What I learned in art school.

I learned a bunch of things that you’re supposed to learn in art school: kerning, font things, all about color palletes, sautering, patinas, screen printing, and the best ways to make spray mount actually stick when you want it to. This is all pretty important, but the learning that I’m talking about — the kind that REALLY matters — is real life lessons. The most memorable, life changing life lesson I learned over my 4.5 years in school is this:

Now, now — calm down, Internet. I was an art student, myself. I got that BFA in the mail after I graduated and promptly lost it, just like the rest of you (er, the rest of you who are completely irresponsible like I am, that is). I have gotten used to the special personality quirks that are specific to creative types, in my friends and myself, and have grown to love them (most of the time). However, the other day I was reminded of those artsy people that I just can’t stand when @nanpalmero linked me to the flickr group called Six Word Story. The premise of that group is that users post a photo as well as 6 words to describe or go along with the photo. Some of these I love. “Teeth marks? Quick, somebody call Sherlock.” “Miss December needs a new car.” “Young lady at a refreshment kiosk.” “I hope she’s thinking happy thoughts.” Great little quips relating to the photo, giving you the photog’s perspective, enhancing the experience and emotional depth of the photo. HOWEVER, some of those descriptors are just straight up people trying to make themselves look fancy. Things like “without the darkness, flowers were tired” can be attached to a picture of a sad rabbit. Those kinds of weird made-up interpretations that make people say “huh” instead of “oooh, I get it” are what make me call bullshit… and that’s when I started thinking about my favorite art school douchebag.

Mid-college, I had to take Painting I to satisfy a necessary fine art credit. There were other classes that I decided I’d rather spend an entire semester on, so I stuffed painting into a shorter summer semester. My class was a rag-tag group – several, like me, who weren’t fine art majors and just needed to get that class out of the way. There were some that WERE fine art majors and wanted to get it out of the way so they could move on to bigger and better painting courses. We all got along, since we were (mostly?) all art majors. The only person that seemed to cause a problem was the student who was the oldest of the group — we’ll call him Old Barry. Old Barry, like all older students that are the ire of the college-aged college students, was enrolled in school to learn (instead of “because that’s what you do after high school”). Old Barry had questions that mattered to nobody but himself, and was the only student that took the professor up on “before I let you go home, is there anything that anyone wants to go over again?” UGH OLD BARRY, YOU’RE KILLING US ALL. Old Barry was the worst, especially when everyone wanted to just hurry up and finish class to get down to Sewell Park.

In addition to Old Barry just holding our lives up in general, he was also a PRETENTIOUS DICK. Barry thought he was definitely better than all of us, and that his paintings didn’t suck (they did), we just weren’t perceptive enough to be able to see the glory in them. Whatever, Barry. This became evident on the day of the black/white monochrome still life we were assigned (cue ominous music).

Now, it’s not like we didn’t all understand the project. The instructor set up a still life of white styrofoam shapes, set a (white) spotlight on it, and told us to get our black and white acrylic paint out. Ok, so far so good. We spaced out in the room, set our easels up, and had a few hours to get to it. Easy peasy. OR SO WE THOUGHT.

After the painting was to be finished, we did a group critique of the individual paintings. Good lighting, great texture, nice perspective, maybe you could do this or that better next time, your darks should be darker, gorgeous contrast… until we got to Old Barry.

Old Barry brought up his painting, and to be honest, I think we were all a little confused. Of course, everything is open to interpretation, and art is a personal and individual experience… but Old Barry had decided to use all the colors in his monochromatic piece. His painting was a pastel-colored disaster. It looked like the Easter Bunny ate a bunch of Skittles then spit all over Old Barry’s canvas. The shapes of the WHITE styrofoam forms were all… correct… but it was painted with pinks and light blues and greens and yellows and oranges. Also, it was all done in a semblance of pointillism (as small as you can get with a brush-head the size of a pencil eraser. It was weird.

Oh, Barry.

He was questioned by the professor initially, of course. It wasn’t “Barry, what the fuck is this?” — though it might as well have been. Barry’s answer keeps me throwing up in my mouth to this very day:
“That’s how I see them. I don’t see things in one solid color. I see them as all of the colors that are combined to make them. That’s how I see life.”

STOP LYING, BARRY, NO YOU DON’T… you pretentious-ass art student.

The question that followed was asking why Barry didn’t follow the monochromatic assignment, and from what I can remember (since my mind is dry-heaving at the moment), it was something about him painting what he sees, he just has to paint real life.
Whatever. Fuck you, Barry. You’re ruining art for the rest of us.

I’m not sure what grade Old Barry got in that class, but hopefully my grade was better.

Needless to say, Old Barry ruined a good chunk of art for me (not to mention skewing my view of many art students – I’m the captain of art school prejudices now). For all the Jackson Pollock pieces, or abstract or expressionistic pieces I see, I try try try to step back and appreciate, but most of the time, I ultimately imagine Old Barry standing there asking if I can see how Pollock illustrated his entire childhood in that one painting, can’t I just SEE IT?!

Damnit, Old Barry. You’re the worst.