Hassell reflects on the journey through art
- Aurelia Spaulding
- Tuesday, December 6th, 2022
“I had to sit down and get pretty deep [during the pandemic] and really try to find myself and my true purpose. That is where the quote comes from. ‘I can’t leave art alone,’” expressed Tayshaun Hassell, a senior from Franklin. “It is something I have always done, my entire life. It has always been a peace - a tranquil place to go to. It has always been consistent for me. It never ran away from me. It has always been one of my greatest gifts.”
Hassell will graduate from Western Kentucky University with his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts Degree with a concentration in Graphic Design on December 9, 2022. Like most of the baccalaureate graduates that day, he saw a shakeup in the middle of his college journey - a switch from in-person to online followed by semesters of restrictions unimaginable when coming to college in 2018. With the world changing around him, Hassell chose art as his means of reflection.
“It is a lot easier to express yourself with a pencil, paper, a paintbrush, and some ink versus trying to figure it all out in your head,” Hassell said. He chose his degree because he had an eye for creativity from a young age.
“It all started with illustrations, paintings, looking at vintage comic books, watching cartoons, and just finding enjoyable things to take inspiration from and create within my surroundings.”
Hassell tells of the inspiration used in his work. As mentioned earlier, in one piece you see a man with his head lowered under a comment bubble reading, “I can’t leave art alone, the game needs me.” This speaks to challenging moments during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the ace in the top left corner of the same painting, Hassell says symbolizes, “how I always have an ace up my sleeve” - a way to push through the difficult times.
Those difficult times were all part of Hassell’s journey. He explained, “The best part of my WKU experience would honestly be the journey of getting to this moment.”
“Coming in as a freshman, not really knowing what college was going to be, but trusting it enough to see it through, growing every step of the way and ultimately reaching graduation, is what stands out to me the most,” Hassell explained.
As a first-generation college student, Hassell learned much about college life through his own experiences, and he made the most of those lived experiences developed through organizations, internships, work with faculty and time spent with friends.
From May 2022-December 2022, Hassell served as a graphic designer at Imagewest, a student-run marketing and advertising agency at WKU. There, he gained valuable experience in the field.
“Imagewest has shaped my design skills and has given me professional experience within the design world,” he said. “Working alongside my peers, and other creators, taking new ideas and making them into real-world brands, advertisements, websites and everything in between has been an amazing opportunity and has ultimately given me the great qualities I now have as a designer.”
Hassell added that WKU’s American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) chapter and professional development experiences helped prepare him for a career. “Meeting with numerous different companies from all ranges as well as design individuals, getting one-on-one feedback and just constantly learning about the field has helped tremendously.”
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Natalie Tyree served as one of Hassell’s teachers and as an advisor for AIGA. She acknowledged that Hassell has grown as a person and an artist during his time at WKU. In her words, “It’s been exciting to watch and be a small part of it.”
“The students in the Department of Art & Design manage to excel in more areas other than just their area of concentration. While Tayshaun is a phenomenal designer and illustrator, he's an equally talented painter and often marries his traditional techniques alongside his design practice,” Tyree said. “In addition to his raw talent, Tayshaun always brings a positive attitude and critical eye to anything he makes. He's always eager to learn more and do more. He has a bright future ahead of him, and I can't wait to see what he does next.”
Outside of internships, classes, and personal projects, Hassell uses his talents in other organizations.
In Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) Fraternity, he used his knowledge and skills on the t-shirt committee, creating rush and event shirt designs, making podium-worthy homecoming float designs, as well as Spring Sing backdrop and prop designs.
“Fiji has provided me with a family that I’ll have for the rest of my life. From day one, my brothers have supported and believed in me and my abilities as an artist and creator.”
As a member of the International Art Honors Society, Gamma Pi Chapter, Hassell served as Vice President. He collaborated within their group to set up different art show opportunities for his peers to show off their work and talents, allowing one another to gain experience and connections within the art community.
“I've taken what I've learned and helped show others the ins and outs of what it’s like and consists of to be a designer. I've also applied it to my own life by taking the skills, tips and tricks and using them to create and build my own brand and using them in my style of painting to make the process easier.”
After graduation, Hassell plans to continue growing as a designer and growing his brand in cities such as Louisville, Lexington, and Nashville.
“I’d say that my activities and accomplishments have contributed to the WKU community by showing that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and that following your passion or something that you love to do can lead you to places, people and opportunities you’d never expect.”
For more information about majoring in art & design at WKU, visit https://www.wku.edu/art/.
#WKUGrad series: As part of our #WKUGrad series, articles on graduating students are shared in the weeks leading up to Fall Recognition Ceremonies. See all of their stories at bit.ly/wkugrad.