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The Source

I’ve finally begun the process of revising and piecing together my portfolio, and as I do this, I’ve found myself reflecting on all of the things that got me here. So, for this post, I thought I’d give you all a little bit of insight into the source of it all: the art that has shaped my art from the very beginning. Somehow, this seems an appropriate thing to do as I approach the moment in my life when it will all culminate into a portfolio which may very well determine the course of my future.

So lets go back.

As a child, I clearly remember my five favorite stories being Harry Potter, Where the Sidewalk Ends, the Lord of the Rings, Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, and Avatar the Last Airbender. 

The influence of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings (by J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien, respectively) is perhaps the most self-explanatory. They both feature fantastical creatures and magical worlds, full of great beauty and grotesqueness. The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as the birthplace of modern fantasy, because it was the first story to take all of the creatures and magic from fairy tales and put them together into one comprehensive tapestry of a story, shaping a whole world with its own languages, history, ethnography, and geography. It is easy to see the influence of Lord of the Rings in Harry Potter, and perhaps even easier to see their influence on me. One example I can give is that of Ungoliant, Shelob, and Aragog: the giant spiders. In the Silmarillon, Tolkien’s history of Middle Earth that sets the stage for Lord of the Rings, Ungoliant is the mother of darkness, a massive spider who lives to consume all within her reach. Later, in the Lord of the Rings, we are introduced to one of her distant offspring, Shelob, who, like her mother, is a large (though not nearly as big as her mother) spider who dwells in the darkness and has an insatiable appetite. In Harry Potter, Rowling takes another angle on Tolkien’s giant spiders, instead fashioning the character of Aragog into a wise and benevolent soul who lives peacefully in the forest. To see the influence of these creatures in my art one need look no further than my recently invented giant spider-slugs. In fact, when painting my first spider-slug painting, I used shots from the scene in the Lord of the Rings movie in which Sam and Frodo escape Shelob’s lair.

In addition to giant spiders, Harry Potter is known for a host of other bizarre creatures, including Hypogriffs, Thestrals, and House Elves, to name just a few. These too have added to my love of strange and unusual beasts. Here is a collection of all of Rowling’s creatures.

Moving on from Harry Potter, I come to Avatar the Last Airbender. This may seem silly, but hear me out. Avatar was my favorite TV show as a kid, and one of the quirky hallmarks of the world it took place in was that there were no ordinary animals. Armadillo Lions? Check. Badger Moles? Of course. But something normal? A bear, perhaps? No way. This splicing of known animals to form some oddly charming hybrid is something I have adopted, with my spider-slugs and snake-turtles.

A list of Avatar’s creatures can be found here.

To look, however, even further back, we come to Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Both of these books were books my parents used to read to me as bedtime stories when I was very very young. Cyrus is perhaps the least creature-filled of all the stories I present here, but its impact remains undiminished. Along with Smaug (from Lord of the Rings), Cyrus was the first dragon (or dragon-like creature, because technically he’s a sea serpent) I ever encountered, and he certainly helped lay the foundations for my life-long dragon obsession. In that way, he will forever be with me.

Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, has no dragons, and not even many creatures, but certainly has its own flavor of the strange and unusual. From a two-faced man, to The Worst, to a dentist who finds pleasure in pulling out the teeth of a poor crocodile, to a man writing a poem from inside a lion, it has it all. As wonderful as the poetry itself is, the illustrations have always been my favorite part. And so this too from a young age shaped my affinity for macabre oddities.


There are certainly other stories and artists which have influenced me, the world itself is a constant influence, but none I think that have done quite as much as these four. I do hope I can do their legacies justice.


Image sources:

“Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!” Elvenesse.

Pete, Bill. “Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent” Pinterest. 

“Dragon Moose.” Avatar Wiki.

“Goat Gorilla.” Avatar Wiki.

“Giant Rhinoceros Beetle.” Avatar Wiki.

Silverstein, Shel. “The Worst.” Pinterest.

Silverstein, Shel. “It’s Dark in Here.” Pinterest.

The Theater of it All

As I stepped into the studio yesterday, I knew that I wasn’t feeling it. My body and moving were not things that I wanted paired. But I had to get going. So I thought, “How do I loosen myself up?” What I ended up doing was putting on some Frank Ocean and dancing my ever-loving heart out. I didn’t think about my movements (or anything else for that matter.) I just moved. I danced and danced as song after song played. While a lot of the movements repeated, and I tended to burn out 3/4 of the way through the song, I still managed to develop quite a few good movements. The song Provider is what really got me moving. Something about the line “show me the wisdom in your movement” really kept me inspired. I came in sluggish and by the end all I wanted to do was dance.


Image from:

This exercise really got me thinking about the theater of dancing. When I was anticipating each lyric, and moving my body in a way that could best represent each word, phrase, and sound, I was able to realize just how similar this is to theater. I’m trying to convey emotions set out for me in my own unique way. My perspective is the guide, but it is heavily influenced by the work of others (or in the case of my dance, myself.) I remember, a few weeks ago, I was talking with T. Will about my project, and he said to me jokingly “You couldn’t incorporate theater into your project?” But the more I think about it, dance is theater. Dance is just a different manifestation of the same idea. That knowledge helped guide me through choreography. I kept thinking to myself, “how would I act this out?” And I let the movement take me where it needed to go.

How on Earth

This past week I ran into a pretty big issue that may take a little time to resolve, it’s honestly pretty embarrassing to me but I’ll just go ahead and put it out there: I don’t remember how to paint portraits. Imprimaturas? Fine and good. But actually putting color on the canvas to resemble skin tone, depth, shape, and shadow? I’m having a harder time getting back into it that I thought I would. When I actually think about it, it’s been probably about two years since I last painted a portrait. Here’s the comparison between my two year old portrait (still unfinished) and my progress on the Maggie one:

It’ll come along, I just need to take some uninterrupted time to sit and work on it. I’m thinking of playing up some of the yellow highlights, like it appears in my reference photo. I do like how the eye is coming, though.

This past weekend, I began the process of migrating all of my portfolio works over from home to Westtown, so that I can begin photographing them properly to upload into my college applications. I have an email into T. Chris Willis to set up a time to meet about beginning this photographing process. I also need to contact T. Joyce Nagata about photographing my pottery. I’ve found two good articles on photographing paintings here and here. It looks like I may also need to contact T. Sarah Sullivan about setting up some lights with gel filters to balance color.

In looking ahead, I have some ideas for new paintings. I know I don’t want to stick solely to portraiture and abstract and fantasy separately, but rather I would like to merge the three to start to string together a coherent body of work. I am still mulling over how I will do this with the Maggie painting, but I am thinking of pulling in some elements of my floating amoebas with abstract tendrils of paint and a focus on mixing color.

Next, I am planning on doing a self portrait with poison ivy and a spider-slug. I know, I know. You’re wondering about the poison ivy. Well, in addition to gathering up portfolio pieces over the weekend, I also waged an itchy and exhausting battle against the poison ivy covering my arms, torso, and yes, even my face. I did, however, get some pretty gnarly shots of my eye all swelled up, and I thought it might make for some interesting and out of the ordinary subject matter (like the grotesque work of Jenny Saville which I mentioned in an earlier post). I also am looking to start bringing my creatures into realism, and what better way to do so than with a spider-slug on my head?

I am toying with the notion of doing a series of portraits of my friends, all playing with the abstract and fantastical. I think I will consult T. Chris Willis on this, but I am feeling hopeful. This weekend I will be staying at school and am planning on holing myself up in the studio to get some actual work done. Hopefully, I will be able to finish or get closer to finished on the Maggie painting, and begin the self-portrait.

Assistant Teaching – Alec Barbera

My time in the 6th grade classroom is quickly becoming a part of me in that I am connecting with the kids much more now. I feel like they trust me now and they are much more comfortable with asking me questions and having me help them. I feel more and more that this is no longer just a project, but something that makes me get up in the morning and smile while walking through the entrance of the middle school.

Continue reading

The Importance of Press – KC

On October 2nd 2017 a Q&A about the work I’ve been doing was posed on Vice News. It was later added to their national snapchat story. It’s hard to say how many people saw the article but this was national coverage which means a TON of people saw it all across the country and perhaps the world.

Let’s look at the numbers we do have:

We can use Facebook’s article tracking feature to see how many times it was simply shared on the popular social media site. In the past two weeks it has been shared by nearly 2,000 people and popular pages.

Screenshot at Oct 15 19-54-20.png

I don’t have any way to quantify any other post-based social media websites like twitter, but this gives an audience rage on one.

We can however extract a few numbers from Snapchat’s stories. Vice News is one of the most popular snapchat stories, and while the app does not release official viewership counts, NBC released their own count earlier this year.

Read more: Quakerism’s Influence on my Activism – KC

According to Variety, the multi-media giant garnered a whopping 29 million views in the first month of starting their new snapchat story. While this number is probably inflated because of first month promotion, it allows us to see the amount of people who are tuning into a specific story – a new one at that.

It is safe to say that over a hundred thousand people saw the story on Vice. We don’t have any way of quantifying the number of people who then chose to read the article, but they were all able to see this video:


So why do these numbers matter? It’s simple, good press is one of the most crucial parts of any organization or movement. Over the past two weeks since my article dropped, my mailbox has been flooded with new people wanting to get involved. Leading activist in my field have begun reaching out to partner.

Read more: Timing is an Art Form – KC

I’m really excited about working with these people and continuing to build my organization. To those trying to build something new, I suggest you start working on news coverage. Reach out to local reporters or people who frequently write about related topics. Start sending press-releases when new things happen inside your organization.

These kinds of articles will help propel your message and build a wider audience.

Groundbreaking of the mushroom production facility in China

I had some difficulty getting through my project in the past two weeks since the Commissioner was out in China for the groundbreaking of the mushroom production facility. However, I am able to track his visit and proceed with my project from here. According to my recent communication with him, they had a successful launching activity in China and the activity serves as a starting place for future cooperation opportunities.

Funan is where the groundbreaking event took place. The county is located in Anhui Province. Its unique location and abundant resources allow Funan to become an ideal place for producing mushrooms. At present, the county has a cultivated fungus area of 1.2 million acres. The area consists of 7 different kinds of mushrooms, of which four products are recognized as pollution-free product, and the other three are given green product certificates. Funan Lianmei company is an American company based in Funan for the production of mushrooms. The company is planning on investing 1 billion Yuan and use advanced technology in America to achieve an annual production of 30,000 tons of mushrooms. If all goes well, they will be able to gain an annual profit of 100 million Yuan, and provide 1000 job opportunities for the local community. To read more about the cooperation, click here(you might need some translating tools, I was not able to find the same article in English). The picture below captures the groundbreaking event.


It is interesting to see how a small county in China gets into business partnership with a company in Chester County area. I think China Initiative is definitely powerful and will bring more prosperity for both China and America. I will be blogging more about this cooperation after talking about it more with Commissioner Farrell.

In the meantime, I had a conference with his assistant last week about some plans moving forward.Commissioner Terrence Farrell has gained permission from the other two commissioners to establish a Sister Municipality agreement. Their decision allows me to move forward as a liaison between both places. I am very excited for the future development of this project.



The value of money

How much has changed in Shimenkan since Pollard’s arrival?

How much has changed in Shimenkan since the Chinese government started their reconstruction work?

The answer to the first question is A LOT, but the answer to the second question can be both a lot and very little.

When Pollard first arrived at Shimenkan, he had no money. As a religious missionary, he had hope and a plan to do his work in the village. Without money, he couldn’t buy land from the villagers or the local government. However, he made a deal with the landlord. He asked for “some land that is only worth one whole piece of calfskin”. The landlord was confused, but he thought a full piece of calfskin is barely anything, so he said yes to Pollard’s request. That night, he cut up a whole piece of calfskin into thin strips and sewed them together into a long line. The next day, when he met with the landlord to take the land, he rounded up enough land to build a church with the strip of calfskin. With some villagers’ help, a church was built. In the beginning, the church served both as a school and a church. As time went, the first school and the first hospital was built at Shimenkan.

Three years ago, the Chinese government started to reform areas that are in poverty. Shimenkan was listed under one of the targeted rural villages in the “help the poor” project in China. In the whole process, the government invested over 10 BILLION Yuan on this small village. New apartment-style houses were built, and the village is physically connected with roads. However, even with the new houses and the roads, villagers here are still trapped in poverty. The government doesn’t seem to understand that the real way to improve these people’s lives is to teach them how to fish, not just give them the fish. From the physical appearance, Shimenkan has changed much more than what Pollard had done. However, what the village really needs is education that will provide them a chance and the ability to connect with the outside world.


With little money and resource, Pollard built a church, a school and a hospital that really improved people’s quality of life. With more than enough money, the government only helped the village on the most basic level. I hope that the government can see that it is the education system that needs to be improved so the villages can build more wealth on their own.


This picture was taken in the early days of Pollard’s arrival. I found this picture in the Shimenkan gallery.

Timing is an Art Form – KC

I’ve reached the point in the development of my organization where great things are happening each week. In the beginning, I’d see a stroke of good luck maybe once a month. And it wouldn’t really matter if I ran to Facebook and announced the news or posted here for the community to see. Now, I find myself having to play closer attention to the release of information. Continue reading

How Hannibal defeated Game Theory—Summer


Today, I am going to examine with you, through the lens of game theory, the most famous war in my favorite era (Classical Antiquity!), the 2nd Punic war between Carthage and Roman Empire. In particular, Hannibal’s invasion into Roman territory through the Alps. Continue reading

Semester Goals – KC

Last semester I was able to reach a large majority of my goals. This year, the Independent Seminar is not built into my schedule. I added it on top of 6 other courses because of my dedication to advancing sex education in this country. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m tight with time, but still have a long list of goals. This semester I’m focusing on financial planning, team expansion, and event planning. Continue reading