Exhaustion Personified in Paint

As the Junior Art Editor of the Fall 2017 issue of Élan, one of the pieces I reviewed that resonated with me the most would be “Wind Up Boy”. Stylistically, one can see how it can catch a viewer’s gaze. The artist very masterfully creates a face for the portrayed character, immediately drawing attention to the rest of the piece and its meaning. The color scheme and the position of the boy also work to add a layer of depth to the message. To fully understand the striking aspects that the artist is able to convey in this piece, it must simply be seen through its original medium, as I do not believe a recreation of it through words will be able to truly illustrate its traits.

Though the meaning may vary for others viewing the piece, I believe the most resonating intent to be pulled away is the idea that this boy keeps having to wind himself up again to function. However, considering how his key is in his back, I am led to believe that it is someone else he depends on to turn this key for him. In this, he is unable to motivate himself to be productive unless another he relies on keeps him standing and walking forwards in a thoughtless, mechanical manner. When all of the turns of the key are used up, the boy simply falls again in exhaustion. He possibly contemplates never standing again. In this, I believe specific image can strike many viewers in a meaningful way. I find this piece to not only be well done, but to be carrying universality as well.

I believe the reason this piece is so intriguing to me is because I feel I can relate to the boy in this period of my life. As an upperclassman in high school, I realize the looming responsibilities following graduation and the possibilities of further education. Not only is there a decision to be made, but there are also obstacles of others expectations for you and the thoughtless mistakes of your past holding you back. Currently, in preparation for college, I have found myself swamped in activities inside and outside of school. This is done in order to further accomplishments that may be listed on my college applications. Often times, however, after I work so hard on something with no immediate result, it can become exhausting to continue. Whether it be a supportive friend or a good coffee, I find that I am often in need of something or someone to simply wind me back up. This way, I can again continue on my way towards the future I want by using the mechanical methods the key dictates. Though I realize it is an exhausting way to live, I still continue towards my goals in life. In a sense, this piece reminds me of this struggle and the fact that it is possible to move through it. Though exhaustion follows all your ventures, it is rare that you are left without anything to help one continue moving forwards. The artist of “Wind Up Boy” ironically demonstrates it as she clearly worked tirelessly to create this image of giving up, reflecting an emotion she must have felt before or during the creation of this piece of art.

This piece can then, through its universality, possibly be able to reflect the states of artists submitted into Élan. Without the ability to be wound back up again and to continue work, we may not have made it as far as we have today.

Kathryn Wallis, Junior Art Editor


My Grainy Confidence

As artists, we all reach stages in our writing where we feel like our work is the worst we’ve ever created. We put our hearts and souls into personal pieces only to find the harshest criticism comes from ourselves. This doesn’t only happen to famous authors, it happens to all writers. As human beings, our confidence is like grains of sand; it slips between our fingers and completely leaves before we even know it.

December of last year, I felt like the tiny amounts of grainy confidence I had finally was blown out of my palms. I had been involved in a project produced by the Elan staff called Coffee House. It’s a performance put on by the students that go to our school and the pieces presented are all original work. This includes poetry, Spoken Word, short plays, musical bands, and singing. To get into the performance, you had to audition and then be chosen by the staff in charge. I had written my piece, performed it, and was picked by the judges to be in the show.

As I went to rehearsals and worked on making my piece better, I began to get this feeling that maybe my piece wasn’t all that good. Especially being surrounded by so many beautifully talented artists, who before the age of 19 are already extremely skillful, I found it very hard to maintain the pride I had in my work before.

I had to keep telling myself that they chose me for a reason. The judges liked my piece, and they thought my message was important enough to be in Coffee House. The fellow members who heard my piece also enjoyed it, and encouraged me every day at rehearsal to not hold myself back on stage. Other people told me I had created good work, but it didn’t really help me feel any better about it.

It’s important to recognize that as artists, our confidence can only rely on ourselves. We nurture our work, fall in love with it, and sometimes even share it with others. The reason we love writing isn’t just because we love how it makes us feel afterwards, but because we appreciate ourselves more when we put ourselves through the struggles and challenges of finishing work. I remember that even on the night of Coffee House I felt like no one in the stage would like or even understand my piece. But when I finished performing and took a deep breath, I realized that I loved my piece after all. It didn’t matter if people hadn’t clapped and given me support. What matter was that it felt right to have gotten my piece out into the world.

What truly helped me love my piece again, and what I use most of the time when I feel like I’m falling out of place with my writing in general, is thinking about the reason I started writing something in particular. What motivated me to write it down and work on it? What do I like about my writing? It’s also important to ask myself why I don’t feel like my writing is good. Whether it’s just one piece that maybe isn’t where I want it, or it’s over time where I feel like all my writing isn’t nearly as strong as I want it to be, I like getting down to the core reasons why I don’t believe it’s where it should be.

Good work needs patience and attention. Good work needs time to breath by itself and time to stand on its own. Writers, be kind to yourself. Be kind to your work and your passions.

Valerie Busto, Fiction/Creative Non-fiction Editor