Sunday, November 30, 2014

My thoughts on art

If I could redo college all over again, I would major in art. (Of course, Duke offers no such major and I would probably have had to go elsewhere for my endeavors in this hypothetical "Edge of Tomorrow" type scenario.) I am not particularly confident in my drawing skills, but getting lost in the details and spending hours upon hours trying to capture the flow of movement or the glint in someone's eyes is oddly satisfying despite the frustration and cramped, smudged hand that results. In spite of my love for drawing, I had not sat down with pencil or paintbrush in hand or doodled at the edge of a notebook since probably freshman year of college. It is already my last year at Duke. I think I have just been caught up in schoolwork that before taking this class I had completely forgotten that I do draw.

A classmate of mine from high school that I knew fairly well did in fact go to art school. Once in a while when she posts a piece of hers she completed on Facebook, I sift through her album and think about how different my life would have been if I had maybe done what she was doing. As a first generation Chinese-American, my life aspirations err on the side of practicality. Art as a career has never been an option.

I used to take art lessons back in middle school and high school. Classes were on Sundays at my art teacher's house. We would always start with a quite warm-up doodle--a horse or a person because my art teacher was particularly fond of those subjects. Then, once we had woken out of our morning daze, we would sit down for a still-life sketch, and if time would permit, we would pick up the paintbrush for some watercoloring. Once I was old enough and my technique deemed solid enough, I graduated from watercolors to oil paints. While I loved drawing and painting, as high school progressed, I got busier and busier and the time I dedicated to drawing diminished greatly to the point where I didn't even feel like I had the energy to wake up bright and early on Sunday morning to attend art class. At some point I stopped going altogether. I never bothered with taking a drawing class in high school. The closest I came to fine arts was a perspective drawing class I took that involved usng a ruler to draw 3-dimensional geometric shapes. While making the perfect cube was interesting enough, it was never as satisfying as drawing a person or painting a landscape.

Last year, I studied abroad in the UK at University College London. There, on a whim I took a course called 19th and 20th Century Art in London. We went all around London to the various art museums and learned about what the title of the course indicated--19th and 20th century art in London. I remember walking into one of the many rooms of the labyrinthine National Gallery during one of these class excursions and seeing Van Gogh's Wheatfield, with Cypresses in front of my eyes. The painting sent chills down my spine. I remember sitting down in art class trying to copy the painting with oils from its likeness in a magazine when I was in high school. To be standing in front of the real deal was a magical experience for me and reminded me why I did in fact love art so much.

While I do think about what my college experience would have been like if I had studied art, I don't have any regrets. Art is something I will be doing for the rest of my life.
-Alice Huang

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