My project was to go to Orcas Island. I took video of my trip and of the island. Then I used that video to make an animation. I am an animator and game designer. Throughout my experience in undergraduate art class, I found that the vast majority of my time was spent in a computer lab. I would go days without going outside or seeing the sun. I talked to many of my painting major friends about my feelings of being cooped up. They were confused. From their experience with art, the most successful art they did was painting nature scenes in nature. They’d be in the scene of the art while creating the art. I decided that I wanted that experience. But, I was tethered to the computer lab. I did research into mobile computers with drawing capabilities. I decided that my big question for the project was, can I get myself out of the computer lab and into nature to create animations. I went to Orcas Island and there I animated on the island as I was surrounded by nature.
I chose Orcas Island for a very specific reason. My family comes from Seattle, about two hours south of Orcas Island. My family moved away from Seattle when I was little. I grew up hearing stories about my family’s relationship with Seattle and Orcas Island. Initially, my plan was to go alone to the island to experience. But, my grandfather died over the summer, during the time I was supposed to go to Orcas Island. This changed all my plans. I had to go to Orcas Island over winter break. Because of this, my little sister decided to go with me. Suddenly, the project took on a whole other dimension. I spent my STEP experience with my little sister exploring the island. I came to the island to explore part of my history that I had never known before. I wanted to reconnect with the land. I’d always heard how much the island meant to my family and I wanted to experience it myself. Instead, I created new memories with my sister. We found the beauty of Orcas Island together. I went from wanting to find memories to making new memories of my own.
My artistic abilities grew as well. The process of creating animations in such a short time frame was very different for me. Normally, I spend months and months creating intricate animations. The time constraint of this projected forced me to develop different forms of animations. I created a new technique that can be created in a shorter amount of time. I really love the beauty of this new technique and I’ve already started implementing it into new artistic projects. I’ve gotten a very positive reaction to it. I wanted to create a style that captured the vibrant colors I saw around me. It was also windy on the island and I wanted to show that as well. The limitation of the project, the time restraint, the location, and other factors, all helped me craft his new style.
The STEP experience became about two things, creating animations in nature and creating memories of an important location for my family.
There were several ways that I changed over the course of my STEP program. The first is that I became a better planner. I have always struggled with planning. Throughout my life I have let many opportunities slip through my fingers because of poor planning. I usually make plans up on the fly. Participating in the STEP program was already a huge deal for me. The idea of planning and executing my STEP project seemed overwhelming and impossible. This was further compounded when my Grandfather died. I had the entirety of my STEP program planned. I had a place to stay set up and items for the trip had been bought; I had the entire trip planned. Then, weeks before I was about to buy my plane tickets, my Grandfather died. Suddenly all this planning I had gone through flew out the window. The time frame of my STEP program was at the same time as my Grandfather’s funeral. I had to cancel my STEP plans. I then had to figure out what to do. I had done all my planning and now I was faced with doing it all over again. This was further aggravated by the fact that I had to do it over winter break. Not only was I going to have to be there for a shorter time, but I was also not going to see whales. A big hope of mine for the project was to see whales. The probability of seeing whales in December and January is almost non-existent. But, just from planning my first attempt at the STEP program, I’d already grown a lot. The second round was much easier. I was able to find a new housing situation. I also did more research into the San Juan Islands, the name of the group of islands Oracs Island is part of. I discovered more information about them and planned my stay on the island with that in mind. Without my first experience of planning for my STEP program, I might have backed out if this had happened. Having planned effectively two different STEP programs, my planning skills and organizational skills have vastly improved. I had to make creative plans, as Orcas Island really isn’t set up for winter travel. Many places, such as shops and hiking trails, were closed. Therefore, the itinerary that I created had to be changed multiple times. I had to call many different places to see what was still open and available. Even dealing with winter ferry rides was a challenge. In the end I feel that I had a very unique experience because of the limitations put on me by my winter trip. Having so many unforeseen problems really helped me develop my organizational skills and planning skills.
I learned that when I put my mind to it, I can be incredibly organized. I learned how to create plans and follow through. I always saw myself as an airhead; someone who had to depend on others to do things. I wasn’t the person who made fun plans. But, I planned an entire trip to Orcas Island. I bought hiking clothes and a computer I could animate on. I called the ferry over and over making sure my plans would work. I mapped out every location. I planned it.
I also became more decisive. I tend to not make decisions because I don’t want to be an inconvenience to others. Throughout my time on Orcas Island, I had to become more decisive. There was no option other than becoming decisive. I was the one telling people where to go and what to do. I had to make split second decisions. I had to be the leader. I was sure that being in control was going to be the hardest part for me. Being forced into a situation where I was the leader forced some personal development.
I came home from this project feeling like a different person. I feel like after my STEP program, I have become a more outgoing and confident person. I can now say that I am a good planner. And although I still have moments of indecision, I have become a vastly more confident person in my decision-making abilities. There was one moment that really helped solidify my decision-making ability. I had planned that we were going to drive up to the top of the highest mountain and see the entirety of the island. But it snowed while I was there and the road up to the mountain froze. We’d planned the day around that and we could only get up half the mountain. I had to make a new plan of what to do. We found a couple other not closed paths. I had to make the executive decision to decide which unknown path to take. I decided which one sounded the best and we ended up getting to one of the most beautiful views we’d seen. This moment of quick decision making helped really strengthen my decision making ability.
Learning how to balance the art and the logistics was also something I did. This was especially prevent because of the logistics of the project changed so much. Initially I chose Orcas Island as the particular San Juan island that I wanted to visit because it had the strongest whale present. Artistically I really wanted to capture whales for my animation. Since it was the winter that I actually got to go, I couldn’t capture images of whales. My entire aristics practice changed. Now I had to go back through my logistics and change it to fit with the winter climate. I debated going to another island that would be better for the winter. But logistically Orcas Island was still the best. The ferry lined up best time wise and more shops and locations were open in the winter. I made a choice to stay on Orcas based on a combination of logistics and artistic needs.
There was this moment during my program. I was talking to my mom back home and she was asking me about my plans. I told her how I’d mapped out every place that I was going. I’d planned times and locations. I’d taken driving time into account. I can remember her being so surprised that I had figured out so much. She said something about how she expected me to just wander around there. But I had a plan. That was the moment I realized how much I had changed. Because I had to plan the trip twice; I made sure that I had almost every contingency planned.
I was on a beach on Orcas Island and I was recording the water. The person who was driving me around asked me where I wanted to go next. Without hesitation I knew exactly where we were going. I didn’t have to worry or decide, because I was prepared. This preparedness that I gained through my extensive planning also helped me with my decision making skills. And, by that point in the trip, I’d already had to make many split second decisions, such as finding a new mountain path. Having already made so many decisions made this decision of where to go next feel small.
When I left my mom called me again and she asked if I had gotten all the footage and if I had animated everything that I needed to. I told her that I had. And, I said it with pure confidence. I’d mapped out locations, researched the best places to go in the winter, and what shops would still be open. I knew that I had done everything right. I had successfully done everything I set out to do.
There was another instance that stood out in my mind. During my flight to Orcas Island, my backpack broke. The entire thing split open. I had to replace the backpack. I figured out the closets goodwill and facilitated a ride there. I was then able to find a backpack that fit my needs. This experience helped me become better at dealing with surprising situations. At the time it felt like an unimaginable problem. It was just another problem to solve. But because I was able to solve the problem, I was able to meet other challenges head on.
There are moments in your life that change you. The first time this ever happened to me was on an exchange program to Ecuador. I came back a totally new person. I honestly don’t know who I’d be without that trip. This STEP program has been another one of those moments for me. I except in five years to look back on it and go “Wow. That’s when I changed. That’s when I became me.”
I’m about to graduate. I’m about to go out into the world. More than anything I am afraid that I didn’t have that special something in me that would drive me to create art. Many of my friends graduated last semester. Many have completely stopped creating art. Having this happen to me terrifies me. Creating art in general takes a lot. Creating art projects or endeavors are something even more. Planning an entire trip to create is incredibly difficult. It takes planning, coordination, decision making, and follow through. This STEP program has taught me how plan an artistic endeavor. Now I feel much more confident in my abilities. I have started planning my next artistic endeavor. I’m planning a trip to participate in a printmaking residency in Ireland. I truly thing that this confidence was mainly derived from my experience through the STEP program. I now know that when I go out into this world, and I must get a real job, I can still plan and execute artistic endeavors. I can be a planner, I can be confident, I can follow through.
My blog with my animations can be found here: