Jayden Liu
8 min readSep 3, 2020


I live in the rural part of the greater Los Angeles. While it does not give the typical impression of the fantastic downtown, I enjoy the spaciousness and quietness quite a bit. Today I visited an intersection next to a middle school within my residential area. Although i come across it from time to time, i have never taken a moment to see and digest all it has to offer.

When I arrived at my destination, there was a father teaching his son to ride a bike. It was nice seeing families having fun together amidst this historic pandemic. However, they were about the only people I saw out of their car. As i spend more time wandering and taking pictures of the place, I heard the song of the birds, the noise of the car engines, and surprisingly the noise of a plane. When I made sure there were no one but me and my mom, I took down my mask to get a whiff of the place. It smelled like grasses and earth, and inevitably, a hint of tail gas.

Although i received quite a bit of curious looks from people driven by, my time their was quite peaceful. Watching the vivid but motionless field was quite therapeutic. I wouldn’t mind to stay longer, but the blazing heat of California was a bit much to bear.

The second time I visit the same intersection was on a Monday morning. On the first glance, nothing much has changed but the lighting. The place had the same smell of earthiness, the same noise of car engines, and the same look of peacefulness and lushness. However, it had less traffic in the morning, so it was even more quiet than before. I encountered quite a few joggers and took pictures of a squirrel.

The temperature in the morning is much more tolerable so I decided to spend more time at the place than I did last time. The slight breeze of the morning had brought the trees alive and the community became more vibrant than it already did.

In the last lecture, we were instructed to take pictures that are more descriptive and are more representative of the intersection that we chose so I chose a few angels that capture a variety of what i believe was the most important aspect of the community. First of which was the manmade marks — the street signs, the trash cans, and the motor-vehicles are all signs of human inhabitance — , which was undoubtedly a major feature of this community. Second, the place have amazing greenery — there are always trees in the background wherever I point my lenses to — , which added a great character to the place. And lastly, the people: whether they are out in person, or driving behind the wheel, they make the community. To fully capture the properties of the place, I had to include the people.

This is the composition i eventually chose to work with in my first studio project. I chose this composition because it includes different objects that together captures the essences of the community: the human residency, the spaciousness, the greenery, and the artificial input that humans have brought to this largely natural area. Not only is it a visually pleasing photograph, I believe it is also the photograph with the most information that is the most descriptive of the space out of every photographs that I took.

I started planning my relief by printing out a black and white picture of my composition and labeling the layers that I want to cut in numerical orders. Once I began to analyze the photograph like that, I realized how much detail and layer that this seemingly small image carries. Also, I find it difficult to outline the silhouettes of some layers when they share a similar shade as the previous layer like the one with the big trees on the left side of the sheet. Realizing how much work I had planned for myself, I started working on the relief promptly knowing that I would not be able to finish before the night if i don’t start immediately.

Unfortunately, I made a terrible mistake on my first attempt of the relief. Grabbing another sheet from the stack of paper i’ve placed right next to me, I started tracing lines before recognizing that the paper i just took was of a different shade. It was not until I finished cutting did I realize I have failed to follow the instructions. Moreover, my first attempt at creating a relief lacks a lot of detail, which made it look flat and unappealing, which quite frankly, did not do my composition justice.

When I first started doing my grayscale composition, I based my use of different shades of gray on each layer’s proximity of the viewer — the closer the object is to my lens the darker it appears on my composition and the farther the lighter. The idea came naturally to me because my photograph itself follows that principle quite nicely. I have five different shades of gray in my package and the challenge was to allocate them efficiently across my composition to communicate the space effectively. I worked my way from the back to the front and I realized that I was switching shades too fast that the majority of my composition turned dark before I even get close to the front. I chose to represent the cars at the front of the image with black card-stocks because they are closest to the viewer and it is very dense when compared to the trees surrounding it.

The grayscale composition brought a whole new perspective to the space that I am working with. It did not give it vibrant color but it allows my composition to communicate space and distance more clearly then the white relief. From working with grayscale composition, I have learned that the black color pencil that i did my traces with does not show very well on the darker card-stocks. Therefore, i have started to use lighter colors like yellow to outline each layer and transfer them onto the darker card-stocks.

One of the most important properties about this space that i am the most driven towards is the greenery/the trees. The trees in this community are age-old and are for the most part undisrupted to let grow freely. Their luscious presence brings a sense of freshness and peace-fullness to this community. So I decided to emphasize the trees in parts of this composition with the color green in order to spotlight and appreciate their magnificence.

Unlike the invasive nature of the artificial motor-vehicles, the plants are rightfully making their presence and thriving next to human residence. from doing the color composition I’ve learnt the power of color and its ability to demand attention and communicate messages. It connects the link between the silhouette and the true nature of the object within our brains. It is almost magical how once you place color onto such a composition, viewers are immediately drawn to the color. It made me appreciate the role and influence of color even more .

Through the process of this project, I have learned more than anything how to use a knife effectively and efficiently. Through blood and sweat, I’ve learned how to wield a exacto-knife appropriately and run them somewhat swiftly on paper and cardstocks. Secondly, through trials and errors, I was experimenting to find a way to communicate enough information effectively. At the beginning, I included very little details in my mock-ups because I was unsure of to what extent do I work into the depths and where should I divide my layers and would my work payoff if i cut out every detail that the photograph has to offer. There were no easy answers to my questions than to do them in full — To carry out the composition from start to “finish”. After I’ve got one done where I could faintly identify the objects in the image and the environment around it, I began to develop a grasp of depth and the division of layers that would allow me to communicate my image more clearly. After that, it was so much easier for me to go and redo all my mock-ups to three compositions until they look identifiable to me. Though they are far from perfect, they’ve come a long way from where they were to where they are right now.

The review of project one allowed me to see my classmates’ works as a collective and how they have evolved during the course of the project. I felt that every projects had something unique for me to learn and it was really nice seeing all the different approaches that each of my classmates took. I personally like to stack layers on top of each other, which inevitably made me cut different shapes several times for each individual layer. But some of my classmates simply cut out individual shapes and overlapped them on the relief, which looked fantastic.

The topic that our group were assigned with when analyzing our own compositions was craftsmanship. through the conversation that i had with my group in breakout room, I understood what craftsmanship means much better having able to identify great craftsmanship in my group mate’s work. While on this topic, I certainly believe that I should improve my craftsmanship as I believe my project could have been done with more care and effort. I am not a particularly fast worker and when i try to work fast, the quality of my work decreases. Not only should I put more effort into my work, I should also do my work more effectively and efficiently.