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My Artist's Way

A raw and candid autobiography of an Interior Designer's journey ~ by April Viola


In a new world of such fast paced information at our fingertips and endless influx of, look-at-me social media on the rise, my dream of continuing to find my way in my own current design career has become quite muddied. In 1999, at 20 years old, just as I was approaching $60k of student loan debt, I was determined to prove my family wrong and become someone valuable. I had no fears and I wasn't wavering. I was going to be the first person in my family to graduate college.


There I was, oddly enjoying the noxious fumes of the blueprint chemicals plotting floorplans before class and after the fresh joy of having just purchased and put together my new tricked out drafting table back at my flat, I had swirling concerns in the back of mind. I knew my industry was changing in that very moment. I had to keep evolving even though I had just acquired my new skills with old tools. So I quickly caught on to my first ever drafting program, AutoCAD Release 12, knowing that the precise pressure and twist of my finely shaved 2B drafting pencil on my taught vellum was not the gateway to the design future I imagined anymore. I sat at the computer ceaselessly learning basic CAD drawing techniques, hoping the PC my dad built me wasn't going to crash, while simultaneously downloading Grunge and Rap albums on Napster into the early morning hours.


Looking back, was I fool for choosing this high-concept creative career, feverishly studying dead artists from hundreds of years ago, to one day hope to be qualified enough to remodel someone's home? From my adult perspective while living in Silicon Valley, I questioned myself constantly. I was too young to understand, let alone, even know about C++, nor could I later compete with the fresh faced influencing beauties selling green juice online today.


I had to keep going, design was a promise I made to myself as kid, and there was no backing out now.


I was an excellent art student and loved every minute of it, despite having 2, sometimes 3 jobs selling makeup at the Union Square Macys, bagging groceries at the Ocean Beach Safeway, all while interning with extremely accomplished and demanding designers at the Design Center. The Academy of Art, College then, now University, was the highlight of my life. San Francisco was so exciting and new to me, especially with Y2K right around the corner and ubiquitous dot.com offices with their Benjamin Moore Cat's Eye paint color of the year being so modern and vivid. My classes were eclectic, taking place all over the city. I did walking tours with talented, yet, unknown architects on afternoons sketching buildings and fountains, then later hauling myself in my stick shift Miata convertible across the 7 mile long city for class at Marines Memorial Hotel or that leaky old church on Post, cramming in more art history slides in my brain. I swear a third of my tuition was parking tickets, but by 10pm I'd back at the historic original building on New Montgomery, studying industrial design and marketing.


This school was intense. The quarter end project pin-ups were brutally soul crushing, as I hung up my labored sketches to be criticized and torn apart by my professors, who were themselves, teaching these night classes to keep their own creative careers going. It wasn't rare to find myself tossing my entire Balsam wood model

into the trash on my out of the Pier 39 classroom, feeling so defeated. I laugh now, as I could whip out those projects in my sleep today.


With all this, this school is where I found myself. In 2002 I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Interior Architecture and Design. It took me six years, with only some of my family attending my big graduation day at the Masonic Auditorium. In fact, while I was standing there adorned in my cap and gown awaiting to walk across the stage, my dear mom was dumped off on the side of the road by my horrifying step father. With her low vision she was trying to find me in a hectic city she didn't know. She missed my special moment. Bitter sweet, was a recurring feeling for me as my life developed. None the less, I didn't realize then how pivotal that day was going to be for me, especially as the memories grow fuzzy and nostalgic.


More to come.

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