You woke up with one side of your face and the remainder of the bedsheet covered in yellow ochre and venere red . Your alarm said 8:00 am which meant you only have half an hour to get ready plus getting on public transit with your forty-by-thirty-six inches canvas that has not been dried. You put a plastic wrap over the painting, the plastic stuck on the surface created a weird sense of concoction color palette that smears everywhere. You mumbled to yourself “ Oh god, this is a disaster. This is a disaster”. You got on the bus, there was no seat for you and your painting. “It’s okay. Another ten minutes and I will make it”. You rushed from the bus to the underground sandwiching yourself between people and people. You feel like a meat patty with your canvas is a piece of cheese surrounded by people who did not want you there.
You finally got to class. Oh well, 6 minutes late. What a record. You put your finished painting on the easel, copying what your other classmates did because you were too busy catching your breath from the run (at this point, you could be Leonardo Di Caprio in Catch Me If You Can). It was critic day. Very nice. At least you made it. Then it was your turn to be a critic. There was a problem with the smeared paint on the surface suffering from your plastic wrap to transfer from public transit. Your work was to be told as a tad cliche. You took in the criticism well to be seen as a mature artist. But you mumble in your head with a sense of rage and despair: “ oh god okay, I have never seen your work J. And you are my instructor.”
And it was your turn to critique others’ work. You said something about how you loved the composition of A’s painting that reminded you of Claude Monet and something that sounded very pretentious. It made you feel somewhat good. Maybe in the presence of other pretentious individuals, you find yourself fit right in.
“I really like your jacket. Where did you get it from?”. “It’s vintage from the 60s”.“Heh, I am the unique one in here”- you thought to yourself studying the envious look in others’ eyes triumphantly.
You did not like the painting that you spent weeks on for the final. In fact, you couldn’t even stand looking at it anymore. You hated it. You did not like when people criticized it either. What a moral dilemma. Maybe it was the fact that you did not sleep at all for two days in a row. You promised last time you wouldn’t do it. But there you were, running through it all over again.
G bumped into you at school, you said hi to her. She asked you how you were to which you replied “never felt better. I did not sleep two nights in a row.”. She looked at you somewhat concerning but said “ya, I just had my crit. It was very hard”. “Oh dear, what do illustrations and digital arts majors know about the real suffering of studio painting. They only merely work on screen. I could do that.” Then, you realized you did just what other people saw as the perception of art students. This reminded you of the one time when your friend from high school bragged about how hard it was to study laws and you remained in silence with a sense of inferiority.
The countless episodes of existential crisis upon the faith of your career after graduation you went through seemed to not be a personal experience. On the Google search bar, you typed in “ What can you become after receiving a BFA?” – 12 million results showed up in less than a second. This assured you a bit.
But then you were reminded of the value of friendships, love and intimacy that were bound in the realm of creativity. When your classmate sent you an art history meme on Venus of Willendorf, you found yourself laughing hysterically. You thought about how much you loved the joint studio all-nighter with your friends. Or how much you loved rooming with a fellow artist to find out that when you came home, she wanted to become a door (literally!).
You realized that you would not change the world for being an art student and what it has taught you. The relationship with others allowed you to grow and see the world differently.
You found yourself to be the luckiest person ever. And if you were allowed to give advice for upcoming art students, you would say “Embrace your heart. Don’t be afraid to give it all!