Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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10/25/2004: "Advice for art students working towards BFA (or similar) Degrees"

I was going through some paperwork tonight for tax purposes and came across a weathered envelope from the University of Alaska Anchorage, where I got my BFA degree (see entry Does Rejection Ever Get Any Easier).

Inside was the actual document from my thesis committee. Here are a few gems from it (submitted anonymously)

  • Not well thought out. Seems very last minute.

  • Expressive properties are a mixed bag. Some images seem too "cute" and colors "sweet".

  • Ink colors are generally muddy without an obvious conceptual and expressive reason for their "muddiness". Presentation is generally clean and well organized. Technical mastery of various printmaking processes seems undeveloped.

  • Some problems with straightness of presentations.

  • Ideas related to technology vs. human qualities is not original, and the visual motion of the idea seems limited to a narrow range of clichés.

  • Technical mastery is not that of one who majors in this area. The technical concepts are not expressed in these works.

  • (Here is my favorite!)
  • I think your work would benefit from allowing reactions to pass through experience and emerge into cogent actions. Wa the F????

  • OK, me are the final grades:

    Expressive Properties (Success in visual realization of the thesis proposal) 62.5
    Conceptual Properties (Quality, originality, and growth of thoughts and ideas) 63.5
    Formal Properties (Technical mastery of materials and presentation) 57.0

    I basically got a D on a thesis that I worked over a year on (in the other entry I thought I had gotten a C- until I actually found the review). In the beginning I jumped through hoops left and right for these ass holes. Finally, after about the third time they made me change my proposal and then lamented that I hadn't stuck with an earlier idea they had shot down, I decided I was going to just do my own thing and fuck them if they didn't like it. So, I came to every thesis meeting but I just quit taking their advice and suggestions on what I should do to alter my work. I now believe that this was the main reason why they pissed all over my solo exhibit, which by all accounts (outside my thesis committee) was a big success. The majority of people on my thesis committee were pompous blow-hards who had long since stopped having any shows of their own. The head of the drawing department had tenure and would actually snore during my thesis meetings.

    So, one option is to kiss your professor's talentless back sides if you have to. Take every crappy piece of advice as though it were a priceless pearl of wisdom. And as soon as you graduate with honors...start to do your real work in earnest and forget about them. (of course, I'm sure that there are wonderful art professors out there who care about their students and if you have those kinds of instructors then hold on for dear life...I originally had a mentor like that in the printmaking department but then he got canned due to the fact that he was actually talented and inspirational and was having successful exhibits and the blood thirsty pack of mediocres in the rest of the department couldn't handle that)

    I'm still pissed that they managed to crush my spirit to the extent that I've never done printmaking (my first love) again.

    Maybe the bottom line, the only piece of advice I can give (as I'm obviously a sponge of bitterness on this topic of art and academics) is that as a student of art you should learn as much technique as you can but don't listen too carefully to all the art speak mumbo jumbo they try to indocrinate you with. Fake interest if you have to but keep your own sense of wonder and don't let anyone beat it out of you by endless formal discourse on the matter and constant jumping of hoops. Ultimately do what makes *you* tingle and purge your mind of the rest.