Not going back to school right now

I don’t remember if I mentioned it here before or not, but after I left ICE to begin working on my own projects full time, one of the things Mandy and I considered was that one of us might go back to school full time. A major factor of this is that student loans / financial aid are designed to cover all the costs of going to school, from tuition and fees to transportation, room and board – if I could get sufficient financial aid, I could go back to school, finish my Studio Art B.F.A. (which I believe would help not only with creating art but with integrating into the ‘Art World’ and with selling art to all the people who keep asking where I studied), and have several years of lead time to get my projects paying enough to cover the difference between Mandy’s single salary and our living expenses. ie: I’d get an education, that fancy sheet of paper that so many people seem to think proves you’re worth something, we’d get the immediate financial assistance we need to get by right now, and we’d get the time to build my businesses up to a point where their income might be more steady and significant. It sounded like win/win/win/win/win, so I submitted my FAFSA and applied for re-admission to ASU.

Due to a “paperwork” problem (which is insane, since the entire thing is digital), my transcripts took several tries and over two months to get from PVCC to ASU, so I didn’t get officially re-admitted to ASU until a couple of weeks ago. I promptly went down to ASU for advisement and to submit some paperwork to their financial aid department, neither of which I could do before being re-admitted. The financial paperwork was a revision of our financial position, since the FAFSA was based on last year’s taxes and this year I’m not working full time and expect to make something like $20k less as a household this year over last year, depending on how sales go in the next six months. (Anyone want to offer $20k for a painting? It would be the height of irony, far better than buying ‘I Am Rich’ for your iPhone.) Show the change in financial status, write a letter about it, fill out a form, and they’ll re-consider your financial need and revise their financial offer.

While waiting two months for a file to be electronically transmitted less than 25 miles, we had time to consider -at length- many of the pros and cons of my attending school, and its feasibility. Notwithstanding the immense increase in our personal debt that the student loans would create (student loans being one of the least terrible forms of debt on your credit report), there was plenty to consider. If attending school full time, would I have [any|enough] time to work on personal projects, new art, new books, et cetera? How much money would need to be offered above the cost of attendance to cover living expenses, including the cost of driving back and forth to Tempe? What is the real value of a degree? Would I be able to cope with Academia on a constant basis for three to four more years? Would I learn anything worthwhile that I couldn’t just teach myself? On and on, back and forth, in conversation, thought, and prayer while we waited…

By the time I managed to get PVCC to actually send the relevant information to ASU and get re-admitted there, I had determined both what the financial aid offer needed to be in order to attendance to be financially possible (ie: without causing us to starve even faster) and that if re-admitted and appropriate financial aid was offered I would be attending this Fall. The initial aid offer was based on “zero need” from last year’s tax numbers, and was about 60% of what we would actually need, all in Unsubsidized loans (which means that interest accrues while you attend school). Friday I got the letter from ASU advising of their updated offer (which I had seen online this time last week, but wanted to wait for the paperwork, in case that wasn’t their final revision) of aid, which was based on a need which they had adjusted by almost exactly the amount more we needed to be offered to afford school. Except that despite the significant change in calculated need, the dollar amount of the “new” offer was exactly the same. A little over half of it was now in Subsidized loans (which means that interest doesn’t start accruing until you’re done with school) and the rest was still in Unsubsidized loans.

Well, fuck. That doesn’t help, not at all. Not in the slightest. Except that it does make my decision for me: I cannot attend ASU this Fall.

So I’ve already gone through, this weekend, and declined their insufficient financial aid offer and withdrawn myself completely from classes. I should probably send a couple of courtesy emails to my adviser and a professor in the Art Department I’d emailed to say I was coming back… thank them and let them know I’m not… But otherwise, that thought, that dream, is over for now. It’s back to the grindstone for me (not that I’ve really been away), back to trying to make enough to eat from my art and my books.

Making the grade

I just got back from picking up my second portfolio. By 8AM, after a long night of coding, my eyes were tired but the sun was up, so I decided to put my shoes back on and go grab it. I got the other yesterday afternoon, just a couple of hours before this one was ready, but by the time I got home to the email telling me it was there, it was almost ten at night & not a good time to go to school to pick up a portfolio. Anyway, I’ve got both back now and I have both my grades back.

Both are A’s.

Excellent. I couldn’t have asked for better. I couldn’t have gotten better by working harder. I am fairly satisfied with the level of work/effort I put into my Drawing class, and very satisfied with the work and effort I put into and results I got out of my 2D Design class.

My actual Drawing grade was A-. I got an A on the final project, and would have got an A+ on it if I had done more “in-class participation”, which I guess means letting the teacher tell me to stop trying to be creative on my own terms.

There was a sketchbook in which we were told to make perspective sketches for about 15 minutes a day, several weeks into class. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was on track for the time he said we should put into it, less than 1/4 of the way through the 100 page sketchbook, when he said he expected them to be filled by the end of class. I was not the only person in class suprised and shocked by this information. I was probably not the only one who received a C for their Notebook grade re: not being full enough. I know I was doing the right sketches on a page by page basis; he kept passing it around as an example to the other students every time he looked at their progress. I guess I just didn’t do enough of it. Another 20 or 40 hours sketching in that book and I could have got an A on the notebook… and .. uhh.. still got an A in the class.

The only feedback I have on my 2D Design grade besides the grade itself is the same thign I heard last time; I don’t do enough ‘outside research’. Or if I do, I don’t document it properly. I have excuses I can give, and they’re reasonable. Most of what I want to know about things (like how far a body falling from a ten story building falls in 1/12 of a second during the last three or four twelfths of a second, or how to convert from 1:10 scale to 1:16 scale in one conversion step) I can work out in my head or with just a few quick notes on paper, and most general information is stored somewhere in my annoyingly encyclopedic brain. When I do end up looking something up online, or researching it in another way, it is usually fairly difficult to explain what I’m trying to figure out or why I think it’s relevent to the task at hand. I’ve tried. My mind just … looks in strange ways at and for information. Most people tell me, when they hear the explanations behind how I came to my idea for a painting, or all the math I did to get the color and the shape, or whatever else went through my mind, people tell me I’m strange. Anyway, not much in the way of ‘research’ ended up in my notebook, though A-grade projects came out of the ideas I had.

I’m getting pretty tired. I probably won’t write reviews for Star Trek: Nemesis or Maid in Manhattan or The Hot Chick right now. Just sleep, instead. I’m apporaching twenty hours up again, which I consider too many for the five hours sleep I got. Or maybe I’m just out of practise.

Now what? I know.

That’s it. It’s over. I just turned in my Drawing portfolio, which means I haven’t any classes left. Not this semester. And I haven’t even tried to sign up for next semester on account of not knowing about money for classes or hours for a job. So no more classes. I’m no longer a Student, I’m just Unemployed. I don’t have any more forced assignments left, no more classes which were nearly my last semblance of social connection with the outside world. Running out of money. I desperately want a pizza, but I know it’s not in the budget. I haven’t got the money for pizza, and if I do, I won’t have money for other things like rent and heat and water and the rest of my food, so why an extravagence like pizza?

A little bird told me the Edge, which has been camped out near the local cineplex for several days now, was giving out passes to a free screening of The Hot Chick tonight, so I hopped on my bike in the midst of trying to finish my Drawing final assignment, and tried to get one. Alas, the person there told me the person in charge of giving out schwag was at lunch, and if I come back, I could have my chance at fabulous prizes. I wasn’t particularly interested in fabulous prizes, but if I can save $5 and see a movie I was going to see anyway, I’m all for it. Except I needed to finish my drawing assignment, so I left empty handed. After I turned in my drawing assignment and left (that’s it, that’s all we were there for) I walked back over to see if there were any passes left, but of course there were none, though they offered to sell me a The Hot Chick Soundtrack CD. No thanks.

So now what? Well, I do have an interview at ASU next week to try to get the Graphic Design position, so I’ll have to spend some intervening time putting together a web portfolio. I don’t have one because I’ve never wanted to be a professional web designer. This is a good opportunity to work with people on the forefront of developing standards for interacting with all kinds of multi-dimensional data, something I am quite interested in, and which uses skills I happen to have, or can quickly learn.

Oh, and I have already begun work in my head on a sort of “Part 2” to Forlorn, and will be getting the research materials I was looking for for the story of my love life sometime in the next month or two, from various sources. And I would like to get some new paintings down on canvas before the end of the year. And now that my final assignments are turned in, I should have more than enough time to get my place cleaned up, dishes & laundry that have been waiting an age to be done done, Christmas decorations up, and a few other touches I have in mind. And then it will very quickly be January and if I don’t have the ASU job by then, then I’ll have to find some other jobs fast, regardless of pay and skills match, just to make ends meet. And then school will start, with or without me.

I know and I don’t know and I’m not worried, but it is a concern of mine. I think I’m going to go down to Mill’s End and have a drink I can’t afford and start working on that new novel. To clear my head, to settle me. To get me back to feeling good after spending the last week or two focusing on Marc’s comments has made me literally ill. What a day. What a long day. It grows longer all the time.

Drawing class going downhill

Today in Drawing class I got some sketches done and improved a little on some ideas I had that Marc might like better than the one I’m probably going to do, but some other things happened, too. Marc was going around the class giving people feedback (he upset at least two other students as much as he upset me), and he got to my setup and asked if I wanted to talk about where I’d been going with the sketches, I simply told him I wasn’t going to talk to him. That I would turn in the portfolio, but I wasn’t going to talk to him again. He said that would be okay, but asked me why, so I told him I don’t like him.

Ooh, and that’s not all! At the end of the class, it was time for teacher evaluations! If he had given them to us a week or two ago, I might not have been as harsh in my “extra comments” section, though I would surely have been just as brutal in the fill-in-the-bubbles section. I have never used the word “jackass” in a teacher evaluation before today, or had to mention that the teacher told me outright that I would be better off mowing lawns than creating art. They say it’s anonymous, but if he gets to see my comments, he’ll probably know it was from me. The other students who don’t like him don’t seem as honest or open about it, and will probably just keep quiet.

Still, mathematically, if Marc gives me a ZERO on my final, I’ll still pass the class, and will likely still get a B, depending on how he decides to grade the other compnents of my second portfolio. Presumably for turning something in that meets the requirements of the assignment, I couldn’t get less than a C on the final, guaranteeing a B. If he’d not a total fucking moron and grades it fairly, I’ll get even better. I didn’t say I couldn’t draw, just that I don’t care to.

Did I mention I don’t like my drawing teacher?

So, I’ll freely admit that last week I spent a whole lot of time writing my novel, and not much time working on developing my final project for Drawing class. I did spend some time on it though, and I feel that I improved the intensity, emotion, composition, value, and generally moved more in the direction I wanted to go, well within the guidelines of the written assignment and my own personal artistic sensibilities.

Marc, my Drawing teacher, at first tried to simply dismiss my newer image as though it weren’t there, and was disappointed because I hadn’t done anything with the image he saw in last week’s class. I tried to point out the new image I’d made, and while he didn’t say outright that he didn’t like it, I asked him if he didn’t like it and he agreed. Then we tried to discuss that I felt the new image was better, or what he didn’t like about it, and he ended up basically telling me that I was creating art for all the wrong reasons, and I may as well as be mowing my yard if I’m going to do art the way I’ve always been doing it and want to continue doing it. And I had been slowly growing upset, and I’m sure it was visible, because he asked me if I was angry, and if so, would I please go take a break, so I told him I was angry and went to calm down.

I don’t know when the last time I got so upset was. I wasn’t really all that upset, I didn’t say anything I shouldn’t have said or raise my voice or lash out, but I solidified in my mind that I really don’t like Marc. When I went to calm down, I basically was just reminding myself that making Marc happy with what I do is only important as far as his happiness or unhappiness with my work relates to my ability to take the next class. I’m going to school because I’m an artist and I want to increase my skill and experience by studying classical techniques and new materials. The classes I’m most interested in taking have “core” classes as prerequisites, which is Drawing 1, 2D Design, 3D Design, and Color. I’m hoping to take the other two next semester, and from then on all my classes will really be directly related to teaching me the skills and techniques and use of materials that I want to know. Hopefully that will help.

Did I mention that drawing has almost nothing to do with what I want to do? To a certain extent, yes, I do drawings for comics, and the things I’ll learn in “life drawing” classes in a couple of years will be helpful in porperly representing the human form in any medium, and will draw on the basic skills one typically gets in regular Drawing classes. Yes, I had to make some rough sketches recently so I could properly visualize features of the world my novel was taking place in, but I didn’t break out the charcoal powder or the kneaded eraser or the paper stumps, I didn’t go through a series of peer-reviewed iterations where someone else’s design choices overrode my own vision, and if I do end up creating a presentable version to include with the novel I still won’t do those things.

I know, I know, I’m not being realistic, I’m not thinking about the “real world” where other people DO get to influence my designs, even to the extent of what materials I use, because they pay my paycheck. Which is why I’m mostly not looking for any work that requires “design”. And why I may have quite a bit of trouble making a living as an artist, “breaking in”. I know how the business world works and can mostly work with it; I don’t want my art to be that way.

Me and my big head. Wanting to stand by my values while creating my own art.