My identity as an artist is something that I have always struggled with. Having not taken any art classes from 6th grade through high school, I was mostly self taught until I got to college. As such, it hasn’t always been easy since I declared my art major after being undecided for almost two years. I sometimes wonder if I made the right choice, and if I’ll be able to get by as an artist after college. However, I feel that I have already grown a lot this semester as I continue to figure out my place as an art student here at St. Norbert.

I have many insecurities as an artist. In particular, my time management and the high standards to which I hold myself often cause me problems and stress. So far, this class has forced me to confront these habits. It’s been a bit of an adjustment working on a more independent schedule and with more freedom in the assignments. I have put a lot of time into my work and had some rough moments with my perfectionism along the way, but I feel like I have really made some things I am (or at least should be) proud of.

My gouache self portrait is one of these pieces. The first time I tried a portrait in gouache, maybe a year or so ago, I used a photo reference and absolutely hated how it turned out. For this self portrait, I used the mirror for reference and tried to focus on mixing up all of the subtle color changes that make up skin tones. I was also practicing working with gouache in opaque layers, rather than more like watercolor. It’s definitely not perfect (and I don’t know how much it looks like me without the glasses!) but I was so surprised with the result and I couldn’t believe I had managed to make this with a medium that had gone so horribly before. I would love to continue experimenting with opaque gouache portraits in the future.

Part of the reason I think this is my favorite piece from this unit is because while making it, I was able to just sit down and focus on the process of learning the handle gouache. With other projects, it is often too easy for me to frustrate myself because a piece isn’t turning out how I want. This mindset tends to take the fun out of the piece, making me miss out on the actual act of creating because I am so caught up with the end result. With the gouache self portrait, though, I was able to take it slowly and relax, solving problems as they came up but just taking the piece one step at a time.

This class has given me the opportunity to create work as an illustrator in a more professional manner. So far, it has revealed to me a few areas that I need to work on as an artist. I think my mindset is in need of work more than my actual artistic ability. I need to stop being so critical of my art because it can’t always stand up to my idealistic expectations or exaggerated comparisons to other artists’ work. Instead, I need to learn to simply create without inhibitions. I look forward to working on this throughout the rest of the semester.

With all this in mind, I think I would say that I am a very involved and detail oriented illustrator. I often go for a decent quality of realism in my work, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to achieve this through mixing accurate colors. As this semester continues, I am going to further refine my style and technique with gouache and other mediums, as well as improving my confidence as an artist. Though I have a long way to go, this class is giving me a place to start and I can’t wait to see where it’ll take me next!