This particular work of art was presented to my drawing class last spring for a critique. Our assignment was to draw whatever we wanted, however we wanted, and with whatever we wanted. No rules to break, no limitations to adhere to.
I chose to draw a nude figure with acrylic paint and indie ink and make a mixed media background for it with newspaper.
When I heard this, I was shocked. Not because of the seriousness of the subject – because art deals with dark and serious issues all of the time – but because this could not have been farther from my intentions when I went to create this work.
I simply wanted to practice my figure drawing skills while using media I thoroughly enjoyed working with. I expected to be critiqued on my technical skill work with the figure’s anatomy and perhaps the interaction between the figure and the background.
When I expressed my intentions for the work to my classmates, everyone simply shrugged their shoulders and we moved onto the next student’s work hanging on the wall.
Later that day I called my mom, a professional oil painter, and I explained my classmates reactions to my figure drawing. My mom is a portrait artist by trade, and she also is a master of the human figure.
This work that I created was her favorite of mine up to that point in my life, which is something I am very proud of. She told me that she experienced similar things in the art world that I had experienced that day in class. Sometimes she felt that her art was boring compared to art other people were creating in the art world today. I can assure you, my mom’s paintings are far from boring. However, I knew exactly what she was talking about.
My generation of art students, at least based off of my observations for the past year and a half as an art student, is so caught up in being the next new crazy thing that the world has ever seen.
I am not saying that every classical nude painted in Europe in the 18th century is fascinating, but I am saying there is something important we must take from work like that. Not all art has to have some deep, bizarre interpretation that may sound crazy to many people.
Some artists, like myself when I presented my nude figure, wanted to be appreciated for the technique and the creativity behind the work. I do not mean to say that I do not create work that has a deeper interpretation than the surface level, and when I do, it is up to the viewer to determine what that is.
I do hope, however, that while we, as art students, are taught to think and interpret creatively, we hold onto what interested us in the art world in the first place. For me, that was the love of drawing and creating, but I had to learn how to draw before I could even become decent at it. As many say, you must know the rules before you can break them.
Rarely does a class assignment lead to lasting relationships or memorable experiences beyond the class itself. But this semester, one project turned out to be a lot more than I expected – all in the best way imaginable.
When my partner and I were assigned to Paint Love for a semester-long project in our public relations course, we knew we had lucked out. This client assignment was more than your run-of-the-mill group project; it was the foundation of our work as soon-to-be communication professionals. Excited, albeit a little nervous, we jumped in headfirst.
Founded in Atlanta in 2013 by Julie McKevitt and her husband, Aaron, Paint Love has a mission of “connecting artists and nonprofits for a positive impact on youth.” Paint Love coordinates lessons taught by local artists for groups serving at-risk youth in the area. Last year alone, the young nonprofit reached over 700 kids through its art lessons.
From losing a parent or close loved one to living in Atlanta’s largest women and children’s shelter, these kids have been through more than most of us could imagine. And, they’re just eight, and 10 and 12 years old.
I’ve volunteered at two events, and I left both of them feeling happy, energized and full of love. Everyone who has volunteered knows the positive personal experience it can be, but working with Paint Love is like nothing I’ve done before.
I went in to it expecting little kids who didn’t understand or care what was going on, but I found young people who connected to the art on a deeper level than I could have imagined. The kids are creative, emotional, tough, funny and loving. And, some of them are talented artists.
I live for when the light bulb goes off…they’re kind of sitting there, not really getting it, then all of a sudden they make a connection with the art.”
I saw this, too, when I watched thirty elementary school students write phrases of self-affirmation on giant flower petals one afternoon in DeKalb. At first, none even understood how to write something positive about themselves, many were reluctant and others just didn’t want to. But by the end of the event, every one of them smiled proudly and showed off unique paper flowers covered in rainbow-lettered phrases declaring, “I am kind and beautiful,” “I share,” and “I love my friends every day.”
Since January, my partner and I have devoted hours each week to Paint Love, volunteering and writing news stories about events, and it’s been one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences I’ve had at the University of Georgia. I only wish I had found this incredible organization and the incredible things it’s doing before my final semester in Athens.
Paint Love makes a huge difference in the lives of these children, but it needs a lot of support. Donate money, art supplies or time, and I guarantee you’ll get hooked on Paint Love just like I have.
Visit www.gopaintlove.org to read more of Paint Love’s story and to find information on volunteering.