When I was seventeen and working my first part-time job, my manager asked me one day about my plans for the future. I told him that I was going to college to pursue a career in graphic design, and I was appalled and a little insulted when he replied, “Ohhh, so you wanna sit in a studio and get high all day.” That wasn’t the first (or last) time I was reminded that students majoring in the arts are often not taken seriously.
To start, lots of people seem to believe that art just isn’t as relevant or appreciated nowadays as it was in the past. Then there’s the well-known stereotype of artists we all get boxed into. Some use terms like “free-spirited,” while many others prefer “strange,” “weird,” “out-there,” and the like. They assume that people like that can’t possibly be driven enough to earn a college degree. And they assume that majors in the arts don’t require nearly as much intelligence, discipline, time and hard work as other majors do.
While it’s true that most studio classes aren’t heavy on exams and textbook studying, they can be just as challenging as science or math classes in their own ways. My assignments over the last few years have presented me with tough questions, such as “Who are you really?” and “What does home mean to you?” The kind that really require some deep thinking and soul-searching to answer. Once we have the answer, we must use it to create a piece of work that is compelling, well-composed and cleanly crafted. Getting abstract ideas onto paper and putting them in tangible form is not easy, particularly on days when you’re feeling generally uninspired. There’s a lot of thought that goes into every work of art. Which of the four solid ideas you came up with while brainstorming would make the best finished product? Which medium will best express the feel of the piece? And so on. There are many important decisions to make.
Instead of tests and quizzes, studio classes have critiques during which we present our finished projects. We are asked about our process and what led us to our decisions. Documentation of every step of the creative process—from thumbnail sketches to rough drafts—is actually a really big part of the final grade. And at the beginning of every class meeting, we’re expected to have made a little more progress. A good piece of art requires commitment, dedication, and focus. We never want to present anything less than our best work.
We are perfectionists who push our creative limits because the art world is such a competitive one. Our job is to brighten up and captivate the world. Art is everywhere. It’s on movie theater screens and album covers and clothing. Us art students pour everything we’ve got into making beautiful things—so think twice before you underestimate us.