I rejected art because everyone expected I would become my parents. It was assumed that I was an expert. That it was my domain. But growing up surrounded by art, I was frustrated that I was not producing pieces at the level of my mom and dad. Despite my detachment, they emphasized the importance of genuine expression and reassured me that I had talent, but it just never clicked with me. I found my creative outlet in other forms, primarily through my voice.
By high school I became enveloped in photography. There was something about the process that excited me, whether it was transferring the film from its canister to the spool, or spending hours in the darkroom. I began to see my surroundings in a different way. I started thinking about light. Space. The law of thirds. Towards the end of my sophomore year I decided to explore art further and approached my parents about taking a painting class. Their eyebrows raised. It was impossible to miss the shock and excitement in their faces. They both just stared at me blankly, almost communicating “finally, one of our children wants to be a painter.” Naturally, my overly ambitious self chose one of the more challenging and frustrating subjects: figure painting. Figure drawing/painting is a lot harder than you would think…or maybe everyone already knew and it was just me who missed the memo. Regardless, I went in to the studio for my first class, watercolors in hand, and painted my first nude.
I was hooked. Painting removed me from the world and placed me in my mind. The only thoughts I had were on the figure in front of me. The lines. The colors. I created a dialogue and my pencil answered. “From the top of the head to the left shoulder creates this angle.” “From the top of the knee to the ankle is this length.” By the end of the class my paintings had progressed.
By the end of my senior year I was incorporating figures into other art classes.
I was set on going to art school, specifically The Art Institute of Chicago. My parents supported me fully and were happy to have someone to extend tips to, visit museums with, and reminisce about the grueling nature of Art History classes. But that’s the funny thing about life. I always think I know which direction I’m heading, but then I inevitably discover a new part of myself. By senior year I developed new passions and questions and determined that art school wasn’t for me. These days art plays a smaller role in my life, primarily because my focus is now on completing my Psychology and International Studies majors. That’s not to say that it has been completely removed. I am an Fine Arts minor and still get lost in my work. Stepping into the studio feels like stepping into a home from a distant memory. Last summer I had the opportunity to take a Drawing class on campus. We worked five hours a day, everyday, and a lot of attention was placed on figure and portrait drawing.
I found myself repeating words my parents had once told to me during times of frustration. Art requires practice. The more you work at it, the better you become. I always shrugged them off. Easy for you to say when you’re AMAZING! But I have to admit, my parents were right. When I finished my first portrait of the summer class I was shocked. I could barely recognize my style. When I finished Frida I was just as impressed as the next person and asked myself “where the hell did this come from!”
Despite my obvious interest in figure painting/drawing and portraiture, I am constantly seeking new mediums to explore. I created my first mural painting (read about my Oscar Romero mural in Italy here!) and am currently experimenting with printmaking. I thrive outside of my comfort zone, whether it is when traveling or trying new mediums, and printmaking has challenged me to discover new aspects of my artistic identity.
This was our etching assignment and I’ll just say, I would be totally happy if I never had to clean a copper plate again. We had to do a reinterpretation of Albrecht Durer’s work (he was seriously talented!).
Stamp carving is the most gratifying and therapeutic activity in the world! Not kidding people.
What began as a distancing from my parents’ craft has evolved into a personal passion. I never want to escape my parent’s artistic legacy. I admire them more than any Renaissance master or Impressionist visionary. I am honored to have grown up in a home where the paint colors on the walls changed monthly. In a home that embraced the beauty of the figure and didn’t apologize for it’s imperfections. In a home that valued the creative process as much, if not more, than the final product.
While I have grown as an artist, I must remember to not get hung up on technique or the pursuit of “talent” (whatever that means) and instead recall my childish expression. Picasso once said, “it took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” This is to say, don’t dwell on the details and aim for the way things are supposed to look or supposed to be, not just in art but in life as a whole. It’s okay to paint outside the lines of societal expectations. To let your guard down and put your most vulnerable self out there. Make a mistake and accept that it is part of the process and that it has just opened a new path for exploration. So when I need to feel inspired I don’t just turn to the greats (Georgia O’Keeffe, Degas, Botticelli, my parents), but I access the child in me who filled in her world with the colors on her palette. The child who never feared a blank page.