About a year and a half ago I posted a blog on WVFC called “Risks and Rewards” also known as “I Quit My Job and I Am Going To Art School.” After two years of a four-year program of study, I realize that a better title may have been: “I Quit My Diversion And Am Going to Work.”

I am studying painting and drawing in the  certificate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Founded in 1805 ,”Pafa” is America’s oldest museum and art school.  Many respected artists have studied or taught at the Academy, including the Cecilia Beaux ,Mary Cassatt,Thomas Eakins,Daniel Garber, Louis Sloan,Bo Bartlett and Elizabeth Osborne.

The school is a national treasure, and I am clearly in love with it.The curriculum is a four year atelier-based education that emphasizes fundamental training in drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking. After a rigorous  two year program of study in class rooms, you earn the privilege of a private studio to pursue independent projects under the guidance of several master artists.

Over the winter break I thought I was in mid air, transitioning into my third year,entering the studio. But I am not. I am not waiting, as  ‘in mid air’ may imply. I am not waiting to graduate or for anything. I am as involved in creating and contributing as I was in my prior incarnation as an international reinsurance executive.

The difference may be in the nature of the new profession of creating art. The latter is a solitary pursuit that promises no wealth or acclaim: just a sure knowledge, for me, that if I create what I see with an individual vision and a trained hand and eye I may bring joy or transcendence.

I am the one who  decides upon a philosophical basis of my work.Do I choose to pursue an ideal beauty that can never be obtained like the ideal ratio of the Fibonacci sequence  like the ancient Greeks, or to try to capture perfection in a spectacular moment of light like the Impressionists ? All this thought and labor knowing the  work may never even be seen, let alone,bought or acclaimed .Imagine a life without an opportunity to pay taxes.

This past month,this mid term,my family lost all three of my Mother’s sisters. Long,well lived lives all, so there was much celebration with the sadness of our separation from them.

We traveled south to celebrate their lives. One service began with “Hark the Herald  Angels Sing,” another with a fond eulogy by a granddaughter, and another with a Quaker moment of silence followed by “Shall We gather at the River?”

So, let us not tarry in mid air.

Alice Ray Cathrall is an artist working and studying in Philadelphia.She also occasionally writes about the arts and its place in our lives. She received a Masters degree in literature from New York University and is currently enrolled in the four year painting certificate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

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  • Alice Cathrall February 5, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Agreed,it’s all the image.

  • Leya Evelyn February 5, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Good to hear, Alice. Age is irrelevant in making art. It’s not like ballet dancing. When I first decided I wanted to paint, at age twenty, I told someone Van Gogh didn’t start until he was twenty-seven. The person said: What makes you think you are Van Gogh? Maybe I am; maybe I’m Toulouse-Lautrec. Who knows. What does it matter as long as we paint.