Michaella Amamilo, 18.
So where do you go to High School?
Steilacoom High School.
So how have you become an active member of the art community?
I’ve always been an artist my whole life. My dad used to be an architect too, so it’s always been a part of our family. I don’t know– I think I’ve always been creative when I was younger, but I do like a lot of arts and crafts things. I’ve never gotten into a strict discipline of art. It was only recently that I got into high school that I started focusing and really understanding what I do like about art. [And] which art history aspects I do like and I try to incorporate that into how I do art today.
What attracts you the most in terms of things, like art history?
I like a lot of antiquity and ancient Greek and Rome; all that stuff. I think I like the human form too and that’s also why I’d like to go into medicine. I just like to put everything together; [I like] little detail stuff and really realistic things. I like that it pays a lot of attention to really natural things and it doesn’t have to be something super crazy and abstract but can be really simple.
So with your piece that you put in our art show, would you say that it is an adequate representation of your art style?
I’d say it is a really good representation of where I’ve come because my art style is pretty realistic and very fine detail. But that is something so out of my element; like I used ink. And I normally just set things out and have a plan to what I want to do. But with that, I just went for it, and so I think it is a good representation of my growth as an artist.
Do you have a major theme in all your art pieces?
Well, that was part of a concentration. I’m in AP studio art and my concentration was, what it means to be masculine, and what it means to be a man. So I just focused on how people view men as having to be masculine or having to have a big family and take care of a family. I had also just watched this documentary about South Africa with my parents so I did that after. It honestly made me cry so I just wanted to make a couple pieces about that.
I’ve always been an artist my whole life.
What specifically moved you about the documentary?
I think it was just like, even in a really hard time, that people still come together and try to have a good time. They were in the middle of a hard time, especially with Nelson Mandela going to jail and their liberties and freedoms as human beings were just being suppressed. It was really unfair. I’m pretty moved by a lot of things like that but I don’t really voice it so that’s why I use art to portray how I feel about certain things.
Would you say that diversity in art is important?
I think it is really important. Personally, I don’t feel like anybody’s art is bad or anybody’s is a failure. You don’t really know who the person is or what they like or what inspires [them] to make art. If we didn’t have diversity in art then we wouldn’t be able to find people that we like or find inspiration. There are so many famous artists that I feel like people look up to but it’s not always going to be the same. That’s why we all don’t have the same art style. One artist isn’t the same as the other person; that’s because we have so much diversity. And I think it’s important to be yourself and to have your own style even if it is someone or someone else’s. There will always be something that you do differently or something someone else doesn’t do.
What media have you found yourself enjoying the most?
I generally use a lot of graphite and charcoal, which I got into recently. They’re both pretty easy for me because I’m pretty good at blending and it helps me use shadowing easier. I just got into colored pencils which are a lot harder; because I realized that it’s not just yellow with black over it for a shadow. It’s different shades of that same color. I have been challenging myself a lot with that, painting as well.
Are you involved in your school art community?
Well, there is an art club but I didn’t really know about it. I’ve been in my school district my whole life. but in my freshman year I went to a different school so when I came back I only took Art 1 because I didn’t really know any of the art curricula at the school and I took that my junior year. This year has been the first year that I have actually been able to take a real art class at the school, like I’m in AP Studio Art. I think that’s the art community I’m in and I’ve also been in the school’s art show twice.
Is your school good about making sure that art is available?
Yeah, they’re trying a lot to introduce a lot more media and different classes. It is kind of hard because my school does have a lot of athletics. But now that there are younger generations coming in actually wanting to do ceramics and AP Studio art and design, it is a lot easier to get the art department more recognition and more resources for what we want to do.
Have you experimented with any other kinds of art besides drawing and painting?
I’ve tried ceramics before and that was nice, I was pretty good at it. I’d love to work with sculpture I think that’d be pretty cool, especially making human bodies.
It seems like that would work with what you’re interested in.
I’m a very visual learner so it would work in a lot of ways.
You said that you wanted to go into medicine, right?
Yes, I want to be a surgeon.
Do you plan on incorporating art into your future?
Yeah, I was considering minoring in art because I don’t want it to just be a hobby or a passion and it has benefited me a lot after doing so many sports. It has been a different part of me and I have appreciated that and I want to keep doing that as I go to college to help me grow. I have seen so much growth in myself just in the last year from this class and I don’t feel like I want to stop now at all.
You said you don’t want it to be a hobby. Are you planning on being a doctor?
Yes, I am. But retirement-wise I will probably be an artist.
What are your favorite pieces that you have made so far?
I did this big piece called “The Pattern Within” but it took me a long time to go back to doing what I normally do, with like graphite. When I did this one it made me stop and actually make time to make something, make something that I normally do. With the blending and having to make time to focus on proportions it made me fall back in love with everything.
Do you think art is a major release for you, almost therapeutic?
Yes, and I think there are a lot of different ways to have therapy, at least for me. I am pretty busy and play a lot of sports and in the sports aspect it is more like, “I’ve had a hard day at school or month or week,” so I am just going to play sports and give it everything I’ve got. But with art, I can just relax and focus on what I’m doing with my hand. It is a lot easier to relax that way.
Since you have so many activities going on what else influences your life?
My house actually. My dad is from Nigeria and has painted the entire inside and has completely landscaped our entire backyard. So I think I take a lot of inspiration from my house and it inspires me a lot to go out and create. Of course, I spend a lot of time procrastinating and not wanting to do homework ever, so I love to just go and start drawing something. My friends also inspire me to go draw as well.
Your dad is an architect and a big portion of that is art, do you think he has imparted anything to you?
Yes, I think so. He used to live in Italy at a time and we have a library in our house full of law books because my mom is a lawyer. That has definitely helped me find a lot of different things that I’m interested in art-wise and what I want to create and what inspires me to create more. He is always there to tell me that there are so many things you’re capable of creating and so many things to create, so it is easy for me to be motivated by that.
Where else do you find your inspiration?
This seems so cliche because I normally don’t try to draw for meaning but I do the opposite just for the fact that I feel like so many people say, “I drew this because I was happy,” or, “I drew this because I was sad,” but I drew this because I wanted to. I try to draw and be like, you know what, I am just in that mood and sometimes I just draw after a long time of feeling a certain way like I just need to get it across. I have one of those pieces in the “Breadth” section of my portfolio for this year. It is a heart and something I did differently but I incorporated a lot of mind work on it and I wanted to experiment with that.
Do you have a message for any artists just starting out?
I think anybody can be an artist; that’s probably my biggest message. A lot of my friends feel really intimidated against me. That’s the first thing, to not compare yourself to other people because you don’t know how long they have been practicing and you don’t know what they struggle with. I’ve learned that this year because I don’t have a lot of time to make art but when I do, I sit down and get to it, while other people in my class, that’s all they do. So you can see the contrast and improvement and the skill that they have and the skill that you have. I think that you have to remember where you are and the time that you have and how much dedication you are willing to put for it. I don’t think people should overthink it that much. It is art and it is your art and whatever you produce is as good enough as it is going to be for you and that doesn’t mean it is bad for someone else. I think art is art and you can’t really have a bad opinion about it because you don’t know how they wanted to address the message in it.
Go follow this teen artist on Instagram @michaellaamamilo!