My second semester of college, my best friend, Giovanna de Souza, texted me begging for help on a project. It was a Saturday morning and I had no plans, so I dropped by. As soon as I stepped in the door I was handed fishing wire, scissors, and a bucket of dried out leaves. We spent approximately 10 hours stringing leaves to fishing wire, and repetitively untangling all the pieces. If you didn’t know before, fishing wire and hundreds of leaves do not mix well. I saw this project tanking and pleaded with Giovanna to give up and try something else while she still had time, but she assured me that it would get done. Of course, she was right because she’s the artist and I’m not.
Today, as I walk into Giovanna’s room, I immediately notice watercolor paintings laid out all over the coffee table. “I’ll be working as we talk,” she said. “Also there’s a pizza in the oven we can share.” I find a spot on her roommate’s big, brown, comfy couch and ask Giovanna what she’s working on. She explains that this is her first project, a nine concept color study, in her painting class for the semester.
De Souza is a sophomore graphic design major at Union University. Originally from Brazil, de Souza moved to Collierville, Tenn., with her parents when she was nine years old. She doesn’t remember a time when she was not into art. As a kid, she constantly doodled or tried to mimic art that fascinated her. She graduated from Rossville Christian Academy in 2016, where she attended art classes as a hobby.
As for the future, she’s unsure of where graphics will take her after graduation, whether it’a working for a company doing public relations and advertising, or obtaining a job within a private graphic design firm. One thing de Souza is positive about is the decision she made to further her art education at Union. This was the right choice not only for her education, but also for her spiritual development.
De Souza came from a school with a very anemic art department where she thrived more than almost every other student. Union University has one of the strongest art departments in the nation. This transition alone posed a challenge for de Souza and her skills.
“Coming to Union, I was afraid that [drowning under the pressure of comparison] would happen, it was meant to happen anyways,” de Souza says as she slaps black watercolor onto a small canvas, “from the beginning all the professors had been telling us ‘do not compare yourself to anyone else, you’re your own artist.’”
Although fear and comparison often cripple individuals, it is evident in Giovanna’s growth that she has not fallen victim to it. Rather, her competitive nature has forced her to progress and work harder. Professor of art Christopher Nadaskay is an instructor Giovanna credits for many of the lessons she has learned about art and life while being at Union.
“Giovanna is progressing well in her studies, mastering fundamental techniques and processes in art,” Nadaskay said. “Her skills and thought processes are developing nicely and we expect her to perform well this semester and in the future.”
Union is comprised of many highly accomplished and esteemed faculty. As Union’s art department is so well known and recognized nationally, it houses many talented individuals as professors. The art students on campus are constantly challenged by the physical and spiritual expectations their instructors place on them. De Souza recognizes this as a way to grow her art and what she wants her art to mean.
“As we’re going through school, we don’t really understand what being an artist for the Lord is,” de Souza said. “But through the classes and through our professors, we’re able to grow an understanding by what they share with us through their experiences and through the gospel.”
Being here a little over a year, de Souza has already learned so many important skills and values as an artist. She’s learned that technique, precision and all the fine details of crafting beautiful art is important – that portraying your vision clearly through an art piece is success. However, the most important entity of art is that it is a gift from God, which should only be used to bring him praise.
After completing her small watercolor painting of a beautiful seashell, Giovanna lifts a plate with two slices of KitchenCraft pizza from the floor. “Pizza break,” she says. I agree, grab my plate of pizza, and we dig in.