Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

It’s half past one in the morning, and I’ve progressed in an indistinctive direction. My cold fingers guide the soft vine charcoal across the matte, welcoming surface of smooth paper. My lines are gestural, strokes varied and abstract. Your first impression would lead you to infer that I am unguided, without objective goals in sight. But you would be surprised; a figure develops from my scrawny lines. I’m nowhere near complete mastery of the medium, but I’ve grown a centimeter closer to understanding figure drawing and its whole legacy stemming from a variety of avant-garde movements. When people ask how the arts have led me to a love for learning about the objects and processes around me, I can only discuss how to the local art studio captures my individual obsession of about the world through observing my changing surroundings.

The studio is a minimal, spacious room that sprouts with flimsy steel stands poised around a center stage where models would remain petrified for the audience to paint. It would often fall into such a hush that I would quickly become aware of my own breathing, rapidly drawn absorbed into my environment; a “forest of easels and river of people,” as our instructor called it. Standing there in isolation with a paintbrush in hand, it was daunting to study the human body. I would often become intimidated and sit down, listening to the other painters around me quietly argue the proportions of the model, or diverge from art altogether and casually discuss religious culture. This peculiar room was constantly filled with a clash between contemporary issues and casual conversation. During downtime, it morphed into a space where I could integrate myself into intense debates.

“Social media is the worst way of expressing solemnity,” my friend proposed from across the room one day in reference to the Paris shootings. Hoping for unconventional discussion on the dynamics of technology and its convoluted relationship with human interaction, I asked, “But don’t we all commit to that fallacy? Social media is the most open method of public commentary.” She pursed her lips in thought, and answered, “That’s an interesting way to look at it.” Inquisitive talk followed, approaching the ambiguity surrounding the complex nature of human psychology as we continued to mix our palettes of oil paint. Hours of intensive study on the sinews of the forearm and upper thighs instilled a sense of appreciation for the convergence between natural sciences and art history, simply because the raw form of something so normal was difficult to capture. If the arm is a centimeter too long on the canvas, the entire figure takes on a sloth-like demeanor; if one eyebrow is tilted by a small margin, the portrait evokes a mocking smirk rather than a genial smile. Silly, provocative questions I wouldn’t have thought of during school came to mind: how did natural selection become so dutifully refined that our facial features are one of our most prominent modes of communication? How does emotion differentiate us from any other organism on this planet? And lastly, how has emotion driven us to create art as a means of self-expression?

This nurturing environment became similar to an encouraging parent: engaging me in curious investigations of what art was, and pushing me towards new intellectual pursuits, whether they were about everyday happenings or the Fauvist art movement. Day by day, the studio slowly bled into my own aspirations. My paintings deviated from the frozen subjects on the podium, occasionally focusing on a background of art deco influences. Going home nightly and returning to the studio with journal pages filled with research on art history, art became a curious academic habit. By discovering the nuances between Monet and Renoir and their sociopolitical backgrounds that inspired their works, the studio became an atypical learning experience, a strange attraction that continues to pull me to the lone easel stands today.

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