The Five Kinds of People You Meet in Art School by Isabella Levethan  My first memory of the art school in California where I spent a semester brings to mind uncomfortably staring at a labrador who was happily turning about in circles. I stood in the breezeway under the shade of bamboo plants with a dozen or so other people, huddled together with nothing to say because none of us knew each other. To fill up the awkward silence we all just stood petting the dog, secretly envying his exemption from the social intricacies of meeting new people. I stood and stared at the faces around me: a girl wearing head to toe black, despite the heat, stood apathetically to my right; another girl darted her eyes back and forth and nervously ran her fingers through her hair; the only boy stood clutching a skateboard under his arm and desperately searched for relief from the all-female group that encircled him. I remained quietly to the side, skeptically observing my new classmates. These were the people I found at art school. The most reliable character to be found is the impassioned artist, the one who lives and breathes to create and who will never fail to remind you of his or her dedication. One could say that everyone in an art school is, by deduction, passionate about art, yet there is always someone who surpasses pure love of the subject and seems to have poured every ounce of his or her being into it. “Artist” does not refer to one who makes art for this person; “artist” refers to them, and only them. Our resident aficionado was May, who could not bear to part with her pencil or sketchbook. As my dorm mate, she and I lived in close quarters with each other, and I would often get up in the middle of the night only to find a light seeping out from under her door, the telltale sign that she was up painting. May was not only an artist but also a dedicated practitioner of yoga and a tree-hugger, which was often expressed through her hyper-realistic work. She favored nudes and used herself as a model, resulting in many portraits of her naked body reclining in a tree by sunset or in a jungle as mother nature. The impassioned artist is, however, undoubtedly the most pompous. We all soon tired of May’s overly dramatic paintings and constant talk of how she “just wanted to sit in a tree and draw all day.” Her perpetual enthusiasm grated on our nerves. Never deviating from her familiar oil paintings of sunsets or charcoals of people’s eyes, May seemed to think she had already reached the pinnacle of talent and artistic gift. Obviously there will always be eccentrics in an art school, with varying degrees of peculiarity distinguishing the slightly odd ones from the crazy ones. We had all variations represented, from the few bizarre dressers to the one lunatic. There were some who favored gothic knits, chunky shoes, and whimsical nose rings; there were others who dyed their hair a different color each week and installed a tightrope on campus to walk across; and then there was Emma, who wore flowing dresses and liked to adorn herself in daisy chains and believed heavily in the power of psychics. Emma drew sketches of moon phases in her notebook and painted watercolors of her drug-induced hallucinations; she collected gemstones and worshipped garden fairies, called people ‘moon-child’ and got stick-and-poke tattoos of planets on her ankles. She worshipped ghostly spirits and Oujia boards in the same way others worshipped the Pope and the cross. At times, I could not tell if her intense belief in dark magic and extensive collection of dried herbs and stray feathers were all part of an act, or actually crazy enough to be authentic. Eventually expelled for being “emotionally unstable” (among other accusations), Emma seemed always to be in a different, more spiritual realm than everyone else, a world she alone was wandering through with conjurations of mystical forests and gods. “When she got expelled I was sad, but then I was like, ‘bye, you psychopath,’” remarked my roommate upon her departure. It is common in art school to find the student who rigidly holds a paintbrush as she tries frantically to keep paint off the outfit she so carefully picked out that morning, tripping about in shoes chosen for style rather than practicality. The fashion-obsessed student will fill her sketchbook with drawings of spindly models decked out in fashionable ensembles, disregarding the ridiculous proportion of the too-long limbs she has drawn and sketching mitten-like appendages to the ends of arms rather than fingers. Our fashion maven, Sarah, chose to draw still-lifes of colorful fabric draped over a pair of shoes rather than the standard bowl of fruit; in photography class, she shot dozens of images of her friends posing about the lawn draped in glittering jewelry and elaborate costumes. The most entertaining to observe, Sarah never ceased to fascinate the rest of us when she strutted into the dining hall in six-inch heels and a mini-skirt as we looked on in our paint-splattered rags. The fashion student, however, is often naïve, forgetting that the path to a life in fashion includes a rocky terrain – the things you have to do before you are allowed to set foot near a sewing machine. Drawing class does not include runway sketches, and sculpting class does not involve the different ways to pose a mannequin. Sarah had quite a shock when she walked into the woodshop and was told that sandals and elaborate clothing were not allowed, as you might accidentally pierce your toes with an errant staple gun or sever a finger if your sleeve got caught in the power saw. An art school will probably have at least several deviants, students who are fed up with the system and would rather let their imagination run wild than be resigned to a corporate future. Jack was one of these nonconformists, running about the halls with a skateboard under his arm and labeling every available surface with his personal graffiti tag. He often came to class high and rarely contributed, but when he did speak he managed to offer a profound, existential view in our discussion. He pierced his own ears and dyed his hair platinum blond, later shaving it completely off. Our English teacher was left speechless when, for an assignment to make our own books of personal musings and illustrations, he brought in a zine filled with obscene hand-drawn images and anecdotes about his experiences with different drugs. Jack’s lukewarm attitude towards his schoolwork and unorthodox approach with his artwork intrigued many of us. As we toiled away in the studios on a mandated four-hour assignment one weekend, he came in, completed his work in forty minutes, and promptly went outside to burn ants with a magnifying glass. His artwork consisted mainly of graffiti and cartoonish doodles – we all came to recognize his tag, emblazoned proudly on the bottoms of desks and the insides of books. The rebellious student offers a freer, more uninhibited outlook on life, and in many ways, we envied his indifference. While we spent our time trying to keep up with the avalanche of work, he simply lay out on the grass and took in his surroundings contently. Lastly, an art school will contain many, many students who feel unsure. Those who fumble about in painting class because they have never used gouache before, those whose sculptures explode in the kiln because they forget to poke holes in the bottoms, those who cannot tell the difference between impressionism and illusionism – the list goes on. And while it is problematic to have a student laugh uncontrollably during his first life-drawing class with a nude model, every art student can remember a time when he too felt inexperienced. We had many of these blundering students: Jenny, who accidentally locked herself in the studio one night; Dan, who was stopped by a policeman while photographing his work under a bridge for a mysterious effect; Sam, who inadvertently glued his hand to his woodcarving. We shook off these mishaps and added them to a growing list of stories. Art school is largely about sympathy.