I have decided to document my year at art school. Since we are currently veering into Week 7, the last few weeks will be short recaps. I hope to provide more timely and nuanced updates going forward.
Week 1: And So It Began … with some jellyfish and volcanoes
What happened: We spent the first day of school walking around the premises and being shown where things are and meeting our classmates. We are 16 people in total and I am by far the oldest at 32 years old. The average age is early to mid-20s with some classmates as young as 18. However, there are a few 25-27 year olds that make me feel less ancient.
After walking around school, we learned about charcoal. I made a jellyfish and volcano drawing experimenting with blowing charcoal and dropping charcoal-imbued string on various paper.
The rest of the week was a blur. We worked more on charcoal, learned about stretching out paper, and the qualities of paper. In line with that last topic, we went to the East Asian museum to look at a paper exhibit and to Liljevalchs to look at Lars Lerin’s watercolour works. On the Friday we had a school wide activity day.
How I felt: Shattered.
Week 2: Oil Painting
What happened: We started oil painting this week, where we learned how to mix our own oil paints (linseed oil + pigment) and how to gesso paper.
How I felt about it: I was mostly in awe at the level-ing up that took place this week. From the cozy confines of my 3-month private introductory art course to school, I looked around and thought to myself, this is next level.
Week 3: Shingle Bells
I missed an entire week due to my bout with shingles. Which, I am sure, resurfaced because I was so latently stressed out about starting Nyckelvik.
Week 4: The Week of the Toilet Cry
How I felt:
I was really upset this week and had a solid bathroom cry every day. I’m not sure if it was the combination of PMS and recovering from shingles but this was the week where I began questioning my decision to quit my stable job and embark on this creative journey. I felt overwhelmed by the teaching being in Swedish, and, having missed out on about 30% of the course, I felt like my classmates and I hadn’t bonded adequately so I couldn’t really be myself around them (in English).
I realized that everything I had ever prided myself on and built my identity around (such as my IB diploma, moving to so many countries and making friends, surviving in Sweden, being good at writing, my McGill and LSE degrees - great schools by one measure, now completely irrelevant, being smart, speaking multiple languages, ALL OF THE THINGS I USE TO DEFINE MYSELF) do not matter at all in art school.
Who I was before is relevant in my new reality the way a distant relative is relevant at a wedding: there in the background, but not part of the main event. Add to that the layers of insecurity around my creative abilities, the conditions were set for daily bathroom cries and flinging myself on my bed sobbing in manner of Disney princess.
What we did:
In logistical updates, however, I came back from Shingles Leave to oil painting for Tuesday and Wednesday. I painted a mango and a bottle of olive oil. Learned more about oil paints and how to strike a brush confidently on to the “canvas,” which in our case this week was wallpaper covered with lindseed oil. Our teacher, Anders, is the King of Artist Life Hacks.
Thursday we switched to “trä” which in Swedish means wood. Our teacher is Ola Nilsson, an artist who works with conceptual and installation art. I LOVE his work. You can see his website here.
We spent the first two days of woodwork first doing a project in pairs, and then joining with another pair to create a piece of artwork based on sounds and memories. It was really fun, but it also highlighted how much one controlling aspect of me does not like to work in teams, especially when it comes to creative work. Food for thought!
All right, I will update Week 5 in its own separate installment as there’s a lot to write!