Editorial Notebook

How to be creative at a tech school

A few days ago, for the first time since starting college, I sat down and played with colorful makeup—one of my favorite art forms. Tinkering with different textures and colors, I was transported from my suffocatingly warm dorm to a meditative state where I felt stress-free for the first time since arriving on campus.

This school year, I will not have taken any art classes—something that I didn’t realize would so drastically affect my freshman experience. Having previously attended a STEM school with a culture similar to Rensselaer’s, making art was essential for me to destress. In middle and high school, any time I took an art class, I would come to my teacher’s office hours after school. Those few hours each week were a way for me to explore materials I didn’t otherwise have access to and apply my creativity to non-academic projects.

There are elements to creating art that appeal to my experimental side; sometimes my creative process is a bit like applying the scientific method. What can I produce when I mix this powder blush into a liquid moisturizer? Can I get the perfect ratio of water to paint when using watercolors? My favorite part of creating art, however, is doing it with no intended goal—sketching a cool reference photo I saw when browsing Pinterest, or maybe playing with a fun and sparkly textured eyeshadow. Most of the time, the final outcome isn’t technically polished or super visually appealing, but as the old adage goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Without art as an outlet, as dramatic as it sounds, I don’t know how I would have made it through my last year of high school. In addition to the stressful nature of senior year, I was struggling to find a treatment for some health issues. On bad days where I didn’t have much energy or was in a lot of pain, I would immerse myself in whatever creative project I was working on at the time. In those moments, creating art wasn’t just a hobby; by engaging in the process of taking an idea and seeing it come to life, I felt connected to myself and the world again.

Whether it be joining a creative group on campus, attending an EMPAC event, taking a HASS course, or getting together with your friends to have a craft night, there are so many wonderful opportunities and resources to start learning some form of art. I personally love attending work in progress events with artists in residency at EMPAC to learn more about different art forms and creative processes. I also enjoy exploring downtown Troy and the farmers market on weekends.

Feeling lost on where to start? Find images or pieces of writing or photos—whatever medium speaks to you and makes your fingers itch to create—and try to make something inspired by it. Even researching the techniques used or the background of the artist can lead to fascinating discoveries and a burst of creative inspiration. You might feel frustrated with your initial work, but you’ll find the fun and catharsis of creating art to be worth it.