“I always loved making things, even from a really early age. Before I started painting (which was in middle school, but not seriously until high school) I just enjoyed making things with my hands, anything really. I was always working on some type of project, whether it was a drawing or some elaborate craft project,” recalled Fuquea.
Fuquea has spent her time in college taking every opportunity to broaden her artistic scope. Recently she was chosen by the department to take part in a Plein Air workshop in Savannah taught by the artist Donald Jurney.
“Plein Air is a French term for ‘in the open air.’ It’s just a fancy way to say ‘painting outdoors.’ You literally drag all your materials outside somewhere and paint what you see. Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet often painted in the Plein Air technique,” Fuquea said.
“Jurney came to Savannah with a group of his students to teach the workshop. He lives and works on the North Shore of Boston. He has a large group of students from all over the New England area who travel around to different locations to paint Plein Air. He is represented by galleries in New York, Boston and Charlotte, so it was really exciting to learn from such an accomplished and established artist,” she said.
“He has a really distinct vision when it comes to landscape, so it was interesting to learn from him. The workshop was from Monday until Friday. We would meet at a previously specified location early in the morning and paint until around 4.
We painted at Fort Pulaski, Skidaway Island National Park and Forsythe Park.”
Fuquea said the experience gave her the opportunity to paint while meeting some really nice people.
“The whole setting was completely different than my school schedule. It was just a group of people who love to paint, so they travel around the world doing it. There were no grades, no presentations to give, no preparing resumes to send out, it was just a group of people getting together to paint. It was a nice change of pace. The focus was different, too. In art education today, you really have to market yourself because you have to leave your mark on the world of contemporary art. This workshop made me focus on traditional painting as a discipline, and honing my technical skills,” she said.
With graduation weeks away, Fuquea had nothing but good things to about her time at SCAD.
“My experience at SCAD has been one of opportunity. I had the chance to take a wide range of classes from printmaking, to digital design, to classical drawing, to an entire class about Shakespeare. I have really enjoyed my time here. In the painting department, there is always feeling of what’s next? Or the push to keep moving forward,” she said.
“I was able to really push myself as an artist, and that sometimes means teetering between confidence and self-doubt, but I always had a support system behind me. Like I said before, I just really love making things whether it is a painting, a sculpture or an installation. My first step into installation was recently when I was part of a group that designed and constructed an elaborate window display for an international boutique in Savannah. That was really exciting because it was this one entity made from a bunch of smaller parts that only had a lifespan of about two weeks. So it was fun to make something that wouldn’t be around for very long versus a painting, which is made to be archival,” Fuquea said.
When asked if her interest in becoming an artist was supported at home, Fuquea answered with a resounding “Yes!”
“I guess it wasn’t until sophomore year in high school until I really began to explore my voice as an artist, and I am still doing that now. I began learning about art history and contemporary artists, which opened up a whole new world for me. I learned to view making art as another mode of articulating my thoughts,” Fuquea said.
“My parents were always supportive of my efforts. I owe my early interest to my family, really. My parent’s are do-it-yourself kind of people, so my brother and I were always involved in home improvement projects around the house. These were the times where I learned a lot about different materials and processes, like carpentry, working with concrete and tools, things like that. My grandfather, Ernest Owens, used to weld and was just an overall creative person. It sounds silly or unimportant - the whole learning to pour concrete, paint a wall or build a table thing- but I really do draw from those experiences a lot. They gave me an understanding of materials and processes beyond traditional forms like painting.”
“My (high school) art teacher Christy Greeson really helped me. I think she saw that I was serious about it, so she guided me in the right direction. I remember she took me to this huge portfolio fair where a bunch of colleges sent representatives to look over your portfolio and give you advice. That was really helpful because it made me realize I needed to step up my game a little bit.”
“More than anything, she was always a sounding board for my ideas. She was really supportive. “I also had a lot of opportunities at CHS to be a part of groups and projects that helped me along the way. I was given a little responsibility for something other than myself. That helped me develop accountability I think. And I think those experiences helped me because the art industry is not like most industries; most jobs aren’t your conventional 9-5 jobs. A lot of times artists have to create opportunities for themselves and a majority of the work is done by developing a good work ethic, because you work for yourself a lot of the time.”
Fuquea’s next adventure will bring her home to Calhoun.
“I have designed three one-of-a-kind artworks for the new Calhoun High School building. It is a pretty large-scale project consisting of a 4 ft tall yellow jacket statue, a large lighting installation for the media center, and a 16 ft. long mosaic wall with benches along one of the outdoor passageways,” she said.
“We are about to launch the fundraiser in just a few days. It is completely community funded and every part will be hand made by me in my studio in Calhoun. It’s a really exciting project and I feel lucky to be able to create something permanent for my alma mater. The website where you can donate is www.calhounartfundraiser.com.”