Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Friday, June 17, 2005

More About ME!

I mentioned in yesterdays post that I had 4 years of art school under my belt. This is true. I don’t actually have a degree to show for all my intensive creative moments as I took all my classes at various institutions and can't combine them for a piece of paper. Like it actually would get me farther in life anyway. No.

My first foray into the art school phenominon was for photography. I had taken it in high school and LOVED it. My teacher there was really inspiring and supportive. At actual photography school not so much. But I got lots of great studio experience. I did a years worth of that part-time over a couple of years and lost my momentum when the school accidentally threw out my portfolio when it was mistakenly put into the Abandoned: Never Picked Up pile. I totally freaked. Most were original slides that I had not yet had an opportunity to have copied. What a blow. Not that it was a great portfolio anyway as it was student work but it had represented a lot of invested time and money on my part. However, I did not let that stop me. Soon after I went to the local art school, Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, located on trendy Granville Island.

This institute of higher learning boasted a fabulous 3% student graduate employment rate. How could I go wrong? I totally did. I really did not fit in there. This was for several reasons. First of all I was a bit older than most of the students. Secondly I was not able to partake in all the pub nights and political groups, as I actually had to work almost full time on the side to pay for my tuition and heinously expensive supplies. As a result I had absolutely NO friends while there. The after school scene was very popular as The Bank of Mommy and Daddy were heavily subsidizing most kids there. Nope, no bitterness here. I think that post-secondary education, particularly art school, can be terribly cliquey and political. I have never been surrounded by so much self-righteous indignant outrage in my life. So much to protest about. I didn’t have the time for it. The third and most obvious way that further illustrated my old fartitude was that I simply did not meet the school prerequisite for angst. Every class was filled with people FRAUGHT with angst. Heart wrenching earth shattering life agony. I could not compete. I am just not that emotional in front of total strangers. I thought, for the most part, that the vast majority of tuition money could have been much better spent on some really good therapy for these poor kids. And if they were not fucked up already they really went all out to accomplish that feat while at school. How many personal manifestoes of post adolescent pain and agony did I have to critique on a day-to-day basis? Too many for this girl. You see, I was simply too naive. I thought that art school was the place you went to actually learn the various techniques that make it easier to express yourself creatively. I learned very little. I certainly didn’t go to have my personal problems validated by my classmates. I am not a naturally good drawer. I was hoping to learn about drawing light and shadow, perspective and texture. Nope. I learned that I could take a dump on a plinth and as long as I could justify it creatively I would get a good grade. I learned to speak the language of Bullshit. It was all about expression and very little to do with technique. I really think that if you make it into art school you probably already have a good handle of expressing yourself. You just really need to learn how to do it in different ways. Proficiently. I was really wrong.

The other really big problem I saw with art school was that while I was expecting some serious critique and advice and direction from my instructors they seemed to belong to the school of thought that you simply CANNOT say anything negative about any student’s work as that would somehow crush their creative spirits. As a result most graduates left with very little practical knowledge and a very inflated sense of self. Not good. And not something that I was interested in. I left after my first year. I thought that if I wanted to be told that I was hot shit and an artiste of some talent I could save my hard earned tuition and make stuff for my mom to tape up on the fridge. She thinks everything I make is fabulous. In a nutshell I was slightly shocked with my drawing class C- final grade, as my instructor had never said anything I did needed improvement. I never thought I was very good but I was made to feel I was as talented as anybody else in the class according to all the only ever positive critiques I received. I had no idea that my instructor thought I was below average. There is something wrong with that.

Then I went to jewellery school for 2 years. I had originally wanted to study furniture design but the large power tools scared the shit out of me. I thought jewellery had a lot of the same elements but at a more manageable scale. It was there that I learned about perspective and watercolours and proportion. Finally I got the honest opinion of my instructors who told me to redo things if they needed improvement as only by doing (and doing and doing) and striving for perfection can you improve. I was never perfect at that school and that suited me fine. I never worked so hard in my life. I wanted to do better and get better and make myself proud. I felt like a student and not an expert. Thank God, as I was a student. FINALLY.

There is nothing as humbling as silversmithing. It has a looong and very gradual learning curve. It takes at least 5 years of training to become remotely proficient. Decades to become really good. I fucked up stuff daily. And I learned patience most of all. I learned attention to detail, which is such a vital part of my personality anyway. In my family you do it right or you don’t bother. You never do anything half assed. Jewellery design was perfect for me. While I no longer make jewellery I still think that the training serves me well. I learned discipline and dedication, as there is not a lot of instant gratification. The hours you put into a piece can never be fully compensated for financially. It is a hard living. Most can only do it part time while paying the bills with some other job. You do it because you love it. I hope one day I can get all my bins out of storage and set up a basement studio again. There are so many things I still want to make. I am still inspired almost daily. I really miss it.


Sharkey said...

Great post, Kranki. This line made me chuckle:

" . . . if I wanted to be told that I was hot shit and an artiste of some talent I could save my hard earned tuition and make stuff for my mom to tape up on the fridge."

Isn't it funny how working really hard and being told you need to work even harder is sometimes much more satisfying than being told that everything you do is great?

Von Krankipantzen said...

sharkey-glad you liked it. It is true about working hard at something seems to mean more rewards. I also appreciate that you read the whole damned post. It is a long one.

Vanessa said...

I read the entire thing, too, and it was great! I've had professors who were full of praise, too, and I know they weren't being honest. The only way I can learn is by my mistakes. The most competent teachers will show you your errors and help you improve.

Candace said...

This was so interesting to me. Even at age eight, Christopher has such an affinity for art in all forms. He has such a unique eye, and I don't say that as his mother. Other artists have told us that very thing. He has always said he wants to be an aritist when he grows up, so reading about your experiences really gave me insight into what he might go through someday.

Did you go to a school that was for art and only art? I ask because I had friends at college who were art majors who seemed to love it. I remember them being crushed when they got bad reviews, but it made them better artists. Maybe it's better to go to a school that has other fields of study besides art?

Von Krankipantzen said...

Vanessa-yahoo! You made it through too. I think it is so important to loose the ego while at school becuase it is not about the finished project but the learning process.

Misfit-it sounds like he has got the right kind of eye for art. My school was solely an art school and the only one in town. My other choices were 2 major universities for a BFA. The school is a bit better now, I think. But not much. If I wanted to go to a great school with a good reputation I would have had to move across the country. Canada just doesn't have many good art schools. I totally suggest applied art as it is stil very creative but offers better opportunities for employment. That is opposed to fine art. I do wish I went to a different school. I wish I had studied architecture or something. Live and learn. We do have an excellent art school for kids called Arts Umbrella. It is fantastic. I worked there for a little while as a TA. A blast. I would suggest you really research the art schools and see what people in various related industries think of the graduates. In town, grads from this school are considered a joke!

Squirl said...

You used one of my favorite words, "artiste". I kept using that last Christmas as a co-worker and I were decorating our cubicles. :-)

Business college was very boring but very straightforward. I would have trouble with work that was so subjective. I do my music/art work for myself.

L.Bo said...

What an experience! I know one thing I have always been conscious of as a parent is that you praise kids lavishly when they have genuinely earned it. If everything is fabulous and wonderful, they catch on quickly and it all becomes meaningless. Yep, kids can spot a fake a mile away. Apparently they don't teach the same thing to art instructors.

On the other hand, I had an art instructor at the U of A who made us tape our work on the wall in the corridor, then he would walk down the hall, ripping the work off the wall and throwing it on the floor, some times crumpled, with comments like,"This has no tension." This is the same art expert whose review of Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party" (A celebration of women through history, whose permanent home was the Brooklyn museum. See it at by clicking on Gallery, then scoll down to The Dinner Party.) consisted of "I don't know what it is, but it's not art." Hmmm, sounds like he might have been a graduate of your art school!

LadyBug said...

Ditto what sharkey said. The part about making stuff for your mom to tape up on the fridge cracked me up.

Von Krankipantzen said...

Squirl-Artiste, artiste, artiste! I love the word too. It has a nice element of sacrasm to it. I have taken some business courses since and quite enjoyed them. Less subjective opinions.

LBo-now I think that is taking it a bit to the extreme. No need to get nasty. Once again very subjective. Somebody rips up something I worked on and I'll show them some tension! A friend's instructor used the word "Turgid" a lot at her school. I love that. I try and use it in everyday conversation as much as I can.

ladybug-I call my mom 'The Objective Third' party as I know she is my most fervent cheerleader. Mom's are so good at that.