Above, final mock-up of my Sketchbook for Barnes & Noble!
It’s been an interesting two weeks in school as we’ve been doing MFA Thesis Presentations the last two Fridays. I’m glad we are required to finally do something like this, as it forced me to get my thoughts together and do some free writing. I think mine went over pretty well. I had some internal conflicts going into my presentation, and I’m proud that I was honest and spoke up critically during my presentation. Ever since I started Graduate School at Pratt, I’ve been really conflicted if I made the right choice by pursuing this. None of my professors at Appalachian were “supportive” of me going to Grad School–many discouraged me to go at all. I’m the only graduate of my class getting their MFA. During my first year, my fear was that I picked the wrong school, I kept seeing amazing things at SVA, and after taking my class there, and loving it, I felt I had picked the wrong school. My first semester was rough because most of my classes were introductory. Here I was paying a shit-ton of money to take Type 1, which I had done at Appalachian already. That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything as I have a type book I’m proud of. As the semester wore on, I got through it, and ended up being happy with my work in three classes.
Last Spring Pratt announced they were creating a new MFA in Communication Design degree. (At the time, I was getting an MS in Communication Design — the main difference, with the MFA I can teach anywhere, and I’ll have the terminal degree, the MS is more a “professional” degree). Here everything seemed to be falling into place. I applied, and gladly accepted entrance into the program starting this Fall. Once again feel like I did last year in some ways as I’m unsure of what I’m doing, and again question if I made the right choice.
A year ago I wondered if I picked the right school, and now wonder if I should even be in school at all. I had this romanticized notion of what an MFA would be, I thought I’d spend my last year doing all these amazing projects, free to do anything I wanted, locked in my studio being creative and free! Now I do have an amazing studio space, with 3 very cool ladies, but sometimes I wonder if there’s a place for my POV in the program. At App, I took several “fine arts” classes, and disliked most of them. I understand a “concept” is important, but frankly, I believe most “fine art” to be bullshit. My professor even said himself, “it’s all about how you talk about things. You can make whatever you want, as long as you can talk about it the right way, and make it relate.” …. so as long as you bullshit well enough, you can do whatever you want. If that’s true, then what’s the point, if it’s all made up and fake anyway??
I find myself caught between two camps. I didn’t like the MS program b/c it was too much of a review, I already had a portfolio, I’d already worked in the field, and was just creating work and not really learning new skills. I was using skills I already had just for new projects. Now in the MFA, we’ve going to the opposite extreme, where it’s all about concept, form, narrative, and other considerations I don’t like to dwell on for hours. Is it possible to be somewhere between these two places? Our MFA program isn’t based at all in reality. I’d like some of the work we’re doing to have an ounce of practical application. I feel that I’m one of the only people in the program with this view, and I’ve really been trying to be more open-minded. I actually like the projects I’ve done so far and feel good about them.
The reason my degree matters so much to me is that I’ve committed to this chapter in my life, and I want to make the absolute most of this opportunity. In some ways I coasted through undergrad. I worked hard, but I didn’t kill myself. I could have made better work, I could have done internships, been move involved, etc, but I had a good time, all in all. I don’t want to coast through my time at Pratt. I get frustrated in my classes, and openly criticize things simply because I care. The worst thing I could do is mentally check out, and not say anything, and not question what we’re doing. Yes I may be angry, and critical, but that all stems from passion and drive. I just need to find a more productive way of expressing that, instead of being negative.
Last week during one of the presentations, I lashed out at one of my friends. I felt really bad after, as I didn’t mean anything against her personally — I think she’s one of the most talented people in our program, but I get so frustrated because I feel like no one understands where I’m coming from. Sometimes I feel like there’s not a voice for me in what we’re doing now in the MFA Program. I don’t want go this alone, and I don’t want to convert people over to the “dark side” but I hate feeling like I have to battle my way through this whole thing. I know enough now to have a point of view, and express an opinion, and I don’t feel like I’m totally crazy. I know what I want to do in life and I know where my interests lay design-wise. Sooooo when I’m doing things I don’t find productive, I get upset.
On Sunday, I went with my roommate Stephen to brunch with his old friend he knew from Texas. The girl got laid off from her job on Monday, and a week later she’d packed her entire apartment and moved to NYC, a dream she’d always had. It really made me examine what I’m doing here in NYC. I keep meeting these people so driven, inspired, and motivated in their lives, so passionate, and many times I don’t feel that way anymore. I felt that way in Australia, as I met so many people who were hungry to change the world. I came back to school, and reality took over, and that momentum stopped. I spend all my days talking, planning, and conceptualizing, and it drives me CRAZY. I talked about this during my presentation, and perhaps I didn’t frame it the correct way, but when I expressed that view (how making/doing/creating had been replaced with talking), some laughed because they know we talk a lot, and thought it was funny. In reality, it was a plea to change how we structure our class time. It’s like Debbie Millman says on her Design Matters podcasts, “We can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both.” So much of what we do it just talk about it, what happened to doing? I want to do BOTH, and feel like there can be a place for that.
I want to be passionate about what I do, and some of that starts with me. I’m in the process of making some strides into creating work on my own, and getting started on work that excites me. I started screenprinting today for the first time in about three years, and while I was in a state of panic the entire time, it feel accomplished that I had an idea, went about it on my own, and made something I’m proud of! I’m making canvas bags for all the Pratt ComD students who want a tote bag, hoping to raise enough money to meet costs. If there is an interest, I’d love to start creating work for people, and find a way to raise money for charity like I wanted for my thesis.
Sorry this entry has been so long winded, as these thoughts have been growing for weeks. Below are some screen-shots from my thesis presentation, following by my at-home screenprinting adventure today!