Painting a new path: junior embraces dream major

Painting a new path: junior embraces dream major

Ellie Huffman quit sports management in her third year and went back to the drawing board to pursue a childhood passion for painting.
Published: February 21, 2019
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Syracuse University junior Ellie Huffman works intently on a scratch painting self-portrait.

Walking through the dimly lit hallways of Shaffer Art Building at Syracuse University on a Tuesday night presents all the qualities of peace and comfort — emptiness, silence and warmth. Four floors up, in the last room before the end of the hallway, is an art studio. There is hardly a sound, but for a faint scratching noise coming from the far corner of the room.

“It’s rare if there are more than one or two people here at a time,” junior Jocelyn Enriquez said. “Us painting majors love the peace and quiet. That’s pretty much always what it’s like in here.”

Her fellow classmate, junior Ellie Huffman, sits on a stool facing the wall, rapidly rubbing her hand against a sheet of paper. She leans back to observe her work from a wider vantage point, glances at her computer to her right, and goes right back to scratching. Huffman is in the early stages of a scratch painting of herself. Despite the painting requiring incredible detail, she only has a week to complete it.

Syracuse University Junior painting major, Ellie Huffman, describes her journey so far throwing herself back into studying art.

The peace and quiet of painting paired with her being able to use her passion for creativity and attention to detail drove Huffman to transfer into the school of Visual and Performing Arts to study painting. Picking the major was a leap of faith, because Huffman never took painting too seriously prior to college, knew nothing about the curriculum and knows painting is generally not a high-paying industry. But to the third-year student, none of that mattered. It was all about what made her happiest.

Huffman came into Syracuse as a sports management major, but after taking two introductory-level classes in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics in the first semester of her freshman year, wanted to switch majors. Over winter break, she consulted with her parents to try and think of what she wanted her new course of study to be, but nothing clicked immediately. Huffman did not consider trying to transfer into Newhouse or Whitman, she said.

Rather than basing her decision on the popularity of the major, which school it was in or if she had friends in the program, she thought about where she would be most comfortable. That’s when she settled on painting.

“I think it just clicked with me the most,” Huffman said about painting. “I just connected with paint the most, so that’s what I picked up as my concentration here.”

Huffman enjoyed drawing regularly when she grew up but never envisioned it would become more than a childhood hobby. When she enrolled in SU as a sports management major, Huffman thought she would never paint again, she said. Two and a half years later, she spends more than 10 hours a week working in the far corner of Room 432 in Shaffer Art Building.

The majority of what Huffman paints is for class assignments, which means she focuses on two specific types of painting: abstract and observational. Abstract painting uses shapes, colors, and lines to create something that typically does not depict visual reality, while observational painting involves drawing a still life object, like a bowl of fruit or a person.

While Huffman doesn’t think her art is “anything special,” she has sold some of her work and had it on display in public places, both things she strives for when she’s working on a project. Regardless of whether or not she becomes an accomplished painter or chooses to pursue another field after college, Huffman knows she made the right decision in a difficult scenario by becoming a painting major.

“Art,” Huffman said, “is where I found my niche.”