Teen Interview #19

Alistair Shaw, 17.


What is art to you?

Not only is it an escape for me, and it is a room for me; it’s a creative outlet for me. But more than that, it is a thing where I am able to build an audience-base. A foundation where I would be able to have a larger range to spread my message. So, really it’s just a platform for me.

What messages are your common themes?

My overall message is just spreading self-awareness and individualism and highlighting creativity and celebrating that. And really trying to show people that, you know, your uniqueness is important and that you are special. And that every weird shit you do is amazing and it’s great.

Do you practice any other art forms?

Yeah, I sing. I do a lot of dance. It’s nothing like professional or anything but it’s just stuff that I enjoy. I do glass art at my school.

Why do you make art?

’Cause it’s one of the only things that I’m good at [laughs]. Yeah that’s pretty legit. No, it’s a very good creative outlet for me. Because someone like me-who enjoys their individualism and originality-I feel like art is a very good way for me to get all of my thoughts in to the real world. And actually seeing it go from my brain onto the canvas, or onto the paper or whatever [does that].

Do you envision a piece before it’s made?

Yeah, like I’ll start drawing something out and I’ll have different ideas here and there. And I’ll enjoy piec[ing] them together like, “what if I did this or that?” And thinking about the placement or color that I use. I envision it completely colored before I do anything.

What career are you hoping to head towards?

My goal is to do freelance art. To be able to do whatever I want and have people buy it. But I will probably get into some kind of graphic design or animation or illustration first. Then slowly work up a client base so I can eventually do freelance art.

Where do you find most of your inspiration?

I find it in a lot of different places. I find it in nature. I look to nature for a lot of my inspiration. I look to a lot of different cultures and traditions and different kinds of mythology and folklore that I can kind of piece together and make a whole piece out of all of that. I also look to different artists. Whether they’re on Instagram or, you know. Historical artists or friends. My friends that are artists, I gain inspiration from.

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Do you want people to draw inspiration from your work or do you want to have them appreciate it?

I think that the art community should be more open to people drawing inspiration from their art. I don’t mind if people draw inspiration from my art. [Art] is inspiring – it’s something that they can be like, “oh I like their color concepts.” Or, “I like the placement of how they did this.” Not “I’m going to copy it and then change the colors,” ‘cause I’m inspired. Yeah, no I don’t appreciate that. But no, I think it’s a very good thing for other artists to draw inspiration from other people because that’s how you build up your style. Of course, even me I found a multitude of different artists that I love and I pieced it all together and now I have what I do. And so I feel like it’s very normal and I would be honored if someone liked my art enough to be like, “I’m going to do something similar to this.”

I look to a lot of different cultures and traditions and different kinds of mythology and folklore that I can kind of piece together and make a whole piece out of.

So with the art show [formerly displayed at TAM] we’ve been wondering- do you feel like your art is meant for you or the public?

I do my art completely for myself. I don’t do my art to please anyone or to impress anyone or to get any kind of recognition. I do what I do because I enjoy it and I like it. And I don’t care if other people don’t. Basically.

Why do you put your art out for the public eye?

Because I know my ultimate goal is freelance art so I have to start somewhere. Because I mean up until a few months ago, I didn’t even post any of my art anywhere. I was solely doing my art and keeping it to myself. But I know I have to get more comfortable with putting my art out there and getting whatever feedback I get. Because ultimately I want to start doing commissions and stuff like that, you know, trying to bring in that money [laughs]. So, I’m doing more to build up a base. Also, putting your art out there is a very good way to gain more self-confidence in your art. Like if you are not one-hundred percent sure if you are a good artist or not, and you get accepted to something like [TAM’s teen art show]- it’s a good confidence booster. Because I don’t think that I’m the best, but I know that I’m somewhat good.  I know that I’m not complete ass, and so that’s good!

Describe the process of creating a piece of work in three words.

Do I know three words? I don’t know. Um, time-consuming… hey, that’s hyphenated. So time-consuming. Here I’ll talk about the process. If I’m making a complete painted piece, I do a lot of research before hand on the topic that I’m doing, or like the pieces that I’m using so that it makes a coherent thought. So it’s not just random things pulled together. So it’s something that actually makes sense. A lot of trying and testing things: different placement, different color, trying to make things as dynamic as possible. Especially with painting, it’s very much trial and error. It’s all a learning experience, each time.

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Why is it important to immerse yourself in creative things when you’re young?

At least in my perspective it’s very important for young people and teens to immerse themselves in creative activities because of our school system. It’s very restrictive and it’s not very open to the arts. And they don’t take a focus on individualism or originality or doing anything with the creative side of your brain. So if you go out of your way to help balance that, I feel like you’re going to be better off in the long run.

If you had not found art, what would you be doing?

Uh, I’d be dead. I’d be six feet under.

How would you define being a teen artist?

Shitty. You heard me. No, but being a teenage artist, I mean, it can be… for myself it’s pretty good because, well, not to toot my own horn, but I kind of know what I’m doing. And it’s nice because  the teenage art community – they’re either really pretentious or they’re open and really nice. So you get a mixed bag. Like the SOTA kids and uh, then everyone else! No, being a teenage artist is good if you know you’re going to be doing art as your career. But I mean other than that, it’s like, alright. Being a teenager is shitty, but being a teenage artist is… a little better? I don’t know, because you have the people who are like,  “oh my gosh that’s amazing!” And you have the people that are like, “you’re going to fail, you are terrible.” And I’m like, “okay, cool!” So-yeah.

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What is a teenager’s role in society?

To be the butt of every joke, ever. That’s how we roll. Okay, it kind of sucks because we are more self-aware than the generation before us was. Because we know how our generation is working; we know everything that’s going on, we know our purpose for things. We know why our generation thinks this and this way. But everyone else is like, “you guys are stupid, you guys know nothing,” and that’s not true. I feel like our generation is full of people who have big dreams. And it shows.

There’s usually that stigma that, if you’re becoming an artist, you’re going to fail.

Yeah, I feel like with everyone, there’s a stigma that they’re going to fail. Especially with visual artists and musicians; because with people who do theatre, they’re like, “oh yeah, you can do Broadway.” And with people that do dance, they’re like, “yeah you can do music videos,” but with a visual artist: what are you going to do? It’s completely based on yourself and your talent alone. There’s nothing else that’s going to help you; a pretty face isn’t going to help you, not in the art world. It’s not going to do anything! So I feel like there is an imbalance in the arts and how people view them and their success.

How can Tacoma improve in supporting teenage artists?

I think that so far, it’s doing pretty well. All of this going on-this focusing on teenage art-is very new. So I feel like Tacoma is on the right track to being inclusive and caring about our art. It’s only going to get better from here.

 

Teen Interview #15

Jey Vargas, 17.


How did you get into art?

I’ve always been interested in art. It has always been a release for me, I guess, to explore myself. This kind of sounds like I’m bragging, but when people tell me, “Oh this is good, oh this is nice,” it kind of made me want to do it more. I realized as I got into advanced art programs, I was like, “Oh I want to do this for a living.” Like I want to pursue art for a career. [It] made me create more pieces and have a foundation for what I do.

Do you wish you had this opportunity when you first started doing art?

I think it would have been nice, but also I don’t think I was quite ready my sophomore year. I wasn’t that well-rounded as an artist. It was when I first started to get serious about art. At a young age I don’t think I would have been ready to put myself out there. I didn’t have enough pieces back then. I think where I am now is when I’m starting to look more into art interviews, putting myself into interviews. Now is when I’m ready, and now is when the opportunities are coming.

JEY
My heart belongs to you only

What are your plans for your career?

I do mostly paintings, but I actually want to do animation and character design as a career. So I want to pursue living in Los Angeles and trying to get in that little network. But I want to go to an art college, near Pasadena, in Los Angeles. It’s called Art Center, College for Design.

Do you have a particular artist that you look up to?

Not really. In my art classes we focus on researching a lot of artists and finding inspiration. I love Frida Kahlo, I’m Mexican. But I don’t ever look at work and try to reproduce it, even it’s for the sake of learning. I just do whatever I do. So I’ve never really thought about an artist that I want to compare myself to.

Why do you think Frida Kahlo was so influential?

I think it was because, at the time, she was very different from the other artists. She was a really strong, independent woman and was not about letting others tell her what to do. She would do whatever. She would dress masculine or feminine. I’m pretty sure she was bisexual, let’s just be clear. She really explored herself and used her art to represent her own self. Created images of her life and her dreams, and they were not always the most pretty looking things. And that’s why I always look up to her. A lot of my work focuses on me showcasing my experiences and what I get inside, and I just hope that other people will see it and relate to that, or see themselves represented as well. I think that’s what she strives [to do]. So I guess that was what was different about her at the time.

BODY
Male

Why do you make art?

It’s almost asking what life is to an artist. I make art to explore my own self, to release emotions, to release baggage. I think I do it for myself first and foremost. So like one of my pieces was really big; it was a self-portrait. It was about my suicide attempt from last year, and when I painted that, it was like I was releasing my baggage and releasing this struggle. Putting it on a canvas to show how I felt at that time, and like, that’s it. I don’t want to think about it again. I do it for myself, but I also want to showcase my other identities being a transgender, queer, Mexican boy. I want to showcase my own culture. The transgender struggle with being queer in my artwork. Have representation. We can all be accepted. We are all people here. Have our stories be told.

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Terrified

Was there a struggle doing art with the lack of representation in the art world for you?

I think initially when I was coming out, like at the end of middle school, beginning high school, there was not really an issue. I didn’t focus on others artwork, I just focused on Frida Kahlo. That was the only Mexican I knew. I didn’t even know that there were other transgender artists, queer artists. I didn’t even know that was a big thing, a big topic I could discover and create art about. I’m in I.B (International Baccalaureate) and in my I.B classes, they push me to look at other artists, and to look at queer, Mexican, or transgender artists, or other artists of color. So I think that’s when I started to realize there was art out there, and there are other issues I can learn and create art about. Every year [the class] visits an art museum. Last year I think we visited [Tacoma Art Museum] , maybe Seattle Art Museum. I don’t know, I’ve been to both, and usually here, or in Seattle Art Museum, there are exhibits for people of color or for specific artists of color. I remember at the Henry Art exhibit there was a show on trans history. That was really nice, looking at other trans artists. I think just putting myself out and searching for what I wanted to search for, that’s when I realized there was a place for me in the art world.

“I want to showcase my own culture. The transgender struggle with being queer in my artwork. Have representation. We can all be accepted. We are all people here.”

Why is transgender and queer representation in the arts important?

I think it’s important; it’s the same reason why shows, media, and movies and all that are important. We need to have our stories be told, listened, watched, understood, in order for the rest of the world to be accepting and loving of us. I think especially trans artists and queer artists in general, it’s really important to show our stories the way we want to show it. We have to make our own films, our own writing, and our own art, based our own experiences. I don’t think anyone else can really make stories for other people, so that’s why it’s important to have representation and showcase our beauty; because art just isn’t about a pretty picture, or white, skinny, naked girls. It can be about anything. And I think since it’s about anything, we should show that at in museums, in exhibitions, you know?

Why would you rather paint something than take a photo of it?

I think the media that I use is because of the opportunities I have. I was in a photo class once. No one ever taught me Photoshop. No one ever taught me to do these things, I learned Photoshop on my own. But when I was in my art class, they really gave me the tools. You can do whatever you want with this. So that’s why I’m really multimedia. Drawing, painting. I think that’s why. Getting the tools out here, getting the ability to do these types of things [is of value].

Discuss your favorite piece.

I think one of the first big, important pieces I’ve done, because in my years that I was in art classes I mostly created pieces that were really sad, and about my struggle being trans and queer. It is a good thing, and I do like being trans, but I think I wasn’t as accepting of myself when I created that, so I needed to kind of release emotions, you know what I was saying? But I think being Mexican, I’ve been proud of being Mexican my entire life. Despite what people say, despite the media, despite racism. I’ve never really seen what was really positive about being Mexican, or Mexican culture. It’s always shared among us, but never out in the open. So I wanted to create a piece celebrating my culture, instead of focusing on the negatives. It’s called Los Flores de Mexico. So it’s like flowers that remind me of Mexico, paintbrushes, and little paint pots. Alcatraz’s are really prominent in Mexican art, so I used that to represent my Mexican side. The roses are with the hand to show my religious side. Even though I’m not really religious, it’s still is a really big part of our culture, so I wanted that to be represented. The marigolds are with the skull, and it represents our celebrations and our traditions. The skull specifically is for Dia de los Muertos; it’s a big part of our culture. I wanted to showcase all of it in a subtle way, I guess.

FLOR
Los flores de México

Why do you think it’s important to have triumphant pieces in art?

There are a lot of stereotypes about being Latina, being Mexican, being any person of color, a lot of different races. But it’s mostly surrounded in negative stereotypes. It is super important to talk about it. But, I still think it’s important to showcase our beauty and our worth. Because, if we don’t showcase our positives and what we can bring, and that we are just people, like everyone else, people are just going to focus on the stereotypes. No matter if we are combatting it or upholding it, or not. It’s all just going to be in the negative. So I think it’s just as important to remember that we have culture. We have beautiful things about us and need to put it out there.

“I think especially trans artists and queer artists in general, it’s really important to show our stories the way we want to show it. We have to make our own films, our own writing, and our own art, based our own experiences.”

Do you have an ending statement that you want to say to any teenagers, in terms of Queer issues, art, or other things?

There is a lot of intersectionality between identities. While I am Mexican, it is important to remember I am queer; I am trans. When you think about being Mexican, you think about a man or a woman. Or a cisgender, Mexican dude. When you think about being trans, you think of a white, gay, trans dude, or something like that. You don’t really remember that there are intersecting identities. I am all of these things combined, and that’s what I want people to remember.

Go follow Jey on Instagram @prettyboypaints

Teen Interview #13

Madison Castro, 17.


What school do you go to?

Graham Kapowsin High School.

Has the school influenced your artwork?

I think its been supportive of a lot of students. Not necessarily me, because I haven’t put myself into the art program at my own school. [Because] it’s just kind of hobby that I do and I don’t have a lot of time or credit room to do that. But they do have elective room, elective credit, for people to use at my school for the art program. The art program at my high school is actually pretty developed and supported. They do art shows, contests or things like that. They do that pretty often compared to other school districts. Not necessarily supporting me… but that’s not their fault-it’s mine. [Because] I just choose to not include myself in that stuff. I just stick to my stuff and do my own thing.

GK has developed music programs as well. Between art and music, which one do they support more?

I think they do musical things more just because there are a lot more people who start doing musical instruments. And learning that stuff pretty early on, while art is just a thing that people don’t encourage as much because people think you can’t make a career off of it. At least not a prosperous one. So I would say that the musical program is more supportive there.

You said you don’t have credit room to do a lot of art classes. Do students at GK do Core 24?

Yes, we do. We have to get twenty-four credits to graduate high school. I don’t know how many elective credits they give you. I think they give you two a year, but a lot of those are filled by computer classes that you need to take. Or technical classes or things like that, that people need that has to do with their career. But it doesn’t give them much room to be creative in school. They [artists] do it on their own. A lot of people who really like art, do it on their own no matter what and just try their best to be a part of it in school. And show their school their talents and things. But there’s not a lot of financial support as well. With people to show off their art and learn from it and grow as people.

Had you not been in Core 24, would you be in more art classes?

I think definitely I would have. I’ve always wanted to take an art class because I’m self-taught. And I’ve always wanted to see how it’s technically supposed to be done. I don’t know. There’s a lot of ways that you can do more. I wanted to be educated on it so I can develop my skills and enhance them to a point where I’m prouder of them and I feel like I’m living up to my potential. On my own I just kind of do my best. I’m proud of it but not as much as I would be if I knew how to use the tools and things like that.

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From what the committee has seen, high schools tend to focus more on sports, rather than art. Why do you think that is?

I think that people like sports just because it’s American culture. I think I just surround myself with people who support art and musical things in school a lot. And they are very enthusiastic for that. But this school, and other school districts from what I’ve experienced, people are more enthused about sports. Because they think that it’s a team effort and a lot of people just want to be social. And they think that art is not a social thing. That you do it by yourself. But people can do art together and that’s something that people don’t realize.

Do you find the way America focuses on art, to be toxic, or beneficial?

I think that it’s less the art, more the people. The people who are doing the art. Because people are just really obsessed with the drama of it all. And it’s kind of sad how it’s turned into like… you can put up any video of yourself jumping into pool and setting it on fire or something [laughs]. And you can go viral for that and be famous years after that and it’s not really talent. It’s not really hard work. And I’m not saying that no one does that now because there are people who try to use their platforms for themselves and their own aspirations. But a lot of things with fame now, is supporting people being asinine. It’s not the art they are showing, its more the people that are doing it. And their own lives. because people can’t have their own lives. They don’t decide to. They just like watching other people’s.

Who is responsible for implementing change in Tacoma?

As we get older…the youth are the future of America. And if we support that and encourage it to its highest level, out of the years as we get older, and grow as people and we catch the mistakes being made now and learn to speak up about the things that  affected us in negative ways- we can change that. I just think it’s really important to know that even if we are young, there’s so many people who can do things. Like what you guys are doing here.

Who do you look up to that is implementing change?

I don’t think I look up to celebrities who are implementing change because I know that they do that. I’ve met a lot of educators. Musical educators and arts educators at my school and other districts and things from contests. And things that I’ve been on and meeting them. And seeing how they support their peers and people that they mentor to grow and never stop doing what they’re doing. And letting them know how important their voice in the art community and musical community and all of it. Just generally the educators I’ve met that let people know that their voice is heard.

Are there any talents you wish you had besides your current ones?

I’d like to get better at watercolor painting and oil painting. I just want to learn how to use a lot of different mediums. I just like painting in general and I’ve only ever really used watercolor and acrylic. I just use plain pencils. I don’t really use pencil pencils or anything. I just use like a school pencil. Like a number 2 pencil and go to town because I don’t even know how to use professional pens. I’ve never been taught professionally. I just do the best with what I have. And I just wish I knew how to use professional things and how that affects the art it’s supposed to look like. I just think I’m underdeveloped in some things. I know I am, and I just want to get better.

Is there a benefit to in-person teaching?

Well, considering I haven’t ever actually had in person teaching [laughs]. What I hypothesize would be… the benefit I’ve heard is that you can see it happening first hand and you can stop them and ask them what they’ve been doing in first hand. And you can stop them and ask them how they did it. And how to mimic that and how to include that in your own art style. Everyone has their own different expressions that they want to show the world. When you’re in an art class I believe they do teach how to do it one set way, but you need that knowledge. And use that knowledge to your advantage when you’re doing your own unique works. Compared to like doing it on YouTube. I’ve watched a lot of weird videos where it’s like, ‘You use this this this and this,’ and it’s usually like digital things. What if you don’t have that software? What if you can’t afford that software? So usually that’s why I like to stick with pen, pencil, and paper and it ends up looking okay, at least from what I’ve heard [laughs].

How can less privileged people build their art skills?

Personally, I didn’t have any special things to start out with. I think I had the same crayon box all throughout elementary school. [Madison’s mom] She didn’t want to buy new ones every year. She had four kids to buy school supplies for every year and that’s hundreds every year and we couldn’t afford that. So that’s how I taught myself. Using what I had was like a paper at school, like I did it on lined paper. I doodled on everything. Eventually, it was something that I asked for on special occasions, like materials. I have canvases stacked in my room currently because so many people have been kind enough to give me them, because they support me and my growth as an artist… And I think that’s what mainly drives people to keep going. The fact that they don’t have a lot and they want to see what they can do if they had… more resources. It just shows the drive that people have to express themselves, and that they are confident in their voice.

How do you look at something then decide that you want to draw it?

Mainly I like to draw people. Mainly because people are intricate and people are different. It’s fun to see how many different ways you can draw a person and how many different styles you can do it. Sometimes I get inspiration for a drawing from seeing a person and I’m like, ‘wow they look so unique!’ [Laughs] In a nice way! And I’m like, ‘wow, I wonder how I could draw that” and then I just kind of come up with it as I go and I’m like “wow, that turned out okay.” I just see people and kind of come up with it as I go. I just kind of see people. I do stuff besides people. I do some landscape things. I look at stuff for a long time because I feel [like] it helps in my mind; by just studying things a lot. My mom kind of realizes that when I do that. I just kind of space out and she’s like “are you okay?” and I’m like “yeah”. It’s just–I’m like “that’s just really beautiful” and then I go back and try to recreate it because I want people to experience the beauty I saw.

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What can Tacoma do to bring teens together?

I think that this group is definitely a good start because you guys are reaching out a lot and it’s really admirable. And I think that the way you guys are doing right now is pretty great. You guys got all the way to me and I’m in little old Graham. I’ll be sure to talk to other people about this. And I feel like we’re so close to being adults. We’re on the cusp of making huge changes, starting out by making this teen group and reaching out to teens and letting them know of their importance and that their roles in the art society matters.

Go follow Madison on Instagram ! @cas.maddie