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Fulfilling my Arts Practice Requirement as a STEM Kid

Ben explains how he fulfilled his Arts Practice graduation requirement by taking Intro to Field Drawing.

Ben explains how he fulfilled his Arts Practice graduation requirement by taking Intro to Field Drawing.

What is the arts practice requirement?

Carleton has multiple graduation requirements to ensure that everyone takes full advantage of the liberal arts education offered here. Usually, by taking classes you are interested in, you can “check off” most of your requirements naturally. This was my experience, and I was able to organically progress through my requirements, except for one—the arts practice requirement. It is fulfilled by “courses in which students develop an appreciation of artistic creative practice through experience.” As a Computer Science major, I cannot say I had really developed that appreciation yet, but I was excited to do so!

A watercolor landscape.

What course did I end up taking?

I registered for Field Drawing in the spring of 2020. Field Drawing is an introductory level Studio Art course that promises warm afternoons in the Arb and surrounding Northfield area. I had no drawing ability, but I hoped my love of the outdoors would make time spent erasing and redrawing pieces easier.

Well, we all know how spring 2020 and onwards turned out, so I ended up taking Field Drawing online from my home in Boulder, Colorado. While I was sad about missing out on the in-person experience, I was also excited to travel around Boulder and to try to draw the landscapes I had grown up with.

How did it go?

The first thing I noticed is that drawing worked a completely different part of my brain than all of my other studies. We started out with “simple assignments” to draw and develop the artistic eye necessary for drawing what we observe. This for me meant drawing lots of random objects around the house—garlic cloves, ginger root, scissors, a Chaco, a baseball, etc. I also drew my own hand WAY too many times. Practicing to get to a point where I was happy with my lines, form, and shading was like learning to ride a bike. To be honest I don’t think I was ever successful.

My first ever sketches for the class. Yikes, these maybe should have stayed in the drafts.

Once we “graduated” from drawing objects, our class moved on to tackling landscapes and bigger scenery. I could see how a lot of the techniques used for drawing small objects could be applied to larger scenes. This did not mean, however, that I had an easier time.

Van Gogh, is that you?
Van Gogh, is that you?

Despite my struggles, I really enjoyed spending an hour or two outside each day. Especially during the start of the pandemic, when everyone was cooped up, it was really great to have an excuse to get out of the house.

By the end of the trimester, there were some weird but cool transformations to my brain. Whenever I looked at a view, or a tree, or honestly anything, my brain would automatically analyze its various shades, lines, and shape. It has been a year since I took the class, and now I do not experience that at all. It definitely changed my perspective and made me realize the unique outcomes of having an artistic skillset.

Ben is a rising Senior from Boulder, CO. He is majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Spanish. Outside of academics, Ben is a long-distance runner for Carleton’s Cross Country and Track teams (his favorite event is the steeplechase) and he also plays the drums for The Megs, a student band that covers Australian punk rock music. Meet the other Bloggers!