“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they hate it or love it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” -Andy Warhol, artist and film director
Whether you’re still in it, a fresh faced graduate, or your school days are far behind you, we all have had classes we’ve dreaded going to. Maybe it was the teacher, whose grading system was so strict you had nightmares about failing that 7th grade spelling test. Or perhaps it was the subject matter; because really, how many times have we actually had to use the Pythagorean theorem in our daily lives despite our Geometry teacher swearing we’d need it when laying carpet in our triangular-roomed houses? Or you’re like me and, to this day, still nurse the scars from having to play Gym basketball to prove you were fit enough to graduate high school. I actually broke my metatarsal while receiving a pass. Was it worth that extra point, Michael Hurias?
But despite my clumsiness and lack of coordination, the class I would dread the most was always Art. For years, I trudged my way through drawing, painting, and photography only to watch my carefully cultivated GPA drop with each failed attempt at mimicking a proper human hand. Now that I have my degree and I’m free of it, I can admit that my brother, a natural born artist, completed more than one of my projects in exchange for a well-written (albeit B worthy) essay for one of his own classes. What? If school taught me anything, it’s that we all have to play to our strengths. I’m a words man through and through, so if I can trade my skills for a passable political cartoon drawn by a professional artist, I’ll take that offer any day of the week.
But my Junior year of college, I had no one to turn to when I realized I had yet to fulfill my art credit. My brother was long out of school, pursuing his own artistic ventures back home. So after much debating and petitioning to the school, I realized I would have to bite the bullet and choose an art class before the semesters end. Luckily, I had heard ceramics was an easy A. Together with Izzy, we signed up for it and I went home, mentally preparing for the semester to come. But when we got there, it was unlike anything I had experienced before. There was no brush or pencil, no paper I had to visual an image onto before drawing it out. The art we made was with our own hands; every form was molded by our own fingers and each mishap able to be smoothed over again.
In fact, our professor called our mistakes “forms of self expression.” As long as you showed up to class with a good attitude, attempted the projects he assigned you, and could explain why you chose to do something a specific way, you would be graded accordingly. “Art is subjective,” he said to us, “who am I to say if something is more ‘art’ than something else?” It was an art class unlike any other I had taken. For more than one reason, in fact. First and foremost, I enjoyed it; I actually looked forward to sitting down next to Izzy and working on the project for the day. We even spent hours outside of class in the studio, creating and duplicating projects meant as gifts for friends and family. And surprisingly, I was good at it. As I put in the hours, I was able to produce better, bigger pieces. After a week of hard practice, I could center and throw a pot on the wheel. Over time, it even lost it’s lopsidedness for a more modern, symmetrical appeal.
I learned a couple lessons along the way as well. Art really is subjective: what’s beautiful to me could be the ugliest thing someone else has ever laid eyes on. And the more you work at something, the better your results: you learn little tricks or better ways of doing things. Just like in writing, the pieces you produce begin to develop a style of their own. It’s a voice that speaks for itself, even when laid on a table of nearly identical pots and pieces. And if you love it enough, as I have come to do with ceramics, your forms and processes become entirely unique to you. By the end of the Ceramics II class, I actually had a few teachable moments where others looked at and emulated my style. So Andy Warhol’s quote about doing art for art’s sake is entirely true: while others are deciding on the merits of your work, keep working. Because art in any of its forms, be it writing or drawing or pottery, really is subjective. You never know what piece of beauty you might produce if only you choose to try.
Are you a person who uses paint or pencil as your medium? Or perhaps, like me, you are a relatively non-artistic person who stumbled onto another way of expressing your creative voice? We’d love to hear about it! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment on this article for others to read. And of course, stay safe and hopeful as you work your way towards the end of the week!