art and compliments

For my ultra-loyal followers that have come back to read about little old me for the second or third or fourth year in a row now, you know that art is a fairly big part of my life. Big enough, in fact, that I decided to major in it.

Growing up, art was always something that I just dabbled in. It was fun. But then, senior year of high school during the terrible, very horrible college application process, I realized that it could maybe help me get into a couple of the schools that I was interested in. I applied to University of Michigan’s art school and was beyond excited to get accepted. I didn’t realize at the time of my applying that if I got into the art school, then I was in the art school. AKA not the Literature Science and the Arts school, but actually, really the art school. So I suppose you might say that art chose me, but now, looking back with my 20-20 hindsight, I would choose art over and over again.

Throughout high school, painting was what I really loved to do. When I got to Michigan, the department really stretched me outside my comfort zone. I making art out of computer programs and making videos and constructing vases out of foam and doing countless other things that I would have never been exposed to without being thrown headfirst into them. However, I always retreat back to painting when I need a little break from reality. It’s the one type of art that I’ve ever been able to get completely lost in. There’s no other feeling as satisfying as mixing that perfect pinky-orange with your super sharp metal palette knife on your glass mixing board with your thick, wonderful oil paints.

I’m good at painting. I don’t often say that I’m good at things. It makes me uncomfortable; when I’m forced to talk about my own work–whether it’s my writing or my art or my acting or my dancing or whatever–I normally get super flushed and stutter over my words and people are left very confused at whatever nonsense I have just managed to squeeze out over the sound of my pounding heart. So when I say that I’m good at something, it means that I’m actually good at it. Good enough, at least, to be on the receiving end of a professor’s compliments. However, 4 college painting classes later, it was today that I received my first ever compliment from a painting professor and, crazily enough, it didn’t feel as good as I expected it to.

My all-time favorite painting teacher at Michigan, Nora, was one of the sweetest women I have ever met. She absolutely fawned over other students’ pieces in my class (paintings that, let me just be blunt here, were not at all good), and then she would come to my easel, nod her head, and point out that the arm was just slightly too long. Or the head too large. Or that I needed more of a purple shadow tone as opposed to the brown I had going on. In the entire 2 semesters of painting classes that I had with Nora, she never once paid me a full compliment. They were all full of “buts” and “howevers”.

Right now, I’m in the advanced painting class at SACI, one of the art schools in Florence. My teacher isn’t exactly traditional, and has pushed me way way out of my painting comfort zone. He has me working with plaster–yes, like the stuff you use for sculptures–to thicken up my paint. I’ve been mixing plaster with water with acrylics and using a palette knife to apply it on the canvas. I don’t love it yet. It’s interesting, and the final product looks cool, but I don’t love doing it. Marco, my professor, loves it. He is all over it. Today, for the first time in my life, a painting professor told me that they really loved the piece I was working on. While I was flattered, I was also more frustrated than ever. The one time I finally get what I want–true appreciation from an instructor–I don’t feel satisfied with what I’m doing.

Compliments are funny. We want them and then we don’t.

The first two pieces are ones that are just your classic oil paintings, done in Nora’s classes. The second two are Marco’s pride and joy, my plaster paintings (the first one of the plaster paintings is NOT done!! …and I’m not completely satisfied with the second either).

self portrait.jpg

naked woman flower.jpg

IMG_4203 (1).jpg


OH. And happy international women’s day from Italy!!! I got a free little cactus with my frozen yogurt today and couldn’t have been a much happier camper.


8 thoughts on “art and compliments

  1. Your title caught my eye- so interesting, what compliments satisfy us and which ones don’t. Good reflection. I’m glad you included some of your work- nice! I do think you should find the value in your recent, thick paintings. I see it.


  2. Such an interesting perspective on compliments: “Compliments are funny. We want them and then we don’t.” I have never really thought about it – but that is so true. There is something about the second two paintings that I really love – the texture, the tone and the depth is really interesting. I hope you post them again when you feel they are done. I will think more about compliments.


  3. Feedback is often more powerful than compliments. It’s not enough to hear oh I love that. It’s much more powerful to hear why.


  4. Such an interesting take on complements. I’ve been thinking about that lately. I have an adult helper in my classroom who does a mediocre job and constantly looks and ASKS FOR complements. That experience has changed my perspective a bit. I loved seeing your art today and enjoyed your perspective on complements. It gave me a bit to think about. 🙂


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