Alison Stinley (1st Quarter, 2006)

1st Quarter, 2006
Art Scholarship Winner
Alison Stinley

Alison is a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

A Portion of Alison’s Winning Essay:

Alison Stinley
Alison Stinley

My first piece is sealed tightly in a family photo album. It is about three by four inches in dimension–I enjoyed working on smaller surfaces then. I believe the medium was a blue Bic ballpoint pen; I had not yet discovered anything beyond crayons and washable markers. I was two years old and not able to write my own name. My mother signed and dated the piece for me. It was a smiley face, which was a bit trite, but hey, it made it into the family photo album anyway. It is strange that my parents never saved the piece of paper on which I printed my name for the first time, but they saved my first piece of artwork. There must be something special about this art stuff.

Soon after the creation of Smiley Face, I graduated to a more sophisticated medium: finger paint. I even dabbled with three dimensional forms as well. Sure, my parents supplied me with plenty of Barbie Dolls, doll houses and all of the other fancies little girls enjoy. I loved playing with all of those toys, but nothing compared to tinkering with my paint and building blocks. Nothing was greater than creating at my small work table, or crouching on the floor, constructing with those primary colored, three-dimensional shapes.

Although I was not aware of it at the time, I was particularly obsessed with visual balance. I became upset if I were trying to build a doorway with my building blocks and did not have the correct piece to mirror the one on the opposite side. I would have to find smaller blocks to put together to balance the shape on the other side. It makes sense to me now, 18 years later, but I suppose I was a tad obsessive for a three year old.

As I grew, so did my love for the visual arts. Many cousins and a few uncles on both sides of my family, as well as some close family friends, were all excellent artists. A great uncle was an illustrator for Macmillan Publishing Company and went on to become the art director of Colonial Williamsburg. I grew up surrounded by the visual arts my whole life.

There was one person, in particular, whom I admired most. You will not find his work in textbooks or even at the corner gallery, but he is superbly talented and a visual genius. That man is my father, Patrick Stinely. When I was very young, I can remember rummaging through his portfolios of artwork. I remember being amazed as I watched him work on his latest piece. I would say to myself, “I want to be able to do that.”

My art education as a child was limited to my father’s instruction. He taught me the use of color, line and light and how to draw from life by measuring and checking angles. Cutting and pasting in the art room of a grade school does not teach the basic principles and elements of art. My father took the time to introduce me to new techniques and media. The use of shellac or graphite powder to tone paper or turpentine to melt graphite are techniques many do not learn until later in life. Thanks to my father, I was utilizing them at a young age.

As I matured, I realized art was a major part of my life. I made the decision to attend Villa Maria Academy because of the stellar art program it offered. The art scholarship I received my freshman year directed me toward visual arts–my primary focus in high school.

Following the obligatory Intro. to Art course, I went on to enroll in every art course Villa offered. These included photography, ceramics, drawing, painting, commercial design and art history. After completing every art course my high school offered, I devoted independent time in the Villa Art Studio to concentrate further on selected media and to fulfill specific credit hours.

I was active in many extracurricular activities that focused on the arts. I was a member of the National Art Honor Society for three consecutive years. I devoted many hours of service to The Neighborhood Art House, a local charity for underprivileged children. I assisted the children while they participated in visual and performing arts activities after school. I took part in Villa Maria’s 24 hour Art-a-Thon where students raised money for a local art charity through sponsorship. We drank absurd amounts of coffee and stayed up all day and night working on the art project of our choice.

Every year I entered pieces in Villa’s Spring Show. During my junior year I served as chairperson for the event. Many of the pieces I submitted received first place ribbons, and one piece, entered during my senior year, won the “Best of Show” ribbon. This piece advanced to the Congressional Art Competition in Edinboro, Pennsylvania where it received an “Honorable Mention” award.

I continued to be recognized during my senior year. I won a calendar cover design for the adjacent township of Millcreek. The calendar was sent to every home in the Millcreek Township area. I won a cash award for placing first in an anti-tobacco poster design contest sponsored by a local non-profit group. I also won the Villa “Senior Art Award,” and my name is now engraved on a plaque that will forever hang in my alma mater. Two of my works were featured in the Erie Times-News in an article about local, up-coming art exhibits.

I participated in the Advanced Placement Portfolio Program, earning three college credits. I also took part in Villa’s Senior Project Program, a year-long optional activity for Villa Seniors. Students must plan an event, research a topic or develop an alternate project. They must choose a teacher who will mentor them through the process, and they must document all aspects of the project through dated journal entries that will, subsequently, be signed by their mentor. At the end of the school year they must assemble a binder of all important documents and photos pertaining to their project, put together a PowerPoint presentation of the same and write a final essay about the entire process.

As part of my project, I decided to use the portfolio that I created through the AP guidelines, along with other works created through my high school career, to hold a one day exhibit of my work at a local private club. After months of painting, drawing, writing and event planning the show went off without a hitch. I sold my first piece of artwork to a man who was eating lunch in the club that day and happened to wander into the private room filled with friends, family and faculty. It was a strenuous process, to say the least, but I received the highest ranking from the Senior Project Board, Outstanding with Distinction, making all the stress worthwhile.

During my graduation ceremony I was awarded the Meade Art Scholarship, a cash award given to one graduate seeking an education in the arts. I used the scholarship to buy art supplies, many of which have been used to create the works in my portfolio.

I have spent the past few years building my portfolio, participating in community art events, selling as many pieces as possible and working as a waitress/bartender in between. I helped to organize, and participated in, a fine-art auction at a local upscale restaurant. The money generated from ticket sales was given to a local charity, and the event helped me sell two of my works. During the auction I was approached by the Editor in Chief of Art-E-Fakt magazine who offered me a cover story in the publication.

I have also been a sponsored “Chalk Walk” artist in Erie’s own Celebrate Erie festival for two years in a row. The “Chalk Walk” is five blocks of Erie’s main street where businesses commission artists to create 10×15 feet murals of any artwork. During the first year, I was asked to recreate Dali’s Timepieces. For the second year I executed an advertisement, of my own design, for a local restaurant.

Nowadays, in between fetching dinner orders and mixing drinks, I ruminate about where I want to be and what I want to do, and I have finally figured it out. There is something special about this art stuff; I have known it since the age of two, and I want to be a part of it for the rest of my days. Inasmuch as I have tried to remain involved with art while working at a variety of jobs, I know that the lifestyle I am seeking can only be attained through a higher education. I would like to acquire that education at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

I could read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain a thousand times over, and memorize it word for word or I could spend months walking through The Louvre studying masterworks, but nothing would compare to the knowledge, skill and insight that I would receive from an excellent education at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Subjectivity and personal opinions will always be realities of the visual art world. No matter how wonderful some people may think my work is, there will always be some who will disagree, and there is nothing wrong with that. That is what it’s about, “Art for Art’s Sake.” No one artist will ever know everything there is to know about art, and no one artist will ever work in every artistic medium or discipline, but I think one should try. I want to be one who tries. I aspire to understand and experience all that I can, and I know that the Cleveland Institute of Art can offer that to me. I also know that in today’s world being an excellent and talented artist is not all that it takes. A degree (or two) and proper education is required if one wishes to survive in today’s job market.

I still look through my father’s portfolios of work and admire his talent. It upsets me that he did not use his extraordinary abilities to get him where he should be today. He didn’t take the proper steps and now owns a business that requires him to perform back-breaking work, six days a week, to help take care of his responsibilities.

I want to take the proper steps to be where I should be in years to come. I am willing to work as hard as I have to in order to get there. From a smiley face portrait done in blue ink to my most recent self portrait done in oil, art is my life and there is always room to learn and grow. I hope that I will be able to do both at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Copyright 2007, All rights reserved.

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