I’m really not an artist. The last and only time I had taken a drawing class before this was freshman year of high school because it was required. In high school I studied robotics; in college I’m studying biology. Both bio and robotics are very structural. There are patterns and rules associated with those two fields of study that cannot bend. Drawing, however, is fluid. It’s a flexible art. I’ve learned over this semester to appreciate that quality of art. There are no rules when it comes to drawing. There are strategies, certainly, but the rules can bend. For that reason, I think this semester was a breath of fresh air for me.
Drawing allowed me to look at my field of biology in a new way. My assignments often focused on aspects of life sciences, and it let me see how truly beautiful biology is – how difficult it is to capture the dynamic aspect of life. Too often it would come out looking fake, looking plastic.
The other thing I appreciate about art is the need to put the time and energy into a drawing. You can’t just bullshit your way through for 30 minutes and expect to have a lovely piece of art in front of you. I think this is definitely a contrast to the craziness of the modern world, where a constant stream of images and information captures our attention and adjusts our focus. To sit down and spend hours on a project is quite different from frantically trying to finish an exam in 45 minutes. And, to be fair, sometimes this was really frustrating. There were several late Monday nights this semester filled with desperately trying to shade in the rest of my drawing. But Bill made it very clear at the start of the class: the more time you put in, the better your drawing will be. And that’s true for most things in life.
It was strange for me to present my drawings to the class. This must have been the only class in which my work was put up on the wall for display. It’s also the class where I had the least amount of confidence in my work. I’m confident in my ability to write a competent essay or construct a scientific procedure. But art? I’m really not that great at art. So to have my not-so-great art put on a wall for others to see was actually sort of terrifying. But I think it also is a good experience. In life, the work you do is not going to just sit in some professor’s drawer. It has to be viewed by many if you want to make a difference. If I expect to be successful as a scientist, my work has to be peer-reviewed and published and critiqued. For this reason, I think that the exercise of going through the drawings one by one, putting a spotlight on the owner, was a truly valuable experience. It let us reflect on the faults, take pride in the strengths, and develop our drawings in ways we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. I hope that this process has given me the confidence to seek out criticism and feedback on other aspects of my life and profession.