Entry 6: why is this happening?
Almost a year ago was my 2013 Senior Thesis, an exhibit that showcased five graduating student artists at Georgetown College. Our exhibit was titled why is this happening? for several reasons, and many of them were stress-inducing.
Fellow seniors included Lauren Meister (graphic designer/photographer), Elizabeth Metcalfe (art historian), Kayleigh Riddell (studio artist/painter), and Jen Stephenson (painter/naturalist). My field was primarily 3D Animation, which was a course that was not offered at the college but I pursued on my own in an Independent Study.
The first unfortunate happenstance was in 2012, which was the time when the usual October Review occurred. The dreaded October Review was when the graduating student artists were required to showcase their artwork for peer-review by the faculty of the art department. Not only did we have to collaborate our art together in a mini-exhibit, but our professors had to criticize our work and determine if we were ready for graduation in the spring. That year, however, the art department changed certain policies and the October Review was pushed a month earlier, making it the September Review. This was one of the first stresses of our senior year.
When spring arrived, we were not only busy with creating our artwork for our Senior Show, but we soon found out that our Senior Thesis exhibit was not going to be in May but in March instead! And during that time we also had to allot some time for the creation of our exhibit's title and image.
The brainstorming of our Senior Thesis title went in all kinds of directions, some were clever and some were odd. One idea for our title was a pun off a french sexual term, because there was four ladies in the exhibit and I was the only guy. Another title idea was a play off of the Maya Calendar not ending the world like it should have, which forced us to continue with our Senior Thesis. Because we all had a common stress that dealt with pushed deadlines and such, we unknowingly questioned everything by saying, "why is this happening?" The question was so relevant and profound that we knew it was our title.
As for the promotional image for our Senior Thesis, we first contemplated the idea of using paint as a means of "ruining" several portraits of ourselves. We thought about face painting as our image, but later we also thought about using paint to "rain" on our parade, which fit the title we chose. After I Googled some images of clouds raining paint, I found inspiration from a cloud artwork created by Shelby Sexton. I whipped up my Adobe Illustrator skills and created the final image for our Senior Thesis:
Everyone had their own share of issues with their artwork, but mine was unique in itself. Not only did the professors not know much about 3D animation, but I was completely underprepared for the amount of work that was involved in creating an 3D animated short film. A typical movie requires a cast of talents to create the final product, which is evident by the 15 minutes of credits that roll after a movie. A 3D animated short is no less of an undertaking than a large scale box-office movie; it requires directors, writers, producers, editors, light specialists, animators, motion capture actors, 3D modelers, scenic designers, and character creators. I wanted to experience all of this, and it took a toll on me.
The pacing of my film was going really well at first; I met my personal deadlines and I made tremendous progress for a single individual who had to create the entire short film. But as the March approached, things finally started to escalate in a negative way. My first issue was when I was unable to rig the motion capture to my robot. This fundamental part hindered me from making the robot move at all, and no one was able to help me because no one knew 3D animation and thus could not help me. It was almost the same as a painter unable to make his/her paint stick to the canvas.
It took nearly a full precious week to solve the motion capture issue, which I was thankful for finally solving it, but the next issue came about when I finally started to render my animation into the final video form. Initially and unknowingly, I chose the newest installed iMac that was of the 16 iMacs in the art department's tech lab. When I calculated the amount of time it would take to render one scene on my computer, I figured it would take one week to produce the video on two or three computers. Yet for some odd reason, the computer that I chose happened to be the fastest processing iMac in the room by at least three times. Even an identical iMac next to mine was half the speed. This situation pushed my production calculation from one week to three weeks.
Rendering was the last stage, but I didn't have three weeks. It also didn't make things easier when the professors suggested that I change a minor detail in a scene, which was the equivalent of reshooting a live-action scene with actors and carefully rigged pyrotechnics. In other words, changing one detail in a scene meant several hours to redo the scene. And it didn't help the fact that I was not satisfied with the lack of time I had to polish the scenes.
During the last week that led up to the opening reception of our exhibit, I decided to work about 20 hours a day to finish the film. Thankfully there wasn't many classes in the tech lab that week, so I was able to work for most of the day, eat, shower, and sleep for one or two hours. At first I was able to accomplish a lot of work, but by the third day I was lapsing as I was trying to sleep. I would set my alarm for one hour of sleep, then I'd lay my head down and the alarm would beep before I shut my eyes. I pressed snooze and then the alarm beeped again. An hour and a half went by and I didn't noticed that I had slept.
When the day of the opening reception came, I managed to nearly finish my film. I slept for 30 minutes that morning and ate a breakfast of champions (2 egg burritos, 1 bagel, 1 cup of fruit, 2 chocolate chip pancakes, and some bacon). Afterwards I had about 2 hours to set up my exhibit and presentation, which would not feature the finished film. I had all the scenes finished, but editing them together would have taken another day to accomplish.
When the opening reception began, I was glad I had energy for my lecture. I'm not much of a public speaker, but I was passionate about my art and that gave me the confidence to show my animation tests and the process it took to make the film, without actually showing the film. I was grateful for all the feedback and responses, and I enjoyed answering everyones' questions. My lecture went really well and afterwards I went home to take a good rest.
But the chaos was not over so soon! The following afternoon we had to have our post-review from our professors. This event was known as Orals, which involved each student sitting individually with all the art professors and having to defend their artwork. My Oral meeting did not go as smooth as I had hoped. Firstly, I was relaxed and rested enough to answer their questions and defend my work, so that part went well. But the part that did not go so well was when they asked about the status of my film. Even though I had a great lecture the day before, my Senior Thesis was to produce a 3D animated short, which I was unable to do. The I was asked a truly difficult question:
Based on the fact that you did not finish you film, do you think you deserve to pass or fail?
My heart did not stop, nor did I break down emotionally, but logically I had to think about this question. I wanted to pass, but deep down I knew I did not produce what I initially stated, so I said I deserved to fail in light of the facts.
Two days later I got my final result: Low Pass with Condition. This literally meant I did not fail nor pass, but I had the opportunity to pass if I completed my film and have a second round of Orals for that screening. So even if I finished my film within the week, that did not necessarily mean I would pass for sure. But thankfully the professors appreciated the fact that I put a lot of effort into organizing extra meeting sessions for my fellow seniors and helped them with their exhibits, so I was able to pass after I showed them my finished 3D animated short.
This blog post is in no way an attempt to complain or pander, but rather to give insight on the complexity of a Senior Thesis. Who should appreciate my art the most? The audience, the professors, my fellow artists, or myself? For whom shall I try to satisfy or live up to their expectations? If I adhere to what the professors want, will I ever create what I want? What if they fail me, does that make me a failure? A lot goes into a Senior Thesis, and a lot goes through each senior as they try to create their art.
My best advise is to create art in such a manner that you would do for the rest of your life, rather than focus on the medium you think you'll work with for the rest of your life. My Senior Thesis was focused on 3D animation, but this doesn't define my line of work. It was not only the effort and creativity I put into my project that defines me, but rather the passion I had for the subject. Jen's father came up to me during the opening reception and gave me inspirational words that still inspire me:
I can tell by your art that you enjoy the journey as much as you enjoy the art itself. Keep that up and you'll do good.
Enjoy the blood and sweat that goes into you art, no matter the medium or subject. How you handle adverse times and the amount of effort you put into your art will define you as an artist. According to this schedule, the next upcoming Senior Thesis for the art students of Spring 2014 is March 28th at the Anne Wright Wilson Gallery at Georgetown College. Most of these artists have dynamic and quirky personalities, and their art reflects this. I will continue to mention and support these guys as their show approaches, so stay tuned for more info. And as always, thanks for reading and don't forget to leave comments and feedback, they are greatly appreciated. And don't forget to follow my Twitter, I tweet when I make updates to the website and other fun stuff.