Finals: Is That My Paint Cup or My Coffee Cup?

December 16th, 2013 by Student Blogger
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By Colleen Clark

A beautiful portrait of me during finals time.

A beautiful portrait of me during finals.

Here are two of the Facebook statuses I made in the past two weeks:

“I have no idea if caffeine is responsible for poisoning me or if it is the only thing keeping me alive at this point but either way I don’t feel like a human anymore”


I think they pretty much summarize the culture of the dreaded finals season here at CCAD. Most of our last projects at the end of the semester are larger and more complex, and therefore require a LOT of brain power and caffeine. And then when you run out of creative juice, you replace it with more caffeine. Same thing happens when you run out of time to sleep. It turns out that scientifically, you can replace any necessary bodily function with caffeine.*

There’s a reason my classmates call themselves “The Mighty All-Nighters.” We are used to working hard and pushing our projects to be the very best they can be. We understand what it’s like to sweat over a project all night and then feel the relief of a positive critique in class. Art school is unique from other fields because each of our homework assignments require a conceptually unique new piece of art, every single time. We work hard.

So when finals come around, and we are asked to make our best work of the year, things get twice as exciting and twice as tough.

Here are some tips I’ve figured out that can help (some of these I follow more than others):

  • Follow your teacher’s schedule. There’s probably a reason you’re supposed to do sketches and then a color study and then show more progress before the final… And that reason is so you can get feedback! Leaving it all until the last minute is tempting, but you’ll end up with something better and more manageable if you work on it in short stretches of time. This is something I need to work on.
  • To follow up that last one, get feedback. Ask your friends, ask your teachers, ask your mom and dad, ask people if something looks missing or how you can make your pieces better while they’re still unfinished.  It’s always good to get fresh eyes on your work. Maybe you accidentally drew something that looks like an inappropriate picture if you look at it sideways and you would NEVER KNOW.
  • Keep snacks and fluids handy. Basically, you should prepare like you’re going into a bunker. You might forget to eat or drink water when you’re working for long hours, and having some peanuts or something in your bag when you’re in the labs at 2 a.m. can be a life-saver.
  • Figure out where you work best and try to spend a lot of time there. Do you like to work in your room, where you can play a movie over and over again as loud as you want? Or do you like to be in the labs around as many people as possible who are also working? Figuring this out will not only help you be more productive, but it will also be a good indicator for what kind of job environment you want to be in after school.

Somehow, I made it through okay, and if I can do it, anyone can do it. I had some wonderful classes and inspiring teachers this semester, and I got to make some of my favorite work. It all feels way more than worth it now that I’m on the other side, but there is no doubt that finals are a scary time indeed.

*You can’t really live your life on caffeine alone. But I have tried.

Colleen Clark is a senior majoring in illustration who enjoys looking at photos of dogs online, following NBC comedy series (specifically anything involving Tina Fey), and sharing her art and thoughts through her online blog.


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