A few months ago my friends and I decided to do a “sip and paint,” in which we drank wine and painted some art. However, since I had a music listening quiz for my music of Russia class the next day, the only way that I could justify painting and sipping on a Wednesday night was by making all of my friends listen to my Russian music while we did it. So my friends and I drank wine and painted while listening to Tchaikovsky– you know, the college experience.
We had a fantastic time–impossible not to with that setup– but we were then left with some interesting paintings lying around as a result. About a month after the sip and paint, a Russian student named Tassia decided to host an art auction to raise money for the conflict in Ukraine. Along with the art auction there would be a live performance of Ukrainian music and a serving of Ukrainian food made by the students. For the auction, I decided to turn in what I had from our “sip and paint,” but I also decided to paint another painting using the water colors and paper from my watercolor painting class.
The painting I did while drinking came out a little sloppier. Theories abound as to why. As for my watercolor painting, I wanted it to look like a Klimt, having just studied him in art class. I wanted to imitate the resplendent gold color and minuscule patterns that are in so many of his paintings.
As it turns out, Klimt, one of the most famous artists in the world, is a far better painter than I, so my work came out much differently than I was hoping. I painted a series of butterflies taking flight against a gold background, thinking that the intricate, Klimt-esque patterns would look cool on butterfly wings, and then let the paint drip down the page as if the wings were leaking.
My Russian music professor, who “didn’t realize that I painted,” got into a bidding war with another student over my “an abundance of butterflies” piece. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t become super giddy and flattered when they both expressed interest in my work. The professor, not wanting to outbid a student, let her have it after an appropriately long back-and-forth, despite my insistence that it was all “for a good cause.” I really just wanted to see how much money my work would go for.
At the end of the night, my artwork sold for $70, all of which went to help out people in Ukraine. The Ukranians got more money off me after I ate and paid for a possibly grotesque amount of food; the Polish and Croatian side of my ethnicity makes me love babka regardless of where in the Eastern Bloc it hails from.
Fortunately, that was not all of the painting I did at the end of the semester. For my final art project, I painted a portrait of my friend Alyssa. I chose to paint characters and scenes from the novel that I have been working on and I had decided that I wanted her to pose as the main character of my novel. She looks the way I envisioned the character: thin with long brown hair and brown eyes. I wonder why…
On top of that, Alyssa has these fantastic eyebrows that I love and a distinctive nose, all of which results in a very Athenian beauty that I wanted for my character. It did however take me several tries to capture said beauty. The distinctive nose was hard to draw, the hand came out looking like a T-Rex’s, and the spacing and proportions, which I’ve always struggled with, were always a little off. She was starting to look like a woman in a Picasso painting.
In the end, I liked the finished product, a sloppy wet page full of saturated, dark colors that give off a subdued but serious look at my friend, dramatically tilting her head back while scantily-clad. (The body in the painting belonged to a person on Instagram. Alyssa would probably want me to make that clear).
While my other friends had to write essays and study for finals, I was listening to music while painting. Those around me informed me of their jealousy.
By the end of the semester, the music was no longer Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, but had transitioned to 80s and 90s Russian punk music. The music was a mixture of disdain for the systems in place and punk-styled anger, the kind of thing that you want to be listening to when painting artwork for an emotionally-charged novel that you think that you’re pouring your heart and soul into. It was kind of perfect: the fuck the establishment, stick-it-to-the-man music fueling the artwork. I stained my paper by submerging it in a red cabbage dye that I made myself by boiling it on my stove and did the same with walnut dye that was made in class.
My three pieces of artwork were on display for the art show, which was a building-wide showcase of all of the student art made throughout the year. If there is one thing that the Sarah Lawrence paintings, sculpting, photography, and mixed-media artwork did not lack, it is originality. I hung around, drinking bitter tea and admiring other students’ art, trying hard not to linger around my section in order to overhear people’s thoughts.
I ended my junior year with an art auction and an art show. Once my schoolwork was behind me and I could relax, I managed to do some things for my own enjoyment.
- An excursion into the city with Alyssa to buy Mother’s Day flowers for her mother, that included some thrift shopping and a trip to a Kosher bakery.
2. An impromptu, student “sleaze ball,” a Sarah Lawrence tradition of barely dressing and dancing that has been canceled three years in a row due to COVID.
3. A trip into the city for a friend’s 21st birthday, which I had to end early when I couldn’t get into any bars, being under the age of 21.
4. Lunch at Urban Hamlet on the last day of classes, with some girlies, followed by gel manicures.
5. Attending a slam poetry reading for my friend’s poetry class in which she had to perform an original poem with a degree of interpretive movement to it.
I ended my junior year with great grades and now have a summer full of writing and painting ahead of me.
The Tragic Queen,