Red, Blue, and Yellow: Alan

Yilin Xie

After months of planning, the Print Week exhibition from January 17th to 18th by the Visual academy amazed Bergen County Academies with a display of stunning artwork. The Print Week exhibition took place on the stage of the auditorium of Bergen County Academies. The exhibition began on Thursday, January 17 from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and continued to Friday, January 18, when the exhibition opened all day from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. The Visual students displayed their marvellous talents with a variety of mediums, from traditional paint on paper, to plastic 3-D printed sculptures, to laser-cut shadow boxes, to digital art, and even sculptures composed of discarded electronic parts. The Visual students and faculty received numerous praises from faculty, students, and parents alike for the enormous dedication and hard work that they put into organising Print Week; it is obvious that the show gave all the brilliant artists an opportunity to showcase their creativity.

Many wondrous pieces of art caught my eyes for they are beautiful, skillfully done, and thought-provoking. In particular, Alan by Erin Alonso was striking. With just a few bold, confident strokes and vibrant blocks of colour, Erin masterfully depicted a man in three poses: reading a cookbook, cooking, and holding a pear. This painting was done with gouache on paper. To mirror the blue outline of the subject, the painting was also framed with navy-coloured matboard. According to Erin, the inspiration came from a photo of her uncle cooking, which she referenced for the pose in the centre. The second pose Erin painted was the one with Alan holding a pear, and months later, she added the third Alan to the left, reading a cookbook.

As for style, Erin said she purposefully included many similar or repeating elements in all three poses: “All three of the Alans have one hand that is pointing and one hand that is doing an action – reading the cookbook, stirring in the pan, and holding the pear.  I tried to stay consistent with the style of the head, apron and wrinkles of the shirt. Also, the collar and cuffs of the shirts are similar for all three of the Alans.”

Although Erin is an experienced artist, she admits that she had a bit of trouble keeping the outlines clean and sharp since she did not have a pencil sketch before she started painting, nor did she wait for the paint to completely dry before proceeding with the next colour.

Upon seeing Alan, my eyes were immediately caught by the bold, simplistic colours reminiscent of those of Neoplastic Piet Mondrian. Like Mondrian’s famous Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow, Erin used only the primary colours, leaving large white spaces. Although the minimalistic painting might seem simple to do, Erin’s strong technical skills were crucial for executing the image in her mind onto the paper, without a sketch. Erin’s mind and hands transformed the mundane task of cooking into an arresting piece of art, but without losing the minimal simplicity that was the inspiration behind this painting.

Without any of the three Alans, the painting would seem empty and lacking. Erin clearly had an image in mind during the making of Alan. A skilled artist must balance between variation and repetition, chaos and order, boldness and subtlety, and Erin’s artistic talent, skill, and understanding are clearly reflected through her delivery of all these balances in Alan.

When asked if she has always been an artist, Erin answered decisively, “I’ve been making art my entire life. Before I was walking, I was making art.” Even in kindergarten, Erin knew that she wanted to become an artist. However, Erin does not attribute her unfaltering pursuit of her passion to talent; instead, she thanks her parents and teachers who believed in her and encouraged her to continue her dream.

“I think in order to do something creative like becoming an artist, you need to believe that you can do it with your whole heart,” Erin said. “I have been lucky to find art teachers who intentionally cultivated environments in which creativity is cherished, encouraged, and nurtured.”

Currently, Erin is fully utilising BCA’s diverse opportunities to continue learning art.  She is the vice president of the National Art Honors Society and co-leads the morning club, All For Art. Outside of her core art classes and regular school classes, Erin takes AP Studio Art and is preparing a portfolio. Though she is trained in traditional realistic drawing and painting, Erin also loves abstract painting; she is making a series of abstract painting inspired by the California fires as a part of her portfolio.

When asked which is more important, the process or the product in art, Erin said, “The most important part about art is the making of it.  When making art, I value the experience just as much as, if not more than, the product.”

She adds, “In art, mistakes are inevitable. Sometimes these mistakes end up being exactly what my artwork needed. I believe that anyone can make art. Learning to make art is learning to see.”