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During my senior year of high school, I took a portfolio class for the purpose of applying to colleges. Although I wound up not even applying to any art schools, the class proved to be one of the most valuable classes I ever took because it taught me how to to create what I saw--not what other's saw.

After struggling for quite some time with an in-class assignment to draw a pepper, I grew frustrated. To my entertainment, I noticed my kneaded eraser was creased in a way that looked like a pouty mouth. So I poked two eyes in it to complete the face and to my joy, the lump of kneaded eraser came alive (and it had the most splendidly pissed off expression I could have ever wished for). To my embarrassment, the teacher noticed it, but instead of telling me to stop fooling around as I expected him to, he told me to keep going.

I did keep going, despite the classroom's emerging issue of a kneaded eraser shortage (my kneaded eraser sculptures weren't the only things that were crushed whenever they had to be "repurposed"). As the semester came to a close and the open-ended final project was assigned, I decided to recreate some of my kneaded eraser characters into modeling clay, which would then be placed in an imaginary world of my making. After two weeks of evil grins and soft snorts of entertainment, I had created a complete diorama of weirded out pet owners walking their bizarre pets. I am so grateful to have had this experience, as it truly transformed the way I approach art. Who knew failed charcoal drawings of peppers could be so enriching.

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