My mother tied the makeshift plastic bib around my tiny torso checking to make sure it wasn’t too tight. Guiding my pudgy hands, she gently dipped them into a small bowl of paint (non-toxic of course) and pressed it against the smooth paper. Little did she know of the monster she had just unleashed upon the world, for in that exact moment, when tiny hands touched canvas, art began to play a huge impact on my life.

I drew on anything I could scavenge from mom’s spreadsheets to homework. Thankfully for my parents’ sanity, as I grew older my preferences turned from paperwork to sketch pads. My skills started to become more expansive and fleshed out as I started to explore every nook of my favorite subject, from sculpting to digital artwork, my love seemed to know no bounds and it quickly became obvious that I was destined to be an artist.

Well, should I say obvious to everyone but myself. It actually wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I met Nick Sweet, the student art teacher, that I even started to conceive of a career in the art industry. The lessons Nick taught were based on his own personal experiences from art school and they were my very first interaction with any form of higher level art. Although he gave many good tips and techniques I still use today, what I remember most was his class on graphic novels. I learned a lot about storytelling and how different it is to write for a normal
novel compared to a graphic novel, since a graphic novel has, well, graphics.

I started to focus more and more on writing and storyboarding, than before I knew it senior year had finally rolled around. To my surprise, Kelly Hebert, our art teacher, asked me and three other students to be in his AP Art class. This was a big deal- because not only we were given the chance to get ahead, but it was also the first time our school was starting an AP Art class.

At first, I was uncertain what to do and it took me a while to realize that we were free to create anything we wanted. It was fun to bounce off ideas and new techniques with my friends. It allowed me to learn how to properly critique others and learn to appreciate what you can do and to not focus on what you can’t do.

Kelly gave us a project: create something for the 2016 Youth Art Month (March) where the Anchorage Museum displays student artwork. It was both extremely exciting and stressful to choose the perfect piece to send in. I ended up sending an inked piece of a wolf standing on a mountaintop, and it was selected. I honestly felt like a celebrity seeing my artwork hanging up right by my friends’ pieces. It was the most happy I had ever felt.

Since I had finished up a lot of the credits needed for high school, I was left with a big opening in my schedule so I decided to enroll in Advertising, Art, and Design at the King Career Center (KCC). There were many complications and inconveniences, such as a busy work group project that I had to shuffle to victory by my lonesome since all other students were too busy playing ping-pong with their schedules. It was a constant influx of new faces almost every day. I even considered dropping out of that class since it was getting a bit tedious hearing the same speech over and over by the Advertising, Art and Design teacher Mr. Lochner.

However, due to gentle pressuring by my father, I held my ground and continued going to KCC. I’m so glad I did because once it picked up, I started careening down the educational highway. Where Nick had showed me the more “classy” freelancing side of art, Lochner showed me the fast-paced exotic world of advertising and marketing.

It was exciting to see the ins and outs of what goes on behind everyday commercials and advertisements. We even went through the process of creating several faux TV ads and even made our own fake products to go along with it. I learned a lot about product design and how to use Photoshop, as well as the importance of documenting your work. Lochner was selling the idea of working in advertising very well, and encouraged me to enter two contests: the 2016 Heart Run and the 2016 Seat Yourself Student Design Competition.

I expected at most an honorable mention, but lo and behold I had actually won first place for both contests! My winning seat design was a moose themed bench, the entire back and the seat area would represent antlers while the base would have a moose head sticking out. It will be like you are sitting on top the antlers of a moose. I designed it to not represent an actual moose so it would not provide a hazard to people at night or be attacked by any actual moose. The bench itself probably won’t be built for a few years, but it’s still exciting to think that someday there will be a physical bench designed by me sitting on the Westchester Lagoon trail.

Overall, I was beginning to feel confident in my abilities, especially after my scores from AP Art arrived. To my surprise, it was 3 out of 5, this meant it was passing! I was very pleased with myself. Before I knew it however, high school was over and everyone was congratulating me on a job well done. I had finished off strong in high school, and now it’s my time to shine at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

I’ve decided that I’m going to get a Bachelor’s in Art, though admittedly I’m not sure whether I’ll go into advertising. I do know that I eventually want to get a graphic novel published. I believe that being able to someday publish something might inspire other Alaskan artists. I’d hope to see the art community here grow into something more. Already, it is very accepting of different forms of art and expression, such as the traditional arts like basket weaving or the not-so traditional arts like metalworking or even painting. I hope that my story will help influence other aspiring Alaskan artists to not push away their talents and try to get themselves out there.

-By Savannah Bickley, December 1, 2016

All artwork in this post is provided by the artist, Savannah Bickley, for use with her story. Please do not copy, print, or distribute her work other than in sharing this story with others who may be inspired to pursue their own educational dreams.