This past weekend, while going through a box of memorabilia, I came across a pile of my very first paintings. Some were respectable first efforts, some were pretty bad and one I refer to lovingly as the worst painting ever executed by human kind. I painted these oils on canvas paper for a portfolio review when I was in college. This was to be a truly terrible interview.
While in high school, I decided that I wanted to go to college for film making. While searching for potential programs, I came across the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I loved the idea of studying film at an art school because, being a teenager in the mid-‘90’s, I wanted to make independent films and I figured art school was the best place to do this because I would be free to “spread my creative wings”, or something like that. The only problem was, not only did I have no experience in film, but I had no experience in art at all. My high school did not have a studio art program at the time.
Part of the application process to the Pratt Institute was a portfolio review which took place in Boston. I found out about the review about a week before the actual event, so I needed to put my portfolio together quickly. I went to a local discount store and found a beginner’s oil painting set and paper. Using a piece of plywood leaned against a chair as an easel, I knocked out six paintings over the course of that week. I was unaware at the time of the existence of portfolio cases, so I folded a piece of poster board in half and stapled two edges closed to create a giant envelope. I slid the paintings into this makeshift carrier along with some writing I’d done and got ready for the interview. I’d seen a movie wherein an artist wore a suit with no tie to an art opening, so I assumed that was how artists dressed. So, I got dressed up and made my way into Boston for the portfolio review.
It took place at an upscale hotel in the Back Bay. When I walked in, I saw that every one of the potential students was carrying a real portfolio case rather than a folded piece of poster board and most were displaying the markers of creativity at that time: piercings, dyed hair and clothing representing various 90’s counter cultures. I looked like a stock broker after hours, carrying a giant piece of paper.
When I was called in for the interview, I made my way to a hotel room where I was greeted by two gentlemen from Pratt. We sat down and one of the men, dressed in a well-cut, light colored suit began unpacking the folded poster board. To my horror, when he removed the paintings they were all stuck together in one stack. I didn’t know at the time that oil paint dried slowly and had stacked all the paintings together in my rush to pack up before the interview. There was not much I could have done, since my portfolio consisted solely of these paintings I had made earlier that week and a few writing samples, now paint stained.
The interviewers asked me questions while passing the wet paintings to each other gingerly, wiping their hands off with tissues. I was so distracted that I had a hard time answering them. My mind froze with the embarrassment of what was happening. They asked why I wanted to study film and while I don’t remember my exact response, I think it was likely some string of random phrases. They asked what my favorite movie was and after a few interminable minutes of hemming and hawing, I came up with Terry Gilliam’s TheFisher King.
“Why The Fisher King?” they asked.
“Um…because it’s dark?”
|One of my first paintings, note the missing paint at the center|
where it stuck to the other paintings in the folder.
I’m additionally embarrassed because at one point during the interview one of the men, who was an important part of the architecture program asked if I’d be interested in architecture. I told him in no uncertain terms, that I was not and that my dream was to make films and that architecture held no interest for me. When I did eventually attend Emerson College as a film major, I decided to change my major after only one semester. Then, when I went back to college at the University of Arizona, I initially went back for architecture. I could have saved myself some time and money by taking that guy up on his offer.
But, it is unproductive to go through life questioning ones past decisions or embarrassing moments. That being said, would I have discovered painting earlier and received proper training? I definitely would have lived in New York years earlier than I did. But, I would have missed out on the amazing path I’ve been on thus far. And that path has landed me here in New York City on the eve of 2016. Happy New Year, readers. See you next year.