This is the first artwork that I have ever been proud of. It’s crazy to say but it took me seventeen years until I finally created something that I actually liked. It was NOT an easy road to get to this point. It took years of frustration and a few emotional breakdowns but somehow I never gave up.
I grew up in a family that always supported my art and encouraged me to follow my dreams. My aunt was a very successful artist in our town and I was able to see what was possible from very young age. I dreamed of the day I could set up my own booth next to her at an art fair or work side by side with her on a huge mural.
I knew that I loved the world of creativity. In high school I took as many art classes as I could fit into my schedule but I always struggled. I always found myself looking around the classroom in awe of what my classmates were creating. Then, of course, I would look down at my own piece and suddenly feel the urge to cry.
Art class was no longer a place to explore my passion but instead it became a contest. I was always trying to be the best and outdo the other students. However, I always crashed and burned. I never took risks because I was afraid of failing. I stuck with what I knew and I always ended up with bland, boring pieces that I was embarrassed to share.
By the time junior year rolled around and I started to plan for college the idea of picking a major had me in high stress mode. I had always planned on going into a career with art but as my future grew nearer I started to doubt that I would have what it takes.
I still remember one day first semester my senior year of high school like it was yesterday. I had just completed a painting that I was incredibly proud of. I had brought it home over the weekend and spent a ton of extra time on it. I distinctly remember being so excited to show my teacher how good of a job I had done.
She graded it right away and gave the rubric back to me during class. I turned the paper over and saw that I had gotten a C-. I was completely crushed. I literally had an emotional breakdown right there in the middle of class. I just kept talking about how much I sucked at art and how my whole life was ruined. I went on and on about how I was such an idiot to belive I could ever be an artist.
My friends tried to console me but nothing helped and I started crying. I started CRYING, in public. Me, the girl who is known for being a stone wall when it came to emotions, started openly crying in the middle of a classroom. I know that one day I’ll be able to look back on that day and laugh but unfortunately that day has not yet arrived.
I couldn’t even look at that painting for months. I was so sad and after that I started to give up. I finished out the semester the best I could. I was also enrolled a studio art class the next semester but I was too lazy to switch so I just stuck with it. My studio class was something new for me because we got to plan our own assignments. Our only guidelines where that we had to pick a theme and complete 6 works of art by the end of the semester.
I had no idea what to pick for my theme at first. I thought of some cool ideas of things that I knew I could paint and that my teacher would probably understand. However, as I kept researching artists I started to get really excited. I have always loved fashion and I found some very cool fashion artists in my research. Their work was amazing and I wanted to buy all of their pieces. I even made one painting by Pippa Mcmanus (my now favorite artist) the back ground of my phone.
I wanted so badly to be able to create pieces like these artists but I was so afraid. I didn’t think I had the skills to paint faces or the intricate clothes they wore. I also didn’t think that my teacher would support my theme. However, as I would daydream throughout the day I started to come up with possible ideas for paintings. I began to look up clothes and potential reference photos and I got addicted.
It was the first time since I was a little kid that I was so crazy excited about a project. I decided to just forget all of my inhibitions and go with it. My teacher wasn’t crazy about the idea but I was determined to just do what I loved for once instead of trying to impress others.
I brainstormed for days and drew about 50 sketches before I started painting. I worked incredibly slowly and I put in a ton of time outside of school. I ended up turning in the painting two weeks late but the aftermath of my insanity was more than worthwhile. I was happy with the piece and I was excited to hang it up when I got home. I wasn’t sure how my teacher was going to react but I really wasn’t too concerned about my grade.
When I got to class I put it up on the board at the front of the classroom for my teacher to grade. I went back to my seat and was evaluating how I liked it from farther away when I noticed that other people were staring at it too. A few of the even complimented me on it and said that they liked it.
When my teacher walked in and saw it she actually looked kind of impressed, which was weird. It was the first time she had looked at one of my pieces as a piece of art rather than just something to grade.
It was then and there that it hit me. I had been so afraid of failure and so jealous of others that I had forgotten what art was really about. Art is about sharing the beauty that you see with others. I see beauty and intelligence and grace when I look at a tailored jacket or well styled outfit. My art will portray that beauty and quality to others who wouldn’t notice it upon first glance. It will allow them to appreciate the buttons on their blouse or the stitching in their pants the next time they get dressed.
It was in that moment that I was able to let go of my insecurities and it felt incredible. By just creating something that I loved I had been able to accomplish what I had been hoping to all along. I realized that I had been going about it all wrong. I had been so busy creating things that I thought other people would like and think were skillful made but the reactions from others were never what I hoped. It’s crazy to me that when I create something completely for myself and my own enjoyment that others react so well to it.
The entire rest semester was a process for me. It was very strange when the younger students would come up to me all nervous and compliment me on my pieces. They would always say things about how they wished they were as good as me. I never knew what to say to them because I know they looked up to me but I still can’t really figure out why.
The thing that really got me, though, was when the AP art students would come and talk to me. I was so envious of their talent and it was very disorienting when they complimented my work. There was one girl in particular, Veronica Storc, (look her up in few years because she’s going to be famous), she was an incredible artist. She could paint, draw and sculpt and her pieces where beyond incredible. One day she came up to me as I was working and started asking me about my paintings. She told me that she loved what I was doing and she was so genuine about her praise.
I don’t think she or any of the others realize how big of an impact they made on me. Their praise allowed me to finally have the confidence that I needed to do my best. They allowed me to take risks, try new things and pursue my passion to the fullest. Most importantly, they gave me the confidence to finally enjoy art again. The brainstorming, the creation process, the kinks, and the many, many mistakes.
I no longer felt bitter and jealous when I viewed others work and I was actually able to learn from it. It was a long and very rocky road; an incredibly emotionally trying journey but I have finally been set free. I know that I’m not the best artist in the world but I know that I can be successful if I put in the work.
I have an intense burning passion brewing inside of me and I won’t let it go to waste. I have many dreams. They are hard to achieve I know what I have to do and I am more than willing to do it. I love this painting, in particular, because it was the first step that I have made in this world as a true artist.
Angela Rose Keating | October 2, 2015