Bewildered, then blindsided by an emerging passion

Merrilyn Huycke is a local artist who will share her thoughts, ideas, memories and humour with our readers on a weekly basis.

By now, I feel comfortable enough with you to confess that I attended art school. Some say it’s necessary to get a formal education, some say it’s a waste of time and that it brainwashes a person. All I know is that I went, and you can be the judge. I was a returning student, having taken a two decade break to have a family. Then I found myself a single parent. I had come to a crossroads. It was the ‘now or never’ one, so I closed my eyes and jumped.

First year was the typical survey course except for a three hour Fundamentals of Drawing class held three times weekly. We drew everything. We drew still life, life models, a hapless skeleton that hung sadly over its stand, chicken bones; in short, if it held still long enough, we drew it. The goal was to please our very intimidating drawing professor. Well, in truth, the goal was supposed to be to learn to draw but we were scared witless by her for some reason. I mean, she never beat us or abused us in other words, but she had the look that withers. It must have worked because as I look over my transcript, I see I received an ‘A’ and some advice to toughen up and be more, well, um, malicious. I left first year bewildered but one thing I did know, I would major in drawing.

Then came second year, which is the year that you start to narrow down your field of interest. I was not prepared to be seduced by sculpture but it grabbed me by the heart. I was totally blindsided by my emerging passion for creating things in space. Drawing I still adored but this was mind bending love and it was the year I came alive. Friendships bloomed, confidence grew and the world was filled with magic. We attended events together, celebrated our triumphs and mourned our failures at the Lithium Cafe. It was just swell. By the third year, things had become very interesting. Traditionally this was the year of the big field trip. We visited, in January, the two cities that rivaled Winnipeg for downright winter nastiness. After a stopover in Minneapolis, we headed for Chicago.

I don’t believe I will ever forget that city. The miles of ugly tenements, the overwhelming busyness, the gorgeous architecture and, of course the fabulous public art were only rivaled by the Art Institute itself. We had arrived and we were hungry! We gorged on art for four exhausting days. My best memory is being allowed to pull on white cotton gloves and reverently handle a drawing by Paul Klee, my favorite artist.

When we began fourth year, there were only a few of us left. We buckled down, the four of us sharing a huge, brand new sculpture studio. In an act of perversity, I picked the only other intimidating woman professor around for one of my thesis committee members. We all grew very close to each other, laughing and crying together, bickering over what music we would play and giving each other moral support. Our professors treated us like human beings and began preparing us for leaving the safety of our shelter. When the big day came for the final critique, there were only two of us left.

Andrew and I both received our degrees and got on with life. Was it worth it? You bet it was! Oh, I’m not a rich and famous artist. But I still love art passionately and I love to share that love every chance I get—and that is a really good thing.


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