Hello my friends!
I have been spending a lot of time this past week tracing the roots of my art journey, from high school to current day. It has been a wonderful experience with many revelations of how I have grown as an artist and as a person which compelled me to share about one of the artistically influential seasons in life and what it was like to attend an art based school.
What it truly was like attending a prestigious art school
Receiving my BA in Illustration at Art Center College of Design (ACCD) was one of the best experiences of my life. My professors were celebrities in their field. I had the honor to study under the greats including:
- Burne Hogarth – the co-founder of the New York School of Visual Arts, developer of the Tarzan comic and the author of the Dynamic anatomy book series.
- Harry Carmean – considered one of the last living masters.
- Dan McCaw – a highly respected and vastly collected American contemporary impressionist and now expressionist.
- Gary Meyer – an award winning illustrator and master of perspective and aerial painting.
- David Shannon– Caldecott Award winning children’s book author and illustrator.
I also had the incredible fortune to watch Keith Haring paint the last mural of his lifetime on campus as well as meeting the great David Hockney.
Imagine going to school to draw, paint, design and learn art history from the people who were the best of the best in their industry. It was intimidating for sure, especially since I was one of the youngest students in my class. The crit (critique) days were terrifying but studying among extremely talented classmates made me raise the bar as well.
One thing I regret is that I attended ACCD when I was still too young at the ripe old age of 18. In hindsight, I wish I had developed my skills a little more and completed my AA elsewhere so that I could have fully taken advantage of everything this incredible institution was offering me. At 18, I did not know who I was as an artist. All I knew was that I wanted to create children’s’ books in Armenian. Isn’t that interesting?
ACCD vs. other art schools
Along with the amazing professors, what set ACCD apart from other schools was the additional opportunities. For one, I was accepted to be an intern at Disney Feature Animation in Florida… but my Father did not let me go (whole other story). Also, In the years I attended, ACCD had a campus in Switzerland… SWITZERLAND!!!!! We had the option to study at that campus interchangeably but again, my Father did not agree to sending his baby all across the globe. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been had I taken advantage of those opportunities, especially the internship at Disney. However, I feel I would not have developed the business and art practice I have today and not had the family I do today, had my life taken that path. Everything falls in its place when it needs to and I am so happy with where I landed.
My Favorite Focus in School
My favorite practice in art school and even today still, is oil painting. I would zone out for hours at a time. The smell of oil paint made me downright emotional. Years after graduation, I visited ACCD and as soon as I opened the doors, the same scent of oil paint overtook me and I cried like a baby. I had missed it so much. That subconscious response made me realize how much I needed it back in my life. So, I registered for classes at Art Center At Night (their public program) after I had taken a 10 year break from art to raise my family which ultimately led me to becoming a full time artist again.
Peers and Professors who Inspired Me
A particular person and professor that influenced me the most was Dan McCaw. His impressionist painting style and his mastery of color and values left me in awe and made me fall in love with painting. As we painted in class, he would energetically walk around the room and blurt out extremely wise bits of advice that I still remember and practice today. One of my favorites was, “never let your tools get in the way. Whatever you’re creating, use the highest quality tools you can reasonably afford. They will play their part in your inspiration and help you avoid unnecessary frustrations.”
If I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. The experiences at Art Center have played a large part in who I am today and will fondly stay with me for the rest of my life.