What I Said About the New Ones

Each year the Department of Art at UCSB holds a special department-centric commencement ceremony. Awards are presented and each graduating student is brought forward and presented by a faculty member of their choice. I was honored to speak about four students this year. I was told up front by Trela (the great and wonderful undergrad advisor) that last year I ran too long. Which is easy to do when talking about how great your students have been. So this year I wrote down my remarks and tried to keep them brief. I was of course the only one keeping it brief, my colleagues share none of the same apprehension about lauding their students for as long as they damn well please. Which is to say, I envy the great things they said. Below you will find what I said about each of my students, but please don't confuse this small amount of writing for the extent of my respect for these powerful artists. I have lots to say about each of them, in fact post ceremony I fear I pinned one parent down for far too long describing how strong their son was at making. I was so proud to stand on the stage near these bright and shining new grads. At the end of each bit of me talking I sharpen a pencil from my collection for them. 

Raymond Douglas – attended by his immediate family including the newest member Benson AKA Nephew Buster.

As an educator it is important to seek out engaged students, people who work to their highest potential. As an artist it is important to surround yourself with challenging minds and talented makers. As a person it is important to have Friends. Raymond Douglas succeeds on every level. His mind is nimble and astute, his manners are impeccable and his drive is bold. In the art department we get lucky to have the attention of certain young minds, this department has been better because Raymond was willing to be in it.
People like Raymond would succeed in any field, he is that good, so it is a great relief when they show up at our door asking to learn with us. He is exactly the type of artist and thinker that makes this department, and this university great. He and his peers who sit here, are the reason we faculty continue to teach, because they inspire us, and we,.. like them, get a little hooked on inspiration.
Later this year, Raymond has agreed to take a post in the Davidson Library Digital Archive, where he will bring his exceptional skill set to bare on a daunting task. But more importantly he is continuing his art practice in new and surprising ways, I am very glad I won’t have to watch him go just yet.
This pencil is for you it’s a Palomino Blackwing, I wanted to give you a reminder of where you should always start, which is at the beginning, with a sharp mind and a sharp pencil. And please know that if you ever need it sharpened I would be honored to see you again, if only for a minute, to hear how it’s going. Congratulations Raymond, Good Luck.

Alaina Judd accompanied by her sister Madeline and brother Franklin.

Alaina Judd has taken every class I have ever taught. Maybe not, but it felt like it. She is totally the student you want to see on the roster on the first day. She is bright and ready, and committed. Her work is always thoughtful and challenging. She never takes the option that is safe and boring, she always reaches for the hardest version of everything she does, and she always shows up until its done. She contributes, that is such an important thing, she makes every class better by being there, because she participates in that way you hope everyone will, fully engaged, fully aware and a question every time. But here is her real genius, she takes advice. She listens, and she adapts and she gets better. I always counted on her to be the student who set the bar in every situation. I know that may have been more pressure than she wanted, but she never showed it, because if you know Alaina, and I am proud to say I do, than you know she smiles always, and with her whole being. Next week she starts a new path, working for the University as an Orientation Advisor.  And I am sure if the university is lucky, she will be made dean of some department shortly after that.
It is a great privilege and honor to be here today to see her succeed at yet another challenge. This Pencil is for you, I chose it specifically for you it is a Eberhard Faber, Mongol, 482, F (2.5) I am giving it to you to remind you to always start at the beginning, with a sharp mind and sharp pencil. No challenge will ever be to big for you, and I will always be happy to help you, even if it’s just with fixing a dull pencil.
Congratulations Alaina, you are great

Napatr Pumhiran – was accompanied by his parents from Thailand.

Pat works impossibly hard. And he does this really rare thing, he takes criticism and uses it to make his work better. That is a very rare trait. I have worked with Pat several times on photo projects, and his mind works in this wonderful fun way. He has a strong imagination, and exceptional technical skills. He is able to tell stories with his pictures, he draws the audience in and rewards them for their attention. He is taking his skill and creativity back to his home in Thailand. But that is about all he is taking. Because he gave almost everything else away to strangers and friends. But of course this turned into a photo project. The looks on the faces of these people are amazing, many of them thought they were going to buy his stuff but he insisted they should just take it.
He has to reduce his experience down to two suitcases and one carry on. Imagine filtering your life down that small. What would you keep? He has digitized his time here and takes back with him a substantial archive in the form of photos, depicting his adventures.
He goes to Thailand to serve briefly in the Thai military in which his father serves as a Lt. General. His family, I believe is here to honor him. Thank you all for traveling so far.  
I want to give you this pencil. It’s a Castell American with a lead hardness of #1. I know you have given away a lot of stuff and I know you might not need any more pencils, but its important to me. And if you don’t have room in your bags for it, just carry it behind your ear.
Congratulations Napatr safe journey.

Mandy Yashida – accompanied by a large following of family and friends.

Mandy Yashida… Best paper I have ever read. I literally showed it to every colleague for at least a week. It was properly formatted, the margins were perfect, she didn’t use some weird giant font. It was and still is the best paper I have ever received. Mandy is a marvel, comfortable in any medium and willing to engage any knew problem. She is great in collaboration or on her own. I have watched her achieve big wonderful things in our department and that was while we were sharing her attention with the Communication department. She like many of our students, carried a double major. But I’m sure she likes us better… right?
Mandy is ready for the next thing, she stands out in our department and in the university as whole, she is gifted and strong when faced with a task. Which is why it does not surprise me that a national publication, the great “Touring and Tasting Magazine”, has offered her a position on their staff. I also hear they have a wine club, we can talk about that later. Wink wink.
This is a pencil. The last one I have this year. It is a Eberhard Faber, Mongol #3,
In this digital world it might seem strange to use a pencil, less permanent than ink, less precise than a computer, unless you are Eric Beltz. But the pencil is something for you to master, it is delicate and temperamental. And I believe in your hand it will be powerful. Congratulations and I would wish you good luck, but you won’t need it.

Congratulations Mandy.


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