Thursday, March 18, 2010

My art background

This is a question from Go ask me something!

Have you ever had art classes or did you learn on your own? 'Cause you're pretty good!

Thank you! And the answer is both! My mother was a middle school art teacher (just retired), so I was surrounded by art my whole life. My bathroom back home is decorated by watercolor paintings I did when I was 2 years old - basically just blobs, but my mom thinks it's as good as some modern art. I was an introverted kid, so I would always sit around and draw for fun. People who knew about my artistic ability always thought my mom sat me down and trained me, but she really didn't. I was way too stubborn to listen to her then, and I mostly figured it out on my own. But if I did want advice on how to make something look better or more realistic, she was there for the tips.
Priorities - This is hanging up in my high school because it won a major award.

Even though I didn't like to listen to her personally, she really enriched my life with art. We went to the Art Institute of Chicago nearly every year, to the point where I could have given you a tour of the exhibits by age 10. I was well versed in the history and style of most famous artists. In addition to art classes I took at school, I also took some summer classes.
Lift-off painting of Jude Law I did during my sophomore year of high school. Had no idea who he was at the time, just found a pretty magazine photograph of him.

School classes were my favorite though. I always looked forward to art, and teachers gave me a lot leeway. I was an honors student and good in most subjects, but in art I was years ahead of everyone else. Every year since first grade I had at least one piece in the Northwest Indiana art show, and I usually won at least something. Whenever there was a class project that needed an illustration, I was the go-to girl.
Oil painting and colored pencils are my favorite medium. And if you can't figure it out, I love drawing people. And yep, this one is a self portrait.

My mom was actually my art teacher from 6th through 8th grade, which was a little awkward in the beginning (especially since it took everyone forever to figure out that she was my mom!). At the time I was annoyed that she graded me tougher than the other students, but in the end it made me a better artist. My high school art teacher was wonderful too - she was so spunky and creative, and had a good mix of teaching skills and encouraging creativity. I took AP Studio Art my senior year, with a class size of one - I just sat in the corner and painted while another class was going on (by the way, I got a 5 on my exam - woot). And on top of all that, I was the Art Club President for two years. Yep, I was more of an art geek than a science nerd!
My favorite piece from AP Studio Art - Pygmalion

So how did I end up a scientist? Well, I liked genetics and art equally. My logic at the time was that art can be a hobby, but genetics kind of can't. Not to mention I like doing art my way, and I couldn't imagine doing it as a job. So here I am, a geneticist. I'm very happy with my decision, even though I don't do as much art as I would like. Regardless, that artistic ability still helps me in science. I have labmates come to me to help with figures and posters (No, do not use neon green and orange for that figure...). But more importantly, art has trained me to think creatively. You can do science without it, but to ask the innovative, cool questions you need to be able to think outside of the box. So to all those people who don't see art as a worthwhile class to have - think again!
Proof that I'm actually doing these!

I haven't updated my art much since high school, but if you want to check out my other stuff, I have an old deviantART page.


  1. Woooow! Thanks for the reply!
    I wish I could have had all of that growing up, that's all insanely neat. :)

  2. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW. I think you've just become my new hero.

  3. Very good shading on the Pygmalion, but damn, those are some pencilly necks. 2, 3 and 5 are really good, though.

    (I couldn't draw a straight line if my life depended on it, but I can criticise the hell out of other people (yes, not critique - I'm not smart enough to do that).

    Anyway - rather than sign up elsewhere to ask: Will you draw pr0n for me? (winky face goes here)

  4. Those are pretty awesome, I must say. And you can always do what my mom did! She had various jobs and two kids, and now at the age of 60 is really pursuing her art full-time. She does mostly colored pencil (check out if your interested) and has been in a number of art shows.

  5. ::People who knew about my artistic ability always thought my mom sat me down and trained me, but she really didn't. I was way too stubborn to listen to her then, and I mostly figured it out on my own.::

    My fiancee was the same way. Both her parents are music teachers, and she is an excellent bassoonist. You'd think her parents drilled it into her, but she could never take a lesson from either of them.

    ::My logic at the time was that art can be a hobby, but genetics kind of can't.::

    I had a similar experience in college, with music and computer science. I knew that I loved music, but I couldn't see myself doing it as a job. Plus, music majors were petty and often mean (at least where I went to school, don't want to generalize to all of them). They would get all pissy if a freshman beat out a junior or senior in an audition, and treat them like crap for the semester. So I'm a CS PhD student, who plays for fun.

    And I love the Pygmalion; kind of reminds me of M.C. Escher's Drawing Hands. Not much of an art critic myself, but all of it is really good.

  6. Just when I thought you couldn't get any more amazing...

  7. Wow, seriously, that's some great stuff, I didn't have any idea it was such a serious skill. The cartoons fool us!

  8. Hmm, did you get to the Cantor Art Museum when you were at Stanford?

  9. My two faves are Priorities and Pygmalion. Ghod how surprised that nerd looks!

  10. You remind me *so* much of me back in the day.

    I was good at math in high school, and, wasted two years of college as a math major. I just thought too far outside the box on a regular basis and was the bane of my advanced algebra teacher.

    Moved to drama, and did two years of grad work at it. Ate a lot of philosophy as well, and just ended up as a poor man's polymath.

    I hope you end up at UW. I despise California, and it gets earthquakes all the frickin' time.

  11. @Givesgoodmail: I'd be interested in hearing your reasons for despising California. No personal stake in it, I'm from Yurrup, just curiosity.

  12. Why would anyone voluntarily live atop a notoriously unstable geological structure?

    Why would anyone voluntarily live in a state that is broke while landowners refuse to have their levies raised to pay for the services the state is straining to provide?

    Why would anyone voluntarily live in a state where public schools are getting no new textbooks for at least 4 years (thus allowing the wingnuts in Texas to dictate textbook content)?

    Why would anyone voluntarily live in the far-and-away most expensive state in the country to live in? (A family of four in San Jose must make $60,000/year to get above the poverty line.)

    (Sorry. California is a rant of mine. It is physically a lovely state, and ought to be the Garden of Eden.)

  13. @Givesgoodmail: To twist a quip of J.M. Barrie's, then: When good Americans die they go to Paris. When bad ones die, they go to California. And vote. Nu?

    60,000 dollars before tax would be a reasonable income here, I think, among us godless liberal commie pinko Europeans. But I don't know much about families of four.

  14. Nice stuffs. The "Pygmalion" really appeals ta me whimsical humors.

    Always good ta see solid proofs what geeks ain't all one-dimensional.

  15. Jen: I sent this page to a close friend who is a big art maven and she says you're very good!

  16. Jen, I definitely knew you from your art. And had your mom as a teacher one semester, actually. O_o You should sell them!