Friday, November 22, 2013

How I got into a University Drawing and Painting Program

Last week I ran across my old slides.  These were the only slides I have ever made and I had them created for my application into the Brigham Young University Fine Arts Department in 2005-6.  If it wasn't THE last year, it was almost the last year that the Fine Arts accepted slides before upgrading to digital media for their application.

Nostalgia drew me in and I started to gaze at these slides, but my excitement quickly turned to embarrassment. These pieces were pretty bad. Not all of them, but most of them I'm embarrassed I used them to apply to an art program.  Now, this is coming from a personal perspective that came after 4 years of study in art, so I know my paradigm has changed, but I surprised myself a lot.  And it wasn't just the artwork, the photographs were horrid!  I mean, take a look! One of them (#4), you can see that I took the picture with the artwork laying on it's side!

For a little bit of background, I never intended on going into an Art Major.  It wasn't a "real" major, and I wanted to be able to support myself with a "real" job.  My first choice was architecture. I took several semesters of architectural drafting in High School and loved every minute of it.  My second choice was Interior Design, and I took the only class offered in my High School for that, and likewise, loved it.

I know it seems like the actual degree I wanted to obtain should have been my first deciding factor in which school I wanted to go to, but it didn't. I always knew I was going to go to Brigham Young University and I never doubted it.  Even though my father was a graduate from BYU, I don't think the drive came from anyone or anything but inside myself.  So I applied to BYU and ONLY BYU, to the chagrin of my career planner.  Yes, I knew that they didn't have an architecture or interior design program, but I just assumed that I'd figure it out when I got there.  I know it wasn't the best plan, but I felt surprisingly alright with it, considering my very goal-oriented life otherwise.

There I was, at BYU, without my top major choices, so I signed up for the best thing that I could get: Art History.  And I'm sorry, but Art History kicked my butt.  After the first semester, or maybe even the first day of class, I knew it wasn't for me.

I decided to apply to the Drawing and Painting program. Don't ask me why. I guess it's because I had some experience.  I had taken private watercolor classes for a while when I was younger, and I took a senior-itis ceramics class my last semester of High School, but other than those, I hadn't officially taken a drawing or painting class in my life!  I had no idea what I would do with a Drawing and Painting degree, let alone what kinds of classes I would be taking. I must have thought, "I like art. I'm pretty good at it. It's the most likely major here that I'll enjoy, so let's see what happens," which at the time was totally not my usual manner, but has become more of me since getting the art degree :)  ("Anything goes!" Not really, but you get the idea.)

In order to get my application ready, I took a Drawing 101 class from a graduate student at BYU. It fulfilled my Arts requirement if I didn't end up get into the art program, so Win-Win!  It was a fantastic class and I came away with some really good pieces, like this muscly replica of some master (Rembrandt? Da Vinci? I can't remember).
So I got in the program, blah blah, but here's where the interesting thing comes about...

I was about 2 years in, and the new applications were coming in. One of my professors pulled up a few pieces on the computer and showed them to our small class.  They were great pieces, some of them even stunning!  But the professor flipped through the pieces saying, "This person got in... this person didn't get in..."  I couldn't put my finger on it.  Why were some amazing people getting turned away?  I even felt that I was not as skilled as some of those applying that got denied.  And here is a paraphrase of what my teacher said: "We don't want pictures copied directly from National Geographic. (Yes, there were a lot of colored pencil drawings of poison dart frogs) Yeah, they're nice pictures, but the artist put absolutely no thought behind their piece. They just reproduced someone else's work."

So even though I may not have been the most talented person to apply, looking back, I can feel confident in what pieces I used to apply with. With the exception of the Master replica, every one of these pieces came from my head, my own photographs, or my own personal observation.  And I think that's probably the key.  I didn't rely on anyone to compose the pieces for me, or pick my colors, or my perspective.

While I'm not an official application juror, here are some things to keep in mind when applying to art school:
- create as many completely ORIGINAL pieces as you can, and choose the best of those to apply with
- if possible, take a class or several, in preparation to applying
- take time to have personal study. Look at your favorite artists and determine which aspects you'd like to emulate (NOT copy).
- if you have a personal "voice" or style, make it evident, but not overwhelming.  You want to still be teachable.
- I'm not sure if it helped, but I submitted several different medias (watercolor, acrylic, ink, pencil, colored pencil) and different subjects
- with the help of digital photographs and simple photo editing software, submit GOOD photographs.  Take the photos in good light, with correct colors, and crop correctly (using perspective crop if possible)  ... NOT like mine :)
- and all the regular stuff like:
    - check your spelling
    - apply on time and with the correct process
    - etc, etc, etc.

And my last bit of advice... You will use this same criteria (or almost the same criteria) to apply to EVERY EXHIBITION or call for entries FOR THE REST OF YOUR ART CAREER!  So, learn it well!  Don't worry, you'll get better at it as you go.  Good luck!

1 comment:

Katelyn said...

I love this Natalie! It's fun to hear about how you got in and chose to get in. I didn't know I wanted to do the art program at BYU for a long time. I did two years of GE before applying (and got in). But, photography was my first choice and then art ed. I got accepted into the latter. And then eventually switched to fine art.


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