Suffering (and sacrificing) for your art

Ed Murphy, Photo Editor

I love being an art major. I hate being an art major. It is a very challenging balancing act between the two.
There are things that make me regret the decision to stick with school to pursue a career in art, and there are things that make me stay true and push on.

When I describe myself, I would say I am 80 percent laborer and 20 percent artist. Nothing comes to me naturally. I’m not an athlete, I’m not extremely intelligent and I am not very good at art. The only way I get by in life is trying to be the hardest-working person in the room.

This means I put more time into my projects than most. The department recommends an extra five hours of work outside of scheduled class time, but it’s routinely double that. On Friday nights after work, I come home, change and head right back to work in the studio until six in the morning.

Then, I repeat the process again on Saturday. Going to sleep after essentially a 13-hour work shift is spirit-breaking, just to wake up a few hours later and begin to shoot photos for The Voice, then back to work and then back to the studio. For most, the weekend is a time for relaxation and fun; for me, it is the hardest part of my week.

All of this work means nearly zero time not only for a social life, but just for me personally. Video games and movies used to take up a large chunk of my time. Now, I haven’t watched a movie from start-to-finish since move-in weekend. I haven’t picked up a controller since the first week of classes.
The only time I see my friends, not during a club or class, is on Sunday when I cook dinner. Free time and a social life is non-existent with a work ethic like mine and a demanding major.  

BloomU Art professor John McKaig has a running joke he tells the majority of his students: “How do you get an artist off your front porch? Pay for the pizza.”

He usually gets a few uncomfortable laughs from some due to “dad joke” nature of the gag, but some students just become concerned.  The anxiety I get from not becoming a successful photographer keeps me awake at night.

The idea of wasting all this time, all this effort and all this money just to become unskilled labor is frightening. There is nothing wrong with being unskilled, but I would have rather not attended Bloomsburg and get ahead of the curve en route to being a foreman on a construction crew if my preferred career choice is not possible.

The bad also comes with good, however. The most important is the people. I have met some of my best friends through the department, friends that I hope last for a long time. Along with the friendships, the faculty is an extremely good resource. Ron, John and Chad have all challenged me to not only be a better artist, but a more committed person.

My mentality of being the “hardest-working person” stems from my Drawing and Foundations class. I learned early on that you can’t bullshit these classes. If you want to have a good grade and make an impression, you need 110 percent effort. Since taking those classes, I have completed my best work, and would like to think that I have left an impression on them that I will try my best to out-work every single one of my peers.

My other favorite thing about my major is the process. Having an idea, sketching it out and then creating it is satisfying. Working out the kinks and finding the perfect texture for a collagraph or spending all night etching a copper plate and then printing to see that the two-and-a-half-hour etch was the perfect amount of time for the steering wheel have been the highlights of my semester.

Seeing the final product come out almost how you wanted is the motivation needed to work through the nights after a seven-hour shift just to make it exactly the way you want it.

The good and the bad of my major lead to the future. Like most college students, the future for me is a source of anxiety and hope rolled into one. The fear of not using my degree battles my hopes and dreams of becoming photographer for a major periodical. The concern of being stuck in the mud while grouting in Easton, Pennsylvania is counteracted by the thought of being in the mud of a far-off country documenting a dam construction in the middle of a tropical forest.

Balancing the good and the bad is challenging, but I have to keep moving on and to not be content with where I am at this very moment.