01 September 1981

My Life in Pictures Part Fourteen: Kendall College of Art and Design Year 2

My nest egg lasted for an even shorter time the following semester, and I took a part time job to help make ends meet in the fall of 81, working the graveyard shift at a 7 Eleven (sharing with a different roommate the following fall - who had money problems of his own, and bailed on college after a semester). Unfortunately, I had a harder time keeping up with the school workload as a result, and grades started to slip.

The spring semester was even worse. I quit the job, the roommate left school, and my interest in my schoolwork fell to an all-time low, along with worries about making rent payments, eating and affording the endless flood of art materials. In the summer of '82, with my enthusiasm lagging for the continuation of my studies at Kendall, I came to a difficult decision to leave school, and try my luck on the job market.

At the time, my dissatisfaction with Kendall was rather vague. A lot of what was being taught seemed very old fashioned. The 'star graduates' every year seemed to have portfolios that looked identical. There seemed to be a big emphasis on turning out illustrators whose work closely resembled their teacher's ideas of what made 'good illustration', in other words, photo-realism, clones of styles that were popular in the sixties and seventies, and little attention seemed to be paid towards discovering an individualistic style. At the time, I'm sure the industry was going through some big changes, and the school was just having a hard time keeping up with them.

I did learn some invaluable lessons in a few of the classes. I loved life drawing class, and picked up some good anatomy skills, some rendering tips, and composition ideas. Perspective class was pretty interesting, although I wish I held on to a bit more of the knowledge that I briefly picked up there. Art history was interesting, and I enjoyed my creative writing class. The worst classes, to me, though, seemed to be the 'Design' curriculum. The teachers seemed to have no overriding concepts to teach about what made a 'good' design or composition and what made a 'bad' design or composition. It just seemed to be a random series of 'craft projects' with the inevitable 'group critique' at the end of each one, usually resulting in a waste of art materials and time that ended up in the trash at the end of the semester.

In the late 80s, when working at a design firm, I would come across Kendall graduates applying for work, and would be amazed to see that teachers were still pushing the same outmoded ideas years later (based on what I was seeing in portfolios). And of course, I was still paying off student loans for those first two aborted years well into the next decade.

I don't regret leaving Kendall when I did. I do wish I had looked into other colleges, perhaps with a wider spectrum of disciplines and options. A broader education would have probably been more beneficial in the long run. But who knows, I'm not sure if these things (art, discipline, work ethic, stick-to-it-iveness, whathaveyou) can even be 'taught', as much as they just need to be 'learned'.

No artwork has survived from my two years in 'art school'. I remember hanging on to one oversized pencil drawing of a brass oil lamp for years, but even that eventually found its way into the dustbin.

As I left school in the summer of '82, I had no idea what I was going to do with myself. I had vague notions of breaking into the 'comic book' business, and even went so far as to send out some sample art to Marvel (getting back some kind and encouraging rejections). I spent the summer on the brink of disaster. Broke, behind on rent payments, eating dinner at my girlfriend's apartment when I could wrangle an invitation. I'm sure I was a source of disappointment and worry for my parents, but I got little sense of it at the time. I'm sure they had other things on their mind, what with their #2 son driving off to California to be an 'actor' that summer (and two more girls in high school at the time, and my mother contemplating divorce).

After a couple of sad summer jobs (security guard, burger flipper), I eventually went back to the only skills I had in my possession, graphic art, keylining and paste-up, and using some of my 'kendall art samples' got a job with a small graphic art shop in the fall of '82.

No comments: