Make Yourself Make: An Art Student’s Reflection

Post by Mary Scarlett Greenway, senior art major

In January I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Europe with a great group of students – including fellow members of the art department. During our 11-day trip, we visited many great artistic and historical sites in Paris, Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome.

As an art student seeking Art History credit, this was a dream. Getting to graduate on time by visiting practically the art capitals of the world seemed like cheating…and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. I wanted to remember every second and soak in each unique city as much as I could in such a short time.

In every city that I visited, I created a typography piece with the name of the city and held it up in front of an iconic landmark or scene (or at least, I did my best to do that – it really is hard to stop and take a picture of your journal when your leader moves at about 40 miles an hour and will leave you behind).

 

A project like this was incredibly fun and challenging – trying to capture the personality of a city in letter forms (without smudging anything on a rattling train).

In addition to my typography pieces, two other art students (Kayli Sommers and Josh Smith) and I agreed to make a conscious effort to sit down and sketch something in each city. So we did. We sketched the Arc de Triomphe, the courtyard of statues in the Louvre, Michelangelo’s statue of David in Florence, the Trevi Fountain in Rome and many others.

As an art student, the discipline of sketching things you see is often a hard one to hold yourself to – it’s at once a desire and a chore. But I cannot overstate how important and fulfilling it is to make it an instinct.

Despite all the little mistakes, I captured my experience in my journal in a way that I never could have with my camera. I remember every little side stop and place we got lost and times I almost cried (sometimes because of hunger but usually out of excitement and awe). I remember every bridge we crossed and alley we took and staircase we climbed (the stairs, the STAIRS). I remember all the shops – the little old print maker and the woman who made pigments and the aggressive leather salesmen in the streets.

Though I loved seeing every landmark and museum and cathedral, one of my favorite aspects of this trip was simply exploring the cities in our free time. My favorite city to explore was Venice by far. Never in my life have I seen such a cinematic city. Every back alley, every uneven street, every clothes line, every stretch of ivy, every hole-in-the-wall cannoli shop – they seemed so accidentally and authentically beautiful. I wanted to take all of it with me.

Hands down, I have never been on such an inspiring, exhausting, creatively stimulating trip in my life. Even if you aren’t an art student, I encourage you to draw something. Write something. Anything. Take down what you see and what you find interesting or funny or odd – no matter how trifling it seems. Don’t rely on Instagram or Facebook to keep your memories for you. Life reminds you how rare and beautiful it is when you don’t just look, but see. To my fellow art students, keep making.

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Follow Mary Scarlett on Instagram for more images of her impressive work: @mary.scarlett