The Sagamore

Artist of the Month: Julia Van

Milena Kitterman, Staff Writer

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It begins with a stroke of a pencil, paintbrush or lump of charcoal. Something so simple results in emotion-filled art, intricate and full of insight.  

Senior Julia Van uses artistic exploration to stimulate self-discovery, while working to stay true to her artistic identity.

Van’s artistic ambitions sprung from a love of drawing cartoons. Since entering high school, her interest and dedication have grown, and her talent has expanded through art classes.

“I took Drawing II, and that class sort of shaped my work to be more realistic. I started to do more observational pieces and drawing from life, as well as more broadened conceptual things, instead of the single cartoon characters that I did,” Van said.

Although Van has been creating art her entire life, she is still exploring and branching out into using new materials.

“I use a very wide range of media,” Van said. “The stuff that I use most often is probably either acrylic paint or charcoal, but I’m trying to expand out to more types.”

Van described her process of creating art as spontaneous.

“I prefer much looser sort of boundaries when I’m doing things, and I prefer to explore things myself instead of being bound to a specific plan,” Van said.

Visual arts teacher Donna Sartanowicz had Van in a Painting I class last year and again this year for AP Studio Art. Sartanowicz said that she has observed Van’s process grow and develop over time.

“She would redo and redo and erase and redo; trying to perfect a small thing, but as an artist, you need to keep an eye on the whole. You don’t want to just start here and then blossom out, you want to work the whole canvas all the time,” Sartanowicz said. “I think she was able to make that switch in her head to see the work as a whole exercise, a whole composition and not just get focused on minutia.”

According to Van, her process can lead to self-discovery.

“I think a lot of the time I can notice new things about myself because I have a tendency to not plan things out beforehand, so my work is guided by what is on the paper that I just put out,” Van said.

Senior Xueyan Mu, who is also a artist, said that Van continues to stay true to herself, despite the effects of pressures put on high school artists.

“I think in high school, a lot of the atmosphere is to be good, you have to prove yourself in the realistic realm and something has to look good to everyone,” Mu said. “You’re always imagining the viewer’s opinion as greater than your own, but in case it’s different. She definitely has stopped caring about the viewer and is only making it for herself.”

This bravery really stood out to Mu in one particular art piece.

“There was this one piece, it’s just really dark acrylic paint splattered on a canvas and she painted over it several times,” Mu said. “It kind of looks like it’s just black, but you look closer and a lot of things are going on in there. It’s really brave because I think most people would look at it and say, ‘Oh, that’s not good art. What are you doing? Where are the figures and beautiful people?’”

Though Mu believes Van is defying expectations in this sense, Van said she definitely feels pressure in terms of what types of art to focus on.

“A lot of the time, I really like doing abstract things, but then sometimes I feel bad for doing that because I feel like I need to practice more practical things before I do anything abstract,” Van said.

Sartanowicz related to the struggle of the students to find their own unique voice and portray it through artistic expression.

“My goals for Julia are the same as the goals for all my students in AP Studio Art: coming up with your own idea that authentically speaks in your own voice, and it’s something that you want to say,” Sartanowicz said. “That is the hardest thing that I ask any of my students.”

Mu emphasized the unique qualities of Van’s work and expressed their hope that her artistic talents will lead to success in the future.

“She is really outlandish, and I think she doesn’t give herself enough credit for that. She is very technically skilled in drawing and intuitive,” Mu said. “She is a great person, and I hope she becomes an artist.”

Van sees herself continuing her pursuit of art in the future.

“Even though I’m doing a lot of traditional art right now, in the future I want to possibly move into film video stuff and incorporate lighting design,” Van said.

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Artist of the Month: Julia Van