Humans of Harker: Process over product

Elizabeth Yang takes risks in art

%E2%80%9CWhen+I+make+art%2C+the+best+pieces+I+make+are+the+ones+that+made+me+happy+to+make.+It%E2%80%99s+an+escape+of+reality+for+me%E2%80%94when+I%E2%80%99m+making+art%2C+I+don%E2%80%99t+think+about+all+the+superficial+problems+I+have.+I+might+fail+a+test+and+be+super+upset%2C+but+when+I+start+art%2C+I+completely+forget+about+it.+I%E2%80%99m+like%2C+it%E2%80%99s+nothing+right+now%2C+because+art+is+the+only+thing+I%E2%80%99m+focusing+on.+After+I+finish+a+piece%2C+it%27s+not+what+it+looks+like+that+relieves+me%2C+it%E2%80%99s+more+of+the+work+I+put+into+it.+The+process+of+making+the+piece+is+more+important+to+me+than+the+product%2C%22+Elizabeth+Yang+%2812%29+said.
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Humans of Harker: Process over product

“When I make art, the best pieces I make are the ones that made me happy to make. It’s an escape of reality for me—when I’m making art, I don’t think about all the superficial problems I have. I might fail a test and be super upset, but when I start art, I completely forget about it. I’m like, it’s nothing right now, because art is the only thing I’m focusing on. After I finish a piece, it's not what it looks like that relieves me, it’s more of the work I put into it. The process of making the piece is more important to me than the product,

“When I make art, the best pieces I make are the ones that made me happy to make. It’s an escape of reality for me—when I’m making art, I don’t think about all the superficial problems I have. I might fail a test and be super upset, but when I start art, I completely forget about it. I’m like, it’s nothing right now, because art is the only thing I’m focusing on. After I finish a piece, it's not what it looks like that relieves me, it’s more of the work I put into it. The process of making the piece is more important to me than the product," Elizabeth Yang (12) said.

Heidi Zhang

“When I make art, the best pieces I make are the ones that made me happy to make. It’s an escape of reality for me—when I’m making art, I don’t think about all the superficial problems I have. I might fail a test and be super upset, but when I start art, I completely forget about it. I’m like, it’s nothing right now, because art is the only thing I’m focusing on. After I finish a piece, it's not what it looks like that relieves me, it’s more of the work I put into it. The process of making the piece is more important to me than the product," Elizabeth Yang (12) said.

Heidi Zhang

Heidi Zhang

“When I make art, the best pieces I make are the ones that made me happy to make. It’s an escape of reality for me—when I’m making art, I don’t think about all the superficial problems I have. I might fail a test and be super upset, but when I start art, I completely forget about it. I’m like, it’s nothing right now, because art is the only thing I’m focusing on. After I finish a piece, it's not what it looks like that relieves me, it’s more of the work I put into it. The process of making the piece is more important to me than the product," Elizabeth Yang (12) said.

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Under the Shah staircase, Elizabeth Yang (’19) slowly and meticulously places sticky note after sticky note on the white walls underneath the Shah staircase. As the hours tick by, perfectly aligned columns of green, blue, purple and pink squares decorate the once-blank interior, creating an artistic space. Unlike her smaller works, this exhibit was on a large scale: the 1,390 Post-its, coupled with lavender lights, transformed an entire space into an artistic environment brought alive.

Then, Elizabeth reveals a large floor fan, which she positions to face the wall covered in sticky notes. Students watch in anticipation as she turned the fan on—within seconds, the blasts of air sent the ordered Post-its into a flurry, and a chorus of “oohh’s” and “aahh’s” echoed through the walls of the Shah art gallery.

While most know Elizabeth as a vibrant, confident person who always has a smile beaming from her face, growing up in a family with two older sisters and an older brother, it was not always easy for Elizabeth to find her footing.

“My family is such a huge influence on me,” Elizabeth said. “My older sister is 16 years older than me. I’ve done art since I was a little kid, but I was pretty insecure about it because my older sister also does art. In my family she’s known as the artist, so I felt like I was kind of left in the shadows. It was hard to live up to their expectations. Because of that, I transferred all my unused energy to school, and it just drove me to be a better person, in a way.”

Because of her family’s influence, Elizabeth was motivated to improve in academics and school.

“In middle school I was really never focused on academics, and I didn’t try to make an effort to understand,” Elizabeth said. “Going into high school, I realized that I needed to try harder to be a different person. I wanted to focus less on the surface level. Before I took classes just to take classes, not to actually see what I liked.”

Elizabeth’s discovery for her love of art was also sparked through the classroom. In middle school, she began doodling during class as a way to concentrate.

“The thing I remember most consistently of Elizabeth doing since I became friends with her in middle school is always doodling,” Connie Xu (’19), one of Elizabeth’s friends, said. “Every class I’ve had with her, she pays attention in her own way which is when she is half-focused on her drawing and half-focused on her teacher. For some reason, she just absorbs better that way, and I’ve really seen how she used to draw in the beginning which is simply just doodles, and I’ve loved seeing how she is after four years of art classes.”

What started as classroom doodles blossomed into an artistic journey, which she embarked on throughout high school. In her freshman year, she began taking the Study of Visual Arts course with art teacher Aguero-Esparza, who inspired her to take the other art courses at school. Over the course of four years, Elizabeth took Painting, Advanced Drawing, Photography, AP Studio Art and Honors Student-Directed Portfolio classes.

“Ms. A has been kind of a mentor for me throughout this entire process,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve become a lot more confident with art because of Ms. A. She encouraged me to submit my art into competitions, and I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. Ms. A also says my art shows who I am in real life. I’m a very detailed person, and when I do my art it has to be very detailed, geometric and precise with straight lines. It’s also a huge stress reliever, because when I’m so focused on the lines I don’t think about anything else.”

Aguero-Esparza noticed the maturation in Elizabeth’s artistic style since she first began classes.

“She is a very conscientious student, academically really strong and wants to do well,” Aguero-Esparza said. “That also offsets a certain amount of anxiety for her, that she had to have a certain amount of perfection. It helped her break away. But yet, nonetheless, when you see her work, it’s tight, it is about accuracy, it is about something that takes a long time. Her design work is very elaborate and repetitive—a beautiful thing she’s done is her painting with grids. I think that really expresses that ability she has to concentrate, because that requires a lot of concentration. As I’ve seen her through the years, she’s been able to let go and work within that and find her voice. But I think it really culminated this past semester when she took Honors Directed, where I really felt she was taking more and more risks.”

Not only did Elizabeth take risks in her artwork as she grew, but she also began to break away from a fixed schedule in her actual life.

“I’m very ordered—I have every minute of my life in a schedule,” Elizabeth said. “I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could achieve as much as I wanted to. For all of high school, I made minute by minute schedules everyday. This year, I stopped making them because I thought it was kind of sad that I was living my life just sticking to an exact schedule. When I do art, it’s different. I don’t create schedules for art.”

As Elizabeth continued to develop her artistic style, she also came to embrace her philosophy of “process over product.”

“When I make art, the best pieces I make are the ones that made me happy to make,” Elizabeth said. “It’s an escape of reality for me. When I’m making art, I don’t think about all the superficial problems I have. I might fail a test and be super upset, but when I start art, I completely forget about it. I’m like, it’s nothing right now, because art is the only thing I’m focusing on. After I finish a piece, it’s not what it looks like that relieves me, it’s more of the work I put into it. The process of making the piece is more important to me than the product.”