The third year of the full-time program is the final year. After this, we are on our own. This year we are focusing on our personal projects, building up a body of work, and finding our “voices” as artists. For the first two years at LAAFA, we have been given subject matter to draw and paint and have been instructed on how to go about drawing and painting it. We have been under close instruction and have had our main focus be drawing, painting, and sculpting from life. With such a strong emphasis on traditional techniques and traditional subject matter up to this point, it is up to us now to decipher what it is that we would like to paint about, and in what way.

One thing I can say about the first two years of the program is that when you get to the third year, you can certainly see the profound results of your intense studies. Those first two years are really hard work. At times it is difficult to see the finish line and keep yourself going, because it is a lot to juggle and you feel exhausted at times. Just as the drawing year (Year 1) informed your painting year (Year 2), the first two years are meant to give you all of the tools that you will need in order to prepare you as much as possible for the third year, when you begin to create your own art, with your own personal voice. The third year is all about preparing us for what comes next after school, the “real world” so to speak. As the third year starts, you have a lot of questions to answer for yourself. Questions like, “What kind of artist am I?”, “What kind of art do I want to make?”, “What is my medium of choice?”, “Who are my influences?”, “What art inspires me?”, “What are some goals that I have for myself?” “Do I want to make art for myself or cater to galleries?” “What am I trying to say?” “What kinds of questions do I want to pose to my audience?” “What am I searching for?”.

I personally find that it is beneficial for me to pretend that I am not working under any instructors. I say things to myself like, “If you were out of school and on your own, making art for a living, what would you be working on? What kind of art would you be making? Do you want to say something to people? What do you want to say? What is the best way to communicate what you want to say? What stylistic or technical choices would you want to adopt to say these things effectively?”. These questions help me to figure out what I should be putting my energy towards and help me to figure out what I want regardless of the influences of my instructors. Their influence is, of course, invaluable, as they have been doing this a lot longer and really know what they are talking about. I get SO MUCH helpful advice from my instructors. But when it comes down to it, I think that it is very important to make sure that you are staying true to yourself and your own vision, not someone else’s.