Picture it: a little girl sitting in front of the television in her living room, with cartoons playing all through the afternoon. In her hand she holds a pencil, and while the animations flicker on the TV screen, her hand flicks over a page as she eagerly sketches the characters and the scenes.
Hannah Bray is four years into her Bachelor of Fine Art degree, but she is an entire childhood into her Fine Art career. With a grandfather who’s an artist and a mother performing in drama, Bray’s pathway into the arts was half-paved already. All she needed to do was choose a university, and, after looking around, she settled on Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Once her gap year was complete, she set herself up for the full four-year degree at Rhodes.
Considering that she’s doing her honours, the honours art exhibition at the end of the year looms menacingly over her. With sculpture as her chosen specialisation, Bray must come up with a concept worthy of an honours degree. Pressure? Well, Bray still thinks her first year was the most taxing so far.
“It’s basically just art projects and assignments,” she reminisces. “Now at least you only have one big project over the whole year, which you break into manageable portions.”
That said, she still struggles with the focus that the art department puts on conceptualising one’s art pieces. “In my ideal art course, I would rather shift to a practical focus as opposed to a conceptual one,” Hannah explains. “I’d much rather be exposed to working with different kinds of mediums.”
This stretches across most art departments, however; even though it’s almost an “artist’s syndrome” that creating art becomes more work than hobby, Bray urges that one should not be disheartened.
Over and above her actual art piece, Bray has a few more minor hiccups along the way before she exhibits. Funding is a national problem and the Art department at Rhodes is another institution hit by fund revocations. As a result, fundraising for the grad show has become first priority, because without the money needed the grad show will inevitably be cancelled.
Furthermore, Bray mentioned the consideration for what artists refer to as “the white cube.” This means that the exhibition venue can either be as sterile and neutral as stereotypical galleries, or the space can have a character that adds something to the meaning of your art piece.
“Think of graffiti,” she explains. “Graffiti’s space is usually the street, or a building, and it gets the bulk of its meaning from that space.” With the questions of money, venue and concept all blending into one end-of-year project, Bray acknowledges the thought she’s going to have to put into this.
“And after honours, Hannah? What’s on the cards for your future?”
She chuckles and shrugs her shoulders. “To be honest, I’m not quite sure. As an art student, it’s hard not to be on the fence.”
Bray has considered art residencies – art communities looked after by an organisation that support each other and use each other as creative pin-cushions – in France. She has also considered a career in animation.
“Animation has always been a fantasy of mine,” she says. Bray hopes to one day blend her sculpting or photography with her animation. She might even delve into the realm of commentary on fashion society, which is in fact one of her ideas for her exhibition later this year.
All things aside, Bray has made it to fourth year. She understates her knowledge on art history, and modestly speaks about her painting abilities. But the bottom line is that, as time-consuming as her degree might be at times, it is not impossible.
For anyone in their first year – or even second year – of Fine Art at Rhodes, take a bristle from this artist’s paint brush and don’t become discouraged while waiting for your oil paint to dry. It’ll happen, and it’ll be great. After all, the earth without “art” is just “eh.”