Thomas and Dalton take the “Backroads” through Advanced Art

ITS A PROCESS. Liza Thomas said, My work is called Night in the Wildwood. Its eight photos that I took on a film camera and then got developed outside of school because we dont have the chemistry in our photo lab to develop color film.
IT’S A PROCESS. Liza Thomas said, “My work is called ‘Night in the Wildwood.’ It’s eight photos that I took on a film camera and then got developed outside of school because we don’t have the chemistry in our photo lab to develop color film.”
Thomas Kovarik

[Opening Music]

Pierach [Introduction]: Hi, and welcome to a discussion of the junior Advanced Art Exhibition, “Backroads.” I’m your host Johanna Pierach, and today I’m joined by juniors Liza Thomas and June Dalton to talk about their work in the gallery, their relationship to art, and their creative process.

Pierach: Can I get your name, your pronouns, and your grade level?

Thomas: My name is Liza Thomas. I’m a junior, and my pronouns are she/her.

Dalton: June Dalton, she/they pronouns and I’m junior.

Pierach: Could you start by telling me about the exhibit as a whole?

Thomas: Yeah, so our junior exhibit name is “Backroads.” We voted on it a couple of weeks ago because everybody’s individual work had, like, strong themes of nostalgia and remembrance. And there was a lot of nature and looking back, like reflection, and so we decided on “Backroads.” I think there’s, like, ten people in it that all have their own little section of the gallery and it’s really nice.

Pierach: So how does Advanced Art work like as a junior, like as a class?

Thomas: Yeah, so Advanced Art is for juniors and seniors. And you don’t really have to have any qualifications to get into it. I think they might be changing that next year, but it’s really just like the next step of an art class. And the seniors already had their exhibit like a month ago. Obviously they’re not in school now. So it’s just us juniors and we kind of just get to do whatever we want to do. We have a lot of freedom, we don’t have any, like, assignments. It’s really just, we have a winter gallery and then a spring gallery. And you can do as many projects as you want and you can choose what you want to go in the gallery. And, it’s chill.

Pierach: Can you tell me a little bit about your journey with art in high school so far and the classes you’ve taken?

Thomas: Yeah, so um, I’ve taken a lot of art classes in high school. I’ve taken at least one every semester. So in freshman year I was in both Photography I and ceramics, and then in sophomore year, I was also in Photography II. And then this year, I’ve been in Advanced Art both semesters, and I’ve been in the photography, like, sub-section of Advanced Art. I absolutely have loved all of my art classes. Ceramics wasn’t my thing, so I stopped taking it. But I have really enjoyed my photography journey. It’s been really nice to kind of go through more like structured learning when I was a freshman and a sophomore and get to know some of the techniques. And then now I just kind of get to explore and figure out what I like to do and what I want to keep doing, and that’s really nice. We have great studio spaces.

Dalton: I took two art courses each year, and then this year I just decided to take Advanced Art seminar because I qualified. And yeah, that’s something I want to be continuing next year as well.

Pierach: So have you done it all year, both semesters?

Dalton: Yes, I’ve done it both semesters. There’s not alot to it. It’s very self-guided. We get a couple, like, “Oh you need to have a project due by this date.” But otherwise, it’ s very loose, like go on your own time. I’m gonna be honest, sometimes I don’t do the art during class, I just as work on homework or things that need to be due that day, but I come in during my free periods and make up for that.

Pierach: So, it’s very independent, right?

Thomas: Yes.

Pierach: So what has that process been like, taking your own initiative?

Dalton: Yeah. It has been definitely interesting. We had a new teacher this year. And I really loved our old teacher, she was my advisor. So it’s definitely interesting to get a new person in charge. And it was definitely a switch. Had to have a lot more independence and just like having to make our own assignments and deadlines and things, which has been somewhat of a challenge because photography can sometimes take, like ,a backburner when my other classes are ramping up, especially during finals week and stuff. If I have a lot of things to do for my other classes, especially because it’s junior year, you know, it’s challenging. It’s been a little hard to keep photography as a priority for me. But it is nice because it’s just a fun thing to do. So it’s a nice break in my day, whenever I get to photography, I can kind of just rest and like have fun.

Pierach: And could you tell me about your work specifically that’s in the gallery? What was the process like, what was the inspiration… all that.

Thomas: So my work is called “Night in the Wildwood.” It’s eight photos that I took on a film camera and then got developed outside of school because we don’t have the chemistry in our photo lab to develop color film. And then I added them post-processing in Photoshop, which is a nice way to edit photos because it makes it a lot easier. You can do things that aren’t permanent and just like try out a lot of new things. I took the photos all the way back in I think February, maybe March, with my friends at Afton State Park… and my friend’s dog. And there wasn’t really a huge inspiration behind the photos,
I just kind of wanted to see what I could get. Originally, we were just planning on going to the state park and walking around by ourselves and then it turned out that there was like a candlelit sunset walk happening that day, which was totally by surprise. And that was super fun. So we did that. And I also wasn’t sure how the photos would turn out because the film was expired and it was a very cold day, which affects film photography somewhat. And so the photos turned out super blurry and a lot of them like didn’t really turn out, but then there were a couple good ones and those are the ones that are in the gallery.

Dalton: This year, I’ve gone through a lot of different medium changes. I started off with acrylic painting, then drawing, then sewing for a while. Then I went back to, I went into oil pastel and now I’m back to acrylic paint. And it’s never going to be just like one thing that I’m going to stick to, it’s just like what the piece I’m working on at the time is. And honestly, it really helped. The beginning of the year I was really struggling with painting. I wasn’t really feeling it and I wasn’t liking the pieces I was creating. It was just like a six month long art block- it sucked. And then I started sewing again, and I do not like anything that I made there but I learned a lot of skillsm like sewing skills from that and I also felt a lot more like motivated to do other art when I came back to more 2D mediums. And I started working with oil pastels a little bit and I realized that I really love them. I don’t know what it was about them, but I was just like “these make a lot of sense in my head,” I really like them, it’s kind of just like a pretentious crayon… but yeah. I made a self portrait with that and I just really fell in love with it. And one of the things I really like about doing self portraits, I think I put it in like the artist statement… I feel like this is the most personal my art has ever gotten, and it’s not that personal. And each photo I took of mysellf or like every reflection, I’m like “that looks like a different person,” like I don’t really know what I look like. And getting to drop do a self portrait, kind of like drawing each individual feature and seeing how all of those individual features like come together to make my face… it helped me get like a better understanding of how my face like looks. And then I just did one of my younger self because I really like that picture and I thought it was cute and nostalgic.

Pierach: So could you tell me about what you have in the gallery right now?

Dalton: Yeah. So it’s the self portrait piece I was talking about, the oil pastel. I just really liked that one, it actually had meaning and I could write a good artist statement off of it. And I really liked that… I have another painting in there. It’s just like, an acrylic nighttime painting. It’s not my favorite. I was getting back into painting after a while. I switched it up a couple times, but it turned out okay. I wish I had a little more time to work on it, but that one was just really experimenting with acrylic.

Pierach: Over the course of high school, or like I guess your photography career, what has been the process of developing your own style and how has that sort of stayed consistent?

Thomas: Yeah, it’s interesting. I don’t, like, I don’t really see a lot of like clear, like themes in my work. I’m kind of interested by a lot. I’ve stayed away from portraiture mainly, I’m more of a like, a nature photographer. Just… people are kind of harder to to deal with. But I have like really enjoyed working a lot in Photoshop, like post-processing, editing and just playing around with like all the different things you can do on Photoshop.

Pierach: Could you describe your, like, style, if you have a style as an artist?

Dalton: I don’t think I really do. Like, I think I experimented more with realism this year. Because, before that I was like really anti-realism, I was just like, “It’s really hard and I don’t get it! Just take a picture… blah blah blah!” Um, but I really started enjoying it recently, especially since, this is what I really love about oil pastels, it’s actually what most people hate about it, is how blendable they are. I really like that in realism portraits. Um, like there’s definitely art to it. There’s so much talent that goes into it, but also you can see, I love the way you can see the strokes and see the way it was created. Like when you start looking at it more you can almost see like the process that the artist went through. And I’ve always wanted to recreate that, and this is the year that I actually got to do that.

Thomas: Something interesting that I decided to do with this project is… I wanted to do duplicates of a couple of my prints, just because I wanted to see like what a more neutral version would look like paired with a more hyper-saturated photo. Just because I thought that that would be an interesting contrast. And so, if you see in the gallery I have duplicates on both sides of my art and then there’s like more in the middle that aren’t duplicated, but I thought that that was interesting. I’ve never really played around with like multiple versions of the same photo before.

Pierach: And where do you… I guess what do you see for the future with art? Likw in senior year and sort of beyond?

Thomas: Yeah, I’m planning on taking Advanced Art all year next year again. So I will have a lot more free time to do projects. I don’t really know yet what I want to d., I really like film photography and like different cool processes like photo transfer and cyanotypes and things like that, that are a little more unconventional. But yeah, we’ll see where, where it takes me.

Pierach: And then, how about like how you work as an artist? Like what’s your workflow like? Is it different than school?

Dalton: Way different than school… so I don’t, I don’t focus very well. I don’t get schoolwork done very often. I mean, I do, it’s just like very short increments of studying. And with art, art is the only thing that I can sit down for a solid like while.

Pierach: Is there anything about photography in general that you wish people knew?

Thomas: It is an art form. It is it is harder than people think it is. It’s not just us taking pictures and putting them up. There’s a lot of editing and thinking that goes into it that I don’t think people necessarily realize.

Dalton: You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it or do it. That’s like my biggest piece of advice, like you really don’t have to be good at it. If you enjoy it, go for it. Because no one starts off good, it’s all a learning process and curve, and you’re only going to get better and be happy with your if you do it more consistently. I think there is something about this specific time in my life. I really wish I took advantage of the resources and materials I had earlier on and experimented with different mediums way early on. I just felt very limited. But I think I don’t think I would change anything, because I think I learned a lot from this year, it was a really big developing year for me. And I’ve heard since last year, a lot of people were saying “Junior year, like, lots of things happen, lots of things you don’t expect, get ready for change.” I was like, “That can’t happen! I’m gonna say the same, how am I going to change?” But so much stuff has happened. But I wouldn’t change anything for the world, I’m so glad. And I think my art… I wouldn’t change my art for anything in the world either.

Pierach: Alright, wonderful. Thank you so much.

Dalton: Of course!

Pierach: I appreciate it.

Pierach: Okay, well, anything else you want to add?

Thomas: No, thank you.

Pierach: Thank you.

Pierach [Closing Segment]: Once again, this has been a discussion of the junior Advanced Art Exhibition. “Backroads.” I’m your host Johanna Pierach, and thank you for listening.

[Closing Music]

Music Credit: Royalty-Free Music from Bensound – “Dreams” by Benjamin Tissot

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