Acceptance to RISD: In Which The Impossible Happens

Since the main purpose of this blog is to keep distant friends and relatives updated about my life, it is time to unveil my latest plan for the next couple years.  No plans to travel anywhere exotic or partake in epic expeditions exist; hopefully the events of this past year have gotten that out of my system for now.  Already several years behind most people my age, it’s time to pick a direction and go with it, a.k.a. go to school.

With interests spanning nearly every corner of the possibilities map, I ended up applying to three art schools and seven for marine biology for this upcoming fall.  While it would be my dream to go to art school and pursue only my greatest passions, I decided I only wanted to go if accepted at a really good one, namely, the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design.  And while I poured my heart and soul into the school’s demanding application process, I never thought that I would actually be accepted.  Besides the typical application materials (letters of recommendation, two essays, transcripts and resumes), RISD’s checklist includes one well-presented portfolio and three application drawings.  Of doom.

Enter very foreboding theme music here.  Drawing is not my greatest strength when it comes to artistic mediums – there is a reason I applied directly into the photography department.  However, faced with the daunting task of nonetheless producing three hand-drawn pieces, I decided to check out what I was up against.  A google image search of “RISD Application Drawings” produced the following images:

Uh, wow.  Credit to the ridiculously talented artists; personally I have named these pieces Intimidation parts I, II and III. 

Extremely intimidated, I nervously set to work.  The first and most iconic would be RISD’s historical bicycle drawing,  a mandatory part of the school’s application process since the 1950s:  16″x20″ of nothing but graphite and white paper, somehow incorporating a bicycle.  Now, it had never occurred to me how difficult bicycles are to draw until that moment.  Try it sometime.  Remembering someone having told me that if you love what you do, it will show, I went with my gut instinct and drew a bunch of fish (which I inexplicably very much enjoy drawing), threw a bike in the background, and titled it “(Every woman needs a man) Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle”.  Good enough!

The second drawing, again using only a pencil, had to cover two sides of a 16″x20″ sheet of paper.  Still feeling like sea creatures were my best bet (see, combining art AND marine biology here) I decided to draw jellyfish on one side and women swimming on the other, and clip the paper such that each subject could, upon strategic folding, become the other.  While definitely not as great as I had envisioned, the results nevertheless conveyed the idea, which at that point was all I could really have asked for.

Relieved to be done with the overwhelming simplicity of black and white, the third drawing allowed for any water-based medium, with one requirement:  a combination of words and text.  I decided to use watercolor pencils to fuse a self-portrait with a visualization of the languages I speak or have studied, and their roles in my mind.  Thus began over 40 hours of grueling detail work as I drew, inked, painted, re-penciled, re-painted, and re-inked something like six different languages.  Terrified to somehow ruin the portrait’s face after so much work, I left it very simple and am, as a result, very dissatisfied with it.  However, IT IS WHAT IT IS, and it gave me the chance to use my favorite drawing mediums.

After over a week of hard work, the drawings were as good as they were going to get, despite my general feelings of inadequacy.  I sent in my application, realizing with horror that RISD not only requests but requires that each drawing be folded in half- twice!  Oh my god, the pain of essentially destroying your own artwork.  Brutal.  I waited until no one else was home to avoid my courage being dismantled by someone else shouting “NO!”, and stuffed them immediately in the envelope so I wouldn’t have to look at them.  Then they were gone.  Done.  I had applied to RISD, and was prepared to receive a rejection letter.

With the application both off my checklist and off my mind, I caught a flight to India and went mountaineering in the Himalayas.  I returned with an overwhelming feeling that everything in my life was suddenly right, suddenly in place, turned in the direction it was supposed to be going.  And when I got home, this was waiting for me on the kitchen counter.

It is with a peculiar mixture of excitement and surprise that I will now be moving to Rhode Island in a mere six days, to partake in a Summer Foundation Studies program for transfer students for the majority of the summer.  I’m moving east and officially becoming an art student to pursue my “crazy” yet very real dreams of becoming a photographer.  After years of indecisive bafflement over which direction to take in life, the mild panic I used to experience while thinking about my own future has been replaced with enthusiastic determination.  I couldn’t be more excited.

11 thoughts on “Acceptance to RISD: In Which The Impossible Happens

  1. first of all–a huge congratulations!! :D i think you´re going to enjoy yourself so much at just SOUNDS like a fit for you :) (i wish i could say the same about rhode island though…i have no idea what it even looks like to be perfectly honest. is it even an island?!)

    2nd of all: i tried for about 5 minutes, but i simply could not find the bicycle in the 2nd picture….in fact…i canæt see anything…but it´s nice

    3: same could be said inversely–every man needs a woman…like every bicycle needs a fish ;) you can put one in your basket, but no big deal if you don´t. hehehehe

    savner deg! og vær så snill kom på besøk snaaart :)


  2. wow, acacia :) your drawings are amazing!!! and congratulations! so nice to read about your life and that you are going to study art! Your dedication really impresses me… you seem to be so good at making things happen for yourself, as for me, I feel like I´m kind of stuck in “dream-mode”. But I must say I feel a little inspired by you and not to mention Natasha who are travelling so much and really enjoying life. Håpe du har det bra :) klem fra Nina <3

  3. Tusen takk alle sammen…. men koffor skriv dåkker på ENGELSK!? :P

    Greg: Det er ingen sykkel i den andre tegninga, du e ikke blind :P Æ bare syntes at det var en syk bra tegning likevel!! Og snakk om menn må vi kanskje skype snart… en del har skjedd i det siste… ;) og nei, Rhode Island er ikke ei øy!! haha helt rart sted, håper æ liker det æ óg :P savne dæ masse!! Kommer på besøk så snart æ får litt penger :P Si ifra om du vil skype snart!! KLEM

    Nina: Tusen takk!! Æ synes at du er så inspirerende!! Æ skulle fortelle dæ at æ hadde din sant “vi skulle vært stjerner” på hjern under HELE himalaya-turen!! Æ sang den hele tia og det var ingen som forsto, haha. Men du er superduperflink og æ savner å være rundt dæ og din fantastisk kreativ energi!! Håper du har det bra óg… stor klem!!!

    • ja, det e jo egentlig ingen grunn til å skrive på engelsk :P trur æ bare ble påvirka av å lese bloggen din… så artig at du hadde den på hjernen! :D æ har funnet ut at æ skal begynne å skrive flere sanga på nord-norsk forresten.. det blir mye mer ekte på en måte :) savne å være med dæ også, du må skrike ut om du kommer til oslo en gang! æ har forresten kommet inn på 2.året på NISS så nu skal æ gå ei linje som hete komposisjon og produksjon som passe veldig bra siden æ skriv egne låta og e interesert i å lage filmmusikk… den andre linja e “utøvende” som e mest for de som vil synge og spille coverlåta og bare drive med konserta og samspill, mens på linja æ skal gå så e det mest studio og data-arbeid og ikke minst å lære arrangering :) glede mæ!

  4. Hi!

    Sorry for the abrupt entry of a stranger, but I couldn’t help posting a comment!

    I ended up at your blog as I was trying to find somebody like me who is considering to major in photography at RISD but have to face their drawing assignment while it’s not your field. I was soooooo intimidated by those drawings from “ridiculously” talented artists that I saw on google images like you did. But, yeah! you surely encouraged me! Your drawings are really cool, especially the second one. You probably are really good at photography (i’m interested in seeing your work!!) so I’m not sure if I should be this encouraged… but anyway, thank you. I’m glad I read your blog. Have a great, amazing, fantastic days in RISD!!! I envy you!!

  5. Hi Acacia!
    I hate to bring up an old post but I found this very inspiring as I plan on hopefully transferring to RISD for fall 2013! Your jellyfish drawing is ridiculously amazing and creative. I’m in love with how well it falls into place! I can only imagine how you felt when you had to fold such a wonderful piece up. Do you have any pointers to a fellow RISD hopeful? How were your grades for transfer and how do you like it there now?


  6. Hi Acacia,

    First of all, that’s a cool name! I have no idea how to pronounce it,

    And to be honest, this is such an inspiring story that you have got there!! I’m actually in the middle of applying to RISD, and I was just researching a little when I saw your blog. The jellyfish concept was amazing, and the execution is done so well when I knew that you have not been as trained on traditional hand drawing-ness… And i have to admit that it puts me to shame knowing that despite your “disadvantage”, since you were a photographer, you were able to come up with such a creative idea and executing it on that level. I’m more technically sound in traditional medium, so i guess in a way, I’ve been so focused on showing what i can do with graphite on a flat piece of paper, that I’ve totally brushed off the possibility of folding/cutting/w/e the paper (for the double sided).

    This is quite random, but i just wanted to let you know that this blog post is going to make me push myself harder on my other hometest (this year we only need the bike and another one from the list, how lucky :D) and i really want to thank you for sharing your story!

    A few of my friends are in RISD right now, and despite their constant “encouraging” words of having works that they have spent hours on get called ugly, bad, and trash, I can tell that they really enjoy their stay. Man, I REALLY WANT TO BE A PART OF THAT ATMOSPHERE…!

  7. I have recently started a blog, the info you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work. “It is a great thing to know our vices.” by Cicero.

  8. As a current junior in high school and RISD being my dream atm, what kinda of grades did you have that were accepted?

  9. Well, I’ve got to be honest – I’m pretty obsessive about grades, and school in general. The very few B’s I’ve gotten in my life still haunt me. However, RISD is a pretty special environment – I know quite a few absurdly talented people who really struggled with a non-visual learning environment before they came to RISD, even a lot of people with traditional learning disabilities who make insanely amazing art and thrive at RISD. So if you’re talented, passionate, and highly motivated, I think you’ll be okay, but good grades are a plus.

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