Recently I began excavating years of neglect in my studio. (It’s been much more fun to go in, make stuff and leave the mess for later!) Well, those messes piled up to the point that it was just plain disgusting.

What I’ve discovered under all the dried up bottles of glaze, hardening tubes of paint, dye pots, collections of grasses and seed heads, cobwebs and dust are some artifacts from my past, like this study of a crumpled can I drew as a freshman in college. At this point in my life, I’d only been to one art museum, the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, on an excursion with other campers at the University of Kansas art camp when I was 17. I bought my first art book, on Andrew Wyeth, at the museum. I thought he was the most amazing artist, and I wanted to be like him. I thought all art that wasn’t representational or realistic was not really art, only revealing my lack of knowledge and understanding.

After that summer at art camp, I seemed headed to KU to study art. But when one is young, many voices (especially those of your parents and high school guidance counselors) get in your head and attempt to give you direction. Somehow I ended up headed to the University of Denver to study business, a practical major, and I’d received an honors scholarship. I attended the summer orientation at DU, signed up for business classes, and went home miserable. While there, I’d met a girl carrying a portfolio. She was majoring in art. I had a horrible feeling in my gut that I was missing my life.

Three weeks before school was set to start, I told my parents I couldn’t study business. I needed to go study art, but was told DU was too expensive if I wasn’t going to “get a job” with my degree. A friend of mine attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, so I decided to see if they would accept me at the last minute. They did, and gave me a full tuition academic scholarship, which made my dad quite happy!

Drawing 1 was eye opening. There were some very talented people in the class! But soon I realized that many thought so highly of themselves that they couldn’t take criticism from the professor. They started dropping out of class. Yes, it was hard to hear when my rendering wasn’t very accurate, but I kept working and started learning to really see. I took ceramics classes and passed the professor’s demanding cylinder test with flying colors. Whenever I could, I headed to the clay studio and spent as many hours there as possible.

But what really changed my world was my 8am art history class with Chip Coronel. My knowledge of art history was nil, and I was a sponge in the class. Chip made the subject matter come alive. I couldn’t get enough! I looked forward to class each morning and to studying every night. Tests, identifying slides and answering essay questions, caused adrenaline rushes that I thrived on. That spring Chip allowed this freshman into an advanced art history class, African Art, and I was on my way. I had a plan for my life. I would become an art historian and throw pots in my spare time.