Outside the lines: Art student explores creative interest

Shannon Marks, Head Photo/Focus Editor

An interest in art isn’t something new for senior Wendy Wei, she’s been taking drawing classes since she was seven years old and hasn’t stopped pursuing her passion for art since.

Last year, Wei stopped taking private art classes and focused on creating a portfolio of work in the AP Studio Art class offered at Central where she was one of the few juniors in the class.

“I’ve always been guided by my art teachers about what to draw, but AP Studio Art was the first time I was given free reign of what I wanted my portfolio to look like,” Wei said. “I got to do what I liked [and] draw what I wanted to, not just what the teacher thought would be good for me.”

Wei’s portfolio for AP Studio Art, which concentrated on drawings of female emotions portrayed through the hands and face, landed her a top score of five on her work by the AP graders.

“I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard that I got a five on my portfolio,” Wei said.

This past summer, Wei attended a summer pre-college program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Md., which focused on preparing students for art school.

“I always loved drawing,” said Wei, “but this summer at MICA really pushed me to see [art] more as a form of expression, more than something that’s just fun to do.”

At MICA, Wei was completely immersed in her art, working and taking painting classes for six to nine hours everyday.

“[MICA] was very stressful and intimidating, but it gave me a glimpse of life as an artist; it’s literally what you breathe 24 hours a day,” Wei said. “Some people don’t even sleep because there were projects they had to work on.”

Not only did her experience at MICA change her view of what life as an artist would be like, it also changed her perspective on art school.

“[MICA] made me view art as a serious career, and that scared me,” Wei said. “Art school is not just a place for people who have nothing else to do with their time; it’s for people who really want to expose themselves to the world.”

In light of her experience at MICA, Wei continues to be unsure of her future in art.

“MICA really made me see how dedicated a lot of other students my age and younger than me are about art,” Wei said. “I just have so many interests and art is such a risky and competitive career choice.”

Studying at MICA, Wei and her classmates received painting prompts from the teacher as assignments that “made [her] think and create things that [she] never thought possible before.”

“One of the prompts was ’What does gravity feel like?’” Wei said. “I was so confused at first, but I think the lesson was to see how one simple question has so many different perspectives from every individual artist.”

These abstract prompts exposed Wei to different styles of art, which in turn helped her to become more comfortable in her own style.

“I learned just as much from my classmates as I did from my teachers, sometimes more,” Wei said. “You’re exposed to so many different people and styles and just by looking at their work, you can take that and hone it and make it yours and incorporate it into your own style.”

After her experiences at MICA, Wei participated in painting a mural through KidsMatter and the Naperville Century Walk in downtown Naperville with a few other Central Students and local muralist Timm Etters. The mural portrayed “Constructive uses of time in Naperville.”

In addition, Wei is currently submitting her artwork to the national Young Arts competition, which focuses on recognizing talented young artists.

Collectively, Wei says all of her experiences opened her up to creating different kinds of art and expanding her style using different colors and compositions.

“I think [my experiences] helped me break out from my comfort zone and push the limits of the safety box,” said Wei. “In the end, it’s just a piece of paper, it’s just paint [or] a pencil. You can erase it, you can crumple it up and start over, there’s really nothing to be afraid of.”