The Dark Side of Art School & Seasonal Art?

2-day portrait painting of seasonal work aka modern day jesus by Julie Dyer Holmes, Fine ArtistSo, lots of people casually say how nice it is for me to be in art school. But, they never ask me how I handle the dark side of art school. First, let’s talk about the public perception (not the dark side) of art school.

More than one person has said it must be ‘so relaxing’ to be painting everyday. There’s no question, this is a wonderful dream I am pursuing. But, relaxing? Negative.

Granted I have never given birth so I can’t use that metaphor for the challenges of art school. But, I have worked for a software startup, worked multiple nightshifts for open enrollment, pulled all-nighters for various deadlines in my previous corporate days and lived through this year’s election results (oh sorry about that last one but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, isn’t it?).

What IS the dark side of art school? It is constant, never-ending, gut-wrenching, joy-making, heart-breaking work, people. Whether you are a fan of Nelson Shanks or not, the guy showed up to paint everyday. He didn’t take vacations, he didn’t break for holidays and he didn’t snooze. He worked. Word is, he didn’t consider it work but that’s a whole other conversation, too, right? And, shazam-o, that work ethic is present at Studio Incamminati even as he has, unfortunately, left this physical world.

I confess that I love to paint and have felt a tremendous boost in my skills and work during this (my third) year. As an example, see the 2-day portrait I just completed of William. OK, his name is William but I can’t help but think he might be a modern day Jesus (and hence the Seasonal reference) with his curly hair, beard and bright red and blue headband.

The Dark Side

So, what is the real dark side of art school? Well, the ever present need to be working is one. But, also, we have been studying so much anatomy that I find I have developed an annoying tendency (aka dark side of art school). In fact, we have instructors who know more anatomy than MDs. How do I know this? One of my classmates is a retired MD. What does this mean? We need to study, be aware of and easily refer to anatomy. And, we need to reference anatomical landmarks when a teacher approaches the easel and asks us a question. If we are struggling with an area we better be ready to say, “Hmm that vastus medialis is just not quite right.” We better not say, “His upper leg looks kinda funny.”

Planar study of Joe with fabulous greater alar cartilage on right and portrait study of Joe on the left by Julie Dyer Holmes, Fine Artist and Student at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia PABut wait, that’s not the annoying (aka dark) side of all this. Here’s what it is. We have done so much study of anatomy in general and the structure and anatomy of the head, in particular, that I have started to stare at (near and dear and, also, total strangers) people. And, I associate people with their unique anatomical landmarks. For instance, today I did a planar study and portrait of a guy named Joe. OMG you should see his occipital protuberance! It is a-mazing. Now, whenever I see this model, I don’t think, “Hey there’s that actor guy, Joe.” Rather, I say, “Hey, there’s that actor guy, Joe, with the a-mazing occipital protuberance.”

When I see my Monday teacher, Kerry Dunn, I think, “Holy Smokes, there’s Kerry and he has an incredible greater alar cartridge.” In fact, model and actor, Joe, has a pretty fabulous alar cartridge, too (see painting I did today of a planar head on the right and a portrait study on the left).

So, there you have it. The dark side of art school: everyone becomes an anatomical reference of some kind. You are rolling your eyes and thinking “Oh brother, what’s the big deal, Julie?” Right? Well, all I can say is I apologize in advance if the next time I see you, I just stare. Why? Well, because of the way your beautiful eyes align which is due in part to the slant of your palpebral ligaments. That’s why!


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