Young artists get a chance to shine

Jessica Jennings has two of her art pieces that were in The

– South Valley’s aspiring artists had a rare chance this month
to show their work somewhere outside the walls of their classrooms,
homes and parents’ offices.
GILROY – South Valley’s aspiring artists had a rare chance this month to show their work somewhere outside the walls of their classrooms, homes and parents’ offices.

City employees and people making a visit to City Hall this month can’t help but have their eyes pulled toward the top five vote-getting pieces from each of five different age groups of the Young Artists show in Gilroy, as their work will hang on a wall inside City Hall until the end of the month.

“It’s a little bit more exposure than you get at school,” said Jessica Jennings, a 15-year-old sophomore at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill. “I really like these shows. It’s not really competition; I like to admire other people’s art and see what they do.”

More than 450 people saw the artwork when it was shown at the Wiley Cultural Center from Mach 15 to 21. There were 167 pieces total in the show from 118 young artists ages 5 to 18.

According to Cathy Mirelez, cultural arts and museum supervisor, the art entered in the show – which has been running in Gilroy for more than 20 years – comes from many different places.

“It comes from art that was created at home, from the school, and from art instructors in the area,” she said. “You see all kinds of art and all kinds of media used. It really covers the gamut.”

Mirelez, who organizes the event each year, said it is one of her favorite arts events in the area.

“It’s a wonderful way to display the creative talent in our community,” she said. “For me personally, it’s one of my favorite events – it makes you happy to see the young, innocent, colorful artwork. Some of them are incredibly talented.”

One of those talented artists is Jennings, who has been involved with the art show for three years now, and came away with two top vote-getters this year.

She said Japanese cartoon images inspired her to begin drawing.

“I’ve been doing art since I was really little,” she said. “It basically started with anime. I liked Japanese animation styles.”

Before her work ever was taken to a canvas, it was probably seen by many students in her middle school that happened to use the same desk she sat in a period before.

“I started drawing mainly in pencil,” Jennings said. “I was always drawing pictures on my desk. I got in so much trouble my mom put me in an art class.”

Jennings began taking lessons from her neighbor Sheri Chakamian, who helped to bring her inspiration out onto canvas.

“She taught me a lot of different mediums,” Jennings said. “She taught me a lot of things I probably never would’ve learned.”

Now, in her third year in the Young Artists Show, Jennings has been a top vote-getter each year.

The first of her two honored pieces this year is a pencil drawing that might resemble some of the pieces that have been left on her geometry desk. But her other piece entered in the contest is more meaningful to her. It is a color piece of a woman hanging a sheet on a clothesline; a piece Jennings said was specially for her mom.

“It was supposed to be a painting for my mother,” she said. “I tried to make it resemble her when she was younger.”

Jennings spends a lot of her free time riding dirt bikes and playing softball for a Morgan Hill softball league, but she still works to find time for her art.

“As much as I possibly can,” she said. “I doodle during school, and I work at home.”

Jennings may have learned several new mediums to work in, but her favorite is still just a good old pencil and paper.

“I’m big on pencil drawings because of the details,” she said. “I like to put my effort into the fine details.”

Jennings also has used her painting talents for the community, as she painted a picture of the school mascot at a local school’s raquetball wall for her Girl Scout Silver Award. She said she hopes to continue down the path of art, but has changed her goals since she began watching Japanese cartoons. She hopes to go the San Francisco Academy of Art and pass on her talents to others.

“I’d really like to be involved in art, but not so much in animation anymore,” she said. “I’d like to be a university art teacher so I could be able to share my talents and teach others.”

San Martin resident Kirke La Shelle, 11, finds his inspiration for his art through his other love: music.

“I like instrumental things and abstract things,” said La Shelle, who has been playing the saxophone for little more than a year but already is writing his own music and wants to put together a jazz band.

“On Monday I go to the Music Tree for lessons,” he said. “On Wednesday I go to advanced band.”

La Shelle’s top vote getting piece – which also will be used by the Theatre Angels for fliers announcing its May art conference – is a colorful drawing of a band playing. La Shelle said he saw a picture like it in an art book at his school, and created his own version of it.

“First, it had a saxophone,” he said about deciding to do the picture. “And it’s not like a real picture, it’s kind of abstract, like in the legs how they overlap. I thought it was kind of neat.”

He drew the picture using water color pencils, but never watered the piece.

“It thought it looked good the way it was,” he said.

For his parents, Kirke Sr. and Johanne La Shelle, watching their son succeed in music is just another in a long line of successes they’ve seen in a short time.

“That’s another things he’s gotten really good at and really quickly,” his father said. “It all ties into what he likes.”

His mom agrees.

“It’s all related to art,” she said. “He goes through phases. … He’s going to be an entrepreneur one day.”

For an 11-year-old, La Shelle is well-versed in different mediums to do his artwork in, but he already has developed his favorite styles.

“I like two different things: I like pen and ink and pointillism,” he said. “If I don’t use pen and ink, I like acrylic and watercolors, I also do a lot of work in soft pastels.”

La Shelle first began doing art when he was little and Johanne saw him copying the design off of a pillow. Since then, he has been enrolled in art classes. He also figured out how to do html design and has made a personal Web site on origami. He also created an address book using circus trees from Bonfante Gardens and shaped them into letters for each entry in the book. Bonfante now sells the address book at the park.

The Nordstrom Elementary School sixth-grader also is the school’s student body president, and he does the daily announcements for the school on the public address system, but he’s not one to brag about his accomplishments at such a young age.

“He never talks about it,” Johanne said. “It’s not his nature to brag or anything like that.”

He may not be bragging, but he definitely has set himself some goals to reach for in the future.

“When I grow up, I’d like to be a graphic artist, and during my free time I’d like to play in a band,” he said.

For more information on Gilroy’s annual Young Artists Show, sign up for the artist mailing list by contacting Mirelez at 846-0460.