Monday, May 15, 2017

Designing my Graduation Cap

Hey friends!

I just graduated on Saturday with my Bachelor of Arts in English. And now that I've got college graduation in my rear-view mirror, I really want to share my graduation cap with you all!


Pen and colored pencil on paper, glued to mortarboard
Leading up to graduation, my friends kept asking if I was decorating my cap. Decorating my cap? Of course! I'm an artist. Decorating the cap is basically the whole point of graduating.

I'm gonna be honest: I put a whole lot of thought into this.

I've actually been thinking about design ideas from my first discovery, several years ago, that some schools allow students to decorate their caps.

Of course, things got a little more serious in my senior year, as the big day approached. I spent a whole lot of time browsing ideas on Pinterest and brainstorming with my friends.

It was in March that I settled on my design. First I chose the image, then the colors, and finally, the checkered squares design.

1. The Sunflower

Paper, acrylic, and coffee grounds on paper, glued to
mortarboard
One thing that has always amazed me about sunflowers is that the young blooms actually turn to as the sun crosses the sky, so they're always facing the sun. As they mature, the flowers turn less and less, until they're all facing east, toward the sunrise. This sun-tracking, called heliotropism, is the flower's circadian rhythms, like a human's sleeping patterns.

Because the flowers face the sun, they're always warm. And the heat attracts bees, which pollinate the flowers.

What does all that have to do with me?

I want to keep myself oriented toward the light. I want to keep myself oriented toward what. Most importantly, I want to spread love, like bees spread pollen.

Being a fan of Vincent Van Gogh, sunflowers are very symbolic to me for reasons other than the botanical interest of heliotropism.

Paul Gauguin, The Painter of Sunflowers (1888),
portrait of Van Gogh.
Van Gogh painted sunflowers numerous times, often repeating the same image over and over. He felt compelled to paint these brightly-colored flowers.

Sunflowers are known as a symbol of hope, even in the midst of depression as dark as that with Van Gogh suffered from.

Van Gogh eventually took his own life, but at least for a little while, the sunflowers brought some light into his dark world. Today, he's remembered as the Painter of Sunflowers, a very unhappy man who continually returned to the symbol of happiness in his art.

Sunflowers remind me to keep fighting for light and hope in my life, and in the lives of others. I have to keep holding on to the sunshine.


Acrylic on paper, glued to mortarboard
2. The Colors

I'm going to admit something very art-nerdy: I love color theory. I've spent most of my life making color wheels, color charts, and color gradients in art classes. When I buy paint, I typically buy four big bottles: white, red, blue, and yellow, and then mix all the colors I need.

With every collage and painting, I think about the symbolism and connotation of the colors I use, and the feelings I can convey with them.

I do a lot of black and white art as well, diving into the world of grey-scale, with pencils, charcoal, and pen. When I use color, I use it deliberately. So my choice to use color on my cap was just that - a deliberate choice.

Being a sunflower, I had to pick yellow, of course. And purple was a natural choice because it's one of my school's colors. But I also chose it because yellow and purple are complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel), which means, when paired, they make each other stand out the best.

In life, if opposites work together to build up and support one another, they will both become stronger in the process.

3. The Quadrants

I work with a lot of different styles, techniques, and mediums. I love charcoal, collage, and pen & ink equally. I enjoy painting on occasion, and I even like to try out sculpting once in a while (with funny but unimpressive results).

One of my favorite things is to mix media, combining different art materials to create all the effects I want, without limiting myself to what I can achieve with only only medium.

I wanted to show my skill across multiple media, partly because I enjoy it, and partly because it also demonstrates how I've worked to diversify my skills outside of art. In college, I took courses on literature, web and graphic design, journalism, filmmaking, creative writing, public relations, marketing, and editing. I'm proud to have come out of college with such a wide variety of skills.

I decided to divide the cap evenly into four quadrants because I liked how it worked design-wise, and also because it shows that my abilities are individually well-defined, but come together as one cohesive skill-set.

clockwise from top left: charcoal, acrylic, pen, collage
After all of this thought and planning, I had my final sketch. A single sunflower centered on the mortarboard, divided into fourths.

All in all, I wanted my cap to fully represent me and what I've worked so hard for. 

Maybe I overthought it a little... But when it comes to art, I want every bit to be meaningful.

Did you decorate your graduation cap? Did you pick a favorite movie character, inspiring quote, or bedazzle it with the name of your sorority? What makes your cap design meaningful to you? I'd love to hear about it, whether it's one sentence or as many words as I just wrote. We each find our own ways to express ourselves and what we hold dear.

-Cailey

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