By Pearce Hyatt ’22
My name is Pearce. I’m a junior this year. I’ve loved painting for a long time — all of my three years at Davidson. There is a picture in my room of me from my first semesters on campus. My housemates have dubbed the Pearce in the photo “frat Pearce.” The framed picture shows me with my freshman painting collection. I had long hair, a FIJI t-shirt, and immaculate white sneakers.
Besides my getup, much more has changed since freshman year. I’m in Basic Drawing this semester with Professor Katie St. Clair. We wear masks and face shields. Katie often comments on how she cannot see nods and smiles. I imagine it’s awkward. My freshman year was dominated by making jokes with Isaac in the back of painting class. Isaac was someone I met in the first Thursday afternoon meeting of class. We were fast friends and spent a lot of time together making art. I can’t help but feel that freshmen this year aren’t going to find a best friend in this class when they’re wearing a mask and standing six feet apart.
That being said, I think these precautions are more than necessary. We wash hands, don’t touch the same surfaces, and limit our exposure. Everybody in painting class buys into the commitment to safety and cares about keeping people safe. It’s hard for it not to feel a bit more empty in there than it used to be. Isaac and I used to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning, make a pot of coffee, and paint until the sun came up. We found that time really creative. I got up early last Monday and I learned that it’s a lot harder to get yourself out of bed when you’re not meeting up with a friend. It’s nice that I have the studio to myself, I feel safer from a COVID perspective, but the irony isn’t lost on me that I used to get up to see him and now I get up to be alone.
Despite the precautions in my art class, I think Katie makes a good effort to keep up that kind of group cohesion that I enjoyed so much way-back-when. We had critique this Tuesday, and we met outside. We circled around in smaller groups and shared our still-lifes. I felt some of that magic that I had with Isaac. Very few things make me happier than talking about someone’s painting or drawing. Isaac and I would really push ourselves in the studio and be exacting with our criticism. It’s that kind of electric intimacy you find when sharing something you’ve created. Isaac and I could be mean with one another too: the painter equivalent of brothers play-wrestling until one breaks their nose on the coffee table. (That happened to my younger brother twice). Anytime one of us got our feelings hurt, Isaac would always be the first to apologize. I try to bring some of that sweetness into these critiques. Hopefully avoiding the point where I need to say I’m sorry to someone after something I said. Beginning that creative communication once again requires delicate attention and compassion for my classmates.
Katie puts in tremendous effort to make drawing class engaging. She is successful in rekindling the love of studio art I first found my freshman year at Davidson. I hope students aren’t afraid to take studio art classes because of all the things that are different. It has really changed my life.
Pearce Hyatt ‘22 (he/him) is a Biology Major and Studio Art Minor from Portland, OR. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.