For the past several months my life has been an emotional roller coaster. I have experienced everything from the high of hearing that Nicole is pregnant, to the low, after the unexpected loss of my grandfather. I foraged through the compounded stress of finishing graduate school and experienced the euphoria of graduation. I felt the fulfillment of reaching goals, yet vacancy from what I left behind. Of course it is normal for humans’ emotions to very, but when you experience the full spectrum of peeks and valleys, in a short amount of time, it is physically exhausting. After some much needed rest I am finally back on track, however, as I reflect on the past few months I can’t help but notice a reoccurring theme. The clear contrast of beginning and end has been the defining motif of the present moment. I have been reminded continually and frequently how quickly we move through the stations of life and how important it is to celebrate in both times of commencement and conclusion. However, the lesson, for me, is not that I should be joyful in all occasions, but rather, I am understanding that life is not insipid or stationary and that the highs and lows I experience can lead to an exceptional life if I choose, and that is worth celebrating. But, before I get on my horse and ride into that proverbial sunset, I want to take a minute and celebrate one of these endings, the closure of an incredible two-year journey enrolled in the Hartford Art School MFA program. While I am sad to know that this chapter is over it is encouraging to know that this ending is also a new beginning and that the passing of one thing leads to the rebirth of another.
Below is an excerpt from my thesis that explains my experience with the program.
Before I entered the Hartford Art School MFA program in Illustration, I took some time to look through the famous Illustrators in America by Walt Reed (b.1917). As I flipped through the pages, I soon discovered that the majority of the faculty teachings at the Hartford Art School are included in this book. It hit me hard that being in this program was much more than gaining further education, it was an opportunity to be part of a long, connected history of incredible artists. Each generation of illustrators has taught the next. Just as Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), and Rockwell studied under George Brant Bridgeman (1865-1943), I was now going to be taught by Murray Tinkelman and the professors at the Hartford Art School. In a way, I would have a chance to be grafted into a very rich, complex family tree. After speaking with Tinkelman about the program, I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to learn from the best. After this conversation I had a lot to consider, but as I contemplated my life and how I wanted to go forward as an artist, I thought back to a recent experience.
I was in an art store perusing the discounted paint bin when I came across a color I had never seen before. It was called Torrit Grey. As I read the paint description, I was surprised to find that this particular grey was not an ordinary color. This grey was created as a waste product. At the end of the year, the paint company would clean out the mixing drums and put the different bright, vibrant colors into a slop pile. Normally, this leftover paint would be discarded and thrown away, but for whatever reason, someone had the idea to mix these colors into grey and bottle this low-quality paint. The funny thing about Torrit Grey is that from year to year, the paint changes from light to dark depending on the amount of hues in the pile. It is always changing, yet always grey. As I thought about this paint, I realized that it was a perfect metaphor for my life. I realized that while I believed I was living a good life I had no contrast. I was in a constant state of change, yet, I sat comfortably in the middle. Artists all know about the value scale. It is a range of tone from black to white with all the shades of grey in-between. And there I was, sitting right in the center. I realized that I desired much more for my life than just status quo. I wanted to exhibit contrast when compared to the rest of the world, but I didn’t have it.
Contrast is a strange thing; its counterpart defines it. White is never true white unless it is surrounded by black, and yellow is never as yellow until it is surrounded by purple. They are polar opposites, yet they intensify one another. Living as grey lacks meaning and purpose. It means blending in with the rest of the world.
I realized that, for me, taking part in this program would be about experiencing a transformation and living beyond the grey. I can’t say that in any two-year program an artist will somehow arrive at his/her full potential. What I can say about this MFA program is that it has given me the tools and permission to be the artist I desire to be, to stop living a life of indifferent grey and start living in contrast, to be vibrant and colorful, and most importantly, to be true to myself.