Learning to Learn in Art School

My art experience prior to college was about creating a portfolio and possibly painting some color wheels at one point. The concept of pursuing art at the college level was an abstract concept. No longer.

First semester Drawing 1 and 2D Design were an adventure. I felt like I grew, I learned and I improved as an artist and as a learner. Though, these were classes that built on skills that I had prior experience in. It wasn’t until I was in 3D design second semester that I faced truly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.

I admit, I had very little experience in woodworking or sculpture making prior to 3D class, but that was not the issue. Before I go on, let me say that despite my inexperience, the 3D professor was supportive during class and office hours in the development of the artistic process and mind. She answered my questions thoroughly. Sometimes that meant walking me through using a machine and other times that meant showing me a simpler solution to a dilemma I had set out to resolve.

As with all challenges, sometimes the solutions weren’t meant to be so simple. Projects were often designed around iteration, because practice makes perfect. In repetition we gain skill and insight into the material, the process, and ourselves as artists. In drawing, we draw figures over and over again. Though because all we are risking is a few centimeters off of a charcoal stick we don’t see it as daunting. Thus, we benefit from the changes and develop as better artists for it.

The level of physical engagement and focus is much more elevated than that of charcoal sketches. So having to redo, say, a ferris wheel I constructed for a Rube Goldberg setup seemed initially unappealing. And yet, what I learned when I  began to redo it, is how much I learned from the first time. The second (or third or fourth) time around, I began to simplify the design and use a more appropriate machine to cut and assemble the pieces. All of a sudden the challenges that I had the first time were resolved and the process became efficient.

That’s part of what students learn at Sam Fox, the focus is how we work as artists as well as refining our skills. The appeal for many who pursue art is the satisfaction from making “things” well. Everyday I know that I improve at least just a little, if not a lot. Make more. Learn more. Improve more.