similar to how you’re adding some graphite into the background. I think this may create an even greater harmony between the figure and the space they occupy. Overall, a really amazing job!

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