Home Featured 2024 Commencement Master of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Elizabeth Marie Francisco, School of Fine Art

2024 Commencement Master of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Elizabeth Marie Francisco, School of Fine Art

by Art U News

Working predominantly with oil paint, artist Elizabeth Francisco contributes her take on themes regarding natural landscapes like Yosemite National Park as well as local and Italian urban landscapes through her ongoing practice. 

Master of Fine Arts Valedictorian Elizabeth Marie Francisco. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Marie Francisco.

Francisco, who was born in 1972 in New Jersey, earned both her Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine degrees in the Philippines, eventually pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. Her prior career as a Family Practice physician and U.S. Army flight surgeon has instilled invaluable traits like passion, dedication, discipline, and observational skills. Her frequent moves during childhood as a U.S. Navy brat and her later travels around the world with her spouse provide inspiration as her subject matter. 

She currently resides in Manteca, located in the Central Valley of Northern California. Francisco takes her influences from American landscape painters Edgar Payne, Clyde Aspevig, and Matt Smith, applying them to her representational depictions of environmental scenery. 

Most known for her realistic and detailed style, Francisco has participated in group exhibitions, including the Academy of Art University Spring Show in San Francisco and the Santa Reparata International School of Art Summer Show in Florence, Italy, in 2023.

Francisco delivered the following speech to this year’s class of graduating students.

Good afternoon, President Stephens, directors, faculty, family, and friends. 

Congratulations to my fellow graduating artists, designers, educators, and scholars! Your hard work has brought you a great accomplishment. The world is now yours, and you are limited only by your imagination. 

I was four years old when I first dreamed of becoming an artist. My family wasn’t rich. A crayon and paper were all I needed. Inspired by my uncle, I soon dreamed about becoming a doctor. My father was in the U.S. Navy. So, when I grew older, I also dreamed of joining the military. I remember being drawn to the Army because I liked the iconic poster of Uncle Sam pointing with the words “I Want You.” I still love that kind of artwork. I chose to go after my dreams, and today, I can say that I am a doctor, I am a U.S. Army veteran, and now, I am an artist. 

Like many of you, I started my Academy classes from home during the COVID-19  pandemic. With no prior arts education, I was apprehensive about learning how to paint online, but my fears were allayed after reading the first online modules. I was soaking up all the information like a sponge. And the video demonstrations—some of these instructors deserve Oscars for outstanding performances! I was elated to finally have my first onsite class, Landscape Painting, with Dr. Craig Nelson. He taught me how to hold a paintbrush correctly, get the right paint consistency, and paint outdoors. And he also gave me my lowest grade! He pushed me to pick up my game because he saw the potential in me. I  thank him and all my instructors for sharing their invaluable experience so I could learn the craft. Funny…I had more sleepless nights finishing paintings than I ever did studying in medical school! 

Our time at the Academy may be coming to an end as we now become alumni, but our connection with the Academy will continue, and we will make our school proud as we live out our dreams. We have grown significantly since the beginning of this journey. The tireless efforts have rewarded us with a degree that is the key that will open doors to many opportunities. Enter those doors and turn those opportunities into reality. The journey to the arts is never over. Embrace and nurture your personal artistic style. Look for ideas that inspire you. Travel! Surround yourself and network with other skilled artists. Improve through persistent and regular practice. Continue to explore, experiment, and expand your style. Most especially, enjoy every step of this wonderful journey with endless creative possibilities. When we are successful in our careers, we will look back to where it started and how our dreams were fostered here at the Academy.  

Let us be grateful to all who made these dreams of ours possible. I would like to thank my mom for always believing in me and encouraging me to do what I wanted in life.  Thanks to my spouse for motivating me to continue on. To the U.S. Army and Veterans  Affairs for the opportunity to attain this dream by supporting my education. And thanks to all our instructors for the important lessons learned. Graduates, be confident. Be bold. Be brave. Go out into the world and create like you know what you’re doing—because you do!

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