Peaceful. Stimulating. Lively. These are just a few words I would use to describe my Introduction to Painting class during my first semester of freshman year in college. To be honest, I never would have imagined myself in a painting class in a million years. I am an engineer. Painting isn’t exactly my forte. Or, at least, I never quite imagined it could be.
On my first day of class, I stood around helplessly. I didn’t know what to do in the studio with an easel and a drawing pencil. We were working individually on still-life drawings, and I felt like everyone in the room already knew what they were doing except me. I was worried that I was “behind” on my art skills. That day, I learned my first lesson in art: it is not a competition. Everyone goes through their own individual journey, and it’s not about reaching a “final destination”, but rather enjoying the ride, learning new skills, and growing as a painter.
Painting requires time, dedication and hard work. Each painting requires hours and hours of focus, color mixing and paint application. Each stroke should be intentional and should add to the final goal. Even when a painting is done… *SPOILER ALERT* it isn’t done. I’ve learned that as an artist, I will never truly be settled with what I have in front of me. But, that shouldn’t be thought of as a bad thing. Rather, it’s a sign of a growing mindset, that you’re stretching yourself to your limits and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
The painting process requires patience, something I did not have before coming into this class. Growing up in Singapore, my lifestyle was very busy. I always planned things back to back, and I rarely had time to sit, breathe, listen, observe and just be in a moment. I’m glad I took this course because it introduced a change of pace in the way I live my life. Before, I felt like I wasn’t seeing the world for what it truly was. Painting opened me to the world of observation without input. I had to squint in order to see clearly, and there were days where I was even doubting what my eyes were seeing. It was through these little observations that my world around painting began to unravel, and I felt myself growing as both an individual and an artist.
From my first still-life painting to a landscape painting, from the human body to portraiture, I feel like I’ve been able to do it all in a one semester painting class. At any other school in the world, I probably wouldn’t be able to partake in this once in a lifetime opportunity. But, as an engineer at Tufts, the sky is truly the limit. It is through the implementation of HASS electives into each engineering major that makes this possible. While most of my classes were STEM focused (Chemistry, Calculus & Biomedical Engineering), on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30pm to 4:30pm, I would plug in my earphones, jam out to some tunes and paint my worries away.
Four months ago, if you had told me I would complete a collection of 10+ oil paintings by the end of the semester, I would have laughed out loud. I would have told you that “I’m an engineer”, and that a painting class is probably the last place I would ever imagine myself in. Yet, it’s funny how in the most unfamiliar of places, I’ve managed to find a sense of comfort and belonging. On top of a little hill, hidden behind a parking lot, is a building called Lane Hall. In that building, there is an art studio called 109A where I’ve found a home.