My very first semester of college I declared myself a studio art major and took the first class in the lineup, ‘Visual Literacy’. Now this class was known to be very tough– a bootcamp like approach to figure out who wants to be here, who gets to be here, and who is talented enough to succeed in this high pressure, sophisticated college-art situation. Being 18 and knowing very little, I felt a great, if unearned, sense of confidence. I was nervous, but it was within reason. I felt like I could rise to the challenge. I looked around at the group of us enrolled in what was known to be the “weed-out-the-ones-who-can’t-handle-it” class and felt pity for the ones that would be weeded out by the end of the semester and the shame and sadness they would feel at not being good enough while I progressed and blossomed and impressed everyone with my creative prowess. Just in case you don’t feel like reading until the end, spoiler alert, it was me. I was weeded out. I was the one who would feel the shame and sadness and not-good-enough-ness just a short three months later.
Our very first assignment was to create 52 mixed media representations of an apple on a square of 3×3” paper. Let that sink in, 52 versions of an apple. Immediately, I could think of about 7. But those first ideas are generally not very good or creative or they’re the same 7 ideas that everyone else has. You only realize how many 52 is when you have about 32 and you still need to come up with 20 ideas, even if they’re bad ones.
So, about three weeks later the due date comes and we have the group critique of our projects. Group critiques are simultaneously helpful and a humiliating experience when you’ve worked hard on something and it gets torn to shreds. Mine didn’t go that well. Honestly, it went very poorly. And it was the first nail in the coffin of my college fine art career.
To read more stories like this, subscribe to my monthly newsletter!