How I Survived My First Year in Art School

How I Survived My First Year in Art School

Although I have always been a creative person and thinker, I wouldn't consider myself an artistic person in the "traditional" sense. Before this year, I had never formally drawn, painted, or sculpt anything. I had never used a bandsaw or a laser cutter. I don't think I had ever even held a needle and thread (I know, that's a bit embarrassing). I did not know how to mix paint, or draw from life, and I certainly did not know how to write about, or accurately describe art. But, after hours of hard work and dedication, I have successfully survived my first year at Parsons School of Design at The New School in the diverse New York City - with no previous formal art training (well, almost - we still have two weeks to go).

My final for my Drawing and Imaging class. I created nostalgic movie-poster-esque designs for my three most favourite cities using typography, graphic design strategies, and skills learned in Adobe Illustrator.

My final for my Drawing and Imaging class. I created nostalgic movie-poster-esque designs for my three most favourite cities using typography, graphic design strategies, and skills learned in Adobe Illustrator.

In the foundation year at Parsons, you take specifically themed classes each semester including conjoined studio and seminar classes, a drawing class, a 3D class, a conceptual moving image class, an art history class, a sustainability class, and an elective of your choice. Some of these classes I found relatively straightforward, going off of skills I has already possessed. However, in others, I felt as if I has been assigned the impossible (I'm looking at you Space and Materiality). Build a dynamic object out of wood and metal? Sculpt an object out of wire?? Design a prototype to save the world, you say??? At the start, I felt like all of this was so above me and it was terribly nerve-wracking. Everyone seemed so much better at art than me, but you eventually find your stride. Somehow, I managed to complete all of these demanding tasks and perplexing projects, a few of which I have included in this post (out of approximately 50 projects produced over both semesters). 

A pair of wire headphones. My first major project at Parsons for my Space and Materiality class, we had to sculpt the object we always carried with us.

A pair of wire headphones. My first major project at Parsons for my Space and Materiality class, we had to sculpt the object we always carried with us.

My final for Space and Materiality. We had to design a social space that would be used by a specific group of people. This was an outdoor reading space for children.

My final for Space and Materiality. We had to design a social space that would be used by a specific group of people. This was an outdoor reading space for children.

At Parsons, you should be prepared to think critically, problem solve, work hard, and create impressively flawless designs. The profs will push you to produce your best work, even if that means completely re-doing your final the week before it's do and helplessly crying in the bathroom (ahem, Space and Materiality). I don't mean to scare you, the professors here are absolutely brilliant, yet they will most definitely challenge you. Still, reflecting back, all of this and more has taught me an abundance about how non-linear the creative process tends to be and the vitalness of being detail oriented, which will be key when I begin my photography BFA this fall. Detail is so important to so many professors at Parsons. It is not necessarily about how good the piece looks aesthetically, mind you this is extremely important, but it is also about how the piece works, what it conveys, and if it does all of these things successfully. 

A small and rather enjoyable assignment for my Time class. We had to create a scene using only ourselves.

A small and rather enjoyable assignment for my Time class. We had to create a scene using only ourselves.

My Time class final; a response to the Doomsday Clock using found audio and footage.

There will be times when you cry out of pure frustration. There will be times when your eyes feel like they are going to roll out of your head you're so flipping tired. There will be times when you just want to give up on certain projects or concepts. But, there are also times when you feel like you just conquered the god damn world (especially when your prof loves your piece). This is all a part of the gloriously challenging and painstaking process of getting through your first year at Parsons. It is "the Parsons way," I suppose. If you are about to enter your first year at Parsons, I hope you are prepared for the wildest and most productive eight months of your life, but most of all, I hope you are prepared to truly impress yourself! 

A selfie grid representing the real self and a fake versions of myself. Though, I think I ended up making most of these faces over the course of this school year.

A selfie grid representing the real self and a fake versions of myself. Though, I think I ended up making most of these faces over the course of this school year.

A paper mask made for my Studio class. The mask is meant to be used to combat stage fright. 

A paper mask made for my Studio class. The mask is meant to be used to combat stage fright. 

Reflecting on this past year, I have certainly seen a difference in the way I approach and think about art and design. I am more methodical in my practices and I now understand what creative thinking entails. I certainly pay more attention to detail, and I strive to embrace that when working on projects. After a while, you start to realize that everything is designed. Some things well, others not so well, and it is our job as artists and designers to problem solve and to practice sustainable innovation in our respective fields. Everyone here has their strengths, and for this reason Parsons is an inspiring place to be immersed in. Being here, you start to question your own beliefs while listening to all of the different opinions of others. It also spurs an innate competitiveness within you. Being surrounded by so many talented individuals from all over the world certainly amplifies this effect. At any school, not just Parsons, you need to give your best effort and work hard to truly reap the rewards. You owe it to yourself. You must remember that school costs money, you are paying to be there, so be sure to make the most of the education provided at your school and to take as many opportunities it presents to you.

If you have any questions about my experience at Parsons or art school in general, please let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at meredithsherlock@gmail.com.

-Meredith

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