A day in the life of a CSU art student

Interview with muralist and studio art major, Taylor Johnson

Art student Taylor Johnson. Photo by Trinity Stevens

Last spring, the Cauldron followed the progress of the public mural project for Great Lakes Financial completed by Cleveland State University art students. But what is the everyday life of a studio art major like here as CSU? In this article, let’s join current senior Taylor Johnson inside the classroom and find out!

How did you decide what you wanted to do with art in your life and what has that journey been like for you?

“I grew up sort of surrounded by it. Having gone to an arts high school, I took a drawing class in 11th grade that really solidified me wanting to do this for a career. However, I started out as a psychology student when I first came to CSU and had no regrets when I quickly switched to art. I began taking as many classes as I could and working my way up, wanting to get better by choice. It has gotten me outside my comfort zone in a good way. Painting is my primary media, but I have also branched out to drawing and working with water colors.”

What are your classes like and do you feel like they prepared you to work on a larger scale project, like the mural last year?

“The classes I have now are illustration, painting, and an individual study course in sculpture. The way that art courses differ from regular college courses is that they are more project/assignment based. Your homework includes things like sketching out ideas at home. I felt that the courses I have taken here at CSU left me really well prepared to work on a project like the mural. Our teachers are very knowledgeable and I learn a lot on a regular basis.”

What was your experience like creating a public work?

“It was intense and amazing at the same time. It was the largest piece I’ve ever worked on, being 6 by 8 feet, and my first mural. I was nervous, having people see my work, but I overcame that and the environment came to be one of peace, reminding me that I am a real artist.”

Where does your inspiration for your work come from?

“What Cleveland represents and means to me; I wanted to give my viewers the city they know and love. I chose notable sites around Cleveland, which also allowed me to draw inspiration from my favorite location, Playhouse Square. I have a love for my city and a love for my art.”

Do you think that there is value for students to have the opportunity to work on larger-scale works like this?

“It is so important to get to know what it is like to be an artist outside of school. As a student, it allows you to know that your work is good enough to be seen and gives you the confidence to continue with that art. You are bringing the value of art into society and that is an honor.”

How do you hope to apply what you have learned here at CSU after you graduate this semester?

“The eventual goal is art therapy; it’s a great way of expressing yourself without having to talk and art has definitely helped me to open up to other people. In the meantime, it is my plan to keep painting and take commissions; I could also see myself working or interning for an art gallery.”

Illustration class student artwork. Photo by Trinity Stevens

If you are a CSU student interested in seeing some of Taylor Johnson and her classmate’s work from their illustration course, ART 415, they are currently on display on the 5th floor of the 13th Street Building.

Did you miss the series on the mural project, “Bringing Art to Our City?” Catch up on parts one, two, and three now! For more information on art at CSU, please visit their webpage.

Author: Trinity Stevens

Trinity Stevens is a current student at Cleveland State University majoring in Dance in Community, minoring in Theatre Studies, and pursuing a certificate in Arts Management.