What students enjoy about the visual arts at WCC

The students of Whatcom Community College’s visual arts classes are sharing themselves and their identities in the pieces they make — and their work calls for more than a second or third glance!

Teddy Graham Puff, Braykovich
“Teddy Graham Puff” by ART 116 student Travis Braykovich sits alongside other selections for the Cardboard & Confections showcase. Photo by Josh Hernandez, Horizon

Rob Beishline, arts professor and Visual Arts Faculty Lead at WCC, said one of his favorite things about teaching art at WCC is working directly with students.

“My job is to make a space for the students where they feel safe, where they feel like they can be creative in their own way,” said Beishline.

In many visual arts classes, including Beishline’s, instructive demos of artistic concepts and techniques challenge students to stretch their creative edge in new ways. During one session of Beishline’s ceramics course at the beginning of winter quarter, after a brief demo, students had the opportunity to work with clay and make bowls, sculptures, and other objects.

Beishline said he assigns about five main assignments every quarter for his ceramics, 3D design, and sculpture courses, and he’s found that simply spending time in Roe Studio can offer students a break from more formal class environments. Students from all different disciplines find enjoyment at the potter’s wheel.

“It’s more like a therapy to me,” said Theodora, referred to by first name in this article, who’s taken nine quarters of visual arts classes at WCC. “Whenever life is really stressful, I can come play with mud and forget about everything else.”

Theodora said they’ve met many friends through the visual arts classes and often spend several hours a day working on clay and canvas projects in the studio.

Theadora, pink clay sculpture
Ceramics student Theadora’s clay creature basks in the sunlight in Roe Studio. Photo courtesy of Theadora

“The longest I’ve spent here is, like, 9 hours straight,” they reported.

On top of putting in time at the studio both during and outside of class sessions, they also occasionally showcase and sell their work at the Bellingham Farmers’ Market and on their Instagram.

Violet Loomis, who took Beishline’s ceramics class in the winter, described creative practices, like pottery, painting, and writing as nourishing. She said she’s taken two ceramics classes at WCC so far, but has been making and crafting since she was little.

Loomis, Bert
Bert the Frog sits with strawberry on its head in painting. Photo courtesy of Violet Loomis

When asked how she keeps up with art as a hobby as a student, Loomis admitted there’s often little time for it outside of classes and coursework: “If you’re not taking an art class, it can make it really difficult.”

Indeed, the making of an art piece can prove to be a time consuming process. First, inspiration must strike. Then there’s the matter of turning that inspired idea into something tangible.

“You can mold your thoughts, and you can take time to do that,” remarked Loomis.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, 97-year-old multi-medium artist David Hampton said he believes “anyone who is creative is more likely to live longer,” so perhaps that extra time can help with the intensity required by the artistic process.

Loomis said it took her over 40 hours to complete the set of three paintings that are currently displayed in WCC’s Writing Center.

One of Loomis’ favorite things about art is that a single piece can be interpreted in different ways by different individuals.

“Art is versatile and so subjective that everyone can find something in it, and there’s something for everyone out there,” said Loomis.

Whelage, charcoal image
A charcoal piece portraying an individual from the shoulders up lies taped on wooden table. Photo courtesy of Ryli Whelage

Drawing 1 (ART 112) student Ryli Whelage said she thinks of art as “an outlet for self expression.”

“My art speaks for me when I am unable to. It slows my thinking down, and I’m able to concentrate on just the paint on my canvas, or pencil on the paper,” said Whelage.

Whelage believes that sharing an art piece is like sharing a piece of the artist’s mind.

On maintaining a balance between responsibilities and hobbies, Whelage said that having a limited amount of time in the day for everything she wants and needs to do is the “main reason as to why there are unfinished paintings, and drawings that will never get finished. I think it’s part of the artist experience.”

Whelage, painting
An acrylic on canvas portrays two skulls among colorful swerves of greens, blues, reds, and neutrals. Photo courtesy of Ryli Whelage

Currently, Whelage does not sell her art — unless she’s commissioned for pieces — but she sometimes shares what she’s working on on her main Instagram account.

Nettle Ada, who’s taken Drawing 1 and Printmaking: Relief/Mono (ART 175), said she enjoys working with various mediums, including pigments and watercolor, pottery, sculpture, and mosaic.

“Linocut printmaking is the medium that I’m most into at the moment. I love the process of refining a rough sketch into a finished drawing and then transferring and translating that into fairly precise cuts on linoleum. I love the routine and precision of making prints,” said Ada.

English printmaker and illustrator Rosanna Morris said that “designing for lino is all about balance — creating harmony between the solid areas and the areas where you’ve taken away.”

Ada gave a multitude of reasons for why she makes art and what she loves about it.

“I make art to learn and to practice. I make art to better understand myself and the world around me. I make art as part of participating in community and building community,” said Ada.

Ada, worms drawing
A scan of an 8×10 two-color linoleum reduction print on paper titled “And they were both worms.” Photo courtesy of Nettle Ada

Most of all, Ada said, her exigence for artistry is hope for a future world free of colonial-capitalist systems. Ada also expressed how much she enjoyed both Drawing 1 and Printmaking: Relief/Mono in winter quarter.

“Being a student while being an artist is working out well for me so far,” she said. “I really appreciate the structure and community of taking these classes.  I’ve really enjoyed the community and learning environments that each of my professors this quarter (Justin Martin and Tom Semple) have facilitated, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn from them as well as from my classmates.”

Ada’s art is currently being featured alongside work by Blaire Sebren and Ezra Anisman in “Three Transsexuals Walk Into an Art Show” at the Make.Shift Art Space in Bellingham, which began April 5. She’ll also be part of an artist talk on April 13 at 3:30 p.m. at Make.Shift. Her wider collection is showcased on Ada’s website.

“Art forces humans to look beyond what is necessary to survive and leads people to create for the sake of expression and meaning,” said Angel Fernandez, art professor at Tarrant County College.

Whatcom Community College art students make art and are involved in art classes because it’s “a therapy” for some, an opportunity to “mold your thoughts,” “an outlet for self expression,” and a “part of participating in community and building community.” In short, they make art because they love it.

Theadora, rhino
A rhino piece stands, smiling on table cluttered with supplies. Photo courtesy of Theadora

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