i look back on art school as a second adolescence. it was the awkward phase between my childhood masterpieces and my current artwork. for those of you who haven't been, art school encourages this transformation. experimentation is a value there. teachers challenge their students to take risks. to work faster. to work slower. to be messy. to be precise. to scribble. to measure. to spill. to blend. one of my teachers actually said "if it doesn't make you uncomfortable, it isn't any good." melodramatic, yes, but it captures the mood.

when i consider the objects d'arte that i created during this period, i usually think "what a mess!" i don't know what i learned by rolling my face in acrylic paint. i don't know why scribbles, smears, and smudges were so fantastic back then. (but they were!) i don't know why every drawing was better when it was executed on note book paper, sewn together, or sealed in polyurethane. experimentation was liberating though. even when a drawing literally dissolved in my hand, i could say "that was surprising! at least, i tried it!" that discovery was more important than the object itself.

experimentation as a goal gets tiresome though. after a while, i just wanted to draw. one of my teachers even criticized me for becoming a documentarian. it was true. i wanted to draw all of my friends. i wanted to draw all my stories. i wanted to draw my favorite books and movies and ideas. drawing, i discovered, is my favorite form of meditation. drawing, really looking at anything helps me understand it. those discoveries became more rewarding -to me- than printing photos through scotch tape, painting with chocolate cake, or drawing with sticks or brooms or feathers. it seems like most of my colleagues enjoyed the same transformation. art school pushed us through fears and boundaries but right back to the things that we enjoyed most. along the way, we learned how to draw faster and slower and bigger and smaller, with india ink and oil paint and black coffee.

this portrait of my friend, rima, doubled as a submission to Illustration Friday. the subject was tea. i wanted to color it with actual tea but i learned through trying that chamomille doesn't dry very dark. traditional watercolors were the next best thing.

© 2006 rama hughes