What art school did not teach me.
Friday, June 30, 2023
When I was in art school, I learned that while a 4H pencil is harder than a 2H pencil, a 4B pencil is softer than a 2B. I learned how to use a horizontal metal bandsaw (which I hated) and that the Venus of Willendorf (which I loved) proves that even at our most primal level, we are artists. I learned that keeping a sketchbook loyally is far more impressive and challenging than making a masterpiece overnight. I learned how to install a painting to put its center exactly at eye level with the average human, and I learned that eyeballing it is just about as good anyway.
However, between the hours of studio time and art history lectures, no one (with the exception of a couple of impassioned and caring professors) told me how to be an artist in the real world.
On the third floor of the building where I spent most of my college career, right as you reach the top of the stairs, there’s a large quote in bold black letters, “One’s study is never finished.” I always found this a little too on-the-nose for an academic building, but it popped into my head recently, less as a good tagline for Skillshare or Master Class, and more as a tribute to our malleability at any stage in life.
I used to show up late everywhere. All the time. My friends would lie to me about when events started. My high school math teacher kept a tally of my tardies on the whiteboard. I’d throw up a hand apologetically “Sorry! I’m always late!” One day I realized how lame it is to be unreliable and I started showing up early. I told myself I’m just the kind of person who is early and then I tried to prove it. I am a punctual person; being late makes me panic.
We are always deciding who we want to be. And then choosing whether or not to prove it to ourselves. I told myself I wanted to be an artist, but it took a long time of making art to feel like one. I became a painter just a little bit at a time. And when I question this identity (as I often do), I scribble a single picture and I tell myself that that is enough, because I trust I will do it again tomorrow. Every day we are making and reshaping how our imprints look when you zoom out. That’s how our work exists in the world; never truly finished.
I hope you make a single mark today, and feel that it is plenty.