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Student meets ‘White Challenge’

The lake, the beach or maybe the mountains. These are some of the vacation spots students may have visited this summer, but for Joseph French, his summer included wood, a brush and many bottles of paint.

Formally known as “The White Challenge,” French was given the task of painting 25 works of art in a little under two months for the display in Jenkins.

“I spent about $400 on art supplies and made my own frames and canvases,” French said. “At home, I moved my bed into the living room. That way I could turn my room into a studio.”

Art Instructor Derrick White, for whom the challenge is named, will showcase French’s paintings through Sept. 18. White said he enjoys challenging his students.

“Twenty-five is a good number for a few months of work,” he said. “It all came down to hard work. In order to make good art, you have to make a lot of art. If you want two great paintings make 10.”

French said he was not expecting his instructors to present him with the offer.

“I was nervous about the White Challenge,” French said. “I took it to heart and just ran with it. The extra paintings are sitting at home, and I want to frame them all and build a strong portfolio for a four-year.”

According to Department Chair Chris Stewart, students chosen for the hallway exhibit have usually developed a good body of work and have been working with the instructors for two or three semesters.

“We used to put a couple of class projects in the display cases,” Stewart said. “But a couple of years ago, we started to show the student’s work as an exhibit. We put more completed projects like drawings, prints and ceramics.”

According to Stewart the students get a lot of experience from showing in the hallway exhibit.

“The goal is to give the students a chance to display their work and make decisions on how to hang paintings and choose what goes with what,” Stewart said. “Joseph picked which paintings he wanted in the exhibit and saw which ones worked together and which ones didn’t. He had to select how to hang things and how to group them. He’s not there to explain it to you. He is to paint and see how the viewers respond to it. If they like it-they like it, if they don’t, they don’t.”

According to Stewart, French’s finished results at the end of the White Challenge showed his dedication during the summer. He said that French was very eager to develop and learn.

“He made a lot of art,” Stewart said. “We were here teaching Art Appreciation and allowed him to use the studio. He is very open to his professors and allowed us to give him encouragement and feedback. He said he would do it, and he backed it up. He can make something out of nothing.”

Although he has also been featured in the Wise exhibit for the past two semesters, French said he has not always viewed himself as an artist.

“I have only been painting for a year and a half, and this is my second year in the art department,” French said.

French was majoring in business and planning to go into banking. He said it was White who converted him over to art.

“It is actually a funny story,” he said. “I had bought the Chamillionaire Ultimate Victory CD and I was walking into class and I had no materials. I went to ask Mr. White for a pen and paper and he told me not to take notes but to draw him something. So I drew the album cover of the Chamillionaire CD and handed it to him. He said ‘today is the day I convince you into changing your major into art.'”

French said that he had always liked drawing, but he had never seen it as a career.

“I want to teach college-level art at a university in Texas,” he said. “In the next five years, I want to be looking for a teaching job. I hope to have that job in the next 10.”

French said his family and teachers have been considerate and encouraging of him and his aspirations.

“My family is very supportive, and my old man used to paint when he was younger,” he said. “And the teachers here like to push you into doing better. They enjoy seeing their students accomplish their goals and achievements.”

French said the environment of the art studio provides a lot of positive energy for him.

“I like to paint wherever I am at, but in the studio, I can ask for advice and take advantage of the time especially during the summer,” he said. “I have even developed a few friendly rivalries, which is a good thing because we feed off of each other.”

For other students who want to create art, Stewart said that they should do what French did and make a lot of it.

“You can’t just have one precious thing,” he said. “You have to use all colors and all materials and dive in and do it. Have a lot of fun and make ugly stuff because in my opinion, art isn’t art until someone else sees it.”

French advises aspiring artists to have a style to survive in an art world.

“People always get confused when they hear the phrase starving artist,” French said. “A starving artist is someone who is starving and craving to make art and they can’t survive without making it. An artist’s style can change over the years, and I hope to be 60 to 70 years old still painting.”

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