Growing up I always looked up to my older brother. Peter is three years older than I am; at a young age I always felt the need to keep up with anything he was doing. For instance, when Peter started taking ceramics in high school, everyone could see he was very talented. I remember admiring all the work he did and brought home; he even won awards for how great his art work was. I saw the joy ceramics brought to my older brother, so I figured since he did it and I looked up to him why not give myself a chance to see if I shared the same artistic talent. I took initiative and picked sculpture as one of my electives in high school. When I did, I began to get praise from my art teachers for my work. My sculptures were even selected to be in competitions on campus and outside of campus.
This made me believe I was great at sculpting, so then I decided to major in art in college.
My counselor in college advised me to start with the beginning courses that were mandatory in order to move up into the intermediate sculpture classes. Since it was introduction to sculpture I figured this would be an easy class for me to pass. I knew all the basic steps already; I took sculpture and ceramics in high school for three years. Little did I know that that was not going to be the case. I showed up to class early the first day of class. I was anxious but eager to start sculpting already. Once class started the professor went over his background, told us how many years he has been sculpting and what he expected from us. I thought to myself, wow he’s really skilled, I wanted to impress him with my work like I have done before with my teachers in high school. For our first project my art professor had us sculpt Venus of Willendorf.
After he demonstrated the project he went over the criteria he expected us to meet for this project. He reinstated twice how his pervious students have struggled with sculpting the female body. He demonstrated an easier method to accomplish this project, but I did not like his tactic. I went ahead and sculpted the way I was taught before, I figured he would be okay with me free handing my piece and be impressed by it. Although, I did not know that the professor was going to be very strict. He was constantly hunching over us as we sculpted our Venus of Willendorf project to see if we were applying his method. Once he walked on over to my table, he spotted that my sculpture was not coming out the same like everyone else in class. He leaned over, scoffed and said “Did you not pay attention when I was going over this project? There is a reason why your sculpture is coming out poorly” I felt embarrassed. I was not used to this type of criticism. I was too prideful to even ask what I did wrong, I felt like I knew everything there is to sculpting. I thought he would be impressed with the route I decided to take.
Shortly after, I began to feel insecure about my work. I kept my head up and continued to work on the project. I started to notice that my classmate’s sculptures were coming out great, but since this was my first time sculpting the female body I was struggling. I was too afraid to approach my professor for help on this assignment. I ended up asking the professor’s assistant for guidance. He looked at my work carefully and said “I really like the small details you added to your sculpture, it seems like you really are taking the time to perfect your work, but this is a fast pace beginning class and if you continue taking your time to perfect it you will fall behind in class.”
I was going over what the professor’s assistant told me, I thought to myself well maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I am not as good as I thought I was. I started to think my work was not as good as I thought it was. I began questioning that maybe my high school teachers were just being kind to me because I was Peter’s younger sister. I came into this class thinking I knew everything already especially because of all the awards I had received. I thought I was a great sculptor already and did not need improvement. I could not wrap my head around the idea that I was not able to please my art professor.
I was used to working at a slower pace in high school and was not used to anyone telling me that I needed improvement on my work. On the day our project was due we had to present our Venus of Willendorf project among our classmates. Since I had missed two days I did not get to finish all the extra details I wanted to add. We viewed everyone’s sculpture as a class. At the end my professor made a comment that no one had met up to his criteria then made a joke about it to relief the tension, but it only made us feel dispirited. I ended up dropping his class and decided to focus on working full time. I felt disappointed; I could not believe that it was going to be that difficult for me.
Four years have passed by after making the decision to stop attending college that I decided to give school another shot. This time I changed my major but I missed sculpting. Feeling insecure about attending another sculpture class due to my previous experience I summed up the courage and enrolled myself in an introduction to sculpture class once again. I went in with an open mind and told myself to accept constructive criticism to allow myself to grow as an artist. This way I can prevent myself from becoming discouraged when a problem arises. I went in with the assumption that my art professor would be as strict as my previous art professor too. Although, he was nothing like my pervious art professor; he was the complete opposite. He has been sculpting for many years as well, but he was humble and just wanted his students to have fun with art. He started lecturing the class about viewing everyday objects around us differently. He wanted us to widen our horizon, to have an open mind on how we view things. He wanted us to view this to have the ability to explain why it makes us feel a certain emotion instead of just describing it as a basic saying like “it’s cool or it made me feel happy or sad” but he wanted us to describe why it made us feel that way. This eventually would open doors to new ideas for inspiration for new art projects. I instantly became hooked with how he lectured the class; I became so invested and felt comfortable to express myself freely in his class. Not only was I free to be myself, but he allowed me to add my own interpretation of what he was asking for in our projects and he completely loved the outcome of my sculptures by me adding my own twist. At times when he would notice I was struggling on a projects he would assist me, even lend me his tools to perfect my projects. He could tell I was fully invested in his class and appreciated the time I took to work on his assignments. I ended up falling in love with sculpture once again and decided to minor in art.
Looking back I wished I went into my first introduction to sculpture class with an open mind. I went in thinking I knew it all and did not leave room for improvement for myself. Then I would have continued and completed the class. Just because I knew the basics of sculpture does not make me an expert, no matter how much praise I received in the past I was still not at the level I was supposed to be, but with an open mind I would have been more accepting of my professor’s criticism. It was okay that it was not up to my professor’s standards, but I should not have allowed him to discourage me from continuing on. There will always be one person who does not like or who has a different opinion on your work, but it should not discourage you from continuing doing what you enjoy the most. Be consistent and have an open mind when it comes to perfecting your trade, there is always room for growth.