They are the three words that roil the senses like no others, that stir an inner emotional stew of mixed emotions that inscribes us, for both good and bad, for a lifetime. It's the inevitable arrival of late summer and the call to the classrooms that makes us tremulously anticipate the new anxieties and challenges that are about to be sprung upon us – but also the sweet rewards of ascending to new levels in pursuit of a life goal. For visual artists on their personal missions to achieving their own unique visions of success, in art and life, it is once again time to seek out the guiding wisdom of the old masters as well as the new kids with all the new tricks of the trade.
Linday Rapp is an aspiring artist enrolled in not one, but two universities simultaneously this fall including the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Ivy League school, UPenn both in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So I thought she might be a good candidate to answer some questions about art education and the unique pressures of this time of year for anyone about to hit the books once again.
Lindsay Rapp was kind enough to answer some questions I had for her about her art and let me share the Q and A with all interested deviants:
How much of your art is of purely aesthetic purpose (simply to be enjoyed), and how much is it about a message to the viewer?
Art is a constant learning process of growth within an artist. I cannot imagine ever becoming so good that you have nothing more to learn in creating a brilliant piece of artwork. Even Michelangelo had a mentor to develop and improve his talents. So, going to an Art School has stretched me on so many levels. When I first decided to attend an Art School, I expected to learn an instructor's technical skills while expanding my own horizons of how I envisioned art.
However, not only have I been able to enhance my technical skills, but I have also learned more about the theory of art and even the psychology of art which actually gave me more insight about myself as an artist. While attending an art school, I have gained a confidence to trust my gut and take more risks. What was particularly surprising for me, in terms of attending an art school, is how I am constantly learning from my surrounding art students just as much as from my instructors.
The students tend to inspire each other. I find myself consistently being broken down and then inspired. It is an ongoing process of building, breaking down, and then building to new heights. The experience of attending an art class envelops me with encouragement to push myself beyond current expectations and make every effort to take my work to a higher level. It is truly an amazing, blossoming process. I feel confident that my decision to attend art school has enabled me to take my artwork to new levels.
Has it been challenging to attend two different schools simultaneously?
Yes, it is extremely difficult. I am much more artistically minded than academically minded. I keep in mind, however, that the process of educating myself affects my art in positive ways. Taking liberal arts studies has given me a solid work ethic and has stimulated my perspectives of the world when I go back to my easel. Admittedly, it also serves to enforce my choice of passion — for I would much rather find myself behind an easel than behind a desk working in a cubicle. I, therefore, am motivated to excel. The classes at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts are enlightening and enriching, and I find myself surrounded by extremely talented students from all around the world. On the other hand, in attending classes at the University of Pennsylvania, I have been faced with the most difficult classes I have ever taken. The students at UPENN inspire me with their brilliance and dedication to exceed. I must work very hard academically to stay in step with those exceptional students. It is a different world between those two schools. I am constantly going back and forth between the world of the Ivy League "preps" and the art student "hipsters."
Both worlds have enabled me to develop my outlook into the world. I feel so fortunate to have this balance of people and perspectives with these different schools. I have really connected to people at both schools and love each campus for different reasons. I truly could not have asked for a better college experience –attending a gorgeous Ivy League college, like the University of Pennsylvania with its beautiful campus and traditional ways, while attending the first art school of the country, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, with its prestigious background, instructors and amazing students. It is a lot of stress sometimes, but it is such an awesome experience. I cannot begin to describe how truly fortunate I feel to have this wonderful opportunity to stretch my talents and my mind by attending these schools simultaneously.
Do you think art history and art theory are as important for aspiring artists to learn about as basic mechanics like composition and technique?
I absolutely do. First and foremost, art is all about expression. But the fundamental elements to express yourself in an effective way calls for Theory, concept and technique. Neither one should stand on its own—all three give strength to a piece of work.
How did you go about finding the best art school(s) for your own needs?
The most helpful and revealing ways that I learned about a school was to visit the school and actually talk to the attending students. I do not think that you get a true read for a school with a student tour guide with their "canned speeches." The actual students are the most candid in their descriptions of how the school really is. I also found it helpful to learn about specific department interests. Personally, my interest lies within the painting department. I found by asking questions to students with my department of interest, I was able to gather a true analysis of the school. It is important to visit the schools so that you are able to take this approach. Also, while visiting the schools, it is necessary to pay close attention to the student artwork. Do not be afraid to ask questions to both students and teachers. I actually asked students about their favorite teachers and why they considered them their favorites. I asked about the teachers in general; and asked about various homework assignments. Talking to teachers was revealing as well. I discovered their focus and gained insight on what they like to teach, see, do, and do not do, within a classroom environment.
"Art is a constant learning process of growth within an artist. I cannot imagine ever becoming so good that you have nothing more to learn in creating a brilliant piece of artwork."
You're a real renaissance artist, being not only a painter but also a sculptor and also working in photography. Are there even more media that you want to work with? Which is your favorite—and are there special pleasures and rewards for you unique to each medium?
At school, I declared my major as painting, and decided not to have a minor in order to concentrate more on my major while keeping sculpting as a more free, fun extra art class to take. Photography is not offered at PAFA---which is unfortunate for me. However, I am planning on taking a digital photography course at UPENN, which has fabulous instructors. I am fascinated by all forms of art. I gravitated towards painting early in my life (eleven years old); and it has stuck with me. It, therefore, seemed natural to declare myself as a painting major. I actually won awards in a variety of mediums—sculpting, charcoal, water colors, pastels, acrylics, and oils. Each offers its own advantages and disadvantages. All in all, however, I tend to prefer oils.
How would you assess the impact of deviantART in its educational role amongst aspiring artists? Besides actual tutorials, do you think simply having access to communication with other artists is a key to becoming an artist? How important is the feeling of being supported by other students of the arts to the struggling artist?
deviantART is amazing. I love the feedback/critics/and encouragement on this site. It is remarkable how much feedback that is generated, as well as how much activity takes place on this site. It is discouraging when there are people around who do not understand or support your artwork, deviantART let's artists know there are still other people and artists in the world who do support you, believe in your work, and truly appreciate the work. It is tremendously helpful to be given feedback from other artists. Communication is absolutely a key in art. Art is a language within itself, and if your artwork reaches out and speaks to someone, it is truly rewarding to be given that response and feedback. In college, half of its benefit is communicating with others, creating a lifetime of contacts and connections, and exchanging critiques and feedback. DeviantART supplies that type of networking and critique exchange. It is a wonderful site that I think every artist needs.
What's on your course schedule for the upcoming semester? Which courses are degree requirements and which ones are all about your enquiring mind's burning need to know? Is there one in particular you are especially looking forward to or one that you are not looking forward to at all?
I am looking forward to every single one of my art classes at PAFA, honestly. I am such an art nerd! The only classes I really dread are my liberal art classes at UPENN. I am not as academic as I am artistic and when you add the level of brilliance with Ivy League students and professors, I get intimidated. I am stubborn enough to stick it out, even on the days that I ask myself, "Why?" It is those days that I stop and reflect on this incredible path that I embarked from the start. The UPENN degree will help me stand apart to be recognized as a credible, knowledgeable artist. Art has opened up this opportunity to be a part of UPENN and it offers me an education that is better and more thorough that I could possibly ask for. This superior education encourages deep thinking, provokes imagination and great goals, and offers inspiration to my artwork. All of which keeps me on my path with my passion for art. So, even with the extra demands of a competitive institution as UPENN, I do not consider it a hindrance to my art path. It all contributes to my growth as an artist.
Would you like to teach art someday? Or as an artist, like every artist, aren't you an art teacher anyway, instructing those who follow you by example if not by actual in-person instruction?
Art is a wonderful thing where teachers and students alike learn from each other. As I mentioned earlier, art is a constant learning process. There is no ceiling or peak where you finally have "arrived" and know all there is to know about art. It is a life-long quest acquiring, sharing, and exchanging knowledge. Currently, I am trying to maintain an open mind about my future. I am not opposed to becoming an art teacher, as I would consider it a privilege to share what I have learned to the fresh eyes of young students embarking on their art path. We will just have to see where my art path ultimately leads me.
What advice would you give to an aspiring artist who is currently considering art school?
I would definitely suggest going to the art school. It is important to determine which direction you are leaning in your art path---whether it is music, writing, painting, animation, photography, graphics, sculpting, or whatever. The aspiring artist should concentrate on finding a school that has an excellent department in their field of choice. They should try to visit the school, if possible; ask to sit in on a class; and do not be afraid to ask questions afterwards to the students and/or the teachers. I visited colleges from Massachusetts down to Miami. It was worth it for me as I was confident in my final decision—even considering I was attending a college far from home. If you cannot visit all the colleges that interest you, seek out students from that college on facebook. Facebook could be a good resource in your quest to get a good read on a school. It is amazing how willing people are to offer help and advice.
After all, I am sure that they remember being just as confused and uncertain when they were embarking on their quest to find the perfect college for themselves. College is all about finding yourself, and how you will fit into the world. I would encourage all aspiring artists to seek a college that will best direct you to the person and, specifically, the artist that you desire to become. Look at the students, the teachers, the general attitude. Imagine the feeling of being at that particular school, at that particular location, and being a part of the artwork created by the students of that school. Look at the actual artwork being generated from that school, the school's reputation, and for what that school is known.
Ask yourself if this is something you want to become a part of? Every school has its pros and cons; therefore, consider your priorities to help sort through the pros and cons in making your decision. This process will better enable you to feel confident that you made the best choice for your art path as well as the most beneficial choice for your overall future. For me, I did not think that a university alone could satisfy my quest to be a successful painter. I needed to attend an institution that excelled in painting where the paintings generated by graduating students were impressive giving these graduates the best position for a successful future. I also wanted a college experience offered by a university. The journey to achieve such a unique criteria brought me to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with a dual enrollment at the University of Pennsylvania---two excellent and challenging institutions.
"I would definitely suggest going to the art school. It is important to determine which direction you are leaning in your art path..."