The Trippy Path Towards a Career in Art

All two-year-olds have the ability to impress a crowd with their drawings. Easy. The real trick is to impress a crowd as we progress into the age of inhibitions, self-censorship, self-doubt and the pressure-to-earn-a-good-living.

F.H. Collins Secondary School graduate Dustin Sheldon got his start in art at age two and has continued developing his ability to draw.

He’s now at the stage where he has been recognized by his high school teachers for his talent and started down the path to a degree in fine art, but hasn’t closed the door on being an astronaut yet.

“I’m trying to keep my options open,” Sheldon says. “I could do art as a hobby — I could be an accountant or an astronaut or a lawyer.”

Whatever he chooses to do, he has an ability to set his imagination free and draw what he sees in his head in great detail.

Lately he’s been doing what he calls processed imagination.

“I’ll have one idea and stick it out and then more ideas will come to me and I’ll add onto it,” Sheldon says. “An example is I managed to turn my own heart into a house.”

When he’s drawing, it’s like he slips into another state of consciousness.

“It’s kind of like a trance,” Sheldon says. “I’ll just tune into whatever music I’m listening to – the beat, the lyrics – and I tune into the movements of my hand laying down each line, the texture of the paper. It’s almost like a surreal experience.”

When he graduated in June, he was awarded with a $250 scholarship from the Yukon Arts Society. Two months later the scholarship came in handy as he entered the one-year program at the Yukon School of Visual Arts (SOVA).

At SOVA he’s building friendships with students and teachers who are shifting his perspective on creative expression. He’s also getting exposure to a new set of artistic mediums to add to his toolbox.

“I’ve been learning a lot from performance art, to taking a proper photo and now to critiquing both of these mediums,” Sheldon says. “I’ve been drawing for a lot of my life; I haven’t branched-out before.

“And I just started painting today. I’m getting pretty into that – I finished the painting in one go.”

Watching others with artistic talent decide their career paths has been a head-trip. He has known talented people to veer away from art school, and he’s heard comments from observers stating it’s a shame to not take it seriously. However, he says you don’t have to go to art school to take your talent seriously.

“When you go to (art) school, there are rules you have to follow, instructions, teachers – but you can find those kinds of things out in the world,” he says.

Outside of art school, non-arty degrees dangle the prize of pragmatic and lucrative careers. He finds the numbers of creative people going into non-artistic careers is a sad situation in society.

“I was up at 3 a.m. watching TV, eating macaroni, and I was flicking the Dawson TV channels and I saw the president of Harvard, a woman, and it just happens that I’d been reading a book about Harvard and here she was talking about students going into Economics,” Sheldon says. “She had interviewed the students who took their financial courses and asked them, ‘If you could study anything else, what would it be?’ And the majority said art. And it’s a sad situation when people trade their ability to express themselves for the ability to uplift themselves socio-economically.”

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