Barber: I Should Have Studied Art

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There’s something about journalism that brings a thrill. Educating the public, uncovering important truths, traveling, the possibility of danger and more add to the appeal and adrenaline I feel when I think about my future. It will be a good job. It’s sustainable, useful, fun and interactive. I won’t be sitting at a desk. I’ll be out in the field experiencing everything firsthand. Ideally I’ll work as a travel journalist so I can see the world and all its wonders and bring the beauty to others. There’s only one small problem with this: I should have studied art.

I’ve been painting since high school, when I took a class that seemed vaguely more interesting than most of the other electives. The school didn’t offer much, so by the time I reached my senior year I had already gone through most of the extra classes available. I liked doodling and occasionally did craft projects, but I never got really serious about art until then. The class involved a little bit of acrylic and oil painting, but my favorite was watercolor.

I took an acrylic painting class at the University of Utah my sophomore year. It was different from watercolor, but I found that I liked the deeper colors and ability to pay attention to tiny details in a meticulous way — a stark contrast from the looseness of watercolor. During that class I began to understand the joy of art, the beauty of color, the detail and meditative qualities of spreading paint across paper. It became a passion.

I briefly thought about studying art. I knew I liked it, but I was concerned about how it would play out in the future. I was unsure of whether I could support myself as an artist, and so I chose a different path and pursued a double major in political science and communications journalism.

It’s not that I don’t like my majors. I chose things I enjoy, and there are good reasons for me to study them. I’ve always been a writer, and it’s something that comes naturally to me. I feel strongly about politics and political involvement. I love to travel and journalism will send me to many different places to report. It will be a good career for me and it will be something I enjoy. Besides, I’m in my fourth year, and the idea of changing my major is unfathomable.

However, painting is where I find peace. It is where I am truly happy. It gives me an outlet to express my emotions and show the world who I am. I am a fairly talented artist, but I’ve lacked the instruction and critique that an actual major in art would have provided me. It would have given me more of an opportunity to grow, as well as a safe and nurturing space to explore art.

Most of the time I don’t mind the direction I chose, but occasionally it strikes me. I went to an art show a short time ago. I was awestruck by the paintings and the artist’s masterful use of color and brush strokes. It touched people’s hearts, and mine most of all. I went home and I cried, a deep longing in my heart for something for which the time had already passed. I frantically pulled out my acrylic paints and brushes, mixing the pigments meticulously, and released my emotions in bright colors of red, blue and yellow.

I move forward with journalism, but I fear a part of me will always be looking behind at what could have been.

Shaelyn is a fourth year at the University of Utah studying Political Science and Journalism in the hopes that someday she can be a travel writer. She is especially passionate about social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights, and mental health awareness. In her (very rare) free time she loves to hike, paint, and read.

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