Artwork By Ani: Interview
Ani Jermakian is a student artist in her last year at UMass Amherst majoring in art education. Ani prides herself on her Armenian culture and in being very family oriented. She is a full time student balancing the life of an artist, a music director, and a teacher. Learn more about Ani Jermakian in her interview with our student writer, Katrina Rojas.
What made you want to come to UMass Amherst?
“My sister went here and she absolutely loved it. My family fell in love with it because we’re not too far and we visit all the time to go to all the basketball games, so then we became like a UMass family. My uncle came here, and he decided to come here and get his master’s, so I decided to come here, too.”
So art education is your major, are you hoping to be a teacher?
“Yes. I want to be an art teacher and I don’t know exactly what grade level yet but graduating in May I am going to be licensed for K-12, so I can kind of choose wherever I want to be. Right now I’m doing my practicum which is student teaching, so I’m in school all day, every day shadowing a teacher. Right now I am basically a teacher so it’s really cool. I teach at the Biltertown Middle School now and elementary school, so that’s what my day’s like.”
Tell me about your artwork! How long have you been creating art?
“Okay, so I have been creating art since I was very, very little. I know my family has pictures from when I was, like, four, and they’re not like amazing, but, as I started getting older, my family started to realize that I was a little more advanced in my elementary school classes. My teachers would talk to my parents outside of class and be like, ‘She has something special artistically.’ Then, my mom decided to put me in private art lessons at nine years old at Distinctive Art Studio with Donald Blanton. It’s just like a privately run studio at his house, so I went there all the way through highschool and I am still in contact with him. He is a big part of my artistic career, my passion, and I learned a lot from him.”
How would you describe your artwork?
“I paint mostly. I started out by doing pencil sketches–I was really into portraits, like that was my thing in high school when I found out that I’m actually good at this. I was doing celebrities and I would just look at a picture, and it would take maybe a couple hours to make a portrait. I got really into it so I kept making them, so I decided that this could be a business kind of. I think freshman year of high school, or maybe even before that, I created my own business–Artwork by Ani. My family helped me make business cards and do little craft fairs in Southampton and New York. There was this thing called Art in the Park, so I was also a part of that. Thankfully because of my relatives, they helped me out with getting a spot and I was the youngest vendor there, but I learned so much. So, that just really kicked it off. I got into acrylic paint at first and did a lot of realistic things. I love still lifes and people, and my first oil painting was this lion that became my signature pretty much. It’s this big colorful lion and I spent maybe 6 months to make it because I would work on it periodically, maybe like once a week in my private art lessons. That kicked me off into oil painting and commissions to make portraits for other people.”
What does your process look like? Do you need a quiet space, loud music, or like a meditation session before you start sketching and drawing?
“I can always work in a loud space, I have always been like that since I was little. I have a very small house so the tv would be on and I would be doing my homework at the same time. I always had that habit, so listening to music really helps, too. I feel like I need background music or something going on to inspire me.”
What has been one of your favorite art pieces so far?
“There is one that I made, I believe, right after the lion that still is one of my favorites. I’d say the lion and this one are two of my most impressive pieces but they’re actually from a long time ago–sophomore year of highschool I think. It’s an African woman with a headwrap and it’s her profile. It’s pretty big, like 16 by 20, and I felt like I put everything into this. I spent hours on one little tiny section like her nose. I just remember that it took me forever but I was so happy with that nose–it’s like one of my babies.”
What do you enjoy most about being an artist and how would you describe your personal connection to art?
“It has been a huge outlet for expression in times when I’m really in my head or emotionally just in need of creating. I’m a very creative person and I feel like I always need to do things with my hands, so in times like that it can really help me. When I create something when I'm down or whatever, I suddenly feel empowered, confident, and excited. It’s also a huge self-esteem booster whichI try to practice in my teaching now which is kind of like my teaching philosophy. You can build so much self-esteem through art and there’s no good or bad because you’re creating things with your hands. In times when I am super excited and inspired by music, movies and photography, I am able to put out those feelings through art.”
Do you have any other passions or hobbies?
“I love singing. I am one of the music directors of an acapella group here on campus called Rung, which is Hindi for ‘color’. We pride ourselves on the diversity in our group and how colorful we are. I’ve been in this group since freshman year, I started out scared, and I didn’t even really know if this was for me. But, I knew it was singing and Ikenw singing was so important to me because my family is very musical and my mom sings. So, I was like okay, let’s do this. It became my family. I can’t imagine my college career without it, I made some of my best friends through it, and now I’m in a huge leadership position. It takes up a lot of my time but it’s good, and it makes me happy.”
Do you have any dream projects or aspirations?
“In my teaching practice right now I am trying to really advocate for awareness of social issues in the world, current world problems, how we can fix them, or even just how we can take a stance. As a young person, I believe you’re never too young to be aware of these things and take a stance. I feel like we tiptoe around those things a lot in schools and I think the key to fixing things is by being aware. Young kids should practice that, which is why I am trying to incorporate that into my lessons, and have them express what’s really present in their lives and what they’re passionate about. That’s a big passion of mine and something I want to accomplish in my life, and just the mark I want to make on the world through teaching. Personally, as an independent artist, if I could just keep being commissioned to do portraits of people or even for myself, or murals–I love doing murals as well–that would be ideal.”
“UMass has nurtured my artistic talent and career, and has shaped me so much into the person I am right now. The stuff that I made through classes here is not really the most impressive to me, but I learned so much through all of my studios. I tried every single medium, and I could have never imagined learning that much my freshman year so coming out of it I thank UMass so much. It’s done a lot for me, yeah.”
Student | Artist