Photo: Courtesy of Ben Campbell

Aspiring student-artist connects art with practicality

USC student Ben Campbell did not come from a particularly artistic household, but pursuing art is the only thing he ever wanted to do as a kid. Though people might tell him his money would be better spent on a more "practical" degree, Campbell entered college intending to study art and has stuck with it. Now a third-year art studio student with a concentration in drawing, Campbell is certain that he will be able to use his skills to do what he loves after graduating college. 

“I feel like most businesses would value somebody who’s able to think creatively just as much as somebody who has the technical skills … because they know you can problem-solve visually,”  Campbell said. 

He grew up knowing that art was one thing that he would never tire of, but drawing specifically was not something Campbell realized he loved until coming to USC and exploring the art studio classes offered here. It was the simplicity in the act of drawing that made him want to pursue it as his concentration. 

“It’s very attractive to me to be able to take a pencil or an eraser … and a piece of paper, and be able to do an entire piece just like that.” 

Campbell credits professor Sara Schneckloth as someone who helped expand the scope of his artwork. A self-described Type-A person, Campbell was able to improve in terms of creativity under Schneckloth’s leadership. 

This is likely due in large part to Scneckloth's belief in the power of studying art, which is rooted in the idea that understanding art — from its beginning stages to its final product to its communication with viewers — is a skill that seeps into other aspects of one's life. 

"You learn sense of agency, of being able to address challenges in a way that reflects your individuality," she said. 

Schneckloth also spoke highly of Ben's integration of academic disciplines in his artwork, especially his ability to express social fields of study in his drawing. 

"Everything he does is underpinned by recognizing the importance of meaning ... it's this kind of integrity that makes Ben a superb student, not just in studio art but as a well-rounded scholar." 

Once he figured out his concentration, Campbell took an abundance of drawing classes, which means he now has the opportunity to explore other fields for the first time, such as film photography and print-making. 

In addition to pursuing art academically, Campbell is a musician. He plays in a band called Bull Moose Party, and they have been together since high school. The band was originally a hobby, but became much more serious at the end of Campbell’s senior year of high school. They now write their own music and have had an EP out for about a year. 

He mostly sees the music as a supplement to his artistic studies and finds satisfaction in the fact that music offers a different type of expression than visual art. 

He also sees some overlap between the two forms. Campbell recognizes that people can sometimes be one-dimensional in their creative talents and that he, too, previously fell into this category, but the study of art has helped push him those boundaries. 

“It’s the same as literature," Campbell said. "If you were writing poems ... it's very visual in a lot of ways, like you can be descriptive in a lot of your writing … and then the same thing goes for mood … if you’re trying to establish a mood, it helps to know which tones will do that the best in music." 

Campbell is thankful to have a family that fully supports his artistic and musical endeavors, and he understands that this is not necessarily common. 

“As long as I’m doing something that I like to do, they’re okay with it," he said. "And that’s fantastic to me.” 

Aside from his development as a student and the possibility having a career as an artist, Campbell sees the holistic benefits of choosing to study what you like to do in terms of one’s personal fulfillment. 

"Doing what you love" is a concept that permeates society, but few people actually practice it — maybe in favor of guaranteed financial stability, or the fear that their passions may change, which are real and valid concerns. But for Campbell, the uncertainty in his path is just part of the experience of college, and he finds value in that. 

“I feel like you learn lot more that way,” Campbell said. “And regardless of what ends up happening, you’re a richer person because of it.”



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