Thursday, April 23, 2020

Being an Artist at Duke - Rebecca

             To be completely honest, my high school self might be a bit sad at the lack of art classes I’ve taken in college. My own high school wasn’t too big on art. Heck, there wasn’t even a club for it (if there was, then I wasn’t aware of it. That’s how small the art scene was there). I was fortunate that I had other means of learning art. I knew coming to Duke that I wanted to continue with art and even get an art minor, maybe even a major. And yet, I really didn’t start until the second semester of sophomore year. I feel like this calls for a trip down memory lane. I was so excited to take the introductory drawing class, but every time I tried to register for it there was never any space. I tried three times before giving up on it. Honestly, I was considering giving up on even trying to take an art class at that point. Luckily, hope prevailed. I was fortunate enough to be able to enroll in Figure Drawing and this is really where my collegiate art career began.
              I personally only had experience with graphite and acrylic before coming to Duke. After just five semesters of taking art classes, I’ve really been able to expand my horizons and learn new skills: from improving at figure drawing to learning how to screenprint. These are all things that high school me would never have imagined myself knowing. Who knew that I could make a jellyfish out of plastic cutlery, while inhaling delectable burning hot glue fumes? (In all actuality, I was really impressed with myself). Also, who knew printmaking could be so dangerous (luckily, the cut on my thumb has healed)? Despite all of the injuries, I haven’t had this much fun doing art ever. In fact, I think I’ve kind of fallen in love with the art making process again. Although, I still have a lot to learn, I’m grateful for having the opportunity to experiment.
              Unfortunately, one thing that seemed lacking to me, other than class size and number of class offerings, was the art community. In all actuality, I really only have a few friends who are just as interested in art as I am. Because of that, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to continue doing art outside of the classroom. Maybe this was just because of my introvertedness or just me not searching in the right places. But in the end, I think I’ve found my place. I’ve found great professors who really encourage creativity and not just completing an assignment for a grade. I’ve also found different art mediums to experiment in. I’ve learned that the only boundaries in art are those that I put on myself. I look forward to the future and to any future art endeavors I might attempt. The only thing I regret now is not taking more art classes. See you later, Duke. It was a fun ride.

On Being an Artist at Duke

Duke is an incredibly stressful and different atmosphere than I've ever dealt with before. I had no intention of pursuing art in college because, although generic and expected of students in higher education, I am a pre-med Neuro major who hopes to attend medical school. Nevertheless, here I am in an art class and hoping to pursue art further. Originally, art was just something I was good at and could be used as a hobby or a destress every once and a while. After attending an art school, it became more of a career prospect and future; however, I switched back to a normal high school, and very quickly my goals for the future realigned. That said, like most students who end up at Duke, I am very passionate about my goals and the future. The reason why I took an art class during my first year of college is that I was fed up with the atmosphere surrounding me at Duke that pressured me into a cookie-cutter mold of what every student had to do in order to attend medical school. 

My life has always been untraditional and when I arrived at Duke, I had no intention of making it traditional. My first week at Duke was spent doing a pre-orientation program centered around the arts, and I now am involved in many organizations on campus that support the arts. I have come to realize that art will not be a future for me, with good reason. I use art as an escape from the expectations and severe pressure on students at Duke. If I was to pursue art in an educational manner like any other field of study, it would quickly become weighed down with the rules of higher education. This is why, at Duke, I have become heavily involved in the arts, but only extracurricularly. 

I have found that being an artist at Duke is fairly rare in comparison to my peers and likewise the community surrounding arts at Duke is fairly limited. Furthermore, the support given to the artistic communities on campus is way less than communities centered around STEM. I believe this is not entirely the fault of Duke, but more of a fault in the way the educational system is structured in the United States. It is based around money, and children are told from a very young age to become something that 1) makes a lot of money and 2) holds a lot of power (think lawyer, doctor, president, etc.). Nevertheless, I have found my niche in the student body at Duke. I realize that I do not attend an art school and should not expect the Duke community or administration to emphasize the arts; however, I hope that in my time here, I can pass on an appreciation for the arts and support the artistic community at Duke to help change the system from one of tunnel-visioned futures to one that supports peoples' desires and passions. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

On Being an Artist at Duke - Bree

Art is my biggest passion that I've never made time for.

At my dad's house there are tons of sketchbooks I've completely filled through the years. My most productive time was from 10-15ish when I actively made and sell jewelry and art online. Those efforts enabled me to put a down payment on my first car, and then I started to work to pay it off. The time to create fell off between work, school, sports, and hanging with friends. The only time I could find was forcing myself to always be taking some art class at my high school, an hour of everyday that I could devote entirely to what I loved doing.

I was an economics major and premed. As you can imagine, there was no time at all for art the first year and a half of my college career. Art was a very rare hobby of mine, and what had been a huge part of my identity became something I rarely talked about. Only my roommates really knew that I had any artistic interest at all. When I realized that economics wasn't as interesting to me as I thought it would be and has no bearing on my plans for the future, I decided that the best thing to do for myself would be to switch my major, once again forcing myself to make the time for something I deeply enjoy.

Since then, it's become a part of me again. I still rarely do any art for pleasure, but at least I am doing something every week to fulfill assignments and what not. In my experience, the culture at Duke doesn't really permit spending any spare time on hobbies like art. I used to check out art books from Lilly weekly, look through them, feel so inspired to create, to then never find the time to do so.

There's definitely a bit of a stigma to it, too. The thing about taking a drawing class is that there is no shortcut. You can't not put the time in to a final piece and expect it to look how you planned, whereas you can probably bullshit an essay or find the answers to a problem set online. So, when it's a Tuesday night and I know I have to set aside some time to finish up a drawing for Wednesday, some people don't take it as seriously as if I had an exam the next day. To quote my boyfriend's four-year-old brother, "I don't have to be quiet around you when you are drawing because you aren't doing real work like Faris and Rami."

Beyond the culture, though, I am grateful that Duke has given me the flexibility to get an art degree (which is not something I ever would've dreamt of growing up) along with some science degrees and the chance to become a doctor. The artist-half of me is free to roam without guilt. Now, I can outwardly say I spend a large amount of my time creating. Not only do my roommates know about my passion, but so do my friends, their friends, their friends' families. I've asked friends to model for me, had intimate conversations with them about their identity, and given them finished products that I am proud to have made. Maybe finding your foot as an artist at Duke is just something that takes time, or maybe I was lucky to eventually find myself in the position I am. Regardless, it is certainly worth trying.

On Being an Artist at Duke - Lauren

The atmosphere at Duke is intimidating, to say the least. It seems like everyone has their entire lives and careers planned out; they're either pre-med, or pre-law, or going into finance, or engineering, or one of the many other pre-professional paths offered. Sometimes I don't know where exactly I fit into this equation. I use art as my solace.

Duke is by no means an artsy school. Like I said before, most students are so focused on their pre-professional paths, they hardly have any time to breathe, much less make art. I've succumbed to this many times, especially during the first semester of freshman year. Making art often felt like it was optional, or not as important as other things, like studying or joining your tenth club. One of the reasons why I took this class was because I wanted to prevent myself from falling victim to this mindset. Personally, I make the most art when I have deadlines; I make art when I have someone or something telling me I need to make art. This probably isn't very sustainable, and I'm working towards being an artist on my own time, on my own terms. For now, though, it'll do.

I feel most like an artist when I'm at Smith Warehouse. I don't know what it is about the building that makes me feel so inspired, but it does. I love the fact that it's quiet and serene, but you just know there are so many cool things happening within it. I particularly love our studio space. It reminds me of my high school art studio, which brings back a lot of happy art-related memories.

Being an artist at Duke definitely doesn't come easy. It's not easy to embrace the arts when the culture you're surrounded by is suffocatingly pre-professional. It's something I'm consciously working on, though. Art makes me happy, and why shouldn't I do something that makes me happy? Why shouldn't we all do what makes us happy? I think we need to have some sort of shift in our culture. We need to find a way for people to be able to make both pre-professional aspirations and their hobbies priorities. We shouldn't have to choose. I can be pre-law or pre-med or into finance AND an artist. It doesn't have to be a one or the other situation.

I suppose if I had to sum up my experience as being an artist at Duke, it would be my late night walk home from Smith Warehouse, on Monday nights after figure drawing. I will remember those walks back to East Campus as being some of the most calming, peaceful experiences of my freshman year. I never would've had them if it weren't for the arts. For that, I am grateful.

On being an Artist at Duke

Being an artist for me is always personal. I never anticipate a time in my life when I would be called an artist but have given this title to myself any time I want to. Having an artistic life at Duke means a lot. To create, to contribute, and to enjoy.
With a cup of coffee with a list of songs, I can just submerge in my drawings or paintings, or sculptures. I remembered the last winter when I looked out from the window, I saw a branch of burning leaves glowing in the dust. I picked up my paper and pastel and caught this second of sensation with my energy. It happens a lot to me. Roaming on the streets, sometimes I intentionally turned my mind off from work and study and let it stray with my sights. When it catches sometime, it will remind me the next time I have my pencil and paper. I think I am just stealing some time to make something permanent, on canvas or paper or clay or films.
Duke is a huge community. Even without large number of art students, you can always feel art involvement in any corner of our campus. I remembered my amazement at the graffiti tunnel from my first visit, and variety of workshops in Arts Annex. Then I joined the Duu Visarts, and that comes my time to contribute. I don’t think there are just those official ways to make contribution. Bring appreciation in art, talking to friends and professors about your fantasy and creativity, you never know when those ideas will be spark in art.
       Finally, to enjoy is the key to be an artist. This does not require any education or practice in art. Opening up your heart and let in any sound or color from concerts, museums, galleries. Try to accept the conflicting thoughts and learn why to say that and how to say that through artistic language. It is funny that there is no official definition of art. That means if you do something to an extreme, that thing becomes art. It also means that if you like something, however normal it is, it can become art, since it then embeds a special meaning.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Hunt Street

Just finished this piece and wanted to share with you all! It ended up being about 29 different drawings of different sizes, collaged together. I would probably keep messing with it a bit longer but it's the 21st tomorrow so... here it is!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

April 15 Update - Bree

I still haven't formalized my last drawing. I would like for it to be closely tied with financial pressure and the stipend check; most people I know spent the check on rent, utilities, and food for the month of April and are at a loss of what to do when next month rolls around. I have a couple of ideas for how to portray this; one with someone physically trying to stretch the piece of paper check while their responsibilities loom in the background.

As far as the rest goes, the plan is:

1. the one of my dad, which is a current WIP below

2. the couple from the rooftop in SF

3. my grandma peeking through her screen door

4. one about mental health in the current time, which I'm just now realizing I never really discussed on here. It's going to be a self-portrait of me sleeping during my zoom lectures with my video/audio off. I have switched to a sleep schedule of 7am-2pm and often throw on my mandatory lectures in the background and rest during them.

5. the idea above