Caitlyn "Cait" Smith

Like most children, I learned the fundamentals of art in the small activities offered at my school. It went from stick figures and crayon scribbles to drawing eyes and faces in the margins of my story books. Any teacher that graded my worksheets was subject to grade the doodles that adorned the corners and sidelines. Once I entered the sixth grade, I would volunteer for anything relating to the visual arts. It became a running joke between one teacher and I that I couldn’t draw the left eye. That every face was left unfinished due to the daunting implication of imperfection. As my love for art grew, so too did my ambition. I would gaze upon instructional booklets or tutorials, desperate to prove myself as a real artist. My google history reflected image searches of characters, flowers, clothing, and most importantly, faces. Hours were wasted as I tore through pages of my sketchbooks, flipping through each new page faster than the last. I found myself improving faster than I could handle; for as my skills advanced, so too did my expectations. By the time I reached my freshman year of high school, no work my hands produced could meet the standards my eyes held. 


    I applied for the specialized arts diploma program, hoping my school’s guidance could deter me from the path of toxicity I was beginning to tread. Instead, I was placed in Drawing and Painting II, a class meant for the artists a grade above me. What was meant to put me in a place of my own skill level only served to fuel the anguish that pushed me to prove myself. Any art assigned to me was graded harsher by myself than any peers or teachers. Papers littered my room, tear stains leaving them desolate. The final straw was a canvas of myself. A self portrait. A silly project meant to teach students expressions. Each night I stayed up later, doing nothing but staring. I glared at every misplaced line or wrong proportion. A check in with my teacher regarding the progress of my project was only met by myself breaking down into tears. As a solution, she suggested I paint my entire portrait purple. To splatter accents as I saw fit. To be uncaring of the final outcome. 


            From then on, I never finished a piece. I left any miniscule inadequacy I saw, forcing a confrontation of myself with my work. I took on an open mind to see that not all work was entirely perfect, nor wholly bad. That my paint strokes on a canvas didn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, they could just be my own. I pushed myself to try new mediums, switching from charcoal to acrylic paint, as I had struggled the most with it. I took a break from portraits and expanded my knowledge of landscapes or still lifes. I no longer saw art as a way to show off or prove myself. It is now an outlet for my emotions, how I process feelings or events. It has become my connection to friends, of collaborating to create our own comics and escapes. It is how I show my appreciation and gratitude to the people closest to me, constructing murals of their faces, left eyes included. I now accept the flaws in my work, as well as in myself. Because just as my art will continue to grow, so too will I. 


 Mr. Brammah, thank you for being a great advisor and always supporting us.

Ms. Rudolph, you've always been an incredible diploma mentor, thank you for always pushing me to challenge myself.

To all my teachers, thank you for all your guidance. I have a lot of you I’d like to thank, so I’ll send out my gratitude emails at some point.


To my fellow advisees, thank you for never making advisory boring.


Maison, you’re the best fake brother I could ask for. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do in DC. 


Mary, the first person and friend I met here. Let’s still talk about drawing and Arcane’s next season.  


Maria, thank you for pushing me to be my best and starting the club with me. I hope we can still save some butterflies in college. 


Isabelle, thank you for being my buddy in advisory and all things art. I’m glad to be learning music this year with you.


James, I'm grateful for all our theater talks. Let’s play apex again soon. 


Naomi, your drive is so inspiring and I love our movie nights. I hope we can still meet up to blow bubbles together next year. 


Sophie, I unlocked my true artistic potential in those frog murals thanks to you. I’ll miss talking with you in the mornings. 


Lauren, your authenticity and generosity to help others is always so admirable. Let me know whenever you wanna play sky again. 


Haru, you’re one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve ever met. I hope all your wishes are successful. 


My grandparents, thank you for unconditionally loving and supporting me. Your guidance is always so encouraging. 


Jake, thanks for all your advice with high school and life. I don’t know what I’d do without you.


Mom and dad, thank you for everything. You’ve given me so many opportunities and are always there for me no matter what. I’ll always appreciate it.