A Still Life / by Deborah Clague

The other day while strolling with Monty along our regular noon-hour route, a vehicle caught my eye. For starters, it was a jalopy, the likes of which aren't really seen in transit anymore. But more importantly, it was the make of car: a Mercury Zephyr. Had never heard of this type of vehicle prior to seeing it stationed on 4th Avenue, the midday autumn sun illuminating its ubiquitous rust in spectacular fashion.

As I studied its long, bulky, aesthetically displeasing exterior, I was immediately brought back to art school. 


"Deborah Clack...Deborah Clack, are you here?"

"Uhm, it's pronounced Clague"

"Clague. Noted…"


Zephyr.

It was the first time this word was introduced to my vocabulary but I didn't let on, choosing instead to feign intellect until I could get to the library and research its meaning. I suspected most of the class would do the same. I also suspected that my instructor used it as part of this introductory Basics of Form, Level I assignment to showcase their own linguistic prowess and intellectual hierarchy over the group of young and inexperienced artsy-fartsy misfits laid out before him. I was eighteen, heading into my third week of classes, and the only insight into creating great art and design I felt I had acquired from Mr. White was how to dress: his all-black attire fitting the stereotype of how someone in the field should present themselves. There was little instruction. Little constructive criticism and feedback. It felt like we were going through the process of being judged fit for inclusion into the magical world of salaried artistic expression, rather than obtaining an actual education.

Welcome to college, I thought to myself.

At least I was learning what a zephyr was. 

Zephyr (noun): a very slight or gentle wind. 


"Deborah Clog...Deborah Clog, are you here?"

"It's Clague, actually. Deborah Clague. Present." 

"Clague" he lowered his voice and wrote something on his notepad. "Noted."


The most important things you will learn in college do not come from instructors, they come from fellow students. These are the people possessing the unbridled passion and vision that will revolutionize the future; their enthusiasm and daring not (yet) waned by post-secondary politics or ego. I realized this early on, tuning out from listening to Mr. White ad-lib lectures relating to former glories and choosing instead to study the work of my peers. We listened intently to each other as processes were described and rationales explained. We mutually fed off each other's earnest ambitions creating a culture of creativity that is often elusive outside of this environment. We wore colour. 

I'm not sure at what point in life one loses this spark.

I worked on the assignment – a visual interpretation of a word using only typography – for days. My sketchbook containing numerous executions, both serif and sans, that eventually evolved into something I felt showcased the subdued puissance of a zephyr. It was the first time I used gouache and I was mesmerized by its opaque velvety texture. It's not a forgiving medium, but trial-and-error is part of the process. There would be a lot of this in college. There's even more in real life. Upon completion, I was proud of my work. 

After nervously presenting the poster I painstakingly crafted, I waited for feedback from my instructor.

All I got was a look that could best be described as a blank stare. And an eventual "D". 


"Deborah Clay-goo…Deborah Clay-goo, are you here?"

"Present".