Surrendering To The Process

Image Description: Posing with a work in progress. Here, I’m working on a paper mache ocular migraine-simulator.

My direction for IP has taken a sharp turn. Since the beginning of the semester, I have not let myself consider a medium that is not digital. I developed a lingering fear of working three-dimensionally after my freshman year 3D Studio professor took one look at my project during a crit and said “oh… better luck next time.” I’ve made iteration after iteration of digital work, including illustrations, CAD models, and UX prototypes. Still, my work was missing something. It wasn’t immersive enough, impactful enough, or thought provoking enough. I needed it to be more involved.

During my Sophomore Studio class, I was experiencing some of the same stubbornness. My professor noticed this, and challenged me to make an interactive experience that forced the viewer to feel what it was like to have the dyscalculia, a learning disability that affects one’s ability to comprehend mathematical concepts. I ended up making a ridiculously large, 9 ft x 9 ft x 9 ft tent that housed imagery related to dyscalculia. From clocks without hands or numbers, confusing directions, and a “quiz” that set the viewer up to fail, this was truly an experience that engaged the viewer.

Right off the bat, I told my IP Professor “I don’t want to make another tent.” I was putting my foot down. But, as fate would have it, I had a bout of insomnia that kept me awake until 5AM. My brain was overflowing with ideas on how to engage my audience, and involve them directly in my work. I was coming up with ideas like ocular migraine simulators, depictions of bullying that made the viewer feel as if they were being tormented by schoolchildren, and a simulated classroom experience. None of these projects, however, captured the full breadth of what it means to have ADHD. At least, they didn’t on their own. By the time the morning light started trickling through my window, I knew what I had to do. I had to make the dreaded Tent 2.0.

As much as I lamented my sophomore year professor for making me do that tent, I am grateful for it now. As much as I joke about hating that project, I am so excited about the door that it opened up for me in. Because of that project, I gained valuable experience in creating something larger than life, and in learning how to express my internal feelings in an external environment. I see so much value in making ADHD tangible. Education through empathy has always been a primary goal in my work. Why would I limit my capacity to do that to a 2D realm? 

Fainting In The Duderstadt: A New Approach To Research

Image Description: A visual journal entry, featuring my adorable emotional support cat, Poppy. I prefer journaling by drawing, as I think in images more quickly than I do in words. It also helps me to discern my thoughts if I represent them abstractly first.

I’ve always had some level of fatigue and lingering pain, but it’s taken a new form after lockdown ended and the world kept turning like nothing ever happened. Falling asleep while actively having conversation, missing my stop on the bus after dozing off, and thinking I’m awake when I’m actually dreaming (and oversleeping my alarm) have become a quirk to brush off to people that witness it, and a secret to keep from those who haven’t. My body finally gave up on me just over a week ago, when I started blacking out at the library and incoherently called the one person in Ann Arbor I know with a car, begging her to come pick me up. All of my nerves felt like they were on fire. My muscles felt like they were turning to stone. Quickly realizing that this mammoth-sized “inconvenience” could no longer be swept under the rug, I called my dad to ask for advice. He was quiet before telling me that my symptoms are reminiscent of my aunts when she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. 

I cannot jump to conclusions here, but the prevalent link between chronic conditions like fibromyalgia and ADHD cannot be ignored. In the wake of my little episode, my general physician gave me a referral for blood work, and my psychiatrist referred me to a sleep specialist. I took several COVID-19 PCR tests, all of which were negative. I’ve started the painstakingly slow process of eliminating issues in hopes of finding something — anything — that could help me feel better. 

Naturally, after going off the grid post-library-blackout, the residual “are you alive?” emails started trickling into my inbox, and I started pushing the “I am alive and I am sorry” emails through my outbox. As a result, I was able to schedule a Zoom call with one of my professors who, luckily for me, has a level of expertise in all things mental illness. Towards the end of our long talk about research and swapping stories about living with ADHD, she said something that I have not stopped thinking about since. In response to my dismay over not having a lot of research done for my IP class due to juggling school and health, she said something along the lines of “sometimes, you get to be your own research.” When you are living with the condition that you are creating about, sometimes keeping yourself alive is research in and of itself. Forcing myself through the healthcare system, going through medication change after medication change, and even just finding creative ways to get myself out of bed in the morning is all “research” that inspires my making. 

Pictured here is some visual journaling I did about this idea. I’m slowly unpacking how I am feeling about this past week, instead of pushing my own processing aside for the sake of trying to catch up on what I’ve missed while battling this Goliath symptom. I am taking care of myself. For research purposes, of course.  

Hello From Behind The Glass

Image description: Painting leaves with acrylic paint on plexiglass. Even though I’m sitting behind the glass, you can see through the leaves to witness the process going on underneath.

Hello folks! My name is Calin, and this semester I’m going to be taking you all with me on the wild ride that is my Senior Independent Project (IP). As the title of this series suggests, every Monday I will be uploading Polaroid photos that show my process, and writing about how my work for the week is progressing! This capstone project means a lot to me, and it is a staple experience of many Stamps Students who feel the same way. We get to choose our own topics, research and projects, so they become very personal to us. Let’s dive right into the work that I’ve been doing this semester! 

As of now, my capstone project for IP is centered around the experience of being a woman with ADHD. I was just diagnosed a few short months ago, and I am interested in the causes — and devastating effects —  of the diagnostic gap between men and women. I’m also exploring how to visually represent the lesser-known symptoms of ADHD; many people think of ADHD as a “quirky” disorder that makes people flighty, forgetful, hyperactive and unable to focus. However, ADHD is much more than that, and it doesn’t even have to fall into any of those categories. Most women, specifically, do not fall into any of those categories, which is a piece of the puzzle as to why they are less frequently diagnosed and usually diagnosed later in life. I am excited to learn more about this disorder that has been ruling my life for so long, as well as he vulnerable about my own experience in hopes of bringing awareness to all of the things that ADHD can be. 

In recent weeks, I’ve been heavily focused on experimenting with different mediums and techniques for visual storytelling. In one such experiment, I wanted to see what it would look like to paint on plexiglass. The effect was pretty cool; I like the ability to partially see through the unpainted areas, while still leaving parts of the piece opaque with paint. There could be a lot of possibility within layering painted glass to create depth, which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. From my lack of depth perception, to my psycho-somatic symptoms such as ocular migraines, to the often hidden layers of ADHD, the concept of depth holds a lot of meaning in my work. Painting on plexiglass is just one of the many ways that I could convey this! Now, back to the drawing board of endless possibilities…   

The Artist’s Panel: Bird

Hello everyone! To any of the UofM students out there reading this: A little bird told me that you might need some encouragement during this exam season. You’re doing great! You are capable! Drink some water and be kind to yourself! Have a safe, productive and healthy week, all. This little bird believes in you, and so do I.

The Artist’s Panel: rEVOLUTION

Today, I wanted to highlight a current UofM exhibition that speaks on issues that are close  to my heart. The 16th Annual rEVOLUTION: Transformation exhibition, which is curated by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) here on campus, showcases work created by UofM student  allies and survivors of sexual violence. I was deeply moved by the powerful work on display. For the above illustration, I drew from my own experience as a sexual assault survivor as well as references to some of the pieces on display. To see the virtual exhibition in its entirety, click here! I strongly encourage everyone to spend time with this empowering body of work. 

The Artist’s Panel: Routine


For this week’s post, I want to talk about switching up your medium. Lately, my eyes have been killing me from staring at a computer screen for so long, as I work almost entirely on the computer. Zoom fatigue is real, and let me tell you, so is Wacom-Tablet-And-Adobe-Suite fatigue. When I was recently assigned to complete an illustration for one of my classes, I knew I had to make a change in how I worked. 

I found a pallet of water color paints while searching through my drawer of miscellaneous art supplies (you know the one) and I couldn’t resist the temptation to use them. I spent the rest of the evening sitting on my porch with a glass of sweet tea and my paints. After touching the illustration up in Photoshop, I was pretty proud of it! Fine art and painting are by no means my specialty, but it was a needed change to my daily routine. 

After completing this illustration, I felt completely reenergized and inspired to approach my other digital work in a new way. There is no “command Z” when you are painting, so using watercolors forced me to relinquish some of my control and trust my instincts. It brought to my attention that I have been caught up on the very small details instead of looking at the bigger picture of the assignment, and I would have never had the opportunity to reflect on this habit if I hadn’t switched up my medium for a day. It can be very easy to get lost in your daily routine, but breaking the cycle every once in awhile can do wonders for your work — and your motivation — moving forward.