Abner: Ah, I’m getting wrecked by mosquitoes, I knew this was gonna happen. They always go for my calf muscles, where I can’t defend myself.
Katie: See, this is why I come hang out with you.
Do you always come over here [fence of the Crim Dell] to sketch/draw?
A: I just kinda go generally around campus. I kinda got bored and I was like I need to waste an hour of time before I go play basketball. That’s all there is to that story.
Being on William and Mary’s campus, I feel like the Crim Dell is such a common image, have you sketched it before?
A: Nope, this is the first time. And it will probably be the last time because these mosquito bites are really starting to add up and it’s getting kind of annoying. The scene itself is pretty nice.
Is it charcoal that you’re using?
A: Yes, pressed charcoal to be specific.
Why do you use charcoal?
A: I like charcoal because I’ve drawn in grayscale for the past 6 months or so. And as an extension, I like using charcoal because it can be both very minimalist in the sense that you only have really black and white to work with, but you have such a wide variety of possible textures that can still be very expressive. And because it’s in black and white, you really have to know how to express your idea because otherwise it will come out very flat.
Have you been an artist for a long time?
A: (in a mimicking, elderly voice) I’ve been an artist ever since…
Ok, then how did you figure out you have a talent for these things?
A: I’ve always drawn ever since I was a kid. Except when I was a kid, I didn’t know what I was doing. Of course, I experimented with stick figures and stuff like that, then my dad would make fun of me and I would stop. But, I think what really got me into drawing was watching cartoons, because I was so enamored by seeing the simple acts of a cartoon acting like a person and them being a person, and seeing them go through these amazing things. I think seeing all those things as a kid has translated into me wanting to draw those kind of things myself.
Are you just his friend? You just come and hang out with him while he sketches?
K: Sometimes, when I can find him. He pops up all over campus.
How do you guys know each other?
K: We met through meditation club. They have a club and we both attended.
A: Advertise the meditation club while we’re at it.
Yeah, tell me about the meditation club then!
K: Shameless self plug.
A: Katie will have to do that because I’m technically not part of it anymore.
Are you a leader of meditation club?
K: I am. Yeah, I helped the original, unofficial founders start it last year. It wasn’t official technically until this summer. But we made it into a club together and we wanted to bring a service to the campus, because meditation has so many benefits. I mean I know it’s changed my life, so we felt inspired to create a club that literally brought people together through meditation and gave them a chance to get away from reality, and stress, and anxiety because so many people here have that.
Can I ask how meditation has changed your life?
K: Yeah of course.
A: You may go first, I have an answer for this one as well.
K: Oh no, you should go first.
A: Me? Ok. So, I believe meditation has helped me in the sense that it’s helped me connect to my environment. Because once I became meditative – actually, I don’t wanna say became, because it’s not something you become, it’s more of a journey than a destination, and that’s very important actually. No one’s spiritual journey is actually complete. Anyways, with that tangent out of the way, I think the meditation has helped me, like I said, connect to the world around me. Even what I’m doing right now is a form of meditation, I think, because I am encapturing this entire scene into this two-dimensional world, but I must still convey the energy of the environment, and the way the world feels realistically when they see it. So that must explain why I get so tired after drawing these, but it’s like the new form of meditation I’ve discovered. The idea of what most people have of meditation is some person sitting near incense, doing like some sort of pose, and being like “Ummmm…” But no, it doesn’t have to be that at all. It’s very unique to the person I think.
K: No, but that’s true. It’s not about sitting in a circle and chanting.
A: That sounds more like a cult actually.
K: That does sound like a cult. We are not a cult.
A: Are you sure about that?
K: No, I’m very sure. Abner, thank you, you’ve turned this into a bad advertisement. No, but I feel like meditation is self-serving, in a way. It’s like finding your flow, finding your peace. I mean, for me, meditation was about in some ways finding answers. For me personally, it was realizing that the external world really can’t do anything for me, in the sense that all the answers, all the validation, all the truth is within me. Finding out all that I am is good enough and all that I am is fine. And the external world really can’t do that. But meditation for everyone just holds so many benefits. Yes, it can provide answers but it also just helps you relax and recenter yourself. And also, meditation has a lot of scientifically-proven benefits, like calming you down, helping you regulate your nervous system, increasing blood flow, all these different scientific benefits. But like Abner said, there’s also spiritual benefits and mental benefits and emotional benefits.
I think it’s funny because it seems like so many people are intimidated by the idea of meditation, because it seems like something unattainable for a lot of people. They just can’t imagine themselves sitting and thinking and breathing and that’s it. And it’s kinda sad that people are less open to it. I think it’s because we’re obsessed with doing things, so we can’t just do nothing.
K: And that’s why it’s so fun. You just get to be, nothing more than you, nothing less than you are. You can just be. And that is intimidatingly powerful. I understand that.
A: That’s a good point you’ve brought up. Sorry to interrupt, but if I did…
K: You did, Abner. (laughs)
Yeah, no interruptions allowed.
A: Oh, I’ve done it now. She’s gonna like fire a beam of energy at me, killing me. (laughs)
K: Yeah, that would be very meditative of me.
A: I think one of the few things I like about Legend of Korra, is that Tenzin had this one quote, because Korra was complaining that she wasn’t meditating right, and then Tenzin’s like, “There’s nothing to do, just let your mind and spirit be free.” (Katie mmmhmms) And I think that describes it very well in a very quick nutshell.
Can I ask you what you’re listening to?
A: Various jazz right now. I just put it on Autoplay, I started out on Chet Baker. Right now, I’m on Miles Davis, Milestones, a great piece.
And so like do you just walk around campus, and stumble upon him?
K: Pretty much, he’s like a leprechaun or something. I’ll just be like “Oh, there’s Abner,” he’ll just be like popping up.
Where have you found him?
K: I found him in Swem one day. That was like the first time I saw you. You were in the coffee shop.
A: Oh, I remember now, I was drawing Swemromas.
K: I found you outside Sadler. That’s the last time I saw you. You were sketching, and then Sophie came over, and the we all started watching cartoons.
A: Yeah, that was fun, I enjoyed when that happened.
Hey, look, those people are crossing right now!
A: Uhhh, stay still for a few more minutes. There, it’s fine, I got their shapes down. See, stick figures are actually useful, because once you get far enough, humans just don’t really look humanlike.
Katie, are you an artist at all?
A: Oh man, that was a good answer.
K: I mean, a little bit. I sketch but it’s not really what I do. I like playing music, I like playing piano. I walk around Abner, and I’m like “I am inferior.” (laughs)
A: If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think the opposite. When I walk around you, I think, “Cool, budding talent,” not “Oh, she’s so inferior to me.” Cause everyone has to start from somewhere. Before John Coltrane was playing wherever, he had to learn the scales. No one just starts off a genius. Everyone needs some sort of coaching some way or another.
K: That’s true, and I’m a life coach.
You are? How did you get into that?
K: So, I wanna go into counseling anyway, and I had a friend who was developing a program, and I was like, you know that would be something I’d be really interested in doing. So, life coaching is basically like therapy without calling it therapy. It’s encouraging people and guiding them to change their own lives and I think that’s amazing. I love doing it. I feel like in some ways I just do it on a daily basis anyway.
What do you think is the most common advice that you give to people? What do you find yourself saying to people?
K: Honestly, I think the thing I yell at people the most is “You are amazing.” I don’t think people hear often enough that you are fantastic just as you are.
A: I don’t believe you. Haha, I was just poking fun…
K: You are fantastic just as you are Abner, thank you very much. But no, I think in this world, you’re always supposed to be more, you’re always supposed to be better, and I think it’s important for people to stop and realize, you’re fine. You are enough, right here, right now. I think that’s such an important thing to hear and to know, so that’s probably what I say the most. Another thing I say is that your past doesn’t make you.
What years are you guys?
K: We’re both seniors.
Well then how do you guys feel about being seniors then?
A: To be honest, I’m very tired of this college and I want to be out of here as soon as possible.
Like you’re ready to be in the real world?
A: I guess, for lack of a better word. But like whenever anyone says ‘real world,’ I’m like “well what,” because like technically everywhere we go is the real world.
Ok, fair point.
A: But, anyways, because of various experiences I had in junior year, I just don’t wanna be here anymore. The energy just feels too closely associated with the really bad experiences I had junior year, so I’d like to be gone, away from this place, so I can actually have proper healing take place. Because all this is nice, but I feel like all it’s doing is putting a bandage on what is a very deep wound. But that was a sad answer, so Katie you might want to say something else.
K: Wow, that’s a lot of pressure on me. For me, I don’t have quite as deep an answer. I’m happy that I’m graduating, I feel ready to graduate in a lot of ways. I mean, now and then, there’s this moment, “oh yeah, I’m graduating and some of these people I will probably never see again.”
A: Ah, yes, the never seeing again. Sorry, yeah, that hit home.
K: It does feel like it’s a happy chapter coming to a close for me. Maybe a very different perspective than Abner. I feel excited for the next step. I like change, I think change is so natural in the world. Rather than fight it and resist, it’s better to embrace it.
A: The only consistency is inconsistency.
K: The only constant thing in life is change.
What is the most exciting thing about not being a college student?
A: No cockroaches, first of all.
A: Aside from the horrendously gigantic insects…I mean, to go off on this brief tangent, those things are terrifying. I didn’t have to deal with them until I came here.
K: It’s not like they go out of their way to scare you, Abner.
They’re just trying to live their lives.
K: Exactly, they’re just existing. And you just happen to be an observer.
A: Ok, to be fair, I don’t think humans are meant to be in Williamsburg to begin with, so they have dominion of this place, as far as I’m concerned. They can have the swamp all to themselves. Anyways, the thing I’m looking forward to most after this is all done, is actually finally making a name for myself. Because I perform a lot and I feel like I could, with of course luck but mostly a lot of work in the right setting, I could become someone like Chet Baker and Miles Davis and John Coltrane, because I think I’ve set myself up with the right set of skills and I have the knowledge of the genre to do that. And in order to be a successful jazz artist, you really need a city and not a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Oh, now we’re shading.
A: The further away the objects get, the less defined and more blurry they become, which is what I needed to do to bring out those effects. So now, it’s actually starting to look like how it’s shaded.
Wow, that completely transformed it.
A: Mmhmm. It’s always fun to watch, because no matter how many sketches I do, I never get tired of watching that.
K: Because you never quite know how it’s gonna turn out.
A: That’s what I love about charcoal. No two sketches ever turn out the same, no matter how much I refine my technique. And how the little figures in the distance are hard to see, which is great, because they were hard to see.
K: That’s probably my favorite sketch of yours.
A: I just completed one earlier today that someone playing instruments.
K: Oh my god, the water, Abner.
A: I unintentionally made this look like nighttime. Oops, I accidentally messed up this spot, but that’s ok, I can just fill it in.
See, that’s why I can’t be an artist because I’m too much of a perfectionist. I’m not spontaneous enough,.
A: Plot twist, I’m actually a perfectionist as well. Working with charcoal has helped me give that up, because you’re never gonna get anything perfect with charcoal, it’s a a bit of an unpredictable medium. So, you just have to learn to work with the imperfections. Something that also helped, is a stopped throwing away pictures that I messed up. There are roughly 35 or so sketches, and one of them I did so poorly, but I decided to muscle my way through it and actually learn something from it. The fact that I finished it and looked at it to see what did work and didn’t work, I learned more from it. And looking at that picture actually helped me with this one, because these branches in front were the type of thing I messed up in the first one because I couldn’t figure out how to make them pop.
What would you say to a William and Mary student? What’s one thing that you think everyone on this campus should know?
A: Invest in yourself and your won’t be disappointed. Far too much of this campus is very much doing all these things for 30 other people and sending out your resume to all these businesses that will ignore you. But, just take yourself out to dinner, read a book, climb a tree, invest in yourself. People do not do that enough, myself included until this year. And then, if you do that, the people that do end up in your life will be attracted to that energy and they’ll be more likely be much more solid friends because of that.
K: I can back off of that. Just reminding yourself that you matter. We’re called a tribe but you are a very important member. I am a firm believer that everyone has meaning. You make the world a better place just by being in it. I love this quote that I shared with a friend: “The force that created the mountains and the oceans and seas, also created you.” You have as much significance as the most important thing that you value. You’re powerful and you’re amazing and you should carry that with you. You are enough. I could say that to everyone. Because they are. Everyone’s so amazing, and they need to know that.