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Painting Quarter with Katie Lindsay

Heck yes!! Jumping into another quarter here at the one and only Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art!! What a unique and rare place this truly is. It’s great to see all of these lovely smiling faces again after 5 weeks off. We truly are a community here and that is felt to a great degree when we come back after not seeing each other for some time.

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Our first quarter painting was as enthralling as it was challenging. We were definitely excited to jump into it and get our hands dirty with some paint after an entire year of drawing classes. While Jeff Nentrup showed us the ins-and-outs of the indirect painting approach, Sergio Sanchez had us diving head-deep into direct painting. It was great to have these classes coincide with one another so that we could really understand the differences between the two approaches, as well as the pros and cons of both. Sergio gave us an extremely enlightening lecture on the interaction between local color and light color on an object in his class, and Ron Lemen furthered our understanding of the concept in his Color and Light class by going into the idea of the science behind color, light, and why we see what we see. In both classes, we practiced painting our models under different colored lights in order to learn how to dissect colors so that we may translate them to our canvases accurately. They both stressed to us that it is not only what you think you see, but a combination of what you think you see and what you intellectually know is happening with the local color, based on the light color. For the most part, in Jeff Nentrup’s Direct Painting class we worked monochromatically in order to really get a grasp on the behavior of oil paint as a medium and to learn the process of creating the illusion of form without having to worry about that extra aspect of color. Noah Buchanan taught us all about the history of painting materials in our Methods and Materials class. We got to stretch our own canvases out of cotton and linen, make rabbit skin glue, and experimented with a variety of mediums. We also got to mix our own paints from scratch and learn about the history of pigments. It was an extremely enlightening experience overall last quarter and I feel that we all made a pretty smooth transition from drawing to painting.

One of the most difficult things for me last quarter was being okay with the idea that I’m learning and so I am going to make ugly paintings right now. Haha. It was really hard for me to accept that all of these paintings are studies and they are not going to necessarily turn out pretty. The point right now, however, is not to make a pretty picture. The point is to tackle these concepts, get used to the materials, and to take it one step at a time. It’s just difficult to paint for 5 hours and then accept that what you just made was a study that it’s okay that it’s not a beautiful finished piece. It was amazing, however, to see us all progress throughout the quarter. We all improved SO much, which is really encouraging.

Elyse and I working on homework last quarter:


One of my paintings from Jeff Nentrup’s class:


Ron talking color with Harris in his Color and Light class:


Elyse working on homework (color study) for Sergio’s painting class:

One of my color studies for Sergio’s class:

Elyse working on a master copy in Noah’s class (on a canvas she stretched):

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I’m really excited to see where this quarter will take us. Now that we have gone over the basics and worked with that for a bit, we can focus on refining those basic skills and moving towards more expression with the paint, as well as the exploration of new techniques/approaches. I’m excited to have our paintings come to life!

Our classes this term:

Composition 3, with Brian Apthorp

        -Focusing on composing with color, understanding color relationships, and the emotional influence of color.

Painting 2B, with Ron Lemen

        -Continuation of direct painting, focusing on bringing the paintings to life in our own personal aesthetic directions, taking leads from artists who inspire us. We will be doing one painting per class session (portrait as well as full figure).

Painting 2A, with Carl Dobsky

        -Two 5-week poses with two different models. The first 5 weeks will be focusing on grissaille and glazing. The second half of the quarter we will be learning the ebauche technique.

Art History 4, with Katherine Zoraster

        -We will be covering the Enlightenment through the Impressionists and Pre-Raphaelites.

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This week in Composition with Brian Apthorp, we studied concepts behind the development of harmony in a piece by using complementary colors. We talked about how complementary pairs are inherently pleasing because they include all of the primaries within them, and so, with proper distribution, the viewer’s brain is satisfied. We also discussed how without relief of some kind, the brain is bothered/overwhelmed. For instance, you can’t just bludgeon your viewer with saturated colors throughout the whole piece (unless you are purposefully bludgeoning them). It is better to juxtapose bright colors with muted colors to give some relief to the eye, as well as to move your eye around the piece without overwhelming it. With proper distribution of colors, the brain is left pleased… but that does not mean that a perfect balance of the colors is the answer. In fact, perfect balance in color distribution is often irritating. It’s dead. It’s not dynamic. The brain wants dynamism, and as artists, we must deliver this.

This is my homework assignment from this week. I received a black and white version of this painting and had to apply a complementary color plan to it in Photoshop. This is what I came up with:

Ron Lemen talked to us individually in our Painting 2B class this week, discussing the types of artist that we are inspired by. He wants us to do master copies from artists that inspire us and to investigate what it is about these artists that moves us. I’m really happy that we’re discussing this and starting to move our artwork in more personal directions. It’s all very exciting. I have much to think about in terms of the direction I’m trying to go in.

In Carl Dobsky’s class, Painting 2A, we are refining our drawings of the model from the first week and getting ready to transfer them onto our canvases/panels to start painting next week. I really enjoy taking my time with a piece, getting the drawing just right and then moving to an underpainting and then to the final layers. There is something really satisfying to me about this indirect process. It’s far different than the direct painting that we’re doing in Ron’s class. I enjoy that too, but for different reasons. Maybe the indirect method suits me more because I don’t like being restricted by time so much.

Here is my drawing from class:

 Art History sprung us into the Rococo period this week, which had mixed reviews with my class. I think I may have been the only one of us who likes it. There is something so pleasing to me about it, but my peers were not impressed, haha. I don’t appreciate the ideas behind it (the aristocrats of the time commissioning works of art to decorate their fancy houses/salons while ignoring the plight of the lower class’s reality), but the pastel colors, natural settings, light-hearted attitudes, and whimsical/flirtatious scenes are really satisfying to me. I can’t help it, haha. I also really enjoyed learning about the philosophies of the time. One of my favorite aspects of art history is the idea of everything effecting everything else and it all being interconnected. Philosophy’s influence on art is really interesting to me. This week we were talking about the writings/ideas of John Locke, Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau. Absolutely fascinating stuff!

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This week I made some very important shifts in my thought processes.

It started off by me feeling pretty stressed out. Work has started to pile up already and I’m realizing that my time management skills are not what they need to be to keep up. The more stressed I get about the workload, the harder it is to manage it. Stress can be debilitating. I recognize that I am not alone in this struggle. Not only are my peers experiencing the same thing, but so many people out there are struggling to juggle school, work, and their personal lives. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this struggle, but nonetheless, its a challenge. Part of the issue with me is the perfectionist side of me. I can’t just do a master copy or a color study of another artist and just whip it out… I have to be calculated about it, I have to get the drawing just right, the tones, the colors, the edges, and I have to get every brushstroke just like theirs. Thinking in this way can make a color study seem like an extremely daunting task.

Then enters my self doubt. This anxiety that even if I put all of my time and effort into the task ahead of me, I’ll probably just screw it up. I don’t want to disappoint my instructors, my peers, and most importantly myself. Anxiety, just like stress, can be debilitating. In class, I sometimes become timid with my work, because my instructors are watching and I don’t want to make the wrong decisions in front of them. They obviously notice this. Both Ron and Carl told me this week to relax, haha. They basically told me to stop stressing about it and to recognize the fact that I am learning. They told me to accept that I am probably not going to be making pretty pictures right now because this is the time for taking risks, experimenting, and making mistakes so that I may learn from them. In Ron’s direct painting class, he told me to not treat my drawing as precious, to let go of it, to be okay with losing the drawing and then finding it again. This led me to start working more sculpturally while painting, which I found to be much more efficient and enjoyable for me. It also showed me that there are many approaches that you can take when tackling a painting. This sculptural approach just makes a lot of sense to me and helps me loosen up and cover more ground quicker. In my indirect painting class, where things are much more about having a precise drawing and carefully modeling form, Carl helped me to relax by telling me that I should just assume that my drawing is wrong to start with and accept that that is okay, and that some say that drawing/painting is a process of correcting your mistakes. I like that way of thinking. It definitely helped me to relax and let go a bit. I started working more sculpturally in this class as well on my preliminary drawing for my painting. Sometimes its easier to go for a generalization and then push/pull it in the direction that it needs to go to attain accuracy.

        It is easy to allow your thought patterns, your stresses, your anxieties, and your self-doubt to impede your learning process. It is easier said than done to change the way you think about things and to release yourself into the learning process without these thoughts clouding your vision and stunting your growth. Its crucial, however, for the art student to do this. Otherwise, you will just be fighting yourself the whole way. I’m so thankful that I have instructors who give me such important advice. Changing these habits of thought now will make the rest of my education (as well as the rest of my life) a much more fluid process.

Process shots of my painting from Ron’s class this week:

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This quarter we have been doing a lot of thinking about the future. Since we are trying to move in our own personal directions with our paintings in Ron’s class we have all been having to do a little more pondering about where we are headed. I found that I was really quite confused about my direction and was in need of some counseling. All of the instructors here at LAAFA are wonderful reference when it comes to getting advice on these larger decisions. They work in a variety of fields and are all more than willing to meet up with students outside of class to listen to concerns and give helpful advice. They really care about their students on a deeply personal level and want them to succeed and be happy. I spoke with all of my instructors this week (as well as some past instructors) and told them about my interests, asked them about my options, and voiced my concerns. They were all so helpful in very different ways and all had interesting perspectives to consider. They discussed with me the pros and cons to consider with different career pathways, the lifestyles that come with different pathways, and the variety of ways to go about reaching the same end goal. They also told me that none of these pathways are fool-safe. There are always risks involved with anything worth having in life. That is so important to remember.

        I was also told repeatedly that I should do what I love and do it well. If you are truly doing what you love, then getting paid for it isn’t just a reward for “getting through” but rather a bonus for doing something that you love doing anyway. Getting to this point, though, takes hard work and a lot of patience. Don’t get stuck doing something you hate, go out there and do something you love! Something that fills you! Walt Disney said, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” If you do something that you are passionate about and you do it as well as you possibly can, people will respond to that and I really don’t think you can go wrong. I think that it is important to stick to what you love regardless of what others think you should do.

        “So what do I love?” I thought. One thing that I have run into that I originally thought of as a problem was that I have A LOT of different passions. So many things fill me in the same way that drawing/painting does; writing, singing, playing music, film, photography, sculpting, learning, teaching, etc, etc. If I focus on all of them, then maybe I would spread myself too thin and never master any of them. But if I focus on one of them, then I have holes in those other parts of me that want to be filled. Hmmmm, a predicament. I brought this up to Ron, hoping that he could give me advice on where to focus my efforts. He told me that this isn’t a problem, it’s a gift of sorts. He said that it is a great thing that I have many passions and that he does too. He went on to say that there are many ways that you can combine these passions in great ways as an artist. This was a very encouraging thought, and quite a relief actually. I think that its easy to be overwhelmed when your interests lie in many different aspects of life, but that there is a balance that can be reached between spreading yourself too thin and pigeon-holing yourself into one thing. That balance is what I strive towards. Onward and upward!

Progress on 5-week painting for Carl’s Painting 2A class:

Carl Dobsky doing a painting demo:

Artist copy homework for Ron’s Painting 2B class:

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Composition with Brian Apthorp:

Another week in the bag. This week we focused more on color harmony in Brian’s class, going towards gentler color relationships than previously explored, subtlety being our best friend. We investigated various ways of achieving harmony of color throughout your subject and the painting overall, through overt “influencing” of color. Learning about the different methods of going about this process has made me perceive other artist’s work quite differently. It makes me think more about their thought processes and the planning that went into each color decision that they made. I’ve gained yet another filter to look at artwork through. I love it!

Painting 2B with Ron Lemen:

We did more exploring this week in our personal directions as painters, studying the methods of the artists that we as individuals find most interesting. We did another artist copy for homework, which was, yet again, an invaluable lesson on many levels. In class we worked from a model and pushed the color in ways we had not previously tried. Very exciting stuff. I love when ideas from classes cross-over and blend in a way that just makes complete sense, making you come to conclusions that you may not have come to if you did not have the influence of both of those classes in your head at once (as with color concepts right now). Also, studying these other artists for homework has made me really look into myself and constantly question what it is that I want out of my own work. Do I want to paint like this? What is appealing to me about it? What don’t I like about it? How would I tweak it to my liking, my own personal aesthetic? If this was my painting what would it look like? I think I’m starting to grasp an idea of the kinds of aesthetics that I like. Much like my feelings towards music, movies, and other medium, I am inclined towards many different styles, techniques, and subject matter. However, I am refining this idea in my head of the types of things that I myself would want to produce. Which is very exciting indeed.

Me working on an artist copy at home (for Ron’s class):

Painting 2A with Carl Dobsky:

This was our last week working from this model (5-week pose). As we all work at different paces, some of us were finishing up the grisaille while others were working glazes on top of their grisaille paintings. Some of us even moved on to multiple layers of glazes and opaque layers of color. This process has taught us all a lot about planning our approach to a painting. If you plan properly, you can get some really cool results from this process of layering color on top of grisaille. Another set of tools to add to the ever-evolving, ever-expanding toolbox! Yes!

 Art History with Katherine Zoraster:

We had our Midterm this week!! I think we all did pretty well. I can tell from our discussions in class that we are all grasping the concepts of the time periods really well. The only thing that we all seem to be struggling with is remembering how to spell all of these 17th and 18th century French artist’s names! haha. Katherine always has ways of keeping us engaged in class, whether it be through little video clips that add to the lesson or interesting little bits of historical gossip. As I’ve said before, she has a way of making history come to life in the classroom and making it feel like a very present thing. When learning about these historical movements in art, perspective is crucial. You have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the artists and common people of these eras and really feel what it was like to be in that time and place. Otherwise, it won’t make much sense. So many things that we’re learning about that happened would not necessarily be a big deal in today’s society, but back then, these events were astronomically different, intensely influential, and often-times revolutionary! I like to think of the idea that we are history in the making and that we will be leading our own artistic revolutions of sorts.

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This was another work-packed week at LAAFA. As usual, it was extremely enjoyable and thought-provoking. Something that really stuck out to me this week was the idea of time.

    It came about when Brian enthralled us all in Composition by showing us the in-depth process behind a 25-year composition done by the great Lord Frederick Leighton. Yes, it took him 25 YEARS to go from his idea and original thumbnail to the actual completion of the piece. Just let that sink in. That’s like, the length of my life thus far. Insanity. Anyway, the amount of thought and preparation that went into that piece just blew our minds. Brian showed us sketch after sketch that Leighton labored over in order to get things just right. The overall flow of the piece, the reading order, the main focus, the subtleties and complexities, the color relationships/hierarchies, the tonal layout, everything. His friends thought he was crazy for fussing with his pieces like this and trying to get them perfect, but he had his own ideas about what needed to be done in order to portray exactly what he meant to say through his artwork. He worked as hard as he had to in order to live up to those standards in his mind and I really respect that.

    As someone who works at a snail’s pace, I understand the pressure to hurry up and get things done. I hear it all the time. I also understand that sometimes things can have the potential to be much better if you slow down and get it right. All of my instructors will tell you that I am the slowest-paced artist in class (if not in the school) and they encourage me to get faster all the time, but they also understand that when I do things at my pace and complete something, it is done well and has a delicate finish to it that is my own and is what I intended it to be. To me, that’s worth the extra time. How terrible would it have been if Leighton had listened to his friends, and pressed on with his composition the way he had originally composed it to be just to get it done? Would it still be beautiful? Probably. But would it have been pushed to its full potential as an idea and composition? I think not. And what a shame, I think, for an idea to not be allowed to reach it’s full potential because of a pressure to reach completion quickly. When an artist has an idea for a composition, that idea is a living breathing entity in and of itself. It’s true. Think about it. If you restrict it too much or don’t give it time to unravel properly, you suffocate the life out of it and it can wither away, it can die. But the more that you give to it, the more you nurture that idea, the more it grows into something beautiful and full of vitality and energy. So I say take as much time as you need to in order to build your ideas up and fill them with good energy and substance and thought. Because then when you say, “Okay, you are done, you are fully alive now,” that idea, that composition, can stand on its own and breath life into those who come across it. And all of your efforts will surely shine through it.

    On the other hand, to be realistic, as a working artist or student one has to deal with deadlines. It is a fact. Whether it is from an instructor or a gallery or your boss or agent, you must keep up with the pace of the world around you and of the industry that you are a part of.

I suppose this is the constant struggle of the working artist; to balance the personal significance of their work with the demands of the world around them. The show must go on and you surely don’t want to be left behind. But at what cost? I suppose there must be a balance that each individual must find for themselves. I have yet to find mine. Though I’m sure that I will, especially with the help of my amazing instructors here, for they encourage me in both directions.

My painting from a model in Ron’s class this week:

My artist copy homework for Ron’s class this week (copied from a Duarte Vitoria painting):

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This week there was a lot of discussion about communication through art. All artwork communicates something to the viewer, and because we all have a unique consciousness, we all interpret the world around us differently (and hence, interpret art differently). Of course there are many different mediums to communicate through, but for our purposes here at LAAFA, we were referring to painting specifically. We discussed in Brian’s composition class the idea that the artist never has complete control over the viewer’s interpretation of their artwork, but they can definitely have a strong influence. The better you are at composing an image and anticipating the viewer’s read of it, the closer the viewer’s resulting reaction is to your intention. There are many things to consider here though. Since our composition class this quarter is focused on color, we mainly discussed how color plays a significant role in the emotional outcome of the painting. We looked at several different images of paintings on Photoshop and made changes to the color layout of each, paying attention to how the mood was changed by even subtle color shifts. We looked at how the hues could stay the same but the mood could change by just making the hues more or less saturated/muted. It was a really interesting and insightful lecture. We then went home and worked on a color layout ourselves. We were given a black and white image of a painting that we had never seen and we had to do two different color plans for the image, communicating a completely different mood with each version. It clearly showed us what a significant effect color has on the overall communication of the piece. This was a great exercise for all of us and we all learned a lot from it.

These are the color comps. that I came up with for my homework:

 We are continuing our color studies for homework for Ron’s painting class as well, copying paintings from artists who inspire us. I chose a John Asaro painting to do a study from this week.

This is the original John Asaro painting:

This is my color study:

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This week in art history, Katherine moved us into the the age of Realism. I always enjoy Art History, but I enjoyed this week in particular because we got to discuss the lineage of artists that we come from and relate to. It was really exciting to hear about Gustave Courbet and how bold he was when he went around the Academy by holding his own exhibition (The Pavilion of Realism). At this time, a personal exhibition was a revolutionary idea and, even though not very many people attended it, this act on Courbet’s part ended up being inspiration for the Impressionists to hold their own shows later down the line. Another inspiration to go against the strict ideals of the Academy was the Salon de Refuses, where Napoleon III (in trying to appease the people) put on an exhibition for all of the artists who had been refused by the Academy. This event was huge and was heavily attended by the public. One of the artists who exhibited there was Manet, who revealed his Olympia painting there. This painting was extremely controversial because the nude woman in the painting (who stares out directly at the viewer) was not a mythical person, someone from a biblical story, or an ambiguous woman representative of ideal beauty. She was a well-known woman of the modern time and she was not depicted in an idealized manner. Because of this, people accused it of being pornographic.

This sparked a discussion in class about how offended people used to be by the nude body and how things have shifted in present times. My classmates and I look at nude models every day here at LAAFA and we are totally comfortable and even kind of desensitized to nudity. In today’s society, I feel that many people are desensitized to nudity as well. It is much more widely accepted in today’s mass media, so we see modern men and women naked in movies and even some television networks regularly without there being public outrage. This was an interesting topic of discussion for us and I like that, even though Katherine gets through all of the curriculum, she lets us digress sometimes into topics that we find really interesting to us personally and that are applicable to our work as artists.

We then moved on to the Pre-Raphaelites and the Impressionists, who my classmates and I found really interesting. We learned that both of these groups were just young art students (like us) trying to figure out the world around them and their place in it. They hung out and discussed ideas about philosophy and society and what they wanted to speak about through their art. It was something that my classmates and I could definitely resonate with and it made us very excited about our own place in the lineage of artists throughout time. We are now part of this lineage and this lecture just made that very real to us.

We also went on a field trip to the Getty Museum Center. It’s always great to get out in LA and experience some artwork first-hand. It was a beautiful day and we all had a great time. Here are a few photos from our experience there:

Overlooking LA from the Getty Center. It was a beautiful day, as you can see. :]

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Painting 2A:

This week we continued our progress on our second five-week painting in Carl’s indirect painting class. While working on this piece, I was reminded of what Brian Apthorp had told us about how “Nothing is black and white, literally nor figuratively, in life nor in art” (Brian always has wise bits of knowledge to share). I thought of this quote from him because my painting was beginning to look rather pasty in the light areas of the figure’s skin from using too much white instead of mixing lighter values of color to achieve the effect I wanted. It’s great when ideas bleed from one class to another and can affect the learning experience in more ways than one.

This is my progress on my painting from Painting 2A:


In Brian’s class this week we discussed contrast and different ways of achieving it. We talked about value change, the use of shadows and highlights, detail amongst ambiguity, juxtapositioning of warm/cool colors, the use of complementary colors, and the use of bright/muted colors. He taught us that giving the eye relief is important for the overall aesthetic (for instance relieving an overall bright painting with muted accents (or vice versa)). We also looked at some examples of paintings where the artist chose effective storytelling over aesthetics. I had never considered that this is a choice that artists have to make sometimes.

Art History:

This week discussed the effects of the Industrial Revolution on art. It was really interesting because we were discussing it and it’s effects back then and then comparing that to the effects of the technological revolution going on in present times. It was really fascinating to discuss it and the similarities and differences. We also talked about how the increase in the pace of things (something that happened with the rise of the Industrial Revolution as well as with the rise of technology in the present era) can have a huge effect on everything.  It’s great to relate the past to the present and try to look objectively at how we fit into the whole picture.

Painting 2B:

In Ron’s painting class we worked on a full figure painting this week. We are all improving significantly because of the color studies that we’ve been doing at home. We are not only laying in our initial drawings more quickly, but we are more intuitively going about the whole process of painting. We are definitely starting to get a hang of seeing colors for what they really are and can quickly mix up the colors that we see. Even our homework color studies are looking better and better each week. It’s so encouraging to see our progress!

Here is my painting from Painting 2B this week. Didn’t quite finish in time, but it’s looking better than my direct paintings from before now:

This is the color study that I did this week for Ron. It was a copy from a Keita Morimoto painting:

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The quarter ended with such positive vibes. Everyone in my group has improved significantly and we’re all very excited to be on this journey together. It’s so amazing to be surrounded by like-minded people who have your best interests at heart. We are all great support for each other and continually encourage each other to strive to do our best. Sometimes it can be hard to keep your momentum because there is so much asked of the students here in terms of the work load. It is an intense program because it has to be. Without hard work and dedication with these foundational skills you won’t get very far. We work very intensely all quarter long and, by the end of the quarter, we are usually extremely worn out. But it always ends with positive vibes, because no matter how tired and over it we can get the results are there in front of us. We can see the drastic improvements from the beginning of the quarter to the end. It’s really incredible to look back at the work from our first couple of quarters here at LAAFA and examine the level that we all started at. When you compare it to where we are now it is night and day. I’m so proud of all of us for coming this far. And though I know that we have a long way to go still, I know that we will be there for each other the whole way encouraging and reminding each other why we’re here: because we all share the same passion. LAAFA has been able to fill that hole for each of us and we know that without it we would be left wanting.

Color study in progress for Ron’s class (Painting 2B):

Another color study for Ron’s class:

Progress shot of in-class painting from Painting 2A (from a model):




















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