I've often written about how art, at its best, connects us, creates empathy between us, and helps us process the complexities of human experience and emotion.  But in writing this I am humbled by the words of two Centennial AP Studio Arts Program students, Izzy Scott and Kasinda Williams, whose powerful eloquence on matters of art (and why art matters) will inspire you, as will the art they, and their classmates premier this Friday at the Art Coop gallery. This program, led by artist and award-winning eductator Stacey Gross (you may remember her from the recent "Those Who Teach, CAN," show) provides a strong and sustaining foundation for young artists.  As you will soon discover, when it comes to dedication, skill, and imagination, Advanced Placement (AP) Studio Arts is all that. What follows are my interviews with Scott and Williams, along with sneak peeks at their work. 

Smile Politely: How did you get interested in art?

Izzy Scott: I got interested in art when I was around 8 years old. I had just started playing the Pokémon games, and I really liked drawing the characters! From there I started getting more into anime and manga, and that's been a big influence on me for the past 9-10 years.

SP: How would you describe the AP Studio Art class? 

Scott: AP Studio Art is honestly the best art class that I've ever taken. Everyone is committed to their work and bettering themselves as artists, and helping others do the same! The amount of work and the timeframe we have to do it in can be overwhelming sometimes, but we've all been really supportive of each other. It's great being around people who are as serious about art as I am, and that's something I've really enjoyed this year.

SP:  What medium (or mediums) do you prefer to work in and why?

Scott: I do art with acrylic paint (I really like the bright colors that the paint gives, and it's fairly easy to work with), digital art (I like to experiment with different techniques and layouts, and it's a lot easier to do that digitally sometimes than traditionally), and markers (they're fun to blend with). A lot of the art in my sketchbook is messy sketching, though—it's a lot easier on me to practice, and I don't feel like it has to be perfect.

SP: Tell us about the work you'll have in this upcoming show.

Scott: I have a four-panel traditional piece, a painting, a digital illustration, and an oil pastel piece in the show! I'm the most proud of the four-panel piece -- it was the last piece I did for my studio art concentration, and it tells the story of a homicide investigator and the effect that work has on her (and her death at the end). The piece uses a black, white, and red color scheme, with red to add emphasis on certain areas, and the second panel is based off of a Russian constructivism poster!


Lies © Izzy Scott, 2019, image provided by the artist


SP: What would you like people to know about the show?

Scott: We've worked hard to put this show together, and it's a reflection of our growth not only over the course of this year, but over the course of other art classes and outside practice as well. We all have different styles, methods, and mediums, and we want to reflect our individuality within our art class.

SP: What's the best piece of advice you ever got about making art?

Scott: The best art advice I've ever gotten was actually from George Saunders, when me and my parents went to see him read at Pygmalion a few years back. I don't remember his exact words, but he talked about how we all have our own (I don't know if you can write this part or not) "shit hills" and how we're all the king/queen of our own "shit hills" and that the people who you look up to and admire and seem so unreachable are sitting on their own "shit hills," even if it doesn't look that way from a distance. At that point, I was struggling with my art and what I wanted it to be versus what it actually was — thinking about my art as my own "shit hill" helped me to reclaim it and realize that even if it wasn't what I wanted it to be, it was still my art, and I could make whatever I wanted with it.

SP: Are you planning on pursuing art in the future?

Scott: I'm planning on minoring in Studio Art in college (I'm going to Knox College next year). I don't intend to give up art anytime soon, but I also want to focus on other interests of mine, like history (which is going to be one of my majors).

SP: What does making art mean to you?

Scott: For me, art is a way to connect with other people and share ideas in ways that words can't necessarily do. I've met a ton of awesome people online because of art, and I'm still friends with a good number of them to this day. I like seeing how different people express themselves, and how art has been used to push for change throughout history, or reflect current trends in thinking. Truthfully, I think it's necessary for our survival.

SP:  Anything else you'd like to share?

Scott: I wanted to add that Ms. Gross has been a huge help in setting up this show, and throughout the entire year. She's really supportive, and she made the whole experience of creating pieces for a portfolio less stressful, and that's something I'm incredibly grateful for. She's an amazing teacher, and this class wouldn't have been the same without her. I know I'm going to miss her next year, and I'm sure all the graduating seniors will as well.

Follow Izzy Scott on Instagram at @sazand0ra

Smile Politely: How did you get interested in art?

Kasinda Williams: To me, art has always been my passion. My older sister and my mom were always so good at drawing and I have always aspired to reach that level of skill. Art and creativity is a big thing in my family and I have always been encouraged to create and explore art. For me it is sort of a form of meditation, always a stress reliever. When I create my art I put my all into it, I’m sort of a perfectionist I have to have it looking exactly how I picture it in my mind. I can spend a whole day just drawing it’s fun and exciting to be able to learn new techniques and grow. I think people who do art are special because it takes an active imagination and the will to take risks, to make a truly inspiring piece. The thing about art is that you don’t have to be technically correct, you can just express yourself in a way that makes you happy. If you are proud of it then it is a success. I am drawn to the open endedness and freedom to create your own stye that art has. The art community is also very encouraging and it’s fascinating to be able to view other people’s designs and ideas, and potentially innovate something new. I love art because it’s not just a hobby, it’s a culture, its living, and it speaks volumes with the power to change the world.

SP: How would you describe the AP Studio Art class?

Williams: The atmosphere of Centennial’s AP Studio Art class is very encouraging. To be surrounded by other students who have the same passion for art and not just taking the class to fill a credit requirement is something special. I think of this class as kind of a training ground or preparation for life as an artist. We have been allowed to learn new forms of media and participate in workshops and expose ourselves to new things that we might have never thought of. This class really helps if you are looking to go into a career in art, as the freedom allows you to find what you are comfortable in and test out if art is the right thing for you. The main focus of the class is the creation in development of our portfolios which is a really good start to learn how to professionally present your pieces and begin your artist’s brand. The class is extremely rigorous in terms of quantity and quality. In the course of each semester you are required to make and complete10 pieces, with one bing due every week or so. This class definitely requires good time management and focus to be able to get all of your work done in time. It teaches you how to plan ahead, and learn to stick to a deadline as you are penalized for turning in things late. I recommend this class only to people who are serious as passionate about art, for it can be stressful at times, especially close to submission.

SP:  What medium (or mediums) do you prefer to work in and why?

Williams: My preferred media is basic pencil drawings because that is what I am most comfortable with. I started out with just basic sketches and tracing so as the years go by it’s just what I have turned to when I felt like drawing. Recently over this past year i have been trying to branch out to adding color as it has been something I have struggled with. So most of my recent pieces involve colored pencil and fineliner. I feel that the mastery of all 3 of these materials together would really enhance my art overall as a whole and bring a new quality to it. I would like to learn how to use watercolor and acrylic better as I hope to eventually use multiple medias in my pieces and become a mixed media artist.

SP: Tell us about the work you'll have in this upcoming show.

Williams: In this upcoming show, I am going to have some of my favorite pieces I have drawn over the past four years to really not just show my current skill but my progression overall, most of my pieces will be drawings, but I will have a few different things as well.

SP: What would you like people to know about the show?

Williams: Our show “APSA Is All That” is all centered around our individuality and identity as artists. Over the past year we have all grown so much and cultivated our own styles and strengths and they all deserve to be highlighted in their own unique way. In our first semester I had created a piece where I drew each person in our class as a cartoon character and put it all together as a class portrait. That piece is kind of our theme as each person’s individuality and character is shown and a sense of community is displayed. We have also made matching t-shirts from my design (with help from Ms. Gross of course), and the characters are planned to be incorporated into all different parts of the show, with each student having personalized labels as well.


Social Concerns © Kasinda Williams, 2019, image provided by the artist

SP: What's the best piece of advice you ever got about making art?

Williams: I can’t recall a specific piece of advice that has resonated with me, but the class environment in general has really made me feel comfortable. Ms. Gross’ constant encouragement and eagerness to express ideas plus the helpful critiquing has all helped me to become a better artist.

SP: Are you planning on pursuing art in the future? 

Williams: Next year I plan on going to Columbia College Chicago for audio production. Although this is on the music side, I plan to continue to take classes in the art field, and keep art close to me on the side. If audio production falls through, graphic design is my next choice.

SP:  Who are some of your favorite artists?

Williams: I was introduced to a lot of new artists such as Kehinde Wiley and some street artists such as Banksy who have really drawn my attention. I also love Van Gogh.

SP: What does making art mean to you?

Williams: Making art to me is freedom, it’s exciting, When I’m just drawing for leisure, I always feel a great sense of pride. My art represents my personality, my interests, my fears, my confidence. My art is a reflection of myself and I like being able to express and show others different things that they might not have known about me before. Making art means expressing me, it’s a hard feeling to explain but its genuine happiness and peace.

SP:  What inspires you?

Williams: My mother and my sister’s art inspired me as a child, but now it’s a lot more broad. The music I listen to, fashion, my favorite tv shows, random aesthetics, today’s news, history, oppression, cultural breakthrough, the uncanny and unexplainable, if it interests me it inspires me.

SP: Do you have an art presence on social media or the web you'd like to share with us?

See more of Kasinda Williams' work on her  art webpage, or follow her on Instagram @kasinovadraws

See this show.  Period. You will be inspired by the work and by the commitment of these students to their art, to speaking their truth, and to the power of art.  


AP Studio Art is All That
Art Coop
May 24th through June 5th
Opening reception: May 24th, 5 to 7 p.m.
150 Lincoln Square, Urbana

First two photos of illustrated class portrait, taken by Debra Domal