I began taking art classes my eighth grade year when I took Studio Art for the first time at the private school I attended. At the time, art was a form of release for the energy I had pent up after a long day of learning math, science, and other subjects I had many difficulties with. I never quite understood numbers and the way they worked in an algebraic equation, or why any of that was important anyway. I admired people who could practically move numbers around in their head and make sense of them, but I couldn’t grasp the concepts myself. In my mind, the thought of there being only one right answer was inconceivable. In art, there was always more than one right answer. There could be dozens, and ideas could be expanded upon and changed. Perhaps that’s why I fell in love with it: there was a spontaneity behind it. The artist was in charge of determining the outcome of the solution and there were no rules. Abstract thinking was required, but in a completely different way.
Looking back, it wasn’t a fear of failing at the subjects I performed poorly at that made me choose art, but rather the love I had for the feeling of a pencil rough against paper and the dazzling colors of thick, luminescent paint that could transform a once dull painting with a single brush stroke. Though my detail-oriented side didn’t quite shine through in my algebra and geometry classes, I felt like I had complete control when I entered the art rooms and gathered my supplies together to begin a new project. The brilliant hues of paint on the walls and the silence (aside from the noises of people cutting, pasting, painting, and working busily) brought me to a different realm. I’d know exactly what I wanted to do that day, and I’d busy myself with just that.
Even art wasn’t always easy. Sometimes we were required to try things we had little experience with, such as ceramics, certain forms of design, or detailed painting that demanded a high level of patience. Cracking bowls on accident or mixing the wrong colors together for our glazes was frustrating and at times giving up seemed to be the better option. In graphic design, our ideas sometimes fell through or didn’t work out as planned, and we had to take several steps backward or start over altogether. Nothing good ever comes easy, as I have learned with art, and it took a lot of hard work to perfect those projects and form my high school portfolio after five years of extensive art classes.
Frustration after frustration, crunching projects in before deadlines, and scribbling out sketches were common predicaments I faced, especially in my independent study senior year when I had no instructive direction at all. I chose graphic design as my official major during my senior year, as I realized I was excelling at it and thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the labs. People sometimes scoffed at my desire to pursue art, telling me that I wouldn’t make any money or that I needed a major that would 100% guarantee me a job right out of school. I ignored all of the cynics and decided to do what would make me happy with no regards to the opinions of others. Choosing a major based on what I loved doing rather than what I would make more money doing was the greatest decision I have made to date.
And there lies the difference. The difference between doing something just to do it, and doing something because you can’t stop doing it, because it is something that is so natural and fills you with so much joy that you can’t imagine ever quitting. Even when you doubt your abilities, even when it seems there is always someone better than you or that your work will never stand out, even with all the failures and the harsh criticism you will inevitably face along the way, if you love what you do and you pursue it with an undying fire in your heart, you will have succeeded more than the richest of men. It will not always be easy, but it will always, always be worth it.