I began my college career in September 1998. I was enrolled at a local university graphic design bachelors program. I always knew that I wanted to major in art, because honestly there was nothing else that even remotely interested me, and I was told that the only way make money as an artist was to be a graphic designer. So there I was, embarking on a career path that I was doing because I figured, well what choice do I have really? Maybe I'd end up really liking it, even if I really didn't care for it when I tried it in high school. This would be different, everything will just magically work out.
In my first year of college the art courses were studio art rather than computer art classes, so one would think I was comfortable in my realm. Sadly, this was not the case. Color theory consisted of an endless amount of painted color swatches that would be used to create all sorts of color charts like the color wheel, tints and shades, complementary colors, split complementary colors, analogous colors, triadic colors and so on. That was basically all the creating in the entire course ~ painting color swatches and adhering them to paper to demonstrate specific color properties. Although the course was very informative, it definitely dulled the luminosity of color for me. That was just the beginning though of my slow descent in the world of creating.
I spent the entire semester in my drawing class sketching boxes. That’s right, boxes. For 2 ½ hours twice a week for 3 months I endured the monotony and tediousness of drawing never-ending squares and rectangles. Apparently our boxes would never be good enough because the professor would come around, erase what we drew and redraw it himself. Do you know how frustrating that was? I’d spend over an hour on MY drawing just to have him come over, sit in my seat and erase the offending lines. Then sit there and draw it himself while I watched him, thinking to myself “now, what exactly am I learning from this professor?” He wouldn’t even offer advice on how to improve the drawing. I mean, he might as well have just drawn the whole darn thing himself and saved us the aggravation. And the kicker? No one in that class ever got over a B- on a project. Apparently, even the professor’s work wasn’t up to his own standards.
Classes continued to drain me of creativity with each passing semester. One autumn afternoon while on break for one of my 4 hour classes I began seriously contemplating if art was for me. I mean, art was making me miserable. I dreaded going to class and it was obvious my heart wasn’t in my work.
I hated art.
And I really meant it too, that’s what hurt the most. It was a part of me for so long and to not only begin imagining my life without it, but to loathe it as much as I began to was traumatizing. I tried to think of something else I could major in, something I could be just as passionate about like I once was with art. Then I really got panicked because I couldn’t think of anything that could compare. So out of fear and naivety I remained in the program, going through the motions for the remainder of my undergraduate career.
And then it happened.
It was in April of 2002, about a month before I was due to graduate. It was warm and beautiful out, the sun was shining so bright it was practically blinding. I was in my morning class, it was a freelancing course, basically teaching us about the legal aspects of independently selling your artistic services. Another business oriented class that was required, I had taken so many at that point I was beginning to think I actually enrolled in a business program rather than art.
I didn't care for my professor, much like I didn't care for most of them. He wasn't very subtle in acknowledging who his favorites were, which happened to be 2 guys. I think he tried to live vicariously through them because he was constantly talking with them, asking them about their weekends or their girlfriends, or something or other. Perhaps he was trying to hang out with the 'cool' guys like it was high school again. Regardless, he rubbed me the wrong way.
So here I am, on this gorgeous, sunny spring day in class listening to this professor go on about legalities and copyrights that really weren't going to have any kind of bearing on my future because I knew this wasn't for me. I knew from day one of college that this wasn't for me. No matter how hard I tried for 4 years to ignore those feelings or convince myself that it would eventually grow on me, I just knew it wasn't me.
It could never be me.
So here I am still sitting in class, realizing that in a month I'll be graduating with a bachelor's degree in a concentration that I didn't like, didn't excel in and really didn't want to do for the rest of my life. I began to feel disgusted with the situation. Four long years wasted on something I despised. All the money spent on school, all the energy and work for nothing. Within seconds my mind started reeling and I began panicking as the reality of the situation was starting to hit. College would be over and I needed a job, a career. I wasn't skilled in anything but art and apparently, according to my graphic design grades, I wasn't even really skilled in that. What was I going to do? The future that always seemed so far away was now here and I didn't have a backup plan, an "in case of emergency break glass" option, or a clue as to what to do.
Just as hopelessness began to set in, I kept thinking about how I let it get this far. How I let it all go wrong for so long. I let them take the one God given gift that I truly felt passionate about, the only intangible constant that I was really sure with for over 10 years, and had me question it's place in my life, Even worse, caused me to feel resentment and ultimately hatred toward art all together.
My mind still miles away from the classroom, I begin reminiscing about high school and how much fun art used to be. There were no rules about how many colors you can use, or which colors or imagery you had to use. No one telling you that it's what the client wants aesthetically, and not you. None of that perverse nonsense that college had made me endure for 4 years. Before college I would create just for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction it filled me with. I could take an idea and run with it in any direction I wanted for as long as I wanted. For me creating art was relaxing, liberating, expressive and was a powerful influence in my life. Art was for art's sake, and my sake too. That's what art should be. Art shouldn't be stressful, restrictive or evoke any feeling of disdain!
Elementary and high school art classes had it right, they understood what creating art was all about and the emotions that go into it!
"I wish I was back in my high school art classes again...."
I've heard people talk about moments in their life when a light bulb goes off in their head and they have a moment of grand epiphany and all. I never really understood what they meant by it until the moment I thought that simple nostalgic statement. I literally saw the light bulb brighten in my head. It was the biggest "DUH" moment I ever had in my life to date. Within seconds I experienced a very powerful moment of clarity. All the pieces that had been scattered for 4 years came together immediately and I knew exactly what I had to do. The answer was so deliciously simple and presented itself to me in such an obvious, matter of fact tone. Like my subconscious knew the answer all along.
"I should be an art teacher."
Yes, it was my moment of epiphany. I knew in that crystal clear moment that everything was going to be ok. Exactly one year later in April 2003, after my undergrad graduation, extensive research on art education graduate programs, applying for school and interviewing to get into the program, I finally got my acceptance letter into Long Island University's art education masters degree program.
3 years later I was preparing to graduate from college again, but this time it was different. I exceeded my own expectations for myself. I poured endless amounts of effort, energy and passion into this achievement. I never worked as hard as I did in graduate school, especially those 5 months leading up to graduation. I hardly saw my family or friends for those few years and dating was out of the question. I was constantly exhausted, stressed, anxious, and burnt out. I wasn't sleeping or eating right, and survived on cigarettes and 15 cups of coffee a day. I thought undergrad was tough to get through, but undergrad was all emotionally torturous. Nowhere near as physically or mentally demanding or draining as this was.
But I would do it all again, every moment, because of how it helped me rediscover my love of art. I had forgotten what art meant to me and even how to begin creating again. I was unsure in my abilities, convinced myself that my artistic skills had faded into nothing. Slowly I began to learn to love the entire creative process all over again. I will always be grateful to have been given that opportunity to find my way back to what I thought I had lost forever. To be able to share my knowledge and experiences with students and letting them elicit their own creative experiences. Art was fun again and I intend to keep it that way.