Saturday, August 17, 2013

Julie Kuralt
The Art of Perseverance

It was the most emotionally draining semester of my college career. My line of thought was that art school would be fun, that it would be just like art club in high school—drawing, painting, and having a good time with people who had similar personalities and interests. The thing with me is that I'm not really that talented in art; I’d switched to the major in hopes of improving my skill because I enjoyed it.

My 2D Design teacher was on maternity leave, so we had a substitute for the first two-thirds of the semester, another professor in the art department. This lady didn't give us a chance to learn—she expected us to be brilliant on the get-go. It wasn't like in high school when art class was fun and you were graded on how hard you tried. I was expected to make beautiful and perfect pieces of art, or fail.

For our first 2D Design assignment, we were to come up with eight sketches dealing with abstraction (stripping something down to its simplest form, but to where you can still tell what it is—like on street signs). Then we would bring the sketches to her and she would pick the best two for us to scan and edit on the computer for the final project. When I went up to get mine checked, she said I'd done them all wrong and that I'd have to start completely over. 

"You don't have a project at all. This was not the assignment."

I followed the exact definition of abstraction from the assigned reading out of the book, but somehow I'd managed to do it completely wrong. She didn't care to keep her voice down about it, either.

Embarrassed and confused, and with no further instruction, I walked back to my station and spent the entire day trying to complete two projects. I got home around 8:00 p.m., from that 9:30 a.m. class. She told me not to draw things from my head, but from actual objects. Maybe she was trying to teach us the basic elements, but I’d always thought creativity was a part of art. I ended up with a C- on the assignment.

It didn’t take long before I’d decided to switch back to the English major, but it was too late into the semester to drop the classes without resulting in some WF’s.

Then there was Drawing 1. We drew boxes. Lots of boxes. And curtains. Countless curtains. Objects. Plants. Vases. Over and over. It was monotonous and strenuous, especially when I had to hang my piece up next to the prize winning masterpiece. Then we moved on to humans. All my subjects ended up with disgusting balloon heads, terribly disproportioned to the rest of their bodies. Hours of work poured into a middle school-level drawing, at least compared to the others. I was embarrassed, ashamed to admit it was mine. But this teacher was kinder, at least. He told me how much I’d improved, to keep working, to not be so hard on myself, even if I thought I was in the bottom two percent of the class.

We had to lug huge art supply bags around for Drawing 1, filled with giant art pads, charcoal, erasers, sketch pads, special pencils, all out of our own budget. As soon as I got home, it was back to breaking out the art bag and hacking away at the new drawing assignment, staining my carpet and fingernails black with the charcoal. The hours after class and the weekend were spent fulfilling the number of sketches and drawings for the next class.

During Spring Break, my troubles temporarily lifted.  Some time away let me forget about how horrible I felt every day because of art. I started to think that art wasn't that bad. I thought it was just a work load, but that I was learning a lot. But when we returned from the break, I was reminded that my efforts were worthless. No matter how hard I tried, my best was never good enough. I made bad grades, which made me feel bad about myself.

Once my real teacher returned for 2D Design class, my grades did improve. She was still hard, but at least she was nicer about it and had sympathy for someone who didn’t know what they were doing. I started making B’s, anyway. She even let us redo some of our old works, which replaced some of my C’s.

And then we had the color scheme project. We had to produce four pieces, all the same picture but different color schemes: monochromatic, analogous, complementary, and split complementary. The hues of these colors had to exactly match up or points were taken. I had never worked harder on anything in my life. I produced something that even I was proud of. I drew my friend on a computer program I could barely use. She looked realistic enough to me, or at least recognizable. I was so happy with it that I showed it off to anyone who would look. Everyone thought it was great and gave me the praise I so desperately craved. It had intricate details down pact. All the shadows looked amazing. And with all the color schemes, frankly, it looked really cool. I fully expected a comeback from Julie Kuralt in the eyes of the art department. A+, a grade worth celebrating, a grade that could finally help me not pull up my grade.

But when I got the project back, I turned it over and found a B-. The hues were too saturated. Disappointment shot through me. This was something of the final straw for me. I was so tired and angry with the impossible expectations from the art teachers that I had to leave the room. My absolute best resulted in barely a B. So overwhelmed by the whole semester of disappointment after disappointment, I found myself crying in a bathroom stall.

Finishing that semester was one of the happiest moments of my life. I’d put myself through a lot of self-pity and even hate for never being good enough. But now I think maybe just the type of art—and their standards—was just not for me. After a few months, I was able to pick up a pencil and draw again. And after the cringing subsided, I found myself able to enjoy it and work on improving on my own time. I just learned about my own endurance and that surely I could handle any other scholastic demands.

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