After commenting so much on other people's artwork, especially as the Fine Arts moderator, I figured that it was time that I shared some of my own processes and experiences with art, so you're all not just there wondering why I'm here.
I grew up with a serious love for the arts. When I was in the third grade, I was given a standardized creativity assessment (Yeah, apparently those exist.) and was sent to a special state-funded arts program determined to hone whatever promise of art skill existed. I was involved in the gifted art program for five years before I moved to San Diego, and sort of stopped with art (aside from the obligatory math class doodling) until I was elected to be the art director of my school's newspaper.
When I got older, I really had no aspiration to be an artist. Sure, I was good at art, but there were many people I knew who could draw pretty well too, and they weren't really looking at art as a career path either.
I started attending college for journalism and spent a semester on the university's newspaper, the Telescope. I thought that I would be able to make it as a writer, but the moment my editors saw the strange little doodles in the margins of my notes, they insisted I work as an artist instead.
That sort of feedback frustrated me. Why couldn't I be a writer? Why could people only see me as an artist? But then I realized that maybe that was an advantage. Maybe people only saw me as an artist because I really am an artist. Needless to say, I switched majors and went into studio arts.
The studio arts are a lot more difficult than people give them credit for. Each homework assignment feels like a performance on American Idol or an outfit on Project Runway. You hang out work on the wall next to everyone else's work, everything gets critiqued, and you get a grade based on where your effort falls within the class. It truly is a competitive and stressful atmosphere, and I remember staying up until dawn working on projects I was going to be handing in only a couple hours later.
I loved being an art student, but I had to take a break when my father got diagnosed with lung cancer. My mother was already disabled from a previous ailment, and as the only sibling still living at home, I took a majority of the responsibility. During the time I took care of both of them, I wondered if I would ever be able to go back to school, and spent whatever free time I had left learning how to use music editing software and creating DJ mixsets. (It's a creative process really similar to art actually! You fellow artists should try it sometime.)
When my father died only two weeks before the next semester started, I made sure to enroll regardless of my grief. My education was so important to both of my parents, and I knew my father would be proud that I would not let my sadness discourage me from working hard. My first classes back included a sculpture class, and despite never having created a three-dimensional work in nearly a decade, I fell right into the process and found myself loving every minute of it.
My passion was immediately recognized, and in that same semester, I was chosen by my instructor to help him with an installation for the Art Produce Gallery in downtown San Diego. We decided to name the project "Passage", conveying the impact of the opportunity. I was simply a student going into the experience, but leaving as a true artist.
We sketched the design only two months out, and immediately got to work. Using long black wire, red zip-ties, and a pair of electric screwdrivers, we created these spherical shapes that looked almost exactly like our hand-drawn imagery. The circles were to represent cells gathered in a way to convey community. I still remember how tedious it was to work with that black wire, as the iron wire we were working with was somewhat oiled and ended up all over our hands and between our fingers the more and more time we spend on the project. Washing it off was a nightmare!
After we had finished all the spheres at the studio, we created a new workstation at the actual gallery. Using ladders and a good deal of assistance, we were able to suspend the spheres at various heights, which worked perfectly to create the 'passage' shape we were hoping for, but left a whole lot of zip-ties. As the zip-ties crunched under our shoes, I suggested that leaving zip-ties scattered across the ground could add a sensory element to our exhibition. I said it as a joke, but my instructor totally loved it.
By the end of the semester, in December 2010, "Passage" had been fully completed and made available to the public. Friends came, other students came, and many of San Diego's local art patrons stopped by to see our work. We even ended up in some local newspapers and art magazines.
It was an exciting time, as it was the first time I was an exhibited artist AND the first time I was an installation artist. I never thought I would ever get to that point, but it truly is amazing where life puts you. The moral of the story is, if you're an artist, own being an artist. Being a creative person is a pretty wonderful thing to be!