Art Student Experience
In my last year of undergrad, I added a Studio Art minor. Perhaps it was my incessant worry that I haven’t done enough during undergrad by studying just Communication, or perhaps I wanted to affirm my current mantra of “doing the work I want to see done”. Nevertheless, when spring semester arrived, I was entering the art building of USF for the first time and experiencing what my 6-year old self always wanted. My spring semester consisted of purely art studio classes, meaning from 9:30 am to 3:15 pm I was only drawing, painting, sculpting, or building. It was tedious work, but also an opportunity to improve on the basics and expand on whatever skills I’ve already developed. With that, I’d like to show some of the projects/assignments I worked on this semester, categorized by class.
I like to think that this was the class I most looked forward to. Many of my prominent artworks and commission requests are in this medium, and yet I feel it is my weakest strength. While it was only an intermediate level, I was challenged through several means, starting from the way I think about painting, or how I start one. I’ve always started paintings by sketching and planning in my sketchbook, avoiding the process of working intuitively with the paint because I’ve done the planning part with pencil beforehand. To counter this, our professor held several class sessions in which we were forced to forgo the planning process and just start on a blank canvas. One day our professor trimmed several pieces of plants and foliage from her backyard and had them arranged around the class. We were meant to explore shapes and lines with the paint, and simply let the process of rendering happen. I’ll admit it was intimidating for me, starting with paint directly on the canvas and figuring it out as I go. The experience was valuable, however, as I’ve learned different ways I can make a decent painting. My favorite projects in this class were the stylized self-portrait after the artist Joan Miro, and the final painting I made of a Moroccan doorway with an abstract painting of my grandfather. I actually wasn’t a fan of the Miro portrait at first, considering that we were painting our likeness while distorting our features (and I can’t say that the distortions were attractive, to say the least), but I became satisfied with the result of successfully completing the assignment. I think what makes me most satisfied is that I was able to navigate my mind blocks stemming from my dislike of the painting and finish it. As for the final painting, it holds sentiment to me because of the subject of exploring my cultural roots and ancestry.
2. Beginning Ceramics
Initially, I didn’t want to take this class. I had no interest in learning anything related to 3D art since my focus has always been 2D. Nonetheless, I was on a tight schedule because I still had a part-time job coaching high school soccer, so my options for classes were limited. I was pleasantly surprised to discover, however, that this class would become one of my favorites. Not only was the environment much livelier than my painting and drawing classes (which were rather quiet and at times dull) I found that switching mediums beyond my comfort zone made my brain work harder, and when your brain works harder, you are bound to have some fascinating discoveries. I had never taken a ceramics class before, so coming into this beginning college level certainly came with its challenges. I found difficulty, at first, in molding the shapes I wanted and avoiding cracks in my clay because I scaled my objects too small, letting the wet clay dry and crack quicker, but I believe I got the hang of it by my third or fourth project. My professor encouraged the class to “get weird” with our projects, and that was refreshing. Our first real assignment was making sandwiches, and I themed mine after Spongebob’s town Bikini Bottom. Our next project was a group effort in creating mutant plants, and I settled on making my portion of the plant a cactus. In my free time in class, I decided to create a dragon egg from Game of Thrones (gotta rep the fandom). At this point my control in working with clay significantly improved, and I certainly put in several hours of tedious work. Each scale was hand-made and pressed, and there were several coats of underglaze and glaze that processed in the kiln multiple times. Overall, it’s my favorite project from that class. My second favorite is my final creation, which is a skull head. Everyone in class was required to make heads, although I stuck to a skull structure to avoid any Islamic conflict/taboos regarding the creation of life through clay or stone (and ultimately avoid anything regarding idols). This was my biggest, most ambitious creation in ceramics (perhaps even more than the meticulous dragon egg). I was originally going to leave the skull white, but I saw a cool reference image of a dragon head skull painted in colorful stripes, so I took inspiration from that and adopted it into my own gazelle skull head. On critique day my professor said that my head creation was probably the most dramatic one in the class (and I take that as a full compliment).
3. Concepts and Practices II (or Shockwave II)
This was a mandatory class for the minor. I took Shockwave I in the fall online, but the subsequent course required a 3-hour studio session twice a week. This also became one of my favorite courses (tied with ceramics) for its liveliness and immersion in different mediums. The foundation of the course was centered on each student creating their own fictional country, and all of the art projects we made afterwards were meant to correlate with our country. We learned sewing, building out of cardboard, plastic, and photography. The projects consisted of the following: sewing our country’s flag out of felt, building a chair or throne out of JUST cardboard and glue, creating inflatable architecture from plastic, and taking a portrait of a citizen from our country, fully dressed in cultural attire with props.
This was perhaps my least favorite class, but unfortunately it was mandatory to take. I knew that a beginning drawing course would consist of still-life drawings. I was already able to picture the dull hours sitting in front of an arrangement of vases and bottles, using pencils or charcoal to render the objects. To my dismay I was absolutely correct. Because it was just a beginning class, I was only able to gain “practice” out of it, but not necessarily an improvement on my skills. The majority of students truly were beginners, struggling to contour lines of simple objects. Our professor could only go so far in instruction to teach us. I was tempted to skip most days, but attendance was mandatory, so there I was, day after day, showing up to draw.
One positive aspect I can point out is that we did get a project assigned that enabled us to use inking pens instead of pencil, and the theme for the project was identity (that’s literally golden Filali Studios material)! We had to make a large drawing of anything we wanted so long as it captured the theme. And so, I proceeded to create a 3 panel comic style drawing involving a philosophical discourse on freedom. This was one of my favorite projects in the whole semester within all 4 classes.
And now, as of Wednesday, April 24, 2019, I’ve officially wrapped up my last day of undergrad. I came to USF as an international business major, switched to Communication (and finished my requirements), and left as an art student. Here’s to change, here’s to growth, here’s to always doing the work I want to see done.