Four high school students share how art shapes their perspectives

Dalal Alami 

Dalal Alami, a senior at Lakota West High School, has always loved drawing, but the last few years have seen her interest surge.

“In seventh grade, I really started getting into the passion of it,” Dalal says. “I did a bunch of studies, stacks of sketchbooks full of everything I’ve tried; I’ve done portraits for school and some digital art, too.”

Dalal’s focus is often on faces, with a nod to the realistic over the abstract, but with a bit of additional stylizing.

“I tend to focus on drawing characters,” says Dalal. “I’ll draw people from my mind, or sometimes based off a story, which end up being less realistic. I always focus on the people, not as much on the scenery.”

Dalal’s inspiration often comes from her emotions, and those feelings translate directly onto the page at times.

“I have a passion for creating a tie to emotion,” she explains. “Bright colors, or a lot of saturation, usually scream ‘happy’ to me. When I’m happy, that’s what I go to.” 

When Dalal is in the process of mastering a new drawing technique, she’ll use study cases, or drawings that she uses to learn how to portray something new.

“I have to study how the object looks, the lighting and shadow. I learn along the way, and it’ll help me later in the future. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something when I get it right after a bunch of studies,” she says.

When Dalal looks to the future, she sees herself making use of her budding interest in digital art, using the digital art tablet she got for her sixteenth birthday.

“My goal is to be an animator,” says Dalal. “I would like to participate in illustration and storyboarding. It’s writing stories, combined with my love of art. It would be cool to combine the two.”

Katherine Newcombe 

For Katherine Newcombe, her love of drawing is connected with a love of fashion. When she sees color and texture, her mind combines the shapes she sees in a way that not only aims to be visually pleasing, but also would look great as a new clothing design.

“I started taking art classes in seventh grade,” explains Katherine, a senior at Lakota West High School who has worked her way up to AP Drawing through many years of practice. “At first, I was really focused on realism. Now, I don’t always try to match exact colors, but instead try to bring out colors that other people might not see.”

Katherine draws her inspiration from the natural world, and particularly from objects and unusual colors she sees around her. She has portrayed a wide variety of subjects throughout her years at Lakota West where she is a senior this year.

“My favorite piece I’ve done was a picture of my sister, done in oil pastels,” says Katherine. “I find that drawing is a bit of an escape for me. When I’m feeling something and want to express any emotion, I’ll draw. It’s my outlet.”

Katherine has set her sights on studying communication, design and fashion after high school, so her art skills will be put to use in both her college classes and her future work. She’d love to design clothing or work for a fashion company in another capacity. 

One of the things she says about art is that it takes work, but all you need is an interest and dedication to see some improvement.

“I think that anyone can be an artist; it just takes time,” explains Katherine. “Once you figure it out, it’s very rewarding.” 

Tanner Gagliardo 

Growing up with graphic designers for parents, Tanner Gagliardo wasn’t always sure where his artistic outlet would lie. He worried that he wouldn’t have a particular creative talent, even though he wanted one. 

“It started about two years ago when my family took a trip out west to Yellowstone,” says Tanner. “I brought my camera along and started taking pictures. I’ve always been interested in photography, but I never thought I’d be really good. After that trip, I started looking up whatever photography techniques I could, from YouTube and other places online, so I’m largely self-taught.”

Tanner, now a senior at Lakota East, became interested in the ability to take photos of the world that convey a particular emotion or connect to the audience’s memory.

“A lot of my personal work is street photography, centering around capturing a moment,” he says. “I want my work to feel nostalgic, but it doesn’t take you back to a specific moment. It makes you feel something.”

Some of his iconic photos show people moving through their day while one or two figures make direct eye contact with the camera; it is almost as if the person in the photograph is making eye contact with the viewer.

When looking back at the photos he has taken, Tanner loves the moment of knowing that he captured exactly what he’d recognized in a particular scene.

“When you finally get an image that is exactly how you feel, it’s great,” he says. “I love being able to express how I’m feeling, and being able to tell a story is really important.”

Tanner has plans to study business in college, but he isn’t putting the camera back on the shelf.

“I 100% plan on doing something with photography in the future,” he says.

Anna French 

Anna’s love for art started when she was very young, watching a role model in her family and learning alongside her.

“My grandma has had the most influence on me; we spent hours painting together,” says Anna. “She spent a lot of time doing freelance work, so I’d learn from her and watch her. As I got through middle school and high school, I took as many art credits as I could, which led me to AP Art as a senior, where I’ve been finding my own style and what I want to say.”

Anna has always felt confident in artistic expression, making it a source of comfort in her life and an important part of her identity.

“What I like most about art is that it gives me a voice that is very unique to my experiences, and it allows me to convey a feeling or a message that I couldn’t put into words,” she says. “I love that art is ambiguous, so it is up to the eye of the viewer to take what they want from it, to apply it to their own lives and their own experiences. At the same time, it lets me put my own struggles and my experience out there.”

Her AP Art project this year has juxtaposed paintings that depict youth and innocence with images connected to growing up and going out into the real world. While her style is realistic, she does occasionally take liberties and slightly stray from her subjects in the real world. 

Anna, a senior at Lakota East, plans to study graphic design and see what the world of artistic expression has to offer her, be it in a commercial design workplace or through her own fine art paintings. 

“I definitely plan on seeing where art takes me,” says Anna.