Tuesday, February 9, 2010


For the last couple of weeks, thoughts and moments have been percolating in my mind, and I realized that quiet realizations are just as tremendous in their impact as the big "Oh my God!" kinds of moments. At least when it comes to learning something new about yourself.

As I was headed home from school two days ago, I was thinking about my teachers and classes this semester. For the first time, in a -very- long time, I'm taking a wealth of classes I don't already have experience in. It's both exciting and terrifying, because I don't just 'know' how I'm going to do.

My first class of the week is Graphic Design. In a world where photos are hardly every printed out because they can be loaded directly from camera to computer, where I can keep up with hundreds of friends and family with a couple of clicks on my keyboard-- it struck me as important, as an artist, to know more about this latest medium.

My second class of the week is Earth and Space Science. I'm enjoying it, but I have to admit, there have hardly been any classes I've encountered that actually make me feel dumb. Even studying and staying up on the reading, homework, notes and labs, I doubt that I will do better than a C in this class... There's also a lab for this class that meets once a week- and I'm actually doing better in it than I am in the lecture portion.

My fourth class of the week is Contemporary Dance I. It's not actually required for my dance minor--except that I considered it a requirement, just like I considered taking ballet last semester necessary as well. Both of them are to get me in the shape I need to be in, so that I can take Contemporary Dance II (which IS required for my dance minor) next semester. It is unlike any kind of dance I've ever done before. I took dance in college a decade ago, when the focus was still on the traditional forms: ballet, jazz, tap-- you get the idea. But the dance being done (and taught) today, focuses on lyrical and contemporary versions of pretty much ALL forms of dance. I'm loving it-- but it literally batters my body twice a week.

My fifth class of the week is Painting I. I still remember Coach Nichols loving to paint, and taking an hour or so every week, and just playing with oil paint and flat canvases back in 11th grade. No fancy brushes. No learning techniques. Just playing with paint. It was fun, but there are only two things I made in there that I really remember at all. One was a copy of an image I liked-- not really doing art when you're just replicating. The other was fun with floating eyes and lots of cats..... Anyway, the point is, I've never REALLY taken a painting class until this semester.

And my final class of the week is Sculpture I. Until last semester, if you'd asked me what kind of art I do, I'd have told you, "I draw, of course!".... because up through college the first time, that's exactly what I did... But I hadn't really -drawn- in a decade until last semester. And that's the same time I started making 3-dimensional pieces. I've never had sculpture before either.

So here I am, out of my depth, a little scared and nervous because I don't already know the outcome-- and my teachers want me to show my work. Show my process.

This was the realization I had as I was driving home: I have always done well in school, on an intuitive level. I just 'get' most subjects, at least on a basic level. But I have -never- been good at showing my work: Breaking up the how, without the intuitive leaps. And pretty much -all- of my teachers this semester are process oriented.

No wonder I keep having minor freak outs! Not only is it all new material, but it's all new material in a way that's foreign to how I think/learn... I'm having to learn a new way to learn!

And so far, I think I'm doing alright. I'm learning to think about how I think. To explain my intuitive leaps. Not only so that others can see how I get where I got-- but so that -I- can see it as well, and from there, take it even further.

Last semester, I took photo after photo of completed pieces that I made. Almost 20 new art works, from two classes.

This semester, I don't know if I'll be able to photograph what I'm doing in graphic design, and there are LOTS of process shots of my paintings, allowing me to track the progress of their completion. I have 5-7 open assignments in sculpture, and am pretty sure he'll assign even more.

But outside of the new material and new techniques that I'm learning, I realized that I'm also learning about myself. The answers to two, seemingly simple, questions: Who am I? and What am I?

If you'd asked me before I started school, my answers would have been, "I'm Janin Wise, and I'm me." ...whatever 'me' might be.

Now, though I'm still Janin Wise, I've realized I am many things. A mother, a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, lover, friend, student, teacher, dancer, artist, poet, story teller, writer, blogger, pet owner, researcher, cousin, collector, organizer, thinker and constantly discovering new 'things' about me.

In the end, I quietly realized that I'm excited to continue on this adventure that is relearning art-- but in the 21st century, and learning about me and how I think. I never thought going back to school would tell me more about myself.