When an artist begins working, the canvas, paintbrush and paint are nothing more than tools, but with each brushstroke a work of art is revealed.
Figuring out the right brushstrokes, or choices that lead to the right path in life, can be daunting. Fortunately, there are people along the way who can help.
People like artist and Bridgewater State University Professor James Stanley, who joined the BSU community this past January.
As an artist, Stanley’s work has been featured in exhibits in galleries across the country. He is excited for the opportunity to guide students in their quest to becoming successful artists.
For those wavering about pursuing a career in the arts, he is there to offer his support.
“There is a pragmatic approach to everybody’s personal situation, how viable is the job economy? But you also have to listen to yourself,” Stanley said.
As an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Stanley initially studied wildlife biology and was planning on carving out a career as a photographer, with the dream of shooting for National Geographic.
While he enjoyed photography, Stanley reached a point where he wasn’t able to capture the images required to move forward in his field.
“But another door opened,” he said. “I was taking a painting class and it really clicked.”
Stanley switched gears and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in studio arts, then went on to earn a master’s in painting from Columbia University, after which he pursued a career as a working artist.
Click to see some of his work.
Aside from learning painting techniques, getting BSU students to have the confidence to follow their passion is part of what he hopes to instill in the classroom.
“That’s one of the hardest things when you are making the transition from high school, where you are used to being told you have to do ‘this.’ It’s about learning to pivot to ‘what am I supposed to do?’ ‘What do I want to do?’ It can be both difficult and exciting,” Stanley said.
His teaching approach and talent have been welcomed by the Art Department, said colleague Professor Mary Dondero.
“Our department looks forward in seeing how Professor Stanley will shape the painting program to reflect his philosophical ideas regarding contemporary painting and its value,” she said. “We are confident that his dedication to painting will influence our students to understand that painting is not dead but a vibrant practice contributing to our communities.”
Pursuing a career as an artist poses challenges, but Stanley’s experience serves as proof that it can be done. Another lesson he shares with students is that the road to success varies for each person.
“When you find that coming to class, whatever it is – when you get the sense that this really is the path that you want to take – that’s when it’s exciting,” he said. “For me, that was taking a painting class. When I made the decision pursue the art field it was not a pragmatic job, but it was one I had to take.” (Photo by Bailey Cormier, '22)
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