When I was an art student, it was difficult to deal with people who didn’t understand and didn’t support why you were working towards an art degree. When I decided to change my degree from health services to graphic design, it was a rough transition, I didn’t really know what to do next, and I definitely didn’t have a lot of friends to ask for help.
I started my graphic design degree in my second year of college, and all of my art teachers were very different. Of all of the art teachers I had, one stood out to me for various reasons. He had obvious favorites, he didn’t like any style of art that wasn’t his, he didn’t like waiting for beginners, and he taught me one of the biggest lessons in life, which I am eternally grateful for.
You were only my professor for one short semester, but it feels like it was longer than that. First of all, your ridiculously early classes, three times a week, almost made me want to quit. I mean, who can properly function and create beautiful works of art so early in the morning? Not me.
Anyway, one thing I really didn’t enjoy about you was that you had favorites. I know most teachers do, but you made yours obvious. It was actually kind of ridiculous, and it made me feel like my work was worth nothing since I wasn’t one of them. I had to work twice as hard for my one chance with the spotlight in class, and when I finally got it, it wasn’t for a good reason (we’ll talk about that in a bit).
So, every art student has his or her own personal style. Just because we can’t draw like you, doesn’t mean our work is mediocre. You hated the way I drew people. I couldn’t help it, and I definitely couldn’t change it overnight. You told me time and time again that my work wasn’t “realistic” enough, and it really made me feel terrible.
Do you remember that time we were working with pastels, drawing a portrait of a woman? Do you remember when you pulled my easel into the middle of the classroom? You were upset because my portrait’s face looked a little bit like a cartoon, rather than 100% realistic. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I draw, and what you did next was unnecessary.
After you singled out my work by pulling it into the middle of the classroom, you gathered everyone’s attention, and you smudged my entire piece with your bare hand. Not cool. That was rough. At first, I didn’t know how to act. I was upset. I mean, who wouldn’t be? But after it happened, I realized that it actually taught me a few things.
You taught me how to take on a very difficult critique. That may not sound like a lot, but it really is. Especially in the art world. Not everyone will like your work, and you can’t be ready to fight when they say so. A lot of people will say that ruining my work may have been a little excessive, but I can now see why you did it.
I was afraid to change something I was working so hard on. You knew that if you didn’t do something about it, I wouldn’t have worked harder and I wouldn’t have given my absolute all to that piece. It’s hard to put your all into something if you’re afraid of messing it up, and you taught me that.
So, thank you, professor. Thank you for ruining my piece in front of everyone. Thank you for breaking me down in order for me to realize I could do better. Thank you for the tough love.
An art student that isn’t afraid of mistakes anymore.