I decided to attend Saint Mary’s and major in art rather than pursuing a BFA at an art school precisely because it was important to me to minor in English (a luxury I would not have had in art school). Although English wasn’t my primary focus, I strongly believe that the time I spent in the Saint Mary's English program helped to make me a more well-rounded person. Everyone knows that having an understanding of major canonical texts gives a person a common frame of reference with other educated people, and that this contributes to one's enjoyment of film, art, other literature, and popular culture in general. I have certainly found this to be the case.
More important perhaps even than reading and critically studying texts in my SMC classes, was the emphasis on writing a well-constructed argument. I cannot overestimate the frequency with which I encounter otherwise competent people who are nearly illiterate when it comes to an ability to write. Writing essays on texts, no matter how abstruse or ancient, is never a waste of time if it hones your ability to make a lucid argument. Even the creative writing courses I took at SMC (playwriting and screenwriting in particular) taught me valuable lessons about economy of style, and when to imply and when to describe.
As a person with a lifetime history of self-employment, I know that the self-employed man needs to be an expert in a variety of fields. For the artist, it is not enough to slave away in the studio and produce great work; I must also write approach letters to galleries, write my own press releases when preparing for a show, write my own bios, artist statements, and promotional materials, and keep my clientele informed of my progress with regular newsletters. I have had to write application letters for scholarship money to study abroad and numerous other tasks that demand strong writing skills.
At my last solo show, I produced an "exhibition companion," explaining my recent struggles and creative innovations and sharing the personal stories behind the artwork; it was very well received and greatly enriched the public's viewing experience. After a recent trip to study tropical birds in Trinidad, I published my Travelogue on my website and have received much positive feedback; I am confident that introducing my collectors to my experiences abroad will translate into sales when I begin to release the paintings inspired by the trip.
Finally, one of the most common problems holding up the careers of fellow artists, no matter how talented they may be with a brush and canvas, is their difficulty in self presentation, especially in print. Many are forced to hire professionals to write copy for their promotional materials, often at considerable expense. I am grateful for the time I spent studying English, because my skill as a writer has not only complimented my work an as artist, it has been, and will no doubt continue to be, an integral part of my success.
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