Many people have asked me whether I went to art school. Yes, I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in art from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. I think UAA is a pretty decent State university. I have studied at two others, and I think it was overall the best. It definitely had the best art building, and the other classes I took were better than the ones at Western Oregon University, and Western State College of Colorado, as well. Maria and I live in a neighborhood called College Village, and it is only about a mile to the UAA campus, and only a mile and half to the art building. I wish I lived here when I was attending UAA — it would have been more convenient than the 4 miles it was to my Fairview condo. I studied at WSC for one year, and then three years at WOU. Neither are super well known for their academic standards, but I am not a super academic person, so it comes as no surprise that after four years I didn’t graduate. It wasn’t until I worked as an artist for a couple years that I decided to go to UAA and finish my degree.
Along my path through the academic system I picked up a little bit of wisdom and advice from mentors, some applicable to life, and some applicable directly to production of art. A wise friend once casually imparted some of the most valuable advice — it’s all about showing up! If you aren’t there, you won’t gain anything. I should have taken that one to heart at WOU when missing a few classes ended up in catastrophic failure. I was getting an A in history class and decided I didn’t have to attend the last few classes before the final. The date to the final was changed, and I didn’t hear about it, because I wasn’t there. It was worth 50% of the grade. I failed the class and my GPA dropped too low to continue with my scholarship. It was not good. You have to show up! I can’t even count the number of times I have gotten a commission, or sold art, or booked an art show, just because I had shown up to an event.
At WOU, I took an art and business class. It was required to graduate. We had a guest lecturer come to talk about business. The one thing I remember him telling me, is not to go to important business meetings under the influence of drugs, or alcohol. At the time it really didn’t seem all that important. I do follow this advice, even though I am the beer painter, I haven’t ever shown up drunk or high to meetings, even though the stress of waiting for some meetings made me wish I could. I can only imagine how badly meetings could have gone if I wasn’t at my best when I have been put on the spot.
In sculpture class I got similar advice from the professor about working in the sculpture lab. He was adamantly against using drugs, or alcohol when making sculptures. He said if he caught any of his students under the influence in the lab, he would fail us, and not let us back into his classes. He said for one, it is unsafe, like driving a car, power tools are dangerous. And secondly, even if you aren’t using power tools, you can screw up your piece of art. He said from experience, one day he had been drinking and just wanted to get a little work done later that evening. He ended up screwing up the sculpture, and wasting many previous hours of work. I found this to be true when Maria and I were building our log cabin. Right away, I learned to stay 100% sober when building with logs. I wasn’t using a chainsaw, or even sharp tools, but after I made a notch with a handsaw backwards when I had been just a touch under the influence of cannabis, I never did that again. Logs are expensive, and even worse, getting hurt in the backwoods can be very very expensive, or even fatal. So don’t work high, or drunk. At least then, if you do make an error, you can’t blame alcohol or weed for the mistake.
Speaking of mistakes, it is better not to make them in the first place. This is the final bit of advice I will share with you, that was imparted by a professor. I was in the painting studio working on the biggest painting of my life at that point, and I asked the professor what she thought about how it was going, and if I could get any advice. She turned to me and said, “Scott, I like what you have going on here, don’t f*ck it up!” I laughed at the moment she said it, but it also made me realize that it’s always good to stop and think about what you are doing. Screwing up is easy, and you can do it without realizing what is even happening. Work slower, more methodically, and more deliberately, and hopefully that will help prevent screwups.
So, to summarize, it’s all about showing up, don’t do drugs before doing any kind of work, and when you’re doing well on a project, don’t f*ck it up.