s k i n

Made by Carolyn Cai

Juxtaposition of renaissance/romantic art and images of modern beauty products. Mostly I just wanted to draw something that looked nice.

Created: September 8th, 2016



My original intention for the work was to create juxtaposition between Romantic-era paintings of women and products from the modern beauty industry. In this way, a message is formed about how beauty standards have evolved over time, or perhaps rather how they have stayed the same. In old paintings and in modern society, women are idealized and their appearances are held to high standards, so they have to work hard to change their appearance to fit the ideal. My “deeper” goals for the project were to remind viewers of this issue. On the other hand, my project ended up the way it did because I just really like to draw girls. So that’s my “shallower” motivation for this project. 



Three historical artworks are used in the project: William-Adolphe Bougereau’s The Birth of Venus, John William Waterhouse’s Ophelia, and John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X. All three works are from roughly the same time period and portray very beautiful, idealized women, from mythological and literary context (the first two) or from high society (the third one). There is no particular reason why I chose these three paintings, besides that they look good, and perhaps because the women have different origins. My style and approach come from the sum of my experience with and exposure to art and media, as well as my personal aesthetic taste/sense, and do not actively seek to emulate any major artist or art movement in particular. I will, however, say that the color palette is influenced by a certain digital artist. 



Originally the plan was to directly crop out the women’s faces from the paintings, and take some pictures (or make some line drawings) of various skincare and beauty products that I own. However, I realized my skill with drawing (girls) and Paint Tool SAI are quite a bit better than my skill with photography and Photoshop, so I decided to just draw everything using familiar technology. I figure that referencing images can still count as stealing or borrowing, even if the original is not explicitly present or immediately recognizable (I simplified the images and altered the color scheme, but otherwise did not try to change too much. Also, I got my painting software through …questionable methods, so that kind of counts too, if you know what I mean). I came up with the final composition during class and liked it well enough to go with it.



I created a digital art piece using Paint Tool SAI (on a virtual machine on my Mac since the program is native to Windows) and an old Wacom Bamboo tablet that I’ve had since middle school. I composed the image after doing several preliminary sketches of the women in the paintings as well as designing the girl in the center and figuring out her pose. I drew everything roughly on paper, and then took a photograph and traced it digitally to get cleaner lines. Then I colored using brush tools and made a lot of color adjustments along the way. The whole process from the sketch of the image to the end took about 9 hours…I had forgotten what a slow process digital art was. It took a long time to get nice lines and then color inside the lines. Although I don’t consider myself to have a consistent art style right now, the work is in my “own” style and – once again —not actively imitating a specific artist or art movement.



I think this outcome better conveys my intent than my original plan would have, so I guess I’m happy about that. Looking at my work, I feel like I should have added some more details since the image feels somewhat empty right now, and compositionally kind of boring. I’m also noticing some mistakes, but it’s rather too late to change anything. Overall, though, it looks nice and I’m satisfied with it.


Personal Reflection

This is the first “serious” digital art piece I’ve done in a few years, so it was interesting to see how I’ve improved over time. As I said before, I had forgotten how time consuming it was to create a fully rendered piece. With regards to the context of this project I think that the direction I took with it is indicative that I am personally not so comfortable with using an unaltered reproduction of somebody else’s work in my own, and that I would maybe rather create works that are aesthetically pleasing than socially provocative. Perhaps next time I would have tried to execute my original plan and take some time to explore new mediums and technologies. 

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62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

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New creative industries are empowering new modes of collaborative consumption, creation and reuse of media. This often relies on successful collaborations between cross-trained artists, designers a...more


Juxtaposition of renaissance/romantic art and images of modern beauty products. Mostly I just wanted to draw something that looked nice.