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Self Study: Autobiography


Self Study: Autobiography ARE6933 Artistic Development Sherolyn Rymal October 13, 2013 University of Florida

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." - Albert Einstein (accomplished violinist)

Personal History of My Art Education The year was 2004. I walked into the room, confident and caring about my students as my first teaching experience in a substitute teacher work situation. Feeling slightly intimidated when the students asked where their regular teacher was, I answered the students in the best way possible and found out immediately some of the positives and negatives of what a career in teaching would be like, just from observing the many, varied personalities of the students. After two layoffs as a Lead Graphic Designer, the first at Walt Disney Imagineering post- September 11th and the second at post company buy-out with a local sign design and fabrication company, I was eager to start a new career path. Although there was not a current opening at the high school where the substitute job was that day, it was my goal, that I would become one of their future art educators, and thus fulfill an uncharted and challenging life experience as a high school art teacher. Unexpectedly, this goal was realized in an unplanned way, despite several job


applications to schools offering positions as an art teacher. However, the story of how and why I got there remains to be told. My background in art began at the age of about five years old, when my mother noticed that my drawings were more advanced than children of similar age. This observation prompted professional art lessons at the age of nine from my first formal art teacher, Mrs. Cherne’. I was fortunate to have such a talented and caring first art teacher, who noticed that I could easily copy her drawings and follow her specific instructions with unusual accuracy. The small group lessons started out in charcoal as a primary medium, learning how to shade and draw specific shapes, which progressed to a secondary medium of pastels and higher level art subjects. Although these initial mediums were fun, my teacher’s favorite medium was oils, so she eventually invited me to join her more advanced class. My teacher’s favorite scene to draw and paint was the still-life, and once a week I was privileged to be in an art classroom for about three hours of drawing; eventually, I moved into a painting class with people of all ages, including my eleven year old cousin, Kim.


“Sea Oats on the Beach”. Oil on Canvas. 32” x 26”. 1977. Age 15. Won “Best of Show” in 1978 at the Florida Strawberry Festival Art Show.

My love of art grew during those years of small group art lessons. The formal art lessons continued through the age of about sixteen, when one of my oil paintings won the Blue Ribbon for the “Best of Show” in an adult category art show at the “Florida Strawberry Festival”. I was also receiving additional high school classroom art lessons from two of my other most influential art teachers, Mrs. Gomez and Ms. Forrester, and this only reinforced my love of art and made me more determined to continue my art education beyond high school. My two high school teachers introduced me to new mediums of silkscreen, acrylics and India ink. They also had an after school “Art Club”, which I joined and eventually was elected “President” in my senior year of high school. In support of their new mediums, I tried them out and found that I enjoyed many mediums, which led to mixed media in some of my art creations. The only medium that I had no experience in, nor excelled in at the first try was clay and three-dimensional art. Later in my


college art education, I would take a class in those two subjects that would hone my abilities in these areas.

“Images of Delicate Creatures”. Oil on Canvas. 8” x 10”. 1976. Age 14.

“Women’s Suffrage”.

“Lily Bells”. Oil on Canvas. Oil on Canvas. 12” x 24”. 1976. Age 13.

“Butterfly” and “Fall Leaf”

Watercolor, India Ink, Graphite.

Silkscreen and Graphite.

12” x 16”. 1979. Age 17.

18” x 24”. 1979. Age 17.


As far as leadership in art roles, my desire to not only be the president of the school’s art club was strong, but my love of commercial art also developed at this age, because my art teachers asked our class to do “ad art” and explore the world of advertising as an art medium. When first embarking upon this new concept of “art for business,” my initial thoughts were that I needed experiences in this area. Therefore, I applied to the high school internship program in my senior year of high school and after approval, became the first high school intern at the Tampa Tribune daily newspaper in the Advertising Art Department. As a graphic art intern at the newspaper, I learned all kinds of hands on art techniques and what a career in commercial art might be like. My art was even published in the newspaper, as I was asked to do a graphite drawing of the new “Wendy’s single hamburger” for an article about the new fast food chain at the time. The daily pressure of art created for deadlines prepared me for my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Florida State University, my summer college internship at the St. Pete Times in the News Art Department, my part-time job as the college newspaper’s main graphic artist, and my future role in business as a graphic designer.


Tampa Tribune Art Department High School Internship, 1980.

St. Pete Times News Art College Internship, 1981.

After high school graduation, I found that my art classes and my internship had prepared me for the rigorous curriculum at Florida State University’s Visual Arts Department. My major was Studio Art with an emphasis in “visual communication”, which back then was their version of the college major now called “Graphic Design” in most post-secondary education institutes. I excelled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, and two art professors that influenced me during my learning there was the Chair and the other was my “VisCom” teacher. These two teachers became my cheerleaders as a person, my art and my future. They held the belief that to become a well-rounded person in general, much less a successful artist, the right side of the brain had to be developed - the younger, the better. Moreover, they had the most influence in my personal art critiques and art education with their encouragement to become the “best that I could be” in my area of chosen study, Studio Art. Even though I was not familiar with the many mediums required to receive my B.F.A., I took each course seriously and made a concerted effort to be the


“best” at every course I took, which would later translate to being my “best” at the jobs I worked in for the future. I began to see the connection between the importance of whole brain development and in education for life in anyone’s career, not just mine.

“Self-Portrait Metamorphosis”. Colored Pencil. 36” x 28”. 1982. Age 20.

“Butterfly Times Four”. Guache. 18” x 28”. 1982. Age 20.


“Ghost Riders in the Sky”. Guache. 18” x 28”. 1982. Age 20.

“Watercolor Series”. Watercolors. 24” x 24”. 1982-83. Age 20-21.


Due to my natural talent for illustration that had been recently honed by my B.F.A. and career pertinent part-time jobs and freelance, I was able to hire into a high end job as a commercial artist at a design firm, “Wilderness Graphics, Inc.” that specialized in designing visitor centers, natural history dioramas, national and international park interpretive signage, audio-visual presentations and publication for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many other federal and state wildlife and environmental agencies. I became their main graphic illustrator and artist and also created blueprints for them. I even painted snakes and alligators latex-molded to look real. Upon my move to the Orlando, Florida area, I was able to also hire into an even higher end career with Walt Disney Design and Engineering and Walt Disney Imagineering as a Job Captain and Lead Graphic Artist with the experience from my previous job. I began by drawing two and three dimensional signs in blueprint form for Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts. Later, the transition to drawing signs in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop occurred on the job for many AutoCAD based construction projects and signage. The Gulf War and the September 11th event ended these careers, though, and led me to teaching my former career.

“Moose”. Charcoal Pencil. 16” x 14”. 1984. Age 22.


“Wilderness Graphics”. Print Collateral Branding. 8.5” x 11”. 1984 – 1986. Age 22-25.


“Wilderness Graphics”. Print, Aluminum Signs, Fiberglass. 8.5” x 11”. 1984 – 1986. Age 22-25.


“Emporium Floor Graphic”. Colored Pencil, Graphite. 24” x 24”. 1989. Age 27.

“Mickey’s Birthdayland” Cart Design”. 36” x 30” E Sheet. 1988. Age 26.

“French Connection - World Traveler Sign”. 36” x 30” E Sheet. 1989. Age 27.


“Vehicle Design for Graphic Wrap”. Fullsize. 2007. Age 45.

Thankfully, it was by “chance” that I met my next “cheerleader”, Mrs. Ley, the head Art teacher at East Ridge High School. She and I met at summer swimming lessons for our children and she mentioned to me that her school was looking for a new Graphic Design teacher to help her with a National Geographic school wide book publication funded by the Florida Serve and Learn grant and that it was also her final National Teacher Certification project. She and I connected as artists as we discussed art and art education. I was hired in July of 2004, after my substitute teaching experiences earlier that year, and was welcomed into the high school with open arms by their faculty, staff, and the Principal, Mrs. Aurelia Cole. After many subsequent service learning projects and publications involving my commercial art students, I feel that I have made a difference in the lives of many children, just like my former art teachers had accomplished in making a difference with me. Many of my students have gone on to win


contests through my Career Technical Student Organization called “SkillsUSA”, and other art contests. My belief that art class is essential to whole brain development and a higher level of education was formed not only by my own life experiences as a child, but by my art teachers throughout my life. They emphasized to me the importance of art in life and education.

“Once Upon A Time On Lakeshore Drive”. National Geographic Book Grant. 12” x 8”. 2005. Age 43.

I can say that being a teacher has been and continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and professional employment. By incorporating my past art experiences, both personal and professional, into my curriculum and gleaning the best teaching concepts from my most capable and touching art teachers, the continued experience of my new-found vocation has become a joy. I am extremely thankful for the art teachers who educated me and influenced


me in creating my own art and encouraged me to share it with others. These teachers helped shape my ideas and beliefs about art and art education in general, which helps me in my daily role as an art educator. As a result, I have been able to enjoy a lifelong love and respect for art and other artists. By daily demonstrating my beliefs about how important it is to have art in the lives of all children, my life goal has been fulfilled. In my current role as a Commercial Art teacher, I also now have the opportunity to be a digital art educator, by teaching my former career as a graphic designer, which I enjoy immensely. As an art educator, I have been reminded that art is very important. Zaniboni writes in her online article about how art helps children “develop valuable life skills through free expression and artistic activities” (Zaniboni, 2012). She also states that “art is a process and not a product” and that there are four skills developed from Art education: social and emotional skills, communication skills, and problem solving skills. As a gifted artist myself, being able to share my lifelong skills with my students has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.


References Bruner, J. (2004). A short history of psychological theories of learning. Daedalus, 133(1), 13-20. Renzulli, J. (2013). Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness [Editorial]. Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Retrieved from http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/sem/semart13.html Salome, R. (1974). Identifying and Instructing the Gifted in Art. Art Education, 27(3), 16-19. Winner, E. (1993). Exceptional artistic development: The role of visual thinking. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 27(4), 31-44. Zaniboni, Lauren. "The Importance of Art in Children's Cognitive, Social and Emotional Development." Health and Fitness (16 Oct. 2012): n. pag. Examiner.com. Clarity Digital Group LLC, 16 Oct. 2012. Web.

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