My intention with an online journal is to post entries that not only mean something to me, but hopefully, inspire and/or interest others out there reading. Ideally, I would like this to be an area where I am able to string together and share the varied experiences of my life—this includes remembering the past, pulling from the present and looking to the future for new endeavors and experiences yet to come. These are glimpses into what personally shapes me as an individual, and by default, as an artist and designer. This journal should be a safe place above all else—a place for learning, growing and sharing. And with that, I begin …
It was the summer of 1996, and I had just moved to Washington, D.C., from San Diego to pursue graduate studies at Georgetown University. I had been accepted to their master’s program in Russian Area Studies, which was a next step after getting my bachelor’s in Political Science and Russian and Soviet Studies at UCSD. Georgetown offered me a university fellowship, which covered the cost of tuition. It was an exciting time for me, and only the second time I had lived on the east coast. Having never visited D.C. before being accepted to Georgetown, I was immediately drawn to the city and its energy. My living arrangement was ideal: I would rent an upstairs bedroom in a cute little house in a quiet neighborhood just off of Wisconsin Avenue, and a short walk from the National Cathedral. A young woman (we’ll call her Marie) lived in the house with her partner (Brad, as we’ll call him here), who was getting ready to move out in order to pursue his law degree in Indiana. My bedroom overlooked the lush backyard tended by Marie and Brad, both of whom enjoyed gardening. Marie and I would be rooming with a young man who had also just arrived in D.C. from California (we’ll call him Todd). Like me, Todd had recently graduated with his bachelor’s from one of the UC campuses; his goal was to obtain a full-time job at an organization focused on social change. Brad moved out as the two California transplants moved in, with occasional visits back as his schedule allowed.
Each one of us in our twenties at the time, we ended up having quite a bit in common, and the house dynamic was a fairly successful one (with the occasional hiccup, of course). We shared our hopes and dreams, almost from Day One. All of us had talents that quickly emerged. I remember early on looking through my sketchbooks with both roommates, one seated on either side of me—they complimented my drawing abilities and artistic expression. Marie paused at one drawing in particular that I had done a short time before (in a life drawing class in California)—“That looks like ME!” We all agreed the model’s face in my drawing did indeed closely resemble her face; it was a coincidence worth noting. Marie had her own creative outlet, diligently working at the dining room table in the evenings, after returning home from work, on a very detailed, beautiful quilt she was sewing together from scratch. One day, on a whim, Todd baked all of us a phenomenally delicious apple pie from scratch. We were amazed and encouraged by one another’s gifts. And we were able to share quality social time with one another at different points—movies, television, dinner, shopping or just easy conversation in the house—which made things a little bit better for the homesick among us (i.e., myself and Todd).
Soon after starting the graduate program at Georgetown, I realized that I wanted more creativity in my life. I could see that the rigorous class, study and thesis-writing schedule, combined with university- and student-sponsored activities outside of the classroom, were going to quickly fill up every waking hour in my day and evening, and then some. Russian studies in general and the study of the Russian language, in particular, fascinated me to no end. My intellectual spirit soared while an undergraduate at UCSD; I loved taking classes steeped in Russian and Soviet politics, history, art, literature, society and language. When I realized how much I loved learning about that part of the world, I took this inspiration and ran with it, all the way to Georgetown. But, when I got there, I was so intrigued by D.C. itself, and all that this new big city environment had to offer, that I felt a disconnect when sitting in a classroom (yet again), as opposed to going out and experiencing the world, and hopefully finding a way to let my innate talents and desire to draw lead that exploration.
In short, I stayed at the house for a few months after leaving the program at Georgetown. I signed up for an illustration class at the nearby Corcoran extension, and worked a little bit in retail at a shop in the Georgetown Park mall. The class turned out to be a highlight of my stay. I also soaked up all I could from the places I visited in D.C. and neighboring areas during those few months—from galleries to monuments to people watching. Looking forward to getting started on my next phase in life, I intended to draw. I moved back to California shortly before the holidays that same year, and soon after, got to work drawing political cartoons, which seemed to satisfy my thirst for politics and news, and my desire to put pen to paper to express my opinion. Since that experience living with Marie and Todd in D.C., I often think about a little framed quote that Marie had hanging on one of the walls of the house, which I passed by and took note of on more than one occasion: “If it is to be, then it’s up to me.” I never forgot that, and I hold myself to it today, as I continue down my own path of living a life filled with creativity, reaching for joy and inspiration at every opportunity.
Pictured above: a cropped image of my coincidental roommate look-alike drawing (The very one!), © 2015 by Pam Winters