On Taking My First (and Last) Art Class at Kenyon

When I was in middle school, I had an art class with a teacher who was famous for giving everybody As, as long as they showed up to class and actually tried. Well, I showed up to class. I tried. And I got a B- for the year.

The landscape painting that I made looked more like some sort of Jackson Pollock abstract. The mask I made in the sculpture unit fell apart in the kiln. I don’t remember any more projects I made in that class, probably because I blocked those traumatic memories from my mind.

Very early in my life, I came to the conclusion that I am not artistic. I simply cannot picture things in my head and translate them onto a page. Here’s an example: I was playing Telestrations with my friends about a month or so ago. It’s a game that is basically a mix between telephone and Pictionary, and I highly recommend it. The word I had to draw was “penguin,” and I could not for the life of me remember what a penguin looked like. And when I did finally conjure up some sort of penguin-like image in my head, it was impossible for me to draw it out. I couldn’t get the geometry of the limbs right, and I didn’t know how large I had to make everything for it to look realistic. My drawing turned out looking like some sort of bear creature, at best.

I’m also not that creative. I used to think that I was a pretty good creative writer, but I have since realized that I am a pretty good writer. If you give me a plot, some characters, and a conflict or two, I will write you a great story. It’s coming up with that plot, those characters, and those conflicts that have always been hard for me, so I always find myself stuck in a writer’s block before I even begin.

I satisfied my fine arts distribution requirement through art history, and I even took an extra third semester of it. I like art, and I like talking about art, especially if it’s ancient art. But I just can’t do art. Maybe nobody ever taught me correctly, or maybe I just don’t have the patience. But making art is definitely not for me.

That being said, I am currently enrolled in an art class at Kenyon. This class is called Digital Imaging, and it’s a 100-level class. I have always wanted to learn Photoshop and other forms of digital editing, both because it fascinates me and because it will probably prove useful in my career post-Kenyon. I figured that this class was the best opportunity for me to do so. The fact that this class had no sort of drawing or painting requirement made me even more excited to start; to me, this seemed like an “art” class that required no actual art.

The first class of the semester made me a bit concerned. I learned from reading the syllabus that a huge component of this class would include learning how to operate both still-image and video cameras. For some reason, I thought that we would just be taking stock photos from the Internet and manipulating them. But the camera work was where the actual “art” came in.

Our projects have to be entirely shot and filmed by ourselves. We have to create our own concepts and find lighting and aperture qualities that match. We have to tell a story with our projects. The Photoshop and other Adobe software skills that we are learning are only vehicles through which we are challenged to project our ideas. And it’s always hard for me to even come up with ideas, let alone photograph and shoot them.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy this class, because I do. The skills that I have learned are definitely useful, and I especially like critique days, where we view and comment on each other’s art. I do wish that I knew a little bit more about what I was getting myself into. I shouldn’t have assumed that I could just take an art class without being expected to be at least a little bit creative. But maybe I am actually learning to become a little more creative; only my final portfolio will tell.

 

Image credits: Feature, 1, 2