The Portrait of an Artist (as a Sheridan Student)

As a student at Sheridan, I am constantly surrounded by art, which evidently plasters the school. (This is, of course, because it’s an arts school.) You can’t escape it, really. While wandering the halls, I often think about what would be the most accurate definition of art. I never come to a safe conclusion, though.

David Smalls, a first-year Sheridan art fundamentals student, works away on a piece.

David Smalls, a first-year Sheridan art fundamentals student, works away on a piece.

People copy, change, distort, remodel, deconstruct and sometimes fake art. But is that what art really is? American novelist, John Cheever, once described art as “The triumph over chaos.” Looking to prove/debunk this argument, I sought to find exactly what art means to the artists within Sheridan. Or maybe there isn’t an answer to this umbrella question.

From first-year art students to whatever-year art students, I looked for an artist to give me a solid answer – or an honest attempt, anyway.

As I jogged through the halls of the arts wing, innocent, artistic eyes looked upon me. Proudly displayed amongst them were their sculptures, drawings and paintings along the walls framed behind thin, clear glass. I felt so foreign to the world of art; I could never match the talents of these young aspiring artists, I thought.

It was almost overpowering. In fact, it was intimidating.

I was going to be led into the art world and shown the ropes of what art really is. David Smalls, a first-year art fundamentals student, decided to help me on my journey. Nicknamed Biggie – after Biggie Smalls – David gave me the opportunity to look at his sketchbook, recent paintings and life drawings.

Here’s our discussion about art. Simple as that: a plain, old discussion about art.

Smalls throws up his feet (and looks good for doing so.)

Smalls throws up his feet (and looks good for doing so.)

TRAVIS: Tell me your life story. How did it all end up here?

Smalls: Well, growing up I used to draw a lot and I picked up the skill. I’ve never actually had any formal lessons or anything. I picked it up and excelled at it. It’s just like a hobby of mine; I do that quite a bit. The usual media that I use is drawing.

There’s been lots of inspiration – I used to watch Mr. Dressup all the time and Art Attack. My dad is probably my main inspiration; he’s really big into this and I consider him a better artist than I am. He’s done a lot of work that I’ve seen that is really good.

What influenced you to go to Sheridan?

I wanted to come to Sheridan to do this because word got out in high school. I had a friend who got into animation last year, and now she’s in her second year of animation. I was like ‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive.’ Knowing Sheridan as the No. 1 art school in all of North America makes it pretty awesome to hear about, so that was why I wanted to go here.

What are your strengths in art?

In art, I would say my crazy imagination. In all my art, you can usually look at a piece that I do and know that’s Dave, that’s Biggie right there. I can tell, because like my art comes from my personality. I take a piece of me and throw it on a canvas or a piece of paper and you just know that I did it. You can look at it without looking at the name and you know that person. You’ll be like ‘I know who did that.’

But my strengths would probably be my abstract drawings. I like the design aspect.

What are your weaknesses?

It would most definitely be painting, I would say. And using construction lines and the technical aspects of drawing. I can never get that down. I’m just a straightforward out-of-my-head-put-it-on-paper guy.

How would you describe your style of art?

I would say, very clean, “cartoon-y.” I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to all my drawings. I like to see clean lines and I hate seeing those construction lines underneath.

What Influences your creativity?

It’s mostly about imagination, and what comes from me. Music does have a lot to do with it, but not always. Music is just like a catalyst for art. It just helps you. It speeds up the artistic thinking, the conceptual process before you put it on paper.

I like to listen to classic rock – I listen to Rush a lot. I once made a comic all about the song “2112 Overture.” I just took that song and it inspired me. I wrote a whole entire comic about it.

What is some advice you would like other first-year art students to know?

First thing I would say to them, is relax. Don’t be intimidated by what you’re seeing. Another word of advice: The professors here are awesome, so don’t rush your artwork. Make sure it’s the best artwork you can produce. They want to help you get into that next program.

Also, get to know those people ahead of you, and talk to them about what they are doing and how they can help you get into that course. The students here are more than willing to help.

Please, this is actually a demand: Go to extra life drawing classes. Because in the long run, you’re going to be happy that you did, because a lot of that is involved for next year. You need to know how to draw the human figure. You need that for your portfolio.

Anything you would like to add?

Don’t be intimidated. Don’t be shy – get out there and do things. If there’s a person in journalism who wants to do an interview with you, don’t be scared do that interview. You might be putting your name out there.

interview by beckyharkness, web exclusive for TRAVIS Magazine

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